September 13, 2009

Mediterranean Moments Exist

Olives in Massachusetts

The rain has caused the figs to burst, so in an effort to save them from the doom of Yellow Jacket wasps, they have been picked. Maybe next year, the new fig tree planted in a large terra cotta pot, will bear more fruit. It will be brought in, under the protection of glass, for the winter where it will loose all of it's leaves, a loss, for I use them to steam salmon in, on the grill.

The last of the figs, were tossed in olive oil along with some fresh root vegetables, turnips, parsnip, fresh fennel and rosemary. After roasting, the addition of a splash of aged balsamic vinegar enhances our 'Mediterranean' moment. Oh, an maybe a little Barolo.
September is the month when many potted plants which are more commonly grown in the Mediterranean ( or, um, southern California), look their best. After a summer of bright sunshine, and fresh, outdoor air, have transformed tubs of Agapanthus from mushy, yellow barely alive dormant plants in the spring, to lush, vibrant plants, many even bearing fruit such as the figs and olives.

TIny Pomegranate flowers on our tiny Pomegranate plants always bear tiny Pomegranates that turn red by Christmas.

It all sounds a little better than it actually is, for 6 figs and perhaps 30 olives hardly makes a meal, or an impression, but the idea is there, and the idea, is purely visual. Indeed, this is why we in the north, grow many of these plants which might be common landscape plants in Los Angeles, here in New England, we carefully rush them under glass at the end of the summer, often when they are looking their best, to protect them from the hard freezes which will be inevitable.

We keep so many large tubs of Rosemary, both clipped, trained, and commando, that the collection verges on obsession. Still, large 5 foot shrubs of Rosemary branches in full bloom, when brought out of the greenhouse in March, are impressive and I am certain the bees are not complaining. I do think that this year, a few larger shrubs will be cut back to make more room in the greenhouse.

Our Olive tree is becoming almost too large to move, growing in a 4 foot square tub. It is brought outdoors in late March, just as it is budding in the greenhouse, where the blossoms can have a better chance of being pollinated by wind or bees ( I am not sure which is necessary). We keep many Mediterranean plants on the deck, and in containers around the yard, all are brought indoors around mid October, for many of these plants are hardy enough to withstand cold temps slightly below freezing, it's the frigid wet winters we must be wary of. I use 26 deg. F as my limit for comfort, yet I feel many of these semi-tropical woody plants actually prefer to freeze a bit. Sort of serving and a cold slap in the face, to say "Hey. dude, winter's here....go to sleep".

Aside from any Hi Karate moments ( ugh, I'm dating myself, again), it is September and October when the Olive trees, Rosemary's, Myrtus, Phormiums, and the like, look their finest. If I chose to gather them all together in one area, the look achieved is very Greek isles, or 'very south of France", heck, even some of the containers I grow these is I brought back from Nice and Cannes. So, as I serve bits of goat cheese with freshly picked figs, and occasionally exclaim, "damn, although I should be planting bulbs, the Olives are crying to be picked and brined, so much to do". I cherish my little Provence, my tiny corner of Tuscany, my bit of Crete where armloads of woody rosemary branches are tossed on the grill and then topped with fresh lamb. Fennel Pollen, fresh Meyer lemons picked green for my Pellegrino, homemade lemoncello, or grilled ocean fish. Even though, wormtown USA is just over the fence, no one really knows the better, and our lives are a little better for it.

A Phormium grows in a tub planted with annuals, it will be brought back into the greenhouse for the winter, where it will be delegated to its own pot for the future, as now, it is reaching a mature size.


  1. Wow...Olives in Massachusetts looks wonderful. it was nice going through your blog. keep it up the good work. Cheers :)

  2. Come south, young man. I have figs to share........it has been a bumper crop.


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