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Everything posted by astrid

  1. I don't recall ever seeing them for sale in the US, but obviously they are available per the older thread. The prep work is fussy, you break the "petals" up, rub away the dirt, peel the outer membrane, and soak it in water for couple hours to make it less bitter and crisp. It's slightly glutinous and cooling, so usually eaten in the summer. Stirfried, added to sweet porridge, or cooked byself to make a cooling porridge. I believe most lily species originating from the Orient had been used for food at some point. Trumpet lilies seem like the best option as they grow fast and are relatively unfussy compared to tiger lily species, and are less likely to be silent carriers of the mosaic virus. The lily buds come from daylilies. Typically you want to aim for species or lightly hybridized varieties with yellow or orange color blossoms, the more hybridized varieties may not taste good or even sicken eaters. They're easy to find as dried goods in Asian grocery stores. I don't like them, they taste musty to me, but they are probably quite nutritious and full of fiber.
  2. Blueberry in pot in zone 8 means figuring out a winter storage solution and also she doesn't want netting, so definite bird and rodent concerns. They don't get much leaf disease, but are vulnerable to spotted wing fruit flies after midsummer, finicky about drainage and moisture, and need soil acidity maintenance ( though pot culture is easier in that respect). It also takes 2-4 years to really establish a productive plant structure and then you need to maintenance prune for production. it's easy compared to growing a fire blight magnet pear or a sweet cherry, but I think pretty daunting for a beginner. If I wanted one in a pot, a dwarf southern high bush is probably the way to go, since they are more tolerant of nonacidic soil and better fit for the climate. She specifically said she didn't want to start plants from seeds, so it has to be commercially available varieties and I haven't seen any DTP plant options yet. The Patio series might work as they are also dwarf indeterminate with wider distribution. I'd offer her my extra starts, but it sounds like she was happy with 1 Sungold. I have used DTP seeds from Sample Seeds, Heritage Seed Market, and Victory Seeds (all of the owners are closely associated with the project). They are all good vendors with true to name seeds. HSM is probably the best option since they have some $1 sample packs available Bear Creek is hit and miss for me. The varieties are interesting but not well tested and I get enough off types and poor germination that I can't wholeheartedly recommend them.
  3. I don't think blueberries are worth the effort for the reasons you've stated, plus all soft fruit ripening after midsummer are at risk from spotted wing fruit flies. They're doable in pots but going to a PYO gets fruit of similar quality without the hassle. Definite down on mulberries, they're weed trees and the berry stained bird poop will stain everything. Meyer lemon and kumquats are good for small manageable citrus trees. Meyer lemon flower and fruit throughout the year, so you get a spreading harvest. Bay leaf, scented geraniums, and rosemary are also good balcony plants. Don't get a traditional multigraft fruit cocktail tree, they don't work as potted plants at all for many reasons (chill hours, root mass, spraying, disease, pruning for balanced shape). Most fruit trees take way to much spraying and coddling to fruit in the East, even in the ground. If you want something fruity, mara de bois and pineberry plants might be the way to go for something relatively small and low maintenance, but unusual and tasty. You can grow pineapples from the tops of store pineapples, takes about 2 years to harvest. Nasturtiums are a pretty edible. When well watered, they flower from June to frost for me. You could grow the trailing variety and have them drape over your balcony. Be careful of the plantings close to the AC, it might get quite hot there in the summer, hotter than a lot of plants like. Would be good for peppers and eggplants. For peppers, check out aji dulce (and other habanero lookalikes with minimal heat) and aji Limon. Very productive and decorative, and not freely available in supermarkets.
  4. Hot peppers grow well in pots, but unless you want to grow superhots or unusual varieties, I don't think they are worth the bother since they ship well. Cukes, broccoli, cauliflowers, sweet corn, melons, squash, and carrots are other veggies that aren't worth the bother due to space, finickiness with weather, or disease pressure.
  5. I would say tomatoes followed by kale. But a lot of it comes down to the diversity of options when I grow it myself, rather than better quality than what I can buy from a farm stand or Farmer's market. There are a lot of varieties that you can't buy even from Farmer's market or are ridiculously expensive, like $5 for a pint of Sungolds (they split easily and are then not saleable, but plenty eatable) when one plant will keep a family sated. Greens are all great returns on the space investment and often tastier than store options. Herbs are also great to have. A couple basils, chive, Fernleaf dill, and some cilantro seeds every few weeks. Maybe a mint plant in its own pot where it won't bully others.
  6. I find Burpee on the expensive side, though no complaints about quality. I really like Pinetree, Fedco, Sample Seeds, and Renee's for generalists. Fedco is particularly good for greens since they are cheap (especially if you buy a larger size and store leftovers in a Ziploc bag in the fridge, I have good germination even from onions and okra after 4-5 years) and have lots of hybrid and non-hybrid options. Southern Exposure Seed Company is regional to the upper South and their seeds consistently do very well for me. Now is the perfect time for cool season greens such as spinach, turnip, kale, arugula, lettuce, and Swiss chard. Another fun cool season crop is mache. Let a couple go to seed every year and it will keep you in winter salads forever. I think you are probably in zone 8A, so you can probably grow and harvest. Ditto arugula, come to think of it, plus arugula germinates reliably and grows fast. And kale if I ever dare let it go to seed. Depending on your patio set up, larger volume grow bags might be a quick economical option, though they will likely dry out faster than self watering pots.
  7. The downside is the DTP are still pretty rare in commerce, though you might luck into an enterprising Farmer's market vendor... I heard good things about Patio series, they're also dwarf indeterminate but more commercially available. Sungold plants will definitely be available to buy, people go gaga for Sungold. If you want a very small tomato plant...
  8. First, do you get at least 5 hours of direct sun in the patio area? Anything less and fruiting plants will not yield well, though could still work for greens and herbs. Next. Look up dwarf tomato project. The plants are manageable and quite attractive compared to most tomato plants. You can fit 2 to an 2 cubic foot capacity Earthbox and there are a number varieties yielding 1-2 oz fruits. Maglia Rosa is another smaller indeterminate snacker with very good taste. I brought several DTP fruits to the tomato tasting including Sweet Sue and Tasmanian Chocolate, both yielded very well grown in Earthbox (into October, far better than in ground, where most DTP plants succumbed to disease by August because of lack of air circulation). The yellow cherry I brought to the tomato tasting is Sungold. You might be able to grow one in a 2 cubic foot pot, but they are huge plants so you will need a substantial trellis or cage to support the plant. If you are thinking of a yellow 2 oz fruit with a light fuzz, that's Garden Peach. I did manage to grow one in half of an Earthbox and it yielded quite well, though the one in the ground probably yielded 3x as much. I do recommend large size self watering containers (not necessarily Earthbox but something with at least 1 gallon water reservoir). Otherwise it's daily watering, with Earthboxes I managed twice weekly watering during last summer during the drier weeks. I followed tomatoville's recommendation and bought a bale of promix, added a cup of dolomite lime and 2 cups of Tomato Tone per Earthbox, and it worked pretty well. I am reusing the promix this year with more fertilizer and lime added.
  9. Sorry, but change of plans here, so you can subtract 2 people from the list. Thanks for organizing nonetheless!
  10. 17th works for us too. 2 adults and I can read/speak Chinese if that ends up being helpful.
  11. Thank you for recommending Izakaya Rintaro! For DC-based comparisons I'd put it a thin wedge above Sushi Taro and Izakaya Seki, because everything was so well made. Really enjoyable meal and as you say, not expensive for the quality and for being in San Francisco.
  12. Had a really lovely lunch at Girl and the Fig. The steak tartare and the flounder were particularly nice. Cochon Volant BBQ was strong in everything except pork ribs, which is about average for restaurant ribs, ie barely edible. Oxbow Market is well worth a visit, though very busy even at 3:30ish. Hog Island Oysters reminded me how much I miss eating West Coast oysters on the West Coast. Definitely enjoyed the smaller tasting room and vineyards to the big boys.
  13. Thank you for the information! This pretty much clinches our trip towards 2 weeks in Portugal. We really love how easy it is to travel in Europe and just how mind-blowingly beautiful and historic every little town can be.
  14. If you have Amazon Prime, episode 6 of The Romanoffs is basically a beautifully shot travelogue of Mexico City. We met a California couple in Prague (on a foodie tour) who went to Mexico City last summer and loved everything, including food, there.
  15. Good to hear another resounding endorsement for Portugal, as we are very seriously considering it for a late February trip. We know 3 other couples who travelled there and everyone loved it. How much time do you recommend for the area? We are thinking of one week in Portugal and one week in southern Spain, but if there's lots to do in Portugal, we might stick to Portugal for most of the allotted 2 weeks plus a road trip to northern Spain.
  16. It's possible that they speak somewhat heavily accented Mandarin, but almost certainly good enough to understand and be understood by others. Even if their education is comparatively lackluster, they would have received 6 to 9 years of Pinyin based Chinese education. After that, getting by in the urban areas where they work and live most of the year is a good incentive to improve their everyday speaking skills. They are standardizing the Mandarin they learnt during primary school and that's much easier than learning Mandarin from scratch as adults. Also, keep in mind that majority of TV is in standard Mandarin, so they are getting regular exposure almost anywhere they live. The only time you are likely to encounter really hard to comprehend Mandarin is in rural areas, especially out West, where Mandarin instruction is lax and there is no incentive to improve Mandarin speech as a local speaker.
  17. Everyone in Shanghai under the age of 70 speaks excellent Mandarin. I suspect that everyone under 50 in Cantonese areas speaks excellent Mandarin. The only times where I have encounter poor spoken Mandarin is in "Mandarin" speaking areas in Western China. Learning Mandarin as an adult is very hard. In my experience, I probably only met 2 people who mastered it, a college professor who specializes in Chinese history and married a Chinese woman, and a law partner who specializes in international trade law working primarily with Taiwanese clients.
  18. Got 2 continuous weeks of vacation and desire to see tons of penguins? I know this is big ship cruising without landing, but this is the lowest price I've seen for Antarctica. https://www.celebritycruises.com/itinerary-details/14-night-antarctica-cruise-from-buenos-aires-argentina?packageID=EC14F084&sDT=2019-01-20
  19. Costco.com is currently running quite a few discounts on clothing and their $3 per piece discount, plus most items are free shipping.
  20. We are going to SF for MLK weekend. Not sure what we will be doing. SF was our stomping grounds in the first decade of the 21st century, but we haven't been back in almost 10 years. We loved the area when we were there and we were pretty sure that we would move back after a few years, but now we have neither the means or inclination to move back. Portugal or Azores would be nice for January, if you want to go a little further than the Caribbean but not too far. Charleston and Savannah or NOLA are easy getaways. Or for something different, maybe stay at a ice hotel in Canada or Scandinavia? January or February would be a nice time to visit a popular European cities if you don't mind the cold and want to avoid crowds. Also, Mexico City or Quito or Lima? Also, Quito combined with a Galapagos cruise?
  21. If distance is not a concern, I recommend Stiftskeller St. Peter in Salzburg. I can attest that it was full on Christmas-y 10 days ago and you can't beat the atmospherics. The food and service was pretty decent too.
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