Sorghum is a titan in the history of agricultural crops. The original seeds were collected 8,000 years ago in southern Egypt. From there, sorghum traveled through Africa, India, Asia and both Americas. Today, this family of grasses is grown worldwide for human consumption, animal feed and biofuel. Sorghum is particularly drought-tolerant, which makes it a desirable crop in arid lands, where the conditions would quickly stress other plants. It is the fifth most important cereal crop in the world, the third most important in the United States. I realize these facts and figures do not make sorghum sound like a good candidate for home gardens. However, it is well-adapted to many US regions and therefore grows easily – at any scale. Also, its drought-tolerance (and height) does seem to endow it with a certain nobility in the field. Try experimenting with a few varieties in your own space. Here are some suggestions of what to do with small production sorghum.
For those who have grown tired of small-batch jam, artisanal pickles, locally sourced greens, local…you name it – consider local sugar. I, for one, am ready to advance from canning simple condiments to churning out my own pantry staples – sugar, flour, etc. Learn about at-home sorghum syrup production here.
Sorghum Vulgare, or broomcorn, can be dried and used to make household brooms. Simply soak several stalks in water to soften the hard ends. Taper stalks with a sharp tool and bind them to a wooden handle with cord. 20 – 30 heads make one, large broom. Weave the brushes together with waxed hemp to achieve a broad, traditional broomhead.
Sorghum will get to be at least 6 ft high. This makes it an ideal crop to grow for natural shade cover. Protect peppers from sun scald and tender greens from wilt by planting a row of sorghum stalks nearby.
Sorghum seed heads can range in color from golden to red to burgundy to deep indigo. If nothing else, the dried stalks make a beautiful, ornamental additional to your summer dinner table.
Purchase Texas Black (pictured above) or Red Broomcorn sorghum seed from Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Happy Friday! Now that the workweek is through, why not fix yourself a cocktail? Our friends at the Four Seasons, New York suggest their take on the New York Gin Cream, using only ingredients found within 100-mile radius of the city––part of a worldwide program to showcase local ingredients. What better way to welcome the weekend? Cheers!
New York Gin Cream
By Simon De Swaan, Food and Beverage Director, Four Seasons Hotel, New York
1½ oz Fox’s U-bet Vanilla Syrup (made in Brooklyn)
1½ oz Whole Organic Milk (local farm stand or Whole Foods)
Club Soda or Seltzer water to taste
Combine ice, syrup, gin and milk in a large martini shaker. Shake and pour drink mixture (without ice) into a tall soda fountain glass. Top with seltzer or club soda to get a frothy/bubbly finish on top of the mixture. Garnish with a black and white cookie and a straw.
The Lore of the Egg Cream:
Egg Creams have been a part of the soul of Brooklyn for years––whether chocolate or vanilla they are dear to many New Yorker’s (mostly Brooklynite’s) hearts. This sparkly-sweet drink has been around for more than a century and we’ve added our own twist using Greenhook Ginsmith’s Brooklyn Gin to make our own version called the New York Gin Cream––Four Seasons Hotel New York’s 100-mile cocktail.
There are many stories of how the Egg Cream got its name, but one story goes that it was first created by a Jewish candy-store owner, Louis Auster, who opened a legendary shop on Second Avenue and Seventh Street in the 19th century. From then on, many soda fountain jerks have recreated the coveted Egg Cream as well as laid claim to being the inventors. Regardless of origin, the Egg Cream is one traditional all New Yorkers can get behind.
Ponderosa Pines are easy trees to love. They smell like vanilla cupcakes, maple syrup and sausages, or pineapple to some lucky noses, and when the sun strikes them in the right way, they light up like pillars of pink salt. 40 to 150 foot tall pillars that can reach up to 8 feet wide and 600 years old under the best conditions. And they are everywhere, pouring over the Rocky Mountains, covering the southwest, and standing off against the prairies to the east.
The Scottish botanist David Douglas named them for their “ponderous” size (he hadn’t seen the Redwoods yet) but Ponderosas have a particular aspect and mood that goes beyond bigness, approaching the sublime. Qualities that have everything to do with two factors: drought and fire.
Drought forces their roots deeper and wider than most conifers, spacing them well apart and making Ponderosa forests feel airy, peaceful and light. Dry seasons inevitably lead to combustion, whether by lightning strike or, now, by people who grasp how deeply fire is woven into the character of Western woods.
In fact, Ponderosas are quite literally fire bugs. They need it so bad, they provide their own kindling by continually shedding bark and limbs en mass every year. Bare trunks keep flames from reaching vital crowns and lanky, draping needles shield their cones from heat. Brush fires clear out shade-bearing competitors like White Pine or Incense Cedar without seriously injuring older trees. At the same time fire coaxes sap into the lowest, deepest parts of Ponderosa trunks, bracing the heartwood so it can stand under its own weight for hundreds of years.
Fire is tough, necessary love. It’s the natural history lesson of a century and a funny thing to learn from any tree.
Oh the serenity of nature! The blissed-out beauty of watching the sunset over a green mountain crest! The basking, uninterrupted blanket of dusk! That is, until the inevitable nip of the season’s accompanying nuisance: bug bites. A plague to New England from June through August, Black Flies and Mosquitoes can be real party crashers.
Prepare for your uninvited guests responsibly this season with Meow Meow Tweet’s Camper’s Kit. Eschewing the noxious common insect repellent ingredient DEET (found to be toxic if used under certain conditions), this gleeful Camper’s Kit opts for natural ingredients like citronella, rosemary, lavender, lemongrass, cedar wood and fir needle essential oils to keep winged wanderers at bay. Arm yourself with a morning shower using their Citronella Fir Bar Soap, a few splashes of All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent throughout the day, and the romantic yet practical flicker of the Insect Repellent Soy Wax Candle at night and you may just find yourself feeling a little big like Bubble Boy in your impenetrable sphere of bug protection. Interlopers, you’ve been warned!
In honor of Brian Eno’s recent exhibition “77 Million Paintings,” the uber-artist recently gave an “illustrated talk” at Cooper Union on the evolution of his work. Among the many nuggets of wisdom dispensed that evening, Eno shared this lovely explanation of his recent work:
“I came up with the idea of not finishing the work of art, but rather to start one allow for life to finish the piece…. Classical art is very much an architectural model. The artist has an idea––Beethoven has the symphony playing in his head––it is all there and all he’s gotta do is write it down. The artwork exists and it is the artist’s job to materialize it. I didn’t think that was such a great idea. What I like is the idea of making something that will grow into something. Like a garden. A gardener doesn’t specify, a gardener puts the seeds in and hopes…. In a sense the gardener looses control of the creation. So the gardener starts something off and steps away to watch it grow…. This idea developed into what I call generative art.”
Brian Eno’s exhibition, “77 Million Paitings”––“A constantly evolving sound and image-scape”––is on view through June 2nd as part of the Red Bull Music Academy. See them grow for yourself at 145 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001. Suggested donation: $5.
As warm weather finally starts to set in here in New York, so too do thoughts of escaping what will eventually become our seasonal urban inferno. For some, visions of a bucolic upstate lake start appearing with every notch in the Fahrenheit. But for many, summer weather means the much anticipated trek down the thin spindle of Long Island to that golden beachfront of revelry: East Hampton. This season, locals and visitors alike will have one more reason to celebrate as Wilder favorite Aesop takes up residence in the town center. The airy new space, created by uber-design team NADAAA, pays homage to its environment in with sky blue walls and blond wood mimicking the sand and surf of this coastal retreat. We caught up with Aesop’s Suzanne Santos to hear more about the new digs, as well as check in on some of the Australian native’s springtime favorites.
What is your role at Aesop?
Suzanne Santos: I am the Australian Country Manager and have worked at Aesop since its conception 26 years ago. Customers can find me visiting and working across our Australian Stores and counter spaces throughout the year, most often in our Melbourne stores where our Head Office resides. Each year I visit the network of global Aesop stores and spend time in each with our customers and staff.
What are your favorite spring flowers?
My favorite flower in spring is the fragrance of blossom regardless of the tree. For me the aroma of blossom carried through soft warm winds defines the fragrance of spring.
What is your favorite spring vegetable?
I eat copious quantities of vegetables, with a very strict criteria of only consuming fruit and vegetable that are in season. The vision of the first asparagus––White, Green or Purple––returns the dinner recipes to warm salads and casual dining.
What is your favorite season?
As the weather has become so unpredictable and the seasons have often become unrecognizable from what I remember as a child, the one consistency is the inevitable heat of an Australian Summer, a seasonal experience I enjoy like no other.
Do you grow any plants yourself?
My small courtyard holds pots of herbs, chiles, rocket, tomatoes and rhubarb. I also have a blueberry bush which gives me great pride and copious fruit! The enemy to all urban gardeners in Australia is the indigenous marsupial, the possum. This summer I have almost cried when discovering an entire bush of ripened tomatoes had been entirely consumed overnight.
What’s the best and worst part of living where you live?
The greatest joy from the borough we reside in are the Native Australian trees like Eucalyptus and Jacaranda that attract birds, whose songs awaken me each morning. Unfortunately we are some distance from the sea––my favorite place of vision and sound. The rhythm of waves is the great pacifier.
This season you’ve launched a new product, the Parsley Seed Antioxidant Hydrator. What are some of the key botanical ingredients used in this product?
The Parsley Seed Hydrator is a concentration of many wonderful ingredients, the key delivery coming from White Tea, Panthenol and Willowherb.
What essential oils are used in the Parsley Seed Antioxidant Hydrator?
Like all Aesop formulas, essential oils hold a significant role in this products formulation and thus performance. In this product the oils to note are Lavender Moroccan Chamomile, Cedar wood, Geranium, Bergamot, Orange Oil.
How do these antioxidants help the skin?
Anti-Oxidants are critical in protecting the skin against the effects of an urban life, in particular pollution stress and extreme artificial climatic conditions created through heating and cooling. Anti-Oxidants not only defend, they assist the skin to regenerate and reduce inflammation and irritation.
Visit Aesop East Hampton at 55 Main Street, East Hampton, NY 11937 or online at Aesop.com
A great treasure of food radio is Evan Kleinman’s program “Good Food” which airs weekly on KCRW out of Los Angeles. On it, she explores food consumption, sharing everything from the latest crop at the Santa Monica farmer’s market to the funkiest hole in the wall from the underground restaurant scene.
Evan often brings a foodie guest onto her show, further wetting our appetite as we hear about unique recipes from different cultures, important issues regarding food policy or the hottest new trend in eating. No topic is off the table. Before listening to “Good Food” I never knew there was such a thing as a beauty pageant for chickens nor did I know that butter carving was an art. I’m still digesting it all!
With summer weather in mind, Evan recently brought London based blogger Kate Perutz onto her show. Perutz pens the blog, “The Saturday Picnic Society,” where she writers about her outdoor adventures and the food she brings along. If you haven’t checked it out, you must. On “Good Food” Perutz pairs adventure choice (beach vs. mountains) with meal ideas (salad lettuce wraps vs. hearty soups). She says ditch the vintage picnic basket (Evan really had her heart set on using it too) and settle for the sporty (small) backpack.
Picnics should be filling, yet light weight especially if bringing them along with you. I was shocked to hear she’s moving away from the sandwich, which I exclusively associate with picnics. She shares tips on foraging while hiking, mainly ideas for what to bring back to the kitchen rather than snacking on your findings (my personal side note: be extra cautious when foraging and never eat something you can’t identity as non-poisonous).
Finally she shares her energy-filled recipe for trail mix which centers around her go-to marmalade granola (recipe here). She adds dark chocolate covered cranberries, crystallized ginger, yogurt covered raisins and assorted nuts. Food wise, I think we just reached the summit. Before you pack your picnic for the trails, tune in to the whole episode here.
Elizabeth Peyton’s “Leonardo, February 2013”
Amid the fanfare, pomp, circumstance and jazz hands of the recent adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” the film’s leading man hosted a charity auction last night in conjunction with the art house magnate Christie’s. “The 11th Hour Charity Auction,” supported by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, featured 33 donated works of art (many of them tiger-themed) which in total garnered an unprecedented $38.5 million dollars for wildlife conservation efforts. Encouraged by DiCaprio to “bid as if the fate of the planet depends on us,” works from artists Elizabeth Peyton, Robert Longo, Mark Grotjahn, Richard Prince and others were all generously purchased in support of the environmental effort. As DiCaprio noted: “Nature is abundant and it is resilient, but we have to take action now to protect our planet before it’s too late.” Looks like Gatsby’s green light may have inspired more than just romance.
For details on the auction, visit here.
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