a food blog by samwellsphoto.com

Archive for 'my garden'

January 3, 2015

A few years ago I planted 5 different varieties of guavas, and this year all 5 produced fruit in almost overwhelming quantities. As of right now I have 3 varieties of tropical pink guavas and two varieties of pineapple guavas. Each has its unique flavor and fruiting season. One of the trees was so fruitful that we ended up making guava juice and jam, we put them in smoothies every morning, froze a bunch for later, and we even made one gallon of guava wine. One tree started producing ripe fruit back in October and I just picked the last two ripe guavas yesterday.

Here in southern California, we can grow most subtropical fruits (depending how cold the micro-climate gets). Local rare fruit nurseries are the perfect place to see what fruits grow best in your specific area.

To make guava nectar, just add guavas to a blender with a few cups of water and puree. Strain the puree through a fine strainer and drink. You can also make lemonade and add the nectar to it to make a guava lemonade.

Just when I thought the harvest was done for the year, the other variety started setting fruit again, so we will have more in a month or two. We will basically have guavas for most of the year.

Although pineapple guavas are my favorite variety to eat, I love the deciduous bark on all the tropical guavas. The bark sheds and reveals a new layer of color and the bark remains smooth.

Guava trees can handle heavy pruning, so I prune my trees often and aggressively. I want them to stay small and pick-able. All fruit comes from new growth, so pruning only increases yield as you get twice as many shoots from every cut point. They grow fast so it’s best to stay on top of the pruning.

November 17, 2014


I bought a small 1 gallon bay tree a year ago, and its been growing like crazy ever since. I up-potted it twice, and now its in a 14 inch terracotta pot. I had to give it a little trim the other day, and I got 10 small branches from this 2 foot tree . Now I use bay in everything I can – in all my soups, stocks, braises and marinades. I met an old couple in Argentina that tossed bunches of bay on the fire when they were cooking meat over coals. If you want a very useful tree you can cook from, I would really recommend a bay tree. Its hardy, it’s a fast grower, and if you keep it in a pot, you can keep it at a manageable size. You will be able to pick fresh leaves daily and always have bay on hand.

October 29, 2014

I just picked the last of my pepino melons for the season. They are beautiful looking fruit that tastes like a cross between a melon and a cucumber. I put them in salads to sweeten things up or just eat them whole like any fruit. This has been one of my favorite plants to grow because its a perennial and it is super easy to propagate by cloning. I’ve cloned a bunch by cuttings, but I found that mound layering is the fastest way to do it. All you need to do is bend a few branches down to the ground and cover them with 4-6 inches of dirt. Wait a few weeks and the roots will grow and then you can cut it from the mother plant and dig it out to transplant. I bought my mother plant a few years ago for $12 in a one gallon pot, and i’ve made at least 30 plants from it. It’s a hard plant to find, but it is well worth growing.

August 2, 2012

One common thing I hear all the time from people that don’t cook is “I don’t know what to do.” I don’t think its their fault because TV shows and recipe books have over complicated cooking for far too long. It’s not rocket science if you have good ingredients. If you don’t have good ingredients, then your food will be bland. Finding or growing the most flavorful ingredients is my form of cheating (much like wrapping things in bacon – only healthier).

A monkey could prepare this tomato salad, and this was one of the most delicious sides I’ve had in a while. In fact I had something just like this at a restaurant for way to much money. The key was the ingredients. Grown in good organic soil and picked at peak ripeness. The heirloom tomatoes were from my friends garden, and the basil and the yellow pear tomatoes were from my garden. If you can’t get veg from your garden, get it at a farmer’s market. This will only be as good as the tomatoes you use.

Recipe for 2 servings:

  • 4-5 tomatoes (try a few varieties)
  • basil
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar (you can also try flavored balsamics. The one I used was fig balsamic)
  1. Dice tomatoes. Pick basil leaves (finely dice if large). Add oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. Done.
July 16, 2012

If you haven’t planted summer squash yet, get on it! These are one of my favorite veggies to grow because they are so easy to grow and each plant gives anywhere from 5-10 squash. I’ve been harvesting nonstop, and they grow fast. This plant is in my front yard raised bed.

Summer squash are very sweet, soft, but they last a long time. Everyone seems to plant zucchini, but they get too big, foul quickly, and are sometimes bitter. Summer squash are 10 times better in my opinion.

May 21, 2012

Some of the easiest greens to grow for me have always been kale, chard, and collard greens. Here is a yield from 2 young kale plants and one collard green plant. This was shot a month ago, and these plants are still pumping out more leaves. Never kill the whole plant when harvesting. Just keep picking the big ones, and the plant will live on to produce 10 times more. If you take care of it, you can get months of fresh greens in your backyard garden. Pick lettuce the same way.

I’ll post a kale recipe tomorrow.


April 6, 2012

My dad hooked me up with some really nice garlic he just picked from his garden. Freshly picked garlic is a whole new world of flavor. Picture what store bought garlic goes through before it reaches your house. First its probably grown in Fresno valley, then put into an open air truck bed and driven to a distribution center. It sits there for a while. Then it finally gets delivered to a store. Then it sits there again until you buy it. Since garlic keeps for a while, your probably buying really old garlic. With that said, freshly picked garlic is better. More flavor. More nutrients.

Plant your own. It’s super easy. Just plant the cloves a few inches apart, water, and wait 4-8 months. If you accidentally let garlic sprout, don’t throw it away – plant it. You can pick it early before it forms a bulb, and the flavor is amazing also.

February 1, 2012

After 3 weeks in my new greenhouse, my first lettuce harvest is big enough to start picking. My guava tree was about to break with these huge pink guavas, so I decided to combine forces to make a bomb salad. This salad dressing recipe is super easy to make, and you can adapt it to any combination of flavors you like. Try different fruits and vinegars. It also keeps for a while in the fridge, and if you make it in a jar you’ve got the perfect storage device.

Guava Salad Dressing:

  • 3 Guavas (Can also make this with a few handfuls of raspberries)
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  1. Cut guava into chunks and juice lime and orange
  2.  Add the juice, vinegar, and water and blend. (I use an immersion blender, but you can use any blender or food processor)
  3. Strain out seeds
  4. Lightly dress salad and add dried fig (use dried cranberries if you don’t have figs)
  5. Serve with bruschetta (Bread with caramalized peppers and onions with cheese on top)


December 23, 2011

My first crop is finally sprouting in the greenhouse my dad helped me build. It’s a small 6×6 foot box made from recycled solar panel glass and wood he cut from local fallen pine (cut on his super sweet saw mill). I’m planting all my greens in waves, so I’ll have new harvest ready every week. This first batch has cress, mesclun salad mix, red oak lettuce, siberian kale, and butter crunch lettuce. I plan on eating most of these when they are young, and then replanting. It only makes sense to grow your own lettuce because it is ready for you to eat everyday – if you plant correctly. Stay tuned for some recipes, and maybe some plans to build your own box.

November 1, 2011

One of my favorite foods is roasted peppers, so I grow a bunch every summer. I had a good crop of padron, shishito, california, and Hungarian hot wax peppers, so I would pan sear them for a side dish or snack. All you have to do is sear them really high for about 5 minutes until they color, and then turn down the heat and cook them for another 10 minutes until they are flimsy. Then put a good amount of lime and salt and eat. I like to cook them whole with the stems and seeds because the sweetest part is the seed pod right under the stem.