foxglovesElegant…purely elegant is the word that comes to mind when I think of foxgloves and delphiniums. Very similar in appearance and growth habit, these two garden goodies are excellent additions the spring tableau and fantastic in arrangements.

Digitalis purpurea is the Latin name for foxgloves. The genus Digitalis gathers its name from the ease of which one’s fingers, or digits, can be capped by the floral bells cascading down their stalks. In literary lore, a fox could slip its paws into the bells and use them as gloves - thus the common name. I bet Beatrix Potter had something to do with that. Pinks, creams, lavenders, lilacs, yellows, peaches, and speckled mixes of them all abound in the foxglove color range.

As for other uses besides gorgeous garden elements, the Digitalis genus is used in cardiology to create several types of heart medicine and even some neurological medicines. Quite amazing considering the whole plant, roots, leaves, seeds, and stems are toxic! The pharmaceutical positives are extracted from the leaves…somewhat akin to using snake venom for medicine or a flu vaccination. Don’t worry about the toxicity…just don’t eat them!

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farmersmarketsaladx-1It’s almost Spring, right? All the beautiful produce will start showing up at the market soon. This salad is a beautiful addition to any table, making a beautiful centerpiece for a stunning buffet.

And flavor...it’s full of it, not to mention it pairs fabulously with a crisp white wine. The salad is a lovely taste of the Mediterranean.

Don’t shy away from the anchovy paste; it gives distinctive flavor without imparting a fishy taste.

This salad is truly a meal in itself and tastes awesome with some crusty bread as a side kick. Did I mention there are potatoes in here. Yes, potatoes in salad with greens. It's a bonus.

I hope you enjoy all these fabulous flavors, it's a winner.

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affrettoA couple of weekends ago at the Little Italy Mercato, as I was peacefully sorting through ears of sweet corn, I heard a woman scream, "Oh, my God! I can't believe it!"

Curious, I followed the voice, and noticed a woman a few tables ahead with her arms waving wildly in the air. She was talking rapidly and loudly and began jumping as if she were standing on hot coals.

"Oh, my God! I haven't seen that since I lived in Italy," she exclaimed.

What? What hadn't she seen since she lived in Italy? Gargantuan globe artichokes? We have those in San Diego. Mint green Vespas? Got 'em. A hot Italian guy? We have many of them, especially at Sogno di Vino and Bencotto in Little Italy. You're welcome, ladies.

Turns out what thrilled her was finding agretti, a springtime Mediterranean succulent, or water-retaining plant. With its verdant color and feathery texture, agretti looks like a cross between fennel fronds, rosemary, and grass.

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peashootsA couple of weeks ago I experienced a revelation: I tasted my first pea shoot.

I was at the Little Italy Mercato buying Asian produce from The Vangs, also known as Mr. and Mrs. Green. After purchasing Thai basil, fresh ginger and sugar snap peas, I asked, "What do pea shoots taste like?"

She replied, with no sarcasm, "Peas."

She tore a small piece off one of the leaves and handed it to me. I bit into it and suddenly the sun broke through the clouds, harp music began playing, and I floated ever so slightly off of the pavement.

OK, that's not exactly what happened. There was no harp music. It was Spanish music being played by a local band.

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springflowersThe kitchen sink – epicenter of the kitchen and the house. We wash, prepare, cook, and serve from this spot, spending many an hour at this oasis. I love to keep little mementoes of my garden forays at the sink, reminding me of what’s blooming just outside my door. Making arrangements for my house at the sink gives me leftover blossoms, buds, and leaves to stick in my cache of containers awaiting a fresh floral look. And since the sink is such a personal, and well used piece of the home, my collection of “specials” is a close hand reminder of dear ones.

Mema’s silver tray, Aunt Irene’s mother-of-pearl salt and pepper shakers, a bud vase I stole from Mimi, a sprinkling of blue and white, a favorite Mason’s ware platter and a various and a sundry assortment of soaps stand guard as stylish and nostalgic items.

The seasons change but my assortment doesn’t too much. These items are neutral enough – silver, Depression glass, transferware or blue and white – to withstand the changing times and uphold the blooms of the current season. Red berries at Christmas, greens in the winter, spring buds and summer herbs, and autumnal hued leaves all find their place at my sink-side sanctuary.

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