Welcome ...

Welcome to the Clifton Place Block Association Community Garden. Since 1991, the garden has been a green oasis for many in this corner of the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. As is the case with so many New York City community gardens, the Clifton Place Block Association Community Garden developed from the community's need to reclaim and transform a garbage-strewn city-owned lot into a place of beauty and an asset to all in Clinton Hill and surrounding areas.

In its years of existence, Clifton Place Garden (short) has served as a place where neighborly bonds are strengthened, the passion for gardening and nature is shared, friendships develop, and neighborhood children learn. Through its open door policy, Clifton Place Garden has endeared itself to the community. It is not uncommon to hear someone passing by compliment its beauty and express pride and appreciation for what the garden does to the surrounding area.

Going forward, Clifton Place Garden will seek to continue strengthen its ties to the surrounding neighborhoods through composting programs, children's workshops, and unique arts events. And we hope to connect, via this Web Log, to other gardening enthusiasts, and to share the excitement of our urban gardening experience here. Hopefully, this site will be a favorite place you will keep returning to, and if in the neighborhood, you will stop by to enjoy the pleasure of our small, flourishing retreat.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Watermelon-Papaya Salad

Every one is accustomed to fruit salads – usually made of some combination of a number of fruits in a sweet preparation. But fruits are wonderful when used in savory recipes. And here is a recipe that combines two wonderful fruits (watermelon and papaya) in a salad that is sure to please. And given that August is the height of watermelon season, its the perfect time to give it a try.

1 cup Watermelon
1 cup Ripe Papaya
Green or Red Onions (green onions finely slice and red onion cut into small cubes)
Juice of 1 Lime
¼ cup chopped Pistachio or Walnut (toasted)
2 Tbs Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Salt (to taste)
Hot Sauce (to taste) -- I prefer Sriracha for its balance of heat and sour.

1. Cut watermelon and papaya into 1/2” cubes and combine in a bowl.
2. Cut green onions into fine slice or red onions in small cubes, add to fruits.
3. Juice one lime and add juice to other ingredients.
4. Add Olive oil and combine all ingredients.
5. Add chopped nuts.
6. Add salt, combine, taste, and adjust as needed.
7. Finish with hot sauce of choice. Add hot sauce to give a sense of heat but not to overpower.

This recipe is exciting to almost all areas of the palate. The watermelon and papaya provides sweetness, yet the papaya bring in a bit of sour that his heightened by the acid of the lime. The onion provides savory flavoring. The nut provides crunch to contrast the smoothness of the watermelon and papaya. The salt ties everything together and hot sauce brings about the last bit of magic needed to make the recipe complete.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Fall Gardening

The end of August and the shortening days tells us the end of summer is soon approaching here in NYC. And for many community gardeners, the gardening season will soon end. In many of the plots the summer vegetables are plentiful. There are tomatoes of all varieties, squashes, okra, melons, and assorted herbs and green leafy vegetables add lusciousness. But the cooling days hints that the window is closing on summer and with it goes the joys gardening in the summer months bring.

But should the fading daylight and cooling temperatures mean an end to gardening? No. The approach of fall should be just as exciting as that of spring, as it is both a time of transition in seasons as it is for planting opportunities. As the harvest from summer staples such as tomatoes, corn, and lettuce diminish, it is time to clear plots and prepare to extend gardening into fall and early winter. For some vegetables, such as collards and lettuce, growth in cooler climate yields a better product that lacks the bitterness summer grown vegetables can develop. Hint: pick summer vegetables before they reach full maturity.

Here is a list of vegetable that are appropriate for fall gardening:

  • Beets
  • Brocolli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Turnips

  • This list consists of large numbers of hardy plants that will require little or no frost protection. Use of burlap or any other material supported by stakes will work in creating a barrier between the plants and frost. Root crops such as carrots and radishes should be harvested or heavily mulched to protect against hard freeze. With mulching, the harvest of root vegetables can extend well into spring. And a mild winter might result in harvests from all crop through spring.

    At The Clifton Garden April 15 – October 15 is the official gardening season. But we encourage all members to take full advantage of the garden to grow crops year round, if possible.

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    Mint, More Than Tea.

    Mint. For many it for tea (iced or hot). For others, its a weed that should be destroyed at every sighting. But in actuality mint is a herb that lends itself to very complex uses and should be viewed as favorably as basil and parsley from a culinary perspective.

    Mint pairs very nicely with many food items. From cucumbers to watermelon, soups to risotto, mint will always enliven a plate. Unfortunately, American cuisine rarely take advantage of mint in recipes. In contrast, many south Asian dishes depend on mint for authenticity in flavor. Whether it is Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, or Laotian cuisine (to name a few), these cultures often reach for mint to freshen the taste of dishes. What would a Vietnamese spring roll be without mint?
    Here are a few way you might incorporate mint in your cooking:

    1. As a salt. Huh? That's right, as a salt. You can dehydrate mint in a microwave and blend it together with salt in a spice-blender to create Mint-salt. The Mint-salt can then be use to flavor, for example, a watermelon-tomato salad, a piece of pan seared salmon, or a vinaigrette.
    2. In sauces. Creating mint tea is basically the infusion of water with the essence of mint. This process of infusing a liquid with the essence of mint can be applied in making sauces. For example, you can make a wonderful cream sauce that will go nicely with a mushroom stuffed ravioli. Saute 2tbs finely chopped onion in blended oil (olive/canola oil) till translucent. Add the juice of one lemon and reduce till syrupy. Add 1 cup of cream and handful of mint. Reduce cream by 50 percent of until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Do not reduce cream more than 50 percent. Strain sauce to get rid of mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

    3. In soups. There are many soup recipes that utilize mint in a prominent manner. Here is a unique and healthy recipes that you can easily make. Cold Green Peas and Mint soup is ideal for summer. Bring about 2-3 cups of water to boil. Once boiling, turn fire off. Take about a cup of green peas (fresh or frozen, if frozen, thaw) and blanch them in the hot water for about 2 minutes. Add blanched peas, add about a cup of mint leaves, 1 small red onion, 2 tbs white wine vinegar , and two cup of cold water in a blender. Blend all ingredients, season to taste with salt and pepper, and adjust vinegar taste, if necessary. Voila! A healthy, nutritious, and delicious soup. You'll get sweetness from the peas and the mint works to heighten the freshness of the peas. The onion and vinegar is there to balance everything out. Add cream or sour cream if a little fat is desired.
    4. In salads. Here is a salad that is pretty boring without mint. It is an Orzo, Feta, Tomato, and Mint salad. Orzo, is a Mediterranean pasta shaped like rice. To prepare, bring 3 cups salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add 1 cup Orzo (When cooking pasta, always add pasta to salted boiling water, else it will clump and stick to the bottom of the pot.) Cook pasta till cooked. Pastas are usually cook when they begin to float, is firm to the teeth, but do not taste raw(floury). Do not overcook. Drain hot pasta into colander, run under cold water to stop cooking, then toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Cut Feta cheese into small cubes, wash either cherry or teardrop tomatoes (use whole). Chop mint leaves finely. Add all ingredients to large bowl. Make a vinaigrette with 2 parts oil to 1 part white wine vinegar, 1-2 tbs maple syrup, salt and pepper. Add vinaigrette to ingredients in bowl and gently toss to incorporate. That's it! Bon Appetite.
    5. As a substitute for other herbs. Mint is an excellent substitute in recipes that may call for cilantro, in particular. But it can also be used instead of parsley or any herb whose addition primarily is for freshness.

    So hopefully you get the sense that mint is for more than tea and dessert decoration. With a little experimentation, you too can come to see the many possibilities of mint in cooking.