April 29th, 2012 by Marc Opperman
This weekend I accomplished a number of things that have been long-standing to-do items in the realm of GardenAustin. Most notably, I made margaritas flavored with agarita berries. I’ve been wanting to do that for some time. I jumped in and did it this year, but it wasn’t easy.
As anyone who knows agarita will tell you, the leaves that protect this native shrub are the vegetal equivalent of a polearm. The berries are small and seedy, and well-protected. Picking them is a labor akin to willfully sticking your hands into a porcupine.
Old-timers will tell you to stick a sheet under the shrub and beat the branches with a stick to collect the berries, but this didn’t work for me. My particular plant is too dense to achieve such a thing. So I hand-picked about a cup and a half of the berries.
Juicing them was no easy task, either. Perhaps there is some form of juice-extracting wizardry out there, but I don’t have that. Instead, I used my garlic press.
Yup. Garlic press. The openings in it are small enough to exclude the seeds and trap the pulp, yet still extract the juices. It took about 30 minutes, but a cup-and-a-half of berries yielded about two ounces of juice.
Since agarita berries are tart like limes with a vaguely strawberry-like taste, I’d always wanted to use the berries instead of lime juice. That just wasn’t practical, though, with only two ounces of berry juice. So, the berry juice became an additive. A flavor.
The results were very good. Well worth the making of a Spring tradition.
My recipe was this:
… over ice.
In other news, I finished the transition of the former fire pit area today with a mixture of brick-laying and gravel pathway magic. Both the bricks and the granite gravel were reused materials, and the area they cover removed yet more lawn from the southwest corner of my yard. I used perforated brick with the homes that it would serve as a rain infiltration point. I purposely dug the area between the two garden beds to be a little lower so that rainwater would collect on the path and infiltrate. We’ll see how that goes.
Cantaloupe are planted, as well as one mystery tomato volunteer I found this weekend. I transplanted it to a more useful spot that wasn’t in the path of, well, path construction.
Lukas was a big help today. Mainly he was fascinated by caterpillars. He let one (a gulf fritillary) crawl all over him, and decided to carry another around as a temporary pet for about an hour. As that second one was some form of army worm, I had no objections. Especially when he eventually squished it with his Matchbox car. I love seeing him so fearless about bugs.
Oh, and did I mention he ate several carpenter ants yesterday?