Cousin Anthony and me; I just LOVE Portuguese cabbage, as you can see. This is the biggest, healthiest one I've ever seen. I just had to give it a hug.

Today was a garden day at my cousin’s home in Kane’ohe.

I’m the black thumb of the family (probably the black sheep, too, but that’s another story). If I so much as look too long at a plant it begins to droop or it develops a bad case of aphids or becomes a magnet for slugs. I consider it a miracle that some gorgeous lavender given to me on my birthday in September is flourishing in a pot along our walkway. Usually, the things I love the most die first. I killed a ni’oi (Hawaiian chili pepper) that I had craved so much I got up at dawn on the day of the Urban Garden Center in Pearl City to get it. It got whitefly or something.

But luckily, my husband, the one who waters, pots and prunes, is a mitigating influence. He just cares more about the flowering things that he does about the edible ones, so sometimes my malign garden vibe touches them and … they’re doomed.

Still, we manage to have healthy Portuguese cabbage, a small but thriving rosemary plant, three pots of parsley, my precious lemon verbena, a ridiculously productive dwarf Meyer lemon bush, a flourishing basic plant or two and a fig tree that bears a few precious fruit each year.

To my delight, recently, I got back in touch with a second cousin, my grandfather’s brother’s son, a retired printer named Anthony Duarte. He’s working on a pot-based gardening system (I’m not allowed to give details because he’s trying to patent it) and has, in a very small space an amazing food garden: cucumbers, Portuguese cabbage, ni’oi, flat-leaf parsley, eggplant, bell peppers, carrots, etc. etc. etc. Took my horticulturist friend, Heidi Bornhorst, to meet Cousin today and what a lovely day of marveling at God’s bounty and Cousin’s incredible mechanical skill (the man can build ANYTHING from NOTHING; the star on his Christmas tree, he made 50 or so years ago from a shoebox and some tinfoil and it’s immensely charming).

It was a lovely day of talking, eating, remembering, harvesting fruit and vegetables. I just hope I didn’t kill anything. I doubt it. There was too much gardening mana around me with Anthony and Heidi at my side.

Unlike my potted dwarf Meyer lemon, here, Cousin Anthony's grow in amazing grape-like clusters. His tree is LOADED.

Heidi also gave me a great tip for preserving the life of Meyer lemons (which tend to go off all at once) and getting some easy citrus flavor into a marinade, a dressing or another dish: freeze the Meyer lemon, then just grate it. She swears it grates easily when frozen. And that’s so much easier than having to juice the lemons and then freeze them.

Let’s try it. Let me know how it goes for you and I’ll do the same.

I’m away tomorrow but will be blogging again Thursday.