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Winterizing our herbs garden : An experiment with hydroponics

We’ve only had one night of frost so far but that was enough to kill all our outdoor tía tô (perilla) plants. Luckily, we’ve already started winterizing our herbs garden. This year, we’re experimenting with hydroponically growing our herbs indoor with the hope that more godlike control over our plants’ world will keep us well supplied with fresh herbs until next spring. Growing hydroponically is a technique for growing plants without soil, with well defined nutrients solutions delivered directly to plant roots. Another advantage for us is the ability to heat up the nutrient solution coursing through the system and keep the plants warm in spite of the cold air temperature in the apartment. Lay the nutrient tubing underneath the other pots and even the non-hydroponic plants will have warm happy feet!

Winter garden : (front) tía tô / perilla, rau răm / Vietnamese coriander, lá chua / sorrel, kinh giới / Vietnamese balm. More of the same in the back & various húng varieties / basil and mints.

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Our amazing find this weekend: fresh sea urchin (nhím biển)

Fresh out of the pod sea urchin roe

Fresh from Maine. Also got a masterclass in sea urchin cracking from Mike of Monahan’s Seafood. Apparently, most of the sea urchins harvested here and around the world are sold to sushi shop suppliers in Japan. So what we ate today is possibly the same sea urchin roe we’ve been eating at sushi places – before they were flown to Japan and back.

Oh man what a revelation to eat fresh fresh fresh sea urchin roe! It was rich deliciously rich, with a slight oceany flavor and a very intense sweetness. Never had it remotely close to this, not even at Tsukiji market.

We scarfed down half of our purchase for lunch – garnished the Japanese way w/ soy sauce and wasabi and/or with lá chua (sorrel) and rau răm (Vietnamese coriander).

Sea urchin with sorrel and Vietnamese coriander

We treated a friend to some fresh sea urchin roe for dinner that same day. He’s never had it before – what an introduction! Six hours later the sea urchins were still amazing, but already also noticeably different and more similar to what we’re used to getting from sushi shops. The intense sweetness was more subdued, while the scent of the sea was more prominent.

Lastly, my working translation for sea urchin into Vietnamese was bụi đời biển, but alas that’s not the real term for these things.