Tis the Season of the Agave

by on December 27, 2018 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Kathy Blavatt

Ocean Beach Christmas Tree, 2018. All photos by Kathy Blavatt

Christmas came early this year. The Ocean Beach Christmas tree arrived early, because the first Saturday of the month was the scheduled annual Ocean Beach Parade, which fell on December 1, 2018.

In traditional O.B. style, the Christmas tree was not straight, but leaning, and quite a bit if you looked from the sides.

O.B.’s “Agave Attenuata” aka “Swan’s Neck in Kathy’s gardens”

Nature also surprised us with an early gift of sorts. The “Agave Attenuata”, sometimes known as “Swan’s Necks”, is blooming in mass this year, adorning block after block along our local streets and in my garden.

Each plant sends out a curved inflorescence, known as a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch. In the case of “Agave Attenuata” the flower blossoms are first green, then they change to pale yellow, and then white.


“Agave Attenuata” and Aloe with red flowers

These Agaves look like trees that would be in Dr. Seuss’ town of “Whoville”, or abstract cartoon versions of our O.B. Tree.

“Agave Attenuata” on Narragansett Ave.

These “Agave Attenuata” also bring a gift to the bees consisting of a winter feast of pollen and agave nectar that drips from its blossoms. Hundreds of bees gorge themselves on each plant. It is truly a treat to watch these little bees buzz around as they work and load their up legs with the yellow pollen.

Bees collecting pollen from the “Agave Attenuata”

Other local Agave varieties also have a Christmas tree appearance, as does this tall leaning one on the corner of Cable St. and Orchard Ave. in ocean beach.

“Agave” on Orchard Ave.



White “Poinsettias”

Poinsettias are a traditional winter holiday plant, but few people know they are in the “Euphorbia” family, and are related to many of the plants grown locally.

“Euphorbia Milli”, like the Poinsettias, blooms in the winter and come in many of the same colors of variably red, pink or white. The common names for Euphorbia Milli are Crown of Thorns, Christ Plant, and Christ Thorn.

Red “Euphorbia Milli” in a pot in Kathy’s garden.

The “Smoketree Spurge” also a “Euphorbia,” has wonderful plum colored leaves and blooms delicate white flowers in the winter.

“Smoketree Spurge”

The Smoketree Spurge are easy to propagate by just sticking a branch in a pot of good soil and keeping it well watered until its roots are formed. Once these are established they need little water. The Smoketree Spurge can be trimmed down to a small tree, or grown into a full size tree.

Now that we know the O.B. plants are putting on a holiday show for us, we need to take our clue from the bees and enjoy the winter feasting.

Just as the bees, we all enjoy the seasonal sweets, maybe substitute agave syrup or honey for the sugar as you make your baked treats?

Honey needs to be cooked at a lower temperature or your goodies can turn hard. “I learned that lesson on my first date with my husband when he almost broke his teeth on my home baked rock-hard honey carob brownies!”

Since much of the party foods, drinks, and holiday meals, are rich and high in calories, its smart to make healthier meals in-between the heavy meals.

Rosemary Christmas Tree, homemade soup, and produce from Kathy’s garden.

Soup is my all time favorite winter food that is perfect for using my garden produce. Herbs, homegrown onions, celery, potatoes, beets, tomatoes, citrus, a variety of greens, are some of the fresh ingredients I harvest from my yard.

It seem like you can add any fresh produce to your soup and it will taste good when mixed in with a good homemade broth. Some of my favorite broth base ingredients include water, oil, soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper, mushrooms, a splash of crème sherry and/or tomato sauce. Any of these ingredients adds subsistence to the soup: rice, grains, potatoes, legumes, pasta, meat or vegan meat. The addition of the fresh produce and herbs gives the soup its homemade flavor. The ingredients tend to meld together in the days following after the soup was made, making the leftover soup even tastier.

If you make a lot of soup and are starting to tire of it, simply change it! Add new spices such as curry powder, chili powder, sage or any of your favorite spices, or ingredients, and you’ll have a new meal!

Speaking of spices, a nice green environmental way to celebrate is to rethink getting large traditional tree and instead get a live rosemary bush trimmed into the shape of a Christmas tree. Besides having a Christmas tree, you get a lasting bonus benefit if you later plant the rosemary in your garden, or a larger pot. The next year, you can use the sprigs of rosemary in you holiday cooking. It’s a great way to ring in the new, as the rosemary Christmas tree over time grows into a pale blue flowery bush.


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