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Tag Archives: Fall Gardening in Dallas

Green Tomato Primer

Green tomatoes are usually seen at the beginning and the end of tomato season.  Sometimes they get harvested at the beginning when you just can’t wait another minute to have a tomato, and when the weatherman announces the first frost of the year, the rest of the harvest comes inside in a hurry.

If it’s been a good year, that leaves you with lots of tart green balls; some may continue to ripen, but they usually don’t have the depth of flavor and sweetness of those that finish on the vine.  But it’s a pity to compost all that hard work and potential goodness.  So what do you do?

Above: 13 cups of green tomatoes were harvested  for Green Tomato Recipes. The ripe tomatoes were eaten.

Above: 13 cups of green tomatoes were harvested for Green Tomato Recipes. The ripe tomatoes were eaten.

This primer will hopefully help you better understand your green harvest and give you some ideas – along with some recipes – to help you use it all up deliciously! Green tomatoes are tart and hard.  If you have green cherry tomatoes, you may even find them a little bitter (I think that’s from the greater amount of skin to pulp than you have on a larger tomato.)  To mellow the flavor of the tomato, you could cut, dice or slice it (you want to expose the interior), salt it, cover it and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.  The next day (or the day after that) when you go to use it, drain and rinse it, and it will still be tart, but it won’t turn your face inside out. Green tomatoes can be substituted reasonably easily in recipes that call for:

  • tart apple
  • lemon
  • kumquat
  • tamarind
  • fresh cranberries

Cherry green tomatoes would work especially well as substitutes for kumquats and cranberries if the shape is important.  So if you already have a recipe you enjoy that uses one of these ingredients, go ahead and substitute green tomatoes for it! Below is a list of flavors that would complement green tomatoes, if you enjoy improvising:

  • almonds
  • walnuts
  • hazelnut
  • coconut
  • coconut cream
  • sesame oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • tea
  • vanilla
  • rose water
  • ginger
  • sugar (brown, white)
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • coriander
  • allspice
  • cardamom
  • cloves
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • mustard
  • caraway
  • bay leaf
  • chile pepper
  • garlic
  • onion
  • bitter greens
  • corn
  • butter
  • cheese (ricotta, parmesean, cream)
  • chicken
  • turkey
  • duck
  • beef
  • game (venison)

A flavor combination:

  • beef + coconut milk + green tomato 

Other recipe ideas:

  • cornbread with green tomatoes and jalapenos
  • almond thumbprint cookies with candied green tomatoes (or green tomato jam)
  • coconut pie/tart crust with a green tomato filling
  • green tomato jam and coconut milk in your favorite vanilla ice cream recipe (substitute the coconut milk for some or all of the milk and cream)
  • dehydrate and powder the tomatoes to add to any recipe for a little extra tartness
  • added to soups or stews
  • the classic: fried green tomatoes! 

The following recipes were designed for a small batch of green cherry tomatoes, where 1 cup weighed approximately 5 ounces.

Above: Green Tomato Recipe Sampling at The Demonstration Garden

Above: Green Tomato Recipe Sampling at The Demonstration Garden

If your tomatoes are full-sized, you may choose to dice or slice them, and in addition, you have the option of peeling the skins to reduce the acidity, and some of the bitterness.

Hungry for Lila  Rose’s Green Tomato Recipes? Click Here.

Lila Rose

Pictures by Starla

Another Sign of Fall

Many people associate the arrival of fall by the appearance of red, gold, and yellow leaves on trees or seeing groups of pumpkins suddenly pop up on people’s front porches.  However for those of us who have native trees/shrubs, fall also means seeing the clusters of purple berries on our American Beautyberry.

Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

American Beautyberry grows best in partial sun and often used as an understory tree.  Found growing wild in East Texas thickets, this deciduous, 4-6 foot shrub or small tree has small, unspectacular greenish-white flowers in the spring, but is known for its showy clusters of purple berries in the fall.

It prefers moist soils but can be grown in the sun with supplemental watering; and it is tolerant of various soil types.  Aggie-Horticulture suggests pruning its long, arching branches back by 1/2 in the winter if a more compact shrub is desired.  Most Beautyberries have purple berry clusters; however there is a white-berried variety, C. americana var. lactea.  The Demonstration Garden grows a Mexican variety called Callicarpa acuminate ‘Texas Maroon”  which has maroon berries.

Callicarpa acuminate ‘Texas Maroon”

Callicarpa acuminate ‘Texas Maroon”

There is some controversy about whether the berries are toxic to humans.  Several sites say that unripe berries should never be eaten.  Native Americans used the roots of Beautyberry as a diuretic, the leaves for dropsy, and a tea made from the roots and berries for colic.  The leaves and roots were used in sweat baths for the treatment of malaria, rheumatism and fevers.  The leaves themselves can be rubbed on the skin as an external mosquito repellent.  Some sites however, including Aggie-Horticulture  say that jelly made from ripe Beautyberries is excellent.  However, as with many plants that are foraged from the wild, “diner beware.”

There is no controversy however that ripe Beautyberries are one of wildlife’s favorite foods.  In my own yard, I only able to enjoy seeing the ripe purple berries for about a week before the mockingbirds have eaten every berry off of my large tree.  Green Dean, who writes about foraging for wild edibles, reports that the Beautyberry is a squirrel’s version of take out.  Other birds that enjoy eating the berries are robins, catbirds, cardinals, mockingbirds, brown thrashers, and finches.

So, if you want a shrub/small tree that will provide fall color and feed the wildlife (and perhaps you too), think about planting an American Beautyberry.  You won’t be disappointed.


Celebrating Our Harvest Lunch

imageThere is an old hymn that begins with the words “Come, ye thankful people come, Raise the song of harvest home!”  Yesterday at the Joe Field Demonstration Garden as we gathered around the harvest table, our spirits were indeed lifted with gratitude and thanks.

It was an especially joyful experience for our team of volunteers to serve over 46 guests the foods that had been gathered and prepared by our own hands.  For weeks we had planned every detail of the day and watching it unfold was a testament to the hard work of everyone involved.

Here is a closer look at the recipes, the setting and decor that made the day so special for a lovely group of Master Gardeners and their friends.


Will we host a similar event in the spring?  Stay posted – we’re as”busy as bees” at the Demonstration Garden!



Outstanding At The Field-An Invitation

pumkin growing in the demo garden

Master Gardeners at the Joe Field Demonstration Garden invite you to…

“Outstanding at the Field”

Guests will enjoy a fall feast celebrating the harvest, the land, and the farmers that cultivate the food for our table.

Lunch will served on white tablecloths covering a long table

set within our lovely fall garden.

 Garden to Table Harvest Lunch

Mother’s Meatloaf with Piquant Sauce

Skillet Fried Corn

A “Mess of Peas” with Sweet-and-Spicy Chow-Chow

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

Dixie Cornbread with Honey-Thyme Butter & Tomato Jam

Caramel Apple Layer Cake with Apple Cider Frosting


Layered Pumpkin Pie in a Jar


“Growing and Grilling”

 A special presentation by Master Gardener Tim Allsup

(One-hour Education Credit for Master Gardeners)

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 29

 $15 per person

 Proceeds benefit educational tours for Dallas schoolchildren

Your reservation is your check for $15 made out to DCMG.  Checks must be received by October 15th.

If you would like to come, please email us at

 Enrollment is limited.

This event is open to all Master Gardeners, friends, and the public.

Fall Crops For Dallas Veggie Gardens

If you are feeling the heat, you may think of September as the end of summer but if you are outside ready to work in your veggie patch;  fall is on your mind.

At the Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road, we are busy planting and preparing for fall.  Jim, as always, is way ahead of most of us and provides this useful fall planting guide : For our fall crop info click here.

Last week we planted seeds of  green and yellow bush beans and yellow squash.

Next up, seeds of beets, peas, carrots lettuce and radishes with broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower transplants.

Seeds for Fall Planting in Dallas Gardens

Seeds for Fall Planting in Dallas Gardens

Prepare your beds for fall planting:

  • First, decide what crops will produce through fall, pull the diseased and finished or  non producing vegetables. For instance, I will save jalepeno,  okra, basil, and one of my tomato plants.
  • Pull back the mulch or set it aside on a tarp or in a wheelbarrow and add compost to your vegetable bed.  It is important to remove the mulch for seed planting and so that you don’t incorporate it into the soil.
  • After adding and forking your compost into the soil, you are ready to sow seeds or add transplants.
  •  Add back the mulch around transplants only. When your seeds have sprouted and have their “true” leaves, you can gingerly add mulch to these plants.


Two More Fall Planting Resources:

TAMU Fall Planting Guide and NHG Guide

Arugula-Pear-Blue Cheese Salad

Arugula, Pears, Pecans, Blue Cheese For Salad

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp peach or pear preserves

1/2 cup Champagne vinegar

1 shallot, sliced

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper 

1/2 cup olive oil 

8 cups loosely packed arugula

2 Bartlett pears, cut into 6 wedges each

4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans 

Process 1/4 cup preserves and next 5 ingredients in a food processor 30 seconds to 1 minute or until smooth.  With processor running, pour oil through food chute in a slow steady stream, processing until smooth.  Transfer to a 2-cup measuring cup or small bowl, and stir in remaining 2 Tbsp peach preserves. 

Place arugula in a large serving bowl.  Top with pears, blue cheese, and pecans.  Drizzle with vinaigrette. 

Elizabeth  From Southern Living Magazine 

Lakota Squash, An Heirloom Vegetable For Fall Gardens

Lakota Squash Planted In  Early August

Lakota squash is one of the winter storage types of squash. It’s a medium sized,  pear-shaped squash, weighing an average of about seven pounds. The outer shell is hard with interior flesh a golden yellow. The flavor is nutty and sweet. The Lakota squash derives its name from the Lakota Tribe of the Sioux Indians who prized this hardy winter squash for cooking and baking.   We like to think we are continuing their history by growing it at The Demonstration Garden. 

Store Lakota squash in a cool, dry place for up to three months or more after picking them. Since this is our first time to grow this heirloom vegetable, we may try one of these cooking ideas from Chef Kyle Shadix :

• Purée in food processor with light coconut milk, curry, and freshly minced and sautéed ginger and garlic.
• Add brown sugar, vanilla extract, and toasted walnuts.
• Add maple syrup and toasted almonds.
• Serve mashed with salt and pepper and a touch of real butter.
• Mix with prepared pesto and sprinkle with Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.

Because Lakota Squash is an heirloom variety not a hybrid, the seeds will produce offspring like the parent. Next year we can share the seed and all get a little taste of Sioux history!


Bushels Of Butternuts

Even the name—butternut—brings fall to mind.  Nature brings us such end of the season treats in November.  The queen of winter squash hides hers in a soft beige overcoat, revealing the rich, orange-yellow flesh when cut.

Butternut Squash Growing In Our Garden With Unfortunate Mildew On Leaves

Jim, our vegetable expert at the garden, has harvested bushels of lovely butternuts.  He planted the exuberant vines in the heat of the summer, with harvest plans for November. All squash are types of gourds.  Butternuts should be harvested when firm, well shaped, and heavy for their size.  Unlike their thin-skinned summer cousins, winter squash have a hard tough shell.  Butternuts can be stored for several months in a cool, dark place. 

Of course, the fun is deciding how to serve butternuts.  Soup? Such a lovely, rich addition to the Thanksgiving table.  Roasted? Add a bit of fresh ginger and butter. Or enjoy its sweet, slightly nutty flavor in filled pastas, spicy curries, or stews. 

Butternut–and other winter squash like acorn, pumpkin, and Hubbard–are a nutritional bonanza. They are rich in Vitamin A (beta-carotene), fiber, folate (folic acid) and potassium.

Butternut Squash Harvested From Our Garden Atop A Store Bought Pumkin

So don’t pass up these lovely winter squash for your Thanksgiving table.   You might try my daughter Molly’s favorite: Butternut Squash Soup.

Butternut Squash Soup 

1 Tbs olive oil

5 oz. pancetta, cut into small dice

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp minced garlic

1 sprig fresh sage leaves

3 ¼  cups low-sodium chicken broth

3  cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks

 1 ½ Tbs. Marsala wine

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup heavy cream

Lightly whipped cream for garnish

¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped 

In a stockpot over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly crisp, 5-7 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; reserve the oil in the pot.

Add the onion and sugar to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and slightly caramelized, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and sage sprig and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the broth and squash and simmer, covered, until the squash is tender, 20-25 minutes.  Remove the sage sprig and discard.  Add the Marsala and season with salt and white pepper.  Simmer for 3 minutes, and then remove the pot from the heat.

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth, then whisk in the cream.  Ladle the soup into warmed bowls.  Garnish with the pancetta, a dollop of whipped cream, and hazelnuts.

Adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe 


Texas Style Fall Color

Fall Gardens in Dallas trump summer gardens!   Remember this instead of  falling into discouragement in our 100° plus days with hardly a drop of rain. The Dallas County Master Gardeners who garden at the Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road all agree we  love our version of fall color!

Bottle Tree Framing a view of Maximillian Sunflower, Desert Sage, Lantana, and Salvia Blue Spires

This area of the garden is relatively carefree after amending the soil, careful plant selection, and mulch, mulch, mulch!

Rosy Creek Abelia, Salvia Blue Spires, Muhly Grass, Papyrus On The Right In Our Pond

We do have an agonizing  bind weed issue that keeps us humble, but we will save that part of the story for another time. 

 Enjoy the mellow quality of Autumn in Texas. Temperatures are less and color is more!


Yaupon Holly, Full Of Fruit In The Fall

 We have three female Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) trees in the Wildlife Habitat of the Raincatcher’s Garden.  The fruit ripens in the fall and will attract Northern Mockingbirds, Cedar Waxwings, and other fruit-eating birds.  The evergreen foliage provides good cover and sometimes nesting sites, for songbirds.  Although the the foliage will be more dense in full sun than in part-shade, this species is well adapted to both.  Pruning practices also affect the density of the cover it provides.

When buying yaupon trees, the easiest way to be sure you will get fruiting trees is to select them in the late summer or fall, when you should be able to see fruits on a female tree.  Because yaupons are dioecious, pollination by a male tree is required for the female tree to produce fruit, so you may want to plant a male (non-fruiting) tree among your females.  However, Dallas has many yaupons, and female trees often seem to be pollinated by males from other gardens.   Fortunately, fall is our best season for planting trees. 

'Pride of Houston' Yaupon Holly At The Demonstration Garden

The beautiful fruits are properly called drupes rather than berries, because there is a single seed in the center of the fruit, surrounded by an outer skin and a fleshy middle layer.



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