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WELCOME TO DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ

Above: Nasturtiums, Watercress, Lavender, Fennel, and Broccoli

Gardening in North Central Texas is enough to make you throw away your trowel.  Our summers are hot enough for a blast furnace.  Our winter chill can freeze pipes and coat trees with ice.  We’re pummeled with spring storms and hail, but when we most need the rain, not a cloud is on the horizon.  Dallas’ unforgiving black clay forms clods hard as rocks and is so alkaline, its pH is off the chart.

DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ shares our journey through the triumphs and missteps of gardening in our North Texas heat, clay soil, limited water, and high alkalinity.  In the world of gardening, there is always a story to be told and sage advice to share.  As we dig, trim, harvest, and cook, we’ll give you the best information we can gather from our “hands on” work in  The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, a Research, Education and Demonstration garden at 11001 Midway Road in Dallas.

DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ is written by Dallas County Master Gardeners, volunteers trained by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

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Tomatoes For Dessert!

Green Tomato Brown Betty

Green Tomato Brown Betty

Ingredients:

2 cups crumbs (graham cracker, whole wheat cracker or cookie crumbs)

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

3 pounds (approximately 3½ cups) unripe green tomatoes, thinly sliced

¾ cup raisins

Juice of 1 lemon

1¼ cups light brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ cup apple juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the crumbs and melted butter. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the tomatoes, raisins, lemon juice, sugar and spices together.
  3. Butter a 2-quart baking dish. Spread a third of the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom. Spread half of the tomato mixture on top of the crumbs. Sprinkle with half the apple juice. Cover with another third of the crumb mixture, followed by the remaining tomatoes. Sprinkle with the rest of the apple juice. Finish by covering the tomatoes with the remaining crumb mixture.
  4. Cover and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Remove the cover. Raise the heat to 400˚ and bake for another 10 minutes or until browned on top. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8

Adapted from TOMATOES: A Country Garden Cookbook by Jesse Cool

 

Tomato Ginger Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

6 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 to 3 ripe tomatoes (or enough to cover the bottom of the pan as you would a pineapple upside-down cake), skinned, seeded and sliced ¼ inch thick

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups brown sugar

½ cup molasses

2½ cups unbleached white flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚.
  2. Combine the melted butter with the ginger and sugar and spread evenly on the bottom of a parchment paper-lined 10×14-inch pan. Cover with tomato slices.
  3. In a mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar and molasses. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and spices. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed butter and sugar. Pour batter over tomatoes in baking pan.
  4. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when testing the center of the cake. Remove from the oven, loosen outer edges with a knife and invert onto a platter larger than the baking pan. Let stand at least 5 minutes before trying to remove the pan. Carefully peel back the parchment paper. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8 or more

Adapted from TOMATOES, A Country Garden Cookbook by Jesse Cool

Recipes and Picture by Linda Alexander

Editing-Lisa Centala

Tomato Sampler Lunch Recipes From August 1, 2017

Cream of Tomato Soup with Parsley Croutons

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Parsley Croutons

Ingredients:

2 pounds large, ripe tomatoes

Olive oil to coat tomatoes

8 shallots

1 small carrot

1 small fennel bulb

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

5 to 6 sprigs fresh tarragon

5 to 6 sprigs fresh parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup heavy cream (optional)

Parsley Croutons:

12 thin slices baguette

Olive oil to generously coat both sides of each piece of baguette

3 cloves garlic, cut in half

½ cup Teleme cheese, grated (or use your favorite semi-soft cheese, such as Brie, Havarti, Monterrey Jack or Port Salut)

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚. Cut tomatoes in half, seed them and coat with olive oil. Place tomatoes on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, until the skins begin to darken and blister. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove the skins and reserve the pulp and all the juices.
  2. Coarsely chop the shallots, carrot and fennel. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and sauté chopped vegetables until they are very soft. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the stock and herbs and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the tomato pulp and reserved tomato juices. Remove the herb sprigs. Puree the soup or run the pulp through a food mill or fine sieve for a smoother soup. Season with salt and pepper and extra herbs, if desired. Keep warm over low heat.
  3. Lower the oven to 400˚. To make the parsley croutons, brush both sides of baguette slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Rub one side of baguette with garlic. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley and bake until brown.
  4. Add the cream to the soup if desired and heat until warm. Ladle soup into warm bowls and float 3 parsley croutons on top of each.

Serves 4

Adapted from TOMATOES, A Country Garden Cookbook by Jesse Cool

 

Summer Cherry Tomato Dressing

Summer Cherry Tomato Dressing

Ingredients:

8 ounces small cherry or other tiny tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons drained, oil-packed sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons drained capers, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh orange juice

½ teaspoon minced fresh garlic

¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir gently to combine. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes (or up to 30 minutes) to let the flavors mingle and to let the tomatoes marinate some. Stir gently before serving over fresh green salad. May also be refrigerated overnight.

Yield: About 1 ¼ cups

Adapted from Edible Dallas and Fort Worth, Summer 2010

Curried Tomato Pickles

Curried Pickled Tomatoes

Ingredients:

2 pounds unripe green tomatoes

2 medium yellow onions

4 to 5 fresh whole red chili peppers

3 to 4 cups seasoned rice wine vinegar

3 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon whole allspice

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 tablespoon whole cumin

Directions:

  1. Sterilize 4 or 5 pint-sized jars by boiling in hot water or running them through the dishwasher without detergent.
  2. Cut tomatoes into wedges. Cut the onions into wedges approximately the same size as the tomatoes. Alternate layers of the onions and the tomatoes in the sterilized jars. Place 1 chili pepper in each jar.
  3. In a large, nonreactive pot, bring all the remaining ingredients to a boil for 5 minutes. Strain and pour evenly over the onions and tomatoes. Let cool.
  4. Add enough liquid to the jars to completely cover the vegetables and reach within ½ inch of the top of the jar. Add more vinegar if more liquid is needed. Cover with the lids and store in the refrigerator. Give them a minimum of a few days before eating. Good for at least 2 months in the refrigerator.

Makes 4 to 5 pints

Adapted from TOMATOES: A Country Garden Cookbook by Jesse Cool

Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Peach Salad

Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Peach Salad over Whipped Burrata Cheese 

Ingredients:

2 heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges

4 yellow pear tomatoes, cut in half

2 ripe peaches, sliced

2 watermelon radishes, thinly sliced on a mandoline

12 zucchini spirals, thinly sliced longwise on a mandoline

2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted

16 ounces Burrata cheese (may substitute fresh mozzarella and cream for thinning) 

Directions:

1. Whip Burrata cheese in a food processor until creamy and spreadable.

2. Spread equal amounts of the cheese onto four salad plates, forming a circle.

3. Arrange an even number of tomato wedges, peach slices, radish slices and zucchini spirals on top of the cheese.

4. Sprinkle the pine nuts evenly over each of the four plates. 

Serves 4

Tomato Tart

Ingredients:

1 unbaked 10-inch pie crust (boxed, refrigerated type preferred)

Pinch ground nutmeg

1½ pounds Roma tomatoes, thickly sliced

1 rib celery, coarsely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped and firmly packed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (½ cup)

1 large tomato, seeded and thinly sliced

Fresh basil leaves to garnish

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

Directions:

  1. Unroll pie crust and roll out slightly to fit into and up the sides of a 10” tart pan. Gently press into place. Dust with nutmeg and prick bottom with a fork. Place aluminum foil with pie weights or dried beans over pastry. Chill 30 minutes in refrigerator or place in freezer for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 425˚. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Continue cooking until crust is golden and dry in the center, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool at least 15 minutes.
  2. Place Roma tomatoes, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, and parsley in a large skillet. Drizzle olive oil over top. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom. Transfer mixture to a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add butter. Process to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer tomato mixture to a medium saucepan or back into the skillet. Cook over medium heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in basil. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
  3. Preheat oven to 350˚. Add eggs and Parmesan to cooled tomato mixture. Pour tomato mixture into tart crust. Arrange tomato slices over filling. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown and filling is firm in the center. Cool 12 to 15 minutes before slicing. Garnish slices with basil and Parmesan.

Serves 8

Adapted from Stop and Smell the Rosemary by Junior League of Houston

Recipes and Pictures by Linda Alexander

Editing by Lisa Centala

More Tomato Recipes Tomorrow!

 

The Science Of Decay

What am I ?

 

It appears that the latest visitor to the edible landscape garden is a Brown Shelf Fungus. It was found on one of the logs that has been used as a garden seat. Fungi are many-celled filamentous or singlecelled primitive plants. They lack chlorophyll and must live on decaying plants to get carbohydrates.

The Brown Fungus produces hydrogen peroxide to decompose the cellulose in the wood. Since the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a small molecule, it can move rapidly through the wood. This will mean that the decomposition will not be just surrounding the area of the hyphae or filaments of the fungus. The log will eventually decay and become part of the surrounding soil. 

Mark Jones

Picture by Kim Kirkhart

 

Tomato Class and Tomato Sampler, Tuesday, August 1st

Growing Fall Tomatoes

 

There’s still time (just a little…) to get your tomatoes in for a fall crop. Jeff Raska, horticulturalist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and longtime tomato grower, will share his recipe for success with this garden favorite. We will also have a few extra tomato plants available for sale after the class.

Jeff has helped design a tomato trial, which we are implementing at Raincatcher’s. Our volunteers will plant two of the same variety of tomato into each of three raised beds to demonstrate results from different types of fertilizer: compost, organic and chemical.

Raincatcher’s is a demonstration garden and project of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Dallas County Master Gardeners located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church. To find the fellowship hall, please park in the west parking lot and come through the courtyard to the south church building.

After the class, we will be hosting a tomato sampler lunch with suggested donations of $10 per person. Details below.

Bring a friend, the public is welcome to either or both events.

Lisa Centala

Tuesday, August 1

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, Fellowship Hall, 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX 75229

 

“Just-picked, Homegrown and Vine-Ripened”

Welcome to the World of Tomatoes!

Join us at the tasting table immediately following Jeff Raska’s presentation…“Growing Fall Tomatoes”

$10.00 per person suggested donation

Menu

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Parsley Croutons

Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Peach Salad over Whipped Burrata Cheese

Summer Cherry Tomato Salad Dressing Tossed with Mixed Greens

Tomato Tart

Curried Pickled Tomatoes

Green Tomato Brown Betty or Tomato Ginger Upside Down Cake

Linda Alexander

Leave a comment on our blog if you have a question!

The Rainbow Garden at Raincatcher’s

If your green thumb is ready to branch out into living color, visit our Rainbow Garden for inspiration and plan on taking lots of photos. You’ll find a colorful mix of flowers and vegetables growing in harmony. In the summer heat, early morning is a good time to stop by. Enjoy iridescent dragonflies and come face to face with giant bees casting their drunken shadows on the garden, touch fuzzy silver green lamb’s ear, and see if you can identify standing cypress. (Hint- it is red.)

See the violet morning glory threaten to take over the purple heart growing beneath it. Compare the many shades of blue flowers and notice the exuberant orange Mexican sunflower. Inhale the aroma of fresh basil and see how the eggplant and strawberries are doing. 

Now take a shady break under the garden’s charming vine-covered entrance arbor and make notes before heading to the nursery to create your own rainbow. The rainbow garden doesn’t get any shade from the hot summer sun and receives only minimal supplemental water so you know these plants can take the heat in your own sunny spots at home. Drop by anytime and let the garden inspire you.

Gail Cook

 Pictures by Starla Willis and Ann Lamb

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The Strange, True and Unappreciated Story of Oak Galls

Insects are as a group complicated and mysterious. Everyone loves dragonflies.  Butterflies have clubs and societies devoted to their protection.  Gardens are designed just to attract them.  There are t-shirts and even jewelry to honor them.  Why every sighting seems to cause joy and excitement.

Oak Galls are amazing and mysterious—but for some reason nothing seems to be done in their honor.

Handfull of Oak Galls

This is not fair–and this is why. Oak galls are made by tiny creatures almost all of these are cynipid wasps.  Just as there are different types of butterfly that will lay eggs on only a specific type of plant, different types of cynipid wasp that will only lay eggs on one type of oak.  The tiny egg produces chemicals that cause the tree to produce the strange growths called galls.  The galls are different for each type of tree.  The larvae hatch inside the gall where they eat and live until they are mature and able to hatch, fly mate and start the process all over again.

<Larvae Centered Inside Oak Gall, Cradled by Pink Fingernails

The galls are hard to see until they fall to the ground. If this happens before the creature is mature the gall can be cut open to reveal the little larvae.  Of course, then it will not become a wasp—but this might be ok—in the interest of science.

The larvae only eat inside the gall. They do not damage any more of the tree.  In fact the tree is almost never harmed by galls.  The adults are wasps, but they do not sting.  The galls themselves can be beautiful like the oak plum galls which do indeed look like little fruits.

Gall formation is unpredictable. Some years there are a lot of them, other years very few.

All in all these are simply little creatures that happen to have developed an amazing way of protecting themselves as they grow to be adults.

Have you ever heard of anyone planting oak trees in hopes of attracting cynipid wasps—it is doubtful. There seem to be no societies to appreciate and protect them.

This needs to change. Look around for oak galls.  Tell your children their wonderful and amazing life story.  Now surely someone could design a great t-shirt!!

Susan Thornbury

Pictures by Starla Willis

Christmas in July

      What fun! It isn’t very often in the hot summer months that a gardener gets to “unwrap”  a  rainbow of corn.  However if you grow Glass Gem Popcorn, each ear holds the excitement of different colors and combination of colors.  Shucking them is like Christmas in July.

Glass Gem Corn Grown by Carolyn

Pictures of Glass Gem Corn have gone viral on the internet—and for good reason.  Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds calls it “The Worlds Most Beautiful Corn!”  Bakers Creek’s description of it says: “105 days. Amazing color! Indescribably beautiful flint or popcorn in an endless range of colors.  Translucent kernels really do shine brilliantly like glass – on the cob they resemble strands of glass beads!  The 3”-8” ears are consummately decorative, but edible and delicious as well.  Makes firm little morsels when popped, and can also be parched, ground into meal, and more.  Sturdy plants reach to 9’ in height and throw numerous sideshoots where the season is long enough.  Bred from a number of Native varieties by Carl “White Eagle” Barnes, the famous Cherokee corn collector to whom we owe our gratitude for his life’s work of collecting, preserving and sharing so many native corn varieties.” 

     Carl Barnes was half-Cherokee and, as a way of connecting with his Native American heritage, he began collecting seeds. Throughout the years Native Americans gave him ancestral types of corn that had been lost when the Tribes were brought to Oklahoma in the 1800s.  Fascinated by the colors found in some of these Indian Corns, he began to select, save, and replant seeds from especially colorful cobs.  Over time this resulted in a rainbow colored corn.

A fellow farmer, Greg Schoen, met Barnes at a Native Seed gathering in 1994. Schoen and Barnes became close friends and many seed exchanges took place between them. When Schoen moved to Sante Fe, he crossed some of Barnes’ seeds with traditional varieties, and even more vibrant colors and patterns were produced. According to Schoen, Glass Gem corn came from a crossing of Pawnee miniature popcorns with an Osange red flour corn and also another Osage corn called Greyhorse.

In 2009 Schoen passed some of the seed to Bill McDorman who owned a company called Seed Trust. McDorman is now the executive director of Native Seed/Search and started offering the seeds on line. Within a short time, Barnes “rainbow colored” corn became an internet hit and even has its own Facebook page. today many different seed companies carry Glass Gem corn.

       In Dallas corn is usually planted from March 23- April.  It does best in fertile, well-drained soil, and is a heavy nitrogen feeder during the vegetative state.  Waiting to let the soil warm thoroughly is important for seed germination as is sufficient watering.  Corn is wind pollinated and it is recommended to plant in blocks of at least four rows.  To prevent cross pollination from other varieties, you can separate different varieties by time (plant at least 10 days apart) or distance (200 feet.)

Though there seems to be some inconsistency in how to classify different corn types, in general there seems to be four major types of corn:  sweet, flint, dent, and flour.  Sweet corn is what we eat on the cob or it can be canned or frozen.  It contains more sugar than other types.  Flint corn, also known as Indian Corn, has a hard outer shell and comes in a wide range of colors.  Dent corn, also known as Field Corn, is most often used for animal feed and to make different industrial products.  Dent corn is named for the dimple that forms in the middle of the kernel.  It accounts for 99% of all corn production in the United States.  Flour corn has soft kernels which makes it easy to grind.  Popcorn is actually a type of flint corn.  It has a hard outer shell over a soft starchy content. When popcorn is heated the natural moisture inside the kernel turns to steam that builds up enough pressure for the kernel to explode.

To use Glass Gem Corn as a popcorn, it is recommended to let the kernels dry out thoroughly. In fact, one review said it took nearly a year before it was ready to be popped. The resulting popcorn is white rather than colored as it is only that hard outer layer that contains the color.

It is possible to save seed and try to propagate your own color combinations. For example, if you wanted mostly blue corn, you could save seeds from cobs that were mostly blue. However, it is the glow of a rainbow of colors that makes Glass Gem Corn so unique.

If you want to try something different in your vegetable garden next year, try Glass Gem Corn—and have your own Christmas in July.

Carolyn Bush

 

 

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