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Spotted Manfreda Plant

May 12, 2021

Spotted Manfreda Plant

Several weeks ago during a recent work day at the garden, we noticed a flower stalk coming up from the middle of a couple of our spotted manfreda plants on the courtyard of Raincatcher’s Garden.  This particular succulent plant, also know as Texas Tuberose or Manfreda maculosa is short (grows 12 – 15 inches tall) with silvery green leaves and is covered with purple spots. It is native to southern Texas and northern Mexico and does best in full sun.  It is considered a tender perennial but is often an evergreen plant in mild winters.  It completely died back this past winter and not only came back this spring but quickly produced a flower stalk.  

Manfreda in Bloom

The plant eventually grows into a thick clump of shoots connected at the roots and is often referred to as a ground cover plant.  The best part about the growth habit of this plant is that it is begging to be shared.  In fact, I got my plant many years ago from a couple who were on the city of Dallas Water Wise Garden tour.  As soon as I asked the home owner about the plant, she quickly retrieved a trowel and dug up an offshoot for me.  I have lost count of how many of these plants I have given to gardening friends as well as planting several in the courtyard at Midway Hills Christian Church.

The Alien Looking Flower of the Manfreda

I did a bit of research about the flower and I found that the relatively tall inflorescent carries mildly fragrant tubular flowers.  The flowers lack colorful petals, but have especially long pistils and stamens.  One website described the flower as “alien looking.”   

This is a plant to consider growing in your garden or in a container.  And if you’re lucky, it will gift you with a large, alien looking flower!

Jackie James Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

We will have a couple of varieties of manfreda plants available at our plant sale on May 13th and 14th.   Hope to see you there.

Jackie James, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

Flower Photos by garden friend, Diane Washam 


PLANT SALE LOCATION: 11001 MIDWAY ROAD, DALLAS, TEXAS 75229

MAY 13TH AND 14TH

Edible Spring Blossoms…Our Top Ten

May 11, 2021

Want to bring some unexpected tastes to your palate? A recent walk around our edible landscape gave us the answer. Yes, we are growing kale for the foliage, chervil for its delicate, lacy leaves and chives to top baked potatoes and egg dishes but many other beautiful spring blossoms offer special gifts not to be missed.

Salads become more vibrant and enticing, soup receives a touch of elegance and lightly steamed or sauteed vegetables sparkle when flower blossoms garnish the dish. We’ve selected ten of our favorite spring blossoms to whet your appetite. Some are familiar, others may surprise you with their distinctive and very pleasant tastes. Enjoy your springtime visit to our garden to catch a glimpse of these lovely blossoms before they fade away.

#10…German Chamomile (Chamaeomelum nobile; Matricaria recutita)

Dainty, apple scented, daisy-like spring blossoms become the perfect ingredient for brewing a cup of German chamomile tea. To make the tea, place 1 tablespoon fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried) flowers in a cup. Pour 1 cup boiling water over the top and steep for 5 minutes. Strain out the petals before drinking or using in a recipe. Let the soothing taste calm and comfort you on a crisp spring morning. Petals can also be used in salads. 

#9…Scented Geraniums (Pelargoniums spp.)

At Raincatcher’s we’ve fallen head over heels with scented pelargoniums (geraniums). Their fragrance is so captivating that we’re constantly searching for new varieties. This spring, we’re growing some of the following: chocolate peppermint, lavender, lemon fizz, rose, peach and pink champagne. From smooth-as-velvet rounded leaves to deeply lobed, the foliage of scented pelargoniums makes a lovely statement in the garden. Use scented geranium leaves to lend a nice fragrant addition to cookies, cakes, butter, drinks, and many other types of foods. Garnish the beverage of your choice with a tiny blossom. For a sweet finish, give it a gentle swish in the liquid before consuming.

#8…Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)

After the deep freeze of February, chervil gave us a spirit-lifting surprise. Our tender little plants growing in the Hügelkultur stayed nestled in the ground just long enough to survive the bitter cold. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been drawn to tiny white anise-flavored blossoms covering the plants. Harvest chervil blossoms and leaves as close to preparation time as possible. Partner it with eggs, salmon, cream soups, and many classic sauces. Use the blossoms to garnish watercress for a simply divine salad.

#7…Begonias (Begoniaceae – Semperflorens Cultorum Group)

We are growing the wax leaf variety in our Statuary/Cottage Garden. The fleshy leaves and flowers are edible both cooked and raw. In Japan, India and Indonesia they have been cooked up as potherbs. The Chinese use them to make a sauce for meat. Children in northern Mexico and China eat them as a snack. Tuberous begonias are also edible. The flowers have a delicious, light, lemon taste and a crisp texture.  We hope to add some in the shady parts of our garden. 

#6…Rat’s Tail Radish (Raphanis sativus var. caudatus)

Edible podded radish plants look very similar to traditional radish plants except that the flowers are allowed to go to seed and form seed pods. Rat’s Tail radish is grown for its edible pods. The pods are green and pencil-thin with a smooth, somewhat lumpy appearance. Flowers can range from white to pink and purple and can be added to salads. Pods can be eaten raw or cooked, sliced and added to salads or crudité platters. Because Rat’s Tail radish plants are heavy producers, it’s fun to use both flowers and pods in different dishes.

#5…Kale, Red Russian (Brassica napus)

Kale is typically grown as a leafy green crop. But have you tasted the blossoms? Surprisingly, they are very tender and delicious. And, with the extreme cold in February, it brought out their sweetness even more. If fully opened, use them in salads. If they are still in the bud stage, try adding them to stir fry dishes. Or, after a light sauté, add them to soup or pasta. Other members of the brassica family also produce these tender flowering tops known as raabs. Raab is a tangible, edible sign that the kale (or broccoli or whatever you have) “overwintered” and survived into spring. 

#4…Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

With nicknames like pot marigold and poor man’s saffron, you might have missed the opportunity to grow calendula. At Raincatcher’s, we’re thrilled to have it growing alongside the greenhouse beds and in our sensory garden. Springtime is the best time to enjoy calendula flowers in the landscape and, especially, for culinary purposes. Calendula flowers have a spicy, peppery taste that give a nice flavor to cornbread, quiche, ravioli and sweets.

#3…Wasabi Arugula (Diplotaxis erucoides)

If you’re ready for tasting notes of horseradish and peppery aromatics, give wasabi arugula a try. It has deep green spoon-shaped leaves with slightly toothed edges and stems that are delicately crisp. Once it bolts, let the edible flowers attract pollinators or enjoy their tender, tangy bite in salads and as a garnish for your favorite bowl of soup. 

#2…Borage (Borage officinalis)

In our crescent bed, you’ll find both white and blue borage in full bloom. Bees are buzzing and can’t stay away from the striking star-shaped blossoms. Borage is an extremely old plant, originating from an area around Aleppo, a Syrian city that dates back to the eleventh century B.C. After spreading to Europe, Pliny the Elder wrote, “it maketh a man merry and joyful.” His comment, along with others, may refer more to the wine it was drunk in than the herb itself. Fresh borage flowers can be used in salads, dips and cold soups as a garnish.

#1…Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)

Not surprisingly, nasturtiums are the number one pick in our edible landscape. There are almost a dozen varieties of nasturtium on the market but this year we chose ‘Variegated Alaska Mix’ for our Statuary/Cottage Garden bed. Their unique variegated foliage delivers a colorful display of gold, orange, salmon and mahogany flowers on compact plants reaching about one foot in height. A big attraction for growing nasturtiums is that the flowers, leaves and seed pods are all edible. Their tangy flavor is mustard like with an added perfume and sweetness. (For a special treat, go to our link for Nasturtium Risotto. This incredible recipe includes all parts of the nasturtium plant.)


(FYI…Come back in a few months for our next seasonal look at a Baker’s Dozen favorite edible summer flowers.)

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Nasturtium Risotto

Nasturtium Pesto

Nasturtium Bouillon

Don’t forget our plant sale May 13th and 14th.

RAINCATCHER’S PLANT SALE 



Thursday, May 13th, 9:00am – 2:00pm 

Friday, May 14th, 9:00am – 12:00 noon 

Prices start at $2 for 4” pots. CASH or CHECK ONLY, PLEASE!!! 

Location: Midway Hill Christian Church, 11001 Midway Rd., Dallas, 75229

You are invited to shop our annual plant sale in the Courtyard Garden at Midway  Hills Christian Church. Plants for sale have been donated from our volunteers’  home gardens, dug and divided from the the Raincatcher’s Garden, and started from  seeds by our volunteers. Many have been planted in decorative pots and in outdoor pots as herb gardens and vegetable pots. The plants in nursery pots (4”–5 gal.) include herbs, veggies, perennials, annuals, sedums, succulents, cactus, ground covers, trees, shrubs and many more. 

This event will be subject to current Covid-19 protocols: 

• Masks must be worn 

• Social Distancing observed (limited access to Courtyard). Please be prepared  to wait for admission. 

• Please limit your visiting in the Courtyard so we can admit those who are  waiting. We welcome you to tour the North Gardens.  

• Hand sanitizer available 

• Volunteers working the sale will all be fully vaccinated 

This sale has been a successful fundraising event for Raincatchers Garden at  Midway Hills for many years. We thank you all for your continued support. 

Sarah Sanders, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Pictures by Beverly Allen

Annual Plant Sale at The Raincatcher’s Garden

May 4, 2021

Our annual plant sale started many years ago during the time when our garden was on Joe Field Road (too many years ago to remember the exact date of the first sale!).   Raincatchers Garden at Midway Hills Christian Church is our home now and we have continued our annual plant sale at our new location.  We have always enjoyed having an in person sale on our beautiful courtyard but last year due to the pandemic we put on our thinking caps and came up with a socially distanced, online, drive thru sale.  Thanks to all of our loyal customers, it was a great success!

This year, we are happy to announce that our sale will be on the courtyard again.  All volunteers are fully vaccinated, masks will be required and hand sanitizer will be available.  We plan to limit the amount of shoppers on the courtyard if needed so there might be a short wait directly outside the courtyard before you can start your shopping spree!!!  

Now for the fun part – we have tons of decorative planters of all sizes planted with succulents, house plants and a variety of herb pots including pizza pots (a combination of a bell pepper plant with oregano and thyme).   We will have a good variety of perennials, annuals, herbs, veggies, and ground cover starting in 4 inch pots or larger.  We have apricot trees from Oklahoma and both red yucca and soft leaf yucca plants plus many more plants to numerous to list here.  There will also be yard art and when you check out, you can select a packet of free seeds from our garden.  However, a photo is worth a thousand words so please check out our slide show below to see a sample of what you will have to look forward to at our sale.  

Hope to see you on the courtyard on Thursday, May 13th.  More details will follow closer to the date of the sale!

Jackie James Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993

Sarah Sanders Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2006

Please thank Beverly Allen for this preview of some of the plants that will be for sale:

Master of the Woods

Sweet Woodruff

If the title sounds like the name of a new novel, continue reading for a charming introduction into an often-forgotten herb, sweet woodruff – Waldmeister (Galium odoratum formerly known as Asperula Odorata.) According to German folklore it is known by many sources as master of the woods. Delving deeper into its history and uses, you may want to obtain some quickly for a refreshing sip of Maiwein to celebrate May 1st.

In the edible landscape we chose sweet woodruff because it is an ideal herb to use for planting under trees and along shady walkways. With its whorls of emerald green leaves and white starry flowers, it is a welcome sight in late spring while the foliage is attractive all season long.

Sweet woodruff prefers a rich, loamy, well-drained slightly acidic soil but tolerates both sandy and heavy, alkaline clay soils. The shady side of our hügelkultur bed provides it with an optimum growing environment. It typically grows to about a foot tall and spreads indefinitely by stringy yellow underground runners. In our Zone 8 climate it is considered an evergreen. A light covering of mulch this winter helped it survive during the freeze.

The German name, Waldmeister (master of the woods), reflect its habitat, the common name bedstraw, applied also to other members of the genus, refers to its use. During the middle ages it was used as a fragrant strewing herb and mattress filling. When dried, the leaves smell pleasantly of new-mown hay, honey and vanilla. 

Maiwein Garnished with Strawberries

Today, sweet woodruff is probably best known as an ingredient of German May wine. It is traditionally drunk on May Day both to welcome the season and as a spring tonic. Follow this simple recipe for a refreshing sip of an historical beverage. The recipe was taken from a German Culture website which specified that only the tender, young leaves should be used in this drink, before sweet woodruff is in bloom. As you can see from the photograph, our sweet woodruff fits that description, so we are ready to enjoy a glass of Maiwein on Saturday, May 1st!

Sweet Woodruff Wine

Ingredients

1 bottle dry German Riesling

7 sprigs young sweet woodruff

Instructions

Tie the stems of the woodruff with a string and stuff it into the opening of the wine bottle, leaving the string outside the bottle. Let it soak for 15-20 minutes. Remove the bunch and serve the wine chilled. Note: Germans like to garnish the Maiwein with fresh strawberries and mint.

Here is a link to a wonderful recipe for Creamy Maiewien cake: gathervictoria.com.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Aji Dulce – Paco’s Peppers

April 29, 2021

This article is about my friend Paco.  We met on a pickleball court 5 or 6 years ago and have been good friends ever since.  The first time I stepped into his backyard, I discovered we had something other than pickleball in common – gardening!  Paco is from Puerto Rico and he has turned his backyard into a tropical paradise.  Last year at a summer pool party, I noticed a pepper plant with small, wrinkly looking red and green peppers.  He explained that he collected the seeds from peppers he got in Puerto Rico because it is an important ingredient for sofrito.  I left the party with a baggie full of seeds.

The Aji Dulce peppers (Capsicum Chinese) are small, sweet peppers.  They have the shape and size of a habanera pepper but without the heat.  They start out light to dark green and eventually turn red and orange if left on the plant to mature.  Aji Dulce is used to season dishes in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Cuba.  My research found that in Puerto Rico, it is most commonly used in sofrito (which translates to stir fry or sauté in English).  It is a perennial in the tropics but is an annual here.  

With the seeds Paco gave me last year, we have been able to start a number of these pepper plants for the Raincatcher’s Garden annual plant sale which will be held at the garden on Thursday, May 13th.  I am looking forward to growing a couple of these plants myself this summer and will be looking up sofrito recipes once I get a good crop going!  

This plant goes by several names.  In Puerto Rico it is know as aji dulce, ajicito or ajies.  In the Dominican Rebuplic it is called aji gustoso and in Cuba it is aji cachucha. To me, this plant will always and simply be referred to as Paco’s peppers!  

Jackie James

Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 1993 

We will be posting more details on this blog about the May 13th plant sale in the near future.  

The North Garden Veggies Are Back

April 27, 2021

The vegetable crops in the north garden are thriving again. All of the raised beds are going strong. We had such nice yields from our Bloomsdale and Regimen spinach that we were able to donate 12-gallon bags to a food bank. Yesterday onions were harvested and donated and we picked a bountiful crop of purple potatoes.

Team leader, Lennard Nadalo, did his homework on tasty varieties. We especially enjoyed the Flamboyant French Breakfast radishes, Runaway and Wasabi arugula. 

Hoping to delight our frequent preschool visitors, we constructed a teepee and planted Sunset runner beans to climb the poles.

This week the vegetable team was pleased to see peppers developing well on the varieties we are growing for the jam and jelly team fund raising efforts.  We have started an heirloom variety of cucumber especially for the team to try branching out into bread and butter pickles this year.

Looking ahead to fall, we are considering small varieties of brassicas that have a better chance of success in our climate. 

Volunteers have started vegetables from seed at home.  Gardeners are tending okra and roselle hibiscus in the greenhouse to be ready in time to plant in May.  The converted turf bed has been tilled and looks perfect for planting.  Other volunteers took time and care creating the central brick lined bed that will have heat loving plants such as cucumbers and okra.  The compost team provides the nutrient dense material that makes our plants thrive.  We appreciate the many donated packets of seeds.

The spirit of cooperation among all gardeners at Raincatchers has contributed a great deal to the successful revival of this area.  Thank you!

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

My perennials: Alive, dead or in-between? Evaluating plants 2 months after Texas freeze

Gardening friends, this is a helpful resource from Austin.

Source: My perennials: Alive, dead or in-between? Evaluating plants 2 months after Texas freeze

Raincatcher’s Garden Glorious Spring

April 11, 2021

Come see our garden at 11001 Midway Road. Nestle carefully in front of our bluebonnets for photos!

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

Growing and Harvesting Shallots in the Edible Landscape

Last fall around early November we filled two of our swing set raised beds with shallot bulbs. During the winter months they continued to grow, even through the unprecedented freeze. This past week we noticed that the green tops were starting to wither and fall over. Our shallots were letting us know that harvest time was close. 

Shallots ready for harvest

Tuesday morning, we made the decision to pull them out and prepare the ground for our next crop. A little careful digging around the base of each clump followed by a gentle tug helped us to coax them out successfully. The next step was to let them dry for about a week or two. 

Shallots drying out after harvest

Shallots typically mature in about 90 to 120 days. Because ours were started as a fall crop, we chose to pull them after about 120+ days. If we had allowed them to stay in the ground until mid-April, a more pronounced bulb shape would have developed. But the pepper plants that Jim started for us were growing rapidly in the greenhouse and needed to be transplanted in the shallot bed. Springtime weather had arrived, and our shallot days were over. 

Over half of the shallots were spread out across a wire mesh frame for drying in the sun. On rainy days, they were moved to the garage. The remaining shallots were used to make an incredibly flavorful spring soup from Half Baked Harvest, Herby French Shallot Soup. 

Shallot soup looking so yummy

Shallots are easy to grow and add a perky touch of green to the winter garden. Next fall, we’ll expand our crop to other sunny areas of the edible landscape where shallots can be harvested at different times during the spring. A big pot of Herby French Shallot Soup will be our reward.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener, Class of 2008

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