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Planting Corn at The Raincatcher’s Garden

April 15, 2019

We are banking on a good crop of corn this year. After all, we have plenty of sun and warm, rich soil and dedicated gardeners staking out our new garden bed.

Let’s get those corn kernels in the ground!

You can almost taste summer when looking at the seed packages.

Sugarbaby

Buttergold

Early Sunglow

Hwy, what do gardeners say after a corn harvest  when receiving a complement about their corn crop?

Aww shucks, thank you!

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

To learn about Glass Gem corn, read Christmas in July.

Bluebonnets at The Raincatcher’s Garden

April 9, 2019

Bluebonnets are blooming once again along Midway.

Bluebonnet close up

In the fall we sowed more wildflower seeds, hoping for their return.

Bluebonnets at The Raincatcher’s Garden

It’s a good year to head out on country roads outside of Dallas to see bluebonnets. Here’s a great website that gives an update on the blooms in Ennis: https://www.visitennis.org

We have written many times about bluebonnets so before you go in search of them read:

Itching in the Bluebonnet Field

Wildflowers at the Farm

Bluebonnets in Texas 2014

And now would you please get your calendar ready for these dates:

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL

Thursday, April 25th – Plant sale and DCMGA monthly meeting.

Tuesday, April 30th, 11am-  ‘Planting the Edible Landscape – the Spring/Summer Collection” with Linda and Ana to share the plants chosen and the reason behind the choices. Class and tour to be provided.

Tuesday May 7th, 9-11am Turf talk and demonstration by Stephen Hudkins.
 
Saturday May 25th 9-11am Grapevine Canopy Management Pruning by Michael Cook
 
Grow and Graze Events:
 

June 25th… Herbs of the Mediterranean (Please note the new date!)

August 27th… Corn, the Golden Essence of Summer, and Okra, a Garden Giant

October 22nd …Seasonal Splendor, Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes

Grow and Graze reservations will be posted approximately one month before the event.
 
Ann Lamb
Pictures by Starla Willis

 

 

Dandelions are Edible

April 7, 2019

Do you consider dandelions a weed? If so, here’s some nutritional information that might encourage you to grow and harvest dandelions plants in your garden or yard.

Italiko Rosso is the variety we selected for our garden. Notice the bold red stems and midribs which contrast beautifully with the forest green leaves.

Dandelion takes it name from the French dent de lion or “tooth of the lion.” A close look at the deeply indented leaf structure tells you why.

Both dandelion flowers and leaves are a surprising source of nutrients. Dandelion greens contain vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamin, riboflavin, beta carotene and fiber. Some consider dandelions to be a nearly perfect food.

For culinary purposes, the younger the better. Fresh dandelion flowers have a sweet honeylike taste. The greens are commonly used in salads, and the root makes a cleansing and detoxifying diuretic tea.

Dandelions are by nature a very bitter green, but there are some steps to help reduce the bitterness.

First, grow a less bitter variety such as one of the more “gourmet” types: French Dandelion a.k.a Vert de Montmagny, Ameliore a Coeur Plein Dandelion, Improved Broad Leaved Dandelion or Arlington Dandelion.

Second, harvest early. Young leaves are less bitter than more mature leaves.

Third, brine leaves before steaming. This helps remove some of the bitterness. For a short demonstration on cooking dandelion leaves, see the YouTube video featuring P. Allen Smith.

Dandelions are a perennial. After you harvest the plant it will grow back the same season, year after year.

Linda Alexander

Click here to review our dandelion salad recipe. It was a featured salad, cooked to order at our last Grow and Graze luncheon.

Fresh dandelion greens can also be purchased in some grocery stores. Locally, places like Central Market, Sprouts and Whole Foods stock them on a seasonal basis.

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It’s Spring and Plant Sales Are Coming!

April 2, 2019

Over and under and in and out, Roseanne and her volunteer band of planters are busily preparing for the upcoming plant sale at Texas Discovery Gardens.  They could still use some help in the mornings  and be sure to ready your list and make your way to the plant sale April 13 and 14th, (April 12th for members).

I just added a new Shrub to mine !

Texas Discovery Garden Greenhouse

Under the tables, so to speak at TDG!

I spy Mangave ‘Pineapple Express’.

Kerria japonica is the perfect blooming shrub for shade to part sun.

Tig Thompson and pots!

The Raincatcher’s Garden plant sale is April 25th. More information about what we have to sell will be coming your way in the next few weeks. Good prices, home-grown selections!

Putting on plant sales is a lot of work. Thanks to all the volunteers who share their plants through the spring plant sales and thanks to our audience who support our endeavors. It is a labor of love to find new homes for our plants.

Starla Willis

 

Grow and Graze Salad Garden Recipes II

 

See and taste The Grow and Graze Centerpiece of salad greens and to the left is our table-top appetizer featuring the peppery taste of Wasabi Arugula.

“Kick Up the Heat” Spread

Ingredients

¼ cup Wasabi Arugula, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup sour cream

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, optional

Dash of sea salt

Assorted crackers

Directions

In a medium bowl, whip all ingredients together until smooth. Spread over crackers. Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few days.

Beth cooking dandelion salad for our guests.

Dandelion Salad

Ingredients

6 ounces young dandelion leaves, tough stems and base ends removed*

2 tablespoons blanched hazelnuts (filberts), coarsely chopped (optional)

3 ounces thick-cut sliced slab bacon, cut crosswise into pieces ½ inch wide

1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground coarse pepper to taste

Directions

Pick over the dandelion leaves, tearing the larger ones in half. Place in a wooden salad bowl. Add the hazelnuts, if using.

In a small frying pan over high heat, fry the bacon until crisp and its fat has been rendered, about 1 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the bowl holding the dandelions, leaving the fat in the pan.

Return the pan to high heat, add the vinegar, and swirl the pan or stir with a wooden spoon to pick up the sediment on the bottom.

Pour in as much additional oil as will be necessary to dress the salad, swirl once to heat a little, and then pour the contents of the pan over the salad. Season with salt and pepper, toss, and serve immediately.

Yield: Serves 6

*If dandelion leaves are not available, the outer dark green leaves of curly endive or spinach may be substituted.

After tasting a smorgasbord of color, flavors, shapes and textures, attendees indulged their sweet tooth with a few garden-inspired desserts:

Blue Ribbon Carrot Cake and Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

Blue Ribbon Carrot Cake

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 eggs, well beaten

¾ cup vegetable oil

¾ cup buttermilk

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

2 cups grated carrots

1 (3 ½-ounce) can flaked coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts

Buttermilk Glaze

Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting

Directions

Combine flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

Combine eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Stir in flour mixture, pineapple, carrots, coconut, and chopped walnuts.  Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

Bake at 350˚F for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Immediately spread Buttermilk Glaze evenly over layers.  Cool in pans 15 minutes; remove from pans, and let cool completely.

Spread Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and side of cake.  Store cake in refrigerator.

Yield:  One 2-layer cake

Buttermilk Glaze

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon soda

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup butter

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Combine sugar, soda, buttermilk, butter, and corn syrup in a Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil; cook 4 minutes, stirring often.  Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.  Yield: about 1 ½ cups.

Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

½ cup butter, softened

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

1 teaspoon orange juice

Directions

Combine butter and cream cheese, beating until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla, powdered sugar, rind, and juice; beat until smooth.  Yield:  enough for one 2-layer cake.

Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

For the cake

2 medium beets, unpeeled but trimmed of their greens

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

6 ounces (¾ cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans

1 cup packed brown sugar

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans

⅔ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

For the frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons finely grated beets, mashed with a fork

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod

1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt

Directions

Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven.  Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Thoroughly wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves, leaving about ½ inch of stem.  Place clean beets in a piece of foil.  Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil.  Seal up foil.  Place on a baking sheet in the oven.  Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.

Remove the beets from the oven.  Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely.  Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.

Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane.  Measure ¾ cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting.  Set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚.  Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans.  Trace a piece of parchment paper so it is the same size as the bottom of the cake pan.  Cut it out and place inside the cake pan.  Butter the parchment paper.  Add a dusting of flour to coat the pan.  Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars.  Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture.  Beating on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk.  Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients.  Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated.  Try not to overmix the batter.  Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients.  Cake batter will be on the thick side…not pourable.

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.  Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30 to 32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan).  Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.

To make the frosting

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth.  Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the beets.  Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt.  Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky   Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.

To assemble the cake

Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate.  Top with a generous amount of pink frosting.  Spread evenly.  Place the other cake on top of the frosting.  Top with frosting.  Work frosting onto the sides of the cake.  You will have extra frosting left over.  Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make cake easier to slice).  Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

Yield:  Makes one 8 or 9-inch layer cake

Linda Alexander

Pictures by Starla Willis and Linda Alexander

 

 

 

Grow and Graze Salad Gardens Lecture and Recipes

Our Salad Gardens Program last Tuesday, March 19th included everything from easy-to follow directions for growing a tasty variety of salad lettuces, herbs, and edible flowers to a buffet brimming with a variety of salads that stirred the senses.

Some useful tips to help us get started were:

*Locate garden near a source of water

*Use compost for drainage and nutrients

*Use mulch to help retain moisture

*Use deep, infrequent watering

For a healthy foundation…start with good soil:

*Remove weeds, rock, debris

*If needed, order a soil test from Texas A&M

*Need 8-12 inches of loose tillable soil

*Ideal pH is 6.5 – 7.0 (DFW = 7.2)

*Do not work soil when it is wet

*Consider raised bed with special soil mix to start

*Build a compost pile

Growing salad greens:

*Greens include lettuce, herbs, salad greens and leafy green vegetables such as cabbage, collards, kale, mustard, spinach and Swiss chard

*Most greens are cool-season crops and must be grown in the early spring or fall in Texas. Some greens, especially kale, will withstand temperature below freezing and can be grown all winter. And, even in our hot Texas summer climate there are partially shaded spots to grow certain greens.

*Greens grow best in a well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. They prefer full sunlight but will tolerate partial shade.

*The soil should be worked at least 8 to 10 inches deep in the early spring when it is dry enough not to stick to garden tools. Break up large clods and remove trash and weeds. Work the soil into beds about 4 inches high. Add compost or organic matter before digging the soil.

*Greens grow best when given plenty of fertilizer. Adequate nitrogen is needed to develop the dark green leaf color. Before planting the seeds, apply a general garden fertilizer such as 10-10-10 at the rate of 2 to 3 pounds per 100 square feet. Mix fertilizer into the soil about 3 inches.

When shopping for seeds or transplants, consider the limitless possibilities for filling your garden with a variety of leafy greens. Rich in vitamins and folic acid, salad gardens provide both nutrition and fiber. Our mother’s admonition to “eat your greens” really was good advice.

Edible Garden tour after lecture and lunch

Here are a few of the crowd-pleasing salads our lunch guests enjoyed:

Mixed Green Salad with Nasturtiums and Raspberry Vinaigrette Raspberry Vinaigrette

To lend intrigue to a salad of mixed greens, toss in a handful of peppery nasturtium blossoms.

Ingredients

¼ cup raspberries

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons raspberry or red-wine vinegar

½ teaspoon sugar

6 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Using a wooden spoon, push raspberries through a handheld wire strainer to puree.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons raspberry puree, lemon juice, vinegar, and sugar.

In a slow but steady stream, whisk in olive oil until emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper.

Vinaigrette can be made 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield:  Makes about ¾ cup

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Salad:

6 large handfuls of mixed greens, including wild rocket arugula, herb salad mix, etc.

6 nasturtium blossoms

Toss mixed greens with the vinaigrette.  Strew the blossoms over and serve immediately.  (Options:  may also toss with fresh blueberries or raspberries)

Fresh Spinach and Tatsoi Salad with Orange Curry Dressing

A “dressy” and inviting way to serve spinach. The addition of tatsoi gives it textural interest.

Ingredients

For the dressing

1 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons (heaping) orange marmalade

2 teaspoon curry powder

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 ¾ cups vegetable oil

For the salad

4 bunches fresh spinach, trimmed

2 cups tatsoi leaves, optional

6 apples (red and green), chopped

2 cups golden raisins

1 ¾ cups walnut halves, lightly toasted

6 green onions, chopped

¼ cup sesame seed, toasted

1 pound bacon, chopped, crisp-fried, crumbled (optional)

Directions

Combine the vinegar, marmalade, curry powder, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce in a blender container.

Add the oil in a fine stream, processing constantly at high speed until thickened.

Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.  Chill, covered in the refrigerator until serving time.

Arrange equal amounts of the spinach and tatsoi on 12 salad plates or one large platter.  Drizzle with the dressing.

Sprinkle each serving or the platter with the apples, raisins, walnuts, green onions, sesame seeds and bacon bits.

Serve immediately.

Yield:  12 servings

Orange Fennel Watercress Salad with Lemon Ginger Poppyseed Dressing

Ingredients

2 large navel oranges

3-4 ounces baby watercress

½ medium fennel bulb cored and thinly sliced crosswise

¼ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup salted roasted pistachios

½ cup cutting celery, lightly chopped, for garnish (optional)

Lemon Ginger Poppyseed Dressing

Directions

Using a sharp knife, cut about ¼ to ½ inch from the top and bottom of the orange to expose the flesh. Place the fruit on one of its flat ends and cut down to remove the skin and the white pith. Rotate and repeat, working your way around the fruit until the orange fruit is completely exposed. Slice, dice or cut between the flesh and the white membrane to create orange segments.

Place most of the watercress (reserve a small amount) on a large serving plate or platter. Top with sliced fennel, oranges, dried cranberries and pistachios. Drizzle with the Lemon Ginger Dressing. Sprinkle reserved watercress and cutting celery over the salad.

Yield: Serves 4

Linda Alexander

Pictures by Starla Willis

Now we understand why Peter Rabbit ignored his mother’s warning and stole under that garden fence for a quick sampling of both lettuce and danger. We hope you enjoy your salad garden adventures as much as he did.

 

A March Day in The Raincatcher’s Garden

March 13, 2019

Three minutes of your time, please. Have you ever seen such motivation, such verve. Our gardeners, Syann, Sue, and Dorothy are in the garden under umbrellas pouring out plans from our vegetable garden.

And then, what are strawberry spinach seeds and what’s the best method for starting them?

Thank you everyone; the gardeners, the videographer, the greenhouse personnel, those who weed, those who work in the compost area, all of you who make Raincatcher’s what it is even on a rainy day. You inspire me.

Ann Lamb

video by Starla Willis

More about strawberry spinach seeds here.

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