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Category Archives: Edible Landscaping

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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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.

 

Grow and Graze, Lecture and Lunch March 19

March 19, 2019

Tatsoi seeds were sown in January. Look at it now!

Have you ever grown Tatsoi? If not, you may want to give it a try. Our Salad Gardens class on March 19th will introduce you to this sassy little Asian green that delivers a unique flavor experience. Following the class, join us for lunch at the salad garden buffet where Tatsoi will be one of our “featured” greens.

After lunch, take a stroll through our edible landscape where you’ll find Tatsoi growing in abundance around the bay laurel tree. Our volunteers have become big fans of this small, spoon-shaped green that can be succession planted from spring through fall. We’re now referring to it as one of our edible garden “super stars”.

The sign up deadline for our Grow and Graze lunch on March 19 has been extended to March 15th. Please sign up here on eventbrite. We have 10 or so reservations for the lunch available but will need all reservations by March 15.

Mustard greens, sorrel, swiss chard, kale and parsley grown in The Edible Landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden

(Reservations are not needed if you plan to attend the class only.)

Linda Alexander

Grazing Thru The Edible Landscape

The July Master Gardener meeting was a tasty success – a wonderful, informative speaker on our favorite topic – food!   …Well, to be more precise, the topic was about how to incorporate food plants into our landscapes.  Cheryl Beesley, a master gardener, horticulturalist, and landscape designer with an emphasis on edible landscapes was gracious, entertaining and educational.
Before the meeting and her talk, we gathered to graze in Raincatcher’s own edible landscape. Culinary creations from our own fruits, vegetables and herbs were offered and gobbled up.

Our culinary team showing off our tasty treats!

Through the garden gate – a glimpse of the landscape.

Starla with a photo-retrospective of our journey from old playground to new edible landscape.

Our guests enjoying the tasting; that’s the hugelkultur in the foreground.

Three of our planting scenes: our southern border lined with okra, our ‘rock garden’ with herbs, and the transformed swingset, now home to peppers and cucumbers.

Abbe sharing the chilled tomato-basil soup served in mini-tomato cups. Recipes coming!

Lisa with glazed lemon zucchini bread.

Lavender shortbread cookies – yum!

Passion fruit and tarragon truffles by Ana made with plants from our edible landscape.

Annette and Starla’s friend, Marsha Adams, enjoying a seat in the shade.

Cynthia Jones with our speaker, Cheryl Beesley and her husband, James.

Written by: The Edible Garden Team and Lisa Centala

Pictures by Starla Willis

Bye-bye Parsley, Thanks for the Greens!

We pulled up our beautiful, gorgeous, healthy, vibrant parsley today.  Why would we do this to our stunning, laugh-at-freeze-and-drought plant?  Because we are creating a landscape, not just a garden, and one of the tenants of landscape design is repetition.  A standard front-yard landscape may have only three different types of plants, but they may be used over and over in different areas of the yard.  With an edible landscape, we usually want to eat more than three different types of plants, so we find ways to modify the rules of landscape design.

 In this case, our parsley was living in a low wooden bed underneath the old swingset. Along the length of the swingset are four other low wooden beds, and for this season, they’ve been planted with peppers – five peppers per bed.  Four beds of peppers with one bed half full of parsley looks, well, odd. So we removed the parsley, added five more peppers, and created repetition – and cohesion – under the swingset.

Don’t cry too much for the parsley, though.  Big, green, vibrant and fragrant, it went home with our volunteers to be made into tasty morsels.  Do you have some parsley in your yard or garden? (Or local grocery?) Consider using some to make:

  • pesto – substitute it for the basil
  • tabbouleh – a wonderful summertime salad made with bulgur
  • chimichurri with it – an  Argentinian sauce for grilled foods
  • fry up sprigs – your choice if you want to dip them in a light batter first
  • ravioli – chop it up, mix with some ricotta and egg, salt and pepper, and fill ravioli with it
  • toss it into your next omelet or frittata
  • vinaigrette (or make a green goddess dressing)
  • how about a cream of parsley soup?  or in a falafel?
  • add it in to your regular salad, potato salad, meatballs, you can stick some practically anywhere you want a little – or a lot – of green

One last note:  There are three cultivars of parsley – curly, flat-leaf, and root.  All are biennials in our temperate climate, and this was the second year for this parsley plant.  The cultivar we were growing was the curly variety. The root variety will create a nice, edible taproot you can eat raw like a carrot, or cook like a turnip.  Look to central and eastern European dishes to see it featured. Flat-leaf is more commonly listed in today’s Western recipes, but curly and flat leaf can be used interchangeably.  Middle Eastern recipes are more likely to use the curly variety. Most people think flat-leaf is more flavorful, but if you grow your own, you’ll see that there’s plenty of flavor in the curly variety as well.

So, bye-bye parsley, and bon appetit stomach!

Lisa Centala and Edible Landscape team

Save these dates June 26 and 28th. 

The Peach Fever lunch on June 26 is sold out but class is open!

 

Hugelkulturs and Tomatoes

This is a 4 minute video, taken in April, full of info about the origins and natural habits of tomatoes and the composition of a hugelkultur. Hugelkultur, pronounced Hoo-gul-culture, means hill culture or hill mound. Jeff Raska teaches us from our edible garden:

June update on tomatoes: It’s’s all in how you look at it.
We put leggy plants in late for our season, the hugelkultur soil is still very new (and we’re discovering that the angle of the hill is a bit steep in places). Add to that strong winds breaking the branches in some cases, and squirrels running around, breaking branches, digging, and harvesting the green fruit, and you don’t have a picture-perfect, ready for the cover of a glossy magazine hugelkultur.

Having said that, there are a couple of plants that seem to be thriving…

From The Edible Garden Team

Lisa Centala

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