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Category Archives: Edible Landscaping

Pesto Party Anyone?

Basil Bed Before Harvest

We had a party…a “Pesto Party” …and it was a chopping, blending and pulsing success. Our Edible Garden raised basil beds yielded some of the most beautiful plants we’ve ever seen. And, with a new drip irrigation system going in on Tuesday, all the plants had to be cut back rather severely. It was time to rally the troops and make good use of our harvest.

Two “favored” recipes, slightly adapted, served as the basis for our pesto making adventure. Each participant was encouraged to personalize their recipe. While some chose to stay with tradition, others brought an assortment of ingredients including everything from walnuts and pecans to a yeast substitute for the Parmesan cheese. Our garden, of course, provided the basil – three different varieties to be exact: Cardinal (cinnamon/clove flavor with hints of anise), Eleonora (somewhat spicier flavor than traditional pesto types) and Persian (a distinctive aroma, both lemony and spice like).

Once the food processors began their whirring magic, the next important decision was chunky or smooth. Those in favor of a smoother texture watched closely as more olive oil was slowly drizzled into the mix. If your twist happened to be chunky, only a few short pulses and it was done. More salt or lemon juice, each person had to make that call, as well.

Amidst all the chatter and finger licking swipes, it was hilariously entertaining to see each batch being scooped out of the processors. Varying shades of green, silky smooth texture or visibly chunky little pieces of spinach and nuts didn’t matter. Each jar was filled with a pesto that yielded its own distinct personality. And, our chefs were thrilled to take home over 30 jars of garden-fresh pesto for their personal enjoyment or to share with family and friends.

*If you have basil that’s ready for harvesting, try one of our favorite recipes included below.

Pesto After Basil Harvest

Spinach Basil Pesto

Ingredients

1 ½ cups baby spinach leaves

¾ cup fresh basil leaves

½ cup toasted pine nuts

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon lemon zest

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Blend the spinach, basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a food processor until nearly smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil into the mixture while processing until smooth.

Yield:  24 servings

Classic Pesto

Ingredients:

3 large cloves garlic

3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves

½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

½ cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place the basil leaves in a food processor and pulse until half-way chopped.  Add the pine nuts and garlic.  Continue pulsing.  Add the cheese, salt and pepper.  Through the pouring spout, with the processor on, drizzle the olive oil into the basil mixture.  Blend just until incorporated but not completely smooth.  A little texture is best.

Yield:  About 3 cups

Linda Alexander

 

 

 

Edible Landscaping, Here’s What You Plant!

The beautiful and edible Roselle Hibiscus planted in our Greenhouse beds. 

All plant material in the edible landscape is carefully selected for culinary purposes. Whether it be the leaves, flowers, fruit, roots or seeds, at least one part of the plant must be edible. Creating a visually attractive landscape design using only edible plants is the framework for our lovely garden. We hope you enjoy your visit to The Edible Landscape at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills.

Edible Plants in Our Garden and Some of Their Culinary Uses:

South Sidewalk Raised Beds (Left Side)

Garlic Chives – leaves and blossoms; salads, egg dishes and sauces

Spearmint – leaves; mint syrups, fruit salads, garnish for beverages, use with beef, lamb, English peas, cucumbers, tomatoes and watermelon

Basil – leaves and blossoms; beverages, desserts, egg dishes, pesto and salads

South Sidewalk Raised Bed (Right Side)

Sweet Fennel – leaves; salads, sauces and grilled meats, – seeds; teas and sausage

Okra – pods for sautéing, roasting, frying and sliced raw in salads; leaves for frying

Strawberries – fruit; beverages, desserts, jams, jellies and soups

Trellis

Luffa – young vegetable and flowers; young vegetable can substitute for squash, zucchini or eggplant, flowers can be dipped in batter and sautéed

Clay Pot Bed

Sweet Myrtle – leaves, berries and blossoms; leaves in stews, roast meats, stuffing, salads and meat ragouts, berries as a substitute for black pepper

Dwarf Fig Tree – fruit; preserves, salads, grilled and baked

Stonescape

Mexican Mint Marigold – leaves; fish and poultry cookery, ice creams and teas

Curry Plant – leaves; mix with cream cheese for sandwiches, egg and chicken salads

Society Garlic – leaves; herb butters, egg and cheese dishes, starchy vegetables

Cutting Celery – leaves; dressings, salads and soups

Summer Savory – leaves; vegetable cookery, especially beans 

Italian Parsley – leaves; white sauce, scrambled eggs, baked corn or potatoes, poultry, dressing, biscuits and butter

Swing Set Frame Raised Beds

Pelargoniums (Scented Geraniums) – leaves; desserts, jellies, sugars and teas

West End of Swing Set Frame

Lamb’s Quarters – young, tender leaves for salads

Wire Frame North Side of Swing Set Frame

Anise Hyssop – dried leaves used for teas and seasonings

Lovage – leaves; salads, soups and stews – seeds; crushed or whole can be used like leaves – stems; blanched and eaten like celery

Scarlet Emperor Bean – leaves, blossoms, fruit; leaves cooked or raw, blossoms in salads, fruit (bean) young like green beans, or mature, used like dried beans

Statuary Bed  

Onion Chives – leaves and blossoms; breads, egg dishes, sauces and salads

Pumpkins – pulp and seeds; breads, pancakes, puddings, soups and toasted seeds

Square Raised Bed

Bay Laurel – leaves; seasoning for soups, stews, vegetables and sauces

Peppers – fruit; grilling, jellies, roasting, sauces and stuffing

Crescent Beds

Pineapple Sage; beverages

Sweet Marjoram ‘compacta’; breads, soups, sauces and pasta dishes

Stone Walkway, East Side

Salad Burnet – fresh young leaves in salads and dips

Hügelkultur

Winter Savory – leaves; vegetable cookery, especially beans

Italian Oregano – leaves and flowers; breads, spaghetti sauce, basting meats while grilling, pasta dishes

Artichokes – choke; steamed and sautéed

Strawberries – fruit; beverages, desserts, jams and jellies, soups

Swiss Chard – leaves; frittatas, savory tarts and soups

Wave Wall

French Sorrel – leaves; salads, sauces and soups

Greenhouse Beds

Monarda (Bee Balm) – leaves and blossoms; teas and salads

Lemon Balm – leaves; use as a garnish for summer drinks and salads, teas

German Chamomile – flowers; tea

Roselle Hibiscus– calyx, leaves, seeds; calyx for tea and jam, leaves in salads/stir fry, seeds ground into flour

Cinder Block Front of Greenhouse

Roselle Hibiscus – same as above 

French Tarragon planted in the half moon bed.

Brick Half Moon Bed, North Front of Greenhouse

Lemon Verbena – leaves; beverages, breads, desserts, jam and jellies and salad dressings

Mediterranean Swoop Bed

Pomegranate – flesh and seeds; jellies, salads and sauces 

French Tarragon – leaves; eggs, cheese dishes, sauces for fish, chicken tarragon and a classic in bearnaise sauce 

Thyme – leaves and flowers; stews, leafy vegetables, beef, fish, lamb, pork and poultry cookery, also used to cook with legumes

Culinary Sages (Garden, Purple and TriColor) – leaves and flowers; breads, poultry and pork cookery, thanksgiving stuffing 

Mexican Oregano – leaves and flowers; same as other oreganos

Raised Bed on Concrete Pad

Sweet Potato (Beauregard) – baking, roasting and sautéing for vegetable dishes and desserts

Plant Guild

Hardy Satsuma (Orange Frost) – fruit

Sweet Marjoram – breads, soups, sauces and pasta dishes

Cedar Fence

Sweet Olive (Osmanthus Fragans)- blossoms; dried and used in cakes and sweets 

Ginger – root, leaves; sauces, pickled, baked goods, leaves can be infused to provide a mild ginger flavor (compared to the root)

Linda Alexander

 

Kale’s Misfortune

August 6, 2019

We had grandiose plans; to indulge and savor, to be nourished and satisfied. Our beautifully designed spring kale bed promised countless ways to enjoy this luscious, leafy green. An imaginative plan was developed using five different varieties of kale. Our centrally located statuary garden would be transformed into graceful spirals of translucent whites to radiant pinks. Concentric circles of the lovely Scarlet Kale with her delicious frilly, red curled leaves gently ushered in sassy little Dwarf Siberian Kale, a very hardy and productive Russian variety.

Above: Scarlet Kale

Red Russian, poetically referred to as the peacock of the kale family, adorned our bed with its striking red leaf stalks and delicate purple veins running through silver green leaves. But it was the visually stunning blue-green hues of Blue Curled Scotch that completed the rich and vibrant look of our 2019 Ombre theme. Or, so we hoped.

Above: Blue Curled Scotch Kale

As spring rains gave way to the warm days of summer, we were increasingly pleased with our Brassicaceae family reunion. And then quite suddenly, Mother Nature spoke to us. Her language was somewhat stern and unforgiving. She reminded us that our visit had come too soon. While family gatherings are happy, joyful occasions filled with laughter and sweet memories, a time of separation is sometimes needed before a return.

Shamefully, we had not listened. Members of the same family had previously made a visit to our garden. Two other times to be exact. We should have known better than to include them a third time. Was it the unwelcomed pests harboring in the soil who were waiting for the right moment to “crash” our party? Or, had the lovely cabbage white butterfly swooped down from above to deposit her eggs on the underside of a leaf? Either way, our mistake had encouraged, even invited the destruction to begin. As the tiny little green worms emerged, along with them came a voracious appetite. A simple appetizer wasn’t going to satisfy, they had come for a feast.

After only a few short weeks of devastation, our bed of dreams began to resemble an alien invasion. The chomping and nibbling had wiped us out. Except for one indulgent over-eater, the lacy remnants of frass (aka, solid excreta of insects) was all that remained of our beautiful kale crop. The cross-stripped caterpillar showed no mercy, he was victorious in winning the battle.

Kale Bed in early July after the cabbage worm attack

Moving forward, we’ve learned a lesson the hard way. Instructions for the next family reunion will be respectfully observed.

  1. Members of the same family, in this case…Brassicaceae…won’t meet again for three years.
  2. Rotating plant families is important for managing pests and soil fertility in the garden.
  3. To improve the fertility status of garden soil, members of other families such as Fabaceae, the legume family, can be grown to add nitrogen to the soil.

Should nutrient-rich kale make a future visit, we hope to enjoy her delicious charms.

Linda Alexander

Pictures courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Refer to Caterpillar Alert, Who’s Eating our Kale?


2 Fantastic Classes, Learn, Learn, Learn at our Garden!

Everyone Welcome, no reservations required.

Tomorrow: Wednesday, August 7, 10am, Shade Gardening

Friday, August 23, 10am Texas Plant Tales Class

Balsamic Blooms Basil is a Superstar

I’m infatuated with this new basil, so I asked Linda to write about it-Ann.

Above: Balsamic Blooms Basil

 

Our first encounter with Balsamic Blooms Basil was in April of 2018. While the designation Texas Superstar® caught our attention, it was the beautiful deep purple blooms that we found most intriguing. We were smitten. Thankfully, we were able to locate six plants at a local garden center and then used them to create a border for our newly established hügelkultur bed.

People couldn’t stop talking about the “new plants” in our garden. As they continued to grow throughout the spring and into summer, everyone became more intrigued. A quick explanation convinced them that this was a plant worthy of adding to the home garden.

Balsamic Blooms Basil was named a 2017 Texas Superstar plant by AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturalists after three years of field trials around the state. To be designated a Texas Superstar, a plant must not only be beautiful but also perform well for consumers and growers throughout the state. Texas Superstars must be easy to propagate, which should ensure the plants are not only widely available throughout Texas but also reasonably priced.

Balsamic Blooms is truly is a game changer. It is the first basil to have flowers and leaves growing at the same time. You’ll be tempted not to harvest those long-lasting, gorgeous purple blooms, content just to admire their beauty. But you shouldn’t miss the delightful mint flavor of the tender young flowers chopped and sprinkled over a summer salad. The sweet flavor of the foliage may be used for a delicious pesto or other culinary uses.

We were so pleased with last year’s performance that for 2019, Balsamic Blooms took center stage in our ombre basil bed at Raincatcher’s Garden. Once again, it has thrilled visitors to the garden who don’t leave without asking about this lovely herb.

As with most basils, plant in a sunny area in well drained soil. It has a mounding growth habit reaching 18-24” and is a great addition for either the edible garden or landscape.

Linda Alexander

 

 

Thai Basil Sorbet, a Cool Taste of Summer

Thai Basil Sorbet

When one mentions ‘basil’, immediately people think of Italian-type basil – the Genovese variety that is used for pesto and caprese salad.  Thai basil, if it’s thought about at all, is best known as a garnish in the popular Vietnamese soup pho.

But with its spicy licorice and lemon notes, this cousin of mint works well in desserts, too.  Any variety of Thai basil can be used – we have both Persian and Cardinal cultivars in the Edible Landscape and both worked equally well.

An ice cream maker does its magic by keeping the ice crystals small while they’re being created.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker or aren’t in the mood for sorbet, there are other ways you can enjoy this syrup.  You can make a granita or popsicle if you still want an icy treat, or simply take the syrup you’ve made and pour it over a white cake, brownies, or even the olive oil semolina cake from our Grow and Graze event – it’ll infuse the cake with a lovely extra layer of flavor!

Above: Cool and refreshing Thai Basil Sorbet

The recipe below makes about a pint of sorbet – feel free to multiply it and make more.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups water

1 cup sugar (192 g)

1 cup basil (leaves and/or blossoms) (about 55 g)

2 Tablespoons corn syrup*

2 Tablespoon lime juice

*The corn syrup is to keep the sorbet from becoming a popsicle without making the sorbet too sweet.  The alternative to the corn syrup would be a tablespoon of vodka (or rum).  If you’re not making sorbet, but the granite, popsicle, or syrup, you don’t need the corn syrup (or vodka or rum).

METHOD for SORBET:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the corn syrup and lime juice.

Spin it in your ice cream maker using the manufacturer’s instructions, then put in the freezer to finish hardening off.

METHOD for GRANITA:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  Don’t use the corn syrup.

Place the syrup in a shallow pan (metal is good, but something it would be okay to scratch with a fork, or use a plastic container) in the freezer for about a half hour.  Pull it out and with a fork, scrape the frozen portions into large flakes.  Return to the freezer and repeat 2-3 times or until the whole thing is a bunch of frozen flakes.  Cover, and store in freezer until ready to serve.  When you go to serve, use that fork again to make sure you’ve got flakes!

METHOD for POPSICLES:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  Don’t use the corn syrup.

Pour into popsicle molds and freeze!  This is a pretty intense way to enjoy the basil flavor – I’d suggest adding some berries to the mold and have a berry basil popsicle.

METHOD for SYRUP (over cakes, brownies, etc.):

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  You don’t need the corn syrup for this use, but it won’t hurt your final product, either.

The Edible Landscape Team

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

Edible Landscape Spring and Summer Planting 2019

May 4, 2019

Ana and Linda enthusiastically took center stage last week to proclaim the spring and summer plans for the Raincatcher’s Edible Landscape. The purpose of our edible landscape is to create a stylish and appealing outdoor space using vegetable, fruit, and herb plant materials. On top of that, think partial shade and an area formerly used as a children’s playground. Add in budget constraints and the lack of an irrigation system..

Without the fervor of Ana and Linda and their band of Master Gardeners, I doubt this garden would have flourished. But with its second birthday round the corner, the edible landscape is ready to take off its training pants and mature into a beautiful and thoughtful garden full of edible delights.

In the next few weeks, look for articles giving more detail about the 2019 design plan. The basil bed has just been planted with many different colors of basil. Hint: research the ombré look and we’ll explain later how it’s being used in the edible landscape.

South Sidewalk Raised Beds – Basil varieties/cultivars: Piccolino (Greek), Napoletano (Genovese), Eloenora (Genovese), Persian (Thai), Cardinal (Thai), Balsamic Blooms (Genovese), Red Freddy (Genovese), Amethyst Black (Genovese)

Ann Lamb

PIctures by Linda Alexander

Open this link for a list of the all the plants  and a plot plan of The Edible Landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden.

The Edible Landscape Adds a Food Guild

April 30, 2019

The idea of a food guild or food forest is interesting because it is a less labor intensive way to grow food and more sustainable. Everyone likes the idea of low maintenance and more crops, so watch this video to see the food guild we are creating to in our Edible Landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden.

The food guild utilizes layers of different types of plants. We are fortunate to have towering oak trees for our tall tree layer and also fortunate to have tasted acorn muffins made from acorn flour. So yes, our tall tree layer, the live oak tree is a food source. Next we will have a short tree, a vine will grow up that tree, then a shrub layer, an herb layer, ground cover and a root crop like horseradish or carrots.  As you read this, you should be getting the idea of plants growing together and utilizing each other’s strengths to create this sustainable food guild.

It’s a fascinating concept and you will get to hear of it’s successes and trials, as we watch it over the next few years.

Ana has given us a list of the plants we will be considering for The Raincatcher’s Food Guild. I’m excited about the mandarin orange tree.

Ann Lamb

video by Starla Willis

For more information about planting a food guild click here.

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