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Category Archives: Herbs To Grow In Dallas

Are You Growing Curry Plant?

June 15, 2021

You may have seen Curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) at local garden centers. Its silvery-gray to silver-green leaves are needle-like in shape, much like lavender or rosemary. Crushing the leaves gently in between your fingers, that familiar curry-like fragrance is easily released. If you happen to be in the garden after a refreshing rain, the scent intensifies. 

The Curry plant is a perennial with a bushy growth habit reaching to about 28 inches. It is in the daisy family (Asteraceae), and is related to many other herbs such as the marigold, dandelion, tarragon and chamomile. As is typical of herbs that originated from the Mediterranean it prefers a dry, sunny location. Planting in less humid, even sandy soils which have good drainage is recommended. Water sparingly and avoid a damp, moist location. During the flowering period, usually between late June and mid-September, it produces relatively small, bright yellow flowers. 

This easy to grow shrub usually requires no fertilizer. At Raincatcher’s we have grown it in the same spot for several years, choosing to mix in a little compost in early spring. Although the Curry plant is frost hardy, the extreme winter temperatures this year did cause some damage to our plants. We gave them a careful spring trimming which has helped to regenerate and restore most of the plants.  

Not to be confused with the spice called curry, curry plant is used in many different recipes including rice, pasta, paella, vegetable dishes, soups and meat dishes. Curry leaves are best enjoyed when freshly chopped. Branches can also be used for cooking certain dishes but should be removed before consuming. (For clarification, curry powder is a combination of herbal seeds and other seasonings including coriander, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, turmeric and various other spices.) 

In England, fresh curry plant leaves are chopped up and used in a cream cheese spread on sandwiches. From Germany, a recipe using a combination of herbal seeds and spices caught my eye. Curry plant leaves are stir fried into the mix. It is an Indian style potato dish topped with yogurt and mango chutney. Figs and curry plant leaves are used to decorate the dish. 

For a multi-cultural experience, give curry a place in your garden.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Lemon Balm and Rainy Days

May 27, 2021

After two glorious weeks of puddle-filling, gutter-gushing rain, I’ve had time to think and cook a little more than usual. Initially, my thoughts turned to an experience shared with another master gardener a few days ago in the edible landscape.

The two of us were having a discussion about a big clump of the common herb, lemon balm, that had taken over a small area of the Hügelkultur bed. It wasn’t planned for the space but, this spring, had volunteered to take up residence in that location.  Now, completely covering a new rosemary plant and a low growing French tarragon, the space was too crowded for all three to survive. Too many plants in too small a space and that “real estate”, we determined, belonged to our ‘Arp’ rosemary plant. Patti offered to dig up the lemon balm and move it to an open spot in our newly designed sensory garden.  

Lemon Balm on the left, Variegated Lemon Balm right

Because lemon balm is known for growing like a weed, some gardeners choose not to have it their gardens. The big clump Patti dug up could just as easily have been tossed into the compost pile but then we would have missed the fun of using it in more beneficial ways. Thankfully, the rainy weather had given me some time to research and learn more about this fragrant and tasty herb. 

Lemon balm is a lemon-scented, aromatic perennial plant native to the Mediterranean. It belongs to the Lamiaceae (mint) family of plants with four-sided stems. The genus name, Melissa, is derived from the Greek word meaning “honeybee”. This herb’s lemony fragrance attracts bees. Hives were once rubbed with its leaves to bring in swarms.

Lemon balm is easy to grow, accepting partial shade to full sun exposure. You can expect the leaves to turn pale yellow green in full sun. Some gardeners believe the plant is happier and more handsome when grown in the shade. Prefers moist fertile soil with good drainage. 

Just a few feet away from the clump Patti transplanted is a new variety of lemon balm that we found at a local garden center this spring; Melissa officinalis ‘Aurea’ (Variegated Lemon Balm). It is a robust grower with variegated gold/green foliage. Like its cousin, the variegated variety can be used for many culinary purposes. 

A refreshing trio: Lemon Balm Shortbread, Roasted Blueberries and Lemon Balm Ice Cream and Lemon Balm Infused Green Tea

Acclaimed chef and cookbook author, David Leibovitz, combines lemon balm with roasted blueberries for a delicious ice cream treat. Other delightful recipes include Lemon Balm Shortbread with fresh Lemon Balm Tea. 

Give lemon balm a try this year. Hopefully, you will agree with poets and herbalists of old who referred to it as “heart’s delight” for its uplifting qualities. 

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Cinnamon Basil in My Driveway

Most of the instructions for growing cinnamon basil in your garden mention things like, dig a generous amount of compost or well-rotted manure into the soil before planting. Other sources suggest that it prefers rich, loamy soil.

Cinnamon Basil thriving in Linda’s gravel drive

That leaves me somewhat perplexed. For the fifth year in a row, a patch of robust, healthy cinnamon basil plants are once again growing in our gravel driveway. And, it continues to multiply with each passing year.

If you happen to be intrigued, here a few things to know about this very aromatic and easy-to-grow herb that has much to offer.

Cinnamon Basil is from the mint family, Lamiaceaea. Its slightly serrated, dark green, shiny leaves with reddish-purple veins can resemble certain types of mint. Cinnamon basil plants contain cinnamate, a compound that gives the herb its spicy aroma and cinnamon-like flavor.

If left alone, cinnamon basil will surprise you with its true beauty. From July to late September, lavender spiked blooms are in full display creating a picture-perfect experience not to be missed. But if you feel inclined to grow full, bushier plants, snip the tips as soon as they appear any time during the growing season. Expect your plants to eventually reach about three feet.

Cinnamon basil will thrive in well-drained soil (or gravel) receiving about 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight per day. Harvest the leaves often and use in two of our favorite recipes, Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream and Cinnamon Basil Swirl Cake. Consider using it as an attractive garnish or to flavor hot drinks or other dishes.

Cinnamon basil in an arrangement of complimentary colors by Linda

In addition to its culinary uses, cinnamon basil makes a stunning addition to floral arrangements. While beautiful as a stand-alone plant, it compliments flowers in the lavender and pink or blue color range. I especially enjoy using it with blue hydrangeas, purple calyx, tulips and roses. Cinnamon basil will please you with its gentle, fragrant scent each time you enter the room.

(Little known fact: Cinnamon basil was taken into space by the Space Shuttle Endeavor during STS-118 and grown in an experiment in low Earth orbit on the International Space Station).

Linda Alexander

The recipe for Cinnamon Basil Cake is below. If you would like to the recipe for Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream, ask for it in the comment section.

Cinnamon Basil Swirl Cake

Cinnamon basil is loved by master gardeners. It reseeds freely and has a delicate purple blossom. You’ll be captivated by its cinnamon-like aroma and taste.

Ingredients for Cake:
2 tablespoons minced cinnamon basil leaves
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
Ingredients for Swirl:
⅓ cup sugar
2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a 10-inch spring form pan.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together cinnamon basil leaves, flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time until fluffy and well blended. Beat in vanilla.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and baking soda until smooth. With mixer on low speed, beat half the flour mixture into the butter mixture just until blended. Beat in sour cream mixture, then remaining flour, beating just until blended. Spread into prepared pan.
5. Make swirl. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over batter; swirl into batter with the tip of a knife, being careful not to touch the knife to base of the pan.
6. Bake cake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely (or nearly so) on a wire rack before removing pan side and slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8-12 servings

Special Offer:

Linda is digging up cinnamon basil and potting it in 4 inch pots to share. She will leave it for pick-up on the table in the edible landscape of The Raincatcher’s garden. 12 pots will be there, one per person. Come after noon today, Tuesday, July 21 to pick up one for your garden.


We have written quite a bit about basil. Type in basil in our search box and spend the afternoon reading about how to grow it, how to cook with it, and learn about all the many varieties.

Try the Herb, Papalo!

Are you familiar with papalo? We first learned about papalo last summer. This year we found a seed source online, placed the order and started growing it in the edible landscape. Papalo is an ancient Mexican herb whose ancestral home is thought to be South America. Today it grows wild in Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. And now, as you can see from the photo, right in the heart of Dallas County.

Papalo growing at Raincathcer’s Edible Garden

Papalo’s bluish green leaves have a somewhat complex, distinctive flavor reminiscent of cilantro and arugula. But unlike cilantro, it grows throughout the summer and does not bolt. It is best used fresh as it doesn’t dry well. Once cool weather arrives, the growing season is over.

Papalo seeds

When starting papalo from seeds you must be very careful not to separate the seed stem from the umbrella-like top. Master Gardener, Gail Cook, started the seeds for us in March. She carefully laid them on top of the potting mix in 4” pots. They were then covered lightly with more of the mix. Once the seedlings were about 3-4” tall, around mid-May, we transplanted them into our Ole Garden.

Plants are thriving in well-draining soil in an area that receives mid-morning to late afternoon sun. After that, they are in full shade. Just last week we noticed that the plants are producing those uniquely shaped seed heads that will be harvested for next year’s crop.

If you’re looking for a vibrant herb substitute for cilantro, check out our Ole Garden by the red shed in the edible landscape. You’ll find a large patch of papalo growing in an area immediately south of the sidewalk. Feel free to snip some for a taste!

A few ideas for using papalo include the following:

Chopped up in guacamole, leaves as a topping for a pimento cheese topping and shredded over fresh tomatoes. Enjoy!

Guacamole with Papalo

Ingredients:

1 or more (to taste) jalapeno or serrano chili peppers, finely minced (optional)

2-3 tablespoons finely diced yellow or red onion

1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh papalo

Coarse salt to taste

 3-4 avocados

½ cup finely diced fresh tomatoes

Topping: ¼ cup finely diced fresh tomatoes, 1 tablespoon finely diced onion, 1 teaspoon finely shredded papalo leaves 

Garnish: whole papalo leaves

Directions:

Crush the onions, chilis, salt, lime juice and papalo in a mortar and pestle or a molcajete until they are just paste-like. Add the avocado flesh and mash it roughly into the paste until well mixed. Stir in the tomatoes and place the guacamole in a serving dish or molcajete. 

Mix the tomatoes, onions and shredded papalo that were reserved for the topping. Pile on top of the guacamole. Garnish with whole papalo leaves and serve.

Linda Alexander

Photos by Linda and Starla Willis

 

Calendulas in My Garden

Above: Calendula in Linda’s garden

There’s a new herbal flower growing in my garden that makes my heart happy. Calendula, sometimes known as pot marigold, signifies sacred affections, joy, grief and remembrance. With such a wide range of emotions, there are countless reasons to include it in your garden landscape design. 

 With hues from golden to apricot, deep yellow and bright orange, calendula flowers are eye-catching in any setting. An early morning walk in the garden will tempt you to take a handful of clippings for a lovely bouquet or gather up the flowers for some edible delicacies. 

Growing calendulas is quite simple. Plant seeds in good garden soil, keeping the ground moist until the plants appear. If planted in late summer or early fall, there’s a good chance that they will produce flowers from spring into summer. Some years it might flower almost year-round.

My calendula plants were put in the ground in mid fall, started blooming in February and are continuing to produce new buds weekly. The flowers are harvested often to use in cut arrangements and for ingredients in butter, cookies, cornbread, quiche and a scrumptious calendula cake. They can also be sprinkled on soups, pasta, rice dishes and salads. The Raincatcher’s volunteers recently sampled calendula quiche. The recipe is given below.

Above: Petals to be eaten!

In the vegetable or herb garden, calendulas encourage pollinators and other beneficial insects. If you’re looking for a plant that flourishes in cooler weather, blooms often and is easy to maintain, give this versatile herb a sunny location in your garden. 


Calendula Quiche

Above: Calendula Quiche surrounded by Calendula Flowers at Raincatcher’s Garden

Ingredients

3 cups loosely packed fresh spinach

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

¼ cup (6 ounces) soft goat cheese, crumbled

½ cup calendula petals (from about 20 flowers)

½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Liberally butter a 9-inch pie pan. 

In a skillet over medium heat, cook spinach in olive oil until the leaves are fully wilted, about 3 minutes. Drain. 

Whisk eggs and cream together. Add goat cheese, calendula petals and salt and whisk again. 

Arrange spinach in the bottom of the prepared pie plate and pour egg mixture over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the custard is set in the center and the top is golden brown.

*Option: If you prefer, follow directions for the ingredients but pour into a prebaked pie crust.

Yield: One 9-inch Quiche

As in true Texas style, we suggest a few drops of Tabasco sauce on each slice for extra zing.

Linda Alexander

Photos by Linda and Starla Willis

Click here to learn how to pronounce Calendula correctly.

Propagation Primer with Master Gardener, Paula Spletter

Scented geraniums in the Edible Landscape before the freeze.

Our five pelargonium beds (scented geraniums) were beautiful. Brushing up against them or gently rubbing a leaf between your fingers, fragrant scents of everything from roses to peach and chocolate mint filled the air. But the weather forecast had prepared us. Below freezing temperatures were only days away and it was time to carefully dig them up for winter protection in our greenhouse.

Propagation class in session.

Paula Spletter to the rescue! Under her helpful guidance, each plant received a severe pruning leaving only one third of the plant intact for its winter location. Then the fun began. Over 200 stem cuttings were taken and repotted in preparation for a spring class at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. Here are Paula’s basic tips for propagating scented geraniums:

Paula Spletter showing us the perfect stem cutting.

  1. Start with a healthy, well-hydrated “mother” plant.
  2. Cut tip-end stems just below two nodes. Each cutting should be about 2” to 3” long.
  3. Cut stems with a sharp, clean paring knife. Make a straight cut across (not at an angle) the stem.
  4. Use a dowel stick or the handle end of the knife to make a hole in the potting soil. (This will help to protect the fragile meristem when inserting.)
  5. Cuttings should be placed into a pot filled with a mixture of loose potting soil and compost.
  6. Label every pot. Sometimes things get accidently moved around and what looks like an old-fashioned rose scented geranium might instead be peach scented.
  7. Water lightly. Monitor the soil while cuttings are in the greenhouse. Pay careful attention to conditions that could affect the health of the plants:

*Temperature in the greenhouse should be 45˚ or higher. A heater is recommended for anything below this number.

*Soil should stay evenly moist; never too wet or completely dried out.

*Extremes in heat, cold, overwatering or underwatering could cause problems with mealy bugs or a fungus. Pay attention and adjust accordingly.

Scented geranium cuttings in our greenhouse labeled and ready for winter.

Watch for an announcement about our 2020 late spring/early summer class on the joys of growing scented geraniums in your garden. A tasting menu will inspire you to get started!

Linda Alexander

Herbs of the Mediterranean Recipes

 

Iced Herb Gazpacho

This recipe first appeared in the Dallas County Master Gardener Association cookbook, ‘A Year on the Plate’ and on our blog in 2016. It remains our very favorite for recipe for gazpacho. The addition of 5 fresh herbs gathered from the garden give it an exciting boost of flavor.

 

 

 

Ingredients

6 large tomatoes, quartered (peel, if desired)

4 cloves fresh garlic, pressed

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

½ cucumber, peeled and chopped

2 scallions, chopped

1 sorrel leaf, deveined and coarsely chopped

2 sprigs fresh basil

3 sprigs salad burnet

3 sprigs cilantro

3 sprigs parsley

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Cucumber slices and fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

Directions

Roughly puree tomatoes, garlic, cucumber, red pepper flakes, vinegar and oil in the workbowl of a food processor.  Leave some texture to the ingredients.

Add the herbs and pulse just until chopped.  Do not “blend” or mixture will become too brown.

Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend.  Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.  Garnish with a cucumber slice and a fresh thyme sprig.

Every Herb Pesto

When selecting recipes for our cookbook, the testing committee concluded that this was the most delicious pesto they had ever tasted. A perfect combination of seven garden-fresh herbs elevates the flavor profile to superior status. (Chervil is the ‘tricky’ herb. Early to late fall, and then again in spring, is when you typically find it growing in our garden).

Ingredients:

½ cup Marcona almonds, toasted

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

½ cup fresh parsley leaves

¼ cup basil leaves

¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves

⅛ cup fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon fresh chervil leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Zest of lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

¾ cup canola oil

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Garlic-rubbed crostini, optional

Heirloom tomatoes, chopped, optional

Directions:

  1. Blend the almonds and garlic in a food processor until fine. Add the spinach, cheese, herbs, lemon zest and lemon juice to the food processor.  Blend the herbs just enough so they are mixed, about 3 seconds.
  2. Add the canola oil and olive oil while the food processor is on a low setting. Season with salt and pepper. Blend to desired consistency.
  3. Transfer the pesto to a serving bowl. Place the chopped tomatoes on top of the crostini if using and top with pesto.

Yield: 2 cups

Note:  Any leftover pesto should be placed in a bowl and covered with plastic wrap.  Press the plastic wrap right on top of the pesto and refrigerate.

Above: Swiss Chard and Black Olive Tart

Black Olive and Swiss Chard Tart

In her beloved cookbook, ‘Pedaling Through Provence’, Sarah Leah Chase takes you on a technicolor journey through the sun-blessed cuisine of the Mediterranean. She calls this savory version of the tart, “love at first and last bite”.

 

Pastry Ingredients

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

Pinch of sea or coarse salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 teaspoons imported Dijon mustard

2 to 3 tablespoons ice water

Filling Ingredients

1 large bunch Swiss chard (about 1 pound), washed, stems and thick center ribs removed, leaves patted dry

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon dried thyme

Pinch of grated nutmeg

½ cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese

2 large eggs

½ cup light cream or half-and-half

Sea or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 cups pitted Nyons or Kalamata olives

2 tablespoons pine nuts

Directions

Make the pastry: Place the flour, rosemary, salt, and butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the mustard and enough ice water so that the dough begins to form a ball as the machine is pulsed on and off. Gather the dough into a flat disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Cut the Swiss chard leaves into ½-inch-wide strips. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, 7 to 10 minutes.  Add the chard, garlic, thyme, and nutmeg. Cook until the chard leaves have wilted and any water given off has evaporated, 5 to7 minutes. Remove from the heat and gently mix in the cheese.

Beat the eggs and cream together in a mixing bowl and then fold in the chard mixture, blending well. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled pastry dough to form a 12- to 13-inch circle. Transfer to an 11-inch tart pan and trim and crimp the edges decoratively. Spread the chard filling evenly in the tart shell. Arrange the olives in concentric circles over the top, pressing lightly into the filling. Sprinkle the pine nuts in between the olives.

Bake the tart until the crust is golden and the filling is set, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8 as a luncheon or 12 to 14 as an appetizer.

Green Herbs and Butterhead Lettuce Salad

This recipe and the  from award-winning cookbook author, Georgeanne Brennan, inspired us to get busy growing, harvesting and using herbs daily. While one delicate herb, sweet cicely, succumbed to our summer heat, plans are to include it in our fall garden. Stay posted for updates.

Ingredients

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped shallot

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 head butterhead lettuce, leaves separated

1 cup fresh chervil sprigs

½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

¼ cup small, tender fresh sorrel leaves

Directions

In the bottom of a salad bowl, combine the olive oil and shallot and stir together. Whisk in the lemon juice or vinegar. Taste for balance. Add the salt and pepper and taste again, adjusting as desired.

Tear the lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces, and put them into the bowl along with the chervil, parsley and sorrel. When ready to serve, toss well.

Yield: Serves 3 or 4

Herb-Seasoned Croutons

Ingredients

8 slices day-old coarse country bread, each about 1 inch thick

¼ cup extra-virgin oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or sweet marjoram

Directions

Without removing the crusts, cut the bread slices into 1-inch cubes. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the bread cubes, reduce the heat to low and cook slowly, turning once, until golden and crusty, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.

Sprinkle the cubes with the salt, thyme, rosemary and oregano or marjoram. Turn a few times in the pan to coat evenly. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the croutons to paper towels to drain and cool. To store, put in a paper bag, fold the top over several times and keep for up to 1 week.

Yield: Makes About 32 Croutons, About 4 Cups

 

Raincatcher’s Garden Summer Ratatouille

There are countless recipes for Ratatouille. However, this simple and colorful version ‘wowed’ guests at our ‘Herbs of the Mediterranean’ Grow and Graze event. Don’t let summer pass without making this one!

Ingredients

3-4 baby eggplants

3-4 medium tomatoes

1 yellow zucchini squash

1 green zucchini squash

1 yellow straight-neck squash

2-3 shallots

Olive oil, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Endless Summer Tomato Sauce

Several sprigs of fresh oregano

Directions

Pour 1 cup of tomato sauce into the bottom of an 8- to 9-inch baking dish.

Using a mandolin, slice first six ingredients thinly and evenly approximately ¼” thick. Make mini stacks using one of each sliced vegetable. Arrange a few stacks at a time into the prepared baking dish forming concentric spirals from the outer edge to the center. Fan out slightly allowing top part of vegetables to be seen. Use any leftover slices to fill the center.

Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and season with fresh pepper. Bake at 350˚F until vegetables are just soft to the touch but not overcooked. Check at 20 minutes.

Options: Fill center with goat cheese just as dish comes out of the oven. Spoon sauce over the top and serve with a crusty slice of bread.

Olive Oil Cake

You seldom here about this intensely moist and flavorful cake served during the dessert course. We hope to change you mind.  Restaurant owners, Jennifer and David Uygur  shared their recipe in the Dallas Morning News. Each slice was topped with a generous dollop of lavender-infused whipped cream and a sprinkling of fresh, locally grown blueberries.

Ingredients

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

3 large eggs

1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup fruity olive oil

1 ½ cups whole milk

3 tablespoons microplaned mixed citrus zest (lemon, orange, grapefruit)

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 360˚F (this is correct) if using a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan.

Heat oven to 350˚F if using a 10-inch cake pan with removable bottom.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powered and salt together into a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, then add the oil and mix until homogeneous.

Add the milk, zest and thyme. Gently mix in the flour and pour into a greased and floured 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan. (If using a 10-inch cake pan with removable bottom, grease, line with a parchment circle, then grease again and flour).

Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean (baking times vary depending on oven and pans, so keep an early eye on it). Place on a rack to cool. After 10 minutes turn cake out of the pan onto rack and let cool completely. Slice and serve on a plate. Garnish with your choice of toppings; whipped cream, whipped crème fraiche, fresh berries, sliced peaches or apricots.

Yield: Makes 12 servings.

Linda Alexander

 

 

 

A Summer Dessert Buffet From the Garden

Dallas County Master Gardeners said farewell to summer with an outside dessert buffet at our monthly meeting, Thursday, September 27th. Beautiful weather that morning teased us into believing that fall was only a whisper away.

Earlier in the summer we harvested gallons of blackberries from the vines in our north garden.  Mid-summer peaches were purchased from local growers. Carefully packaged, our bountiful berries and fruits were sent to the freezer for a brief storage. And then, the cooking began.

Our dessert buffet featured some long-standing favorites:

*Old-Fashioned Blackberry Cobbler

*Old Fashioned Peach Cobbler

*Fresh Peach Pound Cake

*Blackberry Pie Bars

*Fresh Peach Drop Cookies

It was the surprise dessert, however, that took center stage…Lemon Verbena Ice Cream. If you already know about Lemon Verbena but aren’t growing it, now’s the time to reconsider. This ice cream was a real crowd pleaser based on some of the comments we heard as each spoonful was savored by our members:

“Lemony goodness is filling my senses. I want more.”

“Those tiny, little bits of candied lemon rind are popping in my mouth. So refreshing.”

“Creamy texture, divine flavor…please make this again.”

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream Enjoyed by Dorothy!

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 cup milk

1 cup fresh lemon verbena leaves

1 ¾ cups heavy cream

¾ cup sugar

⅛ teaspoon salt

5 egg yolks

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

*¼ cup chopped candied lemon zest

Directions

In a saucepan set over moderate heat bring the milk just to a simmer. Gently crush the lemon verbena leaves in a bowl and add the hot milk. Cover and let steep until milk is cool.

Strain the milk through a sieve into a saucepan, pressing hard on the leaves to extract all flavor. Add the cream, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, stir once, and remove pan from the heat.

In a bowl whisk the egg yolks, add half of the hot cream mixture, whisking, and pour the egg mixture back into the remaining hot liquid. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil. Stir in the lemon juice and candied zest.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, let cool, and chill, covered with plastic, until cold.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Yield: about 1 quart

 

*Candied Lemon Zest

Ingredients

4 lemons, well scrubbed

2 cups sugar

1 cup cool water

Directions

Remove zest from lemons with a vegetable peeler, keeping pieces long. Remove white pith using a paring knife. Cut into a fine julienne using a very sharp knife. Place julienned zest in a small bowl; cover with boiling water. Let stand 30 minutes; drain.

Bring sugar and the cool water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When sugar is completely dissolved, add julienned zest, reduce heat to medium low, and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand overnight. Drain before using.

Yield: 8 servings

Here’s some information about a well-loved herb, lemon verbena:

Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena, Aloysia triphylla syn. Lippia citriodora, is a member of the Verbenaceae family. It is a shrub-like herb with woody stems and bright green, rough-textured pointed leaves, from 1-3 inches long. Leaves grow in whorls of 3 to 4 with an intense lemon scent.  

The bush generally grows around 3-6 feet tall. Plant in full sun in good garden soil. Give it plenty of room to ramble off in different directions or trim slightly, if desired. Either way, you will have an abundance of leaves to use starting in early spring and continuing into fall. In winter lemon verbena will lose its leaves.

Once springtime arrives, you’ll notice tiny little leaves popping out up and down the stems. Your lemon verbena has come out of its dormant stage and it is ready to welcome the new season. This might be a good time to give it a shapelier look.

Enjoy its crisp, clean lemon taste as a substitute in any recipe calling for lemons. Use its fresh leaves chopped up in cakes, cookies and glazes. Drop a sprig or two in your tea and relax with a delightfully lemon-scented herb that should be in everyone’s garden.

Linda Alexander


The next Dallas County Master Gardener meeting will be October 25   at Walnut Hill United Methodist Church and don’t forget our fall garden tour on October 13th. Tickets can be purchased ahead online for $15 or for $20 on the day of the tour at any of the garden locations. More information here.

All members of the public are invited to both events!

Lemon Verbena-no calories, no guilt info here!

 

 

Tips for growing and Harvesting French Tarragon.

 French Tarragon at the Demonstration Garden

 

*Botanical name:  Artemisia dracunculus

*Sometimes referred to as “a chef’s best friend”.

*A perennial herb with long, light green leaves and tiny greenish or yellowish white flowers.  For cooking use French tarragon.  Russian tarragon has flavor vastly inferior to French tarragon.

*French tarragon grows best in warm, dry, well-aerated soils and does not tolerate wet or saturated soils.  Before planting, incorporate 1 to 2 inches of well-composted organic matter into the soil.  Work the compost into the top 6 to 8 inches of the soil.  Organic matter additions to soils help improve aeration and water drainage.

*You can’t grow French tarragon from seeds so plant transplants in well-drained soil about 2 to 3 feet apart in order to give each plant room to grow.  A full-grown plant should cover about 12 inches of soil and reach 24 to 36 inches in height.

*French tarragon prefers full sun and warm but not hot temperatures.  In areas where summer temperatures exceed 90 degrees F, (our Zone 8) partial shading of French tarragon increases plant survival.

*French tarragon should be renovated every 2 to 3 years to maintain flavor and vigorous growth.

*Mulch around the plants to retain moisture near the soil surface, since tarragon has shallow roots.

*French tarragon is generally used as a fresh herb and sprigs may be harvested as needed throughout the growing season.  A sprig is typically one-third the length of the stem.

*When growing tarragon as a perennial, which we do at the demonstration garden, shear plants to the ground after frost has killed top growth and mulch heavily before winter to ensure survival.

*To help keep your plants healthy, divide them every 3 to 4 years in the spring or fall.  New plants can grow from stem cutting or root cuttings.

*French tarragon is a source of calcium, niacin, potassium, thiamine, and Vitamin A.

Linda

Let’s Picnic!

Before Christmas, the poem says, young children dream of sugarplums. Our Linda must have visions of gingham checks.  At the May 22 Master Gardener meeting, red gingham ribbon tied white picnic lunch boxes topped with blue gingham bordered menus, nestled by larger red gingham napkins.  Picnic tables were piled high with gingham quilts and vintage picnic baskets. An open picnic basket crowned the decorations, all ready for a party and filled—you guessed it—with red gingham napkins and red and white plates.

picnic basket close up

 

Master Gardeners visiting the Demonstration Garden were in for a treat.  Our Annette pulled out all her teacher skills and fascinated us with the world of earthworms.  How-to’s were flying right and left: we learned how to raise little wigglies in the laundry room, what to feed them, and how to sift out worm castings.

Sue and Michelle signed autographs after their unforgettable demonstration of how worms get close and friendly.

picnic-Michele and Sue cropped

 

Guests opened their picnic lunches to find a carefully packed feast wrapped in ladybug cellophane.  They enjoyed Arugula Rocket Salad with Nasturtium blossoms and Raspberry Vinaigrette, Copper Pennies, deviled eggs with candied bacon, crostini with Every Herb Pesto, Lemon Bars and Cupcake Brownies.   What a picture perfect day for a picnic.  Come back soon, fellow Master Gardeners!

Elizabeth

picnic-boxed lunch

Recipes

Salad with Nasturtiums and Raspberry Vinaigrette

Raspberry Vinaigrette

 

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:

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

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

3.  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 and/or raspberries)

Picnic-deviled eggs

 

Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon

 

Ingredients: 

1 ½ tablespoons light brown sugar

Cayenne pepper

Pinch ground cinnamon

1/8 pound thick-cut bacon (about 3 strips)

8 large eggs, straight from the refrigerator

¼ to ½ cup mayonnaise, or as much as desired

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 scallions, minced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Paprika, for garnish

 

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, a pinch of cayenne and the cinnamon.  Place the bacon on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle each slice of bacon with some of the spiced sugar and bake, about 10 minutes.  Flip the bacon, sprinkle with the remaining spiced sugar and continue to cook until crispy, about 20 more minutes.  Remove the bacon from the oven and allow to cool.  When the bacon is cool, mince it and set aside, reserving a quarter of it for garnishing the eggs.

2.  Put the cold eggs in the bottom of a medium sauce pan and cover with cold water.  Bring water to a boil and remove the pan from the heat.  Cover the pan with a lid and let stand for 12 minutes.  Drain the eggs and rinse with cold water.  Let the eggs cool a bit and then peel when they are still warm (eggs are much easier to peel when they are warm).  After they are peeled, you can then store them covered, in the fridge.

3.  Mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, dill, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, the scallions and the minced bacon in a medium mixing bowl.  Season with the salt.

4.  Slice the eggs in half lengthwise.  Gently remove the yolks by pressing your thumb against the back of the yolk to pop it out of the white.  Add the yolk to the bowl with the mayonnaise mixture.  Mash together, using a fork, until smooth.

5.  Put the filling in a re-sealable bag.  Cut one end off and pipe the filling into the egg whites.  Sprinkle with the paprika, extra bacon bits and dill before serving.

 

Yield:  6 to 8 servings.

picnic-marinated carrots

 

Marinated Carrots

 

For any kind of summer backyard gathering, Grandmother always served these.

 

Ingredients: 

¾ cup sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup vinegar

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon prepared mustard

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 lb. bag precut and peeled baby carrots

1 small red onion, sliced into rings

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 (15 ounce) can tomato soup

Directions:

1. Simmer carrots in water to cover for 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp tender.

2. Drain into a large strainer.  Immerse strainer in ice water to cover carrots.

3. Drain briefly then remove to a large bowl.

4.  Combine first seven ingredients and pour over carrots.

5.  Add sliced onion rings, green pepper and tomato soup.

6.  Refrigerate overnight.

Yield:  8 to 10 servings

 

Every Herb Pesto

 

Ingredients:

½ cup Marcona almonds, toasted

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

½ cup grated Parmesan

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

½ cup fresh parsley leaves

¼ cup basil leaves

¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves

1/8 cup fresh mint leaves

1/16 cup fresh chervil leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Zest of lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

¾ cup canola oil

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Garlic-rubbed crostini, optional

Heirloom tomatoes, chopped, optional

 

Directions:

1.  Blend the almonds and garlic in a food processor until fine.  Add the spinach, cheese, herbs, lemon zest and lemon juice to the food processor.  Blend the herbs just enough so they are mixed, about 3 seconds.  Add the canola oil and olive oil while the food processor is on a low setting. Season with salt and pepper.  Blend to desired consistency.

2.  Transfer the pesto to a serving bowl.  Place the chopped tomatoes on top of the crostini if using and top with pesto.  Any leftover pesto should be placed in a bowl and covered with plastic wrap.  Press the plastic wrap right on top of the pesto and refrigerate.

 

Yield:  About 2 cups.

 

Luscious Lemon Bars

 

Position a rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 325°.  Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with a sling made of parchment paper or foil.

Sift into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup powdered sugar

 

Sprinkle over the top:

12 Tbl. (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand.

 

Pour the crust mixture into the pan and press to an even thickness with the bottom of a measuring cup.  Bake until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300° F.

 

Whisk together until well combined:

6 large eggs

3 cups sugar

 

Stir in:

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)

 

Sift over the top and stir in until well blended and smooth:

½ cup all-purpose flour

 

Pour the batter over the baked crust.  Bake until set, about 35 minutes.  Remove the pan to a rack to cool completely before cutting into bars.

 

Just before serving sift with:

Powdered sugar

 

The Joy of Cooking (1997 edition)

 

Cupcake Brownies

 

A “go to” recipe for chocolate lovers!

 

Ingredients: 

2 sticks butter

4 ounces semisweet chocolate

4 eggs

1 ¾ cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

 

Directions:

1.  Melt butter and chocolate together in a fairly large pan.  Remove pan from stove and let mixture cool a few minutes.  Add remainder of ingredients and mix together by hand.

2.  Spoon batter into foil-lined cupcake pans (use either regular-sized pans or the mini cupcake pans – just be sure to use the foil cupcake pan liners).  Fill cups ½ full.

3.  Bake at 325 degrees F for about 20 to 30 minutes (adjusting time if using mini pans).  Let cool.

4.  If desired, spread a little of your favorite chocolate confectioners’ sugar frosting on each cupcake.

5.  May be wrapped well and frozen.

 

Yield:  About 2 dozen regular size brownies, or 3 ½ to 4 dozen mini brownies.

picnic lunch balckberry tea

Blackberry Iced Tea

 

Ingredients:

3 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, thawed

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Pinch of baking soda

4 cups boiling water

3 family-size tea bags

2 ½ cups cold water or sparkling water

Garnishes: fresh blackberries, fresh mint sprigs

 

Directions: 

1.  Combine 3 cups blackberries and sugar in large container.  Crush blackberries with wooden spoon.  Add chopped mint and baking soda.  Set aside.

2.  Pour 4 cups boiling water over tea bags; cover and let stand 3 minutes.  Discard tea bags.

3.  Pour tea over blackberry mixture; let stand at room temperature 1 hour.  Pour tea through a wire-mesh strainer into a large pitcher, discarding solids.  Add 2 ½ cups cold water, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.  Garnish, if desired.

Yield:  about 7 cups

Recipes by Linda

Pictures by Starla

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