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Facts About Growing Corn and Recipes From Our Latest Grow and Graze Event

Corn, the golden essence of summer and okra, a garden giant, were the two features at last week’s ‘Grow and Graze’ event. A panel discussion led by master gardener, Linda Alexander also included Dorothy Shockley, master gardener and vegetable specialist, along with Jeff Raska, Horticulture Program Assistant, Dallas County.

Starting with an historical look into the recorded beginnings of both crops, our panelists shared helpful suggestions and tips for growing them in our home gardens.

CORN
Some sources say that corn’s true origins date back 10,000 years ago to the pre-Columbian civilization. It is native to southern Mexico.

There are 5 main classes of corn:
Dent – called dent because of the small dent in top of the kernel. Used for livestock, the dinner table when harvested early enough, cornmeal and oil.
Flint – or Indian corn, this the colorful corn used for fall décor.
Flour – used for starches, flour, cornmeal and masa harina.
Popcorn – for popping, also can be colorful. Interestingly, any dried corn will “pop”.
Sweet – open pollinated and hybrid. The hybrid sweet corn is what we find in our markets today.

Tips:
Growing corn requires full sun, well prepped soil and varieties recommended for our area:
Kandy Korn, Silver Queen, How Sweet it Is, Merit, G90.

Plant corn seed 8” to a foot apart and always in a square or rectangle to help with pollination. Dorothy recommends putting two seeds in each hole and then thinning out the smaller one. Pollination should start in about two months.

Interesting facts:
Corn takes about 70 to 80 days to maturity. The tassel starts to emerge about 20 days before maturity. In that 20-day period, the most interesting part of the pollination takes place. The tassel, the male part of the plant appears. The tassel has anthers that will open up and spray the pollen. As this is happening, the silks, the female part of the plant emerges from the ear. The silks will be sticky on the ends, which allows the pollen to stick. The leaves will also be collecting some pollen. Along comes the wind blowing that pollen around your corn patch which connects with the silks. This is the main reason for planting corn in a square or rectangle
and not a single row.

Each one of those silks run down that ear, inside the shuck to a kernel. This pollinates the kernel and it starts to swell or fatten and develop.
Remember, when purchasing corn at the grocery or farmer’s market always buy corn with husks still in place. Look for ears that are full, filled out at the base and fresh silks that are not dried out. And, don’t forget to do the “peel back” test to check for freshness and plump, full
kernels. Ideally, fresh corn should be prepared either the same day or within two days.

Corn Trivia:
*Each corn stalk has two ears. Most ears have exactly 16 rows of kernels. Cut an ear of corn crosswise to see the formation. The number of lines may vary but, generally, every ear of corn
has 400 to 600 kernels.
*The average American eats 25 pounds of corn a year. This include everything from corn-on-the-cob, to cornbread, corn syrup, corn starch and, of course, tortillas.
Enjoy these delicious corn recipes from our picnic-style lunch and you might be well on your way to consuming the yearly average of 25 pounds per person.

Recipes

Santa Fe Corn Soup

Ingredients

3 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (8 to 12 ears), or frozen corn

1 cup chicken broth

¼ cup butter

2 cups milk (or 1 cup evaporated milk and 1 cup water)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons canned chiles, rinsed and diced

1 cup cubed cooked chicken

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

Garnish: Fresh oregano and fried tortilla triangles

Directions

Combine corn and chicken broth in blender or food processor and puree. 

In 3-quart saucepan combine butter and corn mixture and simmer slowly 5 minutes, stirring to keep corn from sticking to bottom of pan. Add milk, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and add chiles and chicken. Simmer 5 minutes. 

Remove soup from heat and add cheese and baking soda (to prevent curdling). Stir until melted. To serve, ladle soup into 6 bowls. Top with tomatoes and garnish with tortilla triangles and a sprig of fresh oregano. 

Yield: Serve 6

Fresh Corn Cakes with Heirloom Tomato Relish and Tarragon Crème Fraiche

Ingredients

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill 

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon 

¾ cup whole milk

1 large egg

2 cups fresh corn kernels

Salt and pepper, to taste

Vegetable oil (for frying)

Tarragon Crème Fraiche (recipe follows)

Heirloom Tomato Relish (recipe follows)

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, dill, parsley and tarragon. 

In a small bowl, whisk together milk and egg until smooth. Add milk mixture to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until combined. Stir in corn kernels. 

In a large skillet, pour oil to a depth of ¼ inch. Heat over medium heat. Drop cornmeal mixture by one-fourth cupfuls into hot oil, and cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Let drain on paper towels. Serve corn cakes topped with Tarragon Crème Fraiche and Heirloom Tomato Relish. Garnish with herbs, if desired. 

Yield: Makes approximately 18

Tarragon Crème Fraiche

Ingredients

1 (8-ounce) container crème fraiche

2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon 

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together crème fraiche, tarragon and mustard. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. 

Yield: Makes approximately 1 cup

Heirloom Tomato Relish

Ingredients

3 large multicolor heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes, olive oil, basil, lemon zest, salt and pepper just before serving. 

Yield: Makes approximately 2 cups

Corn and Jalapeno Jelly Muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1 egg

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn kernels, defrosted

¼ cup jalapeno pepper jelly

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 373˚F.  Generously butter 12 muffin cups; each 2 ½ inches in diameter.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and pepper flakes. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter and corn.  Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and stir lightly, using no more than 15 to 20 strokes, to combine. 

Fill each muffin cup about half full with batter; reserve ⅓ of the batter.  With the back of a teaspoon, make a small depression in the center of each muffin and drop in 

1 teaspoon of jalapeno jelly.  Divide the reserved batter over the tops to cover the jelly (do not spread the batter). 

Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes, or until light golden on top.  Let the muffins rest in the pan for about 2 minutes. Using a blunt knife, ease the muffins out onto a wire rack and let cool for about 20 minutes.  

Yield:  Makes 12 muffins

Esquites: Mexican Street Corn Salad

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed, (about 3 cups fresh corn kernels)

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 ounces feta or Cotija cheese, finely crumbled

½ cup finely sliced scallions, green parts only

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and stemmed, finely chopped

1 to 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced on a Microplane grater (about 1 to 2 teaspoons)

1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lime

Chili powder or hot chili flakes, to taste

Directions

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over high heat until shimmering. Add corn kernels, season to taste with salt, toss once or twice, and cook without moving until charred on one side, about 2 minutes. Toss corn, stir, and repeat until charred on second side, about 2 minutes longer. Continue tossing and charring until corn is well charred all over, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a large bowl. 

Add mayonnaise, cheese, scallions, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, and chili powder and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more chili powder to taste. Serve immediately. 

Yield: Serves 4

Chocolate Polenta Pudding Cake

Cake Ingredients

2 ½ cups whole milk

¾ cup coarsely ground cornmeal

½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Shredded zest of ½ large orange

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 large eggs, separated

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup heavy whipping cream

Topping Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon sugar

Powdered sugar for dusting

In a 2-quart saucepan bring the milk to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal, ½ cup sugar and the salt in a medium metal bowl. Whisk in the hot milk until smooth.

Wash out the saucepan, fill it two thirds full of water, and bring it to a simmer. Cover the bowl with foil, set it over the water and cook 40 minutes; the polenta will be thick and stiff.  Stir three or four times as it cooks and add water to the pan if necessary. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter an 8-inch springform pan. Finely chop three quarters of the chocolate and cut the rest into generous 1-inch pieces. 

When the polenta is cooked, remove the bowl (or pan) from the water. Blend in the finely chopped chocolate, the orange zest, cinnamon, pepper, yolks, and vanilla. Place 1 cup of this mixture in another bowl and stir the cream into it. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy. Beat in the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, and then whip to soft peaks. Fold a quarter of the whites into the non-cream chocolate-polenta mixture to lighten it. Then fold in the rest, leaving a few white streaks. Fold in the chocolate chunks with one or two strokes. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Using a spoon, hollow out the center of the batter so the polenta-cream mixture will sit in a pocket. Add the cream mixture. Cover with the rest of the batter. Sift the cocoa over the top, the sprinkle with sugar. 

Bake 1 hour, or until a knife inserted at the edge of the pudding comes out with moist crumbs on it, but when put into the center, comes out with creamy streaks. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.

Release the sides of the pan and set the cake on a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.

Yield: 1 8” cake (8 servings)

Recipe adapted from “The Italian Country Table”

Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Blackberry Lemon Verbena Sauce

Ingredients

4 ears fresh corn, shucked

1 ½ cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

6 large egg yolks

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ cup sour cream 

2 sprigs lemon verbena or ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 ½ cups blackberries (about 6 ounces)

Directions

Using a large knife, slice the kernels off the corn cobs and place in a large saucepan. Break cobs in half and add to the pot along with milk, cream and ½ cup sugar. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring, then remove from heat. Let stand to infuse for 1 hour, the discard corn cobs. 

Using an immersion or regular blender, puree kernel mixture. Return mixture to a simmer, then turn off heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks, ⅛ teaspoon salt and another ¼ cup sugar. Add a cup of hot cream mixture to yolks, stirring constantly so they don’t curdle. Add yolk mixture to saucepan, stirring. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens enough to coat the spoon, about 10 minutes. 

Pass custard through a fine sieve, pressing down hard on the solids. Discard solids. Whisk in sour cream until smooth. Let custard cool in an ice bath, then cover and chill for at least 4 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine remaining 5 tablespoons sugar, lemon verbena sprigs (or zest) and ¼ cup water and bring to a simmer. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts and syrup thickens slightly, about 7 minutes. Add blackberries and cook for 5 to 7 minutes longer, until fruit just softens, but doesn’t fall apart. Let cool, then discard verbena. 

Freeze corn mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve with blackberries and syrup on top. Recipes makes 1 ½ pints.

Linda Alexander

More recipes to follow later this week.

 

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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Grape Pruning and Growing Class to be Held March 9th, 1-3pm

The grape pruning and growing class scheduled for February 16th was cancelled. It has been rescheduled for Saturday, March 9th at 1pm at The Raincatcher’s Garden.

When and Why To Plant Trees

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and second best time is now.” ​ A Chinese Proverb

We live within an urban forest in Dallas County that comes from the natural topography and citizens who have planted trees around neighborhoods. Our urban forest is very important to our well-being and environmental health. Pavement and buildings cause a “heat island effect” which increases radiant heat within the city. Trees provides shade that helps mitigate this effect by reducing temperatures as well as absorbing pollution and decrease storm water run-off.

According to a University of Washington study, one tree that is 32 feet high can catch up to 327 gallons of water, and smog levels are reduced up to 6%. Oncor provides a tree-planting guide for selecting the right tree for the right location. Even though it is heart-breaking to see so many trees cut down or sculpted, we do understand the need for safety and our own need for reliable electrical service. Click here for the free guide.

Dallas County Master Gardeners have planted a border at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway, that we call the Under-the-Power-Lines garden. We planted tree specimens that fall into the “low” category, staying under 20 feet tall. If you’re considering a low tree for a location near power lines, check out our border to see how the trees might look in your own landscape. Most of ours were planted around 3.5 years ago, including Mexican Plum, Possumhaw Holly, Texas Mountain Laurel, Mexican Buckeye and Royal Purple Smoke Tree (a favorite of ours that isn’t on Oncor’s list). Vitex is another good option, and we have a specimen near our Shade Pavilion. It blooms in summer with big purple spikes and can grow as a large shrub or small tree.

 

You can find this garden border on the north side of the Midway Hills Christian Church campus along the parking lot. The Dallas County Master Gardeners program is run by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Dallas County Master Gardeners encourage our citizens to plant a tree. Go to the following link which will help you select the right tree for your space, and planting instructions. http://texastreeplanting.tamu.edu/

Zandra Farris

Pictures courtesy of  https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/ornamentals/natives/GALLERYINDEX1.HTM except our own Vitex picture.


Tree Selection and Planting Class

Tuesday, February 5th
10am until noon
Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX

Community Hall and North Garden

Winter is a good time to establish new trees in your landscape. Tom Wilten will speak on selecting the right tree for the right location here in North Texas and teach how to plant and care for your tree with the confidence that it will provide many years of enjoyment.  Following the class in the Community Hall, you’re invited out to the north garden for an optional tour to see the Raincatcher’s tree demonstrations, including both shade trees and ornamental trees appropriate (and recommended by Oncor) for planting under power lines. The class is free and all are welcome!

Speaker, Tom Wilten, is a Dallas County Master Gardener and practicing general dentist who has maintained a long time interest in plants and horticulture. He loves to watch plants grow, and many of the trees in his large home landscape were propagated from cuttings. He has served as a past president of First Men’s Garden Club of Dallas, Texas, and as a national director and regional president in the parent organization. His original articles on various aspects of horticulture have been published in a national club’s magazine. Always an informative and entertaining speaker, Raincatcher’s is pleased to welcome Tom to the garden.

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is a demonstration garden and project of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Dallas County Master Gardeners located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church. To find the class, please park in the west parking lot and come through the courtyard to the south building.  

Seed Starting Indoors

Garden Betty’s blog has been an inspiration to me. The name Betty resonates deeply because of my Mom, Betty Haughton, who was a Master Gardener, class of 2008 and then there’s the fantastic organic practical horticultural information you will want to absorb.

Click here for The No Brainer Guide To Starting Seeds Indoors by Garden Betty and then listen up to what Jim Dempsey, our seed starter says:

 

Last year’s zinnias and peppers started indoors and then moved to the greenhouse.

 “I use a grow light because I have no sunny location in the house. Our pepper seedlings (slow to come up and slow to grow) are just now coming up. I plan on planting the tomatoes mid- February (in the past I have started too soon)  and our flower seeds shortly after that. Weather permitting, we would like to plant the seedlings (4″ pots) by first part of April.”

 

 

 

 

 

Ann Lamb

 

 

 

“Apples, Pears, Persimmons and Pomegranates” Class and Lunch

 

“Apples, Pears, Persimmons and Pomegranates”

Nature has been saving up all year for the grand finale.

You’ll be inspired by this colorful class on planting, growing and harvesting the fruits of the season.

Tuesday, October 16th, 10:00am – 11:30pm

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills * 11001 Midway Road

Instructor: Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

(The class is free – no reservation required. The public is welcome, and Master Gardeners earn one-hour education credit)

Immediately following Jeff’s presentation in the church sanctuary, you are invited to join us in the Community Hall for a bountiful buffet table bursting with seasonal flavor. This will be a feast for both the eyes and the palate.

Lunch reservations required by Tuesday, October 9th * $15 Per Person * Limited to 60

Eventbrite Ticket Sales for Apples, Pears, Persimmons and Pomegranates

Menu

Baked Brie with Roasted Persimmons

Cinnamon Candied Apple Slices

Butternut Squash-Pear Soup Garnished with Parmesan and Rosemary

Tennessee Ham Balls with Brown Sugar Glaze

Salad of Figs, Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pears with Pomegranate Dressing

Autumn Orchard Crisp, Persimmon Cookies, Caramel Apple Layer Cake with Apple Cider Frosting

Pineapple Sage Infused Water

Linda Alexander

New Class Series on Vegetable Gardening to Begin at The Raincatcher’s Garden 2018

We are excited to announce the first in a series of four classes  to be taught at our garden during 2018. Our first class featuring mustard greens, swiss chard, broccoli, collard greens and other spring harvested crops will be taught using our new Edible Garden. Sign up for the lunch following the class.

 Garden Greens Class

What’s in our Spring Picnic Basket?

Everyone welcome, bring a friend!

 Planting, growing, harvesting and enjoying healthy, colorful green vegetables from your garden will  be the class topic.

Tuesday, April 17th, 10:00am at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

11001 Midway Road, Dallas, Texas

Led by, Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

This class qualifies for one-hour education credit for Master Gardeners.

Join us for a reservation only garden lunch sampler following Jeff’s presentation.

Menu

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Greens

Spicy Mustard Greens Pesto on Baguette Slices

Minestrone Soup with Swiss Chard

Spring Quiche with Leeks and Sorrel

The Ultimate Classic Collard Greens

Chocolate Crème de Menthe Brownies

Your lunch reservation is a $15 check made payable to DCMGA

Mail to: Lisa Centala, 5525 Northmoor Dr. Dallas 75230

Reservations close on Saturday, April 14th

Class and Lunch open to the public.

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