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Let the Buzzing Begin!

January 31, 2023

Honey dripping from spatula with honeybees around

Happy 2023 and welcome to the beginning of a 12-month adventure
featuring honey and honeybees.

Along the way, we’re going to learn
some very beneficial facts about bees, honey and honey production.
Join the “buzz” each month for a closer look into the fascinating world
of honeybees. Discover secrets of the colony that will leave you amazed
at how efficiently these tiny insects perform their specific duties within a brief, but highly productive, lifespan.

Follow the wisdom from our monthly “Drops of Honey” for incredibly
interesting information. Learn the story of honey and how it is made.
You will quickly discover that the honeybee is truly a brilliant creature.

The Appeal of Honey

Throughout the history of mankind, honey has been celebrated by every generation, tribe and culture. Dating back to 2100 B.C. where it was mentioned in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings, the Hittite codes and the sacred writing of India and Egypt, honey is a subject with universal appeal. Its magical properties and versatility are treasured by people groups across the globe.

Over the next twelve months, our journey into the world of “honey”
promises to give us a growing admiration for the source of this golden gift
from nature: the honeybee. Hopefully, our understanding of the role each
tiny bee plays in the process of honey production will inspire us to be more
appreciative, and protective, of these fascinating creatures.
So, let’s get busy learning what all the “buzz” is about!

An adventure into the world of honey wouldn’t be complete without some favorite recipes using it as a key ingredient. Our first recipe featuring honey is a staple of Southern cruise: Honey and Herb Cathead Biscuits (many years ago in the Deep South, biscuits were so large they were described as being the size of a cat’s head). So, let’s jump right in and enjoy the taste of these flaky, tender and delicious gems drizzled with the superstar flavor of Sourwood honey. Top your biscuit with a small piece of honeycomb and freshly chopped thyme for a heavenly finish.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Raincatcher’s Pansy and Plant Sale

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is offering fall annuals at a fantastic price for your fall and winter landscape color. Pansies, violas, and alyssum are $20/flat of 18 4″ pots, which includes tax. The online sale begins at 7am on Saturday, 10/15, and ends on Thursday, 10/20, at midnight. Flats will be delivered to the garden on Wednesday, 11/9, the peak time for fall planting, and are available to be picked up from 1pm until 4pm.

All orders must be prepaid, either through Signup Genius using your credit or debit card (fast and easy) or by check. Orders will be placed with the nursery after payment is received.

Order your fall annuals through our convenient Signup Genius account and find out more information about the sale by clicking on the following link:

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/805084EAFAD22A4FC1-raincatchers11

Thank you for your support! Funds raised support Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, a Research, Education and Demonstration project of Dallas County Master Gardeners, a program run by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and supported by the Dallas County Master Gardener Association. Follow us to learn about gardening in our North Texas climate and soil conditions and to find plant recommendations, recipes and stories from the garden. You can find our garden on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church at 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX.

Swiss Chard Perpetual Spinach

August 11, 2022

Swiss Chard Perpetual Spinach, (Beta vulgaris var. cicla)

It’s the chard that keeps on giving! Last spring, while visiting a local garden center, the white “tag” caught my eye. Already a fan of Swiss chard, especially the peppermint stick variety, I was easily persuaded to try something new. After purchasing a 4” pot of Swiss Chard Perpetual Spinach, the only task left was getting it into my spring garden. Two seasons and five months later my little plant has not disappointed. 

Springtime growth was vigorous yielding smooth, dark-green leaves resembling spinach with fine midribs. Tasting more like a true spinach than chard, the flat, pointed leaves are flavorful and rich in antioxidants. Throughout the summer, at times it looked a little ragged but with a gentle trimming, new growth quickly appeared. Even during the 100 degree plus temperatures, Perpetual has maintained its vigor. Harvesting is best done when the leaves are still small and tender. 

Longstanding in the garden, the potential for an abundant fall crop is promising. Perpetual is slow to bolt, so it’s a great choice for the Southern garden. Use leaves fresh in salads, sautéed or cooked and added to your favorite recipes.

Features

Fruit Size: 8 to 10 inches

Growth Habit: Clumping, Erect, Sprouts in 14-21 Days

Days to Maturity: About 40 days

Growing Conditions: Sun (4-8 hours) to part shade 

Growing Tips

Sow seeds in place, ½” deep, after the frost-free date. Spacing should be 8 to 10” apart. Keep well-watered and side dress with compost for best leaf production.

FYI…

One cup of chopped chard contains only 35 calories. It also supplies more than 700 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin K. It is a good source of calcium, magnesium and vitamin A.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

The Old Red Shed is Gone

After many years of service as a storage facility for both the church and garden, the old red shed was in a state of disrepair. Rotted floors, bulging sides, leaking roof and collapsing doors made it unsafe for volunteers to use. Watching as it was torn down gave us a sigh of relief. 

What happened next, with nothing left but an empty space, allowed for a time of reflection. The area bordering the north side of the shed had been transformed into a lovely sensory garden, one of our newest additions to the edible landscape. Expansion to the now vacant area would require the installation of an irrigation system but the church had suggested that they might need the space for future use. The other option was to relocate the sensory garden. Our decision was something unexpected which, ultimately, proved to be a magical solution. 

Just a few yards away and bordering the stone pathway was a garden area we had previously christened as “The Kaleidoscope Bed”. With an eclectic mix of evergreen and perennial flowers and herbs as well as colorful annuals, it seemed as if we were being invited to consider yet another transformational opportunity. In the blink of an eye followed a sweet smile of happiness, the blending of gardens began. The Kaleidoscope Bed would graciously surrender its name while allowing existing plants and ornamental features to remain in place. 

Our plan going forward is to maximize the sensory impact that the garden has on its visitors. Adhering to the 70/30 rule, our primary focus will be the addition of more edibles supported by a small percentage of non-edibles. We’ll be including textural plants such as lamb’s ear for it’s soft, fuzzy feel and an upright, aromatic rosemary for both smell and touch. 

For real summertime garden beauty, we’re going to feature Balsamic Blooms Basil once again. It’s the basil that received a Texas Superstar designation in 2017. We first fell in love with its deep purple blooms and the sweet flavor of its gorgeous foliage in the spring of 2018. When we learned that this was the first basil to have flowers and leaves growing at the same time, our vote was unanimous to move it to the top of our seasonal list. Balsamic Blooms will always have a place of honor in the edible landscape. 

Balsamic Blooms Basil and Begonias

Our newly relocated and appropriately named Sensory Garden offers triple the amount of space than before to feature a wide variety of plants that stimulate the senses. Come by for an inspirational visit and let your soul be nourished by the wonderful world of nature.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Avocado Toast…Dressed Up in Seasonal Colors

It was only a few years ago when just an ordinary piece of toast topped with gently smashed avocado became the rage. You’ll find it now on menus across the country from small cafes to upscale restaurants. Everyone seems to have created their own version by using an alphabetical listing of edibles including everything from artichokes and micro greens to tomatoes and tarragon for appeal. My approach tends to be more simplistic in style. 

An early morning harvest from my edible garden provides a seasonally fresh selection of blossoms, greens, herbs and vegetables. On Saturday mornings from April until November a visit to our local farmer’s market gives me additional options. Here are a few delicious suggestions that my husband and I have recently enjoyed but be creative with your choices because any combination that pleases your palate is a winner. 

Springtime

*Thinly Sliced French Breakfast Radishes, Onion Chives and Nasturtium Blossoms

*Broccoli Florets, Arugula and Mrs. Taylor’s Scented Pelargonium Blossoms

*Thinly Sliced Carrots Topped with Caraway Sprigs

*Swiss Chard Perpetual Spinach and Nepitella Blossoms

Summertime

*Sliced East Texas Peaches and French Tarragon

*Campari Tomatoes Sprinkled with Chopped Balsamic Blooms Basil Leaves

*Sliced East Texas Peaches, Sweet Banana Peppers and Purple Basil

*Armenian Cucumbers with Salad Burnet and Watercress

Avocado toast is something we enjoy for breakfast, brunch, lunch and as a delightful appetizer. For a light summer dinner we often serve it alongside homemade gazpacho or chilled cucumber soup. Our goal is simply to use garden fresh ingredients! The only exception is when I’ve made a visit to purchase fresh eggs from my master gardener friend who raises chickens at her ranch. A delicately fried egg sitting on top makes for a very scrumptious breakfast experience.

**Additional edibles from summer’s bounty will include anise hyssop blossoms, blueberries, shaved yellow crooked neck and zucchini squash, onions, jalapeno and shishito peppers. To complete the flavor kick be sure to consider a sprinkling of these herbs; anise, dill, fennel, lovage, mint, papalo, pipicha, lemon thyme and rosemary or any of your personal favorites. 

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Fiddlehead Fern Fronds in Dallas

Don’t be misled by the title. You won’t find them in our Zone 8 climate as the predominant species for fiddlehead fronds is the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) which is found growing primarily in the Northeastern United States and Canada. Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled tips of early spring ferns. Their unique structure is like the ornamental scroll at the end of a violin’s neck.

Surprisingly, just a few days ago, Central Market was featuring a freshly delivered batch of the fronds for $24.99 per pound. Only vaguely familiar with the Ostrich fern, but being an inquisitive gardener, I couldn’t resist the temptation to gather up a small bundle ($7.98) of the fronds to serve with our dinner that night. A careful online search gave me some very helpful tips and useful information for preparing them. Since this was my first experience cooking fern fronds, I chose to go with a simple recipe.  Just a few basic instructions are needed to enjoy this fresh and tender taste of nature. 

1. Select fronds with a rich, green color. They should be wound nice and tight. (I made the mistake of just snatching up a handful which included some that should have been discarded. Note: Take time to be selective.)

2. Once purchased, refrigerate and use within one or two days. 

3. When ready to cook, trim about ¼” off the stems then place fronds in the sink and wash thoroughly. Lift them up into your hands and rinse well. This helps to remove the papery brown covering. 

To prepare; boil the fronds gently for only a few minutes in enough water to cover them. Next, sauté the fronds in about a tablespoon of butter and a teaspoon of minced garlic until al dente (firm to the bite). Salt and pepper to taste and finish with a light squeeze of fresh lemon.

Our lightly sauteed fronds made a nice topping for some freshly roasted green beans. The taste profile, according to online sources, is best described as mildly nutty with flavor notes of asparagus, spinach and/or green beans. My husband and I agreed that ours were more closely aligned with a hint of asparagus. It was a delightful taste experience that we may enjoy again. 

The seasonal window for fiddlehead fern fronds is extremely short and will soon be closing. Should you desire a new taste adventure give them a try. Also, read the article about Fiddleheads from Mother Earth Gardener and The Spruce Eats for more information about this springtime treasure.

A word of caution: Fiddlehead fronds must be cooked before consuming.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Dates to Remember:

Dallas County Master Gardener Spring Tour-April 30 and May 1st

Raincatcher’s Plant Sale-May 19th, 10am-3pm

Beverly’s Seed Starting Saga

April 5, 2022

It is Spring. I will have my breakdown now.  

Things were going great in my expanded seed starting operation at home. The goal was to start every plant for the north vegetable garden from seed indoors. I admired the strength of teeny seedlings as they pushed through the potting soil. I delighted as true leaves formed. I carefully reapplied vermiculite to the trays to control algae at the first tinge of green.  I loved the camaraderie at our newly donated potting tables as fellow gardeners moved the seedlings from their trays to four inch pots. 

Then…screech….mornings and afternoons became a tiresome slog as I carried each tray of seedlings outdoors to harden off – first in the filtered light of the patio then in the harsh western sun of the backyard.  I increased their sunlight exposure at the agonizingly slow rate of one hour per day.  My family helped.  It was still a daily trial. 

The last week of March my slightly sunburned seedlings and I headed back to the north garden. The volunteer gardeners there placed them into the raised beds with loving care. 


I feel like Jeff Foxworthy might have something to say about a person driving around with 12 dozen tomato seedlings in their car. 

Now I miss them. 

The fellowship of the potting table – Gerry Infantino, George Coelen, Beverly Allen, and Colleen Murray. 

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

Dates to Remember:

Dallas County Master Gardener Spring Tour-April 30 and May 1st

Raincatcher’s Plant Sale-May 19th

Spring Is In The Air!

At the garden today, Jeff Raska will demonstrate orchard pruning. We have begun the task, but now it is time to hear from our expert. Our garden is bursting with energy, seedlings are sprouting, and things once dormant are alive again.

We hope you will also come out to work with us or take a spring stroll through the garden. Thank you to Starla for these pictures. Information will be coming about our spring plant sale on May 19th.

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

DCMGA Spring Garden Tour, April 30th& May 1st

Tickets for the Dallas County Master Gardener Association (DCMGA) 2022 Spring Garden Tour are now on sale! They can be purchased for $15 through 6:00 pm on Friday, April 29th on the DCMGA website or online for $20 on the days of the Tour or at any of the gardens.  Your ticket is good for either or both days, Saturday, April 30 from 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday, May 1 from 1 to 5 pm.  There are six residential gardens and one school garden on the Tour, all located north of I-635 between Carrollton/Farmers Branch and Richardson. New this year, all the gardens will be PlantTAGG® -enabled, allowing tour visitors to access the most current, research-based horticultural information about featured plants using their cell phones.  There will also be a variety of educational programs presented in the gardens. 

You can preview all of the Tour’s stunning gardens on the DCMGA website: https://dallascountymastergardeners.org/first-peek-at-our-spring-garden-tour

Click here to buy your tickets: https://form.jotform.com/220395346419156

From the Heart

Valentine’s Day this year is on a Monday and we are staying home for a warm, cozy dinner by the fire. Our menu isn’t going to be fancy. Instead, we’ve chosen to flavor it with a touch of nostalgia. To start our meal, the salad course is a revisit of an iconic 60’s dish known as “Southern Wilted Lettuce Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing”. Wilted lettuce is also known as “killed lettuce” or “kilt lettuce” because the greens soften under the hot, tangy dressing.   It was my late father-in-law’s favorite salad. Grandmother prepared it for him at least a few times a month.

 

Wilted Lettuce Salad

Wilted lettuce salad likely came from Eastern Europe with versions of it appearing in Poland and other countries. After the dish traveled to America with immigrants, Southerners began putting their spin on this wonderfully delectable salad. And, in true southern style, it was enjoyed with freshly baked cornbread or cornbread muffins. 

Outdoor spring seed starting season for lettuce is typically sometime between February 1st and March 15th so now is a good time to consider your options. A sturdy, spring lettuce such as romaine, spinach or red leaf works well for this salad. Look for other varieties that will keep some of their “crunch” when tossed with the hot bacon dressing.

Botanical Interests features a Chef’s Gourmet Spicy Mix with over six different texture-filled greens to excite your taste buds. Guerney’s offers a Premium Lettuce Seed Blend with a colorful combination of various textures and shapes. Have fun planning your spring salad garden.

Southern Wilted Lettuce with Hot Bacon Dressing

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

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