RSS Feed

Category Archives: Vegetable Gardening in Dallas

Shishito Peppers, Sea Salt and Papalo

If you’re growing shishito peppers in your summer garden, this recipe should be on the menu. Blackened, blistered and dipped in a creamy Greek yogurt flavored with papalo, it’s a global experience not to be missed. 

As you may have guessed, shishito peppers originated from Japan. The name “Shishito” is derived from the combination of “shishi,” “lion,” and “togarashi,” which means “chili pepper.” Take a closer and decide for yourself, “does the creased tip of the small and finger-long shape somehow resemble a ferocious lion?” 

Grrrrr…ferocious lion or tasty pepper?

After blistering your harvested peppers in a cast-iron pan, sprinkle with fine, gray sea salt from France. The history of this unique salt will inspire you to use it in many other dishes. But take note, due to its robust flavor, use only ⅓ of the amount of salt you would normally use.

(In Guerande, western France, pristine Atlantic, seawater passes through the locks of the salt marshes and rests for six months until the salt is ready to be harvested. In summer, the salt is gathered by hand using wooden tools, as it has been for centuries. The rich clay in the marshes lends a pale gray color to this salt and also adds beneficial trace minerals.) 

Next, mix up a little Greek yogurt for dipping. Its rich flavor and thick texture offers a higher concentration of protein and probiotics than traditional yogurt. Stir in some grated garlic, lime juice and zest to give it a little kick.  Chop up a few fresh papalo leaves from Mexico if you desire a cilantro-like finish. When cilantro succumbs to our summer heat papalo rises to take its place. Use it in any dish where a substitute for cilantro is needed. 

Shishito peppers have an interesting flavor profile and one that calls for a bit of caution. About one in ten peppers contains a fiery punch that dials up the heat factor. Overall, though, you can expect a sweet, typically mild spiciness that registers between 50 and 200 Scoville heat units. Their grassy, citrusy taste touched with a slight hint of smoke makes the shishito pepper’s flavor pretty unique. Not surprisingly, today they can be found as a popular appetizer on many restaurant menus. Are you ready now to take an international trip with shishitos?

Do shishito peppers “pop” when being blistered, charred, etc.? The short answer is “yes”. 
*Is there a way to prevent the “popping”? Yes, just use your handy cake tester or a toothpick. Poke a hole in each pepper before blistering to prevent popping.

Note: Now is the time to start planting peppers for a fall crop.  

One local Italian restaurant features a lovely “Little Gem Lettuce Salad” drizzled with Charred Shishito Vinaigrette. Delizioso! 

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Charred Shishito Viangrette

Blistered Shishito Peppers with Papalo Yogurt Dip

Learning is Occurring at The Raincatcher’s Garden

July 14, 2022

One of the many joys of gardening is that we are always learning. 
We study and anticipate issues as best we can but each garden and season has its own lessons to teach us.   Learning by trial and error, otherwise known as the hard way, seems inevitable.

Here we are with our lima bean harvest and I do mean bean, singular. 

This season our beans bloomed and bloomed but never got around to setting fruit. Blooms may drop due to inadequate water and bean set may also be limited by high temperatures. 

We had excellent production from our cantaloupes but the seedlings were planted a bit too closely together.  We created a wonderful resort, spa, and restaurant from the rat and squirrel perspective. The accommodations had privacy and shade with convenient access to food and water. 

When the creatures began to chew into the metal mesh vole cages that were protecting the fruit, we conceded defeat and removed the vines.  Fortunately there were only about 35 pounds of fruit left. We are giving it some time to see if it will ripen indoors. Meanwhile, we trust we have removed our support of the rodent population.

I was looking forward to trying a pepper variety that is new to us called Ashe County Pimento. The plants were loaded with immature peppers when I checked them one afternoon.  By the next morning the peppers were gone except for what appeared to be neatly diced salsa ingredients on the ground. 

Thinking that rabbits had developed a taste for peppers, we placed cages made of rabbit fencing around all of the pepper plants. The devastation continued on to the aji dulce peppers despite the cages.  The plan now is to try hardware cloth as a barrier against smaller rodents.

Our strategy for preventing the animals from taking the tomatoes (harvesting at full size and 10-30% of color) was not as successful this year as last. Judging by the half eaten unripened tomatoes scattered around the garden, the animals are saying, “No worries, we will eat them green.”

It is clear we must stay alert because other creatures are learning too!

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

Picture by Don Heaberlin, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2021

Tomatoes In My Garden

June 14, 2022

Early Girl tomatoes ready to pick

What would we do without the advice of friends, especially Master Gardener friends.

Beverly, who volunteers in the vegetable garden at Raincatcher’s, gets the credit for my bumper crop of tomatoes this year. She talks about tomato problems as in her last blog and this one, but also gives promising advice.

After viewing the webinar Epic Tomatoes with Joe Lamp’l and Craig LeHoullier, Beverly sent these notes:

Pick tomatoes at full size and 35% of color. This has a cool name – “breaker stage”.  It will help prevent splitting due to rain and will also help protect from all kinds of creatures.

Ripen indoors, don’t use sunny area.

Do not pinch suckers off dwarf or determinate plants.

Don’t take off all suckers on indeterminates.

Suckers are new plants. On big plants they may extend fruiting periods. They also provide shade.

Use suckers, especially on hybrids like Sun Gold, to start new plants (clone). Let root in water.


More good advice from TAMU : Why are my tomato leaves turning yellow? Nutrition, disease, physical disorders may be the culprit.

And thanks to my eldest son and grandson for watering my garden during the crucial early stages when I was out of town with a brand new grandson. Your diligence made my tomato hopes a juicy reality.

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005

Are Tomatoes The Jerkiest/ Most Obnoxious Plant There Is?

June 12, 2022

 I have given up thinking about tomatoes in terms of their life cycle. Instead I look at it this way;  each stage is an ongoing disaster until we shut down the whole operation in July because they will no longer set fruit. 

The life of a tomato is a progression through fungal disease, wilt, blight, and infestations of mites and hornworms.  We anticipate these events and do our best to prevent them but around June you can easily find yourself, as I did, staring at hornworms the size of my index finger.  Owing to their coloring, hornworms are perfectly camouflaged until they have defoliated their habitat, i.e. our tomato plants. (We sentenced the hornworms to community service at our host organization’s preschool so the children could observe their transformation into sphinx moths.)

Don’t forget that while you are dealing with disease and pests, you must also be aware of your tomato’s changing fertilizer and watering needs.  Decrease the nitrogen when they start to bloom. Keep your tomatoes watered consistently and while doing so consult your crystal ball for the next unexpected rain that will cause them to split. 

Are tomatoes the jerkiest plant – making us work much harder than any plant should expect? Or, are they good for us in the sense that taking care of something other than ourselves is good therapy? 


The tomatoes harvested so far this year have redeemed themselves by joining the peppers in family packs donated to North Dallas Shared Ministries.

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

We Love Interns!

May 16, 2022

Here in the north garden at Raincatcher’s we are sheet mulching 800 square feet of turf demonstration beds to create more space for growing vegetables.  It’s more work than it sounds!  Luckily, the 2022 Master Gardener interns have been ready and willing to give us that extra bit of help to complete the project. 

One Tuesday in May a great group of interns helped us clear a path large enough to get wheelbarrows through to the gate of our brand new fence. They also cut a large cover crop of fava beans down to the ground. 

This past Saturday the class mustered again and created paths through the new beds.

They also solarized the westernmost bed where it has been most difficult to convince the Bermuda grass to go away. 

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

and thanks to Don Heaberlin, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2021


To learn more about solarizing click here.

And to learn more about becoming a Dallas County Master Gardener click here.

Plant Sale Thursday.

Vego Beds at The Raincatcher’s Garden

May 4, 2022

Hello to all our faithful readers especially vegetable growers aspiring to be homestead gardeners. We have busy replacing our worn out raised beds with Vego beds (rhymes with Lego).

Cucumber and pepper seedlings are being planted into our new beds.  black-eyed peas, okra, cucumbers, and melons can be started from seed outdoors. (Timing is good for squash seeding as well but we are taking a break from squash vine borers this year.)

Lisa and Mark unloading 1 of the 4 new Vego beds

Raincatcher’s Volunteers are using the existing soil from our veggie beds mixed with compost to fill these new beds.  Beverly suggested the hügelkultur method for those starting brand new beds.

Courtesy of the Vego website, this is a less expensive way to fill new beds.
Raincatcher’s Volunteers inspecting a Vego!
Visitors to the garden have complimented us on the basil and marigolds we have interplanted with the vegetables. We hope it will confuse the unwanted bugs.  Meanwhile, we are enjoying the blooms and the pleasant aromas of flowers and herbs. 

Ann Lamb and Beverly Allen, both Dallas County Master Gardeners!

Don’t forget:

RAINCATCHERS GARDEN AT MIDWAY HILLS

11001 Midway Road, Dallas 75229

Thursday, May 19

10:00 am  –  3:00pm

You are invited to shop our wide variety of plants grown, nurtured and donated by our fabulous volunteers at Raincatchers.  There will be annuals, perennials, tropicals, sedums, peppers and herbs as well as decorative pots, yard art and other gardening related items.  Prices start at $2 per 4” pot.  Come find that special plant or whimsical item to enhance your garden.

Tomatoes Will Break Your Heart

I will listen to anything anyone has to say about about growing tomatoes. I have a tomato app on my phone. I’ve taken meticulous notes at many a tomato class. And what I have learned through experience is that tomatoes will break your heart in a new way every year. So select your varieties carefully- heirlooms for flavor, hybrids for disease resistance – and don’t even try the gigantic beefsteak ones you remember from your youth. Too much will go wrong before they are ready. Okay, try a big flavorful heirloom but hedge your bet with Sun Golds and Early Girls.

This year in the north garden we are going to try the Florida weave trellising technique to get the vines off the ground and improve the air circulation. The tomatoes in the how-to diagrams look very well behaved. I’m anticipating an amorphous blob of vines unless we prune daily, which will become a test of faith by the middle of April.

My best tip for obtaining delicious tomatoes for your BLTs is to make friends with someone’s uncle who has been growing tomatoes for a hundred years. Then one day your friend will say her uncle died and you will say you are so sorry to hear that while thinking, “I hope it wasn’t the one who grew tomatoes.”

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018


You will manage to get some tomatoes at least this far. If your tomatoes tend to vanish in the night, harvest at the first hint of pink and ripen indoors.

Hornworms are not uncommon and will defoliate your tomatoes. If you let them live they will develop into beautiful sphinx moths. Thank you, tomatoes, for this dilemma.

More Vegetable Gardens at Raincatcher’s

The Raincatcher’s team has been busy putting in new gardens. Led by Leonard Nadalo and Beverly Allen a ridge and furrow garden was built in October with the purpose of growing food for the North Dallas Shared Ministries’ food pantry and demonstrating an alternative to raised bed gardening on our clay soil. It is aptly named The Donation Garden. One of our turf beds has also become a new veggie plot and is the home for turnips, beets, spinach and some struggling carrots.

Enjoy a look at seedlings of butter crunch lettuce, Georgia southern collards, Chinese broccoli yod fah, and purple top white glove turnips.

If all this planting is making you crave cruciferous crops, don’t delay. It is a little late to start seeds outdoors but transplants are available at garden centers. Which brings me to an important discovery: mini broccolis (thanks Beverly!) We planted Broccoli Atlantis F1 by seed in our garden.

It is called a mini because it is harvested mainly from side shoots that are smaller than what you buy in your grocery store. When you harvest the center first, side shoots branch out and can be harvested all through the winter. Other mini broccolis, such as Artwork F1, are also available as transplants at local garden centers.

The vegetable team has plans for the future that include increasing the production capacity of The Donation Garden and finding a carrot variety that can get happy in Zone 8a. 

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005 with additional information by Beverly Allen, class of 2018

Photo of Broccoli Artwork F1 courtesy of All-America Selections 

Note: We chose Atlantis F1 for it’s shorter days to maturity (33) when compared to standard broccoli (56 or greater).

Squash Vine Borers

June 12, 2021

If you are like me, you dread the thought of pests like the squash vine borer invading your garden. Beverly sent this helpful note this afternoon with a few tips.


I have been enjoying the stunning growth of the squash “volunteers” around Raincatcher’s. Last year’s plants dropped seeds that have become this year’s squash plants.  Having a big concern about squash borers, I read up on the subject.

 It seemed necessary to check each plant daily for the sawdust colored frass (poop) that appears at the stem when the larva is present.

After a week of wondering if I would be able to identify it, eureka! The squash plant below was planted in the Sensory Garden of the Edible Landscape. It went from healthy looking to kind of unhealthy looking overnight.

The next picture shows a close-up of the frass.  I removed the diseased section of the plant and replanted the remainder of the squash plant with 3 nodes in the soil.

Extra mulch seems to be helping other squash plants evade the borer so far. Continued vigilance will help us to slow down the squash borer population at least a little bit.

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018

Many years ago at our Joe Field Location we had a lunch with every menu item made from squash starting with squash blossoms quesadillas! Links to the articles are provided below.

Squash squash and more squash

Squash recipes following our squashme event

Salad From The Garden

May 25, 2021

Thank you, Starla Willis, for the video and Beverly Allen and Sharon L. Wright for teaching us about salad gardening. It is my understanding that your lettuce varieties were planted the first week of March and may last through June.

If you are like me, and hate to see your salad garden coming to an end, make summer plans!

I hear Beverly is trying a heat resistant romaine lettuce from Johnny’s seeds called Monte Carlo. Along with using a location with part shade, she plans to harvest often and early to beat the effects of our summer heat. She also said with this cool spring, there might be time to get one more round of quick growing radish seeds such as Cherry Belle or French Breakfast planted and harvested before summer. Her favorite sandwich consists of thinly sliced radishes from the garden and arugula. Sounds good, Beverly!

More summer salad ideas-Swiss Chard and Malabar Spinach. Buy transplants from your local garden center and put them in your garden when your spring lettuce begins to bolt or turn bitter.

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005

Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018


Here’s more information from Johnny’s Seeds about heat resistant varieties. We can’t vouch for them yet, but plan to try some in our gardens. Dallas Garden Buzz readers, what do you grow for your salad bowl when the heat comes on? We would love to know.

%d bloggers like this: