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Category Archives: Vegetable Gardening in Dallas

A Garden of Lettuce

April 26, 2020

Never in my wildest dreams did I think of growing Wasabi lettuce and that I would enjoy it so much. It has a sharp, wasabi-like taste just perfect when used raw in salads.   I planted it and several other varieties of lettuce in my garden in January after visiting the  Dallas Arboretum and their lovely edible landscape.

Something else I did not foresee was a pandemic with the shut down of our usual freedoms to work, shop, eat in restaurants and everything else we take for granted. I have not been inside a grocery store since early March so this little salad garden at my back door has been comforting to me and I have been able to share salad greens with neighbors and family.

If you would like a garden of fresh lettuce, consider planting some of these varieties next fall. I bought all these packages on the seed rack at Nicholson-Hardie Garden Center.

Left to Right as seen above:

Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce-a glowing, vibrant bright green

Forellenschluss Lettuce-freckled, also known as Speckles Trout Back, said to hold up well in summer heat. (We’ll see how that goes.)

Mustard Hybrid Salad Leaf Miz America-deep dark red color, mild tasting

Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce-crunchy sweet leaves, good texture

New Red Fire Leaf Lettuce- green at the base of the leaf and dark red at the ruffled leaf edge. Also said to be slow to bolt. ( I hope so.)

Mustard Salad Leaf Wasabina-light green serrated leaf with spicy flavor (This one is cold tolerant.)

Ann Lamb

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Homesteading in North Dallas

Sheila Kostelny, a Louisiana gal, and  Master Gardener class of 2009  walks us through her garden.

 

Shiela’s words of advice and her own planting date guide:

It’s too late for peas (sugar snap and snow peas are planted Feb 1st thru 10th) and too early for winter squash.  In addition to okra, I will be planting my sweet potato slips after April 15th.  Attached is a timetable that I compiled from the TAMU and NHG suggested dates for planting.  I’m glad to share this spreadsheet. It’s created with the veggies/herbs that interest me.

Thank you, Sheila. this has been a pleasure and I love what you told me about your garden.

We close with Sheila’s words:

“My garden has provided a great deal of joy and feelings of usefulness.

It’s my place of normalcy and peace during this time.”

Thank you, Sheila.

Ann Lamb

Sweet potatoes 

 

Grow Now!

Dallas County Master Gardener volunteers at the Raincatcher’s Research, Education and Demonstration Garden of Midway Hills share your concern for eating healthy during these uncertain times. We’ve put together a short list of ways that you can start growing and harvesting seasonal crops over the next few weeks and months. Here are some gardening (and recipe) suggestions to help supplement your meals with freshly harvested herbs and vegetables.

 If you do not already have a designated vegetable garden, try one of these options:

1) Find an open place in your flower bed that receives around 6 to 8 hours of sun, preferably from morning until mid or late afternoon. Give your soil a boost by adding compost. Good quality compost can be purchased at most local garden centers. Make sure you have a water source close by, and position the garden where you can keep a daily watch to head off any potential pests and weeds that could create problems if left unchecked.

2) Create a simplified version of a raised bed using cinder blocks. Place cardboard directly over a grassy spot in your yard that receives ample sunlight, then place cinderblocks in a rectangular shape around the cardboard, starting with 5 on each side and 3 at each end. Fill the enclosed space about 6 inches above the bed border with a commercial raised bed mix, and water thoroughly to let the soil settle. Space plants or seeds according to directions. Water as needed to maintain even moisture within the bed.

The cardboard method, a good way to smother weeds

A large cinder block garden bed

Start with 4” to 6” edible plants spaced according to label directions. Seasonal plants, including cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes, are currently in stock at many local garden centers, but don’t stop there.

Try the following options in your new raised bed or in your existing landscape as borders and ground covers, or plant a bay laurel to grow as a shrub or small tree. 

Arugula (Eat fresh in salads, or use in dips.)

Spinach (Eat fresh in salads, sauté with scrambled eggs, or use in omelets, quiches and vegetable dishes.)

Kale (Eat fresh in salads; sauté for kale chips.)

Lettuce (Many different varieties provide texture and color in the landscape.)

Radish (Eat fresh in salads; slice thinly and serve on buttered bread for sandwiches.)

Carrot (Eat fresh in salads, roasted, or in soups and souffles. Use carrot tops to make pesto.)

Beet (Serve roasted, or grate for a cake.)

Swiss Chard (Eat fresh in salads, use leaves as a “wrap” for fresh chopped vegetables, sauté for turnovers, or add to soups.) 

Dill (Leaves can be added to salads, potatoes, meat and fish at the end of cooking.)

Fennel (All parts of the plant are edible – leaves and stalk make a wonderful flavoring for fish.)

French Sorrel (Can be cooked or used fresh like lettuce. Makes a good soup; adds zip to salads. Great on roast beef sandwiches.)

Nasturtiums (Harvest the leaves, buds and flowers anytime, and use fresh. Excellent in salads. Leaves make a great pesto.)

Artichokes (Excellent vegetable served roasted, sautéed or steamed—a beautiful and majestic plant for your garden.)

Thyme (Strip small leaves from stems and use to enhance the flavor of baked or broiled fish dishes or fish sauces. Thyme Cheese Roll: Combine 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 1 tablespoon chopped thyme, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, ½ teaspoon minced garlic. Roll into a log and refrigerate. Serve with toast or crackers for a quick and easy snack.)

Sage (Flowers and leaves are edible; flowers are nice in salads and for making tea, and the leaves are great for cooking and making herb butters.)

Rosemary (Use with foods rich in fat such as roasted meats, poultry and fish. Add to soups and stew. Use stripped branches as skewers for your favorite grilled meats and veggies.)

Chives (Snip the leaves at ground level when harvesting. Chop and serve with salad, potatoes, pasta and cabbage.)

Oregano (Sprinkle on fresh tomatoes or use to make a sauce; adds flavor to stews and soups.)

Marjoram (Rub leaves on all kinds of meat, chop into egg dishes, stir into soups and sprinkle it over vegetables)

Basil (Plant mid to late April. Use leaves for salads, pesto and sauces. Combines well with zucchini, beans and mushrooms.)

Watercress (Harvest and use fresh in salads, soups and sandwiches.)

Purslane (Use in early spring salads. Leaves can be cooked like spinach.)

Sweet Bay/Bay Laurel (Use the leaves of this evergreen plant in soups, stews and other simmered dishes. Cook a leaf or two with dried beans.)

We hope you will be inspired to start gardening with your family and experience the joy of bringing fresh, flavorful food to your table. 

How about a healthy robust minestrone soup using fresh garden ingredients. Picture by Linda

Click here for the recipe. 

Linda Alexander and Lisa Centala with comments by Jeff Raska, Horticulture Assistant, Dallas County

Follow these planting guides: TAMU Vegetable Planting Guide

Northaven Garden Spring Planting Guide

New to gardening? Read this pamphlet, pages 13-15 have specific recommendations for veggie gardening.

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

Giant Red Mustard, Ornamental and Edible

The Dallas Arboretum chose Giant Red Mustard as a signature plant this year. It’s an ideal choice because it fits in with the aesthetics of the garden and the mantra of the Arboretum’s edible landscape, called A Tasteful Place. You see, Giant Red Mustard is an ornamental edible mustard.

The  maroon leaves blended perfectly with plantings of lorapetalum and palms, pansies and cardoon at the entrance to the Arboretum.

All over the grounds, pots were planted with the mustard as an accent. This planting below was especially beautiful with the sabal palm fronds framing it and the frilly chartreuse leaves of Mustard “Mizuna” at the base.

In the Arboretum’s edible garden, a long lane of mustard led your eye to the Dallas skyline. Do you see some of our downtown buildings in the distance?

It wouldn’t have been right to taste the leaves while strolling through the Arboretum; but now that I have bought some of these plants for my garden, I can vouch for their spicy taste.

Here is what Park Seeds says about this Giant Red Mustard:

“At last, a Mustard Green so showy it just may do for this nutritious family what Bright Lights did for Swiss Chard — put it in every garden and on every table of gardeners who love bold colors and fresh flavor in their veggies! Red Giant is a brilliant maroon with deep green midribs, so showy you may just have to plant two crops — one in the veggie patch and one along the walkway or in your annual border!

These leaves are slightly textured for a better bite and good holding power. The flavor is zesty and full, with a good bite that you just can’t find in store-bought mustard greens. Imagine Red Giant flanking your Pansies and cheery Mums in the fall garden, or nestling beside bold Ornamental Cabbage and Kale. Or put it in bright containers for an unforgettable patio or porch display!

And because you pick this mustard leaf by leaf for eating (instead of uprooting the entire plant, as you do for head lettuce), you can enjoy the fine display of color for many weeks! Frost just improves the flavor and color.

Sow seed outdoors in early spring or, for fall crops, 6 to 8 weeks before first fall frost. Space seedlings 1 to 2 inches apart in rows 15 inches apart.”

Giant Red Mustard will be in my garden next year. Will it be in yours?

Ann Lamb

Read about Raincatcher’s edible landscape:

Edible Landscaping, Here’s What You Plant

Orphaned No More-Our Incredible Edible Landscape Project

Learning To Plant Outside The Lines

and don’t forget to plan a trip to the Arboretum for Dallas Blooms February 29-April 12, 2020.

Sweet Potatoes…Cornerstones of Southern Tradition

Beauregard Sweet Potatoes in Sheila’s Garden

Sheila Kostelny led the sweet potato segment of the panel discussion, sharing some insightful information about what many consider to be one of the world’s most nutritious vegetables.

*We have Christopher Columbus to thank for discovering the sweet potato on one of his voyages to the West Indies. He was so impressed that upon his return to Spain, he brought some back to Queen Isabella. Later explorers found sweet potatoes growing in much of Central and South America. Most historians think the sweet potato arrived in the U.S. after Columbus, as a result of trading between the early American settlers and the West Indians.

*The sweet potato belongs to the Morning Glory Family (Convolvulaceae). Its scientific name is Ipomoea batatas.

*The yam belongs to the Yam Family (Dioscoreaceae). Its scientific name is Dioscorea Species.

*The confusion between sweet potatoes and yams started when early slaves mistook the sweet potato for a yam (which is grown in Africa). It wasn’t long before sweet potatoes were commonly referred to as yams, especially in the South. Yams are rarely found in American markets. (*Fortunately, we did find yams from Costa Rico a few weeks ago at our local Walmart).

*Many supermarkets use the terms sweet potato and yams interchangeably.

*All crops grown in the U.S. are sweet potatoes with the largest crop grown in North Carolina. Yams are imported from the Caribbean but are difficult to find.

*Other than being from two different plant families, the sweet potato is a storage root and the yam is a tuber. Other differentiating characteristics:

Sweet potato: smooth, with thin skin. Short, blocky shape with a moist, sweet flavor. High in beta carotene (Vitamin A). Propagated by transplanted or vine cuttings with a 3 to 5 month growing season.

Yam: long and cylindrical with a dry and starchy taste. Low in beta carotene. Propagated by tuber pieces with a 6 to 12 month growing season.

*Growing sweet potatoes:

Purchase sweet potatoes for cuttings or slips from local nurseries in late spring. Allow the cuts to scar for a few days and, as with regular potatoes, include 3 or 4 eyes, if not sprouted. Plant the slips or cuttings deep, with at least 3 nodes below ground or 3 to 4” deep and 12 to 16 inches apart.

It’s also fun to try the “second-grade” sweet potato vine method, which is to root a sweet potato suspended in water using toothpicks.

Unlike most vegetable crops, sweet potatoes do not do better with high levels of organic matter. They need loose soil with good drainage…raised beds are ideal. Sweet potatoes are fairly drought tolerant but do appreciate moist soil.

Sweet potatoes demand warm growing conditions. Do not plant until all possibility of frost has passed. As soon as the soil temperature is at least 60˚F, plant 2 inches below the surface. They need at least 8 hours of sun each day for maximum yield.

Ideally, incorporate 1 pound per 100 sf of bed with a complete lawn or garden fertilizer or an organic fertilizer, per instructions, to the soil before planting. Ideal ph is 5.5 to 6.5.

Harvesting:

Generally ready in 90 to 110-120 days. Peak harvest season being October to December. Some say a light frost will sweeten the taste. Harvest before a hard frost.

Sweet potatoes don’t actually mature but are dug when they reach a usable size. Dig very carefully in dry soil. (They may be kept in the ground to continue sizing but should be dug up before the soil temperatures drops below 50˚F to prevent chill injury).

Cut the roots away from the spuds and allow them to dry for 3 to 4 hours in the shade before placing in a warm, humid area to cure for at least 2 weeks, which turns their starches to sugar.

Ideal curing temperature is 80˚-85˚F with 85 to 90% humidity.

Proper Storage:

Ideal storage temperature is 55˚ to 60˚F in darkness with moderate humidity. The average storage life is 4 to 6 months. Allow good air circulation.

Recommended varieties for our area (Zone 8):

Beauregard (perhaps the world’s most popular sweet potato…favored for high yields of uniform, reddish potatoes with tasty, deep-orange flesh that keeps well in storage. Developed at Louisiana State University in 1987), Centennial and Jewel.

Sweet potatoes are not only a nutritious and tasty vegetable, the skin and flesh are excellent sources of fiber. And, this very versatile vegetable, along with the turkey, makes our Thanksgiving feast complete.

Here’s one of our favorite sweet potato recipes to get us started after our recent Grow and Graze event-Pumpkins on Parade, Sweet Potatoes for Adornment.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

 

Ingredients:

2 packages active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (105˚ to 115˚)

1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato

½ cup shortening

½ cup sugar

1 egg

1 ½ teaspoons salt

5 ¼ to 5 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup butter, softened

Directions:

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large mixing bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add sweet potato, shortening, sugar, egg, and salt; beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until thoroughly blended. Gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.

 

  1. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

 

  1. Punch dough down, and divide into 3 equal parts. Roll each into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface; spread each circle with 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter. Cut each circle into 12 wedges; roll up each wedge, beginning at wide end. Place on lightly greased baking sheets, point side down, curving slightly to form a crescent.
  2. Cover crescent rolls and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 30 to 45 minutes or until rolls are doubled in bulk. Bake at 400˚ 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown.

Yield: 3 dozen

More recipes coming!

Linda Alexander

 

 

The Fall Garden You Should Have Already Started

October 11, 2019

I’m late.  I should have been making space for fall vegetables in my 8x 10′ garden in August. My excuse is that the squash and basil were still producing and I had a fervent hope that my cucamelon vines would finally spring forth with those tiny cute cucamelons (alas, it did not).

My good friend, Sheila Kostelny, however, planted her garden in a timely manner. It’s the garden I’ve been dreaming about.

She has planted seeds of beets, carrots, spinach and 3 varieties of peas.

 

And already in the garden are transplants of Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Southern Giant Curled Mustard, Tiger Collards, and garlic.

Below are her Beauregard Sweet Potatoes which are arguably  the world’s most popular sweet potato. It’s popularity comes from producing high yields of uniform, reddish-purple potatoes with tasty, deep-orange flesh.

By the way, Sheila will be teaching how to grow sweet potatoes at our next Grow and Gaze event on October 22. Tickets for the lunch are sold out but the lecture is free and open to anyone who wants to attend.

For anyone else who is just now working on a fall garden, you can purchase transplants of broccoli, beets, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, swiss chard, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach and other cool season crops at your local garden center.

I’ll see you there!

Ann Lamb

 

Facts About Growing Okra and Recipes from our Latest Grow and Graze Event

 

Botanically speaking, okra is a member of the mallow family. Looking deeper into the Malvaceaes, we learn that it shares family ties with cotton, cocoa, balsa wood, hibiscus and durian fruit. Ancient cultivation of okra can be traced back to East Africa, West Africa, India and Southeast Asia. Its arrival in America is documented as one of Africa’s major crops that were brought to the United States on slave ships. Okra probably landed in the US through the ports of Charleston and New Orleans in the 1700s.

Varieties:

The USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) yields 1,099 accessions, most unnamed.

The National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources in New Delhi claims over 4,000 accessions. 

Okra comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes: fat and thin pods, long and short pods and all sorts of variations in between. Colors vary from Burgundy, Red River, Louisiana Green Velvet, Emerald, Silver Queen, White Velvet and Jing Orange to Hill Country Red.

Tips:

Okra prefers a pH of around 6.5 and performs well in soils that are rich with organic matter.  Full sun is required. For best results, soak seeds for a few hours up to overnight. Plant okra seed 3” to 4” apart, thinning to 12”. For summer crops sow seeds in April and May. For a fall harvest, plant in late July to early August.

After the first harvest, remove the lower leaves to help speed up production. 

When shopping for okra, look for small bright green or red pods with no browning or discoloration, especially at the tips. Okra should be firm to the touch with no signs of limpness. Plan to use within a day or two or it will lose its texture and may even turn moldy. 

Interesting facts:

Okra will produce large flowers about two months after planting. The okra pods will be ready to pick three-to-four days later.

India is the largest producer of okra in the world. 

Okra leaves are incredibly nutritious. However, they need to be cooked as you would spinach or collard greens. Young leaves can be fried.

Okra plants are stunning and can be grown for their landscaping aesthetics alone, especially the red-stemmed varieties. We are currently growing both red and green varieties in the edible landscape at Raincatcher’s for this purpose. It’s something we hope to continue in 2020.

Following the program, guests were treated to a corn and okra flavor-filled lunch menu. Enjoy the photos and recipes from this delicious experience hosted by the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. 

Our final ‘Grow and Graze’ event of 2019…Pumpkins on Parade and Sweet Potatoes for Adornment will be October 22nd.

Sign up will begin on September 24th. Ticket sales for our last event sold out in a few hours so mark your calendars now….

 

Warm Okra and Red Onion Salad with Pine Nuts

Ingredients

½ cup pine nuts

1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil (divided use)

½ red onion, thinly sliced

¾ pound okra, halved lengthwise

½ teaspoon kosher salt (divided use)

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

Directions

Toast pine nuts: Heat oven to 400˚F. Place the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, shaking every 2 minutes. Remove from the oven when golden. 

Place ½ tablespoon of coconut oil into a large cast iron or nonstick pan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the onions and set aside. 

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and increase temperature to medium-high. Once the pan is hot, add half of the okra and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Sauté for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove the okra and add to the onions. 

Add the second batch of okra to the pan (add a bit more coconut oil if the pan is dry). Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onions and okra back into the pan. Stir to combine. 

Add the Worcestershire and vinegar to the pan. Cook on medium-high until the liquid is reduced by half. 

Remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley, basil, mint and toasted pine nuts. Stir well to combine. Salt to taste and serve immediately. 

Yield: Makes 6 servings.

Fried Okra with Pickle Aioli

Ingredients

Pickle Aioli

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chopped dill pickles, plus 2 tablespoons pickle juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Okra

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

Kosher salt

1 pound okra, halved lengthwise

Directions

To make the pickle aioli: In a medium bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, pickles, pickle juice, dill and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

To make the okra: In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 inches of the oil to 350˚F over medium-high heat. Alternatively, heat the oil to 350˚F in a deep fryer following the manufacturer’s directions. Line a large plate with paper towels. 

While the oil is heating, whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, Old Bay and 1 tablespoon salt. 

Add the okra to the buttermilk mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to the flour mixture and toss to thoroughly coat. 

When the oil is hot, remove the okra from the flour mixture, shaking off any excess, and fry the okra in two batches until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the prepared plate and season lightly with salt. Repeat with the remaining okra. 

Serve hot with the pickle aioli.

Yield: Serves 4

Fresh Okra Muffins

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising cornmeal

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon hot sauce

2 cups thinly sliced fresh okra (about ½ pound)

¼ cup chopped onion

Directions

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; make a well in center of mixture.  Combine milk and next 4 ingredients; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.  Fold in okra and onion.

Grease muffin pans, and place in a 400˚F oven for 5 minutes.  Quickly spoon batter into prepared pans, filling two-thirds full; bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pans immediately.

Yield:  1 ½ dozen.

Linda Alexander

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