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Category Archives: Vegetable Gardening in Dallas

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.

 

Protecting Fig Trees and Grapes

July 20, 2019

To protect your fig trees from hungry birds, cover the tree canopy with bird netting.  The netting operation needs to be completed before the fruit begins to ripen. Timing is critical. Generally the birds leave unripened fruit alone but once the fig or grape shows color they are all in for their feast and little will be left for you.

This was our project last week at Raincatcher’s. We were lucky enough to have Captain in the US Army and Dallas County Master Gardener, Jon Maxwell, leading us.

Netting for the fig was from Lowes; netting for the grapes was purchased on line as it needed to be larger, 28′ x 28′ vs 14′ x 14′ from box stores.

Jon’s tips for bird netting application-have a lot of help and keep your fig tree pruned short.

Above you see Jim Miller, Jon Maxwell and one of our Dallas County Master Gardeners interns at work.

Annette Latham is a steady help with the net in the top picture.

The netting was large enough to basically hang to the ground, so heavy objects were placed at the bottom  to help hold it in place.  Mockingbirds, who love figs and grapes, have been quite furious!!

Written by Ann Lamb as explained by Jon Maxwell

Pictures by Starla Willis


Looking forward to fig harvest? Here’s few fig recipes from last year’s Grow and Graze event

Don’t forget Grilled Figs with Thyme Honey and Gorgonzola Toasts.

By the way, if you are interested in the Dallas County Master Gardener program, call our help desk at 214- 904 -3053 or go to our website here. Classes start in January when it’s cool!

 

What’s Growing in July Vegetable Gardens in Dallas?

July 16, 2019

Dallas County Master Gardener, Ruth Klein has joined the The Raincatcher’s Garden Team to work in the vegetable garden.  I asked her a few questions about what’s growing at Raincatcher’s.  Her advice-go tropical!

Thanks, Ruth!

July tends to be a slow time in Dallas for vegetable gardening except for black eyed peas, okra, and sweet potatoes.  We introduced some tropical crops which needed to be trellised.

To make use of the materials already in the garden,  we rummaged through the shed and found some lavender colored PVC pipes.  We bent them between the beds and stuck them in the soil.  This was not stable enough for Dallas winds, so the guys , led by Jon Maxwell, purchased PVC connector pieces and put them on the top of the arches.   The arches were then covered with bird netting to act as supports for the vines connecting it using zip ties.

Above: A view of the vegetable garden with new trellis

We were pleased that the supports were attractive,

something like the Calatrava bridges over the Trinity.

  Seeds of red noodle beans, bitter melons, and loofa squash, (aka sponge squash) were planted.   As soon as we got the netting up, the vines rapidly began climbing.

Bitter Melon

Loofah bloom visited by a pollinator

Black eyed peas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red noodle beans can be cooked like green beans.   Wash and salt them, add a little butter, and steam  in the microwave- very easy and delicious. Even the bigger ones that I was afraid would be tough are delectable.

The black eyed peas can also be harvested as immature pods and be prepared like green beans.  Traditional green beans can not tolerate the heat and tend to get rust, but the black eyed peas and noodle beans are disease free.

 

One of the in-ground beds has compacted soil, and attempts to grow corn in it were unsuccessful this year.  We filled it with black eyed peas, and they are thriving.  When the peas are spent, we plan to cut them off at the base and let the roots degenerate before turning the soil over.  Hopefully, this will act as a cover crop and help to enrich and break up the soil for future planting.

 

Sadly, the Spring tomato crop was decimated by squirrels or rats, and we fear, two legged pests.  We have begun plans to build a chicken wire enclosed “house” with a door which can be locked for the next Spring tomato crop.  It is too hot now for heavy work, so we plan to begin soil prep and construction after the first cold front in the Fall.

Most of the Fall planting dates begin in late August, so we will harvest and begin soil prep before then.

Ruth Klein

Pictures by Starla Willis

Caterpillar Alert, Who’s Eating Our Kale?

July 11, 2019

We’ve had an infestation of caterpillars and they have destroyed our kale in the edible garden. Here’s the before picture:

Dinosaur Kale in June at Raincatcher’s Edible Garden

And after:

Same Kale Bed in early July after the cabbage worm attack

 

We are not happy to see cabbage white butterflies. They lay eggs which become destructive caterpillars on the underside of cole crop leaves.

 

 

Maybe we should have known and expected  hungry caterpillars to invade. After all, on our own blog Carolyn Bush wrote about cabbage white butterflies(the adult stage of the imported cabbage worm) in a very stern manner. Here’s her story.

 

We also have the cross-striped cabbage worm feeding on our kale.

Cross-striped cabbage worm

Some preventive methods to try to stop the attack:

Fall sanitation. Clean up and remove infested plant material after harvest to eliminate overwintering sites of the pupae. (we will do this now)

Use row covers. Position row covers or netting over plants to prevent egg laying by the butterflies. Start controls before the white cabbage butterflies are seen fluttering around the yard.

Handpick the cabbage worms off of the underside of the leaves while plants are young and then squish them!

Companion Planting.  Cabbage worms don’t like thyme-we may try this or other herbs to deter them.

What will we do with that now empty garden space?

The Edible Garden Team says let’s plant  pumpkins so we are ready for our October 22nd  Grow and Graze event: Seasonal Splendor, Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes

Starla Willis and Ann Lamb


Class today: Thursday July 11, 2019, 10:00am-11:00am

Year Round Perennials, Janet D. Smith

All welcome! Please come!

Inside with air conditioning! Fellowship Hall, 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, Texas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planting Corn at The Raincatcher’s Garden

April 15, 2019

We are banking on a good crop of corn this year. After all, we have plenty of sun and warm, rich soil and dedicated gardeners staking out our new garden bed.

Let’s get those corn kernels in the ground!

You can almost taste summer when looking at the seed packages.

Sugarbaby

Buttergold

Early Sunglow

Hwy, what do gardeners say after a corn harvest  when receiving a complement about their corn crop?

Aww shucks, thank you!

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

To learn about Glass Gem corn, read Christmas in July.

A March Day in The Raincatcher’s Garden

March 13, 2019

Three minutes of your time, please. Have you ever seen such motivation, such verve. Our gardeners, Syann, Sue, and Dorothy are in the garden under umbrellas pouring out plans from our vegetable garden.

And then, what are strawberry spinach seeds and what’s the best method for starting them?

Thank you everyone; the gardeners, the videographer, the greenhouse personnel, those who weed, those who work in the compost area, all of you who make Raincatcher’s what it is even on a rainy day. You inspire me.

Ann Lamb

video by Starla Willis

More about strawberry spinach seeds here.

Happy New Year 2019 and It’s Getting Cold Outside!

Raincatcher’s Volunteers at our Christmas Party. Some Volunteers are missing from this picture and more needed! Happy Gardening in 2019 from our garden to yours.

Q. You have often mentioned cold tolerant vegetable crops and those which are very susceptible to frosty injury.  Could you list these and temperature lows which they can tolerate?

A. This is very difficult to do and be accurate since cold tolerance depends on preconditioning. For instance, if broccoli has been growing in warm conditions and temperatures drop below 22 degrees F., it will probably be killed. If these same broccoli plants had experienced cool weather, they would probably survive the sudden cold.

In general, a frost (31-33 degrees F.) will kill beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peas, pepper, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, and watermelon.

Colder temperatures (26-31 degrees F.) may burn foliage but will not kill broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, lettuce, mustard, onion, radish, and turnip.

The real cold weather champs are beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, collards, kale, parsley, and spinach.

Thank you Aggie Archives for this information!

More about frost protection here.

Cold Tolerant Veggies from Daniel Cunningham here.

Ann Lamb

 

 

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