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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.

 

Fall, Bring It On!

   My garden has begun to greet me in the morning feeling a little more perky in the cool air of fall and I too breathe a sigh of relief from the relentless heat of August. My smile is soon replaced with a frown as I survey the damage from my little friend, a small bunny that has ignored my no trespassing signs.

Maybe you are like me and mourn the end of summer’s offerings especially tomatoes and peaches but I know their demise makes room for fall blessings like spinach, kale (which my husband refuses to nibble unlike my bunny) and broccoli.

Goodbye summer, It’s time to pull out our fall garden calendars and dig in. I’m hoping you are able to read this article, Gardeners Learn to See Time Differently from the Washington Post by Joanne Kaufman.

She reminds us that we are governed by the vagaries of the planting season and the rhythms of the garden.

Above: Fall garden seed packets, my favorite is Parris Island Cos Lettuce.

In Texas, now is the time to scrape away some of our worn out, burned up plants and prepare for fall. The next few months are an especially rewarding time to garden in Dallas.

Ann Lamb

Planting Times for North Central Texashttp://dallas-tx.tamu.edu/files/2010/06/Vegetable-Planting-Guide.pdf

North Haven Gardens Vegetable Planting Dateshttps://www.nhg.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/NTxVegPlanting.pdf

 

Fall Garden Class

September 5th at 10am at The Raincatcher’s Garden- Native and Adaptive Plants, click here for more info.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pollinator Friendly

August 10, 2019

Pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, bats, birds,   and wasps are the basis of a healthy ecosystem. They allow plants to reproduce and those plants provide us with countless varieties of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  I have read that one in every three bites of food lands on your plate because of the work of these pollinators.

With that in mind, look at your garden in a new way. How are you providing for the pollinators who make your life happen?

Here are some of the plants we are growing with that purpose.

Above: Zexmenia hispida

Above: Rudibeckia fulgida and Gregg’s Mist Flower

Above: Tithonia rotundifolia or Mexican Sunflower in front of a 5 foot hedge of Lantana ‘Miss Huff’

Above: The delicate blossoms of the Desert Willow provide nectar

Above: Datura-an interesting flower that blooms at night and attracts the sphinx moth

Above: Pink Skullcap

On the right side of the page under Raincatcher’s Resources, take a look at the list of butterfly and hummingbird plants for more information.

Ann Lamb

 

Kale’s Misfortune

August 6, 2019

We had grandiose plans; to indulge and savor, to be nourished and satisfied. Our beautifully designed spring kale bed promised countless ways to enjoy this luscious, leafy green. An imaginative plan was developed using five different varieties of kale. Our centrally located statuary garden would be transformed into graceful spirals of translucent whites to radiant pinks. Concentric circles of the lovely Scarlet Kale with her delicious frilly, red curled leaves gently ushered in sassy little Dwarf Siberian Kale, a very hardy and productive Russian variety.

Above: Scarlet Kale

Red Russian, poetically referred to as the peacock of the kale family, adorned our bed with its striking red leaf stalks and delicate purple veins running through silver green leaves. But it was the visually stunning blue-green hues of Blue Curled Scotch that completed the rich and vibrant look of our 2019 Ombre theme. Or, so we hoped.

Above: Blue Curled Scotch Kale

As spring rains gave way to the warm days of summer, we were increasingly pleased with our Brassicaceae family reunion. And then quite suddenly, Mother Nature spoke to us. Her language was somewhat stern and unforgiving. She reminded us that our visit had come too soon. While family gatherings are happy, joyful occasions filled with laughter and sweet memories, a time of separation is sometimes needed before a return.

Shamefully, we had not listened. Members of the same family had previously made a visit to our garden. Two other times to be exact. We should have known better than to include them a third time. Was it the unwelcomed pests harboring in the soil who were waiting for the right moment to “crash” our party? Or, had the lovely cabbage white butterfly swooped down from above to deposit her eggs on the underside of a leaf? Either way, our mistake had encouraged, even invited the destruction to begin. As the tiny little green worms emerged, along with them came a voracious appetite. A simple appetizer wasn’t going to satisfy, they had come for a feast.

After only a few short weeks of devastation, our bed of dreams began to resemble an alien invasion. The chomping and nibbling had wiped us out. Except for one indulgent over-eater, the lacy remnants of frass (aka, solid excreta of insects) was all that remained of our beautiful kale crop. The cross-stripped caterpillar showed no mercy, he was victorious in winning the battle.

Kale Bed in early July after the cabbage worm attack

Moving forward, we’ve learned a lesson the hard way. Instructions for the next family reunion will be respectfully observed.

  1. Members of the same family, in this case…Brassicaceae…won’t meet again for three years.
  2. Rotating plant families is important for managing pests and soil fertility in the garden.
  3. To improve the fertility status of garden soil, members of other families such as Fabaceae, the legume family, can be grown to add nitrogen to the soil.

Should nutrient-rich kale make a future visit, we hope to enjoy her delicious charms.

Linda Alexander

Pictures courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Refer to Caterpillar Alert, Who’s Eating our Kale?


2 Fantastic Classes, Learn, Learn, Learn at our Garden!

Everyone Welcome, no reservations required.

Tomorrow: Wednesday, August 7, 10am, Shade Gardening

Friday, August 23, 10am Texas Plant Tales Class

Balsamic Blooms Basil is a Superstar

I’m infatuated with this new basil, so I asked Linda to write about it-Ann.

Above: Balsamic Blooms Basil

 

Our first encounter with Balsamic Blooms Basil was in April of 2018. While the designation Texas Superstar® caught our attention, it was the beautiful deep purple blooms that we found most intriguing. We were smitten. Thankfully, we were able to locate six plants at a local garden center and then used them to create a border for our newly established hügelkultur bed.

People couldn’t stop talking about the “new plants” in our garden. As they continued to grow throughout the spring and into summer, everyone became more intrigued. A quick explanation convinced them that this was a plant worthy of adding to the home garden.

Balsamic Blooms Basil was named a 2017 Texas Superstar plant by AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturalists after three years of field trials around the state. To be designated a Texas Superstar, a plant must not only be beautiful but also perform well for consumers and growers throughout the state. Texas Superstars must be easy to propagate, which should ensure the plants are not only widely available throughout Texas but also reasonably priced.

Balsamic Blooms is truly is a game changer. It is the first basil to have flowers and leaves growing at the same time. You’ll be tempted not to harvest those long-lasting, gorgeous purple blooms, content just to admire their beauty. But you shouldn’t miss the delightful mint flavor of the tender young flowers chopped and sprinkled over a summer salad. The sweet flavor of the foliage may be used for a delicious pesto or other culinary uses.

We were so pleased with last year’s performance that for 2019, Balsamic Blooms took center stage in our ombre basil bed at Raincatcher’s Garden. Once again, it has thrilled visitors to the garden who don’t leave without asking about this lovely herb.

As with most basils, plant in a sunny area in well drained soil. It has a mounding growth habit reaching 18-24” and is a great addition for either the edible garden or landscape.

Linda Alexander

 

 

Crushing Heat

How do  you beat the heat in summer? What are your tactics? We asked several Master Gardeners and this is what they said.

Above: Starla gives a pictoral  reminder for all of us

Susan Swinson says: Long sleeves and pants for the mosquitoes. I like the fabric in hiking pants. It’s pretty cool and wicks moisture. Hat and sunglasses of course and towel for mopping up. Enormous insulated glass of iced tea with a lid that I keep in the shade. If I’m working in the backyard I rig up a big fan with extension cord.

Lisa Centala: A hat and sunscreen are the first wave of defense! One way I stay cool is to drape a wet, cold cloth around my neck. I keep a couple to change them out and roll some ice in the towel if it’s really hot.

Jim Dempsey: Never go out into the heat without a good wide brim hat.

Jon Maxwell: In the Texas summer heat, “you have to start early and end early!
Its not just the plants that need water, remember to drink plenty when out in the summer garden, and not just when you feel thirsty!

Cindy Bicking: I try to get out early in the morning and get “finished” for the day by 10 a.m. If  I have a lot to do, I keep to the shaded areas as much as possible.  I also set a timer for 15-20 minutes and then go inside for about the same amount of time.  That’s when I drink my water.  Also, try to wear a hat. If it’s dry enough, I mow in the morning while it is cool.  Otherwise, I wait until just before dark.  Use bug repellent.

Also, I sometimes wander about for a few minutes and pull weeds, trim a littler here and there.

Dallas Garden Buzz Readers, please give us your heat crushing advice in the comment section.
Ann Lamb

 

Grow and Graze August 27th Sign-Up

Corn, the Golden Essence of Summer and Okra, A Garden Giant-GROW AND GRAZE AUGUST 27TH

Corn’s versatility is endless, lending a festive look to almost any dish. Discover the delectable potential of this simple vegetable. Savor its natural sweetness in a menu packed with everything from delicious openers to breads, chowders and desserts.

Okra is best described by award-winning chef, Michael W. Twitty, as “a globetrotter that dances so well with tomatoes, onions and corn that nobody remembers a time when the four did not carouse the kitchens of the Afro Atlantic world in search of lusty steam and the heat of a hot chili pepper looking to dance, too.” 

Tuesday, August 27th

A “Grow and Graze” Event Hosted by Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

10:00 – 11:00am * 11001 Midway Road * Church Sanctuary

Panel Discussion Led by Raincatcher’s Dallas County Master Gardener Vegetable Experts

(Master Gardeners earn up to two CEUs)

Immediately following the program please join us in the Community Hall for a Picnic-style Lunch

11:15 – 12:30

$15 per person, Reserved seating for 60, Tickets on sale July 24th, 10am, Deadline August 20th

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/corn-the-golden-essence-of-summer-and-okra-a-garden-giant-tickets-65175370287

Menu

Santa Fe Corn Soup Garnished with Fresh Oregano, Blue Corn Tortilla Chips

Fried Okra Pods with Pickle Aioli

Fresh Corn Cakes with Heirloom Tomato Relish and Tarragon Crème Fraiche

Warm Okra and Red Onion Salad with Pine Nuts

Esquites: Mexican Street Corn Salad Cups

Breadbasket Sampler: Cheddar Dill Cornbread, Corn & Jalapeno Muffins, Fresh Okra Muffins

Sweet Corn and Hazelnut Crunch Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Blackberry Verbena Sauce

Linda Alexander

All members of the public invited for lunch with a reservation or just come for the free lecture. Reservations thru the eventbrite link above open at 10am, Wednesday, July 24th.

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