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Tag Archives: Basil for Dallas Gardens

Grow and Graze, Herbs of the Mediterranean

Herbs of the Mediterranean can and should be grown in Dallas, Texas. Embrace our hot and usually dry climate to grow the herbs of France, Greece, Italy and Spain.  Herbs like rosemary, lavender, thyme, and oregano thrive in Dallas gardens. Ounce for ounce, many herbs used to flavor foods have more antioxidant power than berries, fruits, and vegetables according to a recent agricultural study.  The herbs with the highest antioxidant activity are in the oregano family.

Last week Dallas County Master Gardener, Marian Buchanan, came to teach us about these herbs and afterwards guests enjoyed  an herb inspired lunch.


Above: Our centerpiece of fennel, sage, rosemary, lavender, sorrel, and tarragon

Some of our guests were kind enough to tell us what they thought about the day:

“I’m not a gardener at all and was afraid the presentation would be clinical or over my head. It was so much fun. There was something for everyone, details that a professional would enjoy as well as useful, interesting information for anyone. Then, the food. It was filling and flavorful and so much more interesting after having learned a bit about each of the herbs and herb combinations. I hope to come again.”Chris Bradshaw

“Thoroughly enjoyed & highly recommend Raincatcher’s gardeners’ events. Learned so much about the planting & care of herbs, many of which were on the menu of our delicious lunch. And Beverly was the best hostess when afterwards she took a small group of us on a tour of their amazing, beautiful & peaceful gardens.” A Fan


I appreciated the useful information about each herb (varieties, preservation, use in cooking) and helpful growing tips. The volunteers at Raincatcher’s did a stellar job organizing a delightful lecture and lunch.” Kateri Allen

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard clipping and snipping and tying bundles of herbs and cooking, decorating, teaching and organizing.

Above: Dallas County Master Gardeners smiling and ready to serve at the  ‘Grow and Graze’ event

In the next few days, we will share recipes and pictures. Here’s the list of herbs featured.

Linda Alexander and Ann Lamb

Picture by Starla Willis


The Rainbow Garden at Raincatcher’s

If your green thumb is ready to branch out into living color, visit our Rainbow Garden for inspiration and plan on taking lots of photos. You’ll find a colorful mix of flowers and vegetables growing in harmony. In the summer heat, early morning is a good time to stop by. Enjoy iridescent dragonflies and come face to face with giant bees casting their drunken shadows on the garden, touch fuzzy silver green lamb’s ear, and see if you can identify standing cypress. (Hint- it is red.)

See the violet morning glory threaten to take over the purple heart growing beneath it. Compare the many shades of blue flowers and notice the exuberant orange Mexican sunflower. Inhale the aroma of fresh basil and see how the eggplant and strawberries are doing. 

Now take a shady break under the garden’s charming vine-covered entrance arbor and make notes before heading to the nursery to create your own rainbow. The rainbow garden doesn’t get any shade from the hot summer sun and receives only minimal supplemental water so you know these plants can take the heat in your own sunny spots at home. Drop by anytime and let the garden inspire you.

Gail Cook

 Pictures by Starla Willis and Ann Lamb

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My Garden Journey

In my first five years as a Dallas County Master Gardener (class of 2011), I have learned and experienced so much from working at our demonstration gardens; however, I had never attempted growing vegetables at home except in pots until this past fall when I saw sunlight streaming in a section of the backyard after a tree had been removed.

So this new adventure began – raised beds were found, plants were purchased and the garden grew – well some of it grew…

Brocolli by StarlaBroccoli and cabbage went in first along with a few herbs, followed by lettuce and arugula in October. I had some success with broccoli, but not so much with the cabbage, lettuce or arugula ( they bolted). Radishes and carrots were planted from seeds. After the first of the year onions were added and then potatoes came and went (I had the wrong soil, so they never sprouted).  There was minimal success with the radishes (not properly thinned), but the carrots – I waited, looking for a glimpse of the carrots(roots)? under the leafy tops — until right before Mother’s day, and then I pulled them. Once again the results were mixed;  I had a range of carrots from 1/4 inch to over 6-7 inches long  and counted 26 of the prettiest multicolored carrots I have ever grown.

Homegrown Carrots

Homegrown Carrots

This summer I’m trying things that we will eat as a family – tomatoes, peas, green beans , peppers. I have a space for cucumbers with hopes to make pickles like my family put up years ago.  My beds are few in number but just right for my learning curve. You can take this journey. it takes some planning, a little time and patience, but is well worth the effort.

Here are a few of the things I’ve gleaned from my raised beds:

  • Gardening with a group of people brings a broader depth of expertise
  • Information—ask questions, listen and apply–repeat.
  • Realize early on that everything won’t go according to plans. Don’t dwell on failures, but learn from them  — water properly, use the correct soil, compost, mulch, weed…
  • Celebrate success, no matter how small–they are victories!
  • Try new things, take notes (my garden journal currently has one entry, several months back, but there is value in the process)
  • Trial and error is another way of learning
  • Share your story, your experience, and the fruit of your labor —
  • Enjoy the adventure!



May Recipes from the Master Gardener Meeting

Linda, Evelyn, and Judy and Tarts

Linda, Evelyn, and Judy and Tarts

Heirloom-Tomato-And Goat-Cheese Tartlets


Black-Pepper Crusts (see below)

Pesto (see below)

3 cups heirloom tomatoes, cut in half

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (4-ounce) package goat-cheese crumbles

Garnish: fresh oregano and microbasil


  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place prepared Black-Pepper Tartlet Crusts on baking sheet. Spoon about 3 tablespoons Pesto into bottom of each crust. Fill each tartlet with tomatoes, and season evenly with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle cheese over tomatoes, and bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is slightly browned.
  3. Garnish with oregano and microbasil, if desired. Serve immediately.

Black- Pepper Tartlet Crusts


2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup unsalted butter

¾ cup sour cream


In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and pepper; pulse to combine. Add butter, and pulse until crumbled.  Add sour cream, and pulse until mixture comes together.  Remove mixture and form into a disk; wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut 6 (5-inch) rounds from dough.  Place a round in bottom and up sides of each of 6 (4-inch) tartlet pans.  Line tartlet crusts with parchment paper to cover bottoms and sides, and top with pie weights.  Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven; cool slightly.  Remove pie weights and parchment paper.  Return to oven, and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove from oven, and cool.



3 cups fresh basil leaves

3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, peeled

¼ cup grated fresh Asiago cheese

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

½ teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

⅓ cup olive oil


  1. In the work bowl of a food processor, combine basil, oregano, lemon juice, garlic, cheese, and pine nuts; pulse until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add salt, pepper, and olive oil; pulse until smooth.  Prepared pesto can be stored, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 3 days
Lettuce Prep for Butterhead Lettuce Salad

Lettuce Prep for Butterhead Lettuce Salad

Butterhead Lettuce and Spring Vegetable Salad


5 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper

2 heads butterhead lettuce, washed and dried

6 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips

2 ounces alfalfa sprouts

Jane with Sprouts!

Jane with Sprouts!


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil; season with salt and pepper.
  2. Tear lettuce into bite-size pieces and add to bowl along with radishes and carrots. Toss; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Divide salad equally among four plates and top each with sprouts. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Asparagus Ready to Eat

Asparagus Ready to Eat

Parmesan Asparagus Roll-Ups with Lemon Dipping Sauce


1 package phyllo dough

½ – 1 cup Parmesan cheese

1 stick butter, melted

30 asparagus spears, washed, woody ends cut and dried

Lemon Dipping Sauce


Take pastry out of box and unfold one package of sheets. Cover sheets with a just barely damp paper towel when not using.

  1. Remove one sheet of phyllo and put on a work surface. Brush the entire sheet with butter; put another sheet of phyllo on top, brush second sheet with butter.
  2. Cut pastry sheets into six even strips, cutting from one short end to another.
  3. Sprinkle each phyllo strip with Parmesan cheese.
  4. Wind one phyllo strip around each asparagus in a spiral manner starting at the base.
  5. Repeat with phyllo until all the asparagus is rolled up.
  6. Brush the tops of the phyllo dough with butter and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  7. Put the asparagus on 2 parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes, until the phyllo is light golden brown.

Lemon Dipping Sauce


½ cup sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, pressed

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Dash of hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste


Put all ingredient s in a bowl and mix well. Serve with asparagus.  Chill if not using right away.


May 2015 Master Gardener Meeting 036

And what about those Blackberry Pie Bars? Click here!



Basil Harvest

Today at the garden we harvested buckets full of sweet basil.  With winter’s chill at our doorstep it’s the perfect time to fill our freezers with basil pesto. Basil Harvest

 Here is  Classic Pesto hidden in our Tomato Tart Recipe!

Basil ready for the freezer

Before bedtime and  the freeze tomorrow, review

 Basic Facts About Basil Here!

Sweet Dreams, I will be dreaming about basil and hope you will, too!


The Tomato Station

On a recent summer trip to Colorado for a destination wedding, my husband and I experienced a new concept – “the tomato station, or tomato bar “.  The idea is to select any variety of tomato available, heirloom, beefsteak, celebrity, etc., then sprinkle with a selection of different “salts”.  From there you move to the balsamic vinegar tray where, once again, you decide and then “drizzle” accordingly.

Tomato Station

Finally, to complete the experience, garnish with freshly chopped basil and enjoy the flavors that you have combined.

Once we were back in Dallas, I copied the idea and provided an heirloom tomato tray as one of the items for a “Summer Supper” dinner party.   It was the star of the menu.

Fleur de SelOur favorite salt was the “Fleur de Sel”, which can be found at places like Central Market, and Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar from a boutique type farm in Colorado.  I ordered multiple bottles from Westwood Farms.

As you can see from the picture, nature provides the most beautiful palette creating a real feast for the eyes.



Dallasites, if you don’t have  tomatoes from your garden, try Central Market or Whole Foods or the Farmer’s Market.

Herbal Treats For Labor Day Festivities

Finish your Labor Day  supper with this flavorful treat and your guests will have sweet dreams.

Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream

cinnamon basil ice cream



2 ½ cups whole milk, plus an additional 2 tablespoons if needed, or substitute low-fat

(2%) milk for a slightly less rich ice cream

1 ½ cups heavy cream

8 4-inch sprigs cinnamon basil and ½ cinnamon stick, or 6 4-inch sprigs sweet basil and

1 ½ cinnamon sticks

¼ vanilla bean, split and scraped, or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

8 large egg yolks

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar


1.  Infuse the cream.  Pour the milk and cream into a 2-quart saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the basil, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean if using, push them under the surface of the liquid with a spoon, and immediately remove the pan from the heat.  Cover the pan and steep for 20 minutes.  Strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a large liquid measuring cup, pressing down firmly on the herbs to extract all the liquid from the leaves.  Add fresh milk if needed to measure 4 cups.  Return the infused cream to the saucepan.

2.  Egg yolks.  Put the egg yolks in a medium stainless-steel mixing bowl and float that bowl in a larger bowl half full of hot tap water.  Whisk the yolks until they are lukewarm, 90 to 100 degrees F (it will take less than 1 minute), then lift the bowl out of the water.

3.  Ice cream base.  Add the sugar to the infused cream and bring it back to a boil over medium-high heat.  The instant the cream comes to a rolling boil and rises in the pan, lift it off the heat.  With the whisk in one hand and the saucepan in the other, pour the boiling cream into the egg yolk as you whisk constantly but gently.  Don’t whisk rapidly or you will cool the custard before the yolks have a chance to set.  Continue to stir the custard with the whisk for 1 minute.  At this point it should be fully cooked.  An instant-read thermometer set in the custard should register 170 degrees to 180 degrees F.  It will coat a teaspoon, but it will become much thicker when it cools.  (If for some reason the custard did not get hot enough to thicken, you can place the bowl on top of a saucepan of boiling water and stir it with a rubber spatula until it reaches 170 degrees F.  Do not overheat the custard or it will curdle).  Whisk the sauce rapidly for 30 seconds to cool it, then pour it through a fine sieve.  If using vanilla extract, add it now.  Refrigerate this custard base until thoroughly chilled.  Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.   Make 1 ½ quarts.

Adapted from” The Herb Farm Cookbook”

More Cinnamon Basil recipes to savor: Cinnamon Basil Swirl Cake and Cinnamon Basil Chicken.


Lovely and fragrant Lemon Verbena gives a nice lift to these rich, silky lemon custards.

lemon verbena custard

Lemon Custards with Lemon Verbena



1 cup water

14 2- to 2 ½-inch-long fresh or dried lemon verbena leaves (optional)

10 2 x ½-inch strips lemon peel (yellow part only)

6 tablespoons sugar

1 ½ cups whipping cream

6 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice



Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Combine first three ingredients in medium saucepan.  Boil until mixture is reduced to ½ cup, about 4 minutes.  Add sugar; simmer until mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup, about 3 minutes.  Stir in cream.  Whisk yolks to blend in medium bowl.  Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture.  Whisk in lemon juice.

Strain custard through sieve into 4-cup measuring cup.  Divide among six 2-cup ramekins or soufflé dishes.  Cover ramekins with foil.  Place ramekins in a 13 x 9 z 2-inch metal baking pan.  Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins.

Bake custards until just set, about 45 minutes.  Remove pan from oven; let custards cool in water in pan.  Transfer ramekins to refrigerator.  Chill at least 4 hours or overnight.  Serve chilled.  Garnish with flavored whipped cream topped with a raspberry or blackberry.

Yield:  Serves 6

(This is a very rich custard that you may want to divide into smaller quantities)

Adapted from Bon Appetit


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