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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

 

Pesto Party Anyone?

Basil Bed Before Harvest

We had a party…a “Pesto Party” …and it was a chopping, blending and pulsing success. Our Edible Garden raised basil beds yielded some of the most beautiful plants we’ve ever seen. And, with a new drip irrigation system going in on Tuesday, all the plants had to be cut back rather severely. It was time to rally the troops and make good use of our harvest.

Two “favored” recipes, slightly adapted, served as the basis for our pesto making adventure. Each participant was encouraged to personalize their recipe. While some chose to stay with tradition, others brought an assortment of ingredients including everything from walnuts and pecans to a yeast substitute for the Parmesan cheese. Our garden, of course, provided the basil – three different varieties to be exact: Cardinal (cinnamon/clove flavor with hints of anise), Eleonora (somewhat spicier flavor than traditional pesto types) and Persian (a distinctive aroma, both lemony and spice like).

Once the food processors began their whirring magic, the next important decision was chunky or smooth. Those in favor of a smoother texture watched closely as more olive oil was slowly drizzled into the mix. If your twist happened to be chunky, only a few short pulses and it was done. More salt or lemon juice, each person had to make that call, as well.

Amidst all the chatter and finger licking swipes, it was hilariously entertaining to see each batch being scooped out of the processors. Varying shades of green, silky smooth texture or visibly chunky little pieces of spinach and nuts didn’t matter. Each jar was filled with a pesto that yielded its own distinct personality. And, our chefs were thrilled to take home over 30 jars of garden-fresh pesto for their personal enjoyment or to share with family and friends.

*If you have basil that’s ready for harvesting, try one of our favorite recipes included below.

Pesto After Basil Harvest

Spinach Basil Pesto

Ingredients

1 ½ cups baby spinach leaves

¾ cup fresh basil leaves

½ cup toasted pine nuts

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon lemon zest

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Blend the spinach, basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a food processor until nearly smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil into the mixture while processing until smooth.

Yield:  24 servings

Classic Pesto

Ingredients:

3 large cloves garlic

3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves

½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

½ cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place the basil leaves in a food processor and pulse until half-way chopped.  Add the pine nuts and garlic.  Continue pulsing.  Add the cheese, salt and pepper.  Through the pouring spout, with the processor on, drizzle the olive oil into the basil mixture.  Blend just until incorporated but not completely smooth.  A little texture is best.

Yield:  About 3 cups

Linda Alexander

 

 

 

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

 

 

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!

Starla

 

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  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

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup unsalted butter

¾ cup sour cream

Directions:

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.

Pesto

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  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

Ingredients:

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!

Directions:

  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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Linda

May 2015 Master Gardener Meeting 036

And what about those Blackberry Pie Bars? Click here!

 

 

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