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Tag Archives: Dallas County Master Gardener Association

Thai Basil Sorbet, a Cool Taste of Summer

Thai Basil Sorbet

When one mentions ‘basil’, immediately people think of Italian-type basil – the Genovese variety that is used for pesto and caprese salad.  Thai basil, if it’s thought about at all, is best known as a garnish in the popular Vietnamese soup pho.

But with its spicy licorice and lemon notes, this cousin of mint works well in desserts, too.  Any variety of Thai basil can be used – we have both Persian and Cardinal cultivars in the Edible Landscape and both worked equally well.

An ice cream maker does its magic by keeping the ice crystals small while they’re being created.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker or aren’t in the mood for sorbet, there are other ways you can enjoy this syrup.  You can make a granita or popsicle if you still want an icy treat, or simply take the syrup you’ve made and pour it over a white cake, brownies, or even the olive oil semolina cake from our Grow and Graze event – it’ll infuse the cake with a lovely extra layer of flavor!

Above: Cool and refreshing Thai Basil Sorbet

The recipe below makes about a pint of sorbet – feel free to multiply it and make more.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups water

1 cup sugar (192 g)

1 cup basil (leaves and/or blossoms) (about 55 g)

2 Tablespoons corn syrup*

2 Tablespoon lime juice

*The corn syrup is to keep the sorbet from becoming a popsicle without making the sorbet too sweet.  The alternative to the corn syrup would be a tablespoon of vodka (or rum).  If you’re not making sorbet, but the granite, popsicle, or syrup, you don’t need the corn syrup (or vodka or rum).

METHOD for SORBET:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the corn syrup and lime juice.

Spin it in your ice cream maker using the manufacturer’s instructions, then put in the freezer to finish hardening off.

METHOD for GRANITA:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  Don’t use the corn syrup.

Place the syrup in a shallow pan (metal is good, but something it would be okay to scratch with a fork, or use a plastic container) in the freezer for about a half hour.  Pull it out and with a fork, scrape the frozen portions into large flakes.  Return to the freezer and repeat 2-3 times or until the whole thing is a bunch of frozen flakes.  Cover, and store in freezer until ready to serve.  When you go to serve, use that fork again to make sure you’ve got flakes!

METHOD for POPSICLES:

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  Don’t use the corn syrup.

Pour into popsicle molds and freeze!  This is a pretty intense way to enjoy the basil flavor – I’d suggest adding some berries to the mold and have a berry basil popsicle.

METHOD for SYRUP (over cakes, brownies, etc.):

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, dissolving the sugar.  Add the basil leaves and cover.  Let come to room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator until chilled (you can go 30 minutes to 2 days).

Once it’s chilled, strain out the basil leaves, and add the lime juice.  You don’t need the corn syrup for this use, but it won’t hurt your final product, either.

The Edible Landscape Team

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

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

Grow and Graze Recipes Part II and August 27th Annoucement

July 13, 2019

Gardening friends, I forgot to include the tomato sauce that goes with the Raincatcher’s Summer Garden Ratatouille served at the Herbs of the Mediterranean Grow and Graze event. So here it is along with the potato salad full of herbs.

Read to the end of the post to see the information about our next Grow and Gaze event. Sign up begins July 24th.

Endless Summer Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 onion, peeled and finely diced

4 cloves garlic, mashed

1 teaspoon chili flakes

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

½ pound grass-fed beef, optional

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup red wine

5 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and lightly pureed in a food processor

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Pinch of sugar or dash of local honey

8 fresh basil leaves, torn

Directions

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat.  When bubbling, add the onion and garlic; stir, reduce heat, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chili flakes and fennel and cook for about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the beef.  Cook until browned, stirring occasionally, seasoning along the way with salt and pepper. NOTE:  Omit the last two steps if you are making a meatless sauce and continue from here

Deglaze pan with the red wine, picking up any brown bits by stirring with a flat-edged wooden spoon.  Cook over medium-high heat until the wine has reduced by half.

Add the remaining ingredients except the basil and stir.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook slowly for 1 to 2 hours.  Taste to verify seasonings and adjust accordingly.  Add the fresh basil after the sauce is removed from the heat.  Cool and freeze for up to four months.

Yield: 4 to 5 cups

Salad of New Potatoes with Sweet Cicely, Lovage and Green Peppercorns

Ingredients

2 ½ pounds new potatoes

1 ½ teaspoon salt

½ cup plain yogurt

½ cup low-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

¼ cup chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sweet cicely

2 tablespoons chopped fresh lovage, plus 1 sprig for garnish

2 tablespoons green peppercorns

Directions

In a saucepan, combine the potatoes with water to cover by 2 inches. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes.

Drain the potatoes. As soon as you can handle them, peel and cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices.

Place the potato slices in a large salad bow and add the yogurt, sour cream and mayonnaise. Turn well to mix. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, the onion, sweet cicely, chopped lovage, and green peppercorns and turn again to mix. Cover and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours to allow the flavors to blend fully before serving. Garnish with a sprig of lovage and serve.

Yield: Serves 4


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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

ANCIENT WISDOM—-GARDEN EDITION

June 12, 2019

Sometimes a problem caused by carelessness can be solved while teaching a useful lesson.

There is a blackberry patch in the Raincatcher’s garden. Blackberry jelly is a real treat.  The first step in making blackberry jelly is naturally—picking the berries.  This isn’t quite as easy as it might seem but gardeners are tough and volunteer to do the picking.

 

Above: Blackberries ready to pick at Raincatcher’s

So, with a sturdy stick and rosetender gloves I, one of the tough volunteers, was able to pick a full bowl of nice ripe berries. I took off the gloves and laid down the stick and prepared to sack up the harvest—of course—I spied a whole cluster of ripe berries in the very center of a vine.  I had to add these to the bowl and felt pretty sure I could carefully grab them—which I did—but then my berry  filled hand got caught in the thorns and ripped a strip of skin.

Above: Blackberries and their thorns

How could thorns cause such a wound—it was bleeding a surprising amount—blood running down my arm. Yikes, I was there alone so this was a problem to solve myself.  I was just thinking I would have to use my shirt to apply pressure when I remembered that yarrow has been traditionally used to stop bleeding.  The garden has plenty of yarrow so I picked a bunch of leaves and held them to my thorn wound.  Amazing!!  The bleeding stopped—and my hand felt much better.

Above: yarrow leaves used to treat a wound

When I got home I looked carefully at my hand. There was no blood seeping at all.  This called for a bit of investigation.

The true name for common yarrow is Achillea millefolium. Millefolium means thousand leaves—makes sense—but why achillea?  The hero Achilles from Greek mythology is said to have used this herb to treat the wounds of soldiers in the Trojan war.

Now the truth of this is lost in the mists of time but— scientific studies have found an alkaloid—achillene—that facilitates blood clotting and activates blood platelets.

Now we do not practice medicine in the garden nor would we ever recommend using plants in place of medical advice and/or treatment. Its also very important to be sure of a plants identity before applying it to your skin.

That said—its also good to find out how plants have been used and valued by our ancestors. Plants are amazing and powerful—not just pretty.  The traditional wisdom of using yarrow to stop bleeding was a lesson learned.  Of course the other lesson—don’t think you are smarter than a blackberry vine!

Susan Thornbury

Pictures by Starla Willis and Ann Lamb

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