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Tag Archives: Dallas County Master Gardener

Blood Orange Cake with Cardamom and Sugared Rosemary

Have you “sugared” your rosemary this year?

Neither had I. Until we went to our nephew’s wedding last weekend in Tucson, Arizona, sugaring rosemary wasn’t on my list of things to accomplish for the new year. But then, everything changed.

The morning of his wedding was one of those sun-drenched, crystal clear days so typical of winter in southern Arizona. It was a wonderful day to be outdoors. After a mid-morning breakfast, we took a short drive to see the charming 1929 casita he and his bride-to-be had purchased only a few weeks prior to the wedding. Driving down a tree lined, winding road we caught a glimpse of the property.

As is common in the desert, his one-half acre yard was missing the lush lawn and greenery that is found in Dallas. Instead, pebbles and stones provided the foundation for a lovely display of cactus and willows. Citrus trees dotted the landscape with their yellow, orange and lime green polka dot affect. Walking along the enchanting pathways, we felt the serenity and peacefulness of this quaint desert setting.

But it was the blood orange trees that called my name. They were putting on a spectacular show with colorful hues of red and orange. Branches were drooping with the weight of a plentiful crop. It was time for harvesting and I was ready to take on the task. With clippers in hand and a 6’ 4” husband by my side, we harvested our way through every blood orange tree on the property. It was a delightful experience.

 

 

 

Once back in Dallas, and thanks to a sister who drove out for the wedding then delivered our blood oranges a few days later, we are enjoying our bushel basket full of my favorite citrus fruit.

Linda and the blood orange tree.

Art harvesting blood oranges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anxious to try a recipe that I stumbled across right before Christmas, our Arizona trip gave me the main ingredient; blood oranges. After a little experimenting, I finally settled on the combination of two similar recipes and prepared Blood Orange and Cardamom Cake for my husband’s birthday this weekend. If you’ve never made a blood orange cake accented with the fragrance of ground cardamom, be prepared for a flavorful and moist treat.

Linda’s Blood Orange Cake with Cardamon and Sugared Rosemary

*Note: Many local groceries are currently hosting citrus-fests, etc. Now is a good time to use those sassy little blood oranges in your favorite recipe. Or, search the internet for a blood orange cake recipe. There are some fun ones to choose from. Just don’t forget the “sugared rosemary” for a nice Texas finish!

Linda Alexander

To Make Sugared Rosemary:
Dip fresh rosemary sprigs into a cup with water. Drip off excess and set on a parchment lined baking sheet. Generously sprinkle the wet rosemary sprigs with sugar, flip them over and repeat. Allow to dry for about an hour or more.

If you would like the blood orange cake recipe, please let us know in the comment section.

Giant Red Mustard, Ornamental and Edible

The Dallas Arboretum chose Giant Red Mustard as a signature plant this year. It’s an ideal choice because it fits in with the aesthetics of the garden and the mantra of the Arboretum’s edible landscape, called A Tasteful Place. You see, Giant Red Mustard is an ornamental edible mustard.

The  maroon leaves blended perfectly with plantings of lorapetalum and palms, pansies and cardoon at the entrance to the Arboretum.

All over the grounds, pots were planted with the mustard as an accent. This planting below was especially beautiful with the sabal palm fronds framing it and the frilly chartreuse leaves of Mustard “Mizuna” at the base.

In the Arboretum’s edible garden, a long lane of mustard led your eye to the Dallas skyline. Do you see some of our downtown buildings in the distance?

It wouldn’t have been right to taste the leaves while strolling through the Arboretum; but now that I have bought some of these plants for my garden, I can vouch for their spicy taste.

Here is what Park Seeds says about this Giant Red Mustard:

“At last, a Mustard Green so showy it just may do for this nutritious family what Bright Lights did for Swiss Chard — put it in every garden and on every table of gardeners who love bold colors and fresh flavor in their veggies! Red Giant is a brilliant maroon with deep green midribs, so showy you may just have to plant two crops — one in the veggie patch and one along the walkway or in your annual border!

These leaves are slightly textured for a better bite and good holding power. The flavor is zesty and full, with a good bite that you just can’t find in store-bought mustard greens. Imagine Red Giant flanking your Pansies and cheery Mums in the fall garden, or nestling beside bold Ornamental Cabbage and Kale. Or put it in bright containers for an unforgettable patio or porch display!

And because you pick this mustard leaf by leaf for eating (instead of uprooting the entire plant, as you do for head lettuce), you can enjoy the fine display of color for many weeks! Frost just improves the flavor and color.

Sow seed outdoors in early spring or, for fall crops, 6 to 8 weeks before first fall frost. Space seedlings 1 to 2 inches apart in rows 15 inches apart.”

Giant Red Mustard will be in my garden next year. Will it be in yours?

Ann Lamb

Read about Raincatcher’s edible landscape:

Edible Landscaping, Here’s What You Plant

Orphaned No More-Our Incredible Edible Landscape Project

Learning To Plant Outside The Lines

and don’t forget to plan a trip to the Arboretum for Dallas Blooms February 29-April 12, 2020.

Merry Christmas From The Raincatcher’s Family!

December 21, 2019

Christmas Cactus and National Poinsettia Day

Today being National Poinsettia Day reminded me of  other Christmas flowers, like Christmas cactus and a very good writing by our dear Carolyn Bush.

She is no longer with us but her writings live on! Enjoy!

They may go by many names, but whether you call them Weihnachtskaktus (German), Cactus de Noël (French), Cacto de Navidad  (Spanish), Thanksgiving Cactus (American), Holiday Cactus (US) or even Crab Cactus (referring to the clawed ends of the stem), you can’t go to any garden center or grocery store this time of year without being tempted to buy a Christmas Cactus (Europe/US/Canada).   But just how do you keep them healthy—and, as importantly, get them to bloom again next year.  Like poinsettias, another holiday flower, there’s a trick to that.

What do You Know-This is Actually a Thanksgiving Cactus

What do You Know-This is Actually a Thanksgiving Cactus

According to Clemson Cooperative Extension, Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) are popular, fall- and winter-flowering houseplants native to Brazil, where they grow as epiphytes on tree branches in shady rain forests.  Their flowers are available in a wide variety of colors including red, rose, purple, lavender, peach, orange, cream, and white.

Strangely enough, what we call “Christmas cactus” and find most often in stores starting around November is most likely the Thanksgiving cactus  (Schlumbergera truncata), as it blooms almost a month before Schlumbergera bridgesii.  If you really want to impress your friends with your horticultural knowledge, the way to tell the two apart, according to the Clemson website, is to “look at the shape of the flattened stem segments, which are botanically called phylloclades.  On the Thanksgiving cactus, these stem segments each have 2 to 4 saw-toothed serrations or projections along the margins. The stem margins on the Christmas cactus are more rounded.

A second method to distinguish between these two Schlumbergera species is based on the color of the pollen bearing anthers. The anthers of the Thanksgiving cactus are yellow, whereas the anthers on the Christmas cactus are purplish-brown.”

Since Holiday cactus originated in shady rain forests, it is best to grow them in light shade.  The secret to good repeat flower production involves temperature regulation (do not let the temperature go over 90 degrees once the flower buds appear) and photoperiod (length of day and night) control.  Fourteen hours or more of continuous darkness each day for at least six weeks is required for complete bud set to occur.  Street lights, car lights or indoor lightening can disrupt the required dark period.  My mother, who once grew a Christmas cactus so large and with so many buds that she donated it to a horticultural center when she moved, would put her Christmas cactus in a dark closet every night for six weeks starting in September.

Watering and fertilizing the Christmas cactus is fairly easy.  Though Holiday cactus can tolerate being somewhat under-watered during the summer, once buds appear the soil should remain slightly moist or the buds may drop.  Clemson recommends fertilizing once monthly with a dilute 20-20-20 fertilizer from the time new growth starts in the early spring.  As Holiday cactus have a higher requirement for magnesium, Epsom salts (one teaspoon per gallon of water) can be used also, but not applied at the same time as the other fertilizer.  The plants do best grown in well-drained soil and like being somewhat pot bound.  The most common problem is over-watering which produces root rot.

Christmas cactus is easily propagated by cuttings, so if you are looking for a present to give to your gardening friends, you might try growing them yourself.  However, whether you want to go to all the trouble of getting them to bloom or whether you just want to consider your Christmas cactus as a “holiday annual plant,” go ahead and purchase that beautiful Christmas cactus at the store.  After all, what says “Holiday” to a gardener more than poinsettias and Christmas cactus.

Carolyn Bush

Picture by Starla

Propagation Primer with Master Gardener, Paula Spletter

Scented geraniums in the Edible Landscape before the freeze.

Our five pelargonium beds (scented geraniums) were beautiful. Brushing up against them or gently rubbing a leaf between your fingers, fragrant scents of everything from roses to peach and chocolate mint filled the air. But the weather forecast had prepared us. Below freezing temperatures were only days away and it was time to carefully dig them up for winter protection in our greenhouse.

Propagation class in session.

Paula Spletter to the rescue! Under her helpful guidance, each plant received a severe pruning leaving only one third of the plant intact for its winter location. Then the fun began. Over 200 stem cuttings were taken and repotted in preparation for a spring class at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. Here are Paula’s basic tips for propagating scented geraniums:

Paula Spletter showing us the perfect stem cutting.

  1. Start with a healthy, well-hydrated “mother” plant.
  2. Cut tip-end stems just below two nodes. Each cutting should be about 2” to 3” long.
  3. Cut stems with a sharp, clean paring knife. Make a straight cut across (not at an angle) the stem.
  4. Use a dowel stick or the handle end of the knife to make a hole in the potting soil. (This will help to protect the fragile meristem when inserting.)
  5. Cuttings should be placed into a pot filled with a mixture of loose potting soil and compost.
  6. Label every pot. Sometimes things get accidently moved around and what looks like an old-fashioned rose scented geranium might instead be peach scented.
  7. Water lightly. Monitor the soil while cuttings are in the greenhouse. Pay careful attention to conditions that could affect the health of the plants:

*Temperature in the greenhouse should be 45˚ or higher. A heater is recommended for anything below this number.

*Soil should stay evenly moist; never too wet or completely dried out.

*Extremes in heat, cold, overwatering or underwatering could cause problems with mealy bugs or a fungus. Pay attention and adjust accordingly.

Scented geranium cuttings in our greenhouse labeled and ready for winter.

Watch for an announcement about our 2020 late spring/early summer class on the joys of growing scented geraniums in your garden. A tasting menu will inspire you to get started!

Linda Alexander

Pumpkins on Parade

Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes

Two harvest-season jewels that have become an intrinsic part of classic autumn fare.

“For pottage and puddings and custards and pies,

Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,

We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,

If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon”.

This Pilgrim Verse from sometime around 1633 was the introduction to our pumpkin segment of the ‘Grow and Graze’ program last Tuesday. Seems that our Pilgrim forefathers were just as enchanted with pumpkins as we are today. Susan Thornbury helped us to understand the history and fascination with this much-loved fruit/vegetable.

*The early colonists ate pumpkins because they were available and they badly needed food.

*Pumpkins are Cucurbits, just like cucumbers and summer squash. They need warm soil, plenty of sunshine and regular watering. Additionally, they tend to be large plants that need room to grow.

*Timing is important when it comes to growing pumpkins. Many varieties take 100 days to mature. But even more important is soil temperature. Pumpkins want soil that is warm, but seeds will not come up if the soil is too hot. For our climate, that means the end of May to the first part of June is the ideal time to plant pumpkin seeds. It is advantageous to plant seeds since they sprout easily when their requirements are met.

*Pumpkins will perform best when planted in one to two feet of loose fertile soil with plenty of compost added to the mix. Raised beds are a preferred way to grow pumpkins in our area.

*Squash vine borers can be devasting to a pumpkin crop. Usually appearing in springtime, prevention is the best way to deal with the problem. Check under the leaves often for egg clusters. If found, smash them. Insecticidal soap can be used for prevention but use caution as it can be harmful to bees which are essential for pollinating the flowers.

*When selecting a pumpkin for outdoor decorating look for one that is blemish free with no soft spots or damage to the rind. A bit of stem looks nice and may help the pumpkin to last longer.

*For cooking, select a small 2 to 3-pound pie pumpkin. If purchasing canned pumpkin, look for the cans that say 100% pure pumpkin. Libby pumpkin is made from a variety that the company developed called Dickinson.

Autumn Bisque 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons butter, divided

1 ½ cups chopped onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

¾ cup chopped carrots

¼ cup chopped celery

4 cups chicken broth, divided

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 cup chopped leeks

3 cups fresh or canned pumpkin puree

1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme

Garnish: toasted pumpkin seeds 

Directions

In a large stockpot over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook for 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Add 2 cups chicken broth and simmer for 3 minutes; remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. Pour the broth mixture into a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth; set aside.

In the same stockpot over medium heat, heat the remaining olive oil and butter. Add the mushrooms and leeks and cook for 6 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown.

Add the remaining broth, vegetable-broth puree, pumpkin, coconut milk and red pepper flakes; simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir in the salt, lemon juice and thyme; simmer for 10 minutes. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds, if desired.  

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Black-Eyed Pea-And-Sweet Potato Salad

Ingredients

2 medium-size sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 purple onion, quartered and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

⅓ cup lime juice

½ cup mango chutney

3 (15.8-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Bring potato and water to cover to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook 15 minutes or until potato is tender. Drain and set potato aside.

Sauté onion in hot oil in saucepan over medium heat 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and next 4 ingredients. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir together lime juice and chutney in a large bowl; add potato, onion mixture, peas and remaining ingredients, tossing gently to coat. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Linda Alexander

 

 

Recipes from our last Grow and Graze of 2019, Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes

Harvest Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

Ingredients

1 baking pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 ½-inch -thick slices

¼ cup melted butter

1 ½ teaspoons salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

⅓ cup balsamic vinegar

8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 shallot, minced

6 cups salad greens

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup toasted pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

Place the pumpkin slices 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and garlic powder; evenly coat pumpkin slices with the butter mixture. Roast pumpkin for 20 minutes, or until tender.

Using a food processor, mix together the oil, vinegar, remaining salt, remaining pepper, bacon, and shallot until well blended.

In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with ¾ cup of the vinaigrette. Mound the greens on a serving plate, and top with roasted pumpkin. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the pumpkin, and top with the Parmesan cheese and pecans.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Curried Pumpkin Hummus

 

Ingredients

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, peeled

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon curry

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Garnish: pepitas, (pumpkin seeds), paprika, olive oil, and fresh thyme 

Directions

In the work bowl of a food processor, combine pumpkin, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Pulse until smooth. Add curry, cumin, kosher salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper; pulse to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Garnish with pepitas, paprika, olive oil and thyme, if desired. Serve immediately with toasted naan or pita chips or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  

Yield: Makes 10 servings

Pumpkin Chai Pots de Crème

Ingredients

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup whole milk

¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

6 large egg yolks

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup canned cooked pumpkin

⅓ cup strong brewed chai tea

2 teaspoons grated orange peel or Meyer lemon peel

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pumpkin seed brittle

Directions

Preheat oven to 325˚F (convection not recommended). In a 2-to3-quart pan over medium heat, stir cream, milk, and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, whisk egg yolks until light yellow. Add granulated sugar and whisk until blended. Gradually whisk a fourth of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture. Then slowly whisk in remaining cream mixture and the pumpkin, chai, orange peel, and vanilla.

Divide mixture among six ramekins (¾ cup). Set in a 12- by 16-inch roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Set pan in oven and pour in boiling water to halfway up sides of ramekins.

Bake until custards barely jiggle when gently shaken, 45 to 50 minutes. Lift ramekins out of water and let cool on racks for 30 minutes, then chill until cold, at least 1 hour. Cover when cold.

Shortly before serving garnish with shards of pumpkin seed brittle.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Pumpkin Seed Brittle Recipe

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
1 cup Karo® light corn syrup
2 cups raw, shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp baking soda
Butter for the baking sheets (about 2 tbsp)
Candy thermometer
Directions
Prepare cookie sheets and measure all ingredients before starting to cook. You will not have time to measure ingredients in between steps. Butter two cookie sheets and place on a heat-resistant surface. Combine pepper, cinnamon, salt and baking soda and reserve in a small bowl. Once the sugar mixture is ready, you have to work quickly, so keep these readily accessible. A wooden spoon is best for this recipe.
In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, combine sugar, syrup and pumpkin seeds and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Clip the candy thermometer in place and continue to cook, stirring frequently to keep seeds from burning on the bottom of the pan. Watch carefully when mixture turns light amber and you can smell the sugar starting to caramelize.
When the temperature reaches 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), or a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard and brittle threads, work quickly. Add the spice/baking soda mixture and stir to combine (mixture will foam up). Pour the mixture immediately onto the two cookie sheets, put the pan aside, and spread with the wooden spoon to distribute the seeds and foaming syrup. Continue to spread until the syrup is no longer foaming. Some recipes say to use two forks to further thin and stretch the mixture, or if desired you can wait a few moments for it to cool and use buttered fingers to stretch the candy slightly. Please use caution! This requires perfect timing. Too soon and you’ll burn your fingers. Too late and the candy will already be set, which simply results in a thicker brittle and does not affect the quality of the candy.
When cool, break into pieces and immediately store in an airtight container.

 

Maple Sweet Potato Bread Pudding

Ingredients

1 ½ pounds small sweet potatoes, or 3 large sweet potatoes

5 eggs

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

1 cup maple syrup, plus additional for serving, warmed

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 (1 pound) loaf challah bread, cut into 1 ½- to 2-inch cubes (12 packed cups)

Ice cream or whipped cream

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and bake until tender when pricked with a fork, 50 to 60 minutes. Carefully unwrap the foil and let them stand until they are cool enough to handle. Remove the skins and place the cooked sweet potatoes in a bowl. Mash coarsely using a potato masher. Lower the oven temperature to 375˚F.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Whisk in the cream, milk, the 1 cup maple syrup, the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the sweet potatoes. Add the bread cubes and stir to mix thoroughly. Let stand for 15 minutes for the bread to soak up the liquid, stirring occasionally. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Pour the bread mixture into the dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until the pudding is set in the center, 50 minutes to an hour. Uncover the baking dish and cook until browned on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Serve warm, drizzled with the warm maple syrup and topped with ice cream or whipped cream

Yield: Makes 9 to 12 servings

Linda Alexander

Pictures by Linda and Starla Willis

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