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Bluebonnets at The Raincatcher’s Garden

April 9, 2019

Bluebonnets are blooming once again along Midway.

Bluebonnet close up

In the fall we sowed more wildflower seeds, hoping for their return.

Bluebonnets at The Raincatcher’s Garden

It’s a good year to head out on country roads outside of Dallas to see bluebonnets. Here’s a great website that gives an update on the blooms in Ennis: https://www.visitennis.org

We have written many times about bluebonnets so before you go in search of them read:

Itching in the Bluebonnet Field

Wildflowers at the Farm

Bluebonnets in Texas 2014

And now would you please get your calendar ready for these dates:

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL

Thursday, April 25th – Plant sale and DCMGA monthly meeting.

Tuesday, April 30th, 11am-  ‘Planting the Edible Landscape – the Spring/Summer Collection” with Linda and Ana to share the plants chosen and the reason behind the choices. Class and tour to be provided.

Tuesday May 7th, 9-11am Turf talk and demonstration by Stephen Hudkins.
 
Saturday May 25th 9-11am Grapevine Canopy Management Pruning by Michael Cook
 
Grow and Graze Events:
 

June 25th… Herbs of the Mediterranean (Please note the new date!)

August 27th… Corn, the Golden Essence of Summer, and Okra, a Garden Giant

October 22nd …Seasonal Splendor, Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes

Grow and Graze reservations will be posted approximately one month before the event.
 
Ann Lamb
Pictures by Starla Willis

 

 

Dandelions are Edible

April 7, 2019

Do you consider dandelions a weed? If so, here’s some nutritional information that might encourage you to grow and harvest dandelions plants in your garden or yard.

Italiko Rosso is the variety we selected for our garden. Notice the bold red stems and midribs which contrast beautifully with the forest green leaves.

Dandelion takes it name from the French dent de lion or “tooth of the lion.” A close look at the deeply indented leaf structure tells you why.

Both dandelion flowers and leaves are a surprising source of nutrients. Dandelion greens contain vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamin, riboflavin, beta carotene and fiber. Some consider dandelions to be a nearly perfect food.

For culinary purposes, the younger the better. Fresh dandelion flowers have a sweet honeylike taste. The greens are commonly used in salads, and the root makes a cleansing and detoxifying diuretic tea.

Dandelions are by nature a very bitter green, but there are some steps to help reduce the bitterness.

First, grow a less bitter variety such as one of the more “gourmet” types: French Dandelion a.k.a Vert de Montmagny, Ameliore a Coeur Plein Dandelion, Improved Broad Leaved Dandelion or Arlington Dandelion.

Second, harvest early. Young leaves are less bitter than more mature leaves.

Third, brine leaves before steaming. This helps remove some of the bitterness. For a short demonstration on cooking dandelion leaves, see the YouTube video featuring P. Allen Smith.

Dandelions are a perennial. After you harvest the plant it will grow back the same season, year after year.

Linda Alexander

Click here to review our dandelion salad recipe. It was a featured salad, cooked to order at our last Grow and Graze luncheon.

Fresh dandelion greens can also be purchased in some grocery stores. Locally, places like Central Market, Sprouts and Whole Foods stock them on a seasonal basis.

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Grow and Graze Salad Garden Recipes II

 

See and taste The Grow and Graze Centerpiece of salad greens and to the left is our table-top appetizer featuring the peppery taste of Wasabi Arugula.

“Kick Up the Heat” Spread

Ingredients

¼ cup Wasabi Arugula, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup sour cream

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, optional

Dash of sea salt

Assorted crackers

Directions

In a medium bowl, whip all ingredients together until smooth. Spread over crackers. Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few days.

Beth cooking dandelion salad for our guests.

Dandelion Salad

Ingredients

6 ounces young dandelion leaves, tough stems and base ends removed*

2 tablespoons blanched hazelnuts (filberts), coarsely chopped (optional)

3 ounces thick-cut sliced slab bacon, cut crosswise into pieces ½ inch wide

1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground coarse pepper to taste

Directions

Pick over the dandelion leaves, tearing the larger ones in half. Place in a wooden salad bowl. Add the hazelnuts, if using.

In a small frying pan over high heat, fry the bacon until crisp and its fat has been rendered, about 1 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the bowl holding the dandelions, leaving the fat in the pan.

Return the pan to high heat, add the vinegar, and swirl the pan or stir with a wooden spoon to pick up the sediment on the bottom.

Pour in as much additional oil as will be necessary to dress the salad, swirl once to heat a little, and then pour the contents of the pan over the salad. Season with salt and pepper, toss, and serve immediately.

Yield: Serves 6

*If dandelion leaves are not available, the outer dark green leaves of curly endive or spinach may be substituted.

After tasting a smorgasbord of color, flavors, shapes and textures, attendees indulged their sweet tooth with a few garden-inspired desserts:

Blue Ribbon Carrot Cake and Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

Blue Ribbon Carrot Cake

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 eggs, well beaten

¾ cup vegetable oil

¾ cup buttermilk

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

2 cups grated carrots

1 (3 ½-ounce) can flaked coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts

Buttermilk Glaze

Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting

Directions

Combine flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

Combine eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Stir in flour mixture, pineapple, carrots, coconut, and chopped walnuts.  Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

Bake at 350˚F for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Immediately spread Buttermilk Glaze evenly over layers.  Cool in pans 15 minutes; remove from pans, and let cool completely.

Spread Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and side of cake.  Store cake in refrigerator.

Yield:  One 2-layer cake

Buttermilk Glaze

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon soda

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup butter

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Combine sugar, soda, buttermilk, butter, and corn syrup in a Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil; cook 4 minutes, stirring often.  Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.  Yield: about 1 ½ cups.

Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

½ cup butter, softened

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

1 teaspoon orange juice

Directions

Combine butter and cream cheese, beating until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla, powdered sugar, rind, and juice; beat until smooth.  Yield:  enough for one 2-layer cake.

Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

For the cake

2 medium beets, unpeeled but trimmed of their greens

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

6 ounces (¾ cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans

1 cup packed brown sugar

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans

⅔ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

For the frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons finely grated beets, mashed with a fork

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod

1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt

Directions

Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven.  Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Thoroughly wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves, leaving about ½ inch of stem.  Place clean beets in a piece of foil.  Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil.  Seal up foil.  Place on a baking sheet in the oven.  Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.

Remove the beets from the oven.  Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely.  Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.

Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane.  Measure ¾ cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting.  Set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚.  Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans.  Trace a piece of parchment paper so it is the same size as the bottom of the cake pan.  Cut it out and place inside the cake pan.  Butter the parchment paper.  Add a dusting of flour to coat the pan.  Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars.  Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture.  Beating on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk.  Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients.  Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated.  Try not to overmix the batter.  Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients.  Cake batter will be on the thick side…not pourable.

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.  Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30 to 32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan).  Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.

To make the frosting

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth.  Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the beets.  Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt.  Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky   Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.

To assemble the cake

Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate.  Top with a generous amount of pink frosting.  Spread evenly.  Place the other cake on top of the frosting.  Top with frosting.  Work frosting onto the sides of the cake.  You will have extra frosting left over.  Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make cake easier to slice).  Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

Yield:  Makes one 8 or 9-inch layer cake

Linda Alexander

Pictures by Starla Willis and Linda Alexander

 

 

 

Grow and Graze, Lecture and Lunch March 19

March 19, 2019

Tatsoi seeds were sown in January. Look at it now!

Have you ever grown Tatsoi? If not, you may want to give it a try. Our Salad Gardens class on March 19th will introduce you to this sassy little Asian green that delivers a unique flavor experience. Following the class, join us for lunch at the salad garden buffet where Tatsoi will be one of our “featured” greens.

After lunch, take a stroll through our edible landscape where you’ll find Tatsoi growing in abundance around the bay laurel tree. Our volunteers have become big fans of this small, spoon-shaped green that can be succession planted from spring through fall. We’re now referring to it as one of our edible garden “super stars”.

The sign up deadline for our Grow and Graze lunch on March 19 has been extended to March 15th. Please sign up here on eventbrite. We have 10 or so reservations for the lunch available but will need all reservations by March 15.

Mustard greens, sorrel, swiss chard, kale and parsley grown in The Edible Landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden

(Reservations are not needed if you plan to attend the class only.)

Linda Alexander

Grow and Graze with Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

Salad Gardens

Did you know that “salads” have been a part of humankind’s diet for thousands of years? Even the ancient Greeks and Romans made lettuces a part of their daily meals. Learn how to raise healthy, nutritious food that can be picked and eaten at its peak of flavor.

Tuesday, March 19th, 10:00 – 11:30am

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills * 11001 Midway Road

Instructor: Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

The class is free – no reservation required. The public is welcome, and Master Gardeners earn a one-hour education credit.

Immediately following Jeff’s presentation in the church sanctuary, you are invited to join us in the Community Hall for a …

Salad Bar Smorgasbord of Garden Delights

Choose from an array of textures, shapes, colors and flavors even Peter Rabbit would envy. Use your imagination to create your very own culinary masterpiece. Toss your creation with an assortment of dressings, crunchy vegetables and a few surprise toppings.

Garden Salad with Caramelized Almonds and Mandarin Oranges

Mixed Green Salad with Nasturtiums and Raspberry Vinaigrette

Fresh Spinach and Tatsoi Salad with Orange Curry Dressing

Orange Fennel Watercress Salad

Creamy Leek and Sorrel Soup

“Jump in” and finish your feast with a chomping delicious piece of Chocolate Beet Cake or that sneaky little rabbit’s ultimate pleasure…Blue Ribbon Carrot Cake

Lunch reservations must be received by Tuesday, March 12

$15 person, limited to 60

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/salad-gardens-tasting-luncheon-tickets-56498368140

Future 2019 classes, no reservations yet but you can save these dates on your calendar:

June 18th… Herbs of the Mediterranean

August 27th… Corn, the Golden Essence of Summer, and Okra, a Garden Giant

October 22nd …Seasonal Splendor, Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes

 

2019 Raincatcher’s Classes

Grapes growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

 

We have three more events scheduled and more coming:

Saturday,February 16th, 10am-noon Grape Pruning and Growing class with Michael Cook, Viticulture Extension Program Specialist for North Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Michael Cook, Viticulture Program Specialist – North Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has been consulting with Raincatcher’s to maximize production on our two grape varieties in the vineyard. We planted ‘Carlos’ Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) and Champanel, (Vitis champini X Worden), an American hybrid, almost four years ago. All that hard work paid off last summer, when we harvested well over 50 lbs of grapes. Michael will demonstrating proper pruning and training techniques for the backyard grower and provide advice on how to care for grapevines throughout the growing season for a successful crop. The class is free and open to all! Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is a demonstration garden and project of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Dallas County Master Gardeners located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church. To find the class, please park in the west or north parking lots and come to the shade pavilion in the north garden.

Tuesday, March 26th,  10:30 am Growing vegetables in the home garden, Jeff Raska.

Thursday, April 25th – Plant sale and DCMGA monthly meeting

Details will follow and we hope to add more classes to the list soon.

All of the above classes qualify for CEU credits for Master Garderners.

All members of the public are invited.

Questions? Send us a comment.

For more education opportunities, check our Master Gardener website.

Ann Lamb

Picture by Starla Willis

 

 

 

 

 

When and Why To Plant Trees

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and second best time is now.” ​ A Chinese Proverb

We live within an urban forest in Dallas County that comes from the natural topography and citizens who have planted trees around neighborhoods. Our urban forest is very important to our well-being and environmental health. Pavement and buildings cause a “heat island effect” which increases radiant heat within the city. Trees provides shade that helps mitigate this effect by reducing temperatures as well as absorbing pollution and decrease storm water run-off.

According to a University of Washington study, one tree that is 32 feet high can catch up to 327 gallons of water, and smog levels are reduced up to 6%. Oncor provides a tree-planting guide for selecting the right tree for the right location. Even though it is heart-breaking to see so many trees cut down or sculpted, we do understand the need for safety and our own need for reliable electrical service. Click here for the free guide.

Dallas County Master Gardeners have planted a border at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway, that we call the Under-the-Power-Lines garden. We planted tree specimens that fall into the “low” category, staying under 20 feet tall. If you’re considering a low tree for a location near power lines, check out our border to see how the trees might look in your own landscape. Most of ours were planted around 3.5 years ago, including Mexican Plum, Possumhaw Holly, Texas Mountain Laurel, Mexican Buckeye and Royal Purple Smoke Tree (a favorite of ours that isn’t on Oncor’s list). Vitex is another good option, and we have a specimen near our Shade Pavilion. It blooms in summer with big purple spikes and can grow as a large shrub or small tree.

 

You can find this garden border on the north side of the Midway Hills Christian Church campus along the parking lot. The Dallas County Master Gardeners program is run by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Dallas County Master Gardeners encourage our citizens to plant a tree. Go to the following link which will help you select the right tree for your space, and planting instructions. http://texastreeplanting.tamu.edu/

Zandra Farris

Pictures courtesy of  https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/ornamentals/natives/GALLERYINDEX1.HTM except our own Vitex picture.


Tree Selection and Planting Class

Tuesday, February 5th
10am until noon
Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX

Community Hall and North Garden

Winter is a good time to establish new trees in your landscape. Tom Wilten will speak on selecting the right tree for the right location here in North Texas and teach how to plant and care for your tree with the confidence that it will provide many years of enjoyment.  Following the class in the Community Hall, you’re invited out to the north garden for an optional tour to see the Raincatcher’s tree demonstrations, including both shade trees and ornamental trees appropriate (and recommended by Oncor) for planting under power lines. The class is free and all are welcome!

Speaker, Tom Wilten, is a Dallas County Master Gardener and practicing general dentist who has maintained a long time interest in plants and horticulture. He loves to watch plants grow, and many of the trees in his large home landscape were propagated from cuttings. He has served as a past president of First Men’s Garden Club of Dallas, Texas, and as a national director and regional president in the parent organization. His original articles on various aspects of horticulture have been published in a national club’s magazine. Always an informative and entertaining speaker, Raincatcher’s is pleased to welcome Tom to the garden.

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is a demonstration garden and project of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Dallas County Master Gardeners located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church. To find the class, please park in the west parking lot and come through the courtyard to the south building.  

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