RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Dallas Farm to Table

Paloma Eggplant…Creamy Texture and Slightly Sweet

Paloma Eggplant

Searching through the 2020 spring seed catalogs earlier this year, we found something that caught our eye. Entering into the new year, our garden “theme” had already been announced. The edible landscape would be adorned with the color “white”. From white pansies and alyssum to white carrots and white velvet okra, seeds were ordered and the fun began.

But, still needing that extra touch of white magic, we went back to the catalogs and started flipping through the pages. Almost immediately, we found the answer. A bell-shaped, velvety white eggplant named ‘paloma’ was the perfect solution. As soon as the seeds arrived, they were placed into our seed starting mix of perlite, vermiculite and sphagnum peat moss. After a few months in the greenhouse they were transplanted into several different locations in the edible landscape.

The summer heat seemed to slow down their growth initially but nearing the middle of August, things improved. We continued to keep them evenly moist in their sunny garden beds and waited for the first fruits to appear. And finally, over the past few weeks, we have been blessed with the most adorable little white eggplants you’ve ever seen.

Harvested Paloma Eggplant

Not surprisingly, the best part was yet to come. Anxious to experience the taste profile of our little gems, we tossed around a few recipe ideas for volunteers to try.

The one we chose to share with our readers is a favorite from a ‘Grow and Graze’ event last summer. We hope you enjoy revisiting Raincatcher’s Garden Summer Ratatouille with us.  Paloma’s smaller size makes it perfect to use with other vegetables in the ratatouille.

Linda Alexander

 

A Garden of Lettuce

April 26, 2020

Never in my wildest dreams did I think of growing Wasabi lettuce and that I would enjoy it so much. It has a sharp, wasabi-like taste just perfect when used raw in salads.   I planted it and several other varieties of lettuce in my garden in January after visiting the  Dallas Arboretum and their lovely edible landscape.

Something else I did not foresee was a pandemic with the shut down of our usual freedoms to work, shop, eat in restaurants and everything else we take for granted. I have not been inside a grocery store since early March so this little salad garden at my back door has been comforting to me and I have been able to share salad greens with neighbors and family.

If you would like a garden of fresh lettuce, consider planting some of these varieties next fall. I bought all these packages on the seed rack at Nicholson-Hardie Garden Center.

Left to Right as seen above:

Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce-a glowing, vibrant bright green

Forellenschluss Lettuce-freckled, also known as Speckles Trout Back, said to hold up well in summer heat. (We’ll see how that goes.)

Mustard Hybrid Salad Leaf Miz America-deep dark red color, mild tasting

Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce-crunchy sweet leaves, good texture

New Red Fire Leaf Lettuce- green at the base of the leaf and dark red at the ruffled leaf edge. Also said to be slow to bolt. ( I hope so.)

Mustard Salad Leaf Wasabina-light green serrated leaf with spicy flavor (This one is cold tolerant.)

Ann Lamb

We have almost 600 subscribers to our blog. We appreciate everyone who reads our blog and we care.  Dallas Garden Buzz writers love to study garden topics and we are happy to research the answers to your garden questions. Our horticultural agents will help us with anything we can’t answer. Ask away in our comments section, we are here for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bundles of Love

Our Edible Landscape’s Response to COVID-19

Sheltering in place has been a time of quiet solitude and reflection for me. My precious 91-year-old mother is being cared for by the staff in her memory care facility and I’m not allowed to visit at this time. (We are so grateful for their compassion and the care she receives from each one of them).  Our children and grandchildren send “face time” hugs and kisses but we are missing the warmth of their sweet touch. 

For me, the one familiar and unchanging experience is time spent in the garden. Early in the morning, with clippers in hand and a basket in my arm, the gathering begins. Late winter and into spring we’ve seen record high amounts of rain followed by temperatures dipping into the  30’s then soaring up into the mid 90’s. Somehow, this unusual weather has blessed our plants with the nourishment needed to grow and flourish. The garden has graced with a bounty of flavorful herbs and greens. 

Since the mid l980’s I’ve been smitten with herbs. Growing them is one of my simple pleasures. From sun to part sun, dappled shade to deep shade, over 20 different kinds of herbs make a seasonal appearance in my garden and in the edible landscape at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. A few of the evergreens stay throughout the year while perennials come and go as they choose. Annuals fill in the gaps with seasonal color and interesting flavors.

This year as we started the gentle transition of winter into spring, wonderful things began happening in the garden. Sleepy little lettuce plants opened their heads with delicate green foliage to use in our spring salads. French tarragon, Mexican mint marigold and Italian oregano made a colorful statement from their country of origin. Alliums grew by inches, almost daily. The garden was ready to embrace the season. 

At Raincatcher’s garden and in my garden at home, I’ve been using the harvest of the season to create “bundles of joy” for my family and friends. Always careful to wear gloves and a face mask, if the garden is ready to share, I’m prepared to snip away. Look at each of these three bundles and see if you can identify the herbs and greens in each one. Everything you see is edible!

Did you find nasturtiums, blue borage, rosemary, kale (‘Jagallo Nero’-blue-green frilly leaves with a sweet, tender taste), rosemary, wasabi arugula with white blossoms, dill, thyme and rose scented geranium?

Look for the curly parsley, fennel fronds, spearmint, salad burnet, buttercrunch lettuce and German chamomile blossoms

In this photo you will find cutting celery (looks like Italian flat leaved parsley but has a taste resembling celery), calendula flowers, French sorrel, watercress, oak leaf lettuce and lemon verbena.

Note: These delightful little bundles should be shared with instructions to use soon after harvesting. Remember, leaves don’t like to be under water. So, keep everything fresh and snip from the top down. 

Included are a few favorite recipes but here are some suggestions for using more herbs in your daily meal planning:

Nasturtiums: leaves for pesto and flowers for butter, cookies, jams, salads, and tea sandwiches 

Borage: lovely blue blossoms as a garnish for cakes, salads and syrups

Rosemary: breads, cakes, cookies and soups

Arugula: leaves and blossoms in salads; leaves for pesto

Dill: breads, frittatas and fish

Calendula: flower petals for cornbread, cakes, cookies, quiche 

Scented geraniums: leaves for flavoring sugar, cakes, flowers and leaves for whipped cream

Curly parsley: parsley soup (recipe included), salads

Fennel fronds: salads and soups

Spearmint: tea, lemonade, brownies and in watermelon salad

Salad burnet: creamy dips and salads

German chamomile blossoms: tea and garnish for cakes and cookies, syrups

Cutting celery: creamy dips and young, tender leaves in salads

Marjoram: Italian foods like lasagna and pasta dishes

French sorrel: soups and as a wrap for oven roasted salmon

Watercress: leaves and blossoms for salads

Lemon verbena: breads, cakes, custards, sorbets and in iced tea, water or lemonade

Thyme: butters, soups, cookies and gougers 

Linda Alexander

And now for those recipes:

Parlsey Potato Soup

Lemon Verbena Bread

 

Raincatcher’s Garden Spring 2020

April 2, 2020

Most of us are at home this week and for the next coming weeks.

If you’re itching to walk through a garden, why not take a tour of ours through the eyes of Starla, our photographer who took these pictures last week.

New decomposed granite walkway flanked by beds of  Canyon Creek Abelia, Hamelim Dwarf Fountain Grass, and Texas Sage, “Compactum” (Texas Ranger) Read a full description of this new memorial garden here.

Veggie beds full of turnips (mostly gone), mustard greens (lots), collards (gone), carrots, and onions. Meanwhile Jim, is nursing 6″ pots of tomatoes and peppers for the garden.

Pollination of a blackberry blossom

The color wheel garden with a pretty apricot iris. Jim has repotted 40 zinnias and has 20 more to repot for the color wheel.

Redbud tree in bloom

The rain garden, our unsung hero! It has been channeling rain from our full rain cisterns to this sunken garden.

Garden questions? Send us a question by making a comment.

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

Scented Geraniums, An Olfactory Pleasure

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is hopeful that by June, social distancing and shelter-in-place restrictions will be lifted. However, the health and well-being of our community is, of course, our highest priority. We will review the official guidance from health authorities and our local government, particularly Dallas County, as well as guidance from the Dallas County Master Gardener program, as our June 2nd date gets closer. If you purchase a ticket, you will be notified via email if this event must be postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.Taste of the Garden

 

Scented Pelargoniums (Scented Geraniums)

“An Olfactory Pleasure”

Snowflake geraniums and chocolate geranuims growing in The Raincatcher’s edible landscape

Learn how to bring color, variety and a whole spectrum of fragrances into your life. Following an enlightening talk about growing their aromatic foliage you’ll be treated to a tasting table of flavorful treasures.

Tuesday, June 2nd

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills…11001 Midway Road

Program 10:00 – 11:00am with
Dallas County Master Gardener, Paula Spletter
Free and open to all in the Sanctuary

‘A Taste of the Garden’ 11:15 – 12:15
$10.00 per person in the Community Hall

Reservation Deadline, May 26th

Menu

Rose Geranium Italian Cream Cake with Rose Cream Frosting

Strawberry Rose Geranium Ice Cream

Rose Geranium Buttermilk Pie

Rose Scented Geranium Lemonade

Sign up here and keep up with any news about this event on our blog:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/taste-of-the-garden-scented-pelargoniums-scented-geraniums-tickets-101252956318 

 

Questions? Leave a comment on this blog or contact lindawalexander@sbcglobal.net

Calendulas in My Garden

Above: Calendula in Linda’s garden

There’s a new herbal flower growing in my garden that makes my heart happy. Calendula, sometimes known as pot marigold, signifies sacred affections, joy, grief and remembrance. With such a wide range of emotions, there are countless reasons to include it in your garden landscape design. 

 With hues from golden to apricot, deep yellow and bright orange, calendula flowers are eye-catching in any setting. An early morning walk in the garden will tempt you to take a handful of clippings for a lovely bouquet or gather up the flowers for some edible delicacies. 

Growing calendulas is quite simple. Plant seeds in good garden soil, keeping the ground moist until the plants appear. If planted in late summer or early fall, there’s a good chance that they will produce flowers from spring into summer. Some years it might flower almost year-round.

My calendula plants were put in the ground in mid fall, started blooming in February and are continuing to produce new buds weekly. The flowers are harvested often to use in cut arrangements and for ingredients in butter, cookies, cornbread, quiche and a scrumptious calendula cake. They can also be sprinkled on soups, pasta, rice dishes and salads. The Raincatcher’s volunteers recently sampled calendula quiche. The recipe is given below.

Above: Petals to be eaten!

In the vegetable or herb garden, calendulas encourage pollinators and other beneficial insects. If you’re looking for a plant that flourishes in cooler weather, blooms often and is easy to maintain, give this versatile herb a sunny location in your garden. 


Calendula Quiche

Above: Calendula Quiche surrounded by Calendula Flowers at Raincatcher’s Garden

Ingredients

3 cups loosely packed fresh spinach

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

¼ cup (6 ounces) soft goat cheese, crumbled

½ cup calendula petals (from about 20 flowers)

½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Liberally butter a 9-inch pie pan. 

In a skillet over medium heat, cook spinach in olive oil until the leaves are fully wilted, about 3 minutes. Drain. 

Whisk eggs and cream together. Add goat cheese, calendula petals and salt and whisk again. 

Arrange spinach in the bottom of the prepared pie plate and pour egg mixture over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the custard is set in the center and the top is golden brown.

*Option: If you prefer, follow directions for the ingredients but pour into a prebaked pie crust.

Yield: One 9-inch Quiche

As in true Texas style, we suggest a few drops of Tabasco sauce on each slice for extra zing.

Linda Alexander

Photos by Linda and Starla Willis

Click here to learn how to pronounce Calendula correctly.

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.

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

Sweet Potatoes…Cornerstones of Southern Tradition

Beauregard Sweet Potatoes in Sheila’s Garden

Sheila Kostelny led the sweet potato segment of the panel discussion, sharing some insightful information about what many consider to be one of the world’s most nutritious vegetables.

*We have Christopher Columbus to thank for discovering the sweet potato on one of his voyages to the West Indies. He was so impressed that upon his return to Spain, he brought some back to Queen Isabella. Later explorers found sweet potatoes growing in much of Central and South America. Most historians think the sweet potato arrived in the U.S. after Columbus, as a result of trading between the early American settlers and the West Indians.

*The sweet potato belongs to the Morning Glory Family (Convolvulaceae). Its scientific name is Ipomoea batatas.

*The yam belongs to the Yam Family (Dioscoreaceae). Its scientific name is Dioscorea Species.

*The confusion between sweet potatoes and yams started when early slaves mistook the sweet potato for a yam (which is grown in Africa). It wasn’t long before sweet potatoes were commonly referred to as yams, especially in the South. Yams are rarely found in American markets. (*Fortunately, we did find yams from Costa Rico a few weeks ago at our local Walmart).

*Many supermarkets use the terms sweet potato and yams interchangeably.

*All crops grown in the U.S. are sweet potatoes with the largest crop grown in North Carolina. Yams are imported from the Caribbean but are difficult to find.

*Other than being from two different plant families, the sweet potato is a storage root and the yam is a tuber. Other differentiating characteristics:

Sweet potato: smooth, with thin skin. Short, blocky shape with a moist, sweet flavor. High in beta carotene (Vitamin A). Propagated by transplanted or vine cuttings with a 3 to 5 month growing season.

Yam: long and cylindrical with a dry and starchy taste. Low in beta carotene. Propagated by tuber pieces with a 6 to 12 month growing season.

*Growing sweet potatoes:

Purchase sweet potatoes for cuttings or slips from local nurseries in late spring. Allow the cuts to scar for a few days and, as with regular potatoes, include 3 or 4 eyes, if not sprouted. Plant the slips or cuttings deep, with at least 3 nodes below ground or 3 to 4” deep and 12 to 16 inches apart.

It’s also fun to try the “second-grade” sweet potato vine method, which is to root a sweet potato suspended in water using toothpicks.

Unlike most vegetable crops, sweet potatoes do not do better with high levels of organic matter. They need loose soil with good drainage…raised beds are ideal. Sweet potatoes are fairly drought tolerant but do appreciate moist soil.

Sweet potatoes demand warm growing conditions. Do not plant until all possibility of frost has passed. As soon as the soil temperature is at least 60˚F, plant 2 inches below the surface. They need at least 8 hours of sun each day for maximum yield.

Ideally, incorporate 1 pound per 100 sf of bed with a complete lawn or garden fertilizer or an organic fertilizer, per instructions, to the soil before planting. Ideal ph is 5.5 to 6.5.

Harvesting:

Generally ready in 90 to 110-120 days. Peak harvest season being October to December. Some say a light frost will sweeten the taste. Harvest before a hard frost.

Sweet potatoes don’t actually mature but are dug when they reach a usable size. Dig very carefully in dry soil. (They may be kept in the ground to continue sizing but should be dug up before the soil temperatures drops below 50˚F to prevent chill injury).

Cut the roots away from the spuds and allow them to dry for 3 to 4 hours in the shade before placing in a warm, humid area to cure for at least 2 weeks, which turns their starches to sugar.

Ideal curing temperature is 80˚-85˚F with 85 to 90% humidity.

Proper Storage:

Ideal storage temperature is 55˚ to 60˚F in darkness with moderate humidity. The average storage life is 4 to 6 months. Allow good air circulation.

Recommended varieties for our area (Zone 8):

Beauregard (perhaps the world’s most popular sweet potato…favored for high yields of uniform, reddish potatoes with tasty, deep-orange flesh that keeps well in storage. Developed at Louisiana State University in 1987), Centennial and Jewel.

Sweet potatoes are not only a nutritious and tasty vegetable, the skin and flesh are excellent sources of fiber. And, this very versatile vegetable, along with the turkey, makes our Thanksgiving feast complete.

Here’s one of our favorite sweet potato recipes to get us started after our recent Grow and Graze event-Pumpkins on Parade, Sweet Potatoes for Adornment.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

 

Ingredients:

2 packages active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (105˚ to 115˚)

1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato

½ cup shortening

½ cup sugar

1 egg

1 ½ teaspoons salt

5 ¼ to 5 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup butter, softened

Directions:

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large mixing bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add sweet potato, shortening, sugar, egg, and salt; beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until thoroughly blended. Gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.

 

  1. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

 

  1. Punch dough down, and divide into 3 equal parts. Roll each into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface; spread each circle with 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter. Cut each circle into 12 wedges; roll up each wedge, beginning at wide end. Place on lightly greased baking sheets, point side down, curving slightly to form a crescent.
  2. Cover crescent rolls and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 30 to 45 minutes or until rolls are doubled in bulk. Bake at 400˚ 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown.

Yield: 3 dozen

More recipes coming!

Linda Alexander

 

 

%d bloggers like this: