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Tag Archives: growing grapes in Texas

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!

 

A Walk Around The Garden

June 18, 2019

When you’ve worked in a garden, something happens to you. You begin to pay more attention to the rain, the temperature and sunshine and how it affects your plot of land.

You peer down at the soil looking for signs of life. Have your squash seeds sprouted? Are the beans going to climb up that trellis?

Some plantings have flourished and are bearing fruit, others have  peaked and need tender loving care.

What I am saying is-you are now emotionally involved with a garden plot and it makes it very hard to leave town.

That is the state I am in and so yesterday I walked through our gardens and took these pictures.

Above: Garden trellis made of irrigation tubing. Long beans will grow here and other vining crops.

Above: the grape vines seem to be glowing

Above: Poblano Green Pepper

Above: Blue on blue-sage and vitex in our butterfly garden.

Above: Should be a good fig harvest this year!

Above: The color wheel

Above: a view of our grass plots-looking mighty fine!

Above: Horsemint in front of our Redbud Tree

Ann Lamb

If you would like to learn more about herbs of the Mediterranean, come to our garden lecture by Marian Buchanan on Tuesday, June 25th at 10-11:00 am. Class will be held in the church sanctuary.

The lunch following the lecture has been sold out. No reservations required for the lecture. Just come! All welcome.

Location: 11001 Midway Road, Midway Hills Christian Church

(Master Gardeners earn two CEU’s)

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Greek Vegan Domaldes Recipe

Judy and Yaiyia (Toney) discussing grape leaves at The Raincatcher’s Garden

You remember Yiayia aka Toney Davrados.  Yiayia is Greek for Grandmother and as any Greek Grandma would-she showed us how to make dolmades at our fabulous July  Grape Lecture and Lunch Event.

Now she has offered us the vegan version:

Yiayia’s Greek Dolmades Vegan Style

*Stuffed Grape Leaves with Rice and Herbs

Stuffed Grape Leaves (Greek Dolmades) are often served as part of a mezé (appetizer) plate.  Too often they come from a can and are not fresh. Fresh Greek Dolmades are far superior to the canned.  These can either be a main dish or an appetizer, depending on your appetite. These small bundles of rice and herbs wrapped in grape leaves are a favorite dish in Greece.

Toney surverys our grape leaves to show us leaves that are smooth on the back make better dolmades.

If you have never tried fresh Greek Dolmades, now is the time. They are very easy to make and so delicious!

*Fresh vine leaves: Blanch tender vine leaves for 2-3 seconds in boiling, salted water. Remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl full of very cold water. Place in  colander to drain off water. Use a small sharp knife to remove any stems or tough veins they may have.

*When using bottled Grape Leaves:  To prepare bottled grape leaves, rinse well under cold water to remove the brine.  Place them in a colander (back side up) to drain and hold until ready to use

Ingredients

  • 60-70 tender vine leaves
  • 2 bunches fresh green onions, sliced in to very thin rounds
  • 1 large onion or 2 smaller ones, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch dill, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch mint, finely chopped
  • grated zest of 2 lemons
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • juice from 1 1/2 – 2 lemons

Preparing  filling:

Place a pan over medium to high heat.

Add the green onion, onion and garlic along with ½ the olive oil .

Sauté for 10-15 minutes, until they soften, caramelize nicely and shrink in volume.

Add the rice and sauté for 2-5 minutes.

Add the 1 ½ cup water and stir. Lower heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the rice soaks up the water.

When ready, remove from heat and set it aside to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Add the parsley, dill, mint, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To assemble:

Spread 4-5 vine leaves, and lemon juice on the bottom of a 22 cm pot. Use any ripped or broken vine leaves.

Place a vine leaf in the palm of your hand or on a cutting board (veins facing up and shiny side down).

Add 1 tablespoon of filling in the center, fold the sides of the vine leaf inward and roll to complete. Review the process here.

Transfer to the pot, placing the stuffed vine leaves in a row, one next to the other.

Repeat the same process for all the vine leaves.

When the first layer has been added, continue with a second and third, if needed until they are all done.

Add the remaining olive oil, and cover the stuffed vine leaves with a plate. This is done so that they don’t fall apart while cooking.

Add the warm or hot water, until they are completely covered.

Simmer for about 40-50 minutes until the rice is done and the vine leaves are tender.

When ready, remove from heat and set them aside to cool in the pot.

Let them cool for a bit, in the pot. They can be served warm or cold and should be enjoyed all on their own!

*Perfect sauce for dolmades

Serve the stuffed vine leaves with yogurt, dill, mint, olive oil and freshly ground pepper.

  • 8oz Yiayia’s Greek strained yogurt
  • 1tsp dill finely chopped
  • 1tsp mint finely chopped
  • 1tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh ground pepper

Linda Alexander and Ann Lamb

Video by Starla Willis

Grape Harvest at The Raincatcher’s Garden

Our Fig Luncheon on Tuesday, August 7th is sold out but we have plenty of room if you would like to join us for Jeff’s Fig Lecture.

 

Champanel Grapes Harvested at The Raincatcher’s Garden, summer 2018

Jim’s grape notes:
33 lbs. of grapes were picked last Tuesday, July 31st. Previous week’s harvest was 16 lbs.   The ripe grapes were juiced providing enough for 5 batches of jelly. That should make about 40- ½pints of jelly. We have been wanting grapes, well… we are getting grapes now!

Thank you, Jim Dempsey and everyone who picked the grapes!

 

We ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’

Champanel grapes growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

He may not have been Marvin Gaye, but our own Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, had us humming along during his presentation on growing grapes.  A bit of Texas history got us started.

Grape cuttings were first brought to Texas by Franciscan Monks to establish a vineyard in the 1660’s, predating California by almost a century.  The first vineyard in Texas was established near present day El Paso and stayed a viable producer until the early 20th century.

And it was a Texan, viticulturist Thomas Volney Munson, who literally saved the European wine industry when he grafted native American grape rootstocks (resistant to the phylloxera-aphid) to standard European grape scions that brought the industry back from the brink of collapse.

Grapes fall into two categories:

Citis vinifera – a European type grape typically used for wine, table and jams that has a high Brix unit ratio and a thin skin.  Recommended varieties for Texas include Champanel, Lomanto, Herbemont and Lake Emerald.

Muscadinia (Vitis) rotundifolia – a grape that is native to the Americas and thrives in more acidic soils. They are naturally resistant to many diseases and their genetic material saved the vinifera species. Recommended varieties include Carlos, Nesbitt, Tara and Triumph.

To grow grapes, take note:

  • Grape vines need well drained soil and a full day of sun.
  • Vineyards should be planted on high ground to help survive late spring frosts.
  • Good fruit production requires consistent pruning.

For more information Jeff recommends, “Growing Grapes in Texas” by Jim Kamas.

We also learned that grape leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services lists grape leaves as a healthy choice for your shopping list. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/healthieryou/html/shopping_list.html

Immediately following Jeff’s talk we had the privilege of hearing another special presenter; Toney Davrados. With her rich Greek heritage, culinary skills as a trained chef, and love of gardening and growing her own ingredients, we were mesmerized by her demonstration the art of making dolmas.

Toney’s dolma demonstration

Some helpful tips shared by Toney;

Good dolmas need good leaves. Here’s what to look for; leaves with a smooth underside (hairy or fuzzy leaves are tough and not well-suited for dolmas). You can also purchase grape leaves bottled in brine at a gourmet or international grocery store.

Larger leaves are better – about 4 to 5 inches across. This size makes for easier folding.

Toney folding grapes leaves for dolmas.

Prepare leaves one of two ways:

Immediate use; boil 2 cups water with a heaping tablespoon salt. Toss in leaves for about 2 minutes. (Do no more than 3 or 4 at a time). Leaves are ready as soon as the color changes from bright green to olive green. Remove promptly. Leaves are now ready to use.

Future use: wash leaves, dry thoroughly, cut stems off and stack. Put stacks in zip-lock baggies, press out air and freeze. Wait one month for leaves to ‘cure’ before using.

Hope you enjoy the recipes as much as we enjoyed a delightful lunch experience. A heartfelt thanks to our presenters for sharing your wisdom and expertise. Recipes below.

The grand finale:
Frosted Grapes,
Toney’s Dolmas
(filled with ground sirloin, rice, parsley and special seasonings),
Watermelon and Radish Salad
Yogurt and Berries Dessert Parfait

Click here for Toney’s Dolmas Recipe

Watermelon Radish Salad

Ingredients

6 cups watermelon, cut into bite-sized chunks

2 cups thinly sliced and halved radishes

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

¼ cup chopped basil

¼ cup chopped mint

¼ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (approximately 2 limes)

Directions

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well, serve chilled.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Frosted Grapes

If you’re a grape grower, try this quick and easy summertime refresher as an appetizer or as a light finish to the evening meal.

Ingredients

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup sugar

4 ounces sour cream

2 pounds seedless grapes, red, green or a mixture

Brown sugar (start with about 2 heaping tablespoons)

Chopped nuts (start with about 1 ½ cups)

Directions

Mix cream cheese, sugar and sour cream together until smooth. Toss grapes in mixture until “frosted”. Combine brown sugar and nuts. Roll grapes in mixture until coated. Chill until ready to serve.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Peach and Berry Parfaits

For breakfast or dessert.

Ingredients

12 ounces Greek yogurt

2 cups granola*

1 pint fresh blueberries

4 peaches, peeled and chopped into small pieces

Texas Clover Honey, to taste

Directions

Layer in parfait cups in the following order;

Yogurt, drizzle of honey, granola, peaches, berries. Repeat, as desired.

*For a dessert option, use Fresh Peach Pound Cake (crumbled).

Toney Davrados sells her products:  dolmas, Greek yogurt, spanakopitas and more on Saturday mornings, April through October at the St. Michael’s Farmers Market, 8100 Douglas Avenue. Arrive early as the products sell out quickly.
Lisa Centala and Linda Alexander
Pictures by Starla Willis

 

 

 

 

 

Recipes from the July Master Gardener Meeting

 

Update on the July 24th Grape Balls of Fire event-we will be indoors, it’s too hot to be outside in our garden and reservation deadline has been extended to Sunday, July 22,2018.

https://dallasgardenbuzz.com/2018/07/16/whats-happening-at-raincatchers/

And now here are the recipes:

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

Ingredients

½ cup cream cheese

½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

12 jalapeño peppers, halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed

12 slices bacon

Directions

Preheat oven to 400˚F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Mix cream cheese and Cheddar cheese together in a bowl until evenly blended.  Fill each jalapeño half with the cheese mixture.  Put halves back together and wrap each stuffed pepper with a slice of bacon.  Arrange bacon-wrapped peppers on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until bacon is crispy, about 15 minutes.

Tomato & Basil Soup

adapted from Cold Soups, by Linda Ziedrich

volume = 1.75 c

1 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 med onion, chopped

1 pound tomatoes, cut into chunks

1/2 cup basil leaves, packed loosely

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1.5 tsp balsamic vinegar

Heat 1 Tbsp oil, add the onion, and sauté over medium heat until soft.

Add the tomatoes, and cook until the tomatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.

Put the remaining 2 Tbsp oil, basil, garlic and vinegar in blender and blend.  Add the tomato mixture to the mixture in the blender.  Blend until smooth.

Chill and serve.

*For a fun presentation, cut off the tops of a Campari tomato and scoop out the insides.  Fill with soup and garnish with a basil leaf.

Strawberry Balsamic Popsicles

adapted from Perfect Pops by Charity Ferreira

volume 1 cup

1/2 pound diced strawberries (1/2” dice) – about 1.5 c after hulling

2 T sugar (white, granulated)

1 t balsamic vinegar

black pepper

Pulse the strawberries and sugar in a food processor to get a fine chop – juicy, but chunky

Add the vinegar and a few grinds of pepper (a coarser grind gives you a more pronounced bite)

Let the mixture sit out a bit, say 30 minutes, to allow strawberry juice to accumulate

Stir, pour into molds and freeze

*Using the mini-ice cube molds (they hold 2 tsp each), the above recipe will make 24 popsicles.

Cinnamon Basil Polenta Cookies

Ingredients

½ cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground

¾ cup bleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of coarse salt

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons (packed) whole cinnamon basil leaves

½ cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons half-and-half or cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar to garnish (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Whisk together cornmeal, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; set aside. In a food processor or blender, whiz cinnamon basil leaves and sugar until leaves are finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl; add butter and vegetable shortening. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides with a spatula and add egg yolk, half-and-half and vanilla; beat until combined well. With mixer running, slowly add flour mixture until combined.

Scoop out heaping teaspoons of dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets, placing them 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until golden. Remove to racks and let cool; dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving or storing, if desired. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 3 Dozen Cookies

 

 

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