RSS Feed

Tag Archives: The Raincatcher’s Garden

Grape Harvest

I have always heard that grapes are the most labor intensive crop because of pruning.  And that is true.  But it is also rewarding to have producing grapes and to join the ranks of countless farmers who have enjoyed and drunk the fruits of their labor for thousands of years.  Master Gardeners at The Raincatcher’s Garden began their orchard with Champanel and Carlos grapes in 2015.

Champanel Grapes growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

In mid-July Jon Maxwell and the Master Gardener 2020 interns picked 2 buckets of champanel grapes. Jim Dempsey (and lovely wife, Martha) took on the job of juicing the grapes and jelly-making.

See the beautiful product below.

 

Later this year we hope to sell grape jelly to raise funds for the maintenance of our garden.  Raincatcher’s exists to teach and demonstrate good horticultural practices for North Texas gardeners. We have hosted several grape classes and events and plan to begin classes again when it is safe to do so and in accordance with the city of Dallas guidelines.

Until then, here’s more reading on grapes:

Dallas Garden Buzz gives a short history of grapes, with how-to grow them and use them in making dolmas and 3 more “grape” recipes.  We heard it through the grapevine

Grape variety profile from Texas AgriLife ExtensionChampanel Grapes

Denton County MG’s promote viticultureGrowing Grapes-Viticulture in your Backyard

Dallas Morning News Article advising grapes  provide excellent shade when grown on an arbor and provide the fruit we are all after. Growing Grapes in your Backyard, is not an Indulgent Fantasy

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

 

Amaranth

Hopi Red Dye Amaranth Growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

The leaves of Hopi Red Dye Amaranth are edible and the plant is commercially grown in southeast Asia and India for this purpose.  I haven’t eaten the leaves but was told by a neighbor that in India the leaves are quickly cooked in a hot pan with garlic and chilies and are delicious.

The tiny seeds are also edible and are often part of ancient grains mixtures.  The seeds have to be separated from the flower petals which is harder than it sounds.  The high price of amaranth products is justified!  When just a few plants are grown, which is usually the case since they are huge, one could try popping the seeds in a hot dry skillet and using them for a snack or for salad topping. This has been my plan for a long time; this may be the year!

Close Up View of the Beautiful Amaranth Seeds

Amaranth were once very common plants and should be again.  They are not difficult to grow and add that touch of drama every garden needs.

I will be glad to share seeds just come and ask. You can usually find me at The Raincatcher’s Garden in the butterfly habitat on Tuesday mornings. The seeds should be ready to share in a month or so.

Susan Thornbury
Pictures by Starla Willis

Cinnamon Basil in My Driveway

Most of the instructions for growing cinnamon basil in your garden mention things like, dig a generous amount of compost or well-rotted manure into the soil before planting. Other sources suggest that it prefers rich, loamy soil.

Cinnamon Basil thriving in Linda’s gravel drive

That leaves me somewhat perplexed. For the fifth year in a row, a patch of robust, healthy cinnamon basil plants are once again growing in our gravel driveway. And, it continues to multiply with each passing year.

If you happen to be intrigued, here a few things to know about this very aromatic and easy-to-grow herb that has much to offer.

Cinnamon Basil is from the mint family, Lamiaceaea. Its slightly serrated, dark green, shiny leaves with reddish-purple veins can resemble certain types of mint. Cinnamon basil plants contain cinnamate, a compound that gives the herb its spicy aroma and cinnamon-like flavor.

If left alone, cinnamon basil will surprise you with its true beauty. From July to late September, lavender spiked blooms are in full display creating a picture-perfect experience not to be missed. But if you feel inclined to grow full, bushier plants, snip the tips as soon as they appear any time during the growing season. Expect your plants to eventually reach about three feet.

Cinnamon basil will thrive in well-drained soil (or gravel) receiving about 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight per day. Harvest the leaves often and use in two of our favorite recipes, Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream and Cinnamon Basil Swirl Cake. Consider using it as an attractive garnish or to flavor hot drinks or other dishes.

Cinnamon basil in an arrangement of complimentary colors by Linda

In addition to its culinary uses, cinnamon basil makes a stunning addition to floral arrangements. While beautiful as a stand-alone plant, it compliments flowers in the lavender and pink or blue color range. I especially enjoy using it with blue hydrangeas, purple calyx, tulips and roses. Cinnamon basil will please you with its gentle, fragrant scent each time you enter the room.

(Little known fact: Cinnamon basil was taken into space by the Space Shuttle Endeavor during STS-118 and grown in an experiment in low Earth orbit on the International Space Station).

Linda Alexander

The recipe for Cinnamon Basil Cake is below. If you would like to the recipe for Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream, ask for it in the comment section.

Cinnamon Basil Swirl Cake

Cinnamon basil is loved by master gardeners. It reseeds freely and has a delicate purple blossom. You’ll be captivated by its cinnamon-like aroma and taste.

Ingredients for Cake:
2 tablespoons minced cinnamon basil leaves
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
Ingredients for Swirl:
⅓ cup sugar
2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a 10-inch spring form pan.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together cinnamon basil leaves, flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time until fluffy and well blended. Beat in vanilla.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and baking soda until smooth. With mixer on low speed, beat half the flour mixture into the butter mixture just until blended. Beat in sour cream mixture, then remaining flour, beating just until blended. Spread into prepared pan.
5. Make swirl. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over batter; swirl into batter with the tip of a knife, being careful not to touch the knife to base of the pan.
6. Bake cake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely (or nearly so) on a wire rack before removing pan side and slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8-12 servings

Special Offer:

Linda is digging up cinnamon basil and potting it in 4 inch pots to share. She will leave it for pick-up on the table in the edible landscape of The Raincatcher’s garden. 12 pots will be there, one per person. Come after noon today, Tuesday, July 21 to pick up one for your garden.


We have written quite a bit about basil. Type in basil in our search box and spend the afternoon reading about how to grow it, how to cook with it, and learn about all the many varieties.

A Summer Walk Through The Raincatcher’s Garden

Mimic the moth and enjoy our zinnias.

Sniff John Fanik Garden Phlox and let the scent take you away.

Host butterflies with flowers like these.

Avoid unfriendly plants.

Discover pretty plant combos like the vibrancy of white spider lily with red Turk’s cap in our rain garden.

Hope for more rain after seeing rain lilies blossom.

Applaud the work of our gardeners! Pictured below is Lisa Centala, one of the Raincatcher’s leaders and Jeff Raska, our county horticultural agent.

Watch your step. Some bunny may be at your feet. This one lives in our rain garden.

 

Thank you for wandering through The Raincatcher’s Garden this morning. Come by anytime. We are located on the grounds of Midway Hills Christian Church, 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, Texas.

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

Rain Garden Pictures by Susan Swinson

 

The Raincatcher’s Garden, Has a Purpose Even Now.

Tomorrow we will explore our garden through pictures. Please join us.

Try the Herb, Papalo!

Are you familiar with papalo? We first learned about papalo last summer. This year we found a seed source online, placed the order and started growing it in the edible landscape. Papalo is an ancient Mexican herb whose ancestral home is thought to be South America. Today it grows wild in Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. And now, as you can see from the photo, right in the heart of Dallas County.

Papalo growing at Raincathcer’s Edible Garden

Papalo’s bluish green leaves have a somewhat complex, distinctive flavor reminiscent of cilantro and arugula. But unlike cilantro, it grows throughout the summer and does not bolt. It is best used fresh as it doesn’t dry well. Once cool weather arrives, the growing season is over.

Papalo seeds

When starting papalo from seeds you must be very careful not to separate the seed stem from the umbrella-like top. Master Gardener, Gail Cook, started the seeds for us in March. She carefully laid them on top of the potting mix in 4” pots. They were then covered lightly with more of the mix. Once the seedlings were about 3-4” tall, around mid-May, we transplanted them into our Ole Garden.

Plants are thriving in well-draining soil in an area that receives mid-morning to late afternoon sun. After that, they are in full shade. Just last week we noticed that the plants are producing those uniquely shaped seed heads that will be harvested for next year’s crop.

If you’re looking for a vibrant herb substitute for cilantro, check out our Ole Garden by the red shed in the edible landscape. You’ll find a large patch of papalo growing in an area immediately south of the sidewalk. Feel free to snip some for a taste!

A few ideas for using papalo include the following:

Chopped up in guacamole, leaves as a topping for a pimento cheese topping and shredded over fresh tomatoes. Enjoy!

Guacamole with Papalo

Ingredients:

1 or more (to taste) jalapeno or serrano chili peppers, finely minced (optional)

2-3 tablespoons finely diced yellow or red onion

1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh papalo

Coarse salt to taste

 3-4 avocados

½ cup finely diced fresh tomatoes

Topping: ¼ cup finely diced fresh tomatoes, 1 tablespoon finely diced onion, 1 teaspoon finely shredded papalo leaves 

Garnish: whole papalo leaves

Directions:

Crush the onions, chilis, salt, lime juice and papalo in a mortar and pestle or a molcajete until they are just paste-like. Add the avocado flesh and mash it roughly into the paste until well mixed. Stir in the tomatoes and place the guacamole in a serving dish or molcajete. 

Mix the tomatoes, onions and shredded papalo that were reserved for the topping. Pile on top of the guacamole. Garnish with whole papalo leaves and serve.

Linda Alexander

Photos by Linda and Starla Willis

 

Garden Water…Herbal Infusions and Flavors

Infused Herbal Water

No matter the season, there’s always work to be done in the garden. Seasonal challenges many times involve weather related temperature extremes serving as the determining factor. In north central Texas, we typically get socked in with sweltering temperatures mid June to early September. This week is no exception. The forecast is for temperatures over 100°. Our weather forecasters have advised caution for any type of outdoor activity. Staying hydrated is of supreme importance as we are reminded to drink lots of water. 

While doing those garden chores, how about some fresh ideas using herbal infusions to flavor your water? Easy to make and so refreshing, follow these simple steps for a cool thirst quencher:

Select the fruits, vegetables and herbs of your choosing

Give everything a gentle wash

Fill a pitcher with tap or filtered water

Add your preferred combination

Refrigerate and allow the fruit and herbs enough time to infuse the water

Fruit and herbs should be removed after 10 hours, or less, but continue to enjoy the water

Create a different flavor combination each day

At Raincatcher’s, taking a water break is a tasty and satisfying experience. We enjoy our time to “pause” and visit with each other. Sipping on herbal infused water gives us that refreshing lift needed to continue caring for our beloved gardens.

Thirst no more!  Here are the herbal infused waters from left to right in the picture above:

Cucumber, Salad Burnet and Borage Blossoms (Starla’s favorite)
Watermelon, Watermelon Flavored Mint
Orange Slices, Blueberries, Lemon Verbena (Linda’s Favorite)
Lemon and Lime Slices, Pineapple Sage
Strawberries, Balsamic Blooms Basil (Ann’s Favorite)
Apricots, French Tarragon

Other flavorful combinations to try:

Parsley and Lemon
Peaches and French tarragon
Cucumber and lemon thyme
Grapefruit and rosemary
Lavender and lemons
Oranges and sage
Strawberries, blueberries and mint

Look for seasonal inspiration in your garden and be creative with your combinations.

Linda Alexander

Photo by Starla Willis

Note: When using borage flower heads for culinary purposes, pick off by grasping the black stamen tips and gently separating the flower from its green back. Sprinkle over salads, or use to flavor water and other beverages.

Our Rain Garden

Here’s a few pictures of our rain garden doing it’s job which by the way is to catch the overflow water from our two gigantic rain cisterns and allow it to sink into the ground rather than out to the street.

The water is typically absorbed in less that 24 hours.

We have selected plants that can survive in standing water or low water situations. The result is a beautiful garden that catches water that would otherwise land in our city storm water drain. The rain garden also serves as a bird and butterfly haven.

Take a look at these beautiful flowers and then let us shower you with plant suggestions. The list will be at the bottom of the page.

Super Ellen Crinum Lily

Texas Star Hibiscus


Rain garden plant list 2020

Crinum lilies, including ‘Super Ellen’ Crinum sp.

Various Daylilies Hemerocallis hybrids

Society Garlic Tulbaghia violacea

White Rain Lily Zephyranhes candida

Pink Rain Lily Zephyranthes grandiflora

Red Spider Lily Lycoris radiata

Texas Spider Lily Hymenocallis liriosme

Louisiana Iris cultivars Iris sp.

Purple Heart Tradescantia pallida pupurae

Concord Grape Spiderwort Tradescantia pallida ‘Concord Grape’

Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea

Summer Phlox Phlox paniculata ‘John Fanick’

Summer Phlox Phlox paniculate ‘Victoria’

Brazos Penstemon Penstemon tenuis

Shenandoah Switch Grass Panicum virgatum

Texas Star Hibiscus, Red and White Hibiscus coccineus

Purple Beautyberry Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Purple Pride’

Turk’s Cap Malvaviscus drummondii

Dwarf (Swamp) Palmetto Sabal minor


Let it rain!

Ann Lamb

Photos by Starla Willis and Susan Swinson

 

A New Discovery

Last week at our local farmer’s market I was taken by surprise. Crowds arrived early creating lines at most stands. After a first pass at a few of my usual stops, something caught my eye. A local grower from Irving was offering freshly pulled carrots straight from her garden. While that may not seem unusual, it was the carrot tops that made me swoon. Lush and lovely, their feathery formation in vibrant shades of green jogged my memory.

A few weeks earlier, my husband and I had dinner at one of our favorite Dallas restaurants. Janice Provost, chef/owner of Parigi’s, is a good friend who loves to “talk garden” with me and enjoys sourcing locally grown, fresh produce. That night she was featuring an appetizer we decided to try.

Appropriately named, our ‘Garden Board Special’ with Carrot Top Pesto was stunning. A colorful combination of bread “planks” slathered with whipped feta and cream cheese then topped with perky little red and yellow cherry tomatoes tumbling across the next layer had us drooling. The finishing touch was a light sprinkling of micro greens drizzled with carrot top pesto. For me, the meal was complete, and a new pesto experience stayed in my head.

Garden Board Special

It must have been somewhat providential that those carrots spoke to me at the market, but it was also the surprising discovery of locally grown edible purslane that motivated me to recreate our appetizer experience. And, thankfully, I had stumbled upon the necessary ingredients to complete the task.

Here is my slightly adapted version of the pesto. If you find it intriguing, start thinking now about your fall carrot crop and a flavorful new way to use them from top to bottom. And, check back in early January for a preview of our ‘Grow and Graze’ lineup of 2021 classes.

 

 

Carrot Top Pesto

Ingredients:

1 cup carrot tops (lightly packed)

½ cup flat-leaf parsley or fresh spinach

¼ cup walnuts

1 garlic clove

½ cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon lemon juice 

Zest of 1 lemon

¼ teaspoon sea salt 

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

Lightly toast the walnuts over medium heat until they start to become fragrant. Stir constantly, toasting just until slightly golden brown. 

In a food processor, pulse all the ingredients, including the toasted walnuts, until everything is well-combined and forms a coarse paste. For a thinner pesto, add a few more tablespoons of olive oil, one at a time, until reaching a desired consistency. 

Serve over roasted vegetables, soups, baked chicken, or fresh tomatoes. 

*Substitute pecans or pine nuts, if desired.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Highly prized, beautiful umbel-shaped blossoms of the carrot tops

This summer, in the edible landscape, we took the advice of Dallas County Interim Extension Agent, Jeff Raska, and let our carrots grow for two seasons. By early summer we were treated to a carrot blossom extravaganza. Beautiful umbel-shaped blossoms soon became lovely spherical, lacy white flowers ready for both the bees and our garden guests to enjoy.  We’re now using those delicate Queen Anne’s Lace looking flowers as a topper for salads, soups and appetizer trays. Our garden adventure was a delightful surprise!

Linda Alexander

Carrot Top Photo by Starla Willis

The Raincatcher’s Color Wheel

The red section of the color wheel at The Raincatcher’s Garden blooming with yucca, sages, red verbena, cannas and poppies.

The color wheel like most gardens is a work in progress, never finished. It is fun to mix flowers and edible plants together. They compliment each other quite nicely.

There is no master plan as to what gets planted. Many of the plants are donated by fellow Master Gardeners. Each year Jim plants seeds and shares them. Rudbeckia, Zinnias and Marigolds are favorites. He also provides pepper plants.

As you know the garden is shaped like a pie, It has 6 wedges of different colors.  Red, blue, green, orange and violet and yellow flowers and foliage fill each wedge.

Go visit the garden, it will make you feel good and you ‘ll probably recognize some of your babies.

Annette Latham, Master Gardener class of 2005

Picture by Starla Willis

%d bloggers like this: