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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.

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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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardening With Grandma During The Pandemic

Two years ago when my granddaughter was 8, I gave her this gardening book for children purchased from an online used bookstore.

She loves to garden at my house and seems to find it empowering to trim the suckers off the photinia.  However, I didn’t get any feedback about the book.  

Earlier this year I was surprised to find that she had read the book from cover to cover and had been doing the seasonal activities from it all along.

 We can’t be together or garden for a while so I send pictures to her parents to share with her. 

She has enjoyed following the progress of this “bookshelf garden” that I keep in a sunny window. The leftovers of green onions, carrots, and radishes were planted and are now growing again.

Beverly’s bookshelf garden of repurposed kitchen scraps

I look forward to future in-person gardening projects with my grandaughter but until then I am thankful for this way of continuing our shared love of growing plants. This project has been a helpful tool for teaching propagation, the importance of recycling, and the joy of gardening.

Here is a link describing how children can make their own indoor edible gardens. 

 Gardening Activities-Kitchen Scrap Gardening

Beverly Allen

Homesteading in North Dallas

Sheila Kostelny, a Louisiana gal, and  Master Gardener class of 2009  walks us through her garden.

 

Shiela’s words of advice and her own planting date guide:

It’s too late for peas (sugar snap and snow peas are planted Feb 1st thru 10th) and too early for winter squash.  In addition to okra, I will be planting my sweet potato slips after April 15th.  Attached is a timetable that I compiled from the TAMU and NHG suggested dates for planting.  I’m glad to share this spreadsheet. It’s created with the veggies/herbs that interest me.

Thank you, Sheila. this has been a pleasure and I love what you told me about your garden.

We close with Sheila’s words:

“My garden has provided a great deal of joy and feelings of usefulness.

It’s my place of normalcy and peace during this time.”

Thank you, Sheila.

Ann Lamb

Sweet potatoes 

 

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

Grow Now!

Dallas County Master Gardener volunteers at the Raincatcher’s Research, Education and Demonstration Garden of Midway Hills share your concern for eating healthy during these uncertain times. We’ve put together a short list of ways that you can start growing and harvesting seasonal crops over the next few weeks and months. Here are some gardening (and recipe) suggestions to help supplement your meals with freshly harvested herbs and vegetables.

 If you do not already have a designated vegetable garden, try one of these options:

1) Find an open place in your flower bed that receives around 6 to 8 hours of sun, preferably from morning until mid or late afternoon. Give your soil a boost by adding compost. Good quality compost can be purchased at most local garden centers. Make sure you have a water source close by, and position the garden where you can keep a daily watch to head off any potential pests and weeds that could create problems if left unchecked.

2) Create a simplified version of a raised bed using cinder blocks. Place cardboard directly over a grassy spot in your yard that receives ample sunlight, then place cinderblocks in a rectangular shape around the cardboard, starting with 5 on each side and 3 at each end. Fill the enclosed space about 6 inches above the bed border with a commercial raised bed mix, and water thoroughly to let the soil settle. Space plants or seeds according to directions. Water as needed to maintain even moisture within the bed.

The cardboard method, a good way to smother weeds

A large cinder block garden bed

Start with 4” to 6” edible plants spaced according to label directions. Seasonal plants, including cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes, are currently in stock at many local garden centers, but don’t stop there.

Try the following options in your new raised bed or in your existing landscape as borders and ground covers, or plant a bay laurel to grow as a shrub or small tree. 

Arugula (Eat fresh in salads, or use in dips.)

Spinach (Eat fresh in salads, sauté with scrambled eggs, or use in omelets, quiches and vegetable dishes.)

Kale (Eat fresh in salads; sauté for kale chips.)

Lettuce (Many different varieties provide texture and color in the landscape.)

Radish (Eat fresh in salads; slice thinly and serve on buttered bread for sandwiches.)

Carrot (Eat fresh in salads, roasted, or in soups and souffles. Use carrot tops to make pesto.)

Beet (Serve roasted, or grate for a cake.)

Swiss Chard (Eat fresh in salads, use leaves as a “wrap” for fresh chopped vegetables, sauté for turnovers, or add to soups.) 

Dill (Leaves can be added to salads, potatoes, meat and fish at the end of cooking.)

Fennel (All parts of the plant are edible – leaves and stalk make a wonderful flavoring for fish.)

French Sorrel (Can be cooked or used fresh like lettuce. Makes a good soup; adds zip to salads. Great on roast beef sandwiches.)

Nasturtiums (Harvest the leaves, buds and flowers anytime, and use fresh. Excellent in salads. Leaves make a great pesto.)

Artichokes (Excellent vegetable served roasted, sautéed or steamed—a beautiful and majestic plant for your garden.)

Thyme (Strip small leaves from stems and use to enhance the flavor of baked or broiled fish dishes or fish sauces. Thyme Cheese Roll: Combine 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 1 tablespoon chopped thyme, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, ½ teaspoon minced garlic. Roll into a log and refrigerate. Serve with toast or crackers for a quick and easy snack.)

Sage (Flowers and leaves are edible; flowers are nice in salads and for making tea, and the leaves are great for cooking and making herb butters.)

Rosemary (Use with foods rich in fat such as roasted meats, poultry and fish. Add to soups and stew. Use stripped branches as skewers for your favorite grilled meats and veggies.)

Chives (Snip the leaves at ground level when harvesting. Chop and serve with salad, potatoes, pasta and cabbage.)

Oregano (Sprinkle on fresh tomatoes or use to make a sauce; adds flavor to stews and soups.)

Marjoram (Rub leaves on all kinds of meat, chop into egg dishes, stir into soups and sprinkle it over vegetables)

Basil (Plant mid to late April. Use leaves for salads, pesto and sauces. Combines well with zucchini, beans and mushrooms.)

Watercress (Harvest and use fresh in salads, soups and sandwiches.)

Purslane (Use in early spring salads. Leaves can be cooked like spinach.)

Sweet Bay/Bay Laurel (Use the leaves of this evergreen plant in soups, stews and other simmered dishes. Cook a leaf or two with dried beans.)

We hope you will be inspired to start gardening with your family and experience the joy of bringing fresh, flavorful food to your table. 

How about a healthy robust minestrone soup using fresh garden ingredients. Picture by Linda

Click here for the recipe. 

Linda Alexander and Lisa Centala with comments by Jeff Raska, Horticulture Assistant, Dallas County

Follow these planting guides: TAMU Vegetable Planting Guide

Northaven Garden Spring Planting Guide

New to gardening? Read this pamphlet, pages 13-15 have specific recommendations for veggie gardening.

Pictures by Starla Willis

 

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.

More Seed Starting Tips

Gail Cook has been a Master Gardener since 2003. She has worked at The Raincatcher’s Garden for many years and now has a new job with us. She is planting herb, flower and vegetable seeds. It’s a perfect job for her; she a nurturer. 

Gail, I heard you are doing a wonderful job with seed starting for the edible landscape. In December, I had the privilege of hearing from Jim about his seed starting methods.
I was wondering what equipment you use. Seed starting mats? Grow lights?Any tips you want to give our blog readers about seed starting. Do you mind letting me know of the potting mix you use? Do you purchase or make your own?

Hi Ann, How nice to hear from you!

Honestly, I’m in one of my happy places starting seeds and, with everyone’s help, we’re doing well with the seedlings. I don’t even have a back yard these days, just a long narrow brick patio with a bit of sun and a small utility deck with a 4-shelf zip-up greenhouse.

I have one warming mat and it does speed things up. To save time ( I can plant 72 seeds in minutes this way)and space, I’ve been starting most seeds in 72-count plug trays from amazon in clearance and seed starting mix from Walmart. There are 300 plugs germinating on my upstairs bathroom counter now. Then I pot them up in 4” pots right after germination.

I’m still working on mixing potting soil with perlite and/or vermiculite to get a lightweight soil because I haven’t found a brand I love yet. Northaven Gardens has a recommendation in a recent email that I plan to try when I can look it up. Some seeds go straight to the greenhouse once planted, depending on weather. It can be tricky to keep the soil at the just right level of moisture but we haven’t had a problem with damping off, even though they stay fairly wet with almost daily misting.

I’m also experimenting with diluted organic liquid  fertilizer after the 2nd set of leaves appear to get them to transplant size as quickly as possible. This requires patience. 

 The Raincatcher’s greenhouse is a huge help during colder weather, as are the other edible garden volunteers who check on the seedlings. I’ll come back to you on soil mixes. Don’t hesitate to remind me. Busy time at work just kicked in, another reason I enjoy the seeds.

Best, Gail

Gail Cook bringing borage seedlings to the Raincatcher’s greenhouse.

Gail writes again:

A couple more tips: Peat moss can be difficult to moisten so add water to the seed starting mix before filling pots. A bucket and your trowel are useful for mixing. 

When using a heat mat indoors or a greenhouse on warm days, monitor closely, preferably twice a day. The soil dries out very quickly and seedlings will fail to germinate or grow. Seedlings should be removed immediately from the heat map as they germinate, as they no longer need the warmer temperatures.

Gail’s Greenhouse

 

This little greenhouse is from Tuesday Morning  and is on it’s 4th winter. It is in a protected area and doesn’t get much direct sun. There are a few patches over tiny holes but it still works. I’ll probably buy another next year.

 My husband has started referring to the seedlings as our children because they are taking up so much of my time.                                                        

 

 

 

 

If you are feeling overwhelmed with all the information and purchase recommendations, Gail suggests starting with easy lettuce and greens for the first season. Simple can be better for beginners. Have fun!

Thank you, Gail.

Ann Lamb

 

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