Monday, March 30, 2015

The Aphids Are Here! The Aphids Are Here!

Dear Folks,

The one down side to getting into our lovely weather in the spring is the aphids like the cool night temperatures also.

The reliable safe soap spray is a way to deal with these soft-bodied pests.  Hard bodied insects like the leaf-footed/squash bug require different measures, such as keeping debris picked up and away from the base of plants and Hard Hosing as soon as you see them.  You can also use neem oil sprays on those pests.

Sunflowers (I learned recently) draw aphids, which is a good thing, but then you need to deal with them.

Here is a composite picture I took of one of my sunflowers Saturday and this Morning (Monday), which shows the before and after of the 1st cycle spraying (more on that below).

I know it is difficult to fully see what is happening but there are many dead or dying aphids in the right half of the picture

SAFE SOAP SPRAY and how to use it most effectively.

1 quart of water
1 teaspoon Dawn dish soap (I recommend the original)*
1 teaspoon of vegetable cooking oil (I keep old no-longer-useable-oils for this purpose).

Mix in spray bottle.

How to use:
1) if the bugs are really bad, hard hose off as best as you can.
2) shake (shaking is important, the ingredients do not stay mixed) the spray bottle as you spray, top and bottom of leaves and down growing center (this is particularly important with the broccoli family)
3) REPEAT!  5 days later and 5 days after that.

If you do not repeat the spraying 5 days apart you will lose the advantage.

What is happening is the 1st spray kills most of the adults and just hatched young.**
The 2nd spray kills those which hatch after 1st spray (the soap/oil does not, unfortunately damage the eggs).
The 3rd spray kills any stragglers.

Watch for new activity and deal with it the same way.  You may have to do this 2 or 3 times before our temperatures rise into the 100 range, when the aphid activity will decline substantially.

They will come back in the fall when the temperatures drop back down into the below 100 range, so keep this spray recipe handy.

*Original Dawn is still used to help sea birds damaged and endangered by oil spills.  I consider it the safest option for this spray and the little that goes into the soil will do no damage.

** Live-bearing aphids, a real problem for the broccoli family, do not lay eggs and are more difficult to control if you do not follow the spraying regime properly.

WHITE FLIES are a form of aphid and can be treated the same way.  The challenge with these type of aphids is that is is almost impossible to control completely, their numbers are in the 10s of thousands, but you can minimize the damage by following the spraying regime, beginning with hard hosing off first.

My Calendar shows the soap spray on March.   While both the print and PDF versions are dated 2015, the information is applicable year to year.

The PDF version is $6 and can be downloaded into all of your devices that have Adobe or other compatible reader, with a single purchase price.

You can find the print version of the calendar and my other publications here.

Do not let the bugs get you down, you can deal with them AND enjoy your garden at this lovely time of year.

Have a best day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Friday, March 27, 2015

Homemade Sodas

Dear Folks,

I have a "thing" about the amount of garbage sodas for sale - mostly aimed at children.

So here are some great homemade sodas to help you and the family kick the junk habit. (the pictures is from Ms. Dudash's article in The Arizona Republic, March 13, 2015) All have some nutrients, and yes they are sweetened, but you can choose one of the real Stevia products (like Sweetleaf) to substitute for lower calorie (I say lower because many are made with some fruit juice so there is natural sweetness - but you also get Vitamin C along with other small levels of vitamins and in some minerals).

What child does not enjoy options?  You can have the base ready for action whenever there is a group or party.

Your base is a sweet condensed mix, either a 100% frozen juice concentrate (no sugar added), thawed or a flavored (you choose) syrup.  Example:  Many children enjoy orange soda.  All you need is thawed 100% orange juice concentrate to make a glass of orange soda.  There is a 100% frozen juice pineapple orange that is a nice version.

1/4 cup base to 3/4 cup chilled sparkling water, ice if you like and there you have a cold, refreshing glass of wholesome beverage.

The sparkling water can be any you like.  FYI Club soda has sodium in it, seltzer does not.  Many artisanal waters have micro nutrients.

First up is a neat recipe from Michell Dudash who did an article for the Arizona Republic.

This is a base for a Cola, which makes up to 14 glasses.  You store the base until you want a glass.  This is probably the most ingredient in these recipes, but since you are making a base for 14 glasses it is worth the extra time.

Ms. Dudash also shared some homemade versions of fast food favorites like Chicken Nuggets to get your children enjoying homemade fast food.

Bon Appetit Magazine posted a slide show of 12 homemade sodas.

TIP:  When making the ginger ale - don't throw away the ginger after making the base.  Save the slices, roll them in organic sugar, let air dry and you have candied ginger for nibbling or baking.

TIP:   If you make the lemongrass lime leaf soda and do not have Kaffir lime leaves you can use lemon or lime tree leaves from your own trees, just add 50% more leaves.  All citrus leaves are edible and have the scent and flavor of the fruit.

If you just wish to have some flavor, like the flavored seltzers available, muddle some fruit in the bottom of a glass, maybe add a piece of mint, top with chilled seltzer and ice and you have a refreshing drink.

Now that we are getting into the warm times, you should have some wholesome beverage options available to make refreshing and healthy drinks.

Have a best day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My publisher's site

For you gardeners - my "perpetual" calendar will give you the information for best gardening success in the desert - when to plant, tip and garden maintenance information.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Harvest Show & Tell at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum - Plant Sale Coming To End

Dear Folks,

Last Sunday I presented a lecture on the Key to Successful edible gardening in the desert - planting and sowing at the optimal time for the variety.

I brought along a sample of what I harvested from the garden that morning.

Rose, red lettuce, red celery, Syrian Oregano, Conehead Thyme, Spanish Thyme, Bay, Mexican Oregano, White Flowering Rosemary, Lavender, Red Onion (large scallion), White Alpine Strawberry, Limequat, Banana Leaf, Nasturitum Leaves (large and variegated) Edible Flowers: Nasturtium, Johnny Jump-Ups, Blue Sage, Purple Stock, Arugula, Arabian Jasmine, Calendula.

In all of my lectures I like to use my "show and smell" harvests to illustrate not only the wonderful range of scents but the beauty in an edible garden.

The picture also illustrates the timing of growing in the desert.  ALL of these plants have been growing in my gardens through the winter to enable me to harvest on a bright March morning.

My special thanks to Paul Wolterbeek for taking the picture.

My books (beginners guide to edible landscaping and a recipe book using herbs as the base flavor) are available at the gift shop at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  Check them out the next time you visit the wonderful BTA.

Their spring plant sale is still going on through this coming weekend - March 28 - 29th.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My Publisher's Site

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Dear Folks,

My beef has been corning for 2 weeks, I bought the veggies to go into the crock pot today with the beef and I decided to do a little research on Irish Soda Bread.

As an American of Irish descent (and Polish and English) our family has always fully embraced being Irish and enjoying the holiday for all the hearty food traditions.

Several years ago I started corning my own beef to control the ingredients (I do not use pink salt/aka nitrates) and I wanted to choose different cuts of beef.  Click here for my post on the corning and then cooking recipes.

But I have never made the traditional Irish Soda Bread.  My sister was able to visit Ireland twice, and has made the bread in the past, and raved about the bread severed at the B&B's she stayed at - rustic, brown and hearty.

So to my research - the first recipes which turned up included raisins, sugar, butter, eggs and buttermilk.  Well that sounded like the breads I've bought in the past.  And then I happened on an article about what real Irish bread was.

In a nutshell the traditional Irish bread is one of their staffs of life, along with potatoes, meant to sustain the hard working Irish, and not a dainty served with dinner.

Flour, salt, baking soda (the leavening agent) and sour milk.

The sour milk is an important point.  Anyone who has done research on traditional milk learns that unpasteurized milk goes sour (clabber) - pasteurized milk goes bad.  It is about the natural bacteria present in wholesome fresh from the animal milk vs. processed.

Back in the 1980s a gentleman named Malachi McCormick wrote a book "Irish Country Cooking"and was interviewed around St. Patrick's Day about "Irish Soda Bread" and the buttermilk controversy.

Historically, buttermilk was not widely available in Irish households, he said. To get buttermilk, you had to have a churn, and not all homes did. But sour milk, milk that has curdled, "was a daily act of God" found in even the poorest households. Rather than toss this "spoiled" milk out, Irish cooks used it to make bread.

In talking to my sister she remembered the same article (or similar) and the REAL Irish Soda Bread - which by-the-way, was simply called "Brown Bread".

Today's buttermilk is actually not REAL either, which was the milk, whey and bits left over from churning.  Today's buttermilk is a cultured milk (certainly okay and good) but not the real deal.

So armed, with a reliable recipe from Epicurious  I tweaked the recipe to revert back to the basic Irish concept (whole wheat flour - but I used a white 100% whole wheat flour - not as dark as traditional 100% whole wheat), not caraway seeds (usually another American version), and then I wanted to come up with something to replace the sour milk, and I did not want to do the lemon juice/vinegar in milk routine.

I always have organic yogurt on hand, so I decided to stir in 1/2 cup of organic Greek style yogurt into 1 cup of whole milk.

BINGO!!  I got the most wonderful bread, real bread texture, solid crust and delicious too, spread with organic butter.

This may be our regular bread from now on.  For a number of years I have been working with variations of bread I do not have knead (my hands are simply not up to it).  The texture on this bread is more bread like than the recipes I've created before.

Catherine O'Crowley's Irish Bread

3 1/2 cups unbleached white whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur's)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup organic Greek Style Yogurt
1 cup whole milk
Flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 425.  Lightly flour your baking sheet.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a bowl.  Stir yogurt and milk to combine.
Create a well in the center of the flour mix and start adding the yogurt / milk mix stirring with a wooden spoon.  Continue adding all the liquid and combine until the dough holds together.  You may need to use your hands to get the last bit of dry melded into the dough.

Shape the dough into a 6-8 inch circle, place on baking sheet and flatten to about 2 inches high.  Use a knife to score a deep X almost all the way to the sides.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve with good butter, honey, molasses or jam.

Note:  the extra flour on the pan toasted and I reserved in a jar in the freezer for making gravies later on.

I know I can easily add herbs or cheese even raisins to loaves in the future!

I hope you have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My website has links to my calendar (print and PDF versions) and on the About Us page lectures and events coming up!  

Monday, March 02, 2015

Lectures Coming Up - Mark Your Calendars

Dear Folks,

I have 3 lectures coming up this month and next.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum
March 22, 2015
10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
The Key To Successful Gardening In the Desert 

Chandler Sunset Library
March 28, 2015
10:30 a.m. - Noon
Co-Lecture with Jean Groen
Our Edible Desert
Threes Sisters and A Fourth 

Celebrate Mesa
April 18, 2015
Noon - 4 p.m.
Details to be announced.

I hope to see you at one of these events.

Get your gardening on!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rain Coming - Good time for transplanting

Dear Folks,

With the rain coming in this weekend, it is a good time to get your transplants in - the rain will seal the soil to the roots very well and give the plants a good drink.

FYI - I have tomato and other plants and seedling starts for sale today at the Mesa Farmers Market  9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

This time of year is also prime disturbed weather conditions for hail (warm/cold/wind), so have your frost protection available to cover young plants - I like these poor man's cloches - you can also use 2 liter soda bottles.  Always clean well, so you do not have mold issues.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cardinal Hide 'n Seek, Free shipping on books and calendar expiring soon, Transplants

Dear Folks,

Mr. Cardinal played hide and seek with me among the bare/flowering apricot and plum trees - he was quite talk-a-tive :-)

 They do not visit us often - usually around this time of year or later in spring.  Sometimes with the Mrs. and a juvenile.  Just one of the delights in the garden when you have cover for them.

All of our fruit trees are now at one point or other in bloom so I'm trying to capture these delights of the day.  Our Johnny-Jump-Up lawn is starting to bloom nicely.  This picture was taken last year at this time.  The "pansy forest" is going to be even more dense this year - I will post pictures later in March/April to give you the full effect :-)

Meanwhile, my publisher's offer of free mail shipping or discounted ground shipping expires tomorrow (February 25th) near midnight.

A reminder note about my calendar.  This is the first year I've been able to produce a desert edible specific calendar and I intend to make a new one each year, with new photos and any additional tips I add.  Having said that, I would encourage you to think of this calendar as "perpetual" - all of the information remains the same for each month and through out the year

My Publisher's Free / reduced Shipping Offer


With the cooler weather for this week, it is a great time to get more of your transplants in the ground.  I will have transplants and seedling "starts" available at the Friday Mesa Farmers Market each week for the next several weeks.  It is to your benefit to get them in the ground as soon as possible.

Have a great day in the garden,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady