Monday, June 29, 2015

I was Interviewed back in 2013 - More tips and history from The Herb Lady

Dear Folks,

Back in March 2013 I was interviewed for an Oral History project by Scottsdale Public Library.

I thought folks who are just learning about my work gardening and cooking with the garden bounty in the desert, might like some of my history and tips.

If you have attended one of my lectures, or perhaps if you wanted to and could not make it, I touch on some of the high points to gardening successfully in the desert, along with some of the whys and hows of how I became so passionate about growing some of our own food.  And, why I think this is my mission:  to encourage folks to grow some or more of their own food.

The interview is about 55 minutes long. Wonderful Anna Quan Leon was the gracious and patient interviewer - get me started on my favorite subjects and I just prattle on, and on!

FYI - after the interview was over, another point was brought up so Anna did a post-interview, but for technical reasons, it had to be added as an addendum at the "beginning" of the tape - so the introduction comes after that short series of comments.

I hope you enjoy this if you decide to listen.  Maybe friends or family in desert areas may enjoy it also.

The picture (that is me in my "Minnie Pearl" hat) and the audio are the property of Scottsdale Library and all rights belong to them.

MP3 Audio

Main page at Scottsdale Library on my interview - click on the link next to my picture to get more detail.

In the interview I mention several recipes (one found in my book is my "Vegetarian Pot Pie" made with tofu -- turned out great), and a cracker recipe made with seeds, nuts and cheese.

Here is the link on the blog for one version of the cracker recipe.  The beauty of the recipe is you can change out all the ingredients for different flavors.

I hope you enjoy the interview.

Always happy to answer questions.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books

Ibook

https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/catherine-crowley/id372564893?mt=11

amazon - print

http://www.amazon.com/Catherine-Crowley/e/B002C1HWG0/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1367065857&sr=1-2-ent


Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/catherine-crowley

Kobo

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/Search?query=Catherine%20Crowley&fcsearchfield=Author



Lulu

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/herbs2u


 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Watermelon and Free Seed Share reminder

Dear Folks,

This year I actually got various transplants in the ground - on time!  On February 15th I transplanted some tomatoes (we have been harvesting them for about 3-4 weeks now) cantaloupe and Blacktail Mountain Watermelon.

I forgot to take a picture of the cantaloupe - which we ate and I saved seeds from.

And the Blacktail Mountain Watermelon.

Because of the placement of the vines (I was trying something new - limited foot space but growing up a string/pipe trellis, the various shading from the surrounding trees did limit sunlight so while the vines were (and still are) nice and healthy we only got 2 useable fruit off the cantaloupe (sweet and delicious) and 1 nice one off the watermelon.  Who knows if the vines live through the summer I may get more fruit later on. :-)

It is as described over at Baker Creek - sweet and delicious!

"70 days. One of the earliest watermelons we know of, superb for the north, but it also grows well in heat and drought. The flesh is red and deliciously sweet. Fruit have a dark rind and weigh 8-12 lbs. each. This excellent variety was developed by our friend Glenn Drowns, owner of the Sand Hill Preservation Center in Iowa. A favorite of many gardeners across the USA. One of the best we have ever tried!" -- http://www.rareseeds.com/blacktail-mountain-watermelon/

I am also saving seeds from this melon.


Free Seed Share

And about saving seeds, some of the seeds in my seed bank I bring to the upcoming Seed Share at Mesa Community Farmers Market are from my gardens.

If you are not aware of (just 1 of the reasons for savings seed from something you have grown) a process usually called "regional adaptation" - meaning re-sowing seed grown in an area, your garden, becomes better adapted and productive with each successive generation.

This Friday, June 26th,
9 a.m. - Noon
Mesa Community Farmers Market
Center Street, South of University

I host this event 3 times a year to coincide with the next sowing season.  Fall sowing begins the middle to July.

You do not have to bring seed to pick up some.  If you bring seed, please bring only organic or naturally grown non-gmo either from your garden or purchased.  I suggest focusing on edible varieties.

I hope to see you Friday!  Have a great week.



 -- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books and planting calendar are available in print or as PDFs

My Publisher

You can also find the books at these other options on the internet


Ibook

https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/catherine-crowley/id372564893?mt=11

amazon - print

http://www.amazon.com/Catherine-Crowley/e/B002C1HWG0/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1367065857&sr=1-2-ent


Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/catherine-crowley

Kobo

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/Search?query=Catherine%20Crowley&fcsearchfield=Author



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Free Seed Share Coming Up - Friday, June 26th

Dear Folks,

My next 3-times a year FREE Seed Share is coming up.

Mesa Community Farmers Market
Center Street south of University, Mesa
June 26, 2015
9 a.m. - Noon

It may sound counter-intuitive to have a seed share in June, in the heat, however if you want winter squash including pumpkins you have to count backwards 90-120 days from Halloween or Thanksgiving.  Also, getting call veggie and herbs seeds in the ground allows for them to germinate as soil cools





How It Works:
Choose:    Any seeds we have – small envelopes will be available with pens to select and mark what you want to take home.

Bring:     Any seeds you harvested.  Share any organic or heirloom seeds you purchased.  Focus on edible seed varieties.

What:    No -  GMOs - if you are unsure if the seeds you have are GMO, please just bring yourself to choose seeds available.

Why:    Grow some of your own food, help “your economy,” and share with friends and family.

Where:    Mesa Community Farmers Market, Center Street, South of University on the East Side.

You Do Not Need To Bring Seeds to participate.

You can have my month-to-month planting information at your fingertips in the PDF version of my calendar.  Purchase once ($6) and download into all devices you have which read PDF.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/herbs-2-u/desert-gardening-success-perpetual-calendar/ebook/product-22030956.html

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Homemade Dried Vegetable Stock/Bouillon

Dear Folks,

The sun dried apples are done, on to my next sun drying project a Vegetable Stock/Bouillon Powder.

First step find a recipe!

I discovered that there are all sorts of homemade stock/bouillon recipes out there, but a lot of them had things in them I did not like.  Many "vegetable" version called for dried beef or chicken bouillon as an ingredient.

I suppose I could grind up some of my dry cured salami but that was not what I was looking for.

I wanted a vegetable and herb powder to add to soups, stews, pasta / grain water or even salad dressings.

As I was looking at all the recipes I did not want, when my "Duh" moment hit.  What I was looking for was a vegetable stock recipe - but dried.

After looking at a few stock recipes (Martha had some good ideas but added a potato - later I thought).  Other basic stock recipes cautioned against adding garlic as part of the base.  Martha also cautioned against using any of the broccoli family as it may bring an off taste to the base (I did throw a couple of curly kale pieces in my recipe below).

So looking over what I had in the garden I decided on the ingredients below.  Although bay leaf is always added to soups and stews I chose to use some conehead thyme (an herb with a  flavor mix of savory, thyme and oregano) as a replacement.  When I use the mix later I can always add a bay leaf.  I grow bay.  I have a huge tree.  However it is very difficult to get it ground really well that does not result in sharp pieces, e.g., I always opt to use bay whole (except when I cure meats during the curing process I crush up the bay but remove all later on).





Day 1

Vegetable Stock Base - Dried 
Young red onion (roasted on the grill)
Red and green celery young stalks and leaves
Carrots
Green bell pepper
Greens: sorrel, red leaf lettuce, curly kale
Rosemary,
Conehead Thyme
Basil


Ratios are approximate - I used about 50% more carrot than the onion and celery (equal amounts of those).  For the herbs and greens about the amount called for in a recipe for soup or stew 5-6 sprigs total.

About greens in this mix - I wanted things which could add their own flavor and possibly a little bulk.

I thought these would take a day or two to dry completely and then use my bullet grinder to reduce to powder and store to use as needed.

We grilled the other day and I threw some of our young red onions on - had left over so I think the smoky flavor of the grill will add to the overall flavor of the mix.

Some of the combination is based on my Herb Soup recipe where all of the flavors of lettuces and herbs creates an incredible mix of layered flavors.(I posted the recipe at the Valley Permaculture Site.) 

Day 2

You can see in the picture how much most the veggies and herbs shrunk (about 5 hours in our 97 degree temp).  The onions and carrots took a little more than the 5 hours. (You want them bone dry.)
 
Day 3
 
I actually ground them today (the 31st) - I just did not get to it yesterday.  This is about a 1/4 cup of final powder and the flavor is AWESOME - I love how this turned out.  Because of the celery (particularly the red variety which tends to hold more natural sodium than the green) the mix tastes like it has salt added.

It will be easy to adjust salt and anything else I want to add when using this mix like, bay leaf, garlic or shallots (there is no pepper spice in it for instance).  Just a nice basic veg and herb mix for flavoring anything that a bouillon powder would be used for and it will keep for a long time in my dark pantry.

So my dear readers - don't buy store bought if you are growing vegetables and herbs - make your own "solar powered" soup and stew base.


 


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Caper, Caper, Seed Orientation, Dehydration with the Sun

Dear Folks,

Suzanne Vilardi of Vilardi Gardens and I have been working on our "Caper Caper Mystery" project for almost 3 years now.  Caper (Capparis spinosa) plant seeds are notoriously difficult to germinate.  We want to find a reliable way to germinate seed and grow caper plants for production of Capers and Caper Berries here in the valley.  (Suzanne is known for her amazing tomato, herb etc. transplants available at local farmers markets and some of the valley nurseries - check out her facebook page (above) for times and locations for purchasing.)


This is a picture of the first flower this spring on one of the 'mother' plants. (Taken May 8th.)

As we go along I will give you some history of the project and more updates.

Sowing Seeds

As a general rule I recommend soaking your seeds overnight (except beans and peas - only soak for 8 hours maximum).  This speeds up germination time (less days) and increases germination rate (percentage which germinate).

Underwood Gardens (aka Terroir Seeds) has a nice article on seed sowing orientation.  They make a good point about sowing seeds in the best position for faster growth (particularly with large seeds like pumpkin, melon, squash and beans).  Give a look.  Also they are a reliable source for non-GMO seeds.

Going into our heat, use existing plants to act as nurseries for the seed, sowing just under the edge of the plants.  This protects the seeds from birds and gives a little canopy to cool the soil.

When sowing never let the sown soil area dry out going into our heat.  The seeds may already be germinating under ground, but if they hit a dry/hot soil point, they will die before every breaking the surface.

Solar Drying aka using the sun to dry foods

Last year I was able to purchase the trays for an electric dehydrator without the base.  Why would I do that, you ask?  Because the dehydrator I like to use is the sun and it works perfectly.  (I also got the set of trays for $2 :-)

I sliced up a bunch of our apples - dumped them in lemon water to prevent browning and they are drying in the sun as I type. (I do not peel our fruit when I process it.) Some of the trays I left plain and some I sprinkled cinnamon sugar on them.  Once dried they store wonderfully in mason jars in our pantry.  In a pinch I could cook them up for applesauce or make a pie (I love snacking on them.)

Back in late March when we had some nice 80 degree days I dried some citrus slices, herbs and I tried drying asparagus for later sauteeing (the asparagus was a fail).  Herbs dry very well in the sun as did the citrus.  I can use the citrus either for decoration on foods or I can hydrate by boiling, add some sugar and make tiny batches of marmalade.  (Check out my marmalade recipes which make the most of our citrus as a real jam/preserve and note jelly flavored with a few pieces of rind.)


After the apples are done - I will make up a batch of seed crackers and dry them in the sun also.  I will do a new blog post on the crackers with recipes and post a picture.

. . .

Mark Your Calendars The Next Free Seed Share at the Mesa Community Farmers Market is June 26th, - 9 a.m. to Noon - you do not need to share seed to pick up some in time for fall sowing (which begins late July / early August).

Have a great time in the garden and the kitchen!


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Find my Calendar (print and PDF) and books on my publisher's site.

Books are also available at iBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Ibook

https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/catherine-crowley/id372564893?mt=11

amazon - print

http://www.amazon.com/Catherine-Crowley/e/B002C1HWG0/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1367065857&sr=1-2-ent


Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/catherine-crowley

Kobo

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/Search?query=Catherine%20Crowley&fcsearchfield=Author

Lulu (my publisher)

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/herbs2u



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tips For June Gardening - And May Harvest

Dear Folks,

We have been fortunate to be in a mild El Nino pattern which should continue into our Monsoon time.  Interestingly a mild El Nino pattern (according to local Meteorologist Caribe Devine) historically produces more Monsoon rain than a strong El Nino - let's hope for that!

 Typically we dread going into the major heat of the summer so below are some of my tips for the garden going into June.

GARDEN TIPS for June 
Temp Range 112/73
Arizona was visited by a scorcher in 1990 of an unofficial high of 126.

In addition to air temperatures, bare soil surface temperatures during a summer day can approach that of asphalt, 180 degrees!


June through August in the Desert Southwest is the equivalent of winter in North Dakota — you maintain what you have planted, taking special care of young or sensitive plants. With the exception of August when the heavy pre-fall "seed" planting begins, it is a good idea to hold off on any major transplanting until the fall when the temperatures (below 90 daytime) drop back to prime planting weather.


Typically we do not see below 90 daytime temperatures (except on a rainy day) from May 29 to September 29th.

If you have to transplant (as opposed to sowing seed) plants, our Flower Mulching* technique can be used to protect young plants by canopying the soil around them, placing the flowering plants very close to the base of the young plants.  *Use a 6 pack of your favorite heat-loving flowers to surround each transplant - about 3-5 plants depending on the size of the transplant.

Heavy watering requirements may result in yellowing of leaves due to iron deficiency, especially of fruit trees (Chlorosis). Apply Ironite (or green sand) before next watering to correct.


. . .

Deane took a bunch of pictures the other day highlighting all of our wonderful garden production.

Starting from upper left:  White Alpine Strawberry, Apricots, Apples, Indigo Rose Cherry Tomato, Peaches, Red Alpine Strawberry, Red Sunflower, Red Cherry Tomato.

The Indigo Rose Tomato is new to us this year and we love it! 

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you would like one of my gardening "tools" Amazon has both of my books (gardening and cooking), and you can still order my 2016 calendar as a print or PDF - you can consider it a perpetual helper to aid in sowing and planting at the optimal time for best success.

Note: If you use the Amazon links I do get a small commission for any purchases made.

PDF perpetual Calendar 

Print Calendar 2015


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dry Curing Salami - My First Attempt

Dear Folks,

I read a recipe created by Jacques Pepin on dry curing a piece of pork tenderloin to make a type of salami (called a Saucisson by Jacques).

This turned out really tasty and I look forward to making it again.

Dry curing is usually done hanging in a net bag to allow air circulation.  In the recipe Jacques specifically that this could be done in the refrigerator.  Great, I thought!

Our modern refrigerators are constantly removing moisture which allows foods to dry -- either intentionally like when I dry my herbs on plates; or when you leave something uncovered and find the bread or carrot completely shriveled.

Dry Cured Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:
2 pork tenderloins, each about 1 pound
1 cup of kosher salt
2 tablespoons of light brown sugar

1 tablespoon of brandy or cognac
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence,

Directions
Cut the tips off the ends of the tenderloin (Save for another use) to have the meat the same width.  Trim silver skin off.

In a ziplock bag mix the kosher salt and brown sugar.  Add meat, seal and rub to coat.  Place in the refrigerator for 12 hours or overnight.

Have ready a pan with a drip rack in it.  Wipe the meat off and dry (the salt and sugar will have drawn out liquid).

Rub the meat with the brandy then cover/coat with mix of black pepper and herbes de provence.

Place on the rack and position in the refrigerator where the air will circulate.

It will take from 3.5 to 6 weeks to dry.  (Jacques said he liked it a little moist when finished.)

Mine was quite dry at 5 weeks so I am going to try testing at about 4 weeks next time.

"I like them when they are still a little soft, not too dry. Slice very thinly, and enjoy with bread and butter and a cool glass of wine" -- Jacques Pepin 


I found the recipe on Splendid Table from Jacques' Cookbook.

. . .

My next project is to make some homemade bacon from a pork belly - I have several recipes to choose from.  I'm not sure when I will get to it, but for sure I will post when I do.

 
-- Catherine, The Herb Lady