Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Using Nurse Plants, New Squash and a "Pizza" Recipe

Crispy Greens Tortilla "Pizza"
Dear Folks,

Yesterday was the first day in a week with no restrictions on bending and lifting - yahoo!!  Of course it is only good for a couple of days until my next and final cataract surgery next Monday, but I took advantage of the freedom to bend in the garden - and make this Crispy Greens "Pizza"  - if you like Kale chips you will love this recipe.  More on that below.

As fellow gardeners you can image what "no bending or lifting" means.  I must bend over a couple of hundred times a day and it is totally automatic - I just bend over to do things.

So, the guideline is you cannot bend at the waist, your head (eyes) cannot be lower than your waist and you are supposed to stoop to get things.  Right - I am unable to do the "Playboy Benny Dip" because of my knees!  So it kind of sidelined me - all for the good, just frustrating.

Before the first surgery I did get some seeds in the ground in my "chicken wire hat cones" (to keep the critters off them) and I used the existing Crook Neck Squash bed (about 6 feet wide) as a "nursery."   These plants are in their final days although some newer growth is trying to put out and set fruit.

So I set up two seedling areas on the east side of the existing bed, which shelters them until they get going good.  The existing plants provide both western and a bit of overhead shade, while the east exposure gives the seedlings most of the morning sun.  And, the existing plants and debris keep the soil cooler and slow evaporation.  The middle portion of the picture is the crook neck squash seedlings (not the usual time to sow these, but I figured I would try) and the bottom is the Candy Roaster Seedling.

Initially I sprinkle every day (this bed is watered once a week) and now that they are going strong I will start backing off the sprinkling to encourage the deep roots - which is why the bed did so well through the spring and into this heat - deep roots.

I am excited to try a new-to-me winter squash "Candy Roaster Squash" - also called North Georgia Candy Roaster and similar.  This heirloom is possible to grow because of the preservation and culture of the Cherokee people who treasure it.  Click here to read up on the history and culture.  I purchased the seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  These seeds are unique looking, fat and plump compared to usual squash seeds. [the picture is from the SESE catalog.]  I'm looking forward to how this squash does.

I will be posting the monthly planting tips for August around July 16th or so, at which time I hope to have recovered more from the surgeries and moving forward to see what I can "see". :-)


I was interested in a "crispy greens" pizza recipe I saw recently in one of the newsletters.  It used shredded zucchini or summer squash, salted, mixed with cheese and baked on a typical pizza or flatbread dough.

Unfortunately I STILL have not really tried to make dough - something I keep promising myself each winter. One of these years.  In the meantime, I like to use Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas to make "pizzas" - as they work really, really well in my toaster oven - on the toast setting.

A tortilla pizza is the perfect size for us, good for two snacks or a light meal.

The original recipe called for only shredded zucchini, but I am trying to do more things with a variety of greens, not just salad and soups (both of which I love greens in) but other things and now I have this great option.  For this recipe I used curly kale and zucchini, but next I am going to use my sweet potato and Egyptian leaves along with anything else green growing in the garden.

My Crispy Greens Tortilla "Pizza"

1 whole wheat tortilla                                                                                                                               
1 ounce Monterey Jack Cheese (or cheese of choice)                                                                                                                               
1/2  ounce Parmesan cheese
2 cups of kale
1 cup of zucchini  (half of 8 inch fruit)                                                                                                                             
2 tablespoons of red onion                                                                                                                                                               

--Set oven to 500 or arrange toaster oven on Toast at highest degree                                                           
--Shred cheeses separately set aside                                                           
--Shred zucchini and toss in bowl with some salt to wilt - let sit for 20 minutes.                                                           
--Thinly slice onion.                                                           
--Shred kale set aside.                                                           
--Using a glass pie plate, place tortilla in plate.                                                           
--Squeeze zucchini to get moisture out. Toss with kale, add the monterey jack cheese and toss.
--Top tortilla - spread to cover entire surface. sprinkle with a bit of salt and parmesan cheese and spread sliced onion over top.
--Toast/bake for approximately 15 minutes, WATCH - you want some charring on greens and top, but not burnt.                                                           
--Makes 4 wedges each 14 grams protein, 2 grams fiber and 228 calories.

I hope you have a fabulous and safe 4th of July.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Remember you can finding my gardening and cooking calendars and books on my website.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Garlic Harvest and More.

Dear Folks,

I finally harvested my garlic this morning.  And they are looking great!  Both Regular and Elephant types performed well compared to last year - when it was so warm the garlic did not properly create the cloves.  This year, the extended rain etc. seemed to slow the growth down and I waited and waited and seemed to wait more for the scapes to appear to cut them off.  Scapes are the flower bud and you cut them off to force the energy back into completing the formation of the cloves in the head of garlic.

[Pictured - pulled from the garden - then rinsed and on a wire "hat" to dry in the shade.  You can easily see how big the Elephant is compared to the Regular.  You can see my trusty glass bucket I use to rinse the plants.]

Finally I got scapes cut off a couple of weeks ago (and still found some on the garlic I harvested today!) and let the plants do their final thing.

Some facts about garlic.

Here in the desert plant Garlic in October and no later than October 31st.  I usually get mine October 1st (one of my traditions) but with life getting in the way, I finally got them in October 8th.

Garlic needs ALL of the winter cold to properly grow and form the cloves.  Without a lot of cold you get large "garlic scallions" which taste great but do not form cloves and cannot be dried and stored.

I picked up both varieties at the Gilroy Festival last summer and stored them for planting.

Regular Garlic (Allium sativum) probably needs no additional details.  There are many varieties from pure white to purple, from mild to spicy in flavor.

Elephant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is a unique onion family member.  It is not a true garlic but rather a relative of the leek.  I like to explain leeks and elephant garlic this way:  A Leek is a Scallion on steroids (neither produce a bulb) and Elephant Garlic is a Leek on a whole lot more steroids to produce both cloves in a head and unique bulblets (see picture).

Elephant Garlic's flavor is far milder than regular garlic .  Also Elephant Garlic does not store as well as Regular Garlic, so while both are air dried in the shade, plan on using the Elephant Garlic sooner.

If you sun dry your herbs and vegetables, slicing either garlic for sun drying is an excellent way to preserve them longer. (You can use a dehydrator of course, but I like the sun - saves electricity.)

Planting and Bulblets.

When you plant in the fall, you are planting individual cloves, pointy side up, about 2 inches deep.  Keep the area weed free.  You can plant about 5-6 inches apart OR you can plant closer together and plan on harvesting a "garlic scallion" as needed through the winter.

In the pictures shown here - you can see two different Bulblets (sometimes called Bulbils.  Both garlics produce a side growth if in the ground long enough.   This first picture is regular garlic with a dark brown bulblet growing from the base of the garlic head.  It looks a lot like a clove.

In the next picture I show two different elephant garlic (light tan)  bulblets which grow out of the side of the elephant garlic and by the time you harvest they have usually separated from the "mother".

These bulblets can be planted instead of the dried cloves, however it may take two seasons for the plant to have sufficient energy to produce and form a head of cloves.

To add to the planting options, if you let the flower scape go to full flower stage, what you will see is a cluster of tiny bulblets and these too can be planted, too although they may not reliable grow.


Dry your garlic in the shade (I use the shade of my fruit trees - which also provides air ciruluation) for approximately 2-3 weeks until the exterior is papery (as you find them in the store).  That means they have lost enough moisture to store for use.

Saving and Re-Using

Like potatoes, when the heads are dry enough, you can also store one or two in cardboard in the crisper (away form moist produce) for planting in October.  As you can determine from the timing, Planted Oct 8 - harvest June 19th you need to plan on approximately 7 months, give or take, to harvest.  The all important times are:  Planting and cutting the scapes off in the spring.  Once the scapes are removed the plant will start to die back with yellowing leaves so about 2-3 weeks after removing the scapes, you can harvest and dry your garlic.


I also pulled another monster Chanatay Carrot from the garden.  These are amazing.  I wrote about them recently.  With life challenges I did not keep up with harvesting this wonderful variety.  The lucky thing for me is they still taste great even at this large size.

And one more from the garden.  My Caper is flowering now and also starting to produce berries - fruit.  These stunning flowers only last about a day.  You can see another bud just starting to open, showing the white edge.  Capers are "usually" the harvested unopened flower bud, preserved.  But some of my caper growing friends and I prefer waiting until the fruit forms and then harvesting and preserving them - more like an olive.  More "bang" for the effort.

I hope you are enjoying your garden's bounty in the kitchen.

You can find my helpful calendars and books on my website.

Have a great day in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, June 17, 2019

July Planting Tips

Summer Greens
Dear Folks,

First I need to mention that I will be having cataract surgery near the end of June and into July - so I won't be posting much.  If you send me questions I will answer as soon as I can.

[Picture is My Summer Greens / Lettuce alternatives:  Sweet potato, Egyptian Spinach, Roselle, sorrell, basil, end of season celery  - see note below on growing summer greens.]

I also have a funny to share about the preparation for the surgery.  I started getting into texting my family a couple of months ago and am getting the hang of it.  The other day, though, I had the funniest auto-correct fail and have to share with everyone.

Texting to my sister:  "off to get my eyebrows for surgeries"
When she immediately responded with a "ha-ha" I looked at what I had typed!!!  LOL

Eye drops was what I was supposed to have typed (there are special post-surgery drops prescribed).

BTW my eyebrows are fine as they are, maybe could use a tiny bit of cosmetic plucking. :-)

Once our sunflowers really get going we look forward to the acrobatics of the Lesser Gold Finches - the Male here is upright, but he was just upside down on one of the flowers.


Most of the planting in July and August is by seed for fall production/harvest. Consider this: If you want pumpkins for Halloween, you have to count back 90-120 days for seeding in. If you do not have a bed prepared or in mind for planting now, get your bed(s) ready.

Beginning July 15th
Seeds Only Planting:

Luffa Gourds
Musk Melons
Squash, Winter       

Our Chocolate Flower is loving our weather and greats me every morning when I go out to get the paper with its floral cocoa scent and sweet faces.  Berlandiera lyrata is an edible flower. The Native Americans used the dried flower as a seasoning is foods like sausage.  I have some  of the cut flowers on our kitchen table so we can enjoy the aroma while having a meal.

    Sown areas need to be kept consistently moist and the seeds will germinate based on soil temperatures. [Cool weather seeds can be sown now and will give you a jump start when the soil begins cool later on.] Lightly cover with loose soil and loose mulch to keep the area moist.

    Sprinkle sown beds EVERY evening until you see them break the soil surface. Then you can start watering more but less frequently to encourage the roots to go down.
    Higher humidity can reduce moisture loss to plants, reducing watering frequency, but check with water meter regularly.  It is possible to over-water - then followed by under-watering - causing plant stress.
    Tomato plants are unable to set fruit when the Night temperatures stay in the 80s.  Maintain the plants through the summer and you will get a fall crop of fruit before frost.
    Sun damages plants in the summer time, as frost damages them in the winter time. As in frost damage, try to leave the sun damage at the top of the plant alone, if you can, as it protects the lower portions of the plant.  Pruning for fall can start at the end of August through the beginning of September when the monsoon ends and night time temperatures fall below 80.

Regular lettuce does not survive our high summer heat, but there are some fun alternatives, which are tasty and good for you.   Sweet Potato Leaves, Egyptian Spinach seeds can still be sown now, and Roselle leaves once your plants get going are wonderful as greens.  Some sources say sweet potato leaves are even more nutritious than the tuber. Regardless - at plant that produces edible leaves and tubers is a two-fer.

And don't forget "weeds".  Summer is the time for mallow and purslane (verdolaga).  Here is a nice article on the FREE food which may be growing in your garden.  Remember - NO pesticides or other chemicals - the weeds need to be as chemical-free as your regular garden produce.

Have a bountiful time in the garden!  

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, June 09, 2019

National Herbs and Spices Day, June 10, 2019

Dear Folks,

Monday, June 10th is a day to celebrate herbs and spices!

For the difference between an herb and spice, see the end of this post.

[pictured - some of my herbs on racks ready to go into the refrigerator.]

While many of our great vegetables and other foods have wonderful flavor on their own, most benefit from the addition of herbs and spices to really bring out all of the good taste.  Some like rosemary with any starchy food (think bread or potatoes) just seem to life the maximum taste enjoyment of that food.

Most herbs and spices also have health benefits beside great taste, aiding digestion, helping to process fat better, anti-inflammatory and respiratory help are just some of the additional reasons to add herbs and spices to your cooking ingredients.

Dry herbs is the best way to preserve the flavor and usefulness of your garden's fresh bounty.  I prefer drying in the refrigerator to maximize flavor (essential oils) and color.

Here is a link to my post on drying herbs click here.

In the above link I mention homemade dried bouillon -- some years ago I realized I could take the drying one step further and make my own homemade dried bouillon powder with all the great things from my garden.  No additives, no chemicals, just dried herbs, spices and vegetables.  And the taste is just amazing.  It can be used for making broths, stews, salad dressings or as a rub on meats and roasted vegetables.  Click here for that post.

If you wish help to grow more herbs, I have a PDF for sale listing 48 herbs with planting times, food pairing and some additional information click here to go to the page to order ($5 USD).

I just harvested  my own dill and cilantro (coriander) seeds for use as spices and also to re-sow in the fall.  Double benefit:  I get a Spice (dried seed, root or stem of the plant), and can also grow the Herb (fresh leaf or flowers of the plant).  A two-fer!

One last thing to consider drying -- edible flower petals for a lovely garnish.  Pictured are pink rose petals from my native wild rose and nasturtium flowers.  To this I also added some of my johnny jump ups.  I could have added flowers from rosemary or basil, for example, but the mix would then have those flavors and I wanted to keep the flavor/aroma neutral.

I hope you have a flavorful day!
-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, June 03, 2019

Plant The Rain!

Curb Cut illustrating runoff diversion.
Dear Folks,

Our Monsoons will be arriving later this month, so I thought I would encourage you to think "plant the rain" aka water harvesting.  As simple as curb-cut to rooftop rain catchment and storage, find one or more that works for you and your gardens.

Images here are from the video (link below) illustrating "curb cutting" which notches through curbs to direct rain runoff, otherwise lost.

I have written many times about our property which is bermed in such a manner as to catch up to 3 inches of standing water (never has happened) everywhere but the driveway.  This means every drop of rain which falls, stays on our property, except for that which goes on to the driveway.  This allows us to turn off city water to the gardens frequently during rainy times, to the point where we stopped irrigating main gardens (I have a series of pots on watering schedules that needed to be kept on) for about 6 weeks this year.

"Plant The Rain"

Brad Lancaster is a desert permacutlure and water-harvesting guru.  His amazing journey is shown in this video and worth the approximate hour of time to watch it all.

From "under-the-radar" water harvester to internationally recognized authority, Brad Lancaster shows how the simple process of rain harvesting makes a huge difference, creates an entire permaculture area using plant litter and recycled materials, and life filled with color, shade and food!

He shows how his sustainable homestead functions from water, to food production to a total permaculture environment from input to output.

Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus) is an edible - I just learned about from this video.  His website is in the "more" section below the video.

Brad Lancaster is a frequent instructor on training Watershed Management Group offers.

Watershed Management Group is the go-to for help in harvesting water. 

WMG offers a complete array of water-harvesting landscape services for your home, business, school, and beyond. We also provide unique hands-on educational programs, customized trainings, and municipal watershed planning support. 

As more and more developments seem to be planning to "use" water, they do not address harvesting it.  Rather they want to rely on plans to distribute state collected water "to them."

It is more than time for existing residents to take advantage of the rain which falls on their property.  Legally any person or business can harvest rain fall on their property in Arizona.  Some states are actually moving to take that right away from their citizens. 

My fear (and others have the same fear) is that with drought contingent plans memorialized recently, developers trying anyway they can to fiddle with how they prove water access, and farmers to be the first losers in a drought, individual home owners/gardeners NEED to consider potential water restrictions on their gardens.

You have a water right - use it! 

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Saturday, May 25, 2019

June Planting Tips

Lemon Queen Sunflower
Dear Folks,

El Nino has given us several blessings this winter/spring with extra rain (more snow pack, yay) and a longer cooler spring.  The last time I remember an El Nino spring like this one, when the 100s finally hit in June they hit with more heat even than normal (remember we typically hit our first very hot days in mid to late June, then things start to calm down - a little - with the Monsoonal rain wind shift).

So keep your moisture meter handy and eye on the plants.  Check moisture in the early morning NOT mid-afternoon when the plants with thin leaves may "droop" to retain moisture in the hot sun.

I love the "Lemon Queen" Sunflowers and this one set against our blue sky is just one of those "sigh" relaxing moments.  There is another "pose" below.  I could not choose between them so I am posting both! :-)

AND you can still sow (direct sow) sunflower seeds into early July.


Cucumber, Armenian
Luffa Gourd
Melons, Musk
Peas, Black Eyed
Peppers, Chiles
Potato, Sweet

USING existing plants you can under- seed with:  Basil, Chives, Shiso, and Epazote


Roselle, Jamaica Sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa) (not too late to direct sow seeds)

    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 “sowing” begins, it is a good idea to hold off on any major transplanting until the fall when the temperatures drop back to prime planting weather (below 90 daytime).
    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.  (Flower Mulching::  Choose a 6-pack of flowers - image a 12 inch diameter circle, sow or transplant the focused edible surrounded by 4-6 of the flowers.  This creates a soil canopy - keeping it cooler - while allowing the focused plant to get all the sun it needs.
    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.
    Sowing corn for fall harvest, plant ONLY one variety at a time, so you can save some dried corn after harvest for re-sowing.  You can sow corn twice a year.

Use your moisture meter to determine if you need to change the frequency of watering adjusting to the higher temperatures.  Did you know you can actually over water when the humidity starts ramping up in July?  Again use that meter.

Begin looking into what you will be sowing mid to late July and Early August for fall growth.  If you want winter squash or pumpkin you need to count backwards from Halloween or Thanksgiving 90-120 days for sowing.  Also you can seed in winter herbs such as Cilantro, Chervil, Dill and Parsley in August and the seeds will germinate when the soil begins cooling.  You need to make sure the sown area stays moist.  Light Leaf cover helps.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, May 24, 2019

It's National Asparagus Day!

Dear Folks,

We have had a bed of Asparagus for many years and of course that means lots of harvesting for a couple of months - basically about 6 weeks from approximately late January until sometime in April - well I do cheat a little and harvest even now a few spears to have some fresh.  But all that wonderful bounty means I craft recipes to give us "Asparagus Variety" although we do have some favorites.

Like Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Bundles on the grill - with basil leaves tucked in if I have some fresh in the garden.  The one pictured from some years ago was a quick side - now-a-days I wrapped the whole length of the bundle.  Either way they are awesome!

I frequently make a Savory Oatmeal as a Side and a couple of years ago I did one with asparagus, topped with cheese, and it was great.  The recipe is here.

In the last year - since 2018's harvest I have been making variations of my "Creamy" Soup with Asparagus and we just love it.  Two pictures of the way they turned out - one with Dill and one with Edible Flowers as garnish.

How about a Pasta Primavera with roasted asparagus, red sweet peppers, carrots and shucked sugar peas!  I use Orzo pasta frequently for my pasta dishes.  All mixed with some shredded Parmesan Cheese.

For the soup and other ways with Asparagus, including a lovely fresh salad with roasted asparagus and other veggies from the garden click here for my post.

Last Month I used some Gailan (Chinese Broccoli) from the garden and roasted along with some the asparagus, tossed pasta with some fresh celery leaf from the garden and served with poached chicken seasoned with some of my dried Rosemary.  Lovely dinner.

I hope these give you some ideas for how to use this wonderful garden gem.

This weekend while enjoying family and out door time, remember the fallen Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. ... Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Take care and be kind.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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