Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What To Make When You Have A LOT of Celery.

Dear Folks,

I grow celery - in the desert garden - and because I let it reseed each year I usually have a LOT of it this time of year.  Some of it is going into flower (and I will capture some seed later for my seed bank inventory), but right now I have a lot of fresh leaves.

What to do?  Most people do not think of celery as a vegetable, they think in terms of a bit of flavor for soups, stews, sandwich salads (Tuna, etc.).

Over a decade ago I developed a braised celery and cranberry dish for Thanksgiving and it was great.  I posted it here on the blog last fall.

However I have not done much with it since (outside of always adding to sandwich salads) except to dry to add to my pantry, and even make it a part of my homemade vegetable bouillon.

But now that I have no lettuce in the garden, and I have a LOT of celery I mulled what I could do with it.

I thought about using it "in place" of lettuce, so our lunch yesterday was a Bacon, Celery, Basil, Tomato sandwich with our apples on the side, on raisin toast :-)

I got to thinking about a celery leaf "pesto" and the Sweet Potato Linguine I have and dinner was now planned.  (The pasta is from locally producer DeCio Pasta in Tempe, and I purchased at the Mesa Community Farmers Market.  Great products with excellent ingredients.) Also pictured in the last farme, I sauteed up some sliced beets and beet tops (from the garden) for Deane as a side dish for him (he loves them, I'm slightly allergic to them).

Celery Pesto Pasta Primavera

This kind of dish is not about exact ingredient ratios, increase or reduce as you like.  I decided on a "raw" sauce created by chopping fresh tomatoes and onion and placing in a bowl, adding the "pesto" a dribble of olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Then when the pasta is done, drain quickly and add to bowl, let sit for a minute or two to heat the veggies and then toss.

Handful of celery leaves (substitute parsley or more basil if you do not have celery)
4 small sprigs of basil
2 small sweet peppers, cored and slivered
1-2 small tomatoes or 1 medium size, chopped
Scallion, 2 inch piece, minced
Parmesan Cheese, grated
Chopped walnuts
Linguine or Spaghetti (1-2 servings)
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a bowl, place chopped tomatoes and onion.

Rinse celery and basil, place in a blender or bullet grinder with a bit of water and buzz until ground up.  Drain, catching the water*.  Add to bowl, drizzle with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, add cracked black pepper and salt to taste.

Boil pasta according to directions.  In the last minute add the slivered peppers, stir to mix with pasta.  When done, drain, but leave slightly damp and immediately add to bowl.  Let sit for 1-2 minutes to allow the veggies to heat up.  Toss, plate up and top with Cheese and Walnuts.

Turned out great.  The sweet peppers added a note of sweetness to all the savory elements.

*This "herb" water contains a lot of flavor from the herbs/greens used, so I add it to my stock container in the freezer for the next stock making time.

So, what else can you use fresh celery leaves for?  Some nice ideas found on the internet:

Make a celery simple syrup -- ratio is 1/2 to 1 cup of rinsed celery leaves, 1 cup each sugar and water.  Bring water and sugar to a boil, stir until well dissolved, add celery and let steep until cool or overnight (to taste). Drain, discard the leaves and store the syrup in the frig for up to 1 week.
-----Use to make celery soda -- 1/4 cup of celery syrup, add 3/4 cup of cold seltzer or sparkling water, stir and enjoy.
-----Use as the simple syrup in any cocktail.  Combine with fresh mint for a different Mojito 

Use in place of parsley or lettuce in a recipe.

Substitute for Loveage (a celery flavored herb) in recipes. (Loveage is a far stronger flavored celery taste so adjust recipe when using celery.)

What new or old fashioned way have you used celery leaf?

. . .

Next Events Coming Up:

I am speaking at the monthly meeting at the Arizona Herb Association on June 2nd.  Topic is Stevia and Syrian Oregano.  Their business meeting starts at 7 p.m. and my talk will be approximately 8 p.m.  Great organization to join.

June 24, 2016, Friday, 9 a.m. - Noon
FREE Seed Share / Swap
Mesa Farmers Market

June 25, 2016, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Sow! 105? Yes!
Lecture at Mesa Urban Garden (MUG) on sowing in the summer
Free (consider donating to the garden or renting a bed)

. . .

Check out my books and calendar on Amazon.

Follow me on Facebook


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Into the 100s and Beyond in the Desert Garden - What to plant in June and July

Dear Folks,

For anyone wondering what if anything you can plant now, try these, going into and through June:

(Pictured is my Stevia (and some strawberry plants) last July 1st.)

June/ July PLANTING (Sowing):

Cucumber, Armenian
Luffa Gourd
Melons, Musk
Peas, Black Eyed
Peppers, Chiles
Portulaca (Moss Rose)
Potato, Sweet
Purslane (Portulaca X Hybrida)

Roselle -- (soak the seeds overnight and get them in the ground ASAP).

Using existing plantings you can under- seed with:

WEEK OF JULY 16TH Seeds Only Planting: Anise; Cantaloupe; Caraway; Chervil; Cilantro; Corn; Dill; Fennel; Luffa Gourds; Musk Melons; Parsley; Peppers; Pumpkins; Squash, Winter

WATERING: Higher humidity can reduce moisture loss to plants, reducing watering frequency, but check with water meter regularly.  It may sound strange but you can over water in the summer even on days in the 100s.

Some plants can go a little dormant in the summer, causing a root rot problem because of the extra water.  Sage is one.  Well draining soil helps mitigate this problem.

ALSO the extra water can deplete the iron availability to some plants (chlorosis) , so ironite or green sand can be used. (Future tip:  cold, damp soil in the winter can also cause chlorosis.)

SUNBURN damage:  Like frost damage - do not prune until danger of sunburn is over - the damaged plant protects the lower growth.

IF YOU are transplanting this time of year use leaf-type mulch to keep the soil surface cool around "but not touching" the transplant.

Give some thought to the beginning of the fall "sowing" season starting in the middle of July and into August.  If you want pumpkins for Halloween or Thanksgiving you have to count backwards 90 to 120 days.

Cool weather loving plants are triggered by cooling soil, the reverse of plants which like their feet warm like basil.

Check out my books and calendar on Amazon.

Follow me on Facebook

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fun Lectures at the Lavender Herb Farm - And a "New" Herb To Check Out!

Dear Folks,

My 2 day lecture event,  "Let's Talk Culinary Herbs" at the Lavender Herb Farm in Chino Valley, AZ this past weekend was by all measures a fun success.  The audience enjoyed the herb-inspired light menu, I had great questions from the folks, and I believe many left inspired to try some new or more herbs in their garden and kitchen.

Linda Nedblach hosts a tea and a luncheon each month at her beautiful farm and I would encourage you to join her "club" of happy guests by signing up at her website to receive the regular emails on the next events, teas and luncheons.  She tells me the lavender should be blooming in June, so try to take advantage of one of her events.  NOTE:  She is only open the days of the events and asks that you take note of hours and guidance on participating in the events.  She CANNOT take reservations via email, you must call to arrange your reservation.  This is a working farm and there are NO handicap facilities.

Linda attended one of my lectures quite a few years ago and she told me when we met several years when I came up for a tea, that lecture inspired her to grow and do more with herbs.  How wonderful is that, that my lecture inspired, at least in a tiny part, this beautiful farm.

I can't take credit for the incredible effort Linda has put into the farm.  The pictures hopefully give you a little idea of this piece of tranquility.

Thank you to Lee Ann Aronson, who is with the Arizona Herb Association, for taking the picture of Linda and I.

I will be giving a talk on Stevia and Za'atar at the June 2nd meeting of the Arizona Herb Association, following their business meeting.

If you are not familiar with the AzHA and are wanting to find out more, consider joining them and participate in their meetings and events.

A "New" Herb To Try

Lamb's Ears Stachys byzantina, is a petable and edible herb.

After more than 30 years of my trowel & error gardening with all things edible and my insatiable desire to try new-to-me edibles, I discovered over the weekend that this member of the prodigious mint family is not only useful (I knew that part) but also edible!!  I am also always learning new-to-me edibles and I love that!

And it was a kismet moment after Friday's lecture and a question from an audience member about Lamb's Ears and reading an issue of Island Homes in my guest room, that I learned about Lamb's Ears edible status.

The question had to with whether this velvety soft-leafed, pretty plant was edible because it can be "VERY" happy in their, and your gardens.

I have grown Lamb's Ears in my garden, but not currently, the picture is from some years ago with a Lamb's Ears (the gray velvety leaf) next to my Dark Opal Basil.  I knew from my research that the anti-bacterial, and soft, leaf was used as wound dressing during the Civil War.  What I did not know until this weekend is the leaf is edible.

"In Brazil it is used as an edible herb, called lambari." -- Wikipedia

Later that evening as I was relaxing in my room, reading an Island Homes article by Richelle Directo, where Directo describes the leaf as having a rosemary flavor and use.

Various blogs and references on the internet indicate the culinary use as possibly raw in salads (some say not a great taste), steamed, made into a tea or battered and fried up (the preferred method in Brazil).

I can tell you it is an easy plant to grow here, somewhat drought tolerant and will re-seed in your gardens.  The flowers are a lovely purple contrasting beautifully with gray leaves and produces tall spikes of the flowers.  Toward the end of the flower cycle the flower heads can get prickly, so just a note of caution to the little ones and you, who may love petting the leaves and soft stems.

. . .

My Next Free Seed Share is at the end of June, watch for the details.

Also I will be giving a free lecture at Mesa Urban Garden at the end of June, watch for the details.

Have a best day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

My Website: 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What If . . .The Market Shelves Were Empty?

Dear Folks,

I am very concerned about the economic impact of the political fights going on right now.  Not just for now, but also for the future.  I am concerned about a worsening problem of access to quality food.

And there is a simple solution which gives a family or individual, food, a peaceful activity, and more control over their own destiny.

Grow Food!

What if you went to the grocery store tomorrow, and you found that the shelves were mostly empty?  Would it be too late for you to learn to grow your own food?

That was part of the lead paragraphs in an email I received from the Grow Network.

Which made me remember the phrase:

Grow food not lawns?  It is estimated that there are 35 million lawns in the US.  What if many or most of them were turned into food gardens?

The average lawn is 5,000 square feet.

Which made me remember a great article in Mother Earth News.

Edible Landscaping: Grow $700 of Food in 100 Square Feet!

In 2008 well known edible landscaping author Rosalind Creasy (the link is to her author page on Amazon) with Cathy Wilkinson Barash (well known edible flower author) began a test of how much food and food savings could be achieved from just 100 square feet (5 x 20 feet). The result?  $700 over 6 months.

A little simple math will show you how much your lawn could be producing or a new garden bed.  AND in the desert, since we can garden year-round the math looks even better 2 x $700 from 100 square feet.  Image if you had more area to grow in?

Rosalind wrote a follow up blog to the article.

Creasy's first book published in 1982 was what pushed my "growing" interest in edibles going forward.  The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping: Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques

I ultimately published my book "Edible Landscaping in the Desert Southwest: Wheelbarrow to Plate," to address the year round growing capabilities of our desert gardens.

As an aside, Creasy's  book The Edible French Garden, showed me for the first time the "Alpine" type strawberry.  It was some years later that I discovered those berry seeds for growing in my own garden.

Back to growing food instead of lawns, or just adding too or staring a vegetable bed.  What are you waiting for - the grocery shelves to be partially empty?

I am not trying to be one of those end-of-the-world people who are telling you to build shelters, I am saying - Growing some or most of your own food gives you remarkable control over your future.  If you can grow some or most of your own food, you won't go hungry. Period.

AND you will have a possible source of extra income. Most of the farmers markets welcome backyard gardeners and many now have "community tables" where you do not have to set up your own table - they sell for you for a small percentage.

You can share your extra with your neighbors and food banks.

What are you waiting for?

Growing your own food is a win/win.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Berry Picking This Morning - Two You May Not Know.

Dear Folks,

These two great varieties of berries give me multiple crops each year.  This is one of those 'seasons'.

The dark berries are a tomato relative called Wonderberry sometimes called Sunberry-- (Solanum burbankii)

A sweet berry with a hint of its tomato connection in the background of taste. They have a lot of seeds in them but are very soft and the whole berry is totally enjoyable.

I like them fresh, but some folks like to make pies with them.  If I ever get a designated spot for them I will have enough for pies.  For now I let them come up in most areas of the garden.  That is one of their traits - they freely re-seed wherever.  For me it is not a problem, but you may wish to keep them a little corralled in your gardens.  Happy plants can get about 18 inches tall.

You can find the seed at Baker Creek   It is an heirloom and the seeds breed true.

Next up are my white -- yes those are white and fully ripe strawberries, and red Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria vesca).  Related to the wild strawberries these berries pack an amazing flavor in a small package and are incredibly fragrant when ripe.  You can smell them as you approach the patch..

Unlike the larger strawberries, Alpines send out few runners, rather seeding in place (or wherever the seed ends up).

White Alpine Strawberries have a couple of unique qualities. The first is their taste -- tropical with a hint of pineapple.  The second nice quality is two-fold, birds have difficulty seeing white and yellow fruit, so you get more to harvest for yourself.  The other aspect is the foliage of both white and red tends to ride high and canopy the fruit, further shielding them from the critters.

Baker Creek also carries the seed for varieties of these Alpine Strawberries

I have been growing all three of these berries in my gardens for years and because I really enjoy them I tend to let them go were they will, but you can certainly establish your garden borders for them.  They will reward you with years of production.  They will grow in full sun or with some afternoon shade.

I highly recommend your adding these great berries to your garden.  If you get the seed, you can under-sow (under the canopy edge) of existing garden plants NOW.  Both types of berry germinate freely most of the year, with the exception of "our" deep winter (December-January).

The Alpine's are a bit fussy about transplanting, so if you need to start outside of the ground, my recommendation is jiffy pellets where you plant the whole pellet in the ground when you are ready to transplant.  Wonderberry plants are a little more forgiving, however with both plants be careful of the roots when transplanting.

My next Free Seed Share at the Mesa Farmers Market will be Friday, June 24th - 9 a.m. to Noon.

I "may" have seed for these berry plants.  I will have to see what produces mature seed - if I don't eat all the berries :-)

Check out my books and calendar on Amazon.

Follow me on Facebook

Or subscribe to this blog on the sidebar here.

Have a great day in the garden and kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mother's Day Ends a Week of Celebrating Herbs!

Dear Folks,

This year National Herb Week runs from Monday, May 2nd to Sunday May 8th.

National Herb Week begins the first Monday of May and ends each year on Mother's Day, a fitting and fun combination of celebrating love and the fragrance and helpfulness of herbs.

Pictured is my Arizona Wild Rose.  You did know roses are herbs didn't you!

If you are looking for flowers considering adding some fragrant herbs to the roses and other flowers and create a one of a kind  bouquet for Mom.  She will remember it long after the flowers fade

. . .

As a gardener, cook, writer and lecturer on all things edible, and particularly herbs, I have some ideas for gifts for your Mother, Grandmother or someone has been like a mother to you, which can extend her special day by gifting some useful books or calendar, or take her to a lovely lunch / lecture.

Here are some belated gift ideas are:

My special "Let's Talk Culinary Herbs" lecture at the beautiful Lavender Herb Farm  in Chico on your choice of May 13 (Friday) or May 14 (Saturday).  Read my full blog post on the lecture and how to register ($20 / person).

Perhaps Mom or Grandmom enjoys gardening.

My month-by-month wall calendar helps her know what to plant each month in the Valley, including herbs, vegetables, fruits and edible flowers.

My beginner's guide to gardening more successfully in the desert is a good reference book with gardening tips, month-by-month planting and some recipes to get your started.

If she likes to cook my 101+ Recipes book featuring herbs and spices for flavor FIRST is a favorite of my readers for how prepare meals full of flavor with less salt and fat.

And my newest cookbook is a unique take on a 12 Course Victorian Meal (you don't have to prepare them all at once!) using one or more herbs as the focal point.

You can also find all of these on Amazon

I hope your Mother's Day celebrations, whether your own or shared, are lovely, fun and serene.

Find me on Facebook.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A very Special Lecture Opportunity -- "Let's Talk Culinary Herbs"

Dear Folks,

I was invited to present a lecture at the Lavender Herb Farm in Chino Valley by Linda, the owner.  This lovely farm is a pleasure to visit and a perfect location for this topic.  Plus I LOVE lavender :-)

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to present an in depth talk on culinary herbs A to Z.  I hope you are able to attend one of the days.

“Let’s Talk Culinary Herbs!”

Presented by Catherine, The Herb Lady
Hosted by Linda of Lavender Herb Farm, Chino Valley, Arizona

This, approximately 2 hour, program is offered on your choice of Friday or Saturday

YOU MUST CALL to register for either day.  Linda is unable to accept any reservation via email.

May 13 or 14, 2016
12:00 p.m.
Lavender Herb Farm,
1907 North James Drive
Chino Valley, AZ 86323*

Enjoy an afternoon of discussion on the fascinating subject of culinary herbs, A to Z with Catherine, The Herb Lady, while enjoying a delicious, herb inspired light lunch.

Using culinary herbs first when seasoning and preparing your foods reduces the need for salts and oils (and we do need some of these), while enhancing the flavor and satisfaction of enjoying your meals.  And they are good for you too!  Many culinary herbs aid digestion and boost your immune system.

Catherine will discuss the role of essential oils in the flavor and fragrance of herbs, growing and methods of preserving them, and most important, the wonderful variety and ways to use them in your cooking.

About Catherine, The Herb Lady

Catherine "The Herb Lady" Crowley, considered an expert in edible landscaping in the desert, writes and teaches how to grow edibles in all their wonderful variety, both usual and unusual, and then, how to cook with them, including low fat, low salt and meatless dishes.

"The Herb Lady" has been gardening for over 3 decades. During the "budding" part of her gardening "trowel & error" she was personally responsible for a lot of "green death," and from those lost friends, she has learned a great deal and developed her personal gardening philosophy – "enlightened neglect."

Catherine has taught classes at various locations private and public including:

– Boyce Thompson Arboretum, lectures, cooking demonstrations and events such as the Annual Herb Festival

– Desert Botanical Garden (the summer and fall of 2006 she was an expert consultant to the installation of the Herb Garden at the DBG)

– Corporation and Companies / Garden Clubs / Municipal Wellness Training / Public Education Events and other events private and public

--Catherine, wrote for the East Valley Tribune as a contributing columnist for over 4 years, on the subject of growing and using edible herbs.

– She was a regular guest on streaming radio with Ed Phillips at The Arizona Almanac.

Catherine blogs and writes an irregular internet newsletter on greening, gardening and cooking in the Valley of the Sun, and also participates in the Mesa Farmers.Market.

***Please call Linda for your reservations @ 928-636-5270.***

*The farm is approximately 2 to 2.5 hours drive from the valley depending on your location.  Chino Valley is north of Prescott and Prescott Valley.

Linda (Owner)
Lavender Herb Farm
1907 North James Drive
Chino Valley, AZ 86323

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady
If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!
Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.