Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Asparagus Soup! And More.

Dear Folks,

Our asparagus are coming in and I decided I NEEDED to make an asparagus cheese soup with great tasting things from the garden. 

Asparagus, I'itoi Onions, edible flowers for garnish (Stock, Johnny Jump-Ups and Rosemary) and Limequat).

This recipe (below) is a spin on the broccoli/cheese soup I made back in January 

Do you like Ratatouille?

Close up of the squash in its protection "hat".
I do and so I decided to create a Ratatouille Garden of tomato, squash, eggplant and sweet pepper.  These are young yet, so it will be a while before I can harvest but I'm looking forward to making this dish or variations of it.  I started all the seeds back in December/January in my little greenhouse and it is time to get everything in the ground.  As I usually do, each seedling is protected by a 'chicken wire hat' to keep the critters from lunching on my lunch! See my youtube videos on chicken wire hats here.

When we got a sprinkle of rain last week, I noticed this droplet on one of my Nasturtium leaves. I see this during the season when these great edible and useful (they ward off pest bugs) are growing lushly in the garden.  I am always fascinated by how the leaf holds the drop and the magnification of the center whorl of the leaf.

I ordered some new Sweet Potato ("Pumpkin Yam") slips from Baker Creek and they arrived the other day.  I have been growing the purple "Molokai" and decided I needed another color.  This new one is a very old variety dating from 1868 with a bright orange color.  Looking forward to having a purple and orange feast of delicious tubers in the fall.  "Yam" by the way, is a misnomer - sweet potatoes are not yams which are a very different vegetable.  Commercial producers way-back-when decided the name "yam" helped distinguish their sweet potato from 'others.'

In my last post I showed a picture of a pot filled with growing cilantro, dill and chervil.  I did harvest a bunch of each and set up for drying in both the refrigerator and in the sun.  All the sun dried herbs are nicely stored now in mason jars in the pantry.  This cilantro will take longer in the refrigerator, but will retain more color and flavor due to the constant moisture removal of our modern refrigerators.

Don't worry soup recipe next.

Folks, if you got to this blog post through a link from my facebook page or one of the groups I post in, consider subscribing directly to this blog (box below my name).  With the data leaking now clearly a problem with Facebook, I will be re-considering - over the next month or two - whether to continue to be active on FB.

Asparagus, Potato & Cheese Soup

I love this recipe!  It uses potato for both flavor and thickening.  Recipe makes 2 servings.

2 tablespoons of avocado oil
1 bunch of asparagus
1 potato
4 ounces white cheddar cheese
handful of I'iotoi Onion tops
2 cups of water
salt and cracked black pepper
Garnish:  Stock, Johnny Jump-Ups and Rosemary flowers for garnish

An emersion blender works best for this, or you can use a counter blender working in batches and return to the pot to continue cooking.

Heat oven to 450, prepare a pan with aluminum foil.

Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces (any tasty vegetable will work too)
Clean and cut potato into about 1 inch chunks - I leave peels on
Snipped onion tops
Shred or cube cheese and set aside
Optional:  Cut up sugar pea for garnish into 1/2 inch pieces, set aside
Edible flowers for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium size pot.

Spread asparagus in pan, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of oil over, season with some salt and cracked black pepper, stir and roast for 5 minutes.

While the broccoli is roasting add onion to hot oil in pot, stir and reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring as needed.

Add water and potatoes to pot bring to a boil, add a bit of salt, cover and cook at a low boil.

Stir asparagus and roast for 5 minutes more.  When the asparagus is finished add to pot, keep at a low boil, cover and cook until all are tender - about 7 minutes.

Using the emersion blender puree.  I like to leave some chunks in the soup.

Add cheese to melt, stirring into the soup to combine.

Serve with garnish.  Squeeze a bit of lime juice over each bowl.  Enjoy!

You can find links to purchase my calendars and books on the sidebar here.
Have a great day in the garden and kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe below by entering your email, so you never miss my posts! 

Enter your email address:

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

Sunday, March 18, 2018

This and That in Garden and Kitchen.

Dear Folks,

There is so much going on in the garden right now I thought I would give you pictures to inspire you and give you some ideas.

One of my big pots is filled with, L2R, Cilantro, Dill and Chervil. I need to harvest and dry most of these,  The cilantro is starting a flower stalk, so I need to act quickly :-)

The fragrance of the orange blossoms is filling the air all around the garden.  We can pretty much enjoy them anywhere.

On the opposite aroma spectrum is my garlic beds.  The Elephant Garlic is on the left and the regular garlic is on the right.  Hoping our cold weather of a couple of weeks ago is enough to force them in head growth later in April.

Back to fragrance, my wonderful Arizona Wild Rose has a delightful scent and pale pink blossoms.

Speaking of flowers, my Common Sorrel has flower stalks on it!!  First time.  I plan on capturing seed later on for sowing.  Regional adaptation is a "thing" and very important to growing healthier, stronger plants in your garden.  Sow, grow, save seeds.  Each successive generation is stronger and more regionally adapated.

Baby peaches on our tree.  Deane had to prune back severely this year to combat the die-off of some branches and the tree responded with a ton of growth and "some" peaches.  They still need to be thinned so we a few good size.

This little guy - the picture is deceiving -he is about 3 inches or so long - was running along the tie and I was able to get a shot of him beside the dead stalk of the Stevia.

Speaking of Stevia, this wonderful plant is putting out its new growth at the base as usual in the late winter/early spring.  This great "lady" has been going strong in my garden for something like 6-8 years - I have forgotten when I planted her.

One of the more colorful herbs in my garden is Spanish Thyme, aka Cuban Oregano, Indian Borage.  Plectranthus amboinicus variegated, is a relative of the house plant Creeping Charlie.  Edible, fragrant and gorgeous, one of my favorite unique herbs I have been growing for a couple of decades. At my old house the plant was in the ground long enough it flowered - a gorgeous bloom.  I am hoping this one which has been in the ground for about 4 or years will give me blooms soon.

My Black Mulberry Trees have flowers!!! I am hoping I have ones what will give me berries, can't wait!   When you purchase very young plants on line there is no way of knowing if you have fruiting varieties until . . .

My Johnny Jump-Ups are making their annual appearance in the lawn.  Because of the weird weather this year I don't know if we will get the incredible display as in prior years, but we love having this little and edible delicate beauties facing us as we walk around the gardens.

Kitchen "Doings"

I "corn" (brine) beef with spices and herbs of my choosing for St. Patrick's Day, which avoids nitrates.  I have been doing this for about 6 years now and we love the flavor.  I have to explain to friends who have not eaten it before - it is NOT red like commercial products because there are no nitrates and they LOVE the flavor.  For my recipe click here.  Pictured herbs and spices rubbed all over, ready for the sugar/salt brine to marinate for 2 weeks. Then into the crock pot on carrots, potatoes and onions and cook for 5-8 hours depending on the cut of meat you choose.  That is the other nice thing about doing your own "corning" - you get to choose the cut of beef you want.

Finally I made banana pudding with a going to be too ripe soon banana using a recipe I put together last year to use up OUR bananas from the Blue Java / Ice Cream plant we grow.  Not from our garden but so delicious and wholesome for dessert (which Deane enjoyed and I could not as I gave up desserts for Lent :-) But you know, I needed to know the banana would not go to waste and I did not want to making bread.

My Homemade Banana Pudding

2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar (I use organic and you can use less if you like)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of butter
1 cup coarsely chopped banana

Shake cornstarch and 1/2 cup of the milk in a capped jar to mix well (no lumps to deal with).

Mash bananas slightly with about 1/4 cup of the milk. Leave some pieces in for texture.

Bring rest of milk, sugar, and salt to high simmer on the stove, stirring constantly.  Slowly add milk/cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly.  Add milk banana mixture and increase temperature, stirring regularly until the mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter, stir to mix in well and pour into pan or individual cups.  Cool and chill in refrigerator.

Don't forget the discount and free mail shipping offer My Publisher is giving - it expires tomorrow night March 19th.  A good opportunity to purchase my calendar, edible landscaping book or either of my cookbooks.  Click here for the information. 

 Have a wonderful day in the garden and kitchen.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts!

Enter your email address:

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

Saturday, March 17, 2018

From The Garden to the Kitchen.

Edible Stock Flower
Dear Folks,

Wondering through the garden not only gives me ideas, but fun things to try using up.

While I have a selection of edible flowers in my gardens, I don't always remember to use them, so I decided I NEEDED to take advantage of some of them.  This gorgeous Purple Stock Matthiola incana is a cool weather loving perennial, incredibly fragrant AND a member of the broccoli family.

The basil family includes some wonderfully colorful flowers, usually the flowers are white. This Thai Basil has a purple flower bracket so dark it is almost black. You can just see some of the lilac colored flowers peaking out near the top of the photo.  Thai Basil has a wonderfully complex mix of flavors from the basic Basil  taste of clove with the addition of taragon/anise.

I harvested some of my sugar peas in two maturity stages:  young / flat pods and swollen / thick peas in the pods.  I have written many times on the joys of growing sugar peas here in the desert - fall to spring.  You can read my "ode" to sugar peas here. 

I am showing some of our oranges, just because it is a pretty contrast to the peas.  But I really want you to see the 3 different forms to use your sugar peas in.  One other is the completely dried pea which can be saved for sowing in the fall OR cooked as you would any dried pea.

I am not showing you a picture of the broth I made from the shells after shucking the peas, but it is wonderful.  In the past I have finely slivered the shells for salads and Pasta Primavera, but I wanted to see what other things I could do with them and found a reference to the "spring flavor" of a broth.  Bingo!  It was wonderful, exactly as described.  I put in a pot with water to cover, brought to a boil, covered, lowered to a simmer for 30 minutes, let cool slightly, strained and I used it for a form of "Fast Risotto" I  make - just plain delicious. [My "fast risotto" is made by using ONLY 2 times liquid to the amount of pasta - I usually use Orzo - resulting in a completely cooked pasta with the liquid all absorbed.  Simple, just watch so it does not burn.]

I harvested one of our beets and a turnip.  The beet and greens I sauteed for my guy who LOVES them.  I am slightly allergic to beets, spinach, and chard.  The turnip I saved to a fun take on potato salad.

<< >> Speaking of Harvesting . . .

If you love making teas you must check out The Essential Herbal Blog. These gals are incredible and their current post is all about gathering components for making your own dried tea mixes.  Reading their current post makes me want to head right out to gather and dry! I already make sun tea using fresh, but I need to start thinking of drying the ingredients for use when it is not sunny, as I already dry many of my own herbs for spicing up my food.

<< >>


Potato+Turnip+SugarPea Pods, w Thai Basil Flowers

I love a good turnip, often peeling and eating like an apple, but I had some potatoes for St. Patrick's meal so I thought I would just make one of my "hot" potato salads using equal amounts of turnip to potato.  So, my guy does not like turnips :-) - I decided to have him taste test after this was made without telling him there was turnip in it.  He loved it and said I "got" him.

The tip when cooking turnips and potatoes, more so with the turnips added, is to cook, drain then put them back in the pot on low, stirring, to boil off all excess moisture.

Potatoes - unpeeled, large dice
Turnips - peeled, large dice
Sugarpea pods cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Thai Basil Blossom, just cut to separate the flower heads.
Olive or avocado oil,
Lime or lemon juice
S&P to taste
Pinch of crushed rosemary.

Boil potatoes and turnip until just knife tender.  Drain, put back in pot, stirring to boil off all excess moisture.  Remove from heat and pour a small amount of oil over the potato/turnips, toss gently.  Putting the oil on while hot they absorb the oil better.

Meanwhile, make a dressing of the oil and juice (2 : 1 ratio), add S&P and Rosemary. Shake to give it a good mix.

Toss the potatoes and turnips with the diced sugar peas, pour over some of the dressing (you don't want it soggy, sprinkle the Thai Basil Flowers over and toss gently.  Serve immediately while warm or chill - either way it is delicious.

Microwave Crust-Less Quiche with Stock Blossoms

This recipe using the microwave is super simple, and fast.  The mild broccoli flavor of the stock blossoms added to the mix of taste.

The bowl shown is about 3 cups, perfect my guy and I to share a fast and tasty breakfast.

Spray or grease the bowl slightly to allow for easy release.

2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup of milk
2/3 cup of shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup approx of stock blossoms - I used my purple and lilac colored ones (you can substitute any greens you like up to 1 cup for 2 eggs)
1/2 cup slivered I'Itoi onions (a lovely combination flavor of onion and shallot) 

Have bowl ready.

Beat egg and milk together.  Add S&P.  Add cheese, onion and stock blossoms, fold in gently.

Pour into bowl and microwave on high for 4-5 minutes.  The quiche will puff then collapse when you remove it.  A knife inserted should come out clean.

Serve and enjoy

. . .

You still have time to take advantage of My Publisher's discount and free mail shipping on my books and calendars.  Here is the post explaining it.  Act fast - it ends March 19th.

Have a best day in the garden and kitchen.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts!

Enter your email address:

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

Friday, March 16, 2018

DISCOUNT on My Calendar and Books + Free Mail Shipping - Ends Soon!

Dear Folks,

My Publisher is offering a 10% discount on all print books and calendars (does not apply to PDFs) + free mail shipping.

They do this every so often so if you have wanted to order my new calendar or any of my books this is a good opportunity.  Expires March 19th.

Save 10% Off All Print Products
Free Mail or 50% Off Ground Shipping!

Use promo code BOOKSHIP18
Expires Mar 19 at 11:59 pm ET

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

 If you enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts!

Enter your email address:

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

April Planting Tips - Springing Forward - Cool to Warm Then Hot!

Roselle In September - Planted in April
Dear Folks,

As we move from March to April it is not so much in like a lion out like a lamb as much as it is moving from a balmy 75-80 to 95+ temperatures and the plants that make the transition or "retire" for the season.

As I always say, the great thing about gardening in the desert is the ability to grow edibles year round.  There are those that like their feet cool in the fall through winter and those that like their feet warm early spring through fall.  And those perennials like fruit trees and perennial herbs which grow year round.  Many of those perennials are getting ready to, or are already blooming.

The annuals which have cool or warm preferences are the ones that can sometimes struggle along in the temperature transition times.

The last of the sugar peas are putting out flowers and pods and will soon brown and die back - and hopefully you are grabbing those dried pods to have peas to sow again starting in late summer.

The tomatoes you started or planted may be having repeat sessions of grow/stop/grow which is triggered when the soil is warm to their liking then we hit a cool "bump" and they stop growing, then restart when the soil warms again.  They will be fine.

We should be well past the possibility of frost, however we can get a cool day here or there and the possibility of hail if the conditions are just right.

***My Calendar gives you all my monthly planting information at your fingers tips.  Purchase at Amazon or through My Publisher.***  Links are also on the side bar here on the blog.

Artichoke, Jerusalem; Bean, Snap; Beans, Soy; Cantaloupe; Caper plants; Carrots; Cucumbers; Garlic, Green; Jicama; Melons, Musk; Okra; Onion, Green; Peanuts; Peas, Sugar; Peas, Black Eyed; Peppers; Radishes

Impatients Wallarana; Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii); Portulaca; Purslane; Scented Geraniums; Sunflower; Sweet Alyssum, Roselle/Jamaica Sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa), Zinnia

FLOWER "MULCHING":  Soil (not the whole garden) canopy (shade) is necessary to protect young plants in the heat.  Purchase 6 packs of flowers, surround transplanted herb or veggie with 3-5 flower plants - "think" 12 inch diameter circle.  Why? This cools the soil surface and shades the sides of the primary transplant, without encouraging pests near tender stems, while still giving the plants all the sun they need.

Prune spring-flowering shrub fruit trees before flowering starts (April - May for shrubs like Pineapple Guava)

If you planted your potatoes January 1st you can start checking the end of this month for usable size — just insert your fingers gently into soil.  Potato plants will begin to die back with yellowing leaves and stems.  You can "store" the potatoes in the ground until you need them but you should harvest all by early June or they will start to sprout and grow again.

Example of Sunflower House from Internet

Get the children involved in gardening by helping them grow a Sunflower House.

Described in Linda Lovejoy's fabulous book "Sunflower Houses," this ‘hideaway' will delight your budding gardener.

Sunflower Houses are created using the growing sunflowers for the poles of the house.  Prepare the planting area and decide how wide and long you want the house to be — ex. 4 x 6 — and draw the dimensions in the soil, leaving an opening for the ‘door.'  Mammoth sunflowers (those that grow over 6 feet) are best for this.  Plant the sunflower seeds 2 or 3 to a hole, about 1 foot apart all along the ‘walls' of the house.  In between the sunflower seeds, sow edible vines like beans or cucumbers.  Given the water requirements, creating a trench for the walls will allow flood watering for the growing plants.
       These houses can be as elaborate as you and your children wish. Plant flower or strawberry beds along the outside walls;  herb and flower ground covers inside for a ‘carpet' are limited only to the imagination. The vines grow up the sunflowers and if they are enthusiastic enough, will even grow over the top of a narrow room creating a ceiling.
--do teach the children about bees, leaving them alone and avoiding them when they are "working" the flowers.

I hope you have a wonderful time in the garden as we spring forward into the warmer weather!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts! 

Enter your email address:

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

Monday, February 26, 2018

Seed Share Reminder, More Frost Damage and Garden "Neighbors"

Dear Folks,

I keep thinking with the cold weather all the "friskiness" of the birds is TOO early, but this sweet little Inca Dove found not only a pretty safe spot but she/they built a pretty good nest compared to the 3  crossed sticks we usually see.

A large quail covey showed up for the free seed share we abundantly put out for all the birds.  We just enjoy the feathered neighbors.  I think this group - there were more than a dozen taking some turns - are the youngsters who grew up last spring and summer and were less bothered by our movements in and around the garden - and you get food "they say"!

While taking the dove picture I notice a fence lizard basking in the warm sun (sun warm / air cold).

I don't know why but these little guys always crack me up.  They are either basking, running lickety split away when they spot us, or stopping and doing their pushups.  We also have larger lizards in the garden but it is hard to get a picture of them because as soon as they see us they make a race car driver seem slow.

The potato bed was partially hit by the frost the other morning.  Some "drooped", some just fine.  That is the way of soft frost, it can do a lot of damage in one spot and nothing a foot or 2 away.  "Soft frost" means not killing and falling vertically which means any over head cover protects the plants.  I am not covering this year as we started out so warm, and I have so many areas that are sensitive to frost it would take too much time.

When I put out our seedlings in about a week or so I will be covering them with the poor man's cloches.

Looking ahead at the long range (2 weeks) forecast I don't think most of the valley will see near freezing temperatures. However, keep the frost protection handy just in case until at least mid-March.


This Saturday, March 3, 2018 - 11 a.m. to Noon and I will be there with my seed bank and answering your questions.  There will also be a raffle for a couple of fun things.

Mesa Urban Garden
212 E. 1st Avenue
Mesa, Arizona 85201

I am taking a break next week off line visiting family.  You can always message me through facebook.

I will get back to you when I return the following week.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts!

Enter your email address:

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

Friday, February 23, 2018

Ugly? - Yes. Protective? - YES!!

Dear Folks,

I write a lot about NOT pruning frost damage off your plants until all danger of frost is over.

This photo I took yesterday, after a couple of nights of frost, perfectly illustrates why you do not prune the damage away.  The frosted upper growth is now a "blanket" for the under growth, protecting it from more damage. I have chosen not to cover plants this year as many of them are huge because of the warmish winter.

Could the plant still die?  Sure.  But unlikely unless we get into killing freezing temperatures or something else goes wrong.

Try to keep your "needs-to-be-pretty" neatnik under control   According to the weather long-range, we have about 2 more weeks of frost possibility.  Around Mid-March you can begin to prune, taking some of the dead stuff off a little at a time over the course of several days to allow the undergrowth to adjust to the full sun.

Meanwhile - a thing of beauty for me ARE the flower buds on my Pina Colada Mango!

This tree has been in the ground for about 2+ years and I'm hoping she is stable and happy enough to actually give me fruit this year, Oh Boy!

I also have another Mango I started from seed over in the banana garden and she is also doing well but is a couple of years from potential flowers and fruit.

And to round up some garden news for now, Variegated Nasturtium.  I "think" this one will have red flowers, as they re-seed each year.  The other plant in the picture is a bed of my Greek Oregano a lovely, fragrant and edible "ground cover" at a berm in the garden.

Remember my calendars and books are available - the links are on the sidebar here on the blog.

Like my facebook page .

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts!

Enter your email address:

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