Garden, Plant, Cook!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hot August in the Garden and Kitchen

Dear Folks,

Temperatures up and down, humidity up and down - typical summer in the southwest desert. Last Thursday it started out with overcast skies, the pumpkin seedlings coming up (see note below about the picture of the seedlings) and the Arabian Jasmin in full and fragrant bloom and my experiment with growing sweet potatoes producing good vines anyway.

Pumpkin seedlings: You can see the small tube of chicken wire I've placed there. The first sowing of the pumpkins seeds a couple of weeks earlier were dug up by the birds, bless their feathery-hides, so I went back to a tried and true method to keep new sowings safe. Plant the seeds, cover lightly with soil, crush some dried leaves over to keep moisture in, water lightly (don't do too much right now or you could wash the seeds out) and place a tube of chicken wire around them. I keep the tube in place until the seedlings have a good head start then remove and allow the plant to continue unlimited growth. We use these kinds of tubes or even large square 'hats' for protection from the birds and bunnies until new growth is galloping along.

My cucumber is not only hanging in there (literally and figuratively) but is thriving with huge yellow flowers beloved by the bees - when getting this picture, Deane had a picture of a honeybee in one flower and a carpenter bee in another flower, when he tried to get a closer look as the carpenter bee moved to the same flower as the honey bee the carpenter bee kicked the honeybee off the flower - talk about territorial disputes.

Bullies in the garden are not limited to critters - some plants can be bullies too. The garlic chives can become so dense nothing else will grow easily amongst them, so it is a good idea to clear out clumps from time to time.

The garlic chives are starting to put out flower buds (everything on the chive is edible from the bulb, leaves (most often used) the flowers and the seeds). The cucumber plant decided to rejuvenate after Deane did a clearing of excess material. The horseradish plant I left in the ground is dying back, but there are younger plants that seems to be taking off. Some of the scented geraniums died back and I'm trying to figure out if there was a specific cause for it.

The desert summer garden is like that: you win a lot and lose some, even with 'expert' experience.

As we move towards the end of the monsoon season make good use of your water/moisture meter to make sure you are not over/under watering. After going through some of the most intense summer weather this is the time when some gardeners lose plants, because the transitional times of the year can be the most problematic — attention to a schedule as opposed to what is happening in the garden can mean the cause of some plants dying off before their time.


Tarragon, both French and Mexican/Spanish are doing well in the garden, so here is another use for tarragon. Make the meal lighter with the side salad dressed with lemon juice and black pepper.

1 package (8 oz) imitation crab
1-2 lemons squeezed to give you 1/4 c juice
3 tablespoons of salted butter melted
1 tablespoons of fresh tarragon finely chopped
1 teaspoon of fresh chives or onion tops finely chopped
pepper to taste.

Mix lemon juice, melted butter, tarragon, chives and pepper to taste. Adjust for salt if needed.
Dip crab pieces and enjoy!
A green salad on the side, with a light vinaigrette dressing and you have a great lunch or light dinner.

Wraps are great for hot weather and families on the go. Use tortillas or soft flat breads, large lettuce leaves or both for the wrappers. Perfect for a buffet, let folks make their own from platters of ingredients.
PROTEIN: Sliced or slivered meat, cheese, tofu, whole shrimp, or a mix of precooked beans and cheese
HERBS: leaves of these herbs work well in wraps: Basil, mint, lemon balm and Epazote (great with beans or tofu) -- these herbs are in season right now, you can also add cilantro and parsley
VEGGIES: bean sprouts, slivered cucumber, squash, radish, Jicama
SAUCE: Mayo, yogurt, seafood cocktail sauce (particular good because of the horseradish) barbeque sauce, plain horseradish, salsa, or favorite salad dressing.
On the open tortilla, layer herbs first, then protein, veggies and then a line of the sauce over all, fold up and dip into extra sauce of your choice.
NOTE: if you grow mammoth basil, the leaves make great wrappers for mini wrap sandwiches, put only enough ingredients to allow you to wrap the basil leaf around all.

For more detailed how-to gardening and harvesting information - subscribe to my new e- newsletter - just $15 a year if you sign up before October - link in top side bar or click here to go to payment window

Tomorrow I'm posting a short story - we had the most incredible weekend, I thought I would write about it.

Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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