Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Around The Garden - October 13, 2015 - Upcoming Events - Herb Festival - Author's Day!

Dear Folks,

We were all expecting to have the triple digits behind us by now, but this week will be an exception.  The good news is we have had more rain this monsoon and more is expected the end of the week.

Pictured right are Jerusalem Artichokes (aka Sunchokes), red onion sets going in, Azure Blue Sage and one of the few ornamentals I grow, dwarf Bird of Paradise.  (Picture below are the harvested tubers of the sunchoke.)

We are lucky here in the Valley that the Sunchokes produce twice a year, Fall and late Spring.  If you are not familiar with them, this sunflower family member produces edible tubers that can be used like potatoes, but instead of starch they have a beneficial fiber called inulin. Inulin is present in many other plants, such as wheat, onion, bananas, garlic, asparagus, but is in far higher concentrations in the sunchoke tuber.  It can also be eaten raw.  It has a pleasant flavor, however, if you are sensitive to high fibers, go slow on trying them, as they can produce extra "air" in your system.  They are worth trying for all their healthy qualities.

The plants can be invasive, so find a spot in your garden where you can keep it under control.  The stalks can reach 7 feet + in height.

I plant a package of Red Onion Sets each fall, close together (3-4 inches apart), and harvest through out the late fall, winter and into spring  and early summerwhen I want a green onion.  Then later in late July or August I let the rest of them go to flower, and pull and air dry in the shade for storage onions, or I chop and sun dry for later use. (Pictured are the onions harvested, chopped and sun dried for storage.)

Blue Sage (Salvia azurea) has many names and while technically edible - it does not taste as good as the Garden or Bergarten sage we cook with - It is worth having in the garden for the brilliant neon blue flowers.

My beloved Dwarf Bird of Paradise is a plant I carted around for about 2 decades in a large pot until I found its happy spot in our garden.  I started this plant from a seed approximately 1977.  For the last several years she has bloomed reliably each fall, and had never bloomed before - so we look forward to this flush of color each year.  (When I moved to Arizona from a 4-season climate I was fascinated with the idea of growing 'tropical' plants so I happened on the seed and decided to give it a try.  It was a house plant for several years and then an outdoor plant for the last 3 decades.)

Upcoming Events

Two Events at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum are coming up the end of October and in November.  Mark Your Calendars!

Herb Festival Saturday October 24
11:00 AM - 3:00 pm
"Herb is the word" during the final Saturday of October's annual Fall Plant Sale fundraiser and we'll have a variety of herbs available for purchase. This recurring Fall event is strategically scheduled for late October to take advantage of optimal herb planting time. Meet members of the Arizona Herb Association and browse items at their booth; learn about container gardening from Catherine 'The Herb Lady' Crowley, all beneath the shady grove of pistachio trees across from our Wing Memorial Herb Garden.

Arboretum Book Festival Saturday, November 21
I will be one of many authors there (Last year there were about 30 of us!)

Meet authors from across southern Arizona, writers from genres ranging from historical fiction and non-fiction, to mystery and suspense, memoir and children's books. Our Autumn foliage remains glorious in early December, here's a chance 'to meet the person behind the pen' and take home personalized holiday gifts for bookworms on your list. Plans for the day include readings by select authors, music; maybe even a writing workshop!

Bring cash for a tasty lunch in our picnic area - Chef Eric & Terri of Tall Order Catering will be grilling bratwursts for $4 each, burgers for $5 -- and vegetarian chili at $3-a-bowl (cash only). Visit our website in November for the agenda and list of participating authors, or call BTA 520. 689. 2723

I hope you can make one or both of these events!
-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sun Dry OR Refrigerator Dry Your Herbs & Edibles!

Dear Folks,

You can use the sun to dry your herbs.  You don't need anything fancy.  A tray lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper, some paper toweling over to keep the birds and insects off, clothes pins to keep the towel on, a table in the sun, and about 2 days this time of year.

Wash and spin dry the herbs.  Dry stem and all (use the stems as you would any tough herb like bay that you would remove from the food before serving).  (Picture to right shows drying tomatoes and herbs.)

Keep in the sun all day long, check at the end of the day and if not completely dry, bring indoors so they do not absorb overnight moisture and set back out the next day.

Store in cool, dry, dark containers and pantry.

You can also dry your edibles on paper towels or plates in the refrigerator.  All of us have had something dry out in the frig at one time or another.  Modern refrigerators mimic the commercial freeze-drying process, constant removal of moisture in a chilly environment.  (Pictures shows Stevia and a hot pepper dried.)

I do this for small bunches and in the winter when there is not enough hot sun.  The benefit of drying in the refrigerator is that it keeps more of the color, and essential oils intact for better aroma and flavor.

I had the happy fortune at a flea market a couple of years ago to pick up the trays used for a dehydrator (sans the base) and gave me more drying space in the sun.  (Picture is carrots, celery, herbs, kale and lettuce drying to make my homemade vegetable bouillon.)

Yesterday I started a new set of herb trays, they will finish out today.  I started labeling the trays as some herbs look similar to each other after drying. :-)

Pictured:  Mexican Oregano, Sage, White Flowering Rosemary (a little sweeter and less piney than standard) and Bay.   If you notice I have the stems drying too.  Makes great additions to soups and stews, remove before serving.  OR if you keep these woody stems longer, they make great kabob skewers.

Dry your herbs while having fun in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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