Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Eggplant and Pepper Sautee Fresh From The Garden

Dear Folks,

This is what growing your own food is all about.  Last night's dinner.  Eggplant and peppers fresh from the garden.  Dried onions, which were sundried this summer for later use.  A touch of my sundried oregano and done except for a sprinkle of my sundried parsley on top of the finished serving.

Sun Dried Onions
I made homemade sausage patties from naturally raised pork and turkey.  Did a quick marinade of the eggplant.  Sauteed up the veggies while the sausage patty, broken up cooked in another pan.  Cutting, marinading and cooking all took about 25 minutes!

Sun dried herbs and vegetables like the onion are just a logical way of preserving the bounty without electricity.

My "Casper" eggplant put out some lovely fruit and I knew I needed to cook or roast some in a sautee or similar.

Likewise the Paradicsom sweet pepper "needed" to be used in a flavor combo. 

The marinade I used is one I adapted from a "vegan eggplant bacon" recipe and it is a great one to keep on hand.  I make enough to have some marinade in the refrigerator for just this kind of "fast food."

Dan Reynolds "Fast Food For Cows"
"Fast Food" takes on new meaning when you walk out into the garden, harvest something fresh, stop at the pantry to grab a couple of jars of your own dried herbs, do a little cutting, a quick marinade, some cooking and serve up a delicious meal in 25 minutes.

Eggplant, Pepper & Onion Sautee

Marinade (see recipe below)
Eggplant (twice as much eggplant as peppers)
Sweet Peppers
1 tablespoon of dried onion - or more to your liking
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Sprinkle of dried parsley for garnish

Place marinade in bowl.  Quickly chop eggplant and put in marinade while you chop peppers and heat up the frying pan. (Eggplant starts to brown as soon as you cut it, so you need to either put it in water or the marinade to keep from turning - does not affect the taste, just the look.)

Once you have the peppers chopped, add bit of marinade to the pan, heat for 30 seconds then toss in the peppers, dried onion and oregano.  Stir for 1 minutes, then add the eggplant and about a half of cup of the marinade ( you may need more marinade if you have left over, just watch the pan to keep from burning or add water).

Stir, cover and cook on medium high heat.  This only takes about 6-9 minutes or so for the eggplant and peppers to be tender.  I like some texture and firmness to my veggies. You can cook longer if you like.

At this point you can plate up, top with some dried parsley and you have a lovely veggie dish.  If you want to add the meat protein of your choice, add to the top of the veggies and sprinkle with parsley.

Marinade Recipe
Can be doubled or tripled - stores for a long time in the refrigerator 
(makes a 1/2 cup

1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) soy
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Pinch (1/16 teaspoon) liquid Hickory Smoke

Mix all together and use or store.

See my blog post on making "bacon" out of eggplant using this marinade.

I can't wait to make this again (actually I have to wait for more of my eggplant to be a little bigger).  It was that good!  I will probably add some carrots next time and in season squash.  BTW, back in September I used the marinade to make "carrot bacon" on the grill and the flavor was awesome!  Using a mandolin or similar even cutting tool makes nice slices out of carrots or eggplant for creating the "bacon" size.

Have a best day in the garden and kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Watermelon "Lemonade" and Hibiscus Roselle

Dear Folks,

We harvested the next big Bradford Watermelon this past Sunday, and in one of those "DARN!" moments, I dropped it!

I had been waiting on this one looking for the tendril to dry as the first one I harvested was really, really good, but could have stayed on the vine longer AND the seeds were not viable. So with this one harvested I thought we had a double winner, bigger, better fruit and with viable seeds.

After the melon crashed to the floor and we salvaged the pieces, the fruit looked a bit past its prime.  Good tasting but actually not as good as the first one.  However the fruit made wonderful drinking juice (making ""Lemonade" out of lemons) and the seeds are viable - Yippeee!

I now  have 1st generation Bradford Watermelons seeds to sow in January.  I am also going to put the germinating test seeds in some jiffy pellets and see if I can have happy transplants in January.  Watermelons are typically sown/planted in January/February.

My view on when to pick ripe, at least for this melon is going to be the "thump" test instead of looking for the tendril to dry.

My Roselle plants are just heavy with the calyx ready for harvesting and using.  I decided to dry some and they dried nicely in the sun.  The picture shows a fresh one and the dried petals.  The lemony / cranberry flavored treats can be used in teas and other dishes.

I had some left over turkey soup I had made, so I thought "turkey and "cranberry" and topped the hot soup with a small sprinkle of the roselle dried petals.

We agreed the flavor and contrast with the soups was delicious, the cranberry flavor was very subdued, so the over all taste was a lemony topping to the soup.  Very nice.  The petals softened some but were still a nice chewy texture to the soft noodles.

I will probably add them to dishes like Pasta Primavera.  I would suggest you try them in any dish which calls for lemon or lime additions.  You will be pleased.

Have a great day in the garden and you kitchen making delicious meals from your bounty!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

November Planting In The Desert & Two Soup Recipes Using Herbs and More From The Garden

Dear Folks,

November is a continuation of the robust planting we can do in our fall garden, along with harvesting the last of the summer crops of produce and herbs. [Pictures is my herb harvest ready to dry or use.  Check out my recipe for "Herb Soup", below.]

November PLANTING:
Bay, Greek (Sweet)
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage, Ornamental
Endive (and Chicory)
Fennel, Leaf
Fruit Trees
Garlic (only as green garlic)
Kale, Ornamental
Lemon Verbena
Onions, Green
Oregano, Greek
Oregano, Mexican
Tarragon, Mexican
Tarragon, French


Carnation (Dianthus)
Cornflower (Bachelor Buttons)
English Daisy
Jasmine Sambac (Arabian)
Johnny-Jump Up
Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii)
Scented Geraniums
Shungiku Chrysanthemum
Stocks (Matthiola)
Sweet Alyssum
Sweet William (Dianthus)

GARDEN TIPS for November
    First frost date average is around November 17th.
    Frost in the Valley at the 1100 or lower elevations is usually limited to ‘soft frost’ where simple cloth sheets or paper placed over sensitive plants (or moving potted plants beneath patios or trees) is sufficient to protect them.  Never use plastic covers as the plastic transmits the cold to the plant tips.
    For every 1000 feet over 1100 in elevation the first frost day is moved forward 10 days.  The possibility of hard (killing) frosts starts to occur, although at 2000 feet or lower this is still a rare occurrence.
    Frost pockets in the Valley can surprise gardeners.  As a matter of practice, if the weather forecasters predict an overnight temperature of 40 F, I prepare for frost by protecting my sensitive plants with cloth or paper covers This is because heat retention by buildings and walls dissipates by early morning (4 or 4:30 a.m. to dawn the temperature can drop 8 degrees plus or minus).
    Frost danger continues until about mid-February.
    Cool weather annuals and biennials can be sown every 2-4 weeks (beginning in August) through the end of November for a continuous crop through next spring.
    November through January can be a ‘rainy’ season for the desert. You can usually hold off on regular watering if you have received a half inch or more of rain within 2 days of normal watering days.  Make good use of your water meter to determine soil moisture. 
    If rains are heavy this month, in addition to foregoing some water days, you may need to put down Ironite or green sand to compensate for mineral bonding (which makes iron unavailable to the plants) due to both the excess water and the cold soil.

The best way to think of frost damage on your edibles is the damaged plant material is now a partial protective cover to the underlying growth.

As mentioned in prior notes, frost damage in the lower desert gardens is usually limited to 'soft' frost which is controlled by simply putting cloth or paper covers over the plants at night, or if containers, moving them under evergreen trees or onto the patio.

IF, however we get hard or killing frosts, of extended periods or days, die-back will occur even on protected plants.  The reason is the radiant heat retained by structures and even the soil dissipates completely, leaving the plants exposed to too-cold air.

Whether the frost damage is from soft or hard frosts if the plant is still alive DO-NOT-REMOVE-THE-DAMAGE.  Doing so risks damaging the growth still alive under the top die-back.  I don't remove even dead plants until spring.  I have found basil seedlings coming up under a large dead basil plant killed off by a hard frost.

Obviously we like our gardens to look pretty most of the time, but selectively resisting the urge to pull something a little bedraggled gives you, the gardener, access to earlier production of the warm weather plants because of their larger root systems.

Herb Soup

From the book : “101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady” - by Catherine Crowley

    A wonderful blend of herbs, lettuces, croutons and cheese. The greatness of this soup, besides its fabulous flavor, is the ability to vary the herbs, lettuces, croutons and cheeses for different flavors. I developed this recipe from Provencal soups.

1    shallot, finely chopped
2    tablespoons butter, unsalted
4    cups mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used Thai basil, cilantro, parsley, see note below*)
1    package spring lettuce mix
1    teaspoon coarse salt
1/8    teaspoon black pepper
6    cups boiling water (can use broth - but try the water the first time)
6    cups croutons (any stale bread diced will work too - some day-old nice artisinal breads would be great for this)
3/4    cups Parmesan cheese or more if you like

    Set aside 1/2 cup each of herbs and lettuces for garnish. Divide croutons and cheese into 6 soup bowls.
    Saute shallot in butter for 1 minute. Add herbs, salt, and lettuces all at once and cook—stirring for 5 minutes. Add boiling water, cover and simmer for 15 minutes—stirring occasionally. Ladle greens and broth into soup bowls. Add garnish of herbs and lettuces to each bowl. Serve and enjoy. Serves 6.
    *Traditional recipes call for sorrel and chervil or any combination you like - the Thai Basil has a tarragon aspect to it which mimic the chervil with a kick and cilantro's citrus back-note mimic the sorrel. 

Here is another Harvest Soup Recipe for using greens and herbs from your garden, along with sweet potatoes.  I posted this on the blog back in February 2009.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Cherries, Eggplant, Garlic, Avocado, Watermelon and Squirrel

 Dear Folks,

Lots of fun foods growing in the garden Sunday morning and a challenge.

My Barbados Cherry tree aka Acerola (Malpighia punicifolia L.) this morning had both unripe and almost ripe cherries on it.  The cherry is ripe when it releases freely from the tree.  Planted in February this tree is loving its home and putting out a lot of flowers and some cherries.  I expect great production in the coming year.

Garlic planted on October 1st is already this high this morning, most of them 9 inches or so.

If you want to grow garlic get the cloves planted by October 31st to ensure enough cold weather to produce the head garlic.  Plant extra and harvest green garlic (like a scallion) as needed through the winter.

I love the white eggplant "Casper" for its wonderful tender fruit which does not need salting.  I have peppers I harvested last week, so I will be doing a roast this week with eggplant, peppers and some of my I'itoi onions, tossed with herbs.

Today I will harvest my big Bradford Watermelon and will post pictures in the next day or two, but in the meantime, we found 3 more volunteer baby melons and we were thrilled and --- then --- the squirrel found two of them.  In the collage, the first picture at the top was taken 4 days ago.  The second part of the collage was taken this morning and you can see the melon has almost doubled in length AND the squirrel damage.  The third picture in the collage is of another melon we found hiding and had started to 'curl' because it was up against a wood barrier.

The two lower pictures of the collage clearly show the chewing by the squirrel.   However the skin seems to be drying and we hope it will scar and preserve the melon as it continues to grow.  I have placed wire hats over the fruit to keep the squirrel and other critters off.  The paper plate you see in the pictures is to protect the fruit from soil born bacteria.  Likewise the wood grate under the other melon is also to keep it off the soil.

Young growing fruit touching the ground is susceptible to soil born bacteria while the skin is tender, which in turn invites insect pests to attack.

Carpenter Bee on Pumpkin Flower
I decided to push the envelope and plant more seeds of the Upper Ground Sweet Potato Pumpkin on September 19th because the huge plant, which I also got in later than I should have, is not showing remarkable fruit production yet.  Huge leaves, lots of male flowers and some tiny, baby fruit, but not sure if they are pollinated.  The bees love the male flowers, but I've not seen evidence on the female flowers.  I sowed these seeds in the Bradford watermelon patch to give the pumpkin seedlings "nursery" soil cover.  The melon etc. family of plants put out a lot of male flowers early to get the pollinators noticing the plant.  We always hope a lot of female flowers show up timely enough to get fertilized.

Yesterday I picked up an Arizona Avocado tree from Shamus O'Leary at the Rare Fruit Growers sale at Mesa Community College. I'm glad I got there early, the rest of the garden folks hit the sales early!

Called the Aravaipa Avocado for the Aravaipa Canyon where the mother tree was discovered, this species is said to be temperature tolerant from 14 to 120 degrees.  My plan is for it to be part of my under story.  In back of the Avocado is my coffee tree, also purchased from Shamus last February.

This is one of my grand trialing journeys so we will see how they go.  The avocado has to remain in the pot for a while as it is not fully rooted to stability.

I have tried avocados without success before and this one I hope will be happy in my gardens.


Stay up to date on planting schedules here in the Desert with my month-by-month planting calendar.

Have a great week in the fall garden.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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