Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

In the Garden and Kitchen - May 30, 2017

Dear Folks,

Every time I step out our front door this time of year in the morning, the Chocolate Flowers incredible cocoa aroma greats me.   Berlandiera lyrata aka green eyes is native to our southwest and should be in every valley garden.  Each flower blooms in the early dawn hours and fades when the sun hits it so, it is one of those few plants you want with morning shade to appreciate the wonderful scent.  Use the flower heads to when making your own sausage as the Native Americans did.  (Cocoa, chili and coffee make great additions to sausage spiced foods.)

My caper plants are producing berries and I have started to pick them for fermenting. These olive-like fruits are a wonderful addition to salads, pastas and just as a side nibble at meals, or any way you would use olives.  Growing these plants is a truly cost savings choice.  When you think of the cost of a tiny jar of caper buds, along with allowing the plant to fruit instead of picking the buds off, the value of a jar of berries means you have a wonderful and valuable addition to your cooking ingredients options.

Caper Berries Fermenting/Brining
Fermenting these and other vegetables is so easy.  You need a salt (1 teaspoon of kosher salt to 1 cup of hot water, cooled - double or triple as needed) solution, optional bit of whey from organic yogurt, a jar, another jar to weigh down the veggies so they are completely covered in the solution and 1-3 weeks depending on the vegetable.  I use an 8 oz mason jar filled with a bit of water, to weigh the caper berries down in a 16 oz jar, lightly covered with paper or plastic (just to keep dust out) and set aside on your counter out of the way of drafts and changes in temperature.

Another of the edible flowers in the garden blooming one after the other is this gorgeous red/burnt orange daylily.  Daylilies are edible.  Do Not mistake the lovely but not edible exotic lilies for these simple garden favorites.

And who does not love tomatoes, sweet peppers and apricots.  We are at the last of our apricots, but the tomatoes and peppers are still putting out fruit, oh boy!  The small sweet peppers (including the green one) are "Lipstick" type and the ribbed one is a "Paradicsom" variety from Hungary.  Among the tomatoes as the bottom of the picture is a "Cream Sausage" sweet and mild in flavor, these are fun to grown and the birds have trouble seeing them because they are not red.

The Paradicsom is from a 2 years old plant I got from Suzanne Vilardi -- all of her plants are wonderful.  You can find them as some at nurserys and farmers markets around town.  Suzanne and I collaborated on the Caper Growing project in the valley, which successfully resulted in Arizona grown caper plants from seed.  Check our Suzanne's site for where to purchase transplants.

Mexican Oregano
I grow three Oreganos, one of my favorites is Mexican Oregano, a large shrubby relative of Lemon Verbena (which I also grow).  This Oregano is wonderful in broad usage in the kitchen.  While Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgaris hirtum)of the Italian flavor uses has a great peppery bite, the Mexican Oregano ( Lippia graveolens) lack the bite of the Greek, but not the great flavor and is just a tad on the sweet side, lending itself to a wide variety of ethnic dishes.

For our Memorial Day BBQ I made Home Grown Red White and Blue Potato Salad and I was tickled that the only thing I did not grow was the avocados to make the oil I used and the salt and pepper.  Aren't the colors lovely!

I make a limequat / avocado vinaigrette for these type of salads.  Once the potatoes are finished cooking, and drained I put them back in the hot pot and while they are hot I add some oil so that the potatoes absorb the oil better. I wait until they cool, drain off any extra oil, add the limequat juice, salt and pepper (sometimes I add one of the dried oreganos).  For this salad I used the red, white and blue potatoes, sweet peppers, celery, Ii'toi onions and sweet basil.  It was a hit.

If you would like some other recipe ideas, may I recommend my Niece's new blog.  Allison was trained at a Le Cordon Bleu school but after working at commercial kitchens for several years decided a career in the kitchen was not for her, but still loved cooking.  So she started a weekly blog of menus and began developing recipes with foods she loves.  Check out her blog (At The Kitchen Sink) and tap into her creative cooking spirit.

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Have a fun time in the garden and kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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