|Elephant Garlic Coming Up|
If you want to harvest your own garlic in the spring, you need to have the cloves planted by October 31st here in the desert garden, so it has all the winter chill to create the heads of garlic you know and love.
Last winter was so mild in my neck of the valley, there was insufficient cold to produce heads so I left the plants in the ground and I will see what that patch produces this coming spring (if we get sufficient cold). That is elephant garlic re-sprouting in the picture. There is also regular garlic in there but it has not re-sprouted yet.
I am trying to new-to-me "Red" garlic. I got some from Queen Creek Olive Mill - they grew and were selling it at their garlic festival a week ago or so. Creole Red and Estonia Red from Baker Creek. I was reading up on some Red Varieties that are supposed to be even milder when roasted than many of the other varieties.
Here is the Estonian Red going in. The cloves are huge! Garlic is one of those fun plants to grow and the varieties range in flavor from mild to spicy/hot.
So while I was digging up this bed for the Estonian - as usual when we dig we find the worms, always.
I know many folks, new to gardening in the desert, trying to get their gardens going, do not think there are worms in the soil. They are there, but hanging out well below the dry and hard un-worked soil, usually down about 2-3 feet. Once you get an area going and work it, they will come up and help you with soil health. Many times they just move out of the soil I'm working. If I get a clump of soil with them in, I gently break up the soil and get them on their way down into the soil. If they are still on the surface when I finish working, I sprinkle more soil on top of them so the birds don't easily find them. The birds love to explore when I have just been working in a bed.
I am harvesting my Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) "fruit", which is actually the swollen calyx of the flower. I still have dried Roselle from last year, so this year I decided I want to do some baking with it, and am freezing the calyx, after pulling out the immature seed pod. Pictured is the rinsed calyx split into "petals" and the removed immature seed pod.
While Roselle is usually prepared as a beverage, either hot or cold (think tangy, cranberry flavored lemonade), I think it will make a great addition to my jam bread where I used my homemade jams and other fruits and nuts to make a great quick bread aka fruit cake. I'm thinking with its cranberry-like flavor the Roselle would be nice in a cake with some of my homemade marmalade.
This Vitamin C, antioxidant rich "fruit" should be in everyone's garden!
Fun fact, the roselle seeds are fed to poultry. If I had hens (I am still trying to come up with a plan to house and range them) I would see if they like the immature seed pod rather than composting it.
Speaking of the Roselle Seed, let some of the pod go to full dry stage (on the plant) to harvest for re-sowing next April. My current plant is from 2nd generation seed. Regional adaptation is important to improve the quality, and possibly quantity, of edible plants you grow. They "Adapt" to your backyard. You know the seeds are viable when you see those splits in the pod.
This is what the seeds look like.
And just in case you are not familiar with what the calyx looks like on the plant before harvesting, here is a picture.
So when do you harvest the calyx? Following some suggestions, the first year I harvested I counted 10 days from when the flower faded. They only last one day. So I watched several in one general area on the bush and began harvesting. When I knew the size and "look" of the "ripe" calyx I just started looking for how big they could get. They can get about double in size from the 10 day point, and the "points" of the calyx started to turn out and get sharp. These are really great at that size. This year though, I decided to harvest within a day or two of the flower fading because I am harvesting a bunch at a time for rinsing, splitting, removing the seed pod and freezing. Last year I spent HOURS doing baskets of them at a time and I thought I would just try to make it easier on myself this year. It is working. :-)
In between harvesting the Roselle, I decided it was time to make more of my nut/seed/cheese crackers. I love these, and they come together pretty fast. First picture is the dough rolled out and I used a pizza wheel to just score them, not all they way through. It makes it easier to break them up after they are baked.
Second picture is the finished crackers. With all the protein and fiber in these, they are a great snack cracker. BE WARNED - they are addicting. Bet you can't eat just one!
This time I used sunflower seeds and walnuts, along with white cheddar cheese and rosemary. I have posted several versions of this recipe on this blog, I will put the links below.
A couple of points. All the seeds and nuts have to be ground. When you are grinding nuts (I use my bullet for all of this) be careful not to over grind or you wind up with nut butter, usually okay, but it makes mixing a bit more difficult. The finished "dough" is more like a thick paste and you need to control the moisture to keep the crackers from burning while baking.
Any nut / seed combination along with any cheese you like is okay. Drier components help with the too-moist issue, so Parmesan cheese is drier than cheddar. Just compensate when using more moist ingredients but reducing the amount of water added.
ANY herb is great and while I did not use it in this version, I love adding lemon or lime zest and a bit of juice to give the cracker a tang.
The basic recipe is 1 cup of seeds/nuts combined; 1/3 cup shredded cheese; dried or fresh herbs of your choice; 1/2 teaspoon of salt; a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of warm water - Optional: 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed; 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds sprinkled on top of dough when rolled out. FYI flax seed works best for you if ground first. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes and watch carefully so they don't burn. Remove cool and break apart. This can also be dried in the sun on a low humidity, very hot day (90+ degrees) and turn the dough over half way through the day.
My original version.
A lengthy post on drying including another version of the cracker. Off and on I HAVE dried the crackers in the sun on hot days. Save heating up the kitchen and works great.
And finally, if you are a lover of cheese as I am, you may enjoy my version of homemade Cheeze-Its.
I am away visiting family next week, so I will answer questions when I return.
In the mean time I hope you have a great time in the garden and in the kitchen!
-- Catherine, The Herb Lady
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