Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Wild Weather Express Coming on Through! Seedlings Jumping Out of the Ground.

Dear Folks,

Strap on your seat belts and have your moisture meter handy, you and the gardens are set for a while express ride from the 70s to the 100s in 4 days!

Today, Wednesday, May 2nd, our high is supposed to be around 71 give or take.  In 4 days, Sunday May 6th the high is expected to be around 103!!

THIS is one of those times where you may need to add additional water to your gardens. Check in the morning, not the afternoon before adding additional water.

The following week we will be in the mid-to low 90s all week with another projected 100 by Sunday the 13th, Mother's Day.


The picture above is of another 4 day wonder.  On April 26th I sowed my Roselle seeds, which I had soaked overnight. The picture was taken April 30th!! 4 days after sowing.  This may be a record for the Hibiscus Sabdraiffa.  I have been growing this heat loving, amazing, beautiful and healthy food for several years.  In fact these seeds were 3rd generation, so this will be the 4th year from successive saved seeds.

Another seedling which just amazed me is Peanut, Arachis hypogaea.  I decided to try growing peanuts in one of my big pots (18 inches wide).  Without pre-soaking, I sowed them on April 24th, and 6 days later they were breaking ground.  Just amazing.  Another heat lover, I think I tried peanuts several years ago and they did not produce and once I received this heirloom variety from Baker Creek and read the info on their site, I realized what I had done wrong before.  BTW  This variety is called Tennessee Red.

This very curious legume grows in a very specific manner.  The seed sprouts and then the plant blooms. THEN the flower head must be allowed to bend over and dig into the soil - without interference - and start the process of growing the pods under ground.  While I like to mulch my seedlings, the tips suggest you can do this, but you must remove all the mulch before the flower head forms so there is no blocking of the flower head digging in. I figure I can then mulch the growing plants as it will be 3-4 months growing before harvest.

Such a unique way of growing.

Finding these plants like Roselle, Sweet Potato and now Peanuts which love the summer heat is a true win/win for gardeners here in the desert.

My Pineapple Guava is just loaded with flowers this year, more than I remember seeing in the recent years.  This "candy flower" is something we look forward to, actually more than the fruit in November, as the petals truly are candy sweet.

Even though they are on a watering schedule I am wondering if the plant is doing "survival mode" extreme flowering due to our very dry weather.  A study attempted to explain this.  What it boils down to is some plants with drought conditions present, will flower early and possibly profusely to ensure reproduction.  The study mentions not only the early flowering but the response of the plant to not only the available water, but also the transpiration of moisture from the leaves.

I first noticed this several years ago when the Saguaro and Palo Verde were blooming far earlier than usual and I wondered at the time if it was a survival mechanism. I found references later on confirming that musing.

Always fascinating to see what impact weather has on our gardens.

I have 2 Moringa Trees in pots, still trying to figure where to plant them.  This is the second year they have flowered.  Last year they did not produce pods, maybe this year? :-)

The leaves and flowers are edible.  I nibble on the leaves from time to time but I do not want to harvest too much - I want to leave energy in the plant.

One of the few ornamental only plants I grow are Amaryllis.

This beauty is one we call "Dad's Amaryllis" as my father gave me the bulb back in the 1980s. This is one of the pups.  We look forward to them blooming every year, just so gorgeous.

I have another one that is red and white and is also a drop dead gorgeous flower - waiting for it to bloom this year.  I purchased that one several years ago at the Sun City Farmers Market.

Grow Your Own Food Workshop - another chance to watch free videos.

If you missed the GYOFW in April, the Workshop is being re-broadcast beginning May 16th.  Watch for the link here on my blog.

One last Thing - with the weather heating up, consider making some sun tea with your garden herbs and edible flowers. Having a beautiful and tasty cool drink in the frig when it is 100+, made from your own garden gatherings is a win/win. Pictured is a jar of green tea with Roselle petals, start and finish

If you have never made sun tea.  You need a very clean mason jar or similar, not plastic.  Any herbs or edible flowers, fresh or dried stevia leaves, and commercial tea like green or black, even a piece of fresh ginger or turmeric root.  You can add dried spices like a piece of cinnamon stick, allspice berries or similar.  Add cool water, cap and let sit in the sun for 6-8 hours.  Bring inside, strain, cool.  DO NOT add any sugar or honey while steeping in the sun.  It may get hot, but not hot enough to stops molds.  Add sweetener after you strain, the refrigerate. The exception is that you can add the herb stevia to the steeping tea.  When I have roselle petals fresh or dried I add them to the tea while steeping, gorgeous color and that tangy cranberry flavor.

Don't forget to drink more non-caffeine liquids as the weather heats up!!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

National Herb Day! National Herb Week! Growing and Drying.

Sweet Basil and Bay
Dear Folks,

Saturday May 5th is National Herb Day.

National Herb Week begins Monday May 7th and ends on Mother's Day May 13th.

These National observance of our useful plants are annually on the first Saturday of May and the First full week of May.

I think this celebration of herbs ending on Mother's Day, is fitting as you could prepare some herbs, either as a bouquet or dried herbs for her to enjoy and use.

Some of my happy herbs right now (besides the Sweet Basil and Bay Tree) are:

Left to Right:

Syrian Oregano, Lime Balm, Greek Oregano, Myrtle, Lemon Thyme and Spanish Thyme and Lime Scented Geranium growing together.

I dry most of my herbs when I can't use them fresh to preserve all that great flavor.

When they are small enough batches I dry in the refrigerator, on baking cooling racks.  If I have large quantities I dry in the sun using some dehydrator trays I picked up at a yard sale several years ago.

Of the two methods, the refrigerator drying produces dried herbs with more essential oils (flavor and aroma) and color preserved.  This is because our modern refrigerators mimic commercial freeze drying by constantly removing excess moisture from the chilled air.

Pictured are dill (I just put a pile of fresh next to the mostly dried prior batch), chervil, cilantro and I'itoi onion tops.

Here is a picture showing the type of rack and also showing the 1x2 piece of wood (also shown above).  There are 2 pieces of wood on the ends of the first tray, which allows me to stack the racks in my refrigerator top rack.  I selected the coated rack and the size to fit the top shelf just perfectly, so they are out of the way and can take as long as necessary to be perfectly dried before I put them in mason jars, labeled, in my dark pantry.

It is imperative that you make sure they are completely dry before storing or you risk mold - NOT a good thing.

In the frig picture both racks are stacked but only the cilantro is showing.  This picture is when I first put the herbs in - about 4 weeks ago.  The dill is not quite dry in the first picture above. However you can compare the dried cilantro in that picture to the one showing it fresh in this picture, as well as the fresh dill compared to the dried beside it.

Drying in the refrigerator can take anywhere from 1 week to over 4 weeks depending on 1) the size of the leaves and 2) the volume you are drying all at once.

Sun drying takes from 1 to 2 days depending on temperature and in some cases on a very dry 90+ degree plus day the herbs can dry in a few hours.

Here is a comparison of some of my onions I dried a couple of years ago.  Green tops and bulbs separated and chopped.  Fresh at the top and dried at the bottom.

If you are sun drying and they are not quite dried (remember they must be perfectly dried to store safely) bring them into the house overnight to avoid them reabsorbing moisture then put them back out the next day to finish drying.

Sun Drying your herbs, fruits and vegetables is a win/win - no electricity used and you take advantage of our natural sun and heat.  The sun drying works best on bright sunny days of at least 75+ degrees.  The hotter the better but you can use the cool days, it just may take the extra day to complete the drying.

One last thing.  If you grow your own vegetables along with the herbs - make your own dried bouillon powder, salt free.

I need to make some more myself.  The flavor in this is outstanding!!  Seriously.  Celery gives a bit of taste of salt, but the real flavor comes from combining some vegetables, herbs, onions (TIP do NOT include garlic - you can add later -- you want the flavor of the other components to stand out).  I have used it to make a soup stock, add to dressings and I have also coated meats etc. with it before roasting or grilling.

Click here to read my post on making your own dried bouillon.

Growing Herbs?  When to plant in the desert southwest or USDA Zone 9b and above.

I have a simple chart in PDF form which covers 48 herbs with some additional information on many of them.  I include some companion planting and pairing tips.

Click here to review and purchase.  $5.  There is a preview available. The pictures are all herbs from my gardens.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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