Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Recipes Inspired by The Garden Bounty, and Around the Garden

Dear Folks,

I had been having so much fun with my greens/herbs bed this winter, I missed it when they faded with the heat.  So...I picked up some organic baby kale and arugula and added some of what I can still harvest from the garden to make a batch of mixed greens.

[Pictured: Alpine white and red strawberries, I'itoi Onions, parsley and red celery.]

I love this option for salads, soups, stews, pizza etc.

First some fun things from the garden.

One of my fabulous Amaryllis blooms - just so awesome I look for it every year.  One the other end are the Barbados (Malpighia emarginata) Cherry Blossoms.

But the center image is the one I hope you can see, in fact - I will share it near the end of the blog post by itself.  I was doing one of my morning meandering through the garden to an area which still has a bunch of carrots and some are going to flower.  I looked over and there in a partially opened carrot flower (about 1 1/2 inches wide) was a ladybug!!!

Another fun happening in the garden was my squash seedlings.  I sowed 2 areas with some Summer Yellow Crookneck and one area with Spaghetti Squash.  The Spaghetti Squash is in the center.  Here is the fun thing.  They came up in 7 days!!!  I had soaked them for 2 days and that always hastens germination, but this might be a record.


Using the greens:

To my I'itoi onions, red celery and parsley I added the baby kale and arugula.  In the bowl I have fresh spearmint from the garden.

I chopped everything but the mint (center picture), then divided the mixed greens up - right picture:  left pile is mint and some of the mixed greens - for Tabouli ; the jar in the center contains a portion of the mixed greens (no Mint) I am freezing for use in soups and stews later on, and the right pile is for a Tortilla Pizza.

Tabouli  - one of my versions

A refreshing salad of grain - usually couscous or cracked wheat, and a lot of parsley and spearmint (not peppermint), lemon juice, olive oil, chopped tomatoes and S&P to taste. In my version I cooked up some Barley. Ingredients are flexible as to how much but you want a really nice mix of the greens to the grain.

I can eat bowls of Tabouli it is so refreshing and tasty.

Barley, cooked and cooled
Mixed Greens
Chopped Spearmint
Lime Juice (my limequat tree)
Avocado Oil or Olive Oil
Tomatoes, chopped.

Make a tangy version of vinaigrette - instead of 1 juice to 3 oil - make it about 1 juice to 1.5 - 2 oil so you have the citrus forward.  Add S&P.  Shake well.

I used the pot I cooked the barley to mix everything (after draining any excess water off the Barley), then added some of the dressing, gently toss (don't mash the grain), add more dressing if needed (it should not be soupy).  Taste and adjust salt if needed. Serve and enjoy.

Tortilla Pizza

I started played around with tortilla pizzas in the toaster oven some years ago.

The thing I love about toaster oven pizza is that it is satisfying. Using pre-cooked foods makes it fast, and it is perfect for a lunch for two or snacks. Preparing the ingredients takes longer than cooking!

I finally realized I needed to use two with shredded cheese sprinkled between them to make a crust that did not fall apart.

For this version 2 whole wheat 8" tortillas.
I used a bunch of the chopped greens
My Tomato Sauce (my version of Marcella Hazan's "Crazy Sauce" (see below)
some pepperoni slices
chopped cooked bacon,
Both White Cheddar (I did not have any Mozzerella on hand and Parmesan (for topping) cheeses, shredded


I use a Pyrex pie plate, sometimes the cheese melts past the edges of the tortillas - saves a mess.

Set your toaster oven on "toast" and the highest temperature setting.

Put about 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese between the tortillas, place in the pie plate,
Ladle tomato sauce on, add shredded greens, scatter pepperoni and bacon on top.
Add shredded cheddar and Parmesan.

Turn on to toast and set timer for about 7 minutes, check and go 1-2 minutes more if needed, but you can usually smell it when it is done.  I can usually get it done to my satisfaction at about 7 minutes.

Remove, cut, serve and enjoy.

My Tomato Sauce Version of Marcella Hazan's Crazy Sauce.

This is the most luscious, velvety and tasty sauce you will ever have - truly not low calorie but who can resist such an amazing sauce once in a while.

Original recipe:  Uses Canned Tomatoes, Butter, onion, salt.  That is it!!

I did make the recipe my first time as called for in the original except I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned and I could not bring myself to toss the onion at the end, so I minced to add to the sauce. It was wonderful.

As I usually have herbs like Greek Oregano, Bay and Basil growing in the garden, I could not pass up using them, and I always use fresh tomatoes so the cooking time is usually about 2 to 2.5 hours.

My Ingredients:

I had a happy opportunity to buy a bag of about 4-5 pounds of fresh tomatoes for $1 - yes one dollar.  It was on the discount produce rack and they were in great condition. I chopped up. I do not peel or seed tomatoes for my sauce but I do cut out a hard core if necessary.

Sprigs of Greek Oregano
4-5 of my bay leaves
1 stick of salted butter
half of a red onion, minced
about 2 tablespoons of EVOO
NO Salt
Glug of white wine

Everything into the pot bring to a high simmer, lower to low simmer, cover and cook for 2 to 2.5 hours.  Stir occasionally.

About half way through I used a potato masher to mash about half of them - I still leave a lot for texture.  Taste at the end to see if it needs anything - never does except what to put it with :)

I got 7 cups out of this, some I shared, some I used and the rest I froze for later.

I hope some of these recipes encourage you to try them AND to consider growing some of the ingredients.

I will leave you with the hope you stay safe, enjoy and expand your garden, be patient and share what you can.

My Ladybug in A Carrot Flower.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Around The Garden, Bugs good and bad, and more.

Dear Folks,

If you are like me, a bit of cabin fever (maybe more than a bit) is setting in, and I am cruising the garden looking for more things to do (I have a list and I need to get back to it - but not "exciting" stuff :) or just looking for something interesting or even a bit exciting, anything to take my mind off the things I can't do now.

Last week I spotted a ladybug larvae on one of my plants and just kind of said oh that's nice, went on my way and then thought - duh - camera! But of course by the time I got back to the area that day it was gone - hopefully munching aphids.

Ladybug larvae always make me think of a black and red cross between an alligator (many people think they look like that) and a dragon.  The picture above is from the Entomology Department of University of Kentucky.

What I did get a picture of yesterday, was the pupa stage of Ladybug life cycle.  The larvae enter pupa stage then emerge as the adult Ladybug we all know and love.

It is kind of hard to tell but the black "things" are aphids, not quite as clear because I needed to zoom in on the pupa.

 By the way the plant they are on is Chervil, sometimes called Chinese Parsley.  It has a lovely, delicate anise/licorice flavor herb.

So those are the GOOD bugs.

I also managed to pass over (I will look at that later) yellowing of a volunteer tomato plant in the back part of the garden.  That was oh, about 7+ days ago.  Then, I wanted to get a look at that plant because the fruit on it may have ripened.  When I checked the day before yesterday I saw it overwhelmed with Red Spider Mites.  You can see the webs in the picture.  I immediately made up the Safe Soap Spray (recipe below) and used it - even though it was morning and the sun was going to hit it.  This spray is good on the soft-bodied insects like aphids and spider mites, but because of the oil, it is best to use at dusk to keep the fresh oil from creating a magnifying glass effect on the leaves, BUT I needed to hit it right away.  The good news, when I went to spray the plant again yesterday evening the healthy foliage, the mites had not gotten to, looked good.

You can read up on Spider Mites and control including beneficial insects here at the U of California site.

You will note in that link they mention hosing the mites off first - I could not do that at first, but I am planning on it tonight, then will check how things are going to tomorrow evening.

Safe Soap Spray
1 teaspoon each Dawn Dish Detergent
and vegetable oil
1 quart of water.

Put in spray bottle shake (you need to keep shaking to keep the formula mixed) and spray the plants ALL over, get the nooks and undersides of leaves.  With Spider Mites you should spray 3 evenings in a row then observe.

NOTE: if using the spray with aphids which are also prevalent now, you need to spray 3 times minimum 5 days apart to kill adults, new hatchlings and the next wave of hatchlings, then monitor.

Fun Things From The Garden

I dry many herbs and also edible flowers to use in cooking or as a garnish.

The herbs I had drying in the refrigerator* were ready to jar up and put in the pantry, and make room for more to dry.

Left to right are:  -bay-rosemary-oregano-thyme-sage - the sage I actually bought from the store (organic) everything else came from my gardens.

I picked my pink wild Rose, purple Stock, Johnny Jump-Ups, and Nasturtiums.  One of the things on my meal agenda is to make "salad" sandwiches like Tuna or Egg, cut the sandwiches in quarters and dip the fresh edges into the dried flowers.  When I get around to that I will post a picture :)  I also have in mind to a cheese ball and roll in dried herbs and petals.

*I have a shelf over the drawer in the frig which is perfect for drying things because it is 1) out of the way and 2) my "baking" wire racks fit perfectly up there.  I spread the flowers or herbs on paper towels on the racks and leave them until perfectly dry (REALLY important because any moisture could result in mold in the capped jars).  Modern refrigerators with their constant moisture removal produces a "freeze-drying" - meaning cold drying and keeps more of the color and flavor of dry herbs and flowers.

I have been harvesting our Mulberries and Strawberries (Alpine white and red).  The Mulberries are almost done, but it has been a treat this year.  The last couple of years, once the tree started producing, I was often busy doing other things.

I am trying mightily to look at the stay-home-orders as a bit of a silver lining.  I have harvested a bowl of mulberries every day for over a week.  I am freezing some in batches to use later.

Ditto on foods like carrots and beets from the garden, roasting them up and freezing some portions to use later.  My freezer is getting almost too full!

In my next post I will share flower pictures from the garden and also 1 or more recipes.

Meanwhile May has several food appropriate National Days and a Week.

May 2nd is National Herb Day a day to celebrate herbs in all their wonderful usefulness.  It is the first Saturday in May, followed by a National Herb Week.

May 3rd is International and National Permaculture Day.  Permaculture is the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.  Many of us already practice much of this ecosystem, buy saving and re-sowing seeds, using our own plant generated mulch and compost, and choosing plants which enhance each other.

May 4th - 10th (Mother's Day) is National Herb Week.  The is the first week in May which ends on Mother's Day.  I think that is so appropriate as many of us remember our Grandmothers and our Mothers who used herbs to help us growing up.

Why don't you challenge yourselves to find a new-to-you herb - culinary not medicinal - and learn how to grow it here in the Valley or wherever you live and what foods go well with it.

Two final things.

We took a picture near the beginning of the month when we had the last storm.  Just as the sun was setting - the clouds and sun combined to light up our neighbor's tree in a spectacular way.  You would never know that tree is a dusty looking dull green. 

Timing was right on, as it only lasted a few minutes.

And finally our good friend Jim Pipkin decided to do a solo backyard campfire concert playing some of my favorite tunes he wrote.  Jim is a song writer, singer, musician and story teller.  Kick back with a favorite beverage and put your feet up - about 25 minutes.

I hope you are able to garden, to enjoy the nurturing, harvesting and using.

Be Kind, Be Patient and Be Safe,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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