Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

October Planting Tips

Leaf Miner "Channels" on watermelon
Dear Folks,

As I start this post on a lovely Thursday morning, it was almost chilly (real feel 73 degrees!!), so I know the cooler morning temps are right behind along with decreasing day temps. Look for more 90s by the end of September.

Along with our transition time from summer to fall and winter comes garden actions, some great, some not so great.

Leaf miners are at it again.  Do NOT get overly concerned about these pests.  They do no permanent damage to established plants.  Also do not get into pruning mode too quickly.  The tiny moth responsible for laying the eggs of the larvae which chews the channels on your leaves PREFER new growth, so pruning heavily only gives them new fodder.

Dead Gardenia
My gardenia slowly declined this summer and is now history :(  I thought I had found the perfect spot for her, but last spring she was showing signs of stress and I was unable to correct it.

Blueberry May Be Gone.
And my 7 year old blueberry plant is also really having a hard time.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that she will put out new growth and is only taking a nap.  I have been pruning in the fall for the last couple of years, so the timing may not be horrible.  The green growth is some wonderberries which occupy the pot too.

On the plus side, I have lovely eggplant and my kitchen trash celery roots are all doing well.

And my radishes are coming along nicely.

Radish seedlings
Poinsettias on either side of Jasmine
While Poinsettias are not edible I enjoyed these Christmas tiny plant purchases thriving in my garden.  One is white and one is red.  I'm hoping the colors will come back with new growth this winter in time for the holiday.

Planting/Sowing October

Fall is our primary cool weather annual and biennial planting time along with fruit trees and perennials like Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary etc.

The perennials and trees need all the winter cool soil to set down healthy roots.  They may not do much above ground growth, but are working hard underneath to grow healthy.

GET YOUR GARLIC in no later than October 31st to ensure a good crop in the spring and hope we get some good chill to make it happen!


Spring!!! in the Desert - Heavy planting possibilities:

Bay, Greek (Sweet)
Beans, Fava
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage, Ornamental
Chrysanthemum, Shungiku
Endive (and Chicory)
Fennel, Leaf
Fruit Trees
Kale, Ornamental
Lemon Grass
Lemon Verbena
Lettuce (arugula, leaf lettuce etc.)
Onions, Green
Oregano, Greek
Oregano, Mexican
Peas, English and Sugar/Snap
Potato seeds (not seed potatoes - use seeds) ("seed potatoes" or cut pieces of potato should be planted Nov 1-Jan 1)
Tarragon, Mexican
Tarragon, French


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

GARDEN TIPS for October
"Spring in the Desert" - we call fall our spring because this is when we do most of 'heavy' garden work, trees, shrubs and cool weather edibles all go in now.
    The beginning of primary perennial planting season is now through February.
    Cool weather annuals and biennials can be sown every 2-4 weeks (beginning in August) through end of February for a continuous crop through next spring.
    Garlic: Plant garlic cloves no later than October 31st to ensure full maturity of garlic heads in the spring.  Plant extra if you want ‘green garlic’ (used like scallions) through the cool months. The ‘green garlic’ can be harvested when the clove below the soil swells slightly.
    This is the beginning of bare-root planting season. Asparagus, raspberry, blackberry, grape, and strawberries may start showing up in your favorite garden nursery.
    If you have ever-bearing berry vines, cut them down to the ground after the fruit is finished. (This is easier than trying to keep track of which are the oldest canes — commercial growers use this practice.)
Aphids are a major problem with cabbage family - forestall infestations. Add a fingertip of Dawn to 1 quart of water. Shake, pour 1/4 cup down center of each plant once a week

Make and use a safe soap spray on aphids on other plants (the aphids like our cool nights too!).  1 teaspoon each of dawn and vegetable oil to 1 quart of water.  Spray every 5 days for a minimum of 3 repeats to keep them under control.  Neem spray is a good alternative.

Have a great time in the garden, getting your next foods growing.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

 My gardening book or calendars give you all the year's planting and sowing information plus maintenance tips.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Ratatouille a New "Creamy Soup" + "Made Overs"

Dear Folks,

I harvested a lovely eggplant (Listarda) that I have been watching, plus some crookneck squash with Ratatouille in mind. Ratatouille is a French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice, and sometimes referred to as ratatouille niçoise. Wikipedia

First --- Watch for the October Planting Tips in the next post ---

One of the traditional ways of making Ratatouille is to layer the eggplant, squash and tomatoes over a bell pepper base "sauce".

I don't know about you but I LOVE sweet peppers and munch them like candy.  Particularly the Gypsy aka Lipstick variety with lovely colors of yellow, red and orange.

With the "creamy soup" kick I have been on using potatoes and a focus vegetable to make wonderful combinations, and I have been wanting to try a sweet pepper version of my Creamy soups, so  I decided a Creamy Sweet Pepper Soup would act as a very nice base for a slowly roasted Ratatouille.  The "Creamy" is from the potatoes and their starch.  Feel free to substitute sweet potatoes and adjust seasonings accordingly.

This is another awesome soup and the ratatouille turned out almost velvety with the slow roasting.  I hope you enjoy the "Made Over" ideas for using the leftovers.

 Creamy Sweet Pepper Soup
1 medium size potato (small chunks equal to about 1 1/2 cups) - I do NOT peel my potatoes.
2 cups of diced sweet peppers, seeds and core removed
2 cups water

2-4 tablespoons of minced onion (or garlic, shallot etc.)
2 Tablespoons avocado oil
Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried Thyme
Limequat, lime or lemon
1 tablespoon shredded fresh basil for topping
Optional:  4 ounces of Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Ratatouille for topping --roasted eggplant, squash and tomatoes, tossed with 1 tablespoon of oil, seasoned with Salt and Pepper and Dried Thyme roasted ahead of time at 350 for approximately 75 minutes until all are tender, stir once or twice to mix up and keep from burning

An immersion blender works well for the soup.

Directions For Soup

Heat oven to 450 and prepare a pan with aluminum foil for roasting the focus vegetable

Prepare the vegetable.
Wash potato, remove any blemishes, do not peel, cut into chunks, do not rinse (you want the starch), and add to water, set aside.
Prepare onion (garlic etc.) of choice
Prepare or have ready the complimentary herb or spice mix you are using
Have your choice of garnishes ready and set aside
Shred cheese if using, set aside

In the pot you will cook the soup in, warm 1 tablespoon of fat/oil of choice and toss the peppers with the oil - in the pot.  Spread the vegetable out on the prepared pan and season with salt and pepper and dried thyme.

Add the last tablespoon of fat to the pot, and cook the onion of choice on low.  Put the pan of vegetables into the oven and set the time for 5 minutes.

Stir the onion and do not let it burn.
When the timer goes off, add the potatoes and water to the pot, bring to a boil, covered.
Stir the pan of vegetables and reset the timer for 5 minutes.
Lower the pot to a gentle low boil still covered.

When the timer goes off, add the roasted vegetable to the pot, add any herbs or spices you are going to use, cover and boil on low for 7 minutes or until the potato is tender.

Remove from heat and using an emersion blender, puree the soup - I like to leave some chunks in for texture.

Divide the soup into bowls, top with ratatouille, shredded cheese and shredded basil.

Serve and enjoy.

Made Over Soup and Ratatouille

"Made Over" is an old fashioned term for using up leftovers.  I knew I would have leftover sweet pepper soup and ratatouille, so I made plans on how to use them the next two evening meals.

Creamy Sweet Pepper Soup w/Pistachios and Bacon
1/4 cup of pistachios for each serving
1 slice of crisp cooked bacon for each serving

Prepare the soup to the blended stage.  This soup re-heats nicely if you are using leftover.  I microwave for 90 seconds - or more depending on the amount you have.

Serve up in bowls and top with 1/4 cup of pistachios and 1 strip of crisp bacon crumbled, each.

Ratatouille and Orzo
Left over Ratatouille
1/2 cup of Orzo
1 cup of water
Red onion, minced
1 tablespoon of uncured bacon fat
Parmesan Cheese shredded and made into crisps (small piles on parchment paper, microwaved for 30 seconds - allow to cool and set aside)
1 slice of Salami microwaved to remove extra fat (approximately 45-60 seconds on paper towels - watch so they do not burn)

Heat fat in a sauce pan and saute onion for 5 minutes.
Add orzo and stir to coat for 1 minute.
Add water and bring to a boil, cover and reduce to simmer, stirring occasionally.
Set time for 9 minutes, with 4 minutes left, remove lid and stir regularly to make creamy.  Do not let it burn.  With 2 minutes left stir in the ratatouille. 
When done, serve with Parmesan crisp and slivered salami.

I hope you like the sound of these recipes enough to give them a try yourselves. Let me know if you to!

If you like my recipes - check out my cookbooks available on the sidebar here

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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