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Showing posts with label herbs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label herbs. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fall Garden

One of the consolations or our summer heat is the arrival of our second growing season, our fall garden.  We again grow a salad bowl of lettuces - Romaine, Red and
Green Leaf and Butter lettuce thrive, and cold weather veggies like cabbage, collards, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, and chard begin to thrive.

We plant old favorite herbs in the new beds as well - basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, sage, and Mexican mint marigold, the Texas offering which tastes like Tarragon, which does not grow well here. Our garden is one more thing which makes  us feel at home in our new surroundings.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bringing the Garden Inside

Ben and Kristen gave me a small herb drying rack for my birthday.  Last week, I hung it from the center of my pot rack and added a few bundles of herbs. I love reaching up to pinch a bay leaf, some rosemary twigs, or crush a basil leaf into a pan on the stove. Christmas music is playing, the tree is up, and it smells like Christmas. Last week when Maddie and Jordann and their mom arrived to spend a few days, the first thing I heard when they came inside was "It always smells like Christmas here!" I like that.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Our Garden

April showers might have brought May flowers, but so far May is bringing record setting low temperatures. Here on the Gulf Coast of Texas, by this time we are usually working to keep cool instead of wrapping up to stay warm.  Yesterday another cold front literallty blew in.  Wind gusts took my patio umbrella up and away, and tree branches have been whipping so hard the new leaves are hanging on for dear life.  I put on my coat and did a quick walkabout to check for garden damage, and am pleased to say it is slight.  Here is a photo walk through!

As in the photo of above, our antique roses are thriving in the cooler temperature. The colors are intense.

             Petunias, not to be outdone by the roses, but they will never muster that kind of fragrance!

      Tuscan Kale and Swiss Chard - ornamental, but also edible. Organic gardeners, we can eat our        borders!  We already have tomatoes on the vines, and a big bed of hot peppers.

       These flowers make a tasty addition to salads.  Nasturtiums, a favorite in my herb garden.

Daylilies hold up their reputation of blooming in spite of temperature - but usually that is a reference to hot!

This amaryllis has had more blooms this year than anytime since I planted it.  

Look at the blooms on this Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow bush my friend Debbie gave to me.

Sweet little nosegays of Forget-Me-Nots

This pot of geraniums on the porch makes me smile.

There are tiny Meyer lemons, the Satsuma is blooming, and the fig tree bravely sports baby figs!

Post a comment and tell me what is greening and growing in your garden!   

Friday, September 7, 2012

To Market, To Market

We grow a few vegetables and have pomengranate, Meyer Lemon, Fig, and Satsuma trees, with starter Avocado and Olive trees. The past two years, we have purchased a CSA share which means we have local organic produce and eggs during their delivery seasons.  But today, I am thankful for the abundance of Farmers Markets that are new to our area.  At the site of the old Imperial Sugar plant in Sugar Land, every Saturday local gardeners, bakers, chefs, and craftsmen are there with fresh vegetables like sweet Japanese eggplant, colorful peppers, squash, okra, tomatoes, peaches, fresh bread and pastries, Texas Wagyu beef, freshly made pastas, olive oils, and a variety of condiments.  It is satisfying to support local efforts, and the results are tasty when I bring our bounty home to cook.  I have another reason to be happy - tomorrow morning is supposed to be in the 60's, so I don't even have to brave the blistering Texas heat to shop. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Beating Heart, Blooming Rose: A Story of Friendship

I love growing antique roses. Every time I tend mine or bring bouquets in to grace our kitchen table, I am reminded of the dear friend who first introduced me to “old roses.” I had never been much inspired to grow roses, appreciating the beauty of long stemmed hybrids, but avoiding their need for pampering. Marcia told me about robust roses that are so hardy they grow on old tumbled down homesites and along fences. Once I realized that each one had its own unique story and fragrance, I was hooked. I pored over catalogs, and planted Sombreuil, Mutabulis, Maggie, and Crepescule. My rose friends’ stories blend now with my friend Marcia’s story, and that of her husband, Bob.

Bob was crazy about Marcia. Marcia adored Bob. Her nickname was Moose, and she fancied cats and roses. The cats were a pair of vocal chocolate point Siamese named Mikhail and Nikita and were Bob and Marcia’s babies, but the roses were their passion.

Marcia had picked out her wedding dress and envisioned a wedding long before she found Bob when she was in her mid-thirties. During their pre-marital counseling sessions with Marcia’s pastor, Bob was asked what one thing he would change about her if he could. He said he would give her a healthy heart since she was born with a hole in her heart and developed Eisenmenger’s syndrome which meant her heart and lungs were unable to provide her with enough oxygen. That didn’t keep her from her photography business but it made keeping up with physical activity hard for her. It also didn’t keep her from loving Bob and planning a life with him.

After Bob heard Marcia say she always wanted a rose garden, he bought 80 acres of fertile South Texas Gulf Coast land to plant neither rice nor cotton, but thousands of rose bushes. They drew up plans, pored over catalogs, and began choosing roses. When the first 2000 rose plants arrived, Marcia directed the planting from her hospital bed. A group of us who called her friend went out to plant the roses with Bob’s help.

Two pacemakers later, she was placed on a heart transplant list. Finally, Bob and Marcia and the cats moved to Nashville, TN to be near Vanderbilt University Hospital while she waited what they thought would bea few months to receive a heart and lungs. I went out to their rose farm a few times to help pot cuttings as their plans to open a shop and nursery were postponed. Many of their family and friends did what they could to help maintain the plantings. Time dragged on over 2 years, with Marcia in and out of the hospital as her need became greater. Because the need for organs so far outweighs donors, Marcia once said “There’s just no ordering from the Land’s End catalogue.” That may have been a quip, but certainly not a joke. In order to increase awareness for organ donation, she allowed a reporter and photographer to follow her for 4 ½ months in the hospital, a story later published in the Nashville newspaper. In the series of articles, Marcia and Bob's love for each other and their deep faith dominated the story of their courage.

Bob worked from her hospital room and their apartment on his computer and was her chief encourager. One day he filled every pitcher, Styrofoam cup, and container he could find in her hospital room with Texas roses which he had flown to Tennessee. He brought Mikhail and Nikita for visits because she missed them so much. Her Dr. OK'd this when he found out how much it helped her.

The day came for Marcia's rare heart and double lung transplants in April 1999. Recovering, she returned to Texas with pink cheeks, a grin, and enough air to play her flute as well as honor a promise to a friend to be in her June wedding. In her absence, friends and family had planted, rooted, and tended endless cuttings and rose beds. Bob built her a house. Early on they had planned a gift shop, tea room, and wedding chapel for their antique rose nursery and display gardens named The Vintage Rosery. Together, now they worked side by side, nurturing roses, increasing public awareness of organ donation and organic gardening, and kept all the commitments involved in maintaining Marcia's health. Together, they prayed and played, keeping the dreams alive, celebrating the opening of their gardens only 2 years after her transplants. For the next 5 they grew their garden and introduced customers to roses.

On a brilliant fall day, a line of cars miles long drove through the arches at the Vintage Rosery past masses of climbing yellow Lady Banks and fragrant Madame Alfred Carriere drifts, along the beds of multicolored Mutabulis, Maggie and pink Duchesse de Brabant next to rows of Souvenir de La Malmaison. They passed by the stream with its covered bridge and saw a tiny chapel. As people got out of their cars, they walked by a charming yellow house with a kitchen garden and fragrant herbs lining paths. By the lakeside, they gathered to honor Marcia and celebrate her life.

The following month, a “For Sale” sign hung on the gate. Bob held a moving sale. Marcia’s mom helped him. I went, weeping as I bought some of Marcia’s herb and antique rose books. As friends and strangers walked through the house and gardens, they saw “Rose Bushes - $10.00 each”, “Garden Books - $5 each”, “Gardening Tools -$15”, “Cutting Baskets - $7” I miss my friend. But I see her when I walk among my roses.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it. ~Russel Baker

We had two weeks of very unusual weather for July - two weeks of rain every day, heavy rain on a number of days and darkly overcast skies with thunderheads even on the dry days!  This was not associated with a tropical storm or hurricane and was so very much in contrast with last summer, one all remember as a brutal drought.  Many areas north and east of the Houston area received more than 14 inches of rain and experienced flooding.  We were thankful for our 6 to 7 inches and most of all, for the drop in temperatures.  This morning, although there is still a chance of some showers this afternoon, the sun is up early and burning brightly. Hot!  As I was clipping blooms from our leggy basil plants and cutting some of its bounty to hang up and dry,  I was thinking how herbs hate to have wet feet and could almost see soggy soil baking.  It is going to be a true to Texas summer day!

There are many reasons on the Texas Gulf Coast to experience the power of summer.  Flooding rains, blistering heat, the challenges of helping animals and plants survive, getting into an oven everytime I need to drive the truck, fire ants, mosquitoes, electric and water bills, sunglasses sliding down my nose along with perspiration - these are among the ways we spend our summertime.

At the same time, we experience the refreshment of cooling showers, sunshine on our shoulders, singing cicadadas, ripening figs and berries , the flourishing of fragrant herbs, air conditioning, iced tea, cold watermelon,  and a healthy dose of Vitamin D!   "summertime, and the living is are jumpin' and the cotton is high!"  Papa doesn't have to be rich, and Mama may not be good lookin', but "hush, little baby, don't you cry!"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Headed for Fall, Remembering Summer

At the beginning of the summer, when the herb and vegetable garden was producing plenty to pick every day, Maddie and Skye loved helping with the harvest.  One day they asked if they could have a farm stand in the front yard.  They had the sign all ready to go:  Tomatoes were 50 cents each, bunches of Basil were advertised at 10 cents, and mint for 2 cents per handful.  Peppers were 30 cents, and underneath the large "OPEN and SALE!"   lettering was the enticing "1 Free Water with each purchase!"
A couple of neighbors helpfully shopped from their market, and they happily counted their proceeds as they chattered about how much more fun that was than a lemonade stand.

Now, at summer's end, I think about our long hot Texas summer with record breaking drought and am thankful we had those weeks of bounty before the garden said "no more."  I pick up the sun hats they wore that afternoon, and move the little round table to a spot until they are ready to use it for another project.  And as grandmothers do, I carefully put the sign in a good place for keeping. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Eggplant Chronicles

  I have always enjoyed foraging - looking for what looks good whether it is in my pantry or available fresh vegetables and herbs, then planning meals around that.  I believe cooking for two or ten is an art project in which I create the healthiest and most appealing foods. Our weekly share of CSA produce delivered from an organic farm an hour north of Houston has changed my habits of planning meals.  Since I don't know what I am going to bring home until I get it (a little like looking in your Christmas stocking) I wait until then to plan the next week's food fare. I love the fresh vegetables, but it can be challenging to provide variety. 

We have received alot of onions, tomatoes, squash, and eggplant. I made Eggplant Parmesan.   I made a huge dish of classic French ratatouille with fresh basil and thyme for Father's Day weekend.  As I checked out recipes online, I realized there was a similar dish in many cultures, particularly Mediterranean.  There are slight variations. Spanish Pisto is served with a fried egg on top.  The Greek dish Briam contains white wine and is seasoned with mint and basil and dill.  Turkish Torlu  is sweet and savory with potatoes and chickpeas and has cinnamon and cilantro as well.  Alboronia (Andalusia) has paprika and vinegar. Samfaina, from Catalonia calls for the vegetables to be chopped fine and caramelized.   There was a recipe for Soufiko (from the Greek Island Ikaria).  But  they all contain eggplant.  I think I have alot of new dishes to try. 

I still enjoy foraging, this time for recipes, and their stories.

Monday, June 6, 2011

8 Ball Squash

I was only recently introduced to a new vegetable.  I have been eating different kinds of squash all my life, but who knew there was a zucchini called 8 Ball?  Named for its perfectly round shape, this squash can of course be cooked like any of the other summer squash.  However, it is beautifully designed to be stuffed.  I admit this is a little more trouble than slicing and steaming.  But the results were pretty enough to photograph, and tasty enough to write down the recipe.  I took a short cut by purchasing a frozen risotto with asparagus and mushrooms from the local supermarket, but it would be even better with a rice mixture made from scratch.
The old idiom "behind the 8 Ball" definitely does not apply to this dish!

                                                        Stuffed 8 Ball Squash

2 Medium to large 8 Ball Zucchini
1 package frozen risotto mix (I used Asparagus and Mushroom risotto from HEB)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup sliced Kalimata olives
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 Tablespoon butter

Slice off tops of squash, scoop out centers, but do not discard.  Melt butter in saute pan, add mashed up squash centers.  Cook, stirring to break up the squash, for 3 minutes.  Add risotto mix, nuts and olives, and stir to mix. Add parmesan, mix, and stuff squash shells, pressing down then mounding stuffing slightly.  If desired, use the squash tops which were trimmed off  to perch on top like little hats.

Note:  Instead of the prepared risotto mixture, use cooked rice to which you can add grated cheese, raisins, chopped green onion, herbs, and nuts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Focus on Foccacia

The previous posts clearly show I like making bread and my family likes eating it.  Without thinking twice, I can tell you the all time favorite any of us would name.  Years ago I found a recipe for Focaccia Bread in a Southern Living magazine which was attributed to Eva Royal from Evening Shade, Arkansas.  I have used her recipe with success, changing size of loaf and what I put on top of it according to how I will use the bread and which herbs are currently flourishing in the garden.  We love the taste of sundried tomatoes, so I add more, plus garlic and Kalamata olives.  I also occasionally use whole wheat flour for part of the flour requested.

 Foccacia is kin to pizza, with almost as many ways to dress up. The main differences are toppings and the thickness of the dough.  Traditionally, once the dough has risen and been punched down, it is shaped and dotted with  indentations that catch olive oil and salt as they are drizzled on before baking.  These little reservoirs are wonderful catchments for chopped fresh basil and rosemary or oregano and chives plus a generous addition of kalamata olives. The fresh herbs contribute texture and delicious flavor and fragrance.

My daughter in law Kristen helped me make dozens of dinner roll size loaves for a family celebration last year.  We have made them into sandwich buns which can also be stuffed with fillings.  But most often, we make two rustic rounds that disappear very quickly.  You will love it, too.

10 pieces of sundried tomato (1/2 cup or more, according to your taste)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter
31/2 to 4 cups bread flour, divided
2 packages active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
4 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup shredded fresh basil
1-2 Tablespoons chopped rosemary, stems discarded
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
optional:  1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano. 
(if you don't have fresh herbs, remember that 1 teaspoon dried herbs can be used to 1 Tablespoon fresh)

Add tomatoes to boiling water in small pan and let stand for 30 minutes.  Drain, reserving liquid.  Finely chop tomatoes and set aside.  Stir milk and butter into reserved liquid and heat until temperature reaches 120 to 130 degrees.

Combine 11/2 cups of the flour with yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Gradually add liquid mixture, beating at low speed with electric mixer.  add egg, beat 3 minutes, stir in tomatoes, garlic, chives, and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  Put dough into a well greased bowl, turn to grease top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place free from drafts for 2 hour or until doubled in size.

Combine herbs and olive oil in small dish.   Punch dough down.  For round loaves, divide in half and shape each into a 10 inch round.  For sandwich buns, divide into 12 balls, and shape into 3 inch rounds.  Place on ligtly greased baking sheets; flatten slightly, curving fingers to poke little wells into the dough.  Brush with half of the herbs and oil, sprinkle olives,  cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, brush with remaining herbs and oil and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  Cool on wire racks.

This has never lasted long enough for me to photograph!