Blog posts from May 2008

My Lady Friends…

May 26, 2008

Black_widow Yes...this is one of my dear lady friends that hangs out in my garden. She is the first of 3 very large black widow females I've discovered in my yard this spring by almost putting my hand down on them...I originally found this beauty about 3 months ago...and found her again in the same spot this past Saturday. Since my first encounter with...oh let's call her Vivienne...I've relocated two others to the back alley and told them we had a deal as long as they didn't come back in my yard.

And see, there was this sprinkler timer I needed riiiiight underneath her...I had to scoot Vivienne out of the way.

Sigh, I know I should probalby be killing these chicas, but I just can't bring myself to do it. (I know...I'm threatening the squirrels with my BB gun for stealing peaches but I won't squish the black widows....psycho analyze away...) I've already gotten a brown recluse bite in this yard (still have a tiny spot of death on the back of my calf). But I'm young and healthy so it didn't do much damage. I'm sure a black widow bite would be less than pleasant. But they sure are cool looking huh....

Horseradish Hot Head…

May 26, 2008

Horseradish I looooooove me some horseradish. Yes, I'm a hot head. The hotter the better. I know, I'm well aware I also have a short fuse, but that's not what we're talking about here! I harvested some horseradish from the garden yesterday - it's not the right time of the year to do this, but with the bizarre stink bug outbreak I've had on the horseradish this spring, they're not really putting out lots of new growth. So, I chopped off all the leaves, along with the stink bugs, and relocated them to the compost pile...I'm hoping they will stay there. I've put a couple of praying mantis egg sacs out in the garden in hopes they will hatch and eat all the heads off my stink bugs, buutttt the timing probably isn't right at this point. I'm sure they'll be lots of other things for them to eat when they emerge.

In any case, one usually harvests horseradish when plants are more dormant - early spring and late fall is best. You lift the plants with a sturdy garden fork (plants are strongly rooted in) and chop off the long healthy roots. Then immediately replant the main crown in the same spot. Horseradish plants are pretty tough and can actually be invasive in some climates. If you want to keep them from spreading you can grow them in containers. They prefer a sunny spot but will take some afternoon shade. I provide mine no special treatment and minimal waterings and they are usually pest free.

Off season harvest aside, the flavor on these roots is great. I ended up with about a 16 oz. jar of processed horseradish from a handful of roots. It's so hot I can't even put my face anywhere near the jar. Whoohooo! That's the good stuff.

So you want to process some horseradish? It's easy. Lift a plant and chop off some long healthy roots - replant your crown (cut off the leaves when you replant if it has any). Scrub the roots clean and then peel with a potato peeler. Make a mixture of 1 cup water and 1 cup 5% vinegar. Chop the roots into small pieces and place in a food processor. You can decide how hot you want your horseradish to be by grinding it a little or a lot before you add some of the vinegar mixture. Grind it a little, then add some liquid, and it will be more mild. Grind it longer and it will be hotter. I grind mine pretty fine, till there is a lot of grind built up on the sides of the processor, then add a little of the vinegar mixture. This blends the grind back together and "stops the hot". Keep processing till your horseradish has the texture you want. The finer you process it after you've added the liquid, the easier it will be to mix with other foods. Then pack the processed horseradish into a small glass jar. Keep processing until you have what you need. You don't want too much of the liquid in your storage jar, so if it seems too watery, simply strain some of the liquid out. The jar will keep in the fridge for about 4-6 weeks.

Hmmm, what will I make...horseradish mayo? relish? horseradish risotto? Definitely some Jezebel sauce. MMMMMMMMMM. Yum.

It’s almost summer…

May 18, 2008

We hit 92 today...a bona fide warm day...pretty much our first. Which is bizarre. It's been unseasonable cool and moist this spring. Not the sort of thing one usually complains about in Texas, but it has put a damper on the normal progress of my vegetable garden. The cool temps have thwarted three attempts to get my eggplant and pepper seeds germinated directly in the garden so I've started a backup crop indoors. It's awfully late for that, but better than never. Now that the heat is coming on things are finally starting to pop.

I'm scrambling to harvest and eat as much of the salad greens as I can. This day of 92 degrees heralds the soon to come demise of my salad days...Try as I might, I cannot keep the cilantro, dill and parsley from going to bloom. I always let them flower because they are so pretty and the bees love them. It just means I have to let them go...sniff sniff.
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Not to worry though...don't think that I will be so sad for the arrival of summer. Because you know what summer means...TOMATOES AND PEPPERS!!! Yay is all I can say. I will be eating homegrown tomatoes and peppers from now till about February, when the last of the pre-harvest fruit I bring indoors runs out.
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The bush bean seedlings are coming along nicely, as well as the potatoes and the corn...

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The summer squash has begun to twine and flowers abound. The ants and a few bees are doing my pollination duties for me (ok, I admit I'm still spreading a bit o' pollen around my self, but don't tell the ants and the bees...)

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Earthed up the potatoes again after this photo and harvested some leeks...these leeks will pretty much be the last of the season as they are going dormant. I've been quite negligent in harvesting them at all this past season...bad, bad gardener.

Tonight I made a big mixed green salad from the garden with a few fresh herbs as well. It accompanied an angel hair pasta with a homemade tomato sauce with fresh basil and oregano from the garden. Lovely.

As the British say...Grow your own Veg!

It'll make ya feel good...promise

How dare they

May 11, 2008

Peach Let the backyard battle begin...so I planted another young peach tree this spring. When I brought it home it had one tiny baby peach on it. I've watched this peach grow and ripen to the point where I was JUST about to pick it. Yesterday morning as I looked across the back yard something was missing. The little speck of orange I'd been patiently watching was gone. You've got to be kidding me. Not only did "they" take the peach...they also took the branch with it. Chewed it right off. Now...I already engage in this yearly battle with the squirrels... they like to steal my biggest tomatoes the day before I plan to pick them. They watch me...they mark it on their calendars. So this is not something new to me. But I only had one...one little peach. Not one peach to spare. Needless to say this kind of event evokes feelings of pulling out the red rider bb gun, that I do own, and sitting watch. Yes, peach thievery evokes these murderous feelings even in bleeding heart vegetarians like myself. Sigh. But, on the bright side, I happened to discover one more little peach on the tree. So now, I'm guarding it...bb gun in hand. Go ahead Mr. Squirrel...make my day....

Veggie update

May 11, 2008

Now that the trees are trimmed, I think we'll have much better sunlight in the veggie garden this summer. Bush bean and radish seedlings are on their way up...
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The corn has been a little inconsistent in its growth habit due to the bit of shade that was being cast in the back. Hopefully the smaller plants will have a spurt now that they have more light. Potatoes are happy.

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Here are the tomato plants I started from seed - in the flood, with hail, then freeze...the ones I didn't think would even germinate. It's been such an unseasonable cool spring...but they made it and the seedlings are now coming along nicely.
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Found the first squash bloom of the season yesterday. These squash were also direct seeded. I have a few varieties, this being a dwarf cultivar.
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We've been harvesting really nice salad greens lately. Again, it's been unseasonably cool and normally by this time of the year it's warm enough that the greens can't help bolting. But we're still cool enough that the baby greens are still fresh and tasty.
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Blackberries are coming on...I think their flowers are so pretty
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Chaos in the garden…

May 10, 2008

Img_3031_2 May is generally what I call a "transition" month here in North Central Texas. The blooms of spring are fading and the beginnings of summer are emerging. The leftover violas and pansies don't look their best any longer but they still have enough blooms left on them to extend their stay just a little longer. The time to pull out spent tulip foliage is far overdue...but I'm just now getting to it. The last of the cool season residents such as fennel, parsley, chard and the like are beginning to flower and bolt but still look too pretty to pull. Cool season weeds left un-pulled have taken up a firm residency by now and are quickly being flanked by the warm season invaders - dandelions, wild carrot, Bermuda grass (yes...it's a weed in my book). Being a professional horticulturist, I don't get much time to work in my garden in spring. So I let them all run a muck! Why not. Come May I look around and say "oh jeez, what must the neighbor's think of me!" They all claim to be fascinated by and enjoy my garden chaos, but at some point you've just got to get to clean up! Today I'm having all my trees trimmed...long overdue. Heavy branches were encroaching upon the precious sunlight for the veggie garden, not to mention the overall poor condition of most of my trees...Ashes, hackberries and the like. Full of trash. So today they've all gotten a haircut. It's like I have a whole new back yard...twice the size. The veggie plants are squealing with thank yous..I swear I can hear them. I spent the day cleaning in the front garden, pulling weeds and such while the crew worked. Still have some things to pull and new color to plant, which is overdue, but will hopefully get to that in the next week or so. Right now I'll post some photos of things blooming in the garden. Later, after the tree crew is done and cleaned up, I'll post some veggie garden updates.

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