Blog posts categorized as: Grow Vegetables & Fruit

Cocktail Gardening: Blackberry Mint Margarita

Jun 26, 2014

Today's garden cocktail: The blackberry margarita. Or whatever you want to call this concoction!

So I'm overloaded with fresh blackberries. My friend Sarah keeps telling me I need to muddle them into cocktails. So I did.

Fresh picks from the garden: Blackberries, mint

From the store: limes (mine aren't ripe yet!), a nice tequila, cointreau, soda water, agave nectar

I wasn't too scientific about this, but in a shaker, muddle 4 blackberries and 4 mint leaves. Add 1/2 cup of ice, juice of one lime, a shot or two (depending on how strong you like it) of tequila, spash of cointeau and about a teaspoon of agave nectar. Shake well and strain into a glass with ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with more fresh mint.

Fabulous on the patio at the end of the work day. Thanks Sarah!

Tomato Time: What to do with all your tomatoes?

Jun 23, 2014

If you're like me, you might just be up to your ears in tomatoes right now! Here in Texas, we're pulling in our harvest from spring planted tomatoes. In a week or so, it will be time to start planting our fall crop of tomatoes (yes, we have TWO tomato seasons here!) The last thing you want is for any of your homegrown produce to go to waste, so be sure to have a plan for what you'll be making or how you'll preserve the harvest.

What do you do with all your tomatoes? Here are just a few things I've made lately with my abundant harvest:

Marinated tomatoes - a great way to use up the millions of cherry tomatoes you might find yourself with. I like to use rice vinegar flavored with a bit of ginger, garlic, thyme, basil, salt and pepper.

Simple tomato salad - slice up a bunch of fresh tomatoes and arrange with fresh basil from the garden. Mix up a simple dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. DIVINE!

If you feel like turning the oven on, how about a simple tomato tart? I didn't feel like making actual tart dough, so I just substituted Filo this time around. Olive oil brushed between the layers, sprinkle with some fresh mozarella, basil leaves, cover with sliced tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. In the oven for about 25 minutes at 400F.  Sprinkle on a bit more fresh basil. DELISH!

I think that next up on the tomato menu will be green tomato pickles...enjoy!

Veggie Garden: The Summer Solstice Harvest is ON!

Jun 21, 2014

I have to say, I've seriously enjoyed the mild spring we had here in Dallas this year. And yes, temperatures have turned hot with the onset of summer, but we've also enjoyed some unexpected and much needed rain. The veggie garden has been delivering big this year and it's all I can do to keep up with the produce!

I'm picking veggies and fruits daily: Pictured is my Saturday morning harvest. The scallop squash are getting away from me (just put up quarts and quarts of it in the freezer!). Blackberries are comming out of our ears and we'lre covered in tomatoes. But hey, I'm not complaining! It's great to be able to feed myself from the backyard.

Happy Summer Solstice everyone!

Fresh Blackberries: It’s PIE season!

Jun 17, 2014

Pop quiz: What do you do when you're swimming in backyard blackberries?

DUH: Make pie!

Now, I'm not a big sweets fan, but I love fresh fruit and it seemed a crime not to do at least a bit of baking with these fantastic fresh blackberries. My bees worked so hard pollenating the heck out of the bushes this I bake in honor of them! 

I prefer simple thickeners or any other junk added. Just  a simple homemade butter crust, berries, sugar.

It turned out so good that I think I may just have to make another one. Happy Summer!

Tomatoes setting fruit? Time to fertilize!

May 3, 2014

So, it's going to be 90 °F all weekend in Dallas y'all. Summer is right on schedule! If you planted your tomatoes on time and haven't been over-fertilizing through spring, you should be seeing baby fruits on the plants now. That means it's time to start a regular feeding regimen.

Tomato fruit halleck

When you continually fertilize tomato plants through spring, before they've set fruit, you can often end up with a whole lotta plant, but no tomatoes. Too much Nitrogen prior to flowering and fruit set will encourge plants to keep putting their energy into more green leafy growth, instead of into flowers and fruit production. That might be all fine and well in a more mild climate, but here in Texas you have to get plants flowering and setting fruit before the summer heat sets in. If you plant too late or over-fertilize in spring, plants can go into heat-delay and you get little to no harvest.

Best practice is to amend your soil with organic compost and composted manure at the beginning of the season and work in a dry organic fertilizer at time of planting. Then wait to feed again until plants start to set fruit.

Once baby fruit is about 1/4 it's mature size, start feeding your tomato plants with an organic tomato or vegetable fertilizer about every other week. That's a side-dressing of dry fertilizer. If you're using liquid feed, such as Hasta Gro, apply it to the roots and foliage weekly.  Apply and mix per the application rates on the package.

Cherry tomatoes will start to hit harvest time in mid- to late-May with slicers typically ready to pick in mid-June. Want to start your fall tomato transplants from seed? Do it now! Plant into the garden in late-June through early July.

Cocktail Gardening: First Day of Spring Spritzer

Mar 20, 2014

Ok, I don't know if this beverage actually qualifies as a "spritzer", but it sounded good in the title. To celebrate the first day of spring, we gals here at HH headquarters decided to partake of a bit of sunshine in a glass.


Photo by Nikki Rosen. Cocktail mixing and styling by Leslie Halleck .We're professionals.

On a whim, we through together  ice, 1.5 oz. homemade limoncello (complements of my BBFF Jimmy Turner's meyer lemon tree, of which I'm now in custody), a couple of splashes of club soda, some fresh lemon slices and a sprig of mint from the garden. Simple and refreshing. Perfect for this first and most beautiful day of spring. Cheers!

January is Pajama Gardening Month!

Jan 8, 2014

I know, it's cold outside. Most of you aren't really that interested in getting out into the garden. BUT, if you plan to be tiptoe-ing around your veggie garden this spring picking homegrown tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and any number of other veggies and herbs, now is the time to start your seeds!

That's why I like to call January "Pajama Gardening Month". You can get your gardening fix indoors, all whilst still in your PJs. Starting seeds indoors is fun and rewarding. You just have to get the timing right and have a few good tools.  If you're in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, here are some things you should be starting from seed this month indoors:

Sapho tomato

Cole crops: You can start your last succession of cool season crops indoors now. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, chard, collard greens, kohlrabi, cauliflower and more.. Seeds need supplemental light so make sure to use a good setup. After 5 or 6 weeks you can transplant these seedlings outdoors, in February.

Warm season crops: Start tomatoes NOW, then you can start peppers, eggplant inside starting now through February. These crops take a bit longer to get to transplant size, about 8-9 weeks. In the DFW area, tomatoes can be planted outside late-February through the end of March for a June harvest. You can continue planting peppers and eggplant through April and May. If you want to start a second fall crop of tomatoes from seed, you’ll do that indoors in May.

Herbs: Start seeds indoors of warm season herbs such as basil, oregano, sage, thyme, chives etc.

Salad greens: You can still start salad greens both indoors and by direct seeding outside right now through February. Remember that lettuce seeds need light to germinate, so don't cover their seeds with soil when you plant them. Simply press them into the surface of the soil and keep moist until germination.

Indoor seed starting equipment: I use the Jump Start system from Hydrofarm because the lighting is perfect for seeds, the lamp can be adjusted to different heights, and it's a good for small spaces. You can use small trays with a seed starting soil mix, or the little compressed pellets from say Jiffy. I use those a lot and they work great. Make sure you have a humidity dome (plastic cover) for your tray. If you're using posts or pellets, make sure you have a water tight seed tray to set them in so you can cover them with the dome. The picture at left is only one example of the many different options available. Sometime you just have to experiment to find the option that works best for you. Also, a seed starting heat mat is necessary once you get into fall and winter, and you're starting seeds for spring planting.

If you'd like to find these products for purchase, visit your local independant garden center. I picked up my supplies for today's Good Morning Texas segment at North Haven Gardens in Dallas.

Growing veggies? Check out The Fresh 20!

Oct 6, 2013

So you've tackled the veggie garden and after some practice you've started to get good harvests. Once this happens, you'll often find yourself with the task of figuring out what to do with all that harvest! There's freezing, canning, pickling and so on and so forth. Of course the goal is to always eat as much of the seasonal veggies fresh if you can. But with busy schedules, it's easy to get behind on all that cooking.


Recently, I started experimenting with a program called The Fresh 20. Now let me say, I'm not being paid to write about this, I have not been contacted by the author of The Fresh 20, or any such thing. I'm just a paying customer like any other who happens to LOVE it! I've spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars over the years on cookbooks; downloaded hundreds of recipies online; subscribed to any number of cooking magazines. But it's still hard for me to get my kitchen act together because I work all the time. For what was not the first time, I set out online to find some sort of cooking program that would help me organize my shopping list (or garden harvest list), provide easy recipes and suit the varied eating habits in my house (veggie vs. meat eater).

What I stumbled across was The Fresh 20 Cookbook. The description of the cookbook led me to further investigate the website, which offers up subscriptions to weekly shopping and cooking plans that are built around seasonal ingredients. I purchased both the Classic and the Vegetarian plans (when you buy the first one, you get additional plans for 1/2 price). It' AMAZING and the price is more than worth it. The author, Melissa Lanz, has done all the work: Created the recipes, which are tasty and easy, built the shopping list and provided all of the nutritional info. I swear, this is the easiest meal plan I've every tried to use. She also gives you a ballpark of what the week's shopping will cost you (but you should probably go ahead and double that if you shop at Whole Foods, lol). Simply substitute your garden harvest for veggies in the recipes (or sub the veggie completely for something else you have in the garden).

Each week you get 5 dinners worth of recipes, your shopping list, and panty staples. If you're a household of two, you'll have plenty of leftovers to cover all your lunches. If you have a family of 4, you should end up with just about the right amount for dinner. Some meals you'll still end up with extra. Food is great, easy to make and really makes the week of cooking so much easier.

Anyhoo, if you're a veggie gardener and are looking for an easier way improve your kitchen time, grocery bill and use up that garden harvest, check this program. It's just been too good not to share!


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