Monday, October 24, 2016

Never Refrigerate Tomatoes

I know better than to put tomatoes in the refrigerator. They don't taste quite right after being chilled, and the texture changes. But I never questioned, "Why?"

According to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, when a tomato's environment drops below 68 degrees the genes responsible for making it taste like a tomato get turned off.

Most tomatoes sold in grocery stores are refrigerated at a distribution center, and then again at the the store to keep them looking good. Maybe that's why supermarket tomatoes typically taste like cardboard.

Read the entire article from the LA Times here:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Hibiscus Sabdariffa - A new plant for the garden?

My friend, Betsy, shared some gorgeous hibiscus sabdariffa (aka Roselle) calyxes that she found at one of our local farmers markets. She included instructions for making Iced Hibiscus Tea. Now, isn't that a lovely red drink?

5 ounces fresh, or 1/2 ounce dried, hibiscus calyxes
1 small cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
3 whole allspice berries
sugar, to taste
4 cups cold water

If using fresh calyxes, prepare them by slicing in half lengthwise (through the stem), carefully popping out and discarding the green fruits, and rising the calyx halves.

Combine the hibiscus and spices with 3 cup of water in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. (Hibiscus tea must be boiled to bring out the red color and distinct flavor.)

Remove from heat and allow the m ixture ot steep for 10-15 minutes if using dried hibiscus and 20-30 minutes if using fresh.

Strain the mixture into a 1-quart jar or pitcher and stir in the desired amount of sweetener and the remaining cup of cold water.

Serve chilled.

Read more about Roselle: 
Mother Earth News article .

Friday, September 9, 2016

Controlling pesky caterpillars in the garden

Many varieties of very hungry caterpillars are eating up the late summer garden. They found the baby cabbage and collard plants almost as soon as I put them into the ground. They've transformed the sweet potato vines into lace. I've been smooshing them by hand, but the job is getting a little overwhelming. Yesterday, I dusted with bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt is one of the safest natural pesticides you can use to control caterpillar pests without harming beneficial insects. Read more about using Bt in this Mother Earth News article.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Three Raised Beds, Seeded

Shanghai Green Pac Choy
Dark green leaves are spoon-shaped w/wide, light-green midribs. Densely packed, vase-like heads.

Tat Soi Asian Green
Petite green leaves w/white stems form a tight rosette. Harvest leaves or entire head.

Hotshot Spicy Blend Mustard
Over a dozen mustard varieties including Red Giant, Purple Osaka, Green Wave create a diverse mix.


Giant Winter Spinach
Semi-savoyed, selected for cold hardiness. Glossy, dark-green leaves.

Sturdy, leafy green that is cold tolerant, aka "Rocket", strong aroma and peppery flavor.

Optima Butterhead Lettuce
Darkest green of the butterhead lettuces. Large and thick-leaved.

Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
Loose leaf lettuce variety


Lacinato Dinosaur Kale
Very dark-green leaves. Best for making kale chips because this variety crisps rather than wilts. Long tradition in Italian cuisine.

Red Russian Kale
Grey-green oak-type leaves w/purple stems. Tender and mild tasting.

Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Kale
Blue-green crinkled leaves, very cold hardy. Perfect for cut-and-come-again baby leaves.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Remnants of Hurricane Hermine

It's a cool 64 degrees this morning, the day after a perfect soaking 1" of rain, delivered courtesy of the downgraded Tropical Storm Hermine. I'm roasting peppers on the grill and enjoying this September moment.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Beginning the Fall Garden

We're expecting some much-needed rain in the extended path of Hurricane Hermine tomorrow. Could be 1" ... could be 4! I'm planting these starts, but will hold off on sowing seed. Don't want to risk washing them away! But I did pull up the pink-eyed peas and zinnias to make way for direct seeding of leafy greens.

Imperial - Known for over 100 years for its superb reliability. With a neat, compact habit, 'Wheelers Imperial' produces firm, well-flavored, pointed, tender hearts for a spring harvest, or can be cropped as 'spring greens' in February.

Tiara - Produces beautiful, avg. 3 lb round heads packed with mildly sweet leaves that are excellent for cooking or fresh use.

Vates In the 1950's, this strain was praised as a "new dwarf strain," longstanding and heat-resistant, like all collards. Winter-hardy to the mid-Atlantic, producing a crop into very cold autumn weather. 

Morris HeadingThis variety is called "Cabbage Collards" by southern Old-Timers, because it makes loose heads that are dark green and slow bolting. Tender leaves are very delicious; a popular heirloom that is fast growing.

Bel Fiore - Technically of the Variegato di Lusia types, this chicory produces beautiful deep red/pink spots. Bel fiore, or "beautiful flower"in Italian, refers to how the round-to-oval heads are sometimes displayed in Italy, with their centers opened to resemble a flower. 3-1/2 to 4-1/2" heads have a mildly bitter, radicchio flavor. Often used in salads.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Fried Cubanelle Peppers

It's pepper time in the garden!

Here's the post from that inspired me when learning how to prepare cubanelles, a type of sweet Italian frying pepper. Makes a delicious appetizer served on a nice cracker or a toasted thin slice of Italian bread. Worthy of a last minute drizzle of high quality olive oil!
Fried Cubanelle Peppers