Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cleanup Time!

Time to tame this mess for the winter.  Most of the bugs and butterflies are gone.  We've harvested all the rose hips. It's always a bit sad to see the flower garden bare, but making room for new spring growth will produce a more beautiful garden.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Roses - Mmm, Mmm Good

Although you have probably heard about rose hips many times in the past, I feel like a reminder is in order.  The roses on our place are blooming beautifully right now, and many years continue to bloom all through the winter.  Even with that being the case, this is the time of year that I will quit deadheading the roses and let the hips remain on the plant.  They are best when picked after the first frost of the year.  They’ll be a pretty red color by then and the flavor is best.  With our weather here in Texas, it might be a while before the first frost, but I’m preparing early – just in case!

Here are some good articles on rose hips that give you a lot more information about harvesting, preparation, and of course health benefits:

 Did you know that could eat the rose petals too?  How does rose petal jam or rose petal tea sound?  There isn’t much nutrition in them, but there is some vitamin C and it’s fun to be adventurous!  You can bring a new flavor to your kitchen.  Here are a couple of links with recipe ideas.

Have fun gardening and enjoy this beautiful fall weather!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quick Tip - Don't Forget the Compost Pile

Don't neglect your compost pile in all this heat that we're having. They can dry out just as easily as your garden beds. While you're giving the beds a spray, be sure to include the compost heap!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Homegrown Tomatoes

We all know that nothing tastes quite like a home grown tomato.  For years, the consensus in my family has been that home grown just tasted better.  Guess what - it turns out that we're right!   It didn't take a degree in genetic engineering for us to make this determination, just a few taste buds - but now those scientists not only agree with us, it seems they know why.

Here is an article that explains it all better than I can:

The summary is that they decided to mess with mother nature and try to get the tomatoes to ripen uniformly on the plant and in doing so turned off 'flavor' gene.  That may be a little oversimplified, but it's close enough to convince me that once again, maybe we don't need to fix what isn't broken.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Spotlight - Armenian Cucumbers

We harvested two huge Armenian cucumbers from the garden yesterday. They are both around 20 inches long. We're looking forward to having fresh cucumber with dinner tonight.
Armenian cucumbers, also called yard-longs, are the preferred cuke in my garden. They technically are not a true cucumber, but are from the closely related muskmelon family. These cucumber cousins not only taste like the real McCoy, but they have some traits that actually surpass traditional cucumbers for garden performance!
Armenian cukes tolerate the heat and dry air better than other cucumbers that I've grown. They are never bitter tasting, and each fruit will grow to over fifteen inches. There is no need to peel them, as they lack the thick skin traditional cucumbers have. Armenians also don't seem to cause the gas issues that regular cukes do in some people. Yard longs can grow along the ground as Michele does, or trellised as I do.
If you haven't tried growing Armenian cucumbers, then you should definitely include them in next year's garden. These heat-loving, versatile performers won't disappoint.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Gardening

Well it looks like summer is finally here and with it is the heat.  It’s what we expect here in this part of Texas, but that doesn’t mean our garden has to like it.   Don’t give up though – with a little bit of time and patience and a lot of water, you can still keep your plants growing!  Unless we get a nice storm, you can expect to water at least every other day.   It doesn’t have to be a drenching drink, but get out there early morning or in the evening and get them wet.   This time of the year, even sun loving plants would like some shade.  If you can grow vines up a trellis or plant something tall to help keep the west sun off of your garden, it can be a big help.  This technique is mentioned in several videos and on various websites.  It makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

So now that you know you can keep it going, did you get everything planted you wanted to?  I didn’t!  Well, I planted a lot of things this spring.  We have been harvesting produce for several months, but the cold weather plants are about done and I have some extra space in the garden now.  To tell you the truth, there isn’t too much you can plant now that will be happy in this heat.  Not too much, but some.  It’s getting late, but you can still plant cantaloupe for the next week or so.  After the end of June, you’re pushing the window, but you can still get them in.  You can also still plant watermelon, winter squash, sweet and Irish potatoes, okra and summer greens.  Believe it or not, you can start thinking about planting corn again for the fall crop.  I haven’t tried a fall crop of corn yet, but my spring/summer corn always struggles, so I may give it a try this year. 

Jennifer posted a great link to a planting guide, so go check it out and see what else you can still get in.  It’s no fun to fight the heat, but come harvest time, you’ll be glad you did!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Link - Companion Planting Guide

I never plant anything in rows.  My garden beds usually look like a riotous mix of plants with herbs and flowers tucked into every available spot between vegetables.  I'm a big fan of using companion planting to enhance the growth of plants, repel pest bugs, and attract beneficial bugs to my gardens.  A little knowledge can go a long way towards keeping harsh chemicals far away from your vegetables and flowers. My favorite book on companion planting is Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte.  But you can get started with this useful link on companion planting.   It's not as comprehensive as the book, but it is a very good start.

Link - GardenToad's Companion Plant Guide

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spotlight - The Redbud Tree

The Redbud Tree is one of my favorites.  We have four of them in our front yard and they fill the space with beauty every spring.  They seem to be everywhere in this part of the state and thrive with very little attention.  With the tree being so plentiful, I had to wonder if there were any particular uses for it other than the most obvious – it being so lovely and pleasing to the eye. 

In the course of my research I found out that you can eat the flowers in the springtime and the new, soft green seedpods in the fall.  Wow.  It is a member of the legume family and shares many things in common with the pea.  The flowers, which have been described as having a sweet and slightly nutty flavor, can be eaten by themselves, mixed in with salads or other foods, or even made into jelly or relish.  In the fall when the seedpods are young and tender, they can be eaten raw or cooked like peas.   Like many legumes, the seedpods contain nutrients such as protein, iron and some complex carbohydrates.

 The picture above shows some young seedpods on one of the Redbud trees in our yard.  They look very similar to peas.

Since Redbud trees are usually under twenty feet tall, they makes a good under canopy tree in the forest.   That is not only true for the forests in parks, but also the food forest you might want to start at home.  Whether you’re just looking for an easy to grow tree to add some dimension to your yard, you’re trying to start a food forest and need some canopy trees, or you just want to something aesthetically pleasing, relatively long lived, and easy to care for that will come in handy if things every get really tough, you might consider the Redbud tree.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Video - Curing Onions

Texoma is historically known for growing onions. Our black clay and unfussy onions get along beautifully, making onions high on my list of plants to start with for people new to gardening.
Onions can grow so successfully here that you can end up with quite a harvest. What to do to preserve all of your onions? Well, you have some options. Drying, of course, is one. You can also chop them and keep them frozen in bags, to use as needed. My personal favorite is to cure them and store them in a dark, dry place, where they'll often keep for months.
Curing onions is not at all hard. The key is to not be hasty. Leave them to cure for as long as they need to set properly before storing, and you'll minimize your losses to rot. Here's a video describing the process. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gardening with Wildflowers - Gaillardia

As gardeners, we spend a lot of time trying to find just the right flower to accent our garden beds and yards.   The primary thing that we have to consider is what will grow in our particular area.  The Texoma area is not as forgiving as some areas of the country when it comes to gardening.  This is true for vegetables or flowers.  I often see beautiful plants at our local nurseries that just won’t tolerate the conditions in our yard.  I have learned though experience and failure that certain things just aren’t going to make it. 

In recent years, I have begun to wonder why I struggle to grow plants not meant for this area, when there are so many plants that are native to the area that hold just as much beauty, color and wonder.  Take wildflowers for instance – this time of year our roadsides and hillsides are covered with lovely flowers of all colors, shapes and sizes.  Why can’t a flower that brightens up a highway brighten up your yard?  There is no reason!  I have seen wildflower seeds for sale in many stores and have some growing here in our yard.  One of my favorites is Gaillardia – more commonly known as Indian Blanket.  This is the flower pictured above.  It is lovely and easy to grow.  It is native to this area, doesn’t need any special care and comes back year after year regardless of conditions.  Wow!  Indian Blanket seeds can be purchased in local stores and they are easy to get started in any flower bed.  You can start them inside and transplant them, or just direct sow the seeds.  This is true for many, many of the wildflowers you see growing along the roadsides. 

There are websites devoted to helping you identify your favorites.  Just look up ‘Texas Wildflowers’ or ‘Texas Wildflower Identification’ and follow the links.  Add a little bit of Texas to your flowerbed.  I think you’ll be pleased with the results!

(Just as a side note - as with many native plants and herbs, Gailladria has some medicinal properties and the roots can be dried and made into teas or paste to treat a variety of illnesses.  There are enough native flowers and herbs growing in our area to enjoy new teas all year round).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Companion Plants: Sweet Pepper & Okra

Leave room in your sweet pepper beds for okra. Okra often grows taller than pepper plants, offering a bit of shade in our burning Texas sun and wind protection.
Michele advises us to generally not plant okra before May, due its resentment of coldish weather; however, if you leave space for it where you've planted sweet peppers, then you should be able to fit the okra in nicely.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Honeysuckle Bush

Walking the dog around the back of our place today, I noticed a distinctly sweet smell. It reminded me of honeysuckle vines, but I couldn’t remember having seen any on our property before. We followed our noses and came across several very large bushes full of sweet smelling white flowers. I had never heard of a honeysuckle bush, and had no idea what these were. They were very pretty, smelled very sweet, and were very attractive to butterflies and bees. There were dozens of butterflies flitting around the bushes. The dog and I watched them for a few minutes and then we headed back to the house to fetch the kids. I traded the dog for a camera, and the kids and I set off to watch the butterflies and take a few pictures.

The picture at the start of this post shows a couple of butterflies enjoying the flowers.  Below is a close up of the flowers.

And finally, here is a picture that shows more of the bushes and gives a better idea of how they can grow and how lovely they look.

After searching online to try to determine the type of bush – and being very unsuccessful – I typed in honeysuckle bush just because it smelled so much like the vines. Guess what, there is such a thing and some of the pictures online looked just like the ones we took here! I’m not completely convinced that’s what these bushes are (just mostly convinced), but am going to keep an eye on them this fall. The honeysuckle bush will produce berries in the late summer that ripen early in the fall.

The bush is considered invasive and there are web sites devoted to giving instruction on how to kill them! I thought they were very pretty and don’t want to kill ours. There are a wide variety of honeysuckle bushes in existence, some with berries that are slightly toxic to children and others that are fine to consume. It was noted that although it was ok to eat them, they were very bland tasting and people didn’t tend to bother with them. Birds will eat them in the winter after the other, tastier food has been foraged. That is one of the reasons they spread so easily. The flowers can be dried and used in teas or made into an oil. There are some reported health benefits that are associated with consuming them in this manner.

Here are links to pages discussing these:

I think I’ll wait to try any of these out until after I confirm what the bush is. In the meantime, it is a very ornamental shrub that seems to thrive in our climate. It can attract butterflies to your garden and add a sweet smell to your yard. The bushes may be trimmed to keep the size in check if your space is limited, or left to grow tall and thick like ours and used as a privacy hedge, or to decorate a fence row. Be sure if you decide to grow these that you keep them in check and don't let them choke out any of your other plants!  I know that mine are going to stay for now. I may even transplant some a little closer to the house so that we can enjoy them more easily.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Nutritious and Delicious Mulberries

The mulberry trees are full of fruit and it is ripening fast.  It will be a race to see who gets the most off of the trees – the kids or the birds.  The birds usually win, but the kids don’t do too badly.   We have four trees in our yard that we planted from seedlings shortly after moving to our current home.  In the nine years since, the trees have flourished, and have been yielding fruit for the past few years.  They are hardy here in NE Texas, like rocky soil, and are drought tolerant (although they do appreciate a drink when it’s as hot and dry as it was last summer).  What’s not to like?

Our trees, being relatively young, aren’t all that big yet, but they can get up to fifty feet tall.  A word of warning – they can be messy!  The fruit drops off and if squashed on a walkway, can easily stain it.  Our trees are planted away from any sidewalks and this will not be a problem for us.  Another thing to consider if you live in a city and the tree will be close to the house, driveway or walkways is that birds love these berries.  A lot of birds usually leads to a lot of droppings.  On the upside though, they will grow well where other trees will not, can be used as a windbreak, are easy to propagate, and the fruit is healthy and delicious.

Here is what one page had to say about the nutritional benefits, along with the link:

Mulberries are actually a good source of raw food protein, a rarity in the fruit kingdom.  They are also a good source of magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, iron, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber. One of the mulberry's greatest health assets is it's high concentration of resveratrol, an antioxidant currently being studied for its effects on heart health. An ancient fruit of Asia, the mulberry is touted in medicinal folklore as a remedy for ringworm, insomnia, arthritis, and tapeworm.

I sent the kids out today with a container and told them to get to work.  They came in with about two cups of berries and the stained fingers and cheeks that led me to believe they’d eaten another cup or so while they picked.  The earliest of the berries are just ripening now, and in next week or two there should be plenty more.  It is easiest to just put a tarp on the ground and check it every day.  The ripe berries tend to fall off of the tree.  If you check it often enough, you can beat the birds to the sweetest berries!  I made a batch of mulberry muffins this evening to reward the kids for their hard work.  

I think the fact that they complained that I didn't make enough is a sign that they liked them!

Trees are a longer term investment than a traditional garden, but they'll reward you for years to come.  

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Companion Plants: Borage

Photo by Jengod
Borage makes a good companion plant for tomatoes and all brassicas. They're also one of the few plants that have truly blue flowers. I have borage interplanted throughout my garden beds, mostly as companions to strawberries and tomatoes. Borage itself is also edible by the way.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse - Upcoming Seminars

Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse in Denison is giving some great seminars in April.  Be sure to check them out!

Wednedsay April 4th, 2012
"How To Build A Rain Barrel"
Learn how to take a food-grade 50 gallon drum and turn it into a rain barrel to harvest rainwater.  Rainwater is great for your garden!
One lucky attendee will win a completed rain barrel.
Wednesday April 11th, 2012
"Herbs Through Time"
Master Gardener Sandra Haynes will talk about the history of herbs and how they played an important role in ancient civilizations.  Fascinating!
Saturday April 14th, 2012
"Mickey Goes To Cambodia"
Mickey Brown, travelling nurse, has just returned from a medical mercy trip to Cambodia and has fascinating tales (like her encounter with flesh-eating fish)
to tell of her experiences.
Sweetwater Farm will donate 10% of the sales of plants on the day of Mickey's talk (Sat, April 14) to her foundation which will help allow her to continue her wonderful work helping bring basic health care to many desperate people throughout the world. 
Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse is located at:
4400 W Crawford Street
Denison, Texas 75020
Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Gumbo Garden Beds - Update

Happy to report that my no till, double dig method conventional beds, which are still mostly gumbo, are performing beautifully. Their ability to hold moisture is remarkable compared to our raised beds, which have no black gumbo in the soil. All bets are off for our hot summers though. I'll report back then. So far, it looks like these beds were worth all the work to dig them out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grape Vines - Raw, Boiled or Stuffed, Grape Leaves are Good

I’ve been at it again.  It’s springtime and I can’t help wandering around the yard enjoying the sight of all things green.  In my never ending quest for edible perennials, I got to pondering our grape vines.  They are only a few years old and have yet to yield any grapes, but those leaves are beautiful!  I have heard talk of stuffed grape leaves, so decided it was time to do some research. 

It turns out that grape leaves can be eaten raw, boiled, or stuffed and then steamed or baked.  Of course, the first thing I did was run outside and snip a few leaves to try out!  My son and I decided they were ok raw, but would be better mixed in a salad as opposed to just munching down straight.  My next step is to try stuffing them.  Stuffed cabbage is good, so why not stuffed grape leaves?  There are a lot of recipes online - just search for them.  I found a couple that I want to make.  I’ll share the links here and then report back on my experiences after we’ve tried them out.

So you can eat them, but are there any health benefits?   Of course there are!  It seems that most things that Mother Nature provides us to eat are healthy in some way or other.  

Here is a link to some nutritional data:

If you don’t want to surf through all the information provided there, let me quote the summary for you.  This food is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Niacin and Iron, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper and Manganese.

The next big question is will they grow here in NE Texas?    Our experience shows that they come back year after year in our harsh soil and thrive with very little attention.  We have a large wild grape vine on or property that has never produced any grapes.  It tends to want to cover the garage so my husband has chopped that thing back many times trying to get rid of it.  No luck, it keeps coming back.  Now I have a use for it!   I still have hope that our not-so-wild (store bought) grape vines will produce grapes for us sometime in the near future, but am not worried now.  I know that even if we never get a grape off of them, they will still provide us with nutritional, tasty food.

Until next time, enjoy this beautiful weather!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Video - Starting Tomato Seeds

Penny from Penny's Tomatoes brings us a short video on how she starts tomato seeds.  This method would work well for pretty much any seed that you wish to start indoors.  As she mentioned the pre-soak is not mandatory, but if you prefer, you can also use just plain water or a compost tea.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hail Protection

In our area spring tends to bring some of our most severe storms. Hail can come unexpectedly, wreaking havoc in our gardens. Large-leaf and non woody stemmed plants can take the most damage. Most of the time the damage isn't the end of the world, but you can lose harvest.
There are several options that you can choose from to protect your plants from hail damage, ranging from a sheet spread over the plants to hoophouses or other structures. The idea is to cover your plants with something that the will hail will bounce off of. Simple as that. Here's a link to another blogpost covering several hail protection methods used in an area that gets struck with more hail than we generally do.
If you already have some hail damage, then here are some suggestions on what you can do to help your plant recover.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Events - Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse Free Seminar

Sweetwater Farm Greenhouse in Denison is offering a free seminar on Backyard Poultry this Wednesday, March 21st from 10AM-11AM.  Peg Albrecht will be offering information on keeping chickens.

Friday, March 16, 2012

It is, it is wild asparagus!

Back in December, I posted a couple of pictures comparing what I thought was wild asparagus already ferned out to the asparagus I had planted the previous spring in a raised bed.  It looked pretty similar, but I'm certainly not an expert.  Well, I watched and waited all winter, and when I saw the asparagus in the bed sprouting last week, I went over to check out the spot marked for the wild stuff.  Here is what I found.

Isn't it lovely!  The kids and I are going to keep a close watch on the area.  If we see any more come up, we're going to harvest it.

My husband also recently found a nice batch of wild onions growing on our place.  It's fun to find unexpected gifts from the land.  We're going to be keeping an eye out to see what other treasures we can find.

Until next time, happy gardening!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Potato Shoots

I noticed in my garden walk yesterday afternoon that the warm weather jump started all of the potato starts that my family and I planted a couple of weeks ago. There are cute little shoots popping up out of the hay mulch! I love seeing vegetables and flowers growing.
Potato starts are available now for purchase from garden stores. They can be planted right now in our area. You can check out Michele's previous post on potatoes to see the difference between potato starts specifically for planting vs using potatoes intended for eating.
I used red potato starts intended for planting. I want to mention that I picked these up from my local hardware/feed store for a much cheaper price than the home supply stores. It's always a good idea to check out your local shops before heading to the big box stores. You can luck out on some great deals.
Don't feel that it's late in the season to plant potatoes. It's nowhere near that. Last year it must've been halfway through April before I got mine in the ground. I still got loads of potatoes, lasting all the way until the heat and drought finally did them in.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Gardening in less than ideal conditions

Ok, I'll admit that this not the most awe-inspiring picture of a garden ever, but hey I tried.  At the bottom of the picture, you can see the fence we put up to keep the rabbits out.  It's not very impressive to look at, but it does the job and was made from materials we had on hand.  Given more time and resources, you can do a much better job, but I just wanted to show you that it doesn't nave to be fancy to work.

The top of the picture features some of the sprouts we are seeing.  These are some of the seeds that the kids toiled away to plant for me (I supervised).  The beans and peas are looking good, and the lettuce is ready to eat.  Yes, all of those white things in the pictures are rocks.   I am attempting to grow vegetables in a rock garden!  But look, it's working and the plants are growing.  It just goes to show you that with the proper nutrition, plants will grow in almost any soil.  We have added a lot of natural fertilizer to this garden over the years (rabbit, chicken, goat and horse manure) and it has paid off.   The lucky plants that are growing in the raised beds actually have nice, rock free soil, but honestly, the yield is about the same when I take the time to water properly.  

This post is mostly just to let you know that you don't need perfect conditions to have a successful garden.  Don't get frustrated and don't feel like you have to go out and buy a bunch of materials just to get started.  You only need a shovel, seeds, time and patience.   Compost, fertilizer, and mulch help out too!  Now no more excuses - get that garden started today!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Beautiful Day in Texas

Here’s a warning right off the bat – this little rambling paragraph or two has no actual gardening information in it.  Nor does it have any ideas on how to improve your garden or your yard.  I won’t nag you about mulching or weeding.  I’m only here today to share my thoughts on a beautiful Texas day.  So, you’ve been warned!

Well, it looks like spring is here.  Everywhere I turn outside, something is in bloom.  The weather is perfect and it’s a joy just being alive.  A pessimist will point out that summer is not far away, and with it the furnace like heat.  A pessimist will point out that mosquito and tick season will soon be upon us.  They’ll point out mowing and weeding and a slew of other mundane tasks.  Oh, but I’m the eternal optimist.  I can only look upon a day like today with gladness in my heart, throwing my face up to the sun and knowing that all is good.  Life, in all of it’s wonderful forms, is all around us.    The trees are blooming, seeds are sprouting, animals are showing their faces again after the lull that winter brought.  I’m even smirking at the rabbits, having built a fence around the garden.   This is the time of year that I convince myself that all will be better than last year.  I’ll keep the garden watered and weeded.  I’ll get the seeds in on time, make the jelly, and can the vegetables.  Nothing will go to waste and I’ll be supermom.  Even on a day like today, I can’t quite convince myself that I’ll keep the house clean, but I have big plans for the yard and gardens.  If every day was like today, I’d be the gardener of the year, in great shape and always smiling.  I know every day won’t be like today, but for now my hopes are high for whatever tomorrow might bring. 

If you haven’t taken the time to go enjoy this day, then do it now.  This is one of the best times to live in North East Texas, so take advantage of it.  You’ll be glad you did!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Dandelion – Weed or Wonder Plant?

They’re sprouting up already.  Should you get the lawnmower out and have at it, or should you smile, grab your shovel and get ready for lunch?  What am I talking about?  Dandelions of course!  I have a bouquet in my kitchen from my daughter.  When she heard me talking about dandelions being edible, she wanted to know if we should eat the ones she just picked!  I smiled at her and told her that just looking at them was good enough for me.  Or is it…  I told myself all winter that I wanted to look more into dandelions as a food source, and here it is, almost spring.  What should I do?  Well, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that I love the idea of growing things that I don’t have to work too hard at.  I’m all for those things that provide food for my family year after year – especially if it grows here in our harsh soil and actually won’t stay away even if I ask it nicely.   With that in mind, I think a dandelion salad is in order.  The least I can do is to give it a try.

The early European settlers here in America recognized the value of the dandelion as a food source and even introduced it to the Native American Indians living here.  The great thing about them is that the whole plant can be consumed.  The roots can be roasted and made into tea.  The leaves can be cooked with, or eaten raw in salads and the flowers can be used to make tea or wine.  Not only can the whole plant be eaten, it’s actually very good for you.  Here is a quote from an article on the nutritional benefits of dandelions:

According to the USDA Bulletin #8, "Composition of Foods" (Haytowitz and Matthews 1984), dandelions rank in the top 4 green vegetables in overall nutritional value. Minnich, in "Gardening for Better Nutrition" ranks them, out of all vegetables, including grains, seeds and greens, as tied for 9th best. According to these data, dandelions are nature's richest green vegetable source of beta-carotene, from which Vitamin A is created, and the third richest source of Vitamin A of all foods, after cod-liver oil and beef liver! They also are particularly rich in fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the B vitamins, thiamine and riboflavin, and are a good source of protein.

These figures represent only those published by the USDA. Studies in Russia and Eastern Europe by Gerasimova, Racz, Vogel, and Marei (Hobbs 1985) indicate that dandelion is also rich in micronutrients such as copper, cobalt, zinc, boron, and molybdenum, as well as Vitamin D.

Here is a link to the whole article:

Here is another article that shows more details about the specific vitamin content in the plant:
As you may have guess from this article, I think it is worth looking into as a food source.  Will they ever become a staple in our house, or will my family just think I’m nuts?  I don’t know, but I read that in some countries dandelions are planted as a crop.  I haven’t looked in any health food stores around here lately, but don’t remember seeing them last time I was there.  I understand that fresh greens are available for sale in some areas.  So there you have it – should you mow them over or have them for lunch?  I don’t know what is best for you, but I do believe I’ll give them a try!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Versatile Okra

Okra is a very nutritious vegetable that is easy to grow in this region of Texas. My experience has been that, once it is planted, the only thing that will keep it from growing is not harvesting the pods. It seems to love our hot Texas summers! One of my biggest complaints is that after harvesting the pods every other day for two months, I’m tired of it. I recently read that the dried, roasted beans can be used to make coffee, so I figured that this year once my family has eaten all the okra we can hold, I‘ve given enough away to make my friends flee at the sight of me, and my freezer is full of the lovely green goodness, I’ll let a few of the plants keep their pods. Once they dry out, you can crack them open, remove the seeds, roast them and grind them up, then brew them for coffee. It’s decaffeinated, but that’s ok. I am very interested to find out how it tastes.

Did you know that you can eat the okra leaves as well as the pods? They can be prepared much the same as radish or beet leaves. Those are the ones that some people steam up or use in various cooked dishes but that my family loves to just toss in a salad. I can’t wait to try them out! Okra is one of the few green vegetables my husband likes and we’ve been growing it for years. Our favorite way to eat it is rolled in cornmeal and fried. It might not be the healthiest way to prepare it, but is sure is good! There are many, many more ways to prepare it that does not involve deep frying. Just look online and pick what looks best to you.

Okra is believed to have been grown and consumed back in ancient Egypt and has since been introduced to almost all warm climates world-wide. It is a very good source of vitamins A, C, and K. It is also a good source of dietary fiber and a few minerals. It has quite a few other nutritional benefits. Here is a more complete list of those benefits. The whole article is interesting but if you want to just skip to the nutritional information, click on the link at the top of the page.

One thing about okra is that it won’t grow until it’s nice and hot out. We have been working hard on our gardens and getting all of our cool weather plants in the ground, but the okra has to wait another few months. I’ll probably plant it early to mid-May. Some people don’t plant it until June, but I’m not that patient. I find that it will sprout and grow a little earlier than that.

If you haven’t tried to grow it yet you should think about it. There are so many ways to use it that everyone should be able to find something they like about it. Hope you found some useful information here. As always, happy gardening!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Edible Acorn

Did you know that people have been eating acorns for thousands of years?   Koreans and North American Indians in particular still value these nuts as a food source.  As a child, I had been led to believe that people couldn’t eat acorns - they were only good for animals.  Well, my search for perennial food sources has led me to the truth.   They’re very bitter and potentially toxic when eaten raw, but when cooked can be very tasty and nutritious.

The bitter taste comes from tannis.  Yes, this is the same stuff used in some leather making.  The good news is that the tannic acid can be removed without too much difficulty and with it goes the bitterness.  After shelling the nuts, you can smash them up into a meal, wrap it in cheesecloth or some other material and run it under water until the water runs clear.   (A few people have said that placing them in a running stream is a good method for this, but I don’t have one of those, so the faucet would have to do).  At that point, wring it out and allow the meal to dry.  The resulting meal can be used much like corn meal to bake with.  If you prefer to eat the nuts whole, place the shelled nuts in some water and boil them for fifteen minutes.  You’ll notice the water turning brown.  That’s the tannic acid coming out.  Toss the water, add fresh and boil them again for fifteen minutes.  Repeat this process for up to three hours.  You’ll know you’re done when the water boils clear.  When you’ll all done with the boiling process, it’s time to dry them out.  Put them on a baking sheet and bake them at 175 – 200 degrees for about an hour.  That’s it – they’re ready to eat!

Here is an excerpt I found about the sweetest tasting acorns in Texas:

The Texas oaks reported to have the sweetest taste include Emory oak (Q. emoryi), which is so mild it can be used without processing, white oak (Q. alba), plateau live oak (Q. fusiformis), bur oak (Q. macrocarpa), and chinkapin oak (Q. mulenbergii). The acorns of each of these oaks (mostly white oaks) mature in one year, which may account for their lower tannic acid content. Red oak acorns (like Texas Red Oak) take two years to mature.

To give proper credit (and to point you to a very nice article on the subject), here is the link I got that information from:

So there you have it.  Experiment a little and enjoy!

Monday, February 6, 2012


I was browsing around the internet a little while ago looking for some tasty perennial vegetables that might make a good addition to our garden.  I happened upon a nice listing of perennial veggies here:

One of the items that caught my attention was the groundnut (Apios Americana).  Ok, I admit it caught my attention because I wasn’t very familiar with it.  Thanks to the ease of the internet, I now do know a few things about it – and they’re all good!  One of the best things about it is that it is a good food source.  It’s very nutritious, comes back each year, and will thrive in NE Texas! 

So, just what is a groundnut? It is a legume.  You can eat the bean pods that it produces, but it is most noted for the tubers it grows.  One article I read declared “The groundnut is probably the most famous edible wild plant in eastern North America”.   It seems that it was once a staple food for Native Americans and it is speculated that it kept the pilgrims from starving those first winters in the new world.    The first year or two after it is planted, the tubers will be small.  After that they grow larger.  It is not uncommon for them to be as large as potatoes and can get up to several pounds each.  They are sweeter than a potato, with a slightly nutty flavor.  

Just how nutritious are they?  Well it seems that ‘Plants for a Future, a British organization that educates the public on “edible, medicinal, and useful plants for a healthier world,” ranks Apios americana as the fourth-most-important plant in its database of seven thousand.’   That information, along with a lot of the information in this post was taken from this website: 

It sounds like the only drawback could be that it can be a very aggressive grower.  I figure if I can put up with the pokeweed, I can put up with the groundnut!  It can be ordered online from a variety of places.  For a few dollars, my thought is that it’s worth a try.

As always, happy gardening!