Mint Happens

Control this aggressive herb by planting it in a controlled space or between paving stones.

I just watched a friends YouTube “how to propagate mint plants.” A better story is how to control mint plants before they take over your garden.

Years ago I asked a friend for a start of his mint plant. Phil said no.

“Because we won’t be friends any more. When it takes over your garden and then your yard, you will hate me.

So, no. I won’t give you mint because I like you.”

I have 5 kinds of mint in my gardens these days. Each mint plant is in an assigned garden spot.

Mint In The Garden

These two mint plants are competing for sunshine and space with the near by lavender plants.

I plant  starter mint plants in long chimney tiles buried deep in the ground. The terracotta tubes help to control the rambling roots. Everyday, I snip off a sprig of mint from one of the plants to add to my tea.

Because I have plenty of mint, I generously use it in my cooking. Once you have a generous supply of mint, you will find ways to use it in your cooking. Plus, my bar tending skills  legendary since I mastered the mojito.

 

Growing and Caring For Mint Plants

Mint will do just fine on its own. No need to feed or water it. That would only encourage the plant to take over your world.

After overwintering in my zone 6, Southeast Missouri garden, the mint starts to come back in the spring.

Plant mint in containers with drainage holes. Sink the container in the ground. Leave the top of the container a few inches above ground level. Prune plants to keep stems in upright position. Stems that touch the ground will quickly root.

Winters and planting in containers control the spreading root systems. Its rhizomes, or roots, run underground and can send up shoots several feet from the mother plant.

To create more plants, place a sprig of mint in a glass of water until roots form.

Mint In The Kitchen

Mint is loaded with nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and some vitamin B2. It also has essential minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, potassium and calcium.Mint tea is said to aid in digestion and heartburn relief.

Mint Recipes

Tabbouleh

Dressed in good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh parsley and mint combined with tomato, cucumber and bulgur. to show off summer’s best vegetables and herbs.

Mint pesto

Lemon mint pesto

4 cups lightly packed mint leaves,rinsed and spun dry
1/3 cup sunflower seeds or pepitas
2 medium cloves garlic minced
grated zest of one lemon
salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil, more if needed

Blend all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor until finely chopped. Slowly add the olive oil while the machine is running until the mint is a loose paste.

Include mint in any pesto recipe. Using mint leaves in addition to basil is exclusively to serve over marinated tomatoes, gazpacho, or in a salad dressing. Try mint pesto with garlic scapes or pea shoots.

 

The largest choice of mint is at RICHTERS HERBS   in Goodwood, ON, Canada  Tel. +1.905.640.6677  Fax. +1.905.640.6641 My favorites from them are Hillary’s Sweet Lemon Mint, Mojito Mint and, Peppermint Mint.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6/20

Garlic

Garlic harvest in a zone 6, southeast Missouri garden. The bulbs are ready to lift mid to late June every year.

Freshly dug garlic needs to dry and cure before storage.

Perhaps the smallest garlic harvest I’ve had in years. There is one more little late patch to harvest, but this is the bulk of the 2017 garlic crop.

The garlic heads are smaller this year. After the garlic cries on the covered porch for a couple of days, I braid the bigger heads. The rest is roasted.

Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the spring bonus for growing your own garlic.

The first garlic related harvest of the season is clipping the scapes, or flower heads, from the plants.

Garlic scapes were plentiful because I planted mostly hard neck garlic. One week, I found garlic scapes at the farmers market for $2 a bunch. One of my favorite seasonal meals garlic scape pesto.

Make pesto using garlic scapes instead of, or in addition to, basil. Serve with Pappardelle, broad, flat pasta noodles, similar to wide fettuccine. (The name derives from the verb “pappare”, to gobble up.) This really is OMG food.

To Make Pesto: Puree the garlic scapes, sunflower seeds, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a food processor until finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil through the opening.

How to Grow and Harvest Organic Garlic

Gently lift garlic and move to the shade.

Growing your own garlic is easy and takes very little space.

Your also get to select the type of garlic you grow, very mild or hot and pungent.

Save your biggest and best garlic head to replant in the fall. Never buy garlic again.

These smaller heads of garlic are roasted. Then, the softened bulbs squeezed into teaspoonful portions and frozen for later use.

Mild, roasted garlic is not over powering or hot to the taste. It easily blends into any recipe. Perfect for pasta sauces or garlic toast. Try it. You will never be with out fresh, local garlic.

I purchased my garlic from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They have a variety of hard and soft neck garlic. While I keep the best variety that I grow, It’s fun to try other types of garlic. I tend select the milder varieties and long keepers.

This fall, plant a variety of garlic. That imported no-name variety purchased at the grocery store will be your last choice.

 

 

 

 

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6 /12, 6/16

Squash blossoms and herbs

No more complaining about too many zucchini. Pick the flowers to prevent zucchini squash overload.

Pick zucchini blossoms in the morning.

Today’s harvest basket is loaded with big yellow flowers, blooms from the zucchini plant.

Fragile and short-lived squash blossoms are pricey, if you can find them at the farmers market. Any kind of squash can be used in this gourmet dish.

Add the flowers to pasta primavera, salads or omelets. Fried squash blossoms are a big restaurant hit. My favorite is baked, stuffed squash blossoms.

There is a monster squash plant in my garden.

By monster I mean, it has completely taken over the 4 ft. x 4 ft. raised bed and is creeping out several feet on all sides of the bed. It is a squash blossom factory.

The monster sized squash plant is a volunteer plant that I don’t recognize from any seed catalog. The new 4×4 raised bed is filled with lots of compost, garden waste and kitchen scraps that I’ve added since last fall. This spring, the monster squash plant appeared.

I have well-behaved zucchini plants growing in containers on the deck. The monster squash plant’s only purpose is to produce flowers. I don’t want more zucchini squash, for heaven’s sake.

Pick flowers in the morning. Rinse and hold in cool water until time to prepare. Freshly picked flowers will stay fresh for a couple of days when wrapped in damp paper towels stored in the refrigerator.

The only purpose of this squash plant is to produce blossoms. I did not grow this zucchini for squash. Collect blooms every day or two.

Oven Roasted Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Remove the stamen from the flower.

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 12 zucchini blossoms, center pistil or stamens removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil, thyme, mint)
  • 2 tablespoons pepitas and/or sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper (optional)
  • olive oil, for drizzling

 

Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of cheese mixture.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Gently remove the stamen from the center of the flowers.
  3. Combine the ricotta, herbs, pepitas, sunflower seeds and egg together. Season with salt and pepper (optional).
  4. Carefully open the blossoms and stuff with the 1-2 teaspoons of ricotta mixture per flower depending on the size of the flower. Gently twist the flower at the end to enclose the filling.Lay stuffed zucchini flowers on prepared sheet pan or baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Bake for 25 or 30 minutes, or until the baby squash is tender-crisp and blossom starts to brown on bottom.

Suggestions. Add 1 Tablespoon garlic pesto or any pesto to ricotta mixture instead of chopped herbs. Serve warm squash blossoms with pasta sauce on the side for dipping.

I grow zucchini from seed in containers. Container Zucchini Astia  from Renee’s Garden. Serve roasted, sautéed, grilled or baked.

Pick squash when about 5″ or 6″long.

 

Too many zucchini? Go To: my Pinterest board Zucchini Everything

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6/12

It’s all green

All three of these vegetables were started from Renee’s Garden Seed.

Pak Choi, Green Beans, Chinese cabbage.

We are mostly eating out of the garden this month, because I set my own personal challenge. I’m cooking everything we eat this month, no eating out. It’s my choice because we have some amazing fresh, organic food.

This week we also have chard, onions, kale, squash blossoms and baby zucchini. I have all these good foods growing just a few feet away from the kitchen door. It tastes like every meal is a special occasion.

Tonight’s dinner includes Glazed Shiitakes With Bok Choy. The recipe is from the NYTimes Cooking section. From my Pinterest page, Zucchinni Everything you will find squash blossom recipes that are baked, not fried.

Trying to keep a head of the zucchini tsunami, we are picking plenty of squash blossoms for stuffing.

Rabbits love these long, thin green beans, so pole beans are ideal. The rabbits can’t get to the beans! As the bush beans come on, I’ll surround them with chicken wire.

One of my favorite green bean recipes is the dry stir fry method in Chinese restaurants. These are Pole Filet Beans, French Emerite. If I keep these very productive vines picked every day or two, it will be an extended season.

Beside the kitchen door are pots of herbs. You will be surprised how often you add fresh herbs if they are handy.

There are four kinds of mint near the patio. I keep them under control by cutting a generous spring from one plant every day for my tea.

You can still find herb starter plants at most garden centers. Buy a few herbs. It will turn an everyday meal into gourmet fare.

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Chervil – You Can GrowThat!

If you don’t grow your own, you probably will not have the privilege of  enjoying this fresh herb in the spring and fall. Chervil’s delicate anise flavor and dainty appearance make this a must grow herb for herb gardeners and foodies.

Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium, is a mild flavored, delicate cool season annual.

Direct seed chervil in early spring. Plant in filtered sun or light shade if climate is hot areas. Sow seeds an inch apart in well worked soil. Barely cover and keep soil moist. Germinates in 10 to 14 days.

Chervil grows to 10 -12 inches tall.  Once seeds germinate and grow 1 inch tall,   thin seedlings to one plant every 6 inches or so. Chervil has a delicate tap root and does not transplant well.

Plant chervil in partial shade or, in the spotty shade under other plants. It grows best in moist soil and cool spring weather.

I use chervil (pronounced SHER-vil) in delicate dishes, like tomorrows breakfast omelet. Sprigs of chervil will top the deviled eggs and, in a nonmayonnaise based potato salad.

As soon as the weather heats up, chervil plants bolt (flower and set seed) By June, my plants have set seed. After seeds are brown and dry, I’ll collect them to reseed in the fall and  next spring.

Although you probably aren’t going to eat enough chervil to make a nutritional impact, it is a flavorful source of calcium and potassium.

Chervil is a delicate annual, growing only in cool weather. It’s a great herb for succession planting. Add a few seed to the garden every week in the spring to extend the season as long as possible.

Fines Herbes

Add fresh chopped chervil at the last-minute to enhance to bright flavor in any dish.

The famous French herb blend uses chervil. The combo includes chervil,  parsley, chives and French tarragon. Fines herbes (pronounced feens-erb) is best used fresh because the herbs lose a lot of flavor when dried.

 

 

 

Remember, anything you grow as an early spring crop can be grown  fall crop. Sometimes veggies are even more successful since the soil is already warm.

Chervil Herb Butter

One of the best ways to preserve chervil is in butter.

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped chervil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Blend lemon juice, and chervil into softened butter. shape butter into a log and chill. Refrigerate or freeze butter log.

Chervil is sometimes used as a tarragon substitute. When cooking with chervil, add to dishes at the ending of cooking to preserve the delicate flavor.

Use chervil or chervil butter in omelets and scrambled eggs.

Companion plant chervil near cabbages and kale. Chervil is said to help repel slugs. It is easy to grow as a container plant.

Chervil is a delicate herb with a short season. It’s rare that you will find it in the market. If you want to enjoy this herb, it’s best to grow it from seed. Make sure to save some seed so you can grow it again in the fall.

adding mixed herbs to the pot outside the kitchen door. Fresh Fines Herbs are always at the ready.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6/4

Last of the lettuce.

Salad and stir fry ingredients

Picked the last of the lettuce today. The lettuce, radish and green onion will make a salad topped with strawberry poppy-seed salad dressing. Sweet local strawberries make the bright pink dressing.

Today’s harvest: kale, mustard, lettuce, peas, green onions, radish.

Fresh, red ripe local berries make this dressing bright pink. It looks like food coloring is added. There is no onion, usually found in poppy-seed dressing.

Strawberry Lime Poppy-seed salad dressing

1/4 cup chopped strawberries
1/4 cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients except poppy seeds and blend till pureed and emulsified. Stir in poppy seeds.

Heads Up

Zucchini plants are loaded with golden blossoms. Zucchini Everything is my collection of zucchini recipes.

Zucchini is on the way.

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Todays’s Harvest Basket 5/24

I gathered our dinner directly from the garden today.

Still gathering cool season crops. Peas, radishes, green onions, kale, chervil and cilantro.

The egg basket is over flowing, so we will have a picnic favorite, herb deviled egg with dinner tonight. I have lots to lacy-leaved chervil and picked extra for my morning omelet. Delicate chervil is only in the garden for another week or so. It is my favorite fair weather herb.

What’s for Dinner?

  • Kale salad with green onions, home-made herb vinaigrette, topped with hemp seeds and currants.
  • Deviled farm fresh eggs sprinkled with chervil and chives.
  • Open-faced radish sandwiches, a springtime-only special: Simply fresh thin-sliced sourdough or baguette, fresh butter, salt, thin sliced radishes.

Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium, mild flavored, delicate lacy leaves. If you don’t grow your own, you probably will not have the privilege of  enjoying this fresh herb in the spring and fall.

I use chervil (pronounced SHER-vil) in delicate dishes, like tomorrows breakfast omelet. Sprigs of chervil will top the deviled eggs and, in a non-mayonnaise based potato salad.

Chervil is a delicate annual, growing only in cool weather. It’s a great herb for succession planting. Add a few seed to the garden every week in the spring to extend the season as long as possible.

Fines herbes, the French herb blend uses chervil. The combo includes chervil,  parsley, chives and French tarragon. Fines herbes (pronounced feens-erb) is best used fresh because the herbs lose a lot of flavor when dried.

Sweet and tender spring peas will be tossed into a stir-fry or used as dippers on a veggie tray.

2 Cool Seasons
Remember, anything you grow as an early spring crop can be grown a a fall crop. Sometimes veggies are even more successful since the soil is already warm. This fall, give peas a chance.

 

Spring kitchen bonus.

Pick chervil, chives and cilantro often, to encourage plant growth. Keep the cut stems in a glass of water on the kitchen counter, making it easy to add fresh herbs to any dish.

The peas, radish and herbs are grown from seed purchased at Renee’s Garden Seed.

When fresh herbs are not available, get Fines Herbes at Penzeys Spices .

My handy husband, Jeff, made the harvest basket.

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Betty Jo, about Mothers Day

Happy Mothers Day. My mom made my life easy even though hers was very hard. We had plenty of food, new school clothes every year, money for lunch and field trips.

That was in the sexist sixties, when she did the same job as the man beside her and got paid less because boss man said, “because you’re a woman. And he’s got 3 kids to feed.” “I’ve got 3 kids to feed”, said Mom. Well then, little lady, you better get yourself a husband, the boss man said.

That discriminating boss will forever affect her retirement and social security income. I did not know we were poor until I took a sociology class in college. It was later that I learned Mom really had to count pennies to buy bread and milk.

As a youngster she suffered though some of the great depression and dust bowl, hard times indeed. But it was just normal times for folks in rural Arkansas She hauled water for washing and bathing. There was no plumbing, not much electricity and the phone service was no picnic even though it was  a party line.

When she got to School of the Ozarks, she became an athlete. Her Betty Grable legs turned her into a superstar on the basket ball court. She should be in the Hall of Fame.

So, Happy Mothers Day, Mom. You rescued me from trees and broken down cars. We both lived though puberty, (that’s another war story.) You built my confidence, gave me courage, strength and tossed me back into college again.

You got all three of us kids off to college and married before you to any time for yourself. I’m still looking for that application for sainthood or miracle worker because it’s yours if you want it.

Betty Jo Ward. single–handedly raised and potty trained three kids. Eventually she taught them to fly the nest, get a degree, a marriage certificate and live happily ever after. Then she did the same thing for herself. (The college and degree part, anyway.)

So, Happy Mothers Day, Mom. You are the best. No, really. You are. Here is a picture of mom and her two sisters, They are all good moms, Mine is the GREAT MOM, Betty, (R) as you can tell. The other two are darned fine Aunts Janet McCreary(L) and Shirley Wilkie (Middle).

Don’t mess with the Johnson Ninja Sistas. They look innocent enough, don’t they?

  • I feel like it was destiny.
  • What with their great MOM, Arvilla Johnson being my grandmother.
  • AND Then, my great MOM, Betty Jo.
  • Plus+, being surrounded by great women family members like Aunt Janet and Aunt Shirley.
  • I just naturally turned out at the peak of perfection. And, that is why I don’t have any kids.
  • Also my mom put a curse on me.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 5/11/17

Spring greens

First basket of the season!

Baby turnips, green onions, cilantro and mustard greens. PBH

Baby turnips, green onions, cilantro and mustard greens, These little turnips will change your mind if you don’t like turnips. They are small, radish-sized Japanese turnips. Sweet and good raw, eaten like a radish, grated into a slaw or served on a tray of roasted root vegetables.

The seeds are from Renee’s Garden. Always order enough seed so you can grow a spring crop and a fall crop. It’s the only turnip I grow. They don’t take up much space and are ideal for succession planting. Great for filling in any blank spots in the garden.

(FYI, Savor The Luxury Of Growing Your Own. Aromatic Herbs 20% Off Through 5/31. Order cool season crops and the herbs to freeze or dry in the fall.)

The rest of the basket was mostly thinnings.

I thinned the mustard greens. This early in the season, they are mild, but still a little spicy.These  greens are tender for a quick stir-fry addition to any mix of leafy greens or add a couple of leaves into the salad bowl mix. Mustard greens are too hot for me, but a little in a mix of greens or salad greens will add a bit of sparkle.

I always plant onions too close, planning on thinning the green onions until they are 6 inches apart.  My thought, you can never have too many onions.

Red Torpedo Onions A favorite. Makes beautiful pickled onions.

Keep a few green onions chopped in the fridge when green onions are abundant. If the are ready to use, I use more onions in salads, loaded baked potatoes, potato salad, topping enchiladas.

Alliums, in my garden a red, white, Cipolini onions, leeks, garlic and chives. The fall-planted garlic looks like we will have a good crop this summer. Thinned baby leeks made the best onion soup this spring.

Cilantro is popping up every where from volunteer seed that made it through the winter. It is really growing like weeds between the beds and showing up in surrounding  raised beds.

Plant this herb a few seed every two weeks so you always have it for canning and recipes. Usually cilantro is long gone from the garden when tomato salsa making season happens in August.

Thy hand hath provided.com has a genius recipe  for Cilantro sauce, a condiment frozen in tiny portions, ready when ever you need. Gather up this fresh herb now and you will have all you need for you tomato and salsa recipes.  I faithfully return to this site when it is tomato soup canning time.

You will get better production and higher yields per plant with properly spaced plants.

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Learning to Cook Vegan Meals

I’m a gardener and love my herb garden. My cooking tends to have several meatless meals every week. In summer, vegan meals are practical and they celebrate my home-grown vegetables.

Quinoa-Stuffed Pepper with cannellini salad, pistachios.

After a life time of meat centered meals, sometimes, I simply don’t know what to use instead of ham or bacon as seasoning in vegetables. Thanks to the chef created recipes at Green Chef, I’m learning how to make crunchy stuffed bell peppers and savory stuffed squash without loads of meat or cheese filling.

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed zucchini with sautéed chard & roasted chickpeas, couscous salad.

“A nourishing veggie-centric dish perfect for spring nights. Sautéed zucchini, garlic, and shallot are mixed with a basil cashew cream, then piled into zucchini halves. Sprinkled with pine nuts and breadcrumbs, the stuffed zucchini are roasted to a tender finish. Israeli couscous studded with peas and carrots, plus cooked chard and chickpeas…” – Green Chef

The instructions for beautiful and tasty Stuffed Zucchini is on the Green Chef website. With all the chard and squash about to burst into production, this recipe is a gardeners treat.

In summer, recipes like vegan fajitas, tacos and wraps are going to show off my booming vegetable garden. They are also lighter and faster meals on hot summer days.

Super grain Collard Wraps with sunflower seeds & pepitas, mint, roasted potatoes.

I like the delivered meals and, I’m learning to make good vegan meals that my meat-and-potatoes loving husband will eat. Once I make something like Green Chef wraps or stuffed peppers, I’m confident enough to try my hand using the vegetables I grow.

One of my favorite things about these filling meals, is that they include seasonal recipes with fresh ingredients and herbs. Being a herb gardener, that’s a big plus. The recipes in these photos are on the Green Chef website.

Or try some of these meals for yourself. If you use this link, I get a credit and you get 4 free meals.

I’ve bought vegan cookbooks and pinned a ton of vegan recipes on Pinterest. But, I’ve been using butter and bacon all my life. And learning to prepare a really good meal without those familiar ingredients isn’t always easy.

After working so long and hard to produce great herbs and vegetables, it makes sense to prepare and serve them at their best.

Herb Pasta Primavera with asparagus, artichoke hearts, snap peas, tomatoes.

 One of my favorite meals was Herb Pasta Primavera. After learning to make this vegan recipe, it’s easy to take the recipe and use it as a basis for my garden grown creations.

This is not to say I am a vegetarian. But I’m eating less meat and dairy and my  cholesterol and blood pressure are lower. I’m proud that I’ve lost a little weight and I feel better.

We spend part of the grocery money at the farmers market every week. We don’t grow all our food, but I like to garden and have the time and energy to grow some of our fruits, vegetables and herbs.

My goal is to grow all the tomatoes we will eat this year. So for me, it’s the year of the tomato. Vegan style.

All the photos are from Green Chef.

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