Monthly Archives: August 2010

Homemade Sun-dried Tomatoes

Try Tomaccio Tomatoes

The most prolific tomato in my garden is ‘Tomaccio’™.

Cluster after cluster until frost.

‘Tomaccio’™ originated at Hishtil Nurseries in Israel as the result of a 12 year breeding program using wild Peruvian tomato species to create the world’s finest, sweetest snack tomato, fresh or dried. Europeans in France and Germany have been growing and enjoying tomato ‘tomaccio’ for several years.

These tomato plants are huge, about 7′ tall, so I trimmed the tomato plant and hung some of the tomato vines to dry to show you how to do it. Tomaccio are the first tomatoes to ripen, continuously producing cluster after cluster of fruit.

Bargain sun-dried tomatoes

I’ve been drying cherry tomatoes for many years because I love the intense tomato flavor in winter soups, on pizza, and in spaghetti sauce. Tomaccio are rich and sweet fresh off the vine, drying simply intensifies their flavor.

Living next the Mississippi River, the air is usually too humid for fruits to dry naturally, but a 5-tray food dehydrator makes fast work of drying cherry tomatoes. I cut each tomato in half and fill the trays in a single layer.

You can also dry tomatoes in an oven on 100-degree F for about 3 hours. Snack on the dried tomaccio or store in a plastic zipper bag in the freezer.

C. Raker & Sons partnered with the Israeli firm Hishtil to bring Tomaccio to the United States. Look for Tomaccio plants at independent garden centers next spring, or visit to find a retail source near you.

As a member of the Garden Writers Association, I had the opportunity to trial Tomaccio this summer. These plants are prolific. I think I am getting more tomatoes from a single Tomaccio plant than I would from three or four cherry or pear tomato plants. That’s more produce in less garden space.

Plants will grow to 9'

The plants continue to grow and produce sweet cherry tomatoes. Later, I’ll have more details about drying Tomaccio.

La Crema sage for fashionistas.


Flavorful Bicolor sage

Hort Couture is a company that offers “the most sought after new plants and genetics from the world’s best breeders and plants people,” according to their website. One of their more popular plant collections is Culinary Couture, a line of fashionable heirloom vegetables and herbs.

So far, I’ve grown the following plants with panache this summer: Salvia officinalis ‘La Crema’, ‘Black Krim’ (an heirloom tomato) and the worldwide hit ‘ Tomaccio’ (a new dried snack tomato). I’ll share the results of my tomatoes later this year. (It will be more than a month before I’ll have dried tomatoes and a final report.)

One of my favorite herbs from Culinary Couture is ‘La Crema’, a fragrant, variegated sage that is currently thriving in my Zone 6 garden. Reminiscent of the familiar common garden sage, ‘La Crema’ is aromatic and beautiful enough to be in the flower garden.

Look for ‘La Crema’ in independent garden centers next spring.
It is thriving in my humid, Zone 6 garden.
Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

What I’m most excited about is using this flavorful herb in my family’s cornbread and sage dressing this Thanksgiving. I suggest that you use this sage as you would any other garden sage. Low-growing sage can grow as a border plant in a perennial garden. In spring, blue sage flowers appear about the time chives have blossomed. The flowers also make a pretty bouquet or can be used as an edible garnish.

8-18-2010-2 8-18-2010-1
Photos by Patsy Bell Hobson

Hort Couture is the fastest growing plant brand in North America. Their plant collections include Avant Garde Annuals, Prêt a Porter Perennials, Tres Chic Tropicals, Culinary Couture and Sunny Succulents. ‘La Crema’ is from C. Raker & Sons, a wholesale plant propagation specialist based in Litchfield, Michigan. C. Raker & Sons is in partnership with Hort Couture, the fashionistas of the plant world.

Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

Have you ever bought herbs from Hort Couture? What do you think of their products?

Lawnmower Heaven

Jakes lawn mower repair

According to legend, older elephants instinctively direct themselves, when they reach a certain age, to the elephant graveyard. They then die there alone, far from the group


Need a part for an old lawnmower? It's here.

There is no such thing as an elephant’s graveyard. Metaphorically it’s come to mean a resting place for a collection. And it was the first thing I thought of when we drove up to Jakes.

Hanging Tree of Weed Whackers

I have arrived in a place where lawnmowers come to die in Southeast Missouri. Then I saw the weed whacker tree. For all the tree damage that weed whackers have inflicted on trees, it came down to this. Ironically, all the tree abuse ended here. The hanging tree for weed whackers.

Jake’s is the best illustration I’ve ever seen of a “It might come in handy some day,” collection. Jake has amassed what others see as a junk pile. But to him, it’s a used lawn mower parts store.

He sometimes a has a used lawnmower, weed whacker or leaf shredder for sale. If you’ve found your way to Jakes, you probably are not of the “ buying used lawn equipment is just buying someone else’s problems” mind set. If Jake repaired it and would even consider selling it to you, it works. Lawnmowers, trimmers, shredders, there is probably one at Jakes.

No one would just happen to be driving past Jake’s while looking for a lawn mower. He doesn’t advertise and he lives in a remote area. If you know about Jakes Lawn Repair service, it’s a testimony to word of mouth advertising.

Bring your lawn tools to Jakes to stretch out their life.

In my effort to live a greener, more earth-friendly life, I try to stretch out the life of everything. The goal is to keep it out of the landfill or junk yard for just one more year. So, in and effort to keep that old mower running just one more year, I took it to Jake’s.

Earthwise or not, it made sence to repair a lawnmower. Repairing the mower I had, gave me time to do a little consumer research before my next purchase. I can also put a mower in the budget for next summer. Instead of making an expensive “gotta have it now!” purchase, I can take my time. Giving me a post season and pre season to look for lawnmower Bargains.

My Patio

Neon Rose Wave Petunias

Beautiful spring to fall

Wave Petunias are hardy and faithful bloomers all season. They will make a ground-hugging carpet of color, but I grew my Neon Rose petunias in a hanging basket.

faithful Bloomers spring to fall

Bright colorful plants drew butterflies and hummers to my patio all growing season.

I could have had this plant photo ready by removing the spent flowers, but this pink petunia has survived on it’s own with no additional fertilizer or attention, just water.

Wave petunias were introduced in 1995. They’ve been around, introducing wave after wave of vibrant colors and  easy care annuals for 15 years.

Wave petunias have their own website. If you are a fan of this flower, let Ball Horticulture know you want to Join The Fan Club.



Thanks to BALL HORTICULTUE who provided  the petunias

to me to trial and  evaluate.

Wave petunia fill beds with color

“Easy Wave® Neon Rose:  hot pink petunia from the Easy Wave series of spreading petunias is new for 2011. It is more mounded and controlled, making it ideal for baskets and containers.”

I’m headed to the Yucatan


I’m headed to the Yucatan with author Margot Berwin in her first novel, Hothouse Flower. The book is an ficticious journey for the reader and the writer. Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire is just plain fun.

The rainforest is home to some of the most exotic and deadly flowers

So, grab a cool drink, this paperback and enjoy a fun summer read.

Margot Berwin creates an adventure and horticultural myth about 9 flowers from her dreams and intuition. We get to go with her on an adventure of exotic plants, romance, travel and spirit animals that takes us from New York to the Yucatan peninsula.

Costa Maya is a fishing village where “the villagers are of Mayan Indian descent with the usual smattering of expatriate alcoholics, criminals, and students slumming it on the beaches between semesters.”

I’m giving away a copy of Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire, written by Margot Berwin.

Email me by August 18, the drawing will be August 19. I’ll contact the winner for an address and send it to the publisher who will mail your copy of Hot House Flower.

To enter the random drawing for a free copy of this book, send me an email: Tell what flower you think is romantic. For example, I might write “I think the For-Get-Me-Not is a romantic flower.” One entry per person please.

My review is coming in October. But I want you to read this book now because it’s a great summer read.

Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire written by Margot Berwin
Category: Fiction – Literary
Format: Trade Paperback, 304 pages
Price: $14.95
ISBN: 978-0-307-39054-7 (0-307-39054-3)

Growing orchids may be easier than you think.

Garden writers, horticulture bloggers and coaches, keep in mind – It’s fiction and it’s fun.

Missouri’s Three Largest Agricultural Fairs

You can see forever

Missouri’s three largest agricultural fairs offer affordable family fun with carnival rides, tractor pulls, concerts and more.
By Patsy Bell Hobson

Raising cattle builds responsibility

A 6-year-old child, sitting astride a sheep, busts out of the gate as the crowd cheers and screams. The junior rodeo rider has to stay on the sheep for a wild and wooly six seconds. Welcome to the mutton-busting event at Springfield’s Ozark Empire Fair. Many of these young competitors will progress to rodeo events such as calf or steer riding when older. For now, they are content to plead with their parents to ride another day.

Missouri’s three largest agriculture fairs–Ozark Empire, SEMO District in Cape Girardeau and the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia–offer affordable summer family fun. From demolition derbies to tractor pulls, legendary performers to carnival rides, fairs fit every budget. Penny pinchers can camp and enjoy a family picnic. Hotels and restaurants are affordable near the fairs for those who prefer indoor accommodations.

This quick guide to three of Missouri’s summertime fairs will get your gang on the road and in the Ferris wheel line in no time.

Missouri’s Agricultural Showcase

Always at the fair, Watkins products are a kitchen staple.

Since 1901, the Sedalia fair has served as Missouri’s annual premier agriculture showcase. The Missouri State Fair will be Aug. 12–22 this year at the fairgrounds, 2503 W. 16th St. at the U.S. Highway 65 intersection.

Share your gardening, baking or crafting talent by entering one of the fair competitions. The Premium Guide ( has all the details. The key to winning a blue ribbon is to follow the instructions exactly. The best blackberry pie can be disqualified if it isn’t properly submitted. A new recipe contest category is “sugar-free baking.” The prize money is trivial but bragging rights come with every blue ribbon.

While judges taste the recipe entries, there is more than enough food to enjoy at the fair, including hot dogs, funnel cakes, ice cream and more. When you have had your fill of fair food, try Kehde’s Barbecue, 1915 S. Limit Ave., at the front gate. Daily specials are the best bargain at this popular barbecue restaurant.

Grandstand entertainment at press time wasn’t completed, but musical performers include Darius Rucker on Aug. 20 and Sheryl Crow on Aug. 21. Rucker, former lead singer for the rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, began his solo career in country music in 2008. Tickets range from $17–$35. Crow–a Kennett, Mo., native whose musical style blends country, rock and pop–releases a new CD in July.

Friendly clowns are Fair ambassadors

Lodging near the fair includes the State Fair Campground located west of the fairgrounds on Clarendon Road. The 60-acre campground provides more than 1,200 electrical and water hook-ups (no 110-volt receptacles) and other features, including showers. A pedestrian underpass located near the campground exit connects the campground to the fairgrounds. Reserve a camping spot for $275 for the duration of the fair; unreserved spot rental (per vehicle/tent) is $20 a day.

If camping is not your style, save time and money at a hotel that serves breakfast. I like the Holiday Inn Express (AAA three Diamond), 4001 W. Broadway, and the Comfort Inn Sedalia Station (AAA two Diamond), 3600 W. Broadway.

Fair admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $2 for children 6–12. Discounted days–including $2 admission for everyone on opening day–also are offered.

Springfield’s Ozark Empire Fair

Awards are given for the best and the biggest.

I like the broad range of music and affordable concert prices ($30 or less) for grandstand events at the Ozark Empire Fair. Concertgoers can buy grandstand tickets online (www.ozarkempire and print their tickets at home, a new feature for this year. The fair starts July 30 and runs through Aug. 8.

This year’s grandstand musical entertainment includes Molly Hatchet, the Marshall Tucker Band, and the Atlanta Rhythm on July 30; KC and the Sunshine Band on July 31; Rodney Atkins and Gloriana on Aug. 1; Ernie Haase and Signature Sound on Aug. 2; Kellie Pickler on Aug. 3; Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on Aug. 4; and Finger Eleven on Aug. 5.

There’s a truck and tractor pull Aug. 6 and 7, and a demolition derby wraps up the Ozark Empire Fair at 1 p.m. on Aug. 8. Visitors also will enjoy a number of exhibits, a carnival and more.

Two Best Western motels are located near the fairgrounds: Coach House Inn (AAA two Diamond), 2535 N. Glenstone, and the Route 66 Rail Haven (AAA two Diamond), 203 S. Glenstone. Both motels offer quick breakfasts, and courteous staffs will help you find your way to the fair or around town. After a sun filled day at the fair, the pool is a great way to cool down.

This quilt took years of hand stitching

I have two favorite B&Bs in Springfield: the Mansion at Elfindale, 1701 S. Fort St., and the Walnut Street Inn, 900 E. Walnut. Budget-conscious campers can reserve a spot at Springfield/Route 66 KOA, 5775 West Farm Road 140.

For lunch or dinner, try Springfield Brewing Company, 305 S. Market. The food is great and dining alfresco here seems like summer at its best. Seasonal brews are always fun to try, and Springfield Brewing Company makes its own yeast bread for hot, soft Bavarian pretzels, bread sticks and pizza.

Ozark Empire Fairgrounds are near state Highway 13 and Interstate 44 at 3001 N. Grant. Adult admission is $6, $2 for children 6–12. Parking is free before 3 p.m.; after 3 p.m., park for $4. If you would like to enter a fair competition, go to

SEMO District Fair

Spiral cut deep fried potatoes were a hit.

For eight days in mid-September, my front porch is one of the best places to hear the Southeast Missouri (SEMO) District Fair grandstand entertainment. Now in its 155th season, the fair will be Sept. 11–18 at the fairgrounds in Arena Park, 410 Kiwanis Drive in Cape Girardeau.

The musical acts start Sept. 16 when the grandstand features country music legend Merle Haggard. Bryan White will perform Sept. 17, and the John D. Hale Band will play Sept. 18.

Truck and tractor pulls, demolition derby, carnival, and a horse show round out entertainment. Exhibits, food and a few parades add to the fun here.

When you are ready to rest for the day, campers can head to Cape Camping and RV Park, 1900 N. Kingshighway (a Good Sam Club park) or Trail of Tears State Park off state Highway 177 in nearby Jackson.

Three Drury-owned hotels (AAA three Diamond at 3303 Campster Drive, 104 South Vantage Drive, AAA one Diamond at 3248 William St.) serve a free hot breakfast. In addition, a great bed and breakfast is Rose Bed Inn at 611 S. Sprigg St.

Port Cape Girardeau, 19 N. Water St., is next to the Mississippi River and is known for great barbeque. They also have a walk-up window on Water Street where you can get an ice cream cone to enjoy as you stroll the riverfront.

Fair admission is $4 for guests 12 and older. A weekly pass is $25. Details to enter competitions are on the fair’s Web site home page.

This summer, make one or more of these fairs a blue-ribbon getaway for your family.


Arts, crafts, sewing projects

For more information, contact:
• Missouri State Fair, (800) 422-FAIR (422-3247), (660) 827-8150,;
• Ozark Empire Fair, (417) 833-2660,;
• SEMO District Fair, (573) 334-9250,

AAA members can see this story in ptint or on line at Midwest Traveler.

Patsy Bell Hobson is a contributor from Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Jul/Aug 2010 Issue

My Patio

summer long bloomer with lavender flowers

Superbena® Royale Chambray verbena

Superbena is self-cleaning, no deadheading necessary. Planted alone in pink tea cup containers, these Superbena® Royale Chambray verbena hybrids have bloomed all summer with very little attention or water.

Enjoy lavender flowers in full sun with minimum watering all season.

These pots have been in the sun on my humid, zone 6 patio and show no sign of pests or disease. These lavender flowers have remained bright and colorful the whole growing season. Superbena® Royale Chambray verbena is a good choice for container gardens, hanging baskets and low growing border plants.

photos by PBH

Superbenas are a vigorous Verbena series in pinks, rose and lavender colors.

These plants were sent to me by Proven Winners® for trial and evaluation. For plant combinations and design ideas go to Proven Winners webpage

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