Posts Tagged ‘Patsy Bell Hobson’

Bread and Soup: Using Herbs in Winter


2011
12.11

My favorite fast food during the hectic holidays? Bread and soup.

BBQ Rosemary

BBQ Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis 'Barbeque' has especially good flavor and aroma, great choice for cooking. photo PBH

Throw the soup or stew ingredients in the crockpot. When you come home from work or Christmas shopping, a hot, healthy meal can be mere minutes away. Now add biscuits, because hot fresh biscuits are fast and easy to make. In the time it would take to get drive-thru on the way home, you’ll be sitting down to a bowl of bliss that will warm your heart and soul.

Before the holidays, replace your old herbs. Saving dried herbs for special occasions is a bad idea. Begin using dried herbs as soon as you buy them so you will get a taste of the herb at its best. Then, you will be able to judge when herbs should be replaced because of age, light or heat exposure. Rub a little dried herb on to the palm of your hand and if can not smell or taste the flavor, empty the jar and replace it with new. If your jar of dried herbs tastes like paper dust or a dried front lawn, it’s time to replace the herbs.

Refresh spices. If your spices are not fragrant, don’t waste the time and ingredients of a recipe by using flavorless herbs and spices. Before baking season, buy a new box of baking powder and baking soda. Hot from the oven herb biscuits are the perfect accompaniment to winter stews and soups.

tomato soup and grilled cheese

Creamy tomato soup with mini grilled cheese toast. photo: PBH

My favorite cheese biscuit recipe comes from Simply Recipes: Cheese Biscuits recipe. I use 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped chives instead of scallions and sharp cheddar cheese. Best thing is, you can double the recipe and freeze the cut biscuits before baking. Later, retrieve the frozen dough and bake while the stew is simmering. They are so good and so easy, you will always want to keep a few in the freezer.

Though buying herbs in bulk is economical, it may not be the cook’s choice. Herbs tend to lose their flavor when exposed to air and light. Buy small amounts of herbs and refresh your supply regularly for the best flavor. The economy comes from using less of the dried herb when it is fresher and more flavorful.

Do not store your herbs above the stove. Heat will quickly deteriorate their flavor. Store dried herbs in a cool, dark, dry, air-tight container. If you keep them out on the counter, use a dark tinted glass container or a tin.

Guaranteed Herbal Magic

1/2 teaspoon of rosemary. I’m not kidding. Add rosemary to your favorite biscuit recipe. Or add a bit of rosemary to beef stew, vegetable soup, chicken and dumplings. It’s magic.

Everyone will love your cooking and you will become an herbal goddess of the kitchen. (Tiara not included.)

cheese soup

Make a double batch of soup, freeze half. A good quick meal will always be on hand.

Time for Four o’clocks


2011
07.28

Many people have memories of four-o’clocks in their family garden. These beautiful flowers have been popular plants for generations.

photo Renees Garden

Four-o’clocks (Mirabilas jalapa) self seed. Often you can find them still growing in a long-abandoned garden spot. It’s an old Southern tradition to plant them near the front door. These jasmine-scented flowers will greet your guests.

In South America, where these flowers originated, four-o’clocks are used as a dye. The root is used medicinally and is said to be a hallucinogen. In herbal medicine, parts of the plant may be used for diuretic, purgative or vulnerary (wound-healing) purposes. I can’t speak for any of these herbal or medicinal uses—I have only enjoyed the flowers and their fragrance.

I’ve also read that the flowers are used in food coloring. The leaves may be cooked and eaten as well, but only as an emergency food. An edible crimson dye is obtained from the flowers to color cakes and jellies.

7-26-2011-four o'clocks
Four-o’clocks are also also known as the ‘Marvel of Peru’.
Photo courtesy
Renee’s Garden

Four-o’clock ‘Broken Colors’ are a special variety with starry, 2-inch blossoms that are beautifully splashed with showy, contrasting colors. Their delicio7-26-2011-renee's garden four o'clocksus jasmine fragrance floats on summer breezes. These flowers are both easy to grow and reliable. You can find the seeds on Renee’s Garden’s website for $2.79 a packet.

Before planting, soak the seeds in water overnight to speed the sprouting. These flowers are trouble-free, love full sun and have only moderate watering requirements.

Your four-o’clock flowers probably won’t bloom at exactly 4 p.m. Mine bloom at about 6 o’clock. The blooming time depends on your time zone and the plants’ exposure, but whenever it blooms it will stay consistent. You can count on your flowers to bloom at the same time every day. However, if it is cloudy or rainy, it may throw their solar clock askew.

What is Succession Planting?


2011
02.15

Stretch your garden harvest by planting the same crop ten days later, and then again in ten more days.

lettuce and spinach will be suceeded by pepper plants

Another method is to replace one crop with another. For example, I’ll plant spinach in the early spring. As the weather gets warmer, I’ll plant green beans where the spinach was. I’ll plant half the row, and then, ten days later, I’ll finish planting the row with more green beans. Later, I’ll plant turnips in the row that grew green beans.

This method of gardening maximises your garden space. Even a tiny garden or big container can be used in this way.

Early peas will be replaced with green beans

Renee’s Garden has one of the most productive guides to using and reusing your garden space.

Renee’s Kitchen Garden Design Plans designed to maximize space.

Renee’s FAQs site gives you an organic gardeners short and sweet answer, not a science lecture. Her site is especially helpful on ferilizing and storing seed.

Zoning In

Find your plant hardiness zone. Use this guide to buy plants and learn when to sow seeds. I think the line between 6a and 6b runs right through my front yard. Depending on the investment – how much money I spend on the tree or plant -  I go back and forth, my answer could be different on any given day. I live in zone 6a. Or is it  6b?

US National Arboretum “Web Version” of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

A Garden Lovers Valentine


2011
01.23

These are the kind of flowers a gardener loves to get:

Shirley poppies are a fragrant heirloom

Valentine’s Day Special at Renee’s Garden 20% off through Feb. 14 on selected “lover-ly”  flowers  that are sure to win the heart of that Special Someone.

I, of course, went a little nuts ordering Shirley Poppies, “Falling in Love” (Papaver rhocas) because I think you can never have too many poppies. There are other selections in this sale, including a fragrant heirloom sweet pea.

Most new or inexperienced gardeners wait too long before they plant poppies. In my zone 6 garden, I will sow poppies in Feb or March. I direct sow these teeny, tiny seed in the garden two months before  tomatoes.

http://www.reneesgarden.com

Oh, attention sweethearts everywhere: though it is a loving gesture, the purchase of flower seeds does not let one off the hook for chocolate.

See you in Renee’s Community Garden.

Curly or Flat Leaf Parsley – which is better?


2011
01.21

Parsley

From Herb Combanion Blog

A Kitchen Garden essential

reseeded parsley

Volunteer parsley and chives are up and growing before other herbs.

I’m already thinking about spring. It’s time to order seeds and think about what I will grow in my home garden. One seed I know I will be ordering is parsley. Parsley seed is best started indoors and then planted in the herb garden. Although it is very slow to germinate, don’t give up; don’t be discouraged!

I grow both the curly and flat-leaved variety. They can be interchanged in most any recipe. However, dedicated Italian cooks will swear that flat-leaf parsley (or Italian parsley) is the very best.

Really, I use whichever is available (or which plants need a trim). When curley parsly leaves are small or young, they are milder and sweeter; the full parsley flavor comes as the plant matures. Its flavor intensifies even more after it is chopped for recipes.

1-6-2011-parsley stew
I use my La Chamba pottery to serve Braised Beef and Short Ribs with Parsley.
Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

Parsley is an excellent source of vitamins A and C. In fact, a glass of parsley juice would have as much vitamin C as a glass of orange juice. Now, I’m not advocating that you give up your glass of morning sunshine—the idea is probably not a trend setter—but it might help you feel virtuous about eating your garnish.

Fresh herbs add sparkle to any recipe

If this is your first try at growing herbs from seed, don’t give up. Start seeds indoors to get a head start.

When you eventually transplant your parsley, also scatter a few seeds near the plant. The plant will serve as a marker to remind you when the seed does come up.

In addition to the volunteer parsley that comes up earlier than anything I sow, I am starting Italian ‘Gigante’ parsley from seed. I have always had great success with seed I order from Renee’s Garden. Find additional help and encouragement on the Renee’s website. There are some very creative and original recipes there too.

Spinach, Spring Green


2011
01.21

Herb Companion Blog

IN THE HERB GARDEN

Spinach Seeds for Your Spring Garden

Grow spinach this year for fresh salad greens. Photo by faria! Courtesy Flickr

I am growing a vegetable I used to hate: If your introduction to spinach was from a can

of that salty gray-green plant matter, you understand. Not even Popeye could change my mind.

In 2006, an Escherichia coli bacterium (E. coli) outbreak in spinach was followed by more food contamination incidents. In 2007 a company recalled bags of its spinach after finding salmonella during testing. And in 2010, spinach potentially contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes was recalled. Seed sales tell us that record numbers of people are purchasing vegetable seeds. More and more, we want to know where our food comes from. Food contamination is rarely a problem if the food comes from our own backyard. You can supplement a lot of family meals by growing spring greens, like spinach, beets, turnips and lettuce.

I’m growing spinach (Spinacia oleracea ‘Bloomsdale Long-Standing’) this spring. In fact, those first few leaves of these glossy greens never made it to the kitchen last year. I ate them in the garden. (They were that good.) A fan of heirlooms or not, this is a good spring greens choice that has been around for more than 100 years.

Bloomsdale heirloom spinach, a home garden favorite for over 100 years

For this cool-season crop, save a few seeds from your spring planting and sow again for a fall crop. Expect a heavy, continuous yield of thick-textured, glossy dark green leaves. If you grow lettuce, you can grow spinach; its soil and light requirements are similar. Greens are a cool-season crop that love full or partial sun. Put a few radishes in with the spinach to serve as row markers. Gardening Tip: Try a couple of spinach varieties to possibly extend the season and see which one grows best for you. It might not be the same choice every year.

‘Bloomsdale Long Standing’ spinach is slow-growing, slow to bolt and has better-than-average heat and drought resistance. It will usually grow a week or two longer than other spinach varieties. It grows more upright than most spinach, keeping the leaves cleaner or less gritty.

Try This: Let your kids or grandkids help you plant a container of salad greens. Spinach, served fresh in salads or cooked in quiches and souffles, is a delightfully different thing than canned spinach. It supplies vitamins A, C and the B-complex, calcium, and proteins. Try this easy Spinach Souffle Recipe from Burpee.

spinach quiche by Pille - Nami-nami Courtesy Flickr

If chives are up, use it in your spinach salad. I suggest that you use spikey chive leaves instead of green onions, or break apart blossoms and sprinkle the flower petals on the salad.

You can buy spinach seed, Spinacia oleracea ‘Bloomsdale Long-Standing’ from many seed sources. Mine is from Burpee Seed and I have always had good luck with their seeds.

What is Your Garden Zone?


2011
01.14

Marigolds bring pollinators to your garden

I am in Zone 6 and the Average Last Frost: 04/15, Tax Deadline Day.

If I can, I’ll try to get in the garden even earlier and plant peas and potatoes on St Patricks Day.
The really smart thing to do is wait until May Day, 5/1 to plant plants.

I plant marigolds everywhere in the flower garden, with the vegetables and in the herb garden

Last Frost Dates

Zone 1: June1 – June 30
Zone 2: May 1 – May 31
Zone 3: May 1 – May31
Zone 4: May 1 – May31
Zone 5: March 30 – April30
Zone 6: March 30 – April30
Zone 7: March 30 – April30
Zone 8: February 28 – March 30
Zone 9: January 30 – February 28
Zone 10: January 1 – January 31
Zone 11 Frost Free Year Round

 

 

http://www.burpee.com

Burpee has some very helpful information for new and experienced gardeners.
Burpee Growing Zone Information Burpee Growing Calendar by zip code
US National Arboretum “Web Version” of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Marigolds are butterfly magnets

I think the line between 6a and 6b goes right through my garden. Depending on the luck I’m having at the time, my answer could be different to the question, which zone do you live in, 6a or 6b?”

Flat Leaf or Curly Parsley – which is best?


2011
01.06

Herb Companion Blog

Parsley for Your Spring Garden

by Patsy Bell Hobson

I’m already thinking about spring. It’s time to order seeds and think about what I will grow in my home garden. One seed I know I will be ordering is parsley. Parsley seed is best started indoors and then planted in the herb garden. Although it is very slow to germinate, don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged!

I grow both the curly and flat-leaved variety. They can be interchanged in most any recipe. However, dedicated Italian cooks will swear that flat-leaf parsley (or Italian parsley) is the very best.

Really, I use whichever is available (or which plants need a trim). When curley parsly leaves are small or young, they are milder and sweeter; the full parsley flavor comes as the plant matures. Its flavor intensifies even more after it is chopped for recipes.

1-6-2011-parsley stew
La Chambra pottery to serve Braised Beef Short Ribs with Parsley.
Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

Parsley is an excellent source of vitamins A and C. In fact, a glass of parsley juice would have as much vitamin C as a glass of orange juice. Now, I’m not advocating that you give up your glass of morning sunshine—the idea is probably not a trend setter—but it might help you feel virtuous about eating your garnish.

If this is your first try at growing herbs from seed, don’t give up. Start seeds indoors to get a head start. When you eventually transplant your parsley, also scatter a few seeds near the plant. The plant will serve as a marker to remind you when the seed does come up.

curly parsley

Volunteer seeds are always the first up in the garden. These curly leaf parsley will go into the first spring greens garden salad.

“Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire” by Margot Berwin


2010
10.29

In late spring, I volunteered to review “Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire”, a first novel by Margot Berwin. I can count the books I’ve reviewd on one hand, so I thought this early work of Margot Berwin, would be a great “summer read.”

Hot House Flower

The book was free, as was my review. The paperback, “Hot House Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire,” by Margot Berwin, is published by Random House and retails for $14.95. I expected this to be a lightweight summer read and was looking forward to “discovering” a new garden writer.

I, being a slow reader, usually get the benefit of early reviews from my speed reading garden blogging friends. I think many folks took this book too seriously and were disappointed. I was expecting a light and lively summer read and that is what I got.

Corpse plant

I was waiting for Hot House Flower to blossom into a full fledged romance novel, a genre seldom on my reading list. Thankfully, it was not. There was just enough travel and horticulture information to keep me turning pages.

Margot, you had me when you wrote the words Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Our protagonist, Lila, is learning about these nine plants of desire throughout the book. Each chapter starts with a little introduction to one of the nine plants and a hint about whats coming next.


I am glad “Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire” found it’s way to my reading stack. This is a romp through the jungle and there is even a bit of beach time, some totally unbelievable horticultural anticts and even a bit of magic and mystery.

This ain’t no botanical encyclopedia. My garden blogging friends would still be quibbling over the details of this book, if they hadn’t figured out it’s supposed to be fun and fictional light reading.


Heck, Margo took Lila and me to a place I’ve only dreamed. She even started out in a place I too would have wanted to trade in for tropics. She may not be that stong female heroine we are all looking for. She can’t turn all the raining monkey poop in to compost as she drives by, for example.

I received this book as a TLC Book Tour, a virtual book tour site. Virtual book tours are a promotional tool for authors to connect with readers via well-read book blogs and specialty blogs.

Realism? You want realism, well my friends, tune into reality tv. Accuracy? You want accuracy? Join the Royal Horticultural Society or stop by Martha’s on the way home.

You rarely find this kind of fun and imagination in contemporary (adult) literature. You don’t have to learn anything, just read. Relax. What could be more fun?

In garden terms think of an informal cottage garden, a little messy but delightful, never the less. After reading “Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire”, I wonder whats next for Margot Berwin.

  • Title: Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire
  • Author: Margot Berwin
  • Release date: June 1, 2010
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • Pages: 304
  • Genre: Adult fiction

Grow Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ From Seed


2010
06.27

PBHobson2 Patsy Bell Hobson is a garden writer and a travel writer. For her, it’s a great day when she can combine the two things she enjoys most: gardening and traveling. Visit her personal blog at http://patsybell.com/ and read her travel writings at http://www.examiner.com/x-1948-Ozarks-Travel-Examiner.

Chard is becoming a favorite summer green for home gardeners. It’s beautiful! And, long after the cool season, when greens such as spinach have faded from my Zone 6 garden, chard is the one that steadily produces fresh greens for my favorite salads.

5-18-2010-2
Make tomato and swiss chard soup this summer.
Photo by Robyn Lee/Courtesy Flickr

Grow and Cook with Swiss Chard

Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ was honored as an All-America Selections (AAS) winner in 1998. When buying herb and vegetable seeds, I look for seeds that are AAS winners, which are selected based on their superior performance. AAS winners will also grow most anywhere in North America. The All-America Selections® logo tells me that I can grow this plant easily from seed.

Swiss chard, or chard, is a beet that is usually selected for its leaf production, not for its root formation. Plant chard seeds a week or two before your favorite salad greens, such as spinach, bolt. When you pull up these greens your chard seedlings will be well on their way. Also, by the time tomatoes are ripe and ready, lettuce will be long gone from your garden. Instead, grow young chard leaves as a lettuce substitute. I use it in the summer’s best sandwich: the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, or the BLT.

Many cooks remove chard’s colorful stems, which can be yellow, gold, orange, pink, red or white, and cook them separately before adding greens to the mix. (The stems take longer to cook.) Cut off the outer leaves 1 1/2 inches above the ground when they are young and tender, which is when they are about 8 to 10 inches tall. Larger leaves can be cooked and used as you would use spinach. If you like spinach, you will like this hardy and more earthy-flavored relative.

Fill your garden with Swiss chard whereever you find an empty space. It grows well in containers and is pretty enough to grow in a flower bed. Swiss chard is loaded with vitamins A, C, and contain vitamin B, calcium, iron and phosphorus. Like most greens, chard is very low in calories. And unlike most vegetables, it has a slightly higher sodium content than most leafy greens.

Seed Packet Giveaway!

Burpee has generously agreed to give away three seed packets of Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ to my Herb Companion readers. Winners will be selected at random. Details below.

5-18-2010-3


• Post a comment below: Share your experience with Swiss chard. Do you currently grow this plant? What would you like to use it for? 

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