Your reward for growing garlic is the world of flavors that await in every bulb! Garlic’s taste has several dimensions that come alive depending on how the plant is cooked. Shown here, from left to right, are braided softneck garlic, fresh elephant garlic, and purple stripe hardneck garlic.
The last crop to go into the garden, garlic is planted in fall and harvested the following summer. Flavorful, nutritious, and helpful for warding off vampires, garlic also is easy to grow as long as you plant varieties suited to your climate. Fertile, well-drained soils with a near-neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.0 are best for growing garlic.
Garlic Types to Try:
Softneck types grow best where winters are mild, though some tolerate cold to Zone 5. Most varieties do not produce scapes (edible curled flower stalks), but softnecks are great for braiding. Sub types include Creole, artichoke and many Asian varieties.
Hardneck types adapt to cold winter climates, and all produce delicious curled scapes in early summer. Popular sub types include porcelain, purple stripe and rocambole varieties.
Elephant garlic produces a large, mild-flavored bulb comprised of four to six big cloves. Closely related to leeks, elephant garlic is hardy to Zone 5 if given deep winter mulch.
When to Plant Garlic:
In fall, plant cloves in well-drained beds after the first frost has passed and the soil is cool. Cloves can also be planted in late winter as soon as the soil thaws, but fall-planted garlic produces bigger, better bulbs.
How to Plant Garlic:
Choose a sunny site, and loosen the planting bed to at least 12 inches deep. Thoroughly mix in a 1-inch layer of mature compost. In acidic soil, also mix in a light dusting of wood ashes. Wait until just before planting to break bulbs into cloves. Poke the cloves into the ground 4 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart, with their pointed ends up. Cover the planted area with 3 to 5 inches of organic mulch, such as hay or shredded leaves.
Harvesting and Storing Garlic:
From early summer to midsummer, watch plants closely and harvest when the soil is dry and about one-third of the leaves appear pale and withered. Use a digging fork to loosen the soil before pulling the plants. Handle the newly pulled bulbs delicately to avoid bruising them. Lay the whole plants out to dry in a warm, airy spot that is protected from rain and direct sun.
After a week or so, brush off soil from the bulbs with your hands, and use pruning shears to clip roots to half an inch long. Wait another week before clipping off the stems of hardneck varieties or trimming and braiding softnecks into clusters. Do not remove the papery outer wrappers, as these inhibit sprouting and protect the cloves from rotting.
Storage life varies with variety and with growing and storage conditions. When kept at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, rocamboles store about four months, other hardneck garlic varieties usually last six months, and softneck and elephant garlic store for eight months or more. Hang your cured crop in mesh bags, or braid softneck types and suspend from rafters in a cool, dry basement or garage.
Saving Garlic Bulbs for Planting :
Many garlic varieties fine-tune their growth patterns to the climate in which they are grown, so planting cloves from bulbs you grew yourself can save money and also result in a strain that is especially well-suited to the conditions in your garden.
As you harvest and cure your crop, set aside the biggest and best bulbs as your “seed” stock. One pound of cured bulbs will break into about 50 individual cloves, which is enough to plant a 25-foot-long double row.
If allowed to flower, some varieties produce fleshy bulbils (little bulbs) atop the flower stalk. Elephant garlic often develops elliptical, hard-shelled corms underground outside the main bulbs. Garlic bulbils and corms can both be replanted. The first year after planting, bulbils and corms will grow into small plants that can be harvested as scallion-like “green garlic” in late spring, just before the roots swell. If left unharvested, bulbils and corms develop into full-size bulbs in two to three years.
Garlic Pest and Disease Prevention Tips:
Tiny onion thrips rasp pale grooves into garlic leaves, but they have many natural predators. Keep areas near garlic and onions mowed to reduce the weedy habitat thrips prefer. Monitor populations with sticky traps, and use a spinosad-based biological pesticide to control serious infestations.
Onion root maggots seldom infect garlic planted in soil where onion family crops have not been planted for two years, but the mobile adults may still lay eggs around the base of young plants. Where pest pressure is severe, dust the area around plants with diatomaceous earth in late spring, which is when the egg-laying females are most active.
Prevent fusarium and other soilborne root rot diseases by growing garlic in well-drained, fertile soil. Avoid injuring the roots when weeding, because diseases often enter plants through broken tissue.
Garlic Growing Tips:
Experiment with types and varieties, because each reacts differently to weather and rainfall patterns. A spring hot spell that bothers one variety may benefit another. Our Seed and Plant Finder can help you track down the garlic varieties you want.
To grow garlic greens for cooking, plant whole bulbs 12 inches apart in the fall. In spring, when the greens are 10 inches tall, grab them with one hand, and use your other hand to lop them off with a knife. You should get two more cuttings before the plants give out.
You can make garlic powder by drying thinly sliced garlic at 150 degrees until it’s crisp. Grind to a powder in a food grinder or blender.
Cooking with Garlic:
Without a doubt, garlic works culinary miracles when added to food. The pungency of raw garlic varies depending on the variety, and all types of garlic mellow when cooked. In addition to tossing chopped garlic into soups, stews, and stir-fries, try baking whole bulbs with a little salt and olive oil, and then spreading the soft, creamy flesh on warm bread. If you grow hardneck types of garlic, be sure to harvest the curled scapes that appear in early summer. Scapes can be eaten fresh, or blanched and frozen.
From Mother Earth News
From acorn to turban, winter squash are some of the most delicious and versatile ingredients of the season. Unlike summer squash, these are harvested in autumn when they are hard and ripe, and most varieties can be stored and enjoyed for use through the winter.
Here's a guide to 11 common varieties of winter squash, and what you need to know about each.
1. Acorn Squash
2. Banana Squash
3. Buttercup Squash
4. Butternut Squash
5. Delicata Squash
6. Hubbard Squash
7. Kabocha Squash
9. Spaghetti Squash
10. Sweet Dumpling Squash
11. Turban Squash
Summer squash are harvested when tender and still immature. They're usually separated into yellow, strait ot crookneck varieties; freen zucchinis, scallop-shaped "patty-pan" fruits; or round softball-sizedtypes. Summer squash grow fast, usually marturing within two months of planting, and continue toproduce all season long. They are prolific, reliable producers, but they don't so use them right away.
Select a site with full sun to light shadeand well-drained soil. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden
fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2 to 4 inch layer of compost.
Squash can be direct sown or started indoors. If starting indoors, plant seeds in individual pots 2-3 weeks
before last frost date. Wait until all danger of squash has passed before planting squash in the garden.
Set transplants 18 to 36 inches apart at the same depth of their container. If sowing the seeds directly in
the garden, plant seeds 1 inch deep, 2 to 4 seeds per foot.
Then seedlings to 1 plant per 18 to 24 inches when the first true leaves appear. When the first five leaves
appear, mulch to eliminate weeds and retain moisture. Provide about one inch of water per week. Contact
your local county extension office for controls of common squash pests such as cucumber beetles and
squash vine borers.
Summer squash develope very rapidly after pollination. Plan to go through your patch and harvest every
day or two.Squash that are small and tender have the best flavor and table quality. Pick elongated
varieties when they reach 2 inches or less in diameter and 6 to 8 inches long. Harvest patty pan types
when they are 3 to 4 inches in diameter.
From: National Gardening Association
Plant Care Guides
Big Boy Tomato Hybrid
Latin: Lycopersicon Big BoyBig Boy is a large-fruited F1 hybrid that has maintained its popularity for over 50 years.Agriculture has gone through a number of technological revolutions, but few have been as dramatic as was the introduction of hybrid seeds. While hybrid corn is the classic crop used to explain how hybridization works, I thought the Burpee’s Big Boy tomato might make a good example.
Once the significance of Mendel’s law of inheritance was understood at the beginning of the 20th century, it only took a few years for a workable system of hybrid seed production to emerge. Corn, because the male flowers are so conveniently large and easy to remove, became the first crop to be reproduced extensively by hybridization.
This early work was complete by the end of World War I; hybrid corn seeds were widely available a decade later. These new hybrids offered increased yields of about 30 percent over older, conventional line-produced seeds, so farmers were quick to adapt the new technology.
The use of hybridization in vegetable and flower crops was slower to develop. An old Burpee catalog describes their first significant hybrid as a marigold offered in 1939. In 1942, Dr. Oved Shifriss (1915-2004), was hired as the director of research for W. Atlee Burpee & Company. He was a vegetable breeder who added a dozen early hybrids of cucumber, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, and the most lasting of all, the Big Boy tomato which appeared in 1949.
Big Boy, with sweet, fragrant, red, smooth-skinned fruit that can weigh a pound or more, is one of the most popular tomatoes. Experts often list it amongst their top five all-time favorites. The plant form is indeterminate, but it is bush-like in habit, a strong grower and blessed with good disease resistance. Big Boy was Burpee’s second hybrid tomato, but the vigor of this introduction was revolutionary and ushered in the modern era of tomato breeding. Shifriss was born in Ein Ganeem, a town in present-day Israel, where his father had emigrated from the Ukraine. Shifriss immigrated to the U. S. in 1936. He found a job at Burpee but then left in 1950 and returned to Israel. In 1958, he joined the faculty at Rutgers University in New Jersey as a geneticist, using ornamental gourds as his test plant.
Because Big Boy seed is still being produced, its exact parentage is a trade secret so giving the makeup of the hybrid is not possible. Hybrids are crosses between two inbred lines that have recognizable differences. If a good marriage is created, hybrids can have significantly increased yield and vigor, a term we call hybrid vigor.
In corn, it's easy to illustrate how hybrid vigor works. The afore mentioned increase in yield resulted from crossing lines with long, skinny ears with lines that had short, fat ears with more rows of seeds. The hybrids produced long ears with more rows, both dominant traits.
We can only speculate what Shifriss used in his hybrids, but Ball hints that one of the parents was an heirloom selection from the Odessa region of the Ukraine, the ancestral home of the Shifriss family.
By carefully studying plant types and understanding which are dominant and recessive traits, the breeder can begin to make crosses that assemble these characteristics into the hybrid progeny. Once the perfect parents have been identified, hybrid seed is made by hand crossing the two parents.
Because of all of the hand work involved, hybrid seeds are produced in the third world where hand labor is cheap. Central America, India and Kenya are the current countries where much of our hybrid seed is produced by the six or so mega-seed companies that provide all of our garden seeds. Because of the hand labor required to produce hybrid seeds, it's always more expensive than seeds grown as an inbred line, usually three to10 times more costly.
Unlike Big Boy, a superior introduction as attested by its long run of popularity, not all hybrids live up to their billing. As gardeners, we want plants that have good local adaptability, and sometimes an inbred line will be better adapted than a hybrid. A few plants -- for example petunias -- are only available as hybrids; their inbred lines having so little vigor that they are not considered worth growing.
Gardeners often want to save seeds. While this works just fine with an inbred line, it is an unrewarding experience with hybrids. If seeds are saved from a hybrid plant, segregation of the genes occurs in the F2 generation. Instead of being remarkably uniform, the most salient characteristic of hybrids, the population will vary wildly between the two extremes used to create the hybrid.
By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - August 20, 2004
Latin: Daucus carota
Carrots are one of the vegetables Americans have rediscovered as they embrace a more healthy lifestyle.All our lives, everyone from our mothers to government dieticians has urged us to eat our vegetables but, if you look at the data, we’re not very good at it. Not only is the quantity lacking but so is the variety. But changes may be afoot as Americans become more health conscious and explore new ways of incorporating fresh vegetables into our diets.
Carrots (Daucus carota) are leading the way in this resurgence of interest in eating fresh vegetables. In fact, it’s not just any carrot but the baby carrot that is leading the charge.
Carrots are biennial herbs grown as an annual. It’s a member of the parsley family that was first domesticated somewhere in Central Asia, probably in Afghanistan. It seems to have been introduced to southern Europe by invading armies around 2,000 years ago. In its original form, the root was often branched and red in color. When cooked, these red taproots turned an unappetizing brown.
Sometime in the mid 15th century, yellow mutants appeared in northern Europe. These were followed about 1700 by Dutch selections containing the orange, high carotene roots we know today. Until recent years, carrots were seldom eaten raw.
The familiar roadside weed Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot) with its lacy leaves and striking umbels of white flowers are found throughout the world. Though native to Central Asia and Europe, most authorities believe its worldwide escape is due to the reversion to ancestral forms from carrots allowed to flower from roots left in the garden over winter.
In the last four decades, carrot consumption has almost doubled to 12 pounds per person per year. Frozen and canned use of carrots is declining but fresh consumption is steadily increasing since the introduction of the baby carrot in 1988. That year, Mike Yurosek, a Bakersfield, Calif., vegetable grower, found a way to turn the lowly carrot into a user friendly and healthy snack food.
Fresh market carrot farmers were plagued by the vagaries of root growth. Because carrots are graded on size and appearance, only the straightest 7-inch long roots made it to the marketplace. The seconds were used as livestock feed. Yurosek purchased a green-bean cutting machine and started cutting his production into 2-inch long pieces and running the pieces through a modified potato peeler. The baby carrot was born, and what was once a discarded product, began selling for as much as five times the price of whole carrots. Today, two California farms provide 80 percent of the nation’s supply of these carrot nubbins.
Carrots are cool season vegetables and can be planted as a spring or fall crop. The straightest carrots are produced in sandy, well-worked soils free of clods and rocks. Spring seeding should begin in February or March when other cool season vegetables such as onions and broccoli go out. Plant seeds ¼-inch deep with three seeds per inch of row.
Multiple plantings can be made until about the time of the last frost. Fall planting can begin in late August or September when the hottest days of summer are past. Keep the seedbed well watered until germination occurs and seedlings are well established. Thin seed rows so that plants are about an inch apart. Carrots are ready for pulling in around 60 to 70 days. If you wish to produce your own baby carrots, just pull the plants a couple weeks earlier.
By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - June 26, 2009
One of the most glorious treats of the spring garden must be a fresh bowl of strawberries. In our modern age of global marketing, strawberries are never out of season in the grocery stores, but they never taste the same as those picked fresh from the garden. Let us explore the history of this luscious fruit.
The modern strawberry is an evergreen herbaceous perennial of the rose family. Under the short days of winter and spring, it grows as a single crown with large, bright green compound leaves. The white, five-petaled flowers appear in mid-spring and open over a three- to four-week period. The large, luscious berries ripen about a month after flowering. When days get long in summer, strawberries produce runners that strew new plantlets across the garden bed. The word “strawberry” is thought to have possibly been derived from “strew berry,” a descriptive name for the plant.
Strawberries have always been enjoyed as a delectable spring treat. Europeans gathered their wild species, Fragaria vesca, from ancient times and eventually selected forms that they grew in their gardens. Native Americans too gathered and probably grew strawberries, but they used F. virginiana. Both of these species are flavorful - at least if a flavorful clone is grown - but are they ever small, with fruit not much bigger than the tip of my pinkie finger.
Military intrigue lead to the development of the modern strawberry. In 1714, Amedee Frezier, a French military engineer and rumored spy for Louis XIV, was secretly mapping the Chilean coast around Concepcion when he came upon a strawberry growing in the dunes. He described them as “big as a walnut and sometimes as a hen’s egg…” but with an inferior taste to the European species. He potted some plants up and six of them survived the six-month-long journey back to France. Eventually this species was given the name F. chiloensis.
Over the next couple decades, European gardeners and bees did what comes naturally to them. By 1766, it was recognized that the two American species had hybridized and created a large-fruited, deep red cross that combined the fruit size of the Chilean species with the deep red color and flavorful taste of the Virginia species. To an early taste-tester, these hybrids reminded him or her of the sweetness of pineapples, so when botanists got around to assigning it a name they called it F. x ananassa, after the Latin name for pineapple.
By the early 19th century, the hybrids began to displace their smaller, wild cousins in gardens. In a nursery list published in 1829, there were 28 kinds listed; by 1832 the number had jumped to 112. By 1877, more than 800 cultivars were described
Modern strawberry clones come in two broad categories: the spring-bearing and the so-called everbearing clones. The spring-bearing kinds flower in mid-spring and set one crop of fruit, whereas the everbearing kinds produce a few flowers throughout the season and can, if grown in a properly cool climate, produce fruit on and off during the summer. Commercial growers take advantage of both types and an array of growing conditions, including greenhouse production, to provide fresh fruit throughout the year.
Strawberries do best in a fertile, well-drained garden soil that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight. Spring plantings will flower and fruit the following spring. Most gardeners use what is called the “matted bed system,” which essentially is a densely planted bed 3 to 4 feet wide and as long as your craving for strawberries requires. In the summer, the old crowns are removed and younger crowns are allowed to fill in the space in the bed. If attention to weed control is maintained, beds can usually remain in production three or four years. Though there are a host of strawberry pest problems, they are fairly easy to grow, and most home gardeners will be rewarded for their efforts.
By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - May 7, 2010
We’ve all been admonished to eat our vegetables, and sometimes we even follow that sage advice. I’m a big fan of most vegetables and especially like cabbage, broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts, but their pale cousin, cauliflower, has been harder to warm to. But the world, she is a-changing, and the white curds of cauliflowers are now available in designer shades.
Cauliflower is closely related to broccoli, both being members of the crucifer family and classified as Brassica oleracea Botrytis Group. All of the crucifers – everything from cabbage to kohlrabi – are native to the Mediterranean region and derived from ancestral wild cabbage that still grows in the region. Over the past 4,000 years, variants of the wild species have been selected and modified by farmers in what is one of the first examples of extreme genetic modification.
Like other crucifers, cauliflower is a biennial. To get it to flower plants must go through a winter with the typical 4-petaled yellow or white flowers produced on elongating shoots in the spring. However, cauliflower is a more temperamental crucifer than most. It is the most freeze sensitive of the crucifers and also intolerant of heat and drought.
The edible head (curd) of cauliflower is formed from fused flowers. White curds are the typical form and have been described in early writings since at least 600 B.C. The now war-ravage country of Syria was the source of some of the first forms of cauliflower grown in Spain that eventually spread to the rest of Europe.
Early Italian cauliflower cultivars have included color variants but it was not until 1970 with the chance discovery of an orange-headed mutation in a Canadian cauliflower field that the story of the modern colored forms began. A sample was collected of the plant, it was propagated and eventually made its way to the National Vegetable Research Center in England. Researchers there knew of the interest Michael Dickson, a Cornell University crucifer breeder working with cauliflowers, so they sent him samples. In 1989 Dickson released the orange headed breeding lines to commercial vegetable seed companies. The orange clone Cheddar was released in 2004.
Orange cauliflower has a high vitamin A content. Green cauliflower lines began appearing about 1990 and contain low concentrations of chlorophyll in the curd to produce the green shading. The purple cauliflowers rely on the anthocyanin pigment found in red cabbage to provide its color. Cauliflower is low in calories and carbohydrates, making it a substitute for starchy foods such as potatoes, rice and pasta.
Cauliflower can be grown as a spring or fall crop in Arkansas. Seeds are started indoors in the winter with the planting date delayed until about two weeks before the anticipated last frost date. White curded cultivars such as Snowball mature in about 10 weeks, so they should finish before the worst of the summer heat. Fall crops can be planted in August but careful attention must be paid to watering to assure success. For best results a uniform moisture and fertility regime must be maintained to assure successful production.
Some cauliflower clones are said to be “self-blanching,” a reference to the fact that the uppermost leaves curve inward and shield the developing curd from the direct rays of the sun. For older cultivars blanching is done by tying together the uppermost leaves in a loose bunch when the curd is 2-3 inches across. This reduces the chance of sunburn and prevents the development of chlorophyll, which can lead to an off taste. Blanching is more important for the spring crop than the fall crop.
Being a crucifer, cauliflowers are plagued by a number of diseases and insect pests. The cabbage looper is the most serious insect pest and early infestations can result in serious defoliation, which reduces curd development. BT, an organic insecticide, has proven effective in controlling this pest.
By: Gerald Klingaman,
Retired Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - Nov. 20, 2015
Plant of the Week: Lycium barbarum Goji Berry, Lifeberry, Wolfberry Periodically, I crawl out from under my rock and see what is going on in the world. Recently I discovered a new plant growing in the garden called Goji Berry (Lycium barbarum). Checking it out on the Internet, I discovered I must be one of the few people on the planet who knew nothing of it and was instantly intrigued by the potential it has for making me live longer, lose weight and be a better all-around person.
Goji berry, also called Wolfberry or Lifeberry, is a member of the tomato family and is one of 80 species of Lycium scattered throughout South America, Africa and Asia. Seven species are found in China with Goji berry and a closely related species (L. chinense) grown commercially for their dried fruit. Goji is native to the cold, dry region of north central China and is extensively grown there as both an agricultural crop and to stabilize the shifting sands that are becoming increasingly common there. L. chinense is grown in warmer areas, including tropical regions.
Goji berry is a deciduous woody shrub growing 8-10 feet tall with slender sprawling branches that are armed with thin spines. This plant is often referred to as a vining plant, but in reality it is a “thorn climber” that, if left unpruned, climbs by piling new growth on older growth, surrounding plants until it reaches the light.
Leaves are alternately on the stem or in clusters of three, deciduous, elliptical or lanceolate (shaped like the head of a lance), and as long as 2 ½ inches. Flowers are ¾ inch across, 5-petaled, light lavender in color and show a ready resemblance to other members of the nightshade family. They bloom on new growth and are produced in early summer, and more or less continually through the summer as long as the plant continues growing.
Goji berries are true berries (just as the tomato is actually a berry), orange red in color, slender-oval in shape and as long as an inch in length. If cut open, 15-20 tiny seeds are produced in fleshy chambers, much similar to a tomato. Berries hang from a peduncle that is inflated as it attaches to the fruit and has five short green calyx segments. The berries ripen during much of the summer, based on when the flower opened. Plants are self-fruitful and do not need a different clone for fruit set.
Goji berry has apparently been cultivated for several millennia in China, where it is considered one of the “tonic herbs” – like ginseng – that is good for whatever ails you. It found its way into Western culture during the last years of the 20th century, during the antioxidant spurt that had researchers testing everything we consume for the ability to tie up free radicals. Goji berry was close to the top of some of these lists in antioxidant activity, though just marginally higher than common fruit such as citrus and strawberries, so it became a natural for the rapidly-expanding Internet market.
If you believe the hype, Goji berry does everything from fighting the aging process to making you thinner and improving your eyesight. These claims – with nothing in the way of rigorous blind testing trials – are supposedly due to the aforementioned antioxidant properties of the fruit. There have been several cease and desist suits filed against Goji berry promoters for claiming it cures cancer, but mostly it falls into the largely unregulated “food supplements” market.
In the garden, Goji berry plants can be grown as free-standing bushes that are cut back severely each spring or trellised much as you would grapes. They should have full sun, a well-drained neutral to alkaline soil and free air circulation to keep the foliage dry, thus avoiding mildew problems. It is reported as being hardy from zones 3 through 10, but most likely L. barbarum is what is grown in colder climates while L. chinense is more likely suited for warmer regions. Once established, plants are quite drought tolerant. Though it can be grown from seed, clonally propagated selections should be chosen to ensure best fruit quality and production.
By: Gerald Klingaman, Retired Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - Aug. 28, 2015
These fast-growing species of the genus Physalis are also known as husk tomatoes, tomatilloes, strawberry tomatoes, bladder cherries, and poppers (the Chinese Lantern is a popular, non-edable ornamental variety). They belong to the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, tobacco, and nightshade.
Used by the Pilgrims; ground cherries are excellent for pies, jams, and preserves of all kinds. The fruit grow inside a paper-like husk (the same as Tomatillos). Grow it the same as you would tomatoes.
Ground cherries taste like a mix between a sweet tomato and a berry or pineapple and are good by themselves, in a salad or even in a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
Purslane is one plant or weed, depending on your prospective, your garden always has plenty of. It grows quite happily in rocky poor soil. It also seeds prolifically and the seeds can stay viable for up to 40 years. The question is are you going to weed it, or harvest if for your evening salad?
Purslane is a fleshly leafy green, that has been eaten for at least 2,000 years. It was cultivated in ancient Egypt and was enjoyed by the ancient Romans and Greeks. It was also know to the Arabs in the medieval period, and may have been cultivated in Europe as early as the 13th century.
Today in this country, it's thought of as a pest and sprayed along with the other weeds. If you have this weed consider it a blessing, Purslane not only is tasty but is also highly nutritious. It has the most omega 3 fatty acids (the same fatty acids found in seafood like salmon) of any green vegetable. It's also high in Vitamins A and C, and has some calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium and potassium. So if you decide to eat it, instead of pull it, here are a few ideas on how to prepare it.
The only thing to bear in mind with purslane is that you either want it raw or just lightly sauteed, or else you wanna cook the [heck] out of it, with an acid like tomatoes. Anything in between is likely to result in the purslane being a bit slimy and most folks don't like the texture.
The young smaller leaves and tender stems are best if eaten raw. While the whole plant leaves and stems are edible, most of the time only the leaves are eaten.The moisture rich leaves are cucumber-crisp, and have a tart, almost lemony tang with a peppery kick. The flavor and texture is best when picked, before the plant flowers in the fall and the leaves become tough.
Use purslane in salads or on sandwiches instead of lettuce or pickles. Try a ham and purslane on rye for something different. It pairs well with other summer veggies, like green beans, tomatoes, cucumber and even eggplant. Toss a handful of young leaves into a green salad for some lemony crunch, or add it to pasta, or potato salad.
Once picked, store purslane stems in a jar with just a bit of water, in the fridge, They’ll keep only for a few days, so use them up right away.
Purslane Potato Salad
Extension Educator, Horticulture
Edible Wild Plants of Ohio and Kentucky Journal Economic Botany 31:76-79.
A Few Uncommon Ones For The Culinary Ozark Garden
When we speak of perennial culinary herbs sage, chives, thyme, and rosemary are the most common ones grown by gardeners. Both thyme and rosemary can be short lived in our climate, but sage and chives are tough, hanging on in even the toughest winters and hottest summers.
There are other perennial herbs that do well here, but are not common sights in our gardens. One of my favorites is fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Fennel is a hardy relative of dill with a familiar anise flavor in both the seeds and leaves due to the presence of anethol. The seeds are often used in Italian cooking, teas, and breads. The leaves give a wonderful flavor to fish. It is an easy plant to grow from seed. It is drought resistant, but has the best flavor if given regular moisture. Fennel tolerates full sun or partial shade and is generally not eaten by deer. A mature plant can be between 3-5 feet tall when in bloom. It is a host plant for the caterpillar of the swallowtail butterfly, so plan to plant some to share. There is a lovely bronze-leaf variety that deserves a place in your flower border.
Salad burnet (Poterium sanguisorba) is also easily grown from seed. Only 12-18” tall when it blooms, it grows from a basal rosette. The flowers, small pinkish balls, rise from the basal leaves and provide ample seeds. Give it a spot in the front of the border in full sun, with regular water and good drainage. It is very adaptable to most soils. The tender leaves taste like cucumber and make a nice addition to salads, dressings, sauces, and butters. I like to add salad burnet to coleslaw or mix it with plain Greek yogurt and fresh dill to make a sauce for fish.
Sorrel (Rumer acestosa) or French sorrel is a plant well known and frequently grown in Europe. Here, it is seldom seen. It is one of the first greens to appear in the spring and is usable throughout the growing season, although its sour, lemony flavor is best in cool weather. In the summer, simply cut back the old leaves and flower stalks and new leaves will appear. Provide regular moisture and a sunny location for it to thrive. I have had the same clump for over 15 years. Even without protection, it survives ice and snow. We enjoy the first spring leaves added to our salads, soups and sauces. It gives an extra tang when added to cooked spinach and other greens. Sorrel can be started from seed or small plants can be purchased.
When I was growing up in the North Dakota, every garden seemed to have a patch of horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) growing in a corner. Now you seldom see it except in jars. It is an easy plant to grow; it is not fussy about soil and is drought resistant. But for the best roots, give it a sunny spot and regular water. It can be an aggressive plant so give it plenty of space and expect it to reach 24” in height. It is sometimes grown as a “catch plant” for larva of some moths. If the leaves are ragged and eaten, cut them down and destroy them. New ones will appear in a few days. Horseradish can be started from a dormant root in early spring. The roots can be harvested in late September through November. Gently loosen the soil around a root and sever it from the plant. Do not dig up the whole plant unless you plan to divide it. Harvested roots keep for months in the crisper of the refrigerator. They can also be frozen and grated while still frozen to add to food. Add grated root to mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, or sour cream for a sauce for beef, sausage, or smoked fish. Make your own cocktail sauce by adding it to a tomato base.
I encourage gardeners to expand their use of perennial herbs. They provide interest to your food and can be the backbone of your herb garden. They are great “pass along” plants to share.
Submitted By: Joanne Ragsdale
One of the current trends is to incorporate edible plants into your flower beds not only is this a great use of garden space, it's practical. The same design principals are used when incorporating edible plants into the landscape to achieve a unified garden.
The most important design elements for an edible landscape are strong, firm lines and structure. The main goal is to put food on the table but the design element should also not be overlooked. Adding edibles to your garden design provides a greater mixture of textures, forms, and colors than a typical ornamental landscape. In order to counterbalance this mix of plants, it helps to almost over-emphasize the line and structure of your landscaping elements. A design consideration with edibles is the seasonal nature of the color-flowers, fruit, and/or foliage-and occasional times of reduced drama due to transplanting, harvesting, and soil cultivation. During these times, the importance of strong lines, as defined by pathways, patios, planters, hedges, evergreens, and structures, becomes evident. Long curving beds or inter-plantings of colorful flowering plants-edible or not-also help tie the design together and provide accents. Edible landscaping is more than just planting edibles, without the backbone of a good design, an edible landscape can become just a vegetable patch.
Rosemary A Great Edible Choice
I've decided I'm going to try to fit some herbs into the flower beds and Rosemary is a natural choice for this area of North Central Arkansas, the plant is deer proof and stays evergreen. So instead of planting Boxwoods for your foundation plantings think Rosemary.
The best variety for this area is winter hardy Rosmarinus officinalis 'Arp'. Discovered in Arp, Texas, by Madalene Hill of Hilltop Herb Farm in 1972. It's a Medium-high, open growth plant which benefits from frequent pruning. It has fragrant, thick gray-green leaves with light blue flowers in the spring. 'Arp' is known as the "winter hardy rosemary", since it's the hardiest variety available (will survive to -10°F). Mature plants can grow to about 5 feet tall and about as wide. If you don't want it to get this big, prune and use all the cuttings in your meals.
Rosemary needs a minimum 4 hours of direct sun for optimal growth and if you have clay soil it needs to be lightened up with compost or sand. Once planted it does not require any fertilizer and is very drought tolerant. It will do fine with as little as 12 inches of rain annually, but an inch a week will make it thrive.
As parents we’ve all experienced the challenges of getting our children to eat something new. Though most adults are more adventuresome, it is really difficult to introduce new food items to a nation. Take the oriental persimmon (Diospyros kaki) for example. It has been a favorite food in China and Japan for thousands of years, but its adoption in the west has been glacially slow. Oriental persimmon has been cultivated for several thousand years in Asia but has had a more difficult time becoming established in American markets.
The oriental persimmon is a member of the ebony family and one of 485 species of persimmons that occur throughout the pantropical regions and is closely related to our native persimmon. The oriental species, one of 60 that are described in China, is the most often cultivated persimmon in the world and has been grown and selected in China for more than 2000 years.
It is a deciduous tree growing to about 30 feet tall with a rounded crown when mature. Trees are moderately slow-growing and long-lived. It has 4-inch oblong glossy green leaves that turn orange-yellow in the fall. Trees are blight resistant and retain attractive foliage cover until fall arrives.
Creamy white, four-petaled flowers are produced after the leaves emerge and are seldom noticed. Persimmons are considered dioecious with male or female plants, though occasionally perfect flowers are produced or some male flowers appear on female plants.
The fruit are yellow-orange orbs to 3 inches across that fully ripen after the leaves fall. The four-parted broad and flared calyx is attached tightly to the top of the fruit and gives it an easily identified appearance when seen in the produce isles of local groceries. The fruit of kaki are about five times as large as our native persimmon.
Hundreds of cultivars of this old fruit crop are available and, just as in apples, persimmons vary considerably in their culinary characteristics. Part of the reasons for the lack of popularity of persimmon as a fruit is the puckering experience many of us have experienced when we bit into our first unripe persimmon. This astringency is caused by the presence of high levels of phenolic tannins in unripe fruit that dissipate by either freezing or the slow process of natural ripening. By the time the fruit are fully ripe and mushy enough to eat with a spoon, the tannins are gone and the 15 to 20 percent soluble sugars can be enjoyed.
The cultivars, the first of which were brought back to the U.S. by Commodore Perry in the 1850s when his armada of war ships anchored in Tokyo Harbor and eventually opened Japan up for trade with the Western world, fall into two broad groups. The astringent kinds produce tannins that disappear naturally with cold weather and time and are seen in stores in November. These are the forms most suited for drying. The non-astringent kinds lack astringency and can be eaten while the flesh is still firm and can be eaten more or less like an apple.
Though Oriental persimmons are considered adapted from zone 7 through 10, they are more commonly seen in the warmer end of the zone of adaptation. Several attempts have been made to commercialize the crop in the U.S. but early attempts were not especially successful but in the last two decades there has been a revival of interest and the crop may yet gain a foothold as our population becomes more diverse.
Kaki should be planted in sunny locations with well-drained soils. Because it is a small tree it is well suited near the home but the showy ripening fruit are both a blessing and a curse. The fruit hang on the branches for up to two months after the leaves fall and create an effective display but then they drop and create a slimy mess on any hard surfaces. However, all the neighborhood opossums and raccoons will be grateful for your thoughtfulness.
By: Gerald Klingaman
Retired Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - December 19, 2014
Butternut Squash (Cucurbita moschata)
A vegetable I grew in my garden last year that I found easy to grow and easy to store was Butternut Squash. This is a winter squash and is a close relative to the pumpkin. I planted the 'Waltham' variety. This squash grows on a sprawling vine and should NOT be harvested until the skin is thick. After that it can be stored in a dry, cool location and it keeps well for months. Planting can be delayed until June since these squash are to be harvested near the end of growing season. Butternut squash is excellent for soup, for baking as a side dish, or used in a vegetable salad, etc. It has a wonderful flavor!
Waltham Butternut Squash
Squash like warm soil and are very sensitive to frost. So don’t be in a rush to plant early in spring, remember our average last frost date is April 16th and this year it could be later. Wait until the danger of frost has passed and soil has warmed to about 70 F, or about 2 weeks after the last frost date.
Mound up the soil to make a hill, the soil will warm quicker, you may also put black plastic over it to raise the soil temperature. Plant the seeds ½ to 1 inch deep in the mounded soil. Sow 4 to 5 seeds per hill and each hill about 4 to 8 feet apart. When the plants are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin to 2 to 3 plants per hill by snipping off unwanted plants without disturbing the roots of the remaining ones. These do take up space in the garden, but the vines can be trained vertically to reduce space. You may have to support the growing squash with slings, made from cloth or panty hose, as they grow vertically on the support.
Mulching plants helps retain moisture and suppress weeds. Mounding soil around the base of the plants can discourage squash borers from laying eggs. I have also found aluminum foil laid around the base and under the leaves confuses the squash bugs when they are in the moth stage. Keep your eyes out for the orange eggs on the underside of the leaves, if spotted remove them.
When the stems turn a light green yellow color, the squash should be fully ripe.The fruit is very uniform and will grow up to 8-10" long. The rind will be thick and tough. Cut, do not pull, the ripe fruit from the plant. Two to three inches of stem must remain for proper storing. This may increase the sugar content. The 'Waltham' variety has great storage characteristics and excellent taste!
Check out the Recipes on the blog
Baked Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash
Curried Butternut Soup
Sweet Potatoes are always successful in my garden even if the deer have eaten the vines to the ground several times over the summer season. Sweet potatoes aren't started by seed like most other vegetables, they're started from slips. Slips are shoots that are grown from a mature sweet potato. You can order slips from most seed catalogs or you can start slips from a sweet potato you buy at the store or one from your last years garden. I have had difficulty finding sweet potato slips locally which is why now I just start my own.
You will need a healthy sweet potato, usually I have to resort to getting one from the local grocery store. Now this may not always work depending on if they have sprayed the sweet potato with chemicals which prevent it from sprouting. Now is the time to start looking for a few good potatoes, each sweet potato can produce 12-20 slips so you don't need many mature potatoes. I have had success with our local grocery stores providing the mature sweet potatoes for this process.
When you get your sweet potatoes home, carefully clean them and then cut them in half or into large sections. To start your slips, you need to place each section in a jar or glass of water with half of the potato below the water and the other half above the water. I have used toothpicks stuck into the sides of the potato to hold it in place above the water. In order for the sweet potato to start budding it will need light and a warm place. A window sill that is close to a heating source is a good choice. In a few weeks your potatoes will be covered with leafy sprouts on top and roots on the bottom. Like the picture above.
Rooting The Slips:
Once your sweet potatoes have sprouted and the sprouts (slips) are 8-10 inches long, you need to root the slips.To do this, you take each slip and carefully twist it off of the sweet potato. Then lay the slip in a shallow bowl with the bottom half of the stem submerged in water and the leaves hanging out over the rim of the bowl. Within a few days roots will emerge from the bottom of each new slip. When the roots are about an inch long the new slips are ready to plant. To keep your slips healthy be sure to keep the water fresh and discard any slip that isn't producing roots or looks like it's wilting.
Planting Your Slips:
Sweet Potatoes are a warm weather crop and need the heat to get going so don't plant them until the ground temperature is warm. Recommended planting dates for our area is from May 1st to May 20th. They can't tolerate below 55 degrees for extended periods of time. Sweet Potatoes like loose soil and that's certainly an issue in most of our gardens. If you're going to plant them directly into your garden loosen the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches.
With a hand trowel, dig a hole about 4" or 5" deep and space 12-26 inches apart. Place one slip in each hole carefully covering all the roots and leaving the top leaves exposed. Fill the hole with soil and press the soil around the plant to get good contact with the roots and to remove any air pockets. Water your newly planted slips everyday for the first week then you can reduce the amount of watering. Sweet potatoes are drought tolerant once they are established.
Taking Care Of Your Sweet Potato Vines:
Deer and Rabbits love sweet potato vines and will chew them to the ground if you don't have them protected with a fence of some sort. You will probably still get some sweet potatoes but not a bumper crop if the deer and rabbits eat them back several times over the summer.
Submitted by Tamara Carl
Home Gardening Series University of Arkansas (FSA6018)
If you watching your weight or are a diabetic this wonderful little herb is natural sweetener has zero calories and is not metabolized by the body. Stevia is native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) has leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that remain stable even after the leaves have been dried. Which make it a perfect plant, you can use it fresh from the garden and then dry the leaves in fall before the first frost to use all winter. If you are a tea drinker stevia leaves are a great no calorie sweetener. Stevia can substitute for some, but not all, of the sugar used when baking, because it does not provide all of the multiple functions that sugar does in baked goods.
Growing stevia is easy in well-drained beds or large containers. It likes full sun but if does benefit from afternoon shade in the heat of the day. Stevia grows best in warm conditions similar to those preferred by basil. Plants grown in warm climates will grow to 24 inches tall and wide. Plant 3 -5 plants for a year’s supply of dried stevia leaves. This is considered a tender perennial, (zone 8+) but I had the same plant come back for several years. I planted it right into the garden and harvested the leaves before the first killing frost in the fall. I then mulch the area with about 4 inches of oak leaves. It always made it thru the winter, but it's late to come back to life in the spring so don't give up on it.
If you plan on harvesting the leaves you will want to plant it where you can access it often to harvest the leaves. In order to maximize the leaf production you must trim back the plant several time to induce branching. Make your first trimming when the plant is about 8 inches tall in the early spring and then again in early summer cut back the plant in about half. Stevia can be grown from cuttings and I think it's easier than from seed. So use your cuttings to root new plants for the plant sale or to give as gifts.
Left unpruned, stevia will grow into a lanky, upright plant that produces tiny white flowers in late summer. To maximize leaf production, you must trim back the plants several times to induce branching. You can use the leaves from the stem tips, or root them in moist potting soil to increase your supply of stevia plants. Stevia can be dried in bunches like other herbs, but you will get better quality by drying it in a dehydrator or a 150-degree- Fahrenheit oven until crisp. Store dried leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Wait until you’re ready to use stevia leaves to crush them.
This is definitely an herb you need to add to your garden, and another benefit the deer won't touch it. Below is a chart to give you an idea of how sweet stevia is compared to sugar. Stevia can be used in cooking but does not have the same properties as sugar so I have not been satisfied with the results. I use my stevia mainly for beverages, both hot and cold all year round. Every calorie counts and you know what chemicals it has been exposed to coming fresh from your garden.
Granulated Sugar Stevia
1 tsp. 1/8 tsp.
1 T. 3/8 tsp.
1/4 c. 1 1/2 tsp.
1/2 c. 1 T.
1 c. 2 T.
Submitted by Tamara Carl
Edited by Joan Burr
If you have not grown this leafy herb, which is a relative of the mustard family, you're in for a treat. Since it's a cool weather plant, now is the time to be thinking about getting it into your garden. It has elongated, dark green leaves that look like an elongated oak leaf and the plant resembles loose lettuce.
The flavor of the leaves is slightly hot and peppery, especially when eaten raw. Arugula is very low in calories and is a good source of vitamins A and C, folate, calcium, and magnesium. It can be eaten raw, added to salads with other salad greens, or cooked. The leaves are excellent when sauteed lightly in olive oil or steamed and added to pasta dishes. The leaves can also be made into pesto and served with pasta or potatoes or as an accompaniment to roasted or grilled meats. I find arugula especially good raw on sandwiches instead of lettuce to give the sandwich a bit of a kick. If you are lucky enough to have a large quantity I have dried it and ground it up to use as a rub along with other herbs as a marinade for chicken or beef.
A recipe for a very quick, slightly messy lunch or snack
This will also be posted on the blog so it's easy to find.
Arugula/Egg/Salsa Wrap (serves 1)
Olive oil1 egg
Medium-sized flour tortilla
Several arugula leaves
Spoonful of tomato salsa (I use Pace brand)
Break an egg into a heated skillet with a little olive oil.
Immediately pierce the yolk.
When the egg is about halfway cooked, top it with the tortilla.
Cook briefly, so the egg and tortilla are stuck together.
Use spatula to flip the tortilla/egg over and add cheese if desired.
Cook (either side up) just until egg is done enough to suit you.
Remove from skillet and top with arugula and salsa.
Roll it up burrito-style.
Submitted by Tamara Carl
Recipe submitted by Joan Burr
Edited by Joan Burr
Every year the International Herb Association chooses an 'Herb of the Year." This year's selection is the genus Artemisia. This diverse herb family contains many different plants, from the highly decorative Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver King' to the delicious and tender French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus 'Sativa'). You may know an Artemisia by the name Sweet Annie, Mugwort, Wormwood, Tarragon, Southerwood or Sagebrush. Artemisia has a long history, and has been used to heal, create tasty beverages and even decorate our homes.
Many Artemsias have silvery foliage that is fern-like, but the foliage and form of Artemisias vary widely. Some have dark green narrow leaves, while others have broad leaves. The shape and form of Artemisia vary from small rounded bushes, to low sprawling mats, with many variations in between. There are even species that form small trees.
Artemisia dracunculus 'Sativa', commonly known as French tarragon, is a perennial herb with long, light green leaves and tiny greenish or yellowish white flowers. French tarragon is a culinary herb that has a sweet anise flavor, and it can be used in salads, sauces and to top soups. It's also great paired with shellfish, fish, chicken and turkey. For the traditional Bearnaise sauce it's an essential ingredient.
Sun: Full Sun to Part Sun
Soil type: Sandy, Loamy
If you are purchasing the plant be aware that Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculoides) is very closely related to French tarragon but has no anise flavor at all. Sometimes they are mislabeled so ask to taste a leaf to make sure you are getting French tarragon. There is also a Mexican tarragon, which is not in the same family as the French or Russian. It's a marigold (Tagetes lucida), grown as an annual. The leaves have similar oils to those of French tarragon and can be used as a culinary stand-in for French tarragon. When purchasing tarragon, make sure the plants in 4 inch pots have at least three green shoots, and buy them in the spring to plant in your garden before the summer heat sets in.
Submitted by: Tamara Carl
Edited by Joan Burr
International Herb Association (www.iherb.org)
Examiner.com Artemisia Herb of the Year
This classic herb provides delicate flavor with minimal effort by Andrew Yeoman Fine Gardening
Old farmers Almanac