Thursday, September 15, 2011

Simply in Season.....

"Simply in Season", I just love this cookbook....

Eggplant Cheese Pie..... a recipe I found in this incredible book that features new recipes and reflections on eating seasonal foods grown locally.
This was a very tough and challenging growing season on most of us gardeners.  We went through excessive heat and no rain or flooding.  The only survivor in my Edible Garden is the eggplant-plant.....and it surely is producing in abundance.  Now what will I prepare with it? 
I am always searching for new recipes, especially when the ingredients are growing fresh in my garden.  Sometimes I think that I will not live long enough to cook all the recipes that I have collected.  But, cooking is a passion of mine as is eating healthy, whole foods and gardening/growing plants for the ingredients makes it even more rewarding.  Therefore, growing an edible plant in my garden, finding a wonderful recipe to prepare with it and the reward of eating it, is a win-win situation for me.
I usually always have a stack of books that I take out of the library, yes I love books also.  Cook books are always included in these borrowed books from the library.  When I came across Simply in Season written by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert, I knew this was one that needed to be added to my personal collection.  With this book, your imagination and appetite will be piqued with fresh herbs and spices, seasonal vegetables and fruits and ways of cooking them.  "Simply in Season" is a fun, easy cookbook that follows the cycle of the year. The recipes complement the seasons--from tomatoes in the summertime to persimmons in autumn. There's an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, so the cooking is quite healthy. The recipes are also user-friendly.  ( Eggplant Cheese Pie )

"This cookbook reflects a commitment to eat what is in season. Enjoy the flavors and gifts of this book." -- Graham Kerr (The Galloping Gourmet)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

John Deere, more then just a tractor......

 When I asked my daughter Denise what she thought that her son would like for his birthday, she told me he likes computers and John Deere.  I quickly knew I was not getting a computer for David, and so my focus turned to John Deere.  In thinking about what I could get for him, I remembered seeing Dora the Explorer "character" fleece fabric in Jo Ann's, the fabric and craft store.  If John Deere was so popular, which was new to me, surely there would be fabric in that theme.  And I was right, there were 8 bolts of assorted John Deere themed fleece fabric.  I just had to select one.  I eliminated 2 really cute, but "nursery"  looking prints, not at all acceptable for an 8 year old big boy!

My idea was to make David a non-sew blanket, like the one that I got from Small Paws Rescue, when I adopted Charlie, one of my Bichon foster dogs.   By the way Charlie loves this blanket and somehow knows that it belongs to him.

By simply googling "no-sew fleece blanket, it was very easy to find instructions for making this type of blanket.  All you needed was a tape measure and a pair of scissors. I quickly tried to cut the fabric with about 4 scissors I had on hand, but none  would cut the fabric.  I then tried my kitchen sheers, from my set of WUSTHOF knives, which was a Christmas gift from an ex-boyfriend, many years ago.  Thank goodness they cut the fabric, so again, years later thank you Peter!  I use these knives all the time in food preparation, but never thought that I would use the kitchen sheers for a project like this.  And now I was ready to go........ cut knot, cut knot, cut knot and so on.
This is not the first themed blanket or comforter that I have made.  When my daughter Carrie was about 8 years old, she loved Holly Hobbie.  Everything was about the Holly Hobbie theme.  I made her a patchwork quilt, which she absolutely adored and showed off to everyone.  Until the day came that she decided that this was a "babies" blanket and she was too grown up to have it.  Then I who at one time was the hero for making this for her, became the mom who forced her to have this baby stuff.
David, I hope you love your birthday-John Deere blanket as much as your Aunt Carrie loved her Hollie Hobbie blanket.  When you get tired off it, just pack it up so that some day you can take it out and show it to your children. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011


The butterflies and the dragonflies are out in abundance in my yard these last several weeks. The photo of this Monarch was taken this morning as I was out taking the photo of my Dwarf Poinciana. The Dwarf Poinciana, or Caesalpinia Pulcherrima, has found a new home.

Here is my Dwarf Poinciana in it's new home.

Fully grown and in flower this is what this plant will look like. The story behind this little plant is as follows: two months ago at a master gardener meeting that I attended, one of the other MG's announced he had some seed pods that he had collected 5 years ago and has had sitting in his desk drawer. Always being on a quest for new plants, I took 2 pods.

I "googled " dwarf poinciana and read that before attempting to grow from seeds, the seeds should be soaked for several days. These pods were really dry, so I soaked the seeds in warm water for several days. The 2 pods gave me 14 seeds.
In my usual way of starting seeds, I planted the seeds in toilet paper rolls. I fill these rolls with my home made mixture of potting soil and stand them upright in a clear plastic tray that I get from salad bars. This creates a miniature hot house. I mist the "seeds" once or twice a day so they do not dry and I can see the humidity when covered with the top of the tray. Behind the dwarf Poinciana seedlings is a tray of Purple Trumpet Plants that I am also starting. Within 3-4 days the seeds began to sprout.
And from 14 seeds, I got 6 plants........isn't nature wonderful?

I have already given away one plant to a friend yesterday, leaving me several additional plants up for adoption to good homes.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Does a tree have 9 lives like a cat?

This is my backyard after a Tornado/Twister roared thru Central Florida on March 30, 2011. All my huge trees were uprooted, ripped out of the ground and turned on their sides. It was difficult to pick any particular plant out of the pile. I searched for my little Gossypium Barbadense, or Egyptian Cotton tree that I had started from a seed about 10 months earlier. This poor little plant had already survived freezing temperatures and managed to come back....was it gone now?

The Gossypium Barbadense is a survivor. Look at her now below, she stands about 4.5 foot tall and gets more beautiful with each day. On a visit with a group of master gardeners to the Polasek Museum & Gardens, I came across the specimen that was there and had just flowered. The flower creates an actual cotton ball in which seeds are located. I loved the tree with it's unusual shape leaves and cut a couple of these seed pods to take with me and attempt to propagate. I was successful with starting 3, kept one for myself and gave two away, the two I gave away did not survive.....and no more seeds. And now my surviving plant was lost.

The rest of the story since I started my little tree.....The original was removed from the Polasek Gardens, so there will be no more seeds available from there to grow another. As I began to clean up my yard, look at what I found. My little cotton tree was safe and standing proudly between the fallen trees.

This is not the end of this story. When the trees were cleared from my yard and cut up to slices to remove a tree fell right on my little tree. But is was still there. I had to cut it back to about 1 foot high with no leaves. Talk about a "Charlie Brown" tree. I had to protect it from someone coming along and just pulling it out of the ground thinking it was nothing more then a twig!

But it did thrive and grow, maybe better then it would have had it been shaded as before. As I am slowly replacing all my shade loving plants with sun loving varieties, my little Gossypium Barbadense remains one of my favorites.....but look at what she has been through. First below freezing temperatures of the winter, then a tornado and then being crushed. I am hoping that it will flower this year and produce its own cotton pods with seeds.......

Here is a leaf close up with it's unique shape and purple veins & stems, which measures across about 8-10 inches. Oh, I forgot to mention that my home is currently for sale, so I will have to leave this little tree behind at some point in time. With new seeds collected and propagated I will surely keep one in a portable pot to go with me.

Anyone want to put their name on a list for a plant if I am lucky to get some seeds?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What is bigger, a grape or a tomato?

This may look like a big basket of vine ripened tomatoes. Guess again, this is a very tiny-little basket with tiny Everglade tomatoes. Who was it who said good things come in small boxes/baskets? The photo below will show you the true size of these yummy tomatoes, placed just below a grape and above a dime.

Here is the story of the Everglade Tomato, Zone 9-10 for year-round growth, but OK in all states in your season. Typically, in Florida tomatoes do not grow and produce in the hot summer. Our normal season is to plant seeds continuously from August through February then harvest as ready. Never are there tomatoes in the heat of Summer.

But this is no ordinary tomato. This is the native wild Florida Everglades tomato. If you get the chance to taste a few they are outstanding, sweet with a delightful true tomato taste.

I got my first plant last year from another Master Gardener...but knew nothing about the variety, only that the tomato would be small....I assumed like a grape tomato. I have come to find out that almost nothing can stop them, not even a tornado....which mine have personally experienced. Below is a photo taken of my plants with what seems like hundreds of tiny morsels just waiting to be picked.

My crop this season just showed up, and I have shared them with many friends. I never planted them after the first year. I have been told that the very easiest way to plant seeds is to take a very ripe fruit then gently squish it into the soil with your shoe where you want tomato plants to grow. This technique is 100% sure to grow (many) plants in that spot (you'll have to thin the sprouts). If you would like to try it, I would be happy to share some of my tiny tomatoes with you.....let me know.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Sun Will Come Out Tommorow.....

Did you ever have the words of a song stuck in your head? The words from the song from the play Annie have been with me for some weeks now.....In the front of my home, this Lilly proudly displays its beautiful flower in a grouping of many just like it. From the front elevation of my home there is no evidence that nature has blown through and caused a total "upset" to my garden plans. On March 30, 2010 a tornado/twister touched down directly on my back yard, literally lifting it 3 foot up in the air and depositing it down on it's side. This did not effect any of my neighbors properties. They still have heavily treed yards, as I did, except for my side neighbor who had two trees come down right into my bedroom roof and screened patio. I write this post now for me. as I believe it is part of my personal process to deal with this event......I guess I can call it the grieving process.

I am not writing this complaining because I know just how lucky I am. I was home at the time this happened, got my 3 dogs and got into the closet until the crashing noise and shaking of the home stopped. We are all safe, not my roof, not my yard, but what is really important is safe! Nestled under Majestic Oaks in a park- like setting used to describe my back yard. Sounds like a Real Estate phrase, doesn't it? But, this was how I would have described my back yard before, after all gardening is one of my true passions.

I remember wishing that we would get some heavy rain to clean up and finish off the mess and droppings from the oak trees, which always got so annoying for several weeks each spring. Now here is a big lesson on being very specific on what we ask for. I never meant to eliminate totally all my Oak trees, just the droppings!!! As I begin to clean up the mess, I am thankful that my little Gossypium Barbadense (Egyptian Cotton tree), has survived the storm and is hanging on. I could see through all the rubble that it was still standing upright and had not gotten crushed. I was thrilled! But needless to say, when the "downed trees" were being cut up to remove one fell on it and it snapped in half. But this little tree is a survivor, I cut it back and protected it from being pulled out as a branch sticking up, and it is again getting some new growth.

Today I spent several hours out doing some more clean up. Buried under some overgrown plants in the one area of my yard that did not get crushed, I found this Orchid in bloom, what a wonderful surprise. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, it just took me some time to get here.

I am still "negotiating" with the insurance company on what will be paid to complete repairs to my home. I have had to hire an Independent Insurance Adjuster to negotiate for me just as you would have an attorney represent you on other issues. The first payment sent was returned and it is looking now like the payment for repairs will exceed 4X that original offer. Yes I have learned alot from this experience. First thing...never accept the first offer!!

This is part of what I did out side this afternoon. You are looking at my raised "Edible beds". Those little Everglade tomatos are still thriving, despite being crushed, almost to death. The last several weeks prior to this storm, I was thinning them out and giving tomato plants away, to everyone....maybe that was an omen.

Back to the fresh mulch. It is actually the mulch from one of the tree stump grindings. So as I shoveled the mulch into my wheel barrel, moved it across the yard, and put it down, I had the feeling as if I was distributing ashes from a love onto their final resting destination. Which it was in reality, this tree was my oak that was covered about 5 foot all around the base and about 12 foot up with Bromeliads. I originally planted about four plants around the base when I moved in to my home in 2002 to see what would happen.

This storm caused a loss, but again I will say I am lucky. The damage could have been much more horrific like so many others have suffered this year with tornadoes/twisters. I will have to get used to no shade and the beating hot sun. It will take time to replant and make my back yard pretty again, as I will! But I know it will never be the same and I know that. Out with the shade loving plants and as you can see I have gotten my first 3 cactus plants.

I will be fine, we will all be fine, but my message here is appreciate all that you have, and take photographs, because in the blink of an eye all can change....................

Monday, March 7, 2011

Does all this color indicate the arrival of spring?

I certainly hope so.....notice the insect getting nector from this flower.

I have not planted any thing new in my yard this season, all that is springing up in bloom here have been planted from previous seasons.

When I trimmed away all the old brown and dead branches from the surface, look at what I uncovered hidden away.
This is the flower from "Mother of Thousands", a succulent. Plants from this family are usually unusual and interesting.
And much to my surprise they all came back.......proving again you can grow plants anywhere and I do!

A healty tomato plant sending out flowers. One of many-many that reseeded itself from last season. The "critter" I have been battleing, that ate almost everything in my edible gardens, obviously does not care for tomato plants.....yet.

No color here, but as I walked my yard today, I was thrilled to see my Gossypium Barbadense (Egyptian Cotton tree), break out with leaves and doing well....for several reasons. This plant is a native of Peru and I started it from a seed that I collected on a visit to the Polansek Gardens and Museum in Winter Park, Florida. I did not know that I would be successful to propagate it, to begin with and I did not think it would tolerate and survive the severe cold temperatures we experienced in Central Florida for several evenings. Also, I am told that the garden no longer has it's tree where I obtained the seeds.
There is always a surprise in store in my garden and as usual, I welcome it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Look What I Caught.....

With a face like this does he look guilty? In a previous post Who has been eating my arugula, I talked about my vegetable garden invasions in the night. Yes, some critter was stealing my produce right from under my nose while I was sleeping. I had no choice I borrowed a Have a Heart Trap from a friend's dad and set it out in my garden baited. I thought that I might catch the critter who was guilty. I caught a squirrel!! My dogs went bonkers when they saw it. My first thought was that it was impossible to be a squirrel doing this....I have thousands in my yard. They breed, like rabbits, up in my huge Oak trees that fill my yard. They are a nuisance in many ways, they eat all the bird food that I put out so I had to stop, and they torment my 3 dogs constantly, especially Niko, my biggest hunter. I think I was hoping to catch a Rabbit or something cute.

As I again took a glimpse at my plants chewed down to just nubs, I just knew I needed to move forward with my plan and remove what I caught from my yard, however I was starting to feel guilty about it. Could this squirrel be a mom with a nest of babies up in the tree close by? I do not know how you would tell the sex of a squirrel, however as I stopped to take the photo of my little trapped critter, I did notice that he looked like he could be a boy squirrel therefore I was not responsible for potential orphan squirrels. This should make me feel a bit better right? Wrong, as we got into my car to relocate the little fella, I thought about in my heart, I don't believe he is the guilty party, but just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and he fell for the bait! I know I surely have been in that position. I found my self talking to him about the ride in the car as he sat in the trap in my back seat. I knew for sure this had to be his first ride. I put on the music for him to calm him...some Jazz. It would be alright, I was taking him to a better neighborhood about a mile away and across 2 major roads. Upon arrival to my destination, I removed the trap from my car and I opened the door releasing him on the Seminole County Bike trail. He was gone in a New York minute and up a tree. Good luck little guy, I hope you are happy in your new digs.

Back to my problem, When I arrived back home, I did speak to one of my neighbors the one behind me, who told me that she has been seeing rats in her yard and her hubby was trapping them. Now I know for sure, who is stealing my veggies and that makes sense! I just have to decide if I want to deal with attempting to trap them and deal with it if I do, or just do nothing and see what happens.

The " Have a Heart Trap" is the most humane trap to catch an animal without causing them any harm or danger. They come in various sizes, are fairly easy to use and can be used over and over.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Attention all single gals! Could this be the breakthrough we are waiting for?

As a Seminole County, Florida, Master Gardener I attend a monthly meeting of this group. Sometimes we have invited speakers, we exchange ideas, plant cuttings and sometimes even trade seeds to start our own plants. At last week's meeting, I was given two packs of seeds. You are viewing the front of the package above. Could this be for real, Grow Your Own Boy Toy?? Not a bad concept at all. Give this package of seeds to this girl that still believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and watch me plant them following the growing tips.
Let's see I live in zone 1, per the instructions on the back of the package, outdoor planting dates, September-February. It is time to plant.......
So watch for updates, days to germinate 8-18 days.
Could it be, Grow Your Own Boy Toy??
May all our dreams come true!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Who is eating my Arugala?

Gardeners have been experiencing very unusual and unpredictable weather lately. In my own Central Florida garden, my Christmas Cactus photographed at Christmas/late December 2010 is just beginning to bloom. This plant typically in past years has been as predictable as the best calender, displaying it's showy flowers, as a gift, just in time for Christmas day. We were caught with little warning in mid December with a "hard frost" for two consecutive nights killing off and browning up plants, gardens and even turf. Floridians like myself are not used to this and as a gardener, I find this to be just so invasive of nature to just wipe out with one swoop my beloved garden. Below is what was left of my "edible garden".

As I moped about, surveying the damage, I did discover buried way in the back of my yard in a very often not explored spot, a Bromeliad in bloom. Was this a sign that Mother Nature was attempting to win back some of my lost admiration and wonderment?

So, after looking at my edible garden disaster for several weeks , as long as I could possibly endure this, I did break down and pull everything out and replanted. Ah a new fresh start. I planted all the "winter or cold weather" veggies that could survive another hard freeze. I planted several varieties of lettuce, celery, broccoli, cabbage-green and red, brussel sprouts, kale, beets and probably some additional veggies that I just did not think of now, in addition to many herbs in portable pots, that can be moved under cover in severe or freezing weather.

So here are my new little sprouts proudly doing what I expect of them. And I do check them several times a day. Even my kale and beets are coming up from seeds. My raised beds measure 4 foot X 6 foot, and were easily made by cutting 2 pressure treated boards in half, originally 12 foot and 8 foot. A drill and and some special screws and I have my raised beds to house my edible garden and I control the growinng soil. Yes, since the new planting, we had several additional evenings with a hard freeze and I just cover my raised beds with a full size fitted sheet....really easy. I would like to take the credit that I thought this out and planned it accordingly, but cannot. This worked out quite by accident!

This morning, I noticed that my Arugula was ready for harvest. There is nothing like going out to the garden to pick fresh produce for dinner. I immediately got on the Internet and found a recipe for Cape Cod Chopped Salad which looked very yummy, and proceeded to go outside with my basket and clippers to pick my Arugula. was all gone! Chewed down to just nubs. Who is eating my Arugula? What furry little critter is getting the benefit of all my work? First the weather then the critters.....

By the way, I will mention for any of you Vegitarians out there, I am sure this salad would still be yummy with the bacon left off!

Obviously the photo above of the Arugala is not from my garden. I have decided to just be patient and wait for my crop to regrow, which it will....and I will get to it first.

If you are not familiar with Arugula, it is a spicy little leaf, which some describe as bitter and others characterize as having a "peppery-mustardy" flavor. Because it is so potent on its own, it is often mixed with milder greens to produce a nice balanced salad. It can also be sauteed in olive oil. You can substitute most any green for arugula, but the closest matches are Belgian endive, escarole, and dandelion greens.

In the meantime, while I wait, I will admire my Orchid which is in full bloom and fills my kitchen with the sweetest aroma. But, I could not help to think that what I have experienced in my garden is probably how one would feel when they go to the refrigerator for a glass of milk and find a milk container empty!!!