Let's Get Dirty

A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.

Send stories and pictures of your horticultural adventures to letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.

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Weird crops: Amaranth

By Penny Stine
Monday, July 18, 2011

Last year, I grew an ornamental variety of amaranth because the seeds were ridiculously cheap from Park Seeds and the description of the plant sounded intriguing. I had no idea what it looked like, wasn't familiar with the flower, and was pleasantly surprised when these grew in my garden.

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the season last year, I began researching amaranth and discovered that not only is it cool-looking it’s also edible. The seeds of certain varieties (the non-ornamental ones) can be eaten like a grain, kind of like quinoa. The tender, young leaves are also edible and can be used raw or cooked. The nutrition content is off the charts.

 

I collected seeds at the end of last season and planted it in a couple places in my garden. I'm pretty sure this is the maroon ornamental variety that I planted way too close to the tomato.

 

 

 

 

It also planted itself in the area where I threw all my compost last November. I  purchased a second type of amaranth that was supposed to have a bright orange flower and produce better seeds for cooking, which I also planted in random places throughout the garden. I think the amaranth in this photo is a combination of the maroon ornamental variety and the orange giant grain variety, but I'm not sure. 

 

Since my spinach went to seed a month ago, my Swiss chard isn’t producing much and I’m roasting all the kale leaves I can pick, I decided to try the amaranth leaves while they were still small.


I don’t know if I’d like a salad with nothing but amaranth leaves, but they’ve been a great (and colorful) addition to other mixed greens. Likewise, I’ve added chopped amaranth leaves in rice, egg and pasta dishes where I’d normally put spinach. It’s actually pretty good.

Amaranth is related to pigweed, so if you plant it, pay attention to where you put it so you don’t accidentally pull it, thinking it’s a weed.
 

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What do you do with mint? Drink it, of course

By Penny Stine
Friday, July 15, 2011


Anyone who grows mint in a flowerbed knows that pretty soon you have a mint bed with a few flowers in it. This year, I’ve taken to adding mint to salads, stir-fry and some pastas in an effort to use some of it. Of course, some goes into mojitos, too.


I brought some spare mint to work to give away to whoever would take it and Lynn Lickers made a brilliant, simple and delightful drink out of it. Lynn steeped the fresh mint leaves in boiling water for a bit (I don’t remember how long), added a bit of agave nectar, then iced it down and drank it. She said it was delish.


I wanted to try it but didn’t have any agave nectar (seriously, Lynn, whaddya do with agave nectar? Distill your own tequila???) so I just poured a little glomp of honey in when I poured the boiling water over the mint leaves. A glomp is less than a glug, but larger than a couple squeezes. I let it steep for a couple of hours. I probably used at least five long sprigs of mint. 


It too, is delish and incredibly refreshing. It’s my new fave summertime drink. I’m hoping that maybe by replacing the regular ice tea I drink in the summer with mint nectar (tea, water, whatever) that perhaps my insomnia will abate. So far, no such luck, but you never know.
 

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Abundant produce from my own garden

By Annie LeVan
Thursday, July 14, 2011

Well, the abundance has begun. We have been enjoying salads of lettuce and spinach for a while, but now the carrots are getting large enough to eat, so crunchy and sweet, and the zucchini is so tender. I have pulled up most of the peas, and the beans I planted (second round) in their shadows are about 6" tall. Proof that my careful pre-planning worked.

The eggplant will be the next to make its way to our dinner plates.

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The wonderful, magical tomato

By Melinda Mawdsley
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The time is here.

At approximately 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 12, I weighed the three pounds of fresh garden tomatoes that I was allowed to take home as a member of the Cameron Place CSA.

Seriously, nothing excites this produce-lover more than heirloom tomatoes. Nothing.

Keep it simple this summer. Slice up a tomato, top it with mozzarella (fresh is better but deli slices work just fine), and finish it off with one leaf of garden basil.

Also excellent is bruschetta. Get a nice baquette roll and slice to about one-inch thickness. Place the slices on a cookie sheet. Next, drizzle each slice with olive oil. In a side bowl or plastic bag, dice tomatoes and basil and stir in balsamic vinegar. Once that's all mixed, I spoon the mixture on top of the bread slices. Finish it off with a bit of mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted to your preference. It's not like you can mess up the recipe.

And how do I finish off a nice meal of vegetable, herb and cheese?

I also got four of these Tuesday!

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Ode to the hollyhock

By Erin McIntyre
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I view hollyhocks as a bit of an oxymoronic flower. The almost exotic-looking blooms are reminiscent of hibiscus and some have double flowers, with frilly tutu-like petals. Although hollyhocks are most known for edging English cottage gardens, out West we know them as the signal pointing to the outhouse. These showy flowers thrive on neglect, don’t need much watering, and grow tall enough to lean up against the privy. Strange that such an elegant flower is a beacon for the toilet.


Hardy hollyhocks don’t mind our hot summers, clay soils or lack of precipitation, for the most part. Spires of their blooms tower over the rest of my garden. It’s wise to plant them along a fence or something else tall for a little support in case of strong winds, as they easily grow 6 feet tall. These beauties bloom mid-summer to fall here in the valley, and can overwinter (and often re-seed themselves anyway). You have to be a little patient, though, as the most hollyhock plants will not bloom the first year you plant them (there is a variety called “majorette” that is supposed to bloom the first year, but I’ve never tried growing it). I think they’re worth the wait, though, as they reward you with spectacular blooms until fall. I’ve also heard that planting hollyhocks in the fall can help you get a head start for next year, so it might be a good time to think about that now.

One of our close family friends and neighbors had an entertaining trick for turning a hollyhock flower into a hula doll with a toothpick, which my sister and I loved as children. I can’t seem to get it quite right. According to Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service, hollyhocks are edible. I have no idea who would want to eat them – the texture is a bit repulsive with all that fuzz on the outside and the sliminess of the inside. Then again, lots of people like okra.
 

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Page 75 of 112




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