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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Geri Anderson
Thursday, July 1, 2010
I am generally willing to try something new. So one year I ordered four fruit bushes along with two sets of strawberries from Gurneys http://www.gurneys.com
This is the South Dakota nursery I have had great experience with over fourteen years and three distinct growing regions—planting beach roses and an apricot tree literally on the beach in Massachusetts, a fruitless pear and bleeding hearts in the Humidity west of Houston, Texas, and strawberries, rhubarb, hasta, etc. here.
Anyway, my first spring back in the valley I ordered a red currant bush and three blueberry bushes--as I'd come to love blueberries when living on the East Coast and in Texas. However, sadly I discovered the error of trying to raise blueberries in a desert climate—they like an acid soil and lots of humidity, and no matter what we did to try to create these attributes, the blueberries suffered—but the currant has done well. It’s grown to about 4 feet tall.
Its fruit is tiny and tart. According to Gurney’s, red currants are “juicy and quite tart…traditionally used for jellies, jams, and cooked desserts”. The currants have a small seed in some of the fruit (or maybe it’s simply that the seed is large enough to be noticed in some fruit..?)
They grow on tiny stems, with many fruit branched off the main stem, rather like grapes do (in miniature). Here’s about a fourth of the crop, on a saucer. I harvested about 5 cups, cleaned, and this would be my fourth growing season.
Okay, so the plant thrives and the fruit is currently ready--and pretty. What next? What does one do with currants? I scoured my cookbooks....and, I am going to try them in two recipes, as I am not in the mood for making jelly. So I will blog and let you know the verdict:
Currant Pie or
Red Currant Muffins!
Does anyone have childhood memories of currant desserts? Can anyone else attest to its flavor in homemade jams and jellies? I know one lifelong resident fruit grower tells me they made currant jelly last year, and "Currant jelly is the best there is!"
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I have confessed to being very green when it comes to gardening — meaning I have no idea what I’m doing.
When I decided to become a “gardener,” I began my education with the internet by Googling every gardening site I could find. I was looking for simple answers to what I thought were simple questions. What I got was information overload.
Did you know there are at least 58 varieties of tomatoes? There are tomatoes that are better suited for salads and some that are great for burgers. Some tomatoes are more acidy and some sweet. Do I like acidy tomatoes? Do I want staked tomatoes or a vigorous bush variety? Honestly, I just want tomatoes that smell and taste like tomatoes — unlike those mock-matoes you get in the store. Yes, they are red but that is about as tomatoey as they get.
Tomato plant: The homegrown variety
Thank heaven for gardening friends. I am very grateful there are so many real gardeners out there who are willing to share their secrets with me. There is no real competition among gardeners except for the friendly kind. Real gardeners love to see things grow whether they grow in their garden or yours. Now when I have questions, I turn to my newfound friends who are willing to teach me what they have spent years learning.
They didn’t laugh at me when I killed my first plants but instead gave me advice and encouragement as I planted a new one. Because of them, my family and I can look forward to fresh tomatoes in our salad and on our burgers. Thanks.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I neither read the book nor saw the movie, so I hope any die-hard fans of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” will forgive me, but the name stuck somewhere in the back of my mind and I wanted to borrow it.
Seriously, though… what’s up with this?
I thought marigolds were supposed to be a bug deterrent, not an appetizer for the main course, which seems to be all of my basil plants that are scattered throughout my garden. Most of them now look like this:
But to show that whatever is munching my marigolds and basil is an equal opportunity devourer, it’s attacking the zinnias, too.
I don’t usually spray or use any kind of herbicide or insecticide in my garden. It’s not that I’m a die-hard organic kind of gal, since I rarely buy organic produce at the store, it’s just that it would be one more thing to learn about and one more chore, and I find myself already overloaded.
Anybody have a clue what’s eating everything in my garden? I haven’t actually seen any type of creepy-crawly out there, but whatever it is also ate a couple of squash and melons right when the first came up and destroyed them.
By Penny Stine
Monday, June 28, 2010
Every year, I like to plant something I’ve never grown before in my garden, which is how I discovered pattypan squash, kale and tomatillos. Much to my delight, I discovered that all grow quite well in our climate and my family enjoys eating all three, which makes it even better.
This year, I tripled my garden space, so I added a lot of plants I’d never grown before, like borage, which is an herb that’s supposed to be a good companion plant for strawberries. It’s also supposed to give you courage or lift your melancholy spirits. Both the leaves and the flowers, which have yet to appear on my plants, are edible.
After 10 minutes of Internet research, I learned that the leaves supposedly smell like cucumbers and are good infused in vermouth and can also be eaten in a salad. Being the adventurous gardener and cook that I am, I picked some to sample before putting it in my Asian shrimp salad.
Personally, I think you have to display courage to eat borage because it’s one of those plants with a weird texture. While it does smell faintly of cucumber, the leaves are not fuzzy like peaches. They’re hairy like gorillas.
I tasted it anyway. Hmmm, interesting. Maybe you’re supposed to eat it only after you’ve drunk a bottle or two of borage-infused vermouth. Maybe then you’ll agree that it tastes more like cucumber and not fish oil.
Regardless, I put it in my salad anyway. Since I also put in home-grown arugula and other salad greens, along with mint, basil and cilantro, I figured the hairy texture and fishy flavor would be masked.
My husband loved the salad, but thought he detected a faint taste of dirt, which could have been the arugula. He’s not a big arugula fan.
I brought borage leaves to work and had a few courageous people sample it. They all agreed it smelled like cucumbers. Some thought it tasted like cucumbers; two people detected a fishy after-taste and one woman thought it tasted like watermelon. She’s always upbeat and positive and sees the good in everything, though, even hairy, fishy edible herbs.
I doubt that I’ll be eating any more borage, even when it flowers. It should look pretty, though, which counts for something in my book.
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Happy Fourth of July. Don’t forget to celebrate our nation’s independence with patriotic displays of flags and fireworks.
At least pumpkin seeds. Years ago I interviewed a local farmer who grew acres of pumpkins for a pumpkin patch. He told me the Fourth of July is the right time to plant pumpkins in order for them to be mature just in time for jack-o’-lantern carving come Halloween.
It’s an easy date to remember and we’ve planted them around Independence Day ever since.
My kids like to grow ginormous pumpkins for carving, and I like Sugar Pies for canning. Most pumpkin varieties mature in 85 to 100 days.
So plant now for a summer of lush, vining tendrils (give them lots and lots of room) and a fall harvest for pumpkin carving or pies.
(Thanks, Haute Mamas Robin, for the photo illustration.)