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.

Page 110 of 117

Finding a needle in a haystack wouldn’t be this hard

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A garden is always an opportunity to learn, isn’t it?

I wanted to try growing pole beans this year and I read that they were a good companion plant for corn. As the corn grows taller, it gives the beans somewhere to go.

Not content with your basic beans, I decided to go for more color and planted morning glories and scarlet runner beans. I thought they would be pretty all growing together.

And it would have been, if they all bloomed together. But the runner beans bloomed first, giving me red flowers in the corn stalks. Then the pole beans started, with little white flowers. Finally the morning glories began showing off in the early hours.

The only problem is that the corn continues to get monstrous, blocking out the sun for the beans, which limits their ability to continue flowering. Plus, the beans have begun producing beans, and finding them in the corn/bean/morning glory jungle is like playing Where’s Waldo in the garden, except instead of trying to find a funny-looking guy in glasses and a striped shirt, I’m trying to find green beans.

Oh well, at least I’ve learned what not to do next year.


If you plant it, it will grow

By Melinda Mawdsley
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It’s time to throw a little controversy into the gardening blog.

This garden isn’t mine. Heck, this garden isn’t even local. It’s the joint effort of my parents and grandparents in Iowa where farmers take their squash plants seriously.

Even in the winter, they are prepping to plant. So it should come as no surprise, being a farmer’s daughter, that I would use a recent trip back to Iowa to highlight gardening in the Midwest.

Every region of the country, for the most part, has strengths or obstacles when it comes to growing fruits and vegetables. In Iowa, the biggest strength is its soil.

I don’t know anyone who adds anything to soil in Iowa other than the ocassional pesticide or insecticide. It is as black as night. Honestly, I’ve thought about paying my parents to haul buckets of the stuff out here where the soil is dry and a little low on nutrients.

Is that illegal?

Consequently, plants — and weeds — flourish in Iowa’s humid summer months where plenty of rain typically falls, giving the state this lush green color that does not exist here.  Even an outsider — my Mesa County-native husband — marveled at the plants.

That’s a kohlrabi, which he had never heard about. In the Mawdsley family, kohlrabi is dessert. Peel that sucker and eat it raw.

However, he did note, as did my parents, that fruit doesn’t grow in Iowa like it does in Mesa County. True. I have to ship Palisade peaches home later this summer.


“We eat what we can, and what we can’t, we can.”

By Carol Clark
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Looking back, growing up in Loma had its advantages. Only five miles from Highline Lake, we loved to ride our bikes to the lake unattended by parents. July was sweltering and the water felt heavenly, even though it was full of dirt, fish and dreaded crawdads. After hours of swimming our reward was to find ripe apricots in the big apricot tree on the beach. These memories have me craving apricots every year.

The Advertising Manager at the Sentinel has beautiful 70-year-old apricot trees in her yard on the Redlands. Remnants of an old orchard. Although she loves the beautiful trees 11 months of the year, she curses the month that the fruit ripens and squishes all over her yard. So, she graciously opens her mini orchard to her hungry coworkers, giving us as much as we can pick.

Mom gave me her food mill which is the most ingenious contraption I have ever seen. Fruit goes into the top and seeds and skin come out one side, pureed fruit comes out the front ready to can or dry. She thought she had died and gone to heaven when she bought this back in the day. This makes canning and drying so easy!

This year we canned apricot butter, apricot jam and made apricot leather, but our favorite has been the apricot smoothies we've made for breakfast every morning. We will freeze extra for these.


  • Place 4-5 large ripe apricots in your blender.
  • Add 1/2 - 3/4 cup milk
  • About 1 tablespoon honey and
  • 2 cups of ice.

Blend this together in your blender until all the ice is crushed, (being sure to make as much noise as possible so those teenagers in your house can't sleep in :-)


Sunshine and watermelons

By Penny Stine
Monday, July 26, 2010

John Denver wrote that sunshine on his shoulders made him happy, and my watermelons and me agree wholeheartedly with that statement. (And no, that's not a euphemism for anything else. I'm talking about watermelons here... in spite of the name of the blog, this is a G-rated entry)

We tore up a huge section of lawn on the west edge of our property in search of a big enough space and better sunshine for growing lavender and melons. I planted the melons on the same day and took these pictures last week. This one gets at least eight hours of sunshine a day.

This one gets about five or six hours of sunshine a day.

In the week since I took the photos, the big watermelon plant has gotten bigger and has at least five baby melons growing. I hope to be eating yellow doll watermelons in another two weeks.

The little plant has grown, too, but I think it will need another six months of summer to realize its full potential and produce anything big enough to eat.

I understand that feeling; I’d like another six months of summer myself. Unfortunately, we won’t get it!

Oh well, now I’m already thinking about next year, wondering what will survive and thrive in limited sunshine. Any ideas? E-mail the gardeners at letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.


Currant Pie Wins!

By Geri Anderson
Saturday, July 24, 2010

You may remember that I wrote that I would try the red currants I grew in two recipes. Here’s the tart fruit on the plant. The fruit grows as multiple currants on a tiny stem.

I made two recipes, Currant Pie from an old-fashioned cookbook, and Red Currant Muffins from a muffins cookbook. We had a taste testing—and the pie won, 3 to 1! One taster said of the muffins, “Wonderful, moist, packed with flavor.” Several tasted the muffins first, then the pie, and commented that, "The muffins were good...but, oh, the pie!”

The currants do have a tiny seed, and some folks thought it was less noticeable with the chewy pie crust.  So, here’s the scoop on both recipes.

The tasting going on--both of these photos taken by Debra Dobbins of The Daily Sentinel:

              Vickie Pletcher enjoying the muffins!

                                    Which to try first?


The pie—
It isn’t a standard pie. I used an alternative crust; then the fruit is combined with egg, flour and sugar for the filling. The crust and fruit are baked. Lastly, the pie is topped with meringue. 

The filling is rich, the crust textured and chewy. Although the pie is sweet, there’s a good measure of the currant’s flavor and tartness. The thin light merinque tops it off. I am delighted with it!

The muffins—
The muffins were moist and flavorful. Very light and delicate. A bit tart. Change the flavor by serving it sliced in a bowl, while still warm, with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. Or serve sliced over a bowl of plain yogurt.

If you like, you may substitute blueberries (and perhaps use less sugar ) and have a similar muffin when no currants are available.

Recipes ;

Currant Pie

 Alternative Crust - from Shelly at Culinary Corner, and she credits the Crossroads Health Club Newsletter for the recipe. It has no shortening in it.

   1 cup oatmeal
   ¼ cup whole wheat flour
   ¼ cup almond flour in original recipe. I substituted 2 Tablespoons oat flour and 2 Tablesp. rice flour
   2 Tablesp. brown sugar
   3 Tablesp. canola oil (I used safflower)
   1 Tablesp. water

Mix together – treat like graham cracker crust, press into pie pan.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes for shell, which is what I did. (For cream pies bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until brown.)


Currant Pie (the filling) – I started with the recipe from The Settlement Cook Book, Treasured Recipes of Six Decades, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1965, pp. 326 -327     (The book a gift from Janice Strong over two decades ago!!)
I changed quantities and cut back on the sugar. Here’s what I used:

   2 ¼ cup fresh, ripe currants
   1 ¾ cup sugar
   ½ cup unbleached flour
   2 Tables. water
   3 egg yolks

Mix currants with sugar and flour, add water and the slightly beaten egg yolks. Pour into a 9 inch pie pan lined with the above Alternative Crust. Bake at 350 degrees until filling is set, about 45 minutes or so. While pie is still warm, top with Merinque Topping

Merinque Topping - same cookbook, p. 325, which I modified slightly as follows
   2 egg whites, at room temperature
   ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
   3 ½ Tablespoons sugar

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until frothy with hand mixer. Beat sugar in gradually, a little at a time. Continue beating until mixture is stiff and glossy, and sugar is dissolved. The egg whites should hold a soft to moderate peak. Spread the merinque over the pie. Use fork tongs to lift the merinque to many tiny peaks (the peaks brown first and give the pie a pretty look). Bake at 400 degrees just for a few minutes until the peaks are lightly browned.  Keep an eye on it as it browns quickly.


Red Currant Muffins – from Muffins by Francesca DiPaolo, Adams Media Corp., 2000, p. 91, modified

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt the butter as directed below and let it cool. Place the eggs still in the shell in a bowl of warm water to bring them to room temperature. If you keep your whole grain flour in the refrigerator or freezer, measure it and place in mixing bowl to allow it to come to room temperature.

Prepare the pan by spreading a layer of oil (I used safflower) over each muffin tin. Using a plastic glass with about the same diameter as a muffin indentation, draw 12 circles using the glass as a guide on wax paper (I use the blade of scissors to score the paper as I draw around the glass). Cut out circles and place one in each muffin indentation (they don’t have to fit exactly).

In a medium bowl blend well:
   2 large or 3 medium eggs
   ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
   1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla (or 1 ½ teas. Store bought)
   ¼ cup milk

In a large bowl whisk together:
   ½ cup whole wheat flour
   1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons unbleached flour
   2 Tablespoons oat flour
   ½ cup sugar
   2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
   ½ teaspoon baking soda
   1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon

Other ingredients:
   1 ½ cup fresh red currants
   ½ cup fresh currants, mashed with a fork
   Additional 1 – 2 Tablesp. sugar

Combine the first two mixtures just enough to blend. Fold in the currants (whole and mashed ones). Use an ice cream scoop to fill the muffin tin. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove the muffins by going around them first with a table knife. Cool on a wire rack. Remove waxed paper from bottoms. Enjoy warm or cooled.  Store covered if not used in a few hours.

Delicious just as they are. May be served over a bowl of plain yogurt for breakfast or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert.


One last currant tip – Annie from Hotchkiss tells me she freezes them on a cookie sheet, then puts them in ziplock bags. She adds a handful to pie cherries when making cherry pies for an additional tart flavor treat.

Page 110 of 117


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