Thursday, May 28, 2009

Heirloom Tomatoes, Fig Trees, and Birds

The soil in my recently plowed garden is absolutely fertile! The tomatoes, bell peppers, butternut squash and sorghum is huge and beautiful. The land along the Mississippi River edge is said to be extremely rich because of years of the Mississippi flooding and depositing silt. I'm finding this to be true.

The heirloom tomatoes are doing well so far. This year has been the year of the caterpillar. Advice ranges from sevin dust to BT organic spray. One thing all the advice givers agree on is to spray early to catch the caterpillars just as they hatch and are most susceptible and spray often. Otherwise, NO TOMATOES. Tomatoes has been my bane! Never have I grown a serious crop of tomatoes in an area that's famous for it's "Creole Tomatoes". Hopefully this year will be different. One thing is certain, I've already learned A LOT!

My neighbor, with whom we are now friends after a rocky start, stopped today to offer advice. His family has lived here long before he was born and he is almost 80. His family is well noted in south Louisiana as excellent farmers. The Becnels, as they are called. That's their last name. He wasn't at all sure about the heirloom varieties I am growing. He was quite puzzled and asked why wasn't I growing the great new hybrids that beat all the old ones to heck.

Errrr.......Ummmm....??? "I'm curious", was the only explanation I offered. How do you explain to an elder that you want to save your own seed, see different colors and shapes and taste different flavors........that um......frankly aren't found in the newer varieties. He did offer me quite a bit of great advice and patiently answered all my questions (which I am always full of). He also explained how to grow trees from cuttings from a great old old old pear tree I have in my yard.

I was also told by a friend that heirlooms weren't a good choice in Louisiana because Dan Gill said so. Look Dan Gill I still love you and have a crush on you, but you ain't the say all end all! Now I hope to prove Danny Boy and everyone else WRONG! Hope I don't have to eat crow as my Mother-In-Law sez.

Marzano Paste tomatoes
Pink Accordion Tomatoes
Red Strawberry Tomatoes
Another variety of paste tomatoes.....I have many other heirloom varieties as well. I have high hopes for Pineapple (which I read was the tastiest of heirlooms), White Currant, Orange Banana, Cour Di Bue (I think), and Cherokee Purple.....If I could just get a few of each. I'll give a taste report if they make it through the rigors of Louisiana.
Here are the fig trees grown from cuttings. To everyone who would like to grow them.....This method works! They are growing beautiful with thick white roots protruding from the bottom of the pot. I'll have to put them into new pots or plant them.
This is a picture of the plant which contains a mommy bird and her four tensy eggs. The eggs are pale blue with brown speckles.
And here is my naughty errent Rosalina (as the girls named her). She keeps getting out of the backyard fence somehow. I think she's enlisting the help of our dog Camira. Come on Camira....give me lift!!! I'll lay an egg for you! Camira loves to eat eggs. Maybe that's why she's as wide as she is long!
Isn't this one ugly chicken? I don't care that Byron thinks she's pretty. She's ugly.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Berry Patch

My secret berry patch was overflowing this year. At least I like to think it's secret. Anyone if they wanted could stop and pick all the berries they'd like. How come the best blackberries seem to grow along the edge of a ditch on a busy highway? In some areas I could stand and fill a bucket without hardly moving a step. Big juicy berries dripping in clusters from thick canes.

I planted blackberries on my property this year behind the potager. They did produce a few big sweet berries, but are much to young to produce any in quantity. Maybe next year I'll have a different report...fingers crossed.

These are just a few of the berries from the side of the highway.

Homemade blackberry jam is the best. I never add pectin. The jam's flavor is more intense and tastes so much better without it.
Yes, My new stove did cook the berries a bit faster, but it is still a long process.
Here are some of the 18 jars of blackberry jam I canned this year. Worth every minute! Canning high acid fruit is very simple. If you'd like to try canning, this is a great way to start. The Ball Blue Book on canning has great recipes and most everything you really need to know about canning. I omit the pectin, add some lemon juice, and cook the fruit until it reaches gelling point.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Using The Garden's Bounty - Squash

It's that time! Zucchini and yellow squash are coming in by the bucket loads! Sometimes you just don't know what to do with all the bounty the garden gives, besides giving away so much people avoid you.

It wasn't long ago that I didn't know much beyond smothering it with onions on top of the stove. Still yummy, but not very creative. So before you resort to the proverbial stealth give aways at the neighbors doors and unlocked cars, try cooking them in a new way. Here are three recipes I love.
Zucchini Muffins

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup veggie oil
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cloves
2 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini
1 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl cream eggs, sugar, and veggie oil until light and fluffy. Mix in flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Add cloves, zucchini, nuts, and vanilla extract. Stir until well blended.

Fill muffin tins lined with muffin papers 1/2 full and bake until fork comes out clean. About 30 to 40 minutes.

Yellow Squash Casserole
1 lb peeled shrimp cut in halves
1/2 pack of Jimmy Dean Breakfast sausage
1 med. onion cut in thin strips
5 lg yellow squash cut in chunks
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
salt and pepper
2 tblsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large pan, fry sausage and onions in olive oil until sausage is done. Add shrimp and cook until orange. Add squash and cook a while longer. Until squash starts to soften. Turn off fire and add bread crumbs and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Transfer to an oven safe casserole dish and bake in oven another 30 to 45 minutes. I find this dish is even better then next day and makes a great lunch the next day. So make extra.

This next recipe is a dish my neighbor gave to me. I'm not sure if it has an official name, but I'll call it....

Summer Garden Squash and Veggie Bake (I know a little long!)
3 yellow squash cut in chunks
3 zucchini cut in chunks
1 red onion cut in lg pieces
1 Orange bell pepper cut in chunks
1 large tomato cut in chunks
olive oil
seasoning blend (We like Tony Chacerie's Cajun Blend)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine yellow squash, zucchini, orange bell pepper, onion and tomato chunks. Spread evenly on cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings. Cook until warm yet still crunchy. Tastes great with grilled burgers.
If you have any yummy squash recipes please post them in the comment section!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Around The House and Gardens

The front garden is a profusion of blossoms and scents. Honeysuckle, Confederate Jasmine, butterfly bush, and Maid of Orleans are just covered with blooms that provide exquisite heady scents that lightly perfume the day and hang heavy in our humid nights.
Datura, roses, coreopsis, agapanthus, iris, lantana, Jasmine, ginger, bird of paradise, guara, hummingbird bush, snapdragons, begonias, gomphrena, hibiscus, Mexican heather, ruella, crybaby tree, bottle brush, society garlic, dahlberg dasies, coleus, sweet potato vine....and maybe some I've missed are all blooming their little hearts out in the front garden!

Here is one of my favorite flowers, Shell Ginger. It's such a striking dramatic flower and a whole clump of blooming shell ginger is a sight to behold.

For the highest of drama.....Giant Bird of Paradise. It is now quite a bit taller than my house and its blossoms are well over a foot long.

Here is one of the very large blossom stalks from my butterfly bush or buddelia I believe. It smells heavenly. In the back are pink and red Knock Out roses. Since these came out, landscaping is changing slowly in our area. Finally a rose that doesn't succumb to our extreme humidity. Roses unless tirelessly tended usually looked passable but mostly pathetic. Knockout roses seem to have no disease that threatens it and grows to huge heights totally covered with blossoms and gorgeous dark green foliage all summer long. People stop to admire my mother's roses that surround her 1820's home all the time.

A little lizard clinging upside down in the corn. I'm certain this is a good sign, because so far no problems with bugs! I also have a ton of lizards that scurry around the outside perimeter of my house. I accredit them with the lack of roaches in my home. I don't have to use any poisons. Roaches are almost family in the New Orleans area.

One of my white onions developing up fine.

The ears of corn are forming now.

This is a variety of zucchini called "Grey Stripe". It's supposed to be an Italian heirloom. So far none of the fruit has developed any stripes like the picture on the package, but it still tastes great stir fried in a little olive oil with onions. My mouth is watering.

These are some great new pots I bought at home depot! I filled them up with bright coleus and potato vine. I adore the bold colors. I find in the intense heat of our summers nothing but bright colors can compete.

Here is my mother's day present. One of the two retro lawn chairs Byron bought me. Slowly I'm getting seating to place around my garden so I can do the most important thing.....Relax and enjoy it!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Praising Plodding

Arghhh...that's what I feel like right now. I abbasolutely love spring. Spring is beautiful, bright, green, cheerful....and busy. Sometimes I just don't feel like being busy. There's so much to do in spring, but all I feel like doing lately is reading a book and sipping coffee or sitting in my garden and napping....and once in a while lately, frowning and glowering (I indulge myself in glowering occasionally then feel supremely guilty.).

Still there's all those other things that need to be done. You know all the end of school year activities, planting new crops, never ending housework, pulling persistent weeds, church fund raisers, youth group activities, garden club meetings........................... and all the stinking political meetings on the newly emerged one week before the final public hearing date.....nobody knows about.... "but has been in the works for years (lying politicians)" floodwall going up north of my house (another story I will tell soon)............I have to write a million letters to every sneaky congressperson within 500 miles.....

Plaquemines Levee

It's enough to discourage anyone. Why am I working for all this (eyes crossed)? These are the times I remind myself to be a turtle. You can't be a rabbit everyday. So today....I'm going to focus on what's most it it well.....then look at the next most it it well.....then look at the next................................sometimes we just have to plod, put one foot in front of the other, and remind ourselves to trust in God and not man...........Well... I am feeling a little better now.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I bought...

Remember this post, To Buy or Not To Buy?


I bought!

I finally found justification. The oven broke in the old one.