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Creole Aioli

Happy Monday, Dear Readers:

Once again, apologies for being absent. Life has pulled me in other directions. I’ve still got one post I’m trying to get to finish, but it requires research, and I haven’t sat down to do much of it. But if you like to read about foodie subjects, it’ll be worth it. I like to make sure I give all of you something interesting to read.

I keep thinking I don’t have anything to write about. Then something else shows up, and I write a blog post about it.

This post involves some garlic, and I’ve been meaning to mention this important point for a while. I read recently that when you’re buying garlic, there’s a simple way to know if you are getting domestically produced garlic or garlic grown in China: the roots. If you are buying garlic that has roots attached, it’s domestic, grown in California, Texas, or somewhere else domestically. But if the roots are scraped off, and the bottom is concave, it’s China-grown. This article on the Living Traditionally blog explains it further. Garlic from China is bleached, and even organic garlic is grown under questionable conditions. I have not yet been successful growing garlic here in the HeatCageKitchen garden, twice buying some from Territorial Seed and finding nothing in the spring. (Not their fault, of course, I’m an obvious amateur.) I put the question to the lecturer at our last monthly Green Thumb klatch, and she told me to just look for local garlic, probably grown in nearby Dickinson, and let it sprout. DUH, Amy.

I like to read myself, if you didn’t know that, but most of it is online now. I think I mentioned that I cancelled my 20-year subscription to Martha Stewart Living earlier this year; it just wasn’t “Martha” anymore. But I do read other things, and one of them is a wonderful publication called Mary Jane’s Farm. What? You’ve never heard of it? Me either, until I got a flier from them a few years ago. I wasn’t particularly interested, since I was reading Hobby Farms, along with the now-defunct Hobby Farms Home and Urban Farm, all at the same time. The second and third magazines were eventually rolled up to the first, and I later subscribed to Mary Jane’s Farm. It’s a replacement, I suppose, for Martha Stewart Living, although the content is somewhat different. The target demographic for Mary Jane’s Farm are women who live on farms, those who want to live on a farm, and those, like your humble blog author, who dream about living rural in the future.

I received the August/September issue last week, but finally got around to reading it on last Tuesday. Oh, BOY! A feature article on. . .Farmgirl Barbecue! Being a naturalized Texan (September will be 18 years since I moved here), I appreciate good barbecue. Even though I have my favorite barbecue sauce from one of Suzanne Somers’ books, and my favorite barbecue rub from the May 2002 issue of Martha Stewart Living, I’m open to considering new forms of barbecue. Mary Jane’s Farm delivers.

What first got my attention was the Blackberry Barbecue Sauce on page 46. WHAT?? (Warning: that recipe also has fresh ginger.) Unfortunately, it also calls for “2 cups ketchup,” and the recipe for said ketchup is on page 43. (GRRRR.) OK, so I look at that recipe but would have to buy 6 large tomatoes parsley, coconut sugar and lemon juice (I generally have limes around.) Not going to make this today. . .but the recipe for yellow mustard is next to it, and I have everything I need to make that. I’d like to try it soon.

Then on page 44, I see a beautiful picture and a recipe for Creole Aioli.

How could I resist? (Recipe available on the Recipes page.)

How could I resist? (Recipe available on the Recipes page.)

I’ve got everything I need to make it! Almost.

Now, hang on. . .I’m sure there’s at least one person who’s thinking, “what is Aioli, and can I get arrested for making it?” Relax, it’s legal (at least, for now.) Aioli is a French version of mayonnaise, made by hand (usually) and is more of a dressing than mayo. There is a good version of it in Suzanne Somers’ first cookbook, and she explains it. However, this farmgirl “Creole” version packs a seriously garlic punch. (Not all “Creole,” “Cajun,” “New Orleans”and “Louisiana-style” food is burning hot.)

So what excuse did I tell myself for making it? Well, there were four:

  • I can write a blog post about it
  • It’s from the new issue of Mary Jane’s Farm
  • I have everything I need to make it right now
  • It would taste great with some waffle maker hash browns

 

And here we are!

I don’t normally have sour cream in the fridge, and that’s one of those things that goes great with potatoes. (Thanks, Neighbor E!) So the first thing to do is get some hash browns cooking, since it takes about ten minutes or so once you put the lid down.

Nothing like the loud, satisfying sizzle when this hits the waffle plates. (The potatoes might not have been dried out enough, either, but they were still pretty tasty.)

Nothing like the loud, satisfying sizzle when this hits the waffle plates. (The potatoes might not have been dried out enough, either, but they were still pretty tasty.)

Ready to rev up nearly anything you’re having for dinner–or any other time–and make a big mess while you’re at it?  Let’s make some.

The setup

The setup

As you can see, I had everything handy, with the exception of a lemon, so I used lime. (You can do that in many recipes, unless you’re making a Mojito.) Normally, I would not cut that much basil (you see the size of them leaves?) but when I saw Miss Shirley last week after the gardening lecture, I told her about the big, leafy basil I was getting, and she suggested cutting a third off.  So. . .I did. And that fresh oregano plant needed a bit of cutting, too.

I started out doing Mise en Place, or prepping everything and setting up. (I heard Martha Stewart say that on the show years ago and never forgot it.) There’s someone on set on those cooking shows and morning-show food segments doing this before they go live, you know. Neighbor R gets upset watching cooking segments on those get-together TV shows because she knows how long stuff takes. But, she says (while gesticulating with both hands), “when you watch them cook on TV, it’s boom-boom-boom and it’s all done!” They’re set up before the cameras turn on so that everything is ready to go, and the cooking host can make that dish in a matter of seconds. For more complicated things, like bread, several are made so that you can see how it’s supposed to look in various stages of completion.

Anyway. . .mise en place. I do it all the time.

I measured out the spices and put them in a pinch bowl, then separated out the eggs:

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Makes life easier when you prep first.

Went to town on the basil and oregano:

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I cut a little too much basil, so the remainder went in the fridge covered in some olive oil and I used it to coat some chicken leg quarters I roasted yesterday. Along with two egg whites in another pinch bowl, which went into the weekly slow-cooked breakfast quiche.

Once everything else was done, I set out to deal with the 3 cloves with a half-teaspoon of salt. In a mortar and pestle. No kidding.

When was the last time you saw me use one of these? I don't know either, but I have one.

When was the last time you saw me use one of these? I don’t know either, but I have one.

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you could try smashing it in a small bowl with the back of a wooden spoon, mixing with the salt to make the paste. I haven’t tried that, it’s just the first thing off the top of my head.

The salt acts like an abrasive while you grind it into a paste. That’s right, a paste. It takes a few minutes of elbow-greased grinding, but it does come out that way:

Garlic/salt paste.

Garlic/salt paste.

Once that’s done, the recipe says to add it to a small bowl with the egg yolks and whisk them while you slowly pour in the olive oil. However, I decided to not to entertain the possibility of making a huge mess with eggs and olive oil and spending the rest of the night scrubbing them off the floor.

This is a non-standard deviation.

The alternative, aka “direct-application” method.

You may be asking yourself, “Why is Amy using an immersion blender for this?” Answer: because Amy also has no patience.

I’ve made mayo before, either like this or with a regular stand blender. It’s not difficult, but I have no idea why they don’t suggest a blender. So I did it.

POWERRRRR!!!

POWERRRRR!!!

First you whiz together the egg and garlic paste. Then you add in a half-cup of olive oil, whiz that around (or whisk it by hand if you prefer) then add the spices, herbs and lemon juice, and blitz it again (or just mix it well.) If you’ve ever made mayonnaise from scratch, you know how this works. (Placing a small cut of rug backing under the bowl helps keep it in place and prevent sliding, just like the anti-slip cutting board trick I mentioned in my last post.)

You end up with this:

You really, REALLY need to like garlic for this one.

Holy Shish Kebab. You really, REALLY need to like garlic for this one.

What does it taste like? WOW–Garlic! Pepper! Spice! Herbs! You don’t need much–this Aioli will knock you over. The recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne, but I used about a third of that. (In other words, not very much.) You can leave it out altogether, if you like–the garlic stands on its own, and will still throw you off your chair if you’re not ready for it.

Proceed with caution, and dip carefully. You’ve been warned. (The good news: it’s gluten free!)

This is very tasty on the waffle hash browns, (like the hash browns themselves) really, REALLY creamy and so good. There’s a lot of taste in this little cup of sauce. It keeps for about a week in the fridge. A little goes a LONG way. But dip with care–the strong taste will compete with other flavors like sweet potatoes. I tried it with baked sweet potato fries, and the tastes compete too much. But it’s great on the regular white potatoes.

I need to make more soon.

I gave some to Neighbor E to try. (I didn’t give any to Neighbor R, since she’s elderly and the cayenne pepper might bother her stomach.) He forgot to pick up a potato to bake on his last food forage, so he could try it that way. E finally decided to use it on a sandwich and loved it.

WARNING: Remember that there are raw eggs in this aioli, so anyone who is allergic to eggs, is very young or elderly, or has a compromised immune system, will need to leave it alone. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but you don’t want to surprise anyone who can’t have raw eggs for any reason. Unfortunately, my longtime friend The E Man is allergic to eggs. . .sorry, Dude.

But if you don’t have a problem with the raw egg yolks, enjoy garlic, and can handle the pungency, Creole Aioli is a delicious spread or dressing for you, any time. As always, the printable PDF is on the Recipes Page for you.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

The slightly late catch-up post

Happy Friday, Dear Readers:

Well, I’m sorry it’s been 11 days since my last dispatch. I’ve been busy, and not on foodie things. I’ve got three posts in the draft folder that are waiting for me to do research, one involves chatting with a friend of Neighbor E.  I’m getting there.

Friend of the blog AC came over again last night. She was having a bad day, and I pretended to be mad that she was “late.” I wasn’t really mad, and she wasn’t really late. I’d done so much tidying up yesterday, and she’d taken a wrong turn somewhere, hence her thinking that she was “late.” I actually finished everything, and I was ready to start ironing if she didn’t show up soon, just to keep the housekeeping momentum going for a while. I fixed a holder she has for her Windows phone, it’s sort of a frame that clips on to her belt. One of the corners broke, and I repaired it with the single girl’s new BFF: Gorilla Glue. I think the holder may out last the phone, but we’ll see.

Neighbor E gave me this item the other day, because it was sprouting. Care to guess what it is?

It's ALIVE!

It’s ALIVE!

No, it’s nothing bad–this isn’t Huffington Post, you know. I’ll give you a hint: it’s on my list stuff I hate and won’t eat.

Give up? It’s a big, red BEET. Yuck. Neither E nor I like them, but guess what? AC loves beets–so I will attempt to grow it for her.

Looking for the beet thing, I also found this article on 15 different veggies you can re-grow like I’ve done with celery, lettuce and green onions.  I still have a little lettuce that I will cut and eat soon, but the GER reminds me that lettuce is a winter crop, so I don’t know how long it will keep growing back. Cilantro, unfortunately, doesn’t grow well here in south Texas, and I’ve tried, because I love cilantro, too. Anyway. . . .

We had some chili I made in the Crock Pot (nothing to write home about) and Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Olive Oil cake, made with SomerSweet. Gluten free AND sugar free, and it came out just right.  The chili recipe called for  <cough> beans and a 12 ounce bottle of light beer. I really didn’t want a six-pack, and wondering where I could buy one 12 ounce light beer to add to the pot. And then it hit me:

Beer. Is. Made. From. Wheat.

That little item would really invalidate my otherwise gluten-free dinner. So I used chicken broth, and added a half-cup of wine and a couple shakes of Chipotle Tabasco. I’m thinking next time, add 12 ounces of red wine, and a shake or two of Chipotle Tabasco. Although that might change the low carb nature of the chili. . .or, maybe I’ll never make it again.

Well, anyway. . . .

Texas, and particularly Houston, has had some wonky weather lately, as you may have heard, but we’ve had no flooding in my neck of the woods. (The mosquitoes are readying their ambush.) I almost feel guilty when I escape a disaster like that, having been through it a few times, because I know that someone else took the brunt of it.

I haven’t forgotten the recent pictures of terrified horses being led through the deep flood waters to safety at the hands of helpful, concerned horsey-loving Texans. I’m a cat person down to the bone, but I would certainly be happy to help out a horse who needed a way out of the water.

The north side of Houston got hit again overnight, but down here in the Clear Lake area, there was some rain falling down in the HeatCageKitchen garden. I’ve only been out on the bike a couple of times recently, preferring to stay in and use the kettle bells, and binge-watching either Hot In Cleveland (all of them, again) or my newest discovery from PBS, an Australian production called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. It stars a gorgeous actress named Essie Davis (I know, who?) and an ensemble cast that brilliantly brings the stories to life, much like they do in Sherlock. I don’t know why I’m interested in mystery-police-drama kinds of things, but I am. This one is about a “lady detective” in the 1920’s in Melbourne, Australia, complete with jazz music, fabulous fashion, a fancy motorcar and a very nice house with servants.

There is the final season of the BBC police drama New Tricks I haven’t seen yet, and the library has it, I just have to order it. While the Houston PBS station runs season 1 of this Aussie jewel, I am binge-watching season 2, thanks to the Harris County Library System. I even checked, and the Jefferson Parish Library System in Metairie, LA has the Aussie series, and I’ve informed two member friends there that they should request the DVDs and watch. A bit R-rated, so it’s not for kids, but if you like that sort of thing, find Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and try to watch them in order, if you can. (Don’t forget about inter-library loans–ask, and you shall, eventually, receive.)

Last weekend was our monthly district meeting, and I asked LK if she’d like me to bring anything; she said, “if you want to.” So I baked up the Lemon-Poppyseed Tea Cake from the first Babycakes book, only to find out LK doesn’t like lemon as much. (Sorry about that.) Well, everyone else enjoyed it! However, something weird happened when I baked it this time, not sure how. What came out of the pan looked lovely:

Lemon Poppyseed Tea Cake from Babycakes

Lemon Poppyseed Tea Cake from Babycakes

Unfortunately, it overflowed the pan five or ten minutes after I put it into the oven, giving me a real hot mess:

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Fortunately, I put the baking sheet under it, since it looked a little full. I ate the stuff that baked onto the pan, which was about the top third.

Turns out there were only five of us in attendance, but that’s OK, LK had. . .watermelon. YUM. I had plenty of that, and LK gave me some to bring home, as well. It didn’t last long, as you might imagine. And the husband and wife who made it five attendees appreciated the gluten-free, agave-sweetened cake that wouldn’t knock his blood sugar.

OK, speaking of the garden. . .our monthly gardening lecture last week was cancelled due to some really bad weather that blew through. I was kind of glad, because I didn’t want to go out in it, but I missed the topic of Plants of the Bible. Oh, well. But the HeatCageKitchen garden benefits from all the rain, with a few tomatoes and strawberries so far. I’ve got tomato plants:

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Tomatoes!

Tomatoes!

Not pictured are the two SunGold plants that I got at HEB, also on sale. I’ve nibbled a few of those, since the plants were producing when I bought them. There are a couple of “racks” on both, so I’m anxiously awaiting more once I put them in a bigger pot.

The recent rains knocked off all the Key lime buds from my tree, but I found one tiny flower this morning:

ONE lime this year?

ONE lime this year?

I’ll end up with three Meyer lemons later this year:

My favorite, Meyer lemons.

My favorite, Meyer lemons.

I’ll soon harvest my garlic:

That really is garlic under there.

That really is garlic under there.

Last week, after the cancellation of the gardening lecture, I found myself on the phone to Territorial Seed Company talking to a “garlic expert” about when to harvest these babies. I’ve used up all the scapes (they were delicious) so now I just need to know when to harvest. First thing: stop watering them, so I moved the bucket to the area under the balcony so it wouldn’t rain on them anymore. She said two weeks after I stop watering (which will be next week) I should carefully dig them up with a spade, and set them somewhere to dry for a couple of weeks or so. Here’s a primer on Territorial Seed’s website; I just called so that I could get more specific information. Last time I tried to grow garlic, I got nothing, no idea why, and I don’t want to mess anything up. But soon, I’ll get some.

Next time, I’m planting more garlic. I might try it with grocery store garlic, but Territorial Seed sells many varieties of garlic, some organic, available for planting in the fall.

And by putting two strawberry plants in the hanging planter, I might actually get a few more. I’ve nibbled them one at a time so far:

Yes, those are strawberries.

Yes, those are strawberries.

The Anaheim chili pepper plant has finally passed on after one more pepper, but new bell pepper plant is growing and has flower buds, and plus there are more jalapenos popping up:

Can we call these "jalapeno poppers?"

Can we call these “jalapeno poppers?”

Check this out (no, not the Boston fern):

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That’s parsley on the left, which may be used in pesto soon.

And despite giving AC some big rosemary and sage cuttings last week, neither show any signs of slowing down:

Yes, I know I need to do some weeding. If it would ever stop RAINING for a few days.

Yes, I know I need to do some weeding. If it would ever stop RAINING for a few days.

And of course, basil, which has nearly doubled in size with all the rain:

Pesto coming!!

Pesto coming!! (Possibly with parsley added.) One of those plants is left from last year.

Longtime readers know my love of pesto, and growing basil for the sole purpose of making pesto. Well, I’ve found out how to go about growing increased amounts of the stuff. HEB has had a lot of plants marked down, and tomatoes weren’t the only thing on sale. So one more basil plant came home with me, and it even had a bit of purple basil in it.

What do I tell you about Pinterest?  You can solve many of your life’s problems with it. Pinterest can tell you how to do nearly everything, just do a search. After a lecture last year on propagating plants, I found out I could propagate basil. A quick check on Pinterest to make sure I was doing it right, (this article tells you how) and I went after it. Get a good-sized plant, cut them with a longish stem where you see little green leaves coming out, and put the clippings in water. Within a couple of weeks, roots start growing:

More!

More!

This morning I cut a few off the potted basil plant and put them in fresh water:

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Do change the water every other day.

I did not know this before. Now I do, and will continue to do this instead of fooling around with seeds and buying one plant and hoping for a miracle. Grow more basil for world peace! (I’ll let you know how it goes.)

You can propagate other plants in the same fashion. Note to the GER: are you paying attention for the Funk House/Junk House garden this year?

I also found some recent interesting things while out and about. On my last trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond a few weeks ago (I went for Neighbor R), I buzzed by the slow cookers and found Crock Pot’s new technology:

i-Stir?

i-Stir?

Seriously? It’s called iStir? Okay.  . . ever since the iPod, iPhone, iPad, new stuff has to have an “i.” At least it doesn’t hook your dinner up to your WiFi. And more from the microwave popcorn arena:

Seriously?

Seriously?

I suppose if you want one, use your coupon. . .but I’m perfectly happy with a mixing bowl and a plate on top.

I discovered a few photos on my phone that I forgot to share last time, taken during my adventure with Neighbor E. We wandered through a store called Arhaus, and, well, I’d never heard of it. (Not that it means much.) High-end home furnishings, and not the sort you’d find in IKEA, that’s for sure. Lots of chandeliers around, and lots of somewhat odd things to decorate your home. My favorite was this chandelier, called the Anabella, priced at $499 in the store and $549 online:

Yes, a very modern chandelier.

Yes, a very modern chandelier.

Now, E liked this particular setting too, but he said, “come over this way and see how the light sets everything else off.” So I did, and, well, take a look:

Yes, those are aluminum deer heads.

Yes, those are aluminum deer heads.

I like the way it looks, and I like the way the cord is covered in a nice sheer fabric. But I’m just a fan of the Magnus deer heads, that’s all.

Lastly, I will leave you with this amusing little thing, which, I believe was in my local Kroger, but I’m not 100% sure. I don’t think it was in HEB, and it’s too late for The Fresh Market (they took the sign down from outside the building last week.) But I saw it. . .somewhere. And it was too cute not to share:

Music and cheese!

Music and cheese!

Admit it, you read that with the song in your head, didn’t you?

I hope to have my regular researched posts done soon, but in the meantime, if there’s a topic you want covered, you can always email me at heatcagekitchen@gmail.com or leave a note in the comments.

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the US, and it’s not all about cookouts, beer, and sales on mattresses and plasma TVs. If you are outside of the US, or simply unfamiliar with its origins, here’s a short primer on it. Memorial Day is a somber occasion observed to respect our war dead from all wars and conflicts. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the beginning of summer and doing the BBQ/cookout party thing, but at 3:00 pm local time, pause to remember (and maybe say a prayer, if you are so inclined) those who fought and died for the United States.

And if you are going to do a cookout, picnic, or other activity with various types of food involved, you can find food safety fact sheets here. We all like to have fun, but do factor safety into it–trips to the ER or urgent care clinic with food poisoning are NOT fun. You’ll be there with the rest of the injured people. . .for quite a while.

I hope to bring some new stuff to you next week. . .I really do. Let’s see how my week goes.

Meantime, have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, and have some enjoyable food, too.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

Amy’s Excellent Garden Adventure

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Remember when I said the next post would be about waffles, unless I had something better to write about? I do–and I’m not reneging on waffles, either. In fact, after I finish writing this, I’m going to try out a gluten-free waffle recipe just for you! (Well, and me, too.)  I’m anticipating three or four different waffles on the recipe page, and one may even involve using. . .wheat. We’ll see when I get there.

Are you a Trader Joe’s fan? Well, I finally had a flash of inspiration, and decided to do something about the lack of a TJ’s down here south of Houston. I put a link on NextDoor.com, and suggested everyone in my area write TJ’s and tell their friends to do the same. So far, several people have, including Neighbor K, who became a fan after hearing me bang on about it, and made her first trip.  If you’re one of my local readers, do this now and tell EVERYONE YOU KNOW. If we get enough people writing, we might actually get one closer than the Montrose store. I suggested Friendswood or League City, but anywhere closer than Montrose or Memorial would be wonderful. If you’re in an area that doesn’t have TJ’s at all, and you miss them terribly, you can go to this link as well and ask about getting a TJ’s in your area. Do the same thing–tell your friends. Go to this link and send them a short email about where and why. Save the text on a Word document in case the site goes bonkers, like it did for me. It worked the second time.

A couple of weeks ago, I was strolling through Target and found this with a clearance sticker on it:

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Hershey’s? Ice Cream Maker?

End of the summer, an ice cream maker. However, it’s one that requires this:

It's GOURMET.

It’s GOURMET.

Now that we have Blue Bell back, we don’t need this. And of course, in fine print at the bottom, it says, “artificially flavored.” No thanks. I like my Cuisinart model and the recipes I have in cookbooks.

So anyway. . .guess who has more pesto in her freezer? Yes! ME! (You can envy me now.) As of last night, I now have SIX containers of pesto! No, I haven’t poured steroid fertilizers out back. I went on a little day trip on Monday. Let me back up a bit.

I’ve written about the monthly gardening lectures I attend at my local library, third Thursday of the month, 6:30 pm. Nice people, and sometimes, there’s munchies. (No, I passed on the cake last week.)  The lady who coordinates the lectures and attends every month is a nice person named Shirley Jackson. She’s always there, picks up the surveys, gives announcements and sometimes, she’s the friendliest face I see all day.

One of the announcements has been since the beginning the “open garden” day at the Genoa Friendship Garden in nearby Pasadena. That’s not someplace I normally hang out, and despite writing it down, I never seem to remember. Except for one day I dropped a pitcher of iced coffee on the floor, and. . .oh, never mind. Finally, Monday, I paid them a visit.

Sponsored by the Harris County Master Gardeners and Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension, it’s a little spot where all kinds of plants are grown, and they have plant sales–cheap. I spent a whopping $3.50 yesterday, for two tomato plants and a sweet pepper plant that I’ll put into a big pot this weekend.

Take a look:

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This was a cute little display:

A diorama!

A diorama!

Here’s a closeup:

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If you like eggplant, they’ve got a garden variety that, it is claimed, actually tastes good.

These eggplants stay green, and do not turn purple.

These eggplants stay green, and do not turn purple.

Here’s another look at that eggplant:

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There are peppers of many kinds:

Sweet peppers

Sweet peppers

A closer look at the sweet peppers

A closer look at the sweet peppers

For the okra-loving folks.

Okra--the GER's favorite

Okra–the GER’s favorite

They grow green onions, just like I do, only more of them. I also got answers to questions about the garlic that never seems to grow well in my garden. One nice lady said it was probably critters. I’ll try again soon.

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A few shots from around the garden area:

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There’s an orchard, complete with berry bushes:

Blackberries!

Blackberries!

I think these are grapes, but I couldn’t find a label for it:

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And they didn’t forget the kitties, either! (I bet there’s a huge feral cat colony living there, somewhere, that comes out to party in the Garden at night.)

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I was quite surprised to see an area of desert plants, separated from the rest of the garden:

That's the biggest Prickly Pear cactus I've seen since the last time I was in the desert.

That’s the biggest Prickly Pear cactus I’ve seen since I left California. In 1988.

Prickly pear cactus produces fruit–did you know that?

Cactus pears, also called "Indian Fruit."

Cactus pears, also called “Indian Fruit.”

Yellow flowers develop on top of the little fruit buds, that’s why there is an indentation. Then the flower dries up and falls off (just like zucchini or peppers) and the fruit buds start growing. When they turn dark purple, you can pick them and peel them, because they’re sweet. I’ve seen “Indian Candy” at truck stops in California and Arizona. (But not in a long, long time.)There were other desert plants, as well, like this, I believe is called an Ocotillo:

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Yes, those needles are indeed SHARP.

NOW–remember what I said about more pesto? Get a look at this:

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I mentioned to one of my “tour guides” that I grow basil for the sole purpose of making pesto and freezing it for the winter. I told him about Pea & Pesto Soup, and told him that if he made that for his wife, she would be very happy with him. He reached down and cut me a couple of huge branches, big as a wedding bouquet. (Don’t read anything into that.) I stopped on the way home at Randall’s because I knew I didn’t have enough pine nuts to make two or three batches. I might start using walnuts one day–I like walnuts too, and they’re less expensive than pine nuts.

He GAVE me that basil. It was HUGE!!

He GAVE me that basil. It was HUGE!! (Tomato plants in the foreground.)

Another one of my tour guides (listening to my discussion of said soup) asked me, “how do you have time to do all that cooking?” I smiled and said, “I’m single.” He was delighted to hear about Pea & Pesto Soup, but insisted that I make some and bring it to him to try. I’d guess he was in his mid-70’s, and he was not about to go online to find the recipe. (Most of the people working there were women.)

There are several varieties of basil growing, like this one:

It's basil, but. . . .

It’s basil, but. . . .

As I’ve done so many times, I picked a leaf and tasted it. Suddenly behind me, I heard a woman’s voice say, “That’s not culinary basil.

AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!

It wasn’t poisonous, but I did indeed spit it out quickly and ask about it. She said, “I’ve never had anyone pop a leaf in their mouth like that.”

I got to ask lots of questions, and I found out a lot of things I didn’t get from the lectures. First, I’m under-watering my plants. DUH! Second, there isn’t enough room for all the water to drain properly, so I have to get a bigger drill bit soon and drill bigger holes in the bottom of the paint buckets. If I have time next month, I might go take a ride, now that I know where it is and how easy it is to get to from here.

I went into the greenhouse to get some plants, and there were some free seeds, limit 5. That was all I needed.

French breakfast radishes!!

Sage and French breakfast radishes!!

Lettuce will be happening again, soon, too, thanks to the seeds and the cooler weather that’s coming.

It’s not a big greenhouse, but there were plenty of plants for sale. I missed the kale, though. Sorry, K.

Nice and cozy for the plants.

Nice and cozy for the plants.

Now, to give you some perspective on why gardening can be a good thing, consider the Meyer lemons that I’m hoping will get bigger. I’ve got seeds from last year’s lemons, and I may need to prune the tree a bit. But on a recent trip to The Fresh Market, I found some Meyer lemons:

IMG_2308[1]

I hope to grow more and more.

I sent that picture to Neighbor K. She was quite surprised to see how much they were. NOW do you see why I want to grow them? I do hope mine grow full size before they completely ripen.

You can find out more about the Genoa Friendship Garden at this link. The Garden is open to the public on the third Monday of the month from 8:30 to 11:00 am, and they sell plants cheap. If you’re looking for something to do in Houston, there are two gardens; this one is on my side of town.

Time for fall gardening, and I’ll be hoping that radishes finally grow back there. They grow quickly, and best in the cold winter. Fingers crossed, and I’ll tell you all about it. . .if it works.

Enjoy!