Sunday, June 27, 2010


Yup...I harvested them all!  The foliage was looking pretty tired and I was anxious to see what was under all that soil!  I have been harvesting a few potatoes at a time as I've needed them, but last weekend I decided it was time to pull them all.  In addition to looking pretty beat, the worms/caterpillars/grasshoppers were having a feast to end all feasts.  Plus it is getting very hot.  It was time.

It was a lot of work, but totally worth all that digging.  I worked from one end of one row to the next and dug and pulled potatoes, dug and pulled potatoes, etc etc.  It was so exciting as I just kept finding potatoes under the dirt!  I'm not sure how many pounds of potatoes I harvested (from a planting of only 2 pounds), but I was very happy with the yield on this crop.  This was a new vegetable for me in my Texas garden and I wasn't disappointed.  Can't wait to plant sweet potatoes in the fall!

One of my favorite ways to use this delicious, nutritious vegetable is in a warm potato salad.  But mind you, this is NOT your mother's potato salad.  It's made with olive oil, fresh herbs, capers and tomatoes and lends itself to endless possibilities.  My daughter-in-law, who writes the fabulous blog, The GD Kitchen, gave me this recipe.  I hope you try's really wonderful.

Katie's Potato Salad

1 pound baby red potatoes, halved
1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pitted black olives, halved
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add the potatoes to a medium saucepan with enough cold water to cover by at least 2 inches.  Set the saucepan over medium heat.  Bring the water to a boil and continue cooking until potatoes are fork tender, about 6-10 minutes, don't overcook.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and allow to dry for 5 minutes.

In a serving bowl, mix tomatoes, scallions, olives, parsley, capers, thyme, olive oil and lemon zest.  Mix gently.  Add hot potatoes and toss till well blended.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate for one hour and again, toss gently before serving.

This salad is great hot or at room temperature.  I like it best the next day.  I take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature for about an hour or so....delicous!

Thanks, Katie!

I'll post more recipes for potatoes as I discover them going forward.  I have a *lot* of potatoes to use this summer!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Check Out This Garden Visitor...

...absolutely beautiful, but a little unsettling too.  Look at this gorgeous tarantula that visited me in the garden this week.  It was early morning, very cloudy, humid and overcast when he appeared.  He was probably looking for breakfast.

I know they are out here in the hills because I've seen them before around the house.  We even had one *in* the house a few years ago.  But last week was the first time I've seen this large native spider in my garden.  Despite their menacing looks, they are not poisonous.  Their bite is somewhat on par with a bee sting.  And they have to be really agitated or threatened to bite a human. 

It was really cool having him in my garden and I just watched him for awhile.  Eventually, he wandered out of the garden and into the thick brush that surrounds it.

He was a pretty good size too...maybe 4-5 inches long.  They are very beneficial as they eat crickets, mealworms, caterpillars and other insects that wreak havoc on my garden.  Actually, I was pretty happy to see him out there.  But from now on, I will pay closer attention when I reach for something or step somewhere.  Look...he blends right in with the cedar bark mulch on the ground around my garden beds! You can hardly see him!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Onions are Ready to Harvest!

Onions are an integral part of my Texas kitchen, especially the sweet Texas 1015.  Almost every dish I cook begins with an onion.  It's funny though...I *don't* like them raw; but once the 1015s are cooked, they turn sweet and delicious.  This past weekend it was time to harvest my onion crop for this season.  It is getting too hot and they were beginning to bolt.  In planning for the harvest, I quit watering the onions about four days ago.  This helps begin the curing process. 

I pulled the onions out of the ground and washed all the dirt off the roots then let them dry outside, not in direct sun, for several hours, turning them frequently. 

Once pulled, the onions need to cure before storing them for the season.  This allows the starches and nutrients to move to the bulb, concentrating their sweetness.  To cure, spread the onions out on newspaper, or hang them, in a well ventilated, warm spot to thoroughly dry.  If they are spread out on newspaper, turn them frequently so they dry out completely and be sure not to crowd them.  The curing process can take up to 2-3 weeks.  Once the sheaths become dry and paper-like, the sheaths can be cut and the onions stored in a box or preferably a colander which allows the air to circulate, in a cool dark place.  The onions will keep for about three months like this...that is if they last that long!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Blooming Cactus

I think you all know how I feel about having the beautiful Texas hill country as the backdrop for my garden (and my life actually)...I'm truly blessed.  Living here allows me to witness the ever changing landscape of the Texas hills.  Like now...the cactus are in bloom and they are stunning.

The rains came at the right time this season and we are surrounded by beautiful blooming cacti.  I believe there are more than 100 species of cacti that grow in Texas, the widest assortment found in any state in the United States. Many are best known by such nonscientific names as blind pear, cow-tongue cactus, night-blooming cereus, Texas rainbow, tree cactus, early bloomer, and devil's head, so-called because its rigid spines are dangerous to the hoofs of horses and cattle.  I won't pretend to know the scientific (or nonscientific) names of all the species that grow around me.  I simply want to share with you their wildness and beauty.  I do hope you enjoy :)



Even the caterpillars love them!  Better they eat cactus blossom than my vegetables!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Heirlooms Tomatoes... good.  When I planted my heirloom tomatoes at the beginning of May, I wasn't sure if it was too late in the season for them to do well.  I just bit the bullet, put them in the ground, said a little prayer and waited.  Well, actually I've done more than that...I've *babied* these suckers!  I've fertilized them, I've pruned them, I've caged them, I've staked them, I've sprayed them regularly with BT worm killer, I've talked to get the picture :)  Well, it's obviously paid off because they are doing SO well!  Check these out...

The next three photographs are my Rutger's Red.

And these are my Hillbilly Potato Leaf

See...the leaves do like like a potato leaf!


These next two are Kellogg Breakfast Beefsteak

And these two are Speckled Roma

Anyway, I'm very pleased with the progress of my heirlooms so far.  But like they tell you about stocks in the market, "Past performance is no indicator of future results."  It's up to me to remain vigilant in caring for these finicky plants.  But so far, I'm very hopeful :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lovely Garter Snake!

Look at this beauty!  My husband was outside this morning covering up the grille from last night when he rushed inside and said, "Di, quick come see this beautiful snake!"  So naturally I grabbed my camera and followed him outside and this is what we Eastern Black-Necked Garter Snake (it took us a while to find out what it was!)  Isn't he beautiful!

It is a mild mannered, non-venomous snake that rarely bites, whose diet consists mainly of frogs, toads and their tadpoles.  Which makes sense where we discovered him.  It wasn't in my garden, but up against the house where there is moisture from a hose I use all the time and where I've seen lots of little toads milling about.  There are also a lot of rocks in that area which I guess provides for great coverage.

We were so pleased to see this little guy this morning.  He wasn't very big, about 15-18 inches but he sure was pretty.  As we watched him, he made his way alongside the house and disappeared between the hose and the rock.  Such a neat way to begin the day :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Fig Tree...'s come back!  It took a hit early this spring when a couple of very chilly nights hit us (which happens all the time here in the hills).  The tree had just started leafing out and I covered it as best I could; but to no avail.  All the tender new growth froze :(

But I was pretty convinced the tree itself was OK.  So I just continued to water it and protect it from the cold and in time, it began to recover; and now, it's growing like crazy!  I fertilized it with one cup of Medina Grown Granules and it seemed to like that.  It likely won't produce any fruit this year and I'm OK with that.  I just want to help it grown strong and healthy so that hopefully next year, I'll have tons of figs!  To me, that's another food of the gods!

Now I just have to worry about protecting it from the inevitable freezing temperatures this coming winter :-/  But I do have a plan...

Monday, June 7, 2010


I have to admit, eggplant is not my summer-go-to-vegetable, say, like tomatoes :)  But I do enjoy cooking and eating eggplant so I decided to include a few plants in my summer garden.  Well, they are just beginning to bloom and the eggplant is probably one of my favorite vegetable blossoms.  I love the aubergine color and the soft umbrella shape. 

This year I planted four classic Black Magic plants as compared to last year when I planted Fingerling Eggplant.  The Fingerling had good flavor but the fruit was very narrow and elongated, making it difficult to do much with it, except saute or grill.  I think I'll be happier with the Black Magic.

One of my favorite things to do with eggplant is make Eggplant Rolatini, which is basically
  • Thinly sliced eggplant, 
  • Grilled, 
  • Filled and rolled with a savory mixture of softened goat cheese and fresh herbs, 
  • Simmered in a light tomato sauce...delicious! maybe eggplant is one of my favorite summer vegetables after all :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Wildflowers Just Won't Quit...

...I mean seriously!  Thanks to the rainy fall and winter the wildflowers are just blooming continuously this year.  It seems when one type quits blooming and goes to seed, another equally beautiful flower takes its place. I was walking around the property a few mornings ago and was captivated by what I saw.  The fields are just blanketed with beautiful color and interesting shapes.  Just look at this:






And that beautiful patch of poppies that I wrote about a few weeks ago is still putting out beautiful blooms and this lovely flower had a visitor.

Again today, I was reminded how blessed I am to have the beautiful Texas hill country as part of my home garden.