Friday, October 29, 2010


My broccoli is doing extremely well this year.  The leaves on my plants are large, thick and a healthy dark green.  And each plant has a good size head in the center.  As a matter of fact, I have one head that is just about ready to pick...likely in a few days.

I love broccoli in my fall garden.  This year I planted Green Magic, a variety that tolerates heat very well, produces uniform greenish-blue heads,  freeze well and is ready in about 60 days.

Here in hot South Texas, broccoli does much better in the fall garden than it does in the spring garden.  With the temperate conditions and warm soil of the fall garden, a broccoli plant can potentially produce a head 2 inches bigger than the same variety might produce in the spring.  The trick is to get the fall crop off to a good start during the late summer heat.  I planted mine at the end of August this year, and so good.

Unlike last year.

My broccoli was a complete failure last year and I think I figured out why.  I'm pretty sure my plants suffered from a condition called blindness, which means the terminal growing point of the plant is missing.  When a broccoli plant has this condition, the foliage is dark green, large, thick and leathery, but has no center growing point.  This anomaly can occur when the terminal growing point is damaged due to cold temperatures (exposure to 50F or lower for an extended period of time), cutworms (which I think was my problem), or trauma during transplanting.

Another potential problem with broccoli plants is called buttoning, which means that heads exist, but they are abnormally small heads of curds (buttons) and the plants are immature.  The leaves are small and do not cover the head.  This can occur from lack of nitrogen, shock from cold temperatures, or drought stress.

Thankfully, my broccoli plants have managed to escape these two common problems and are thriving and producing beautiful fruit.  For this (and many other things), I am thankful.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lemon Buttermilk Ice Cream

As promised :)  I picked the first three lemons from my tree yesterday morning and it yielded just enough juice (1/2 cup) and zest to make this delicous and simple ice cream.  Yes, you do need an ice cream maker for this one; but in my humble opinion, every well stocked kitchen needs an ice cream maker.

The ingredient list and the recipe for this fabulous ice cream is really very simple:
  • 2 cups superfine sugar (see note below)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 quart low fat buttermilk
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Combine sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice, mixing well.  Stir in buttermilk and salt, stirring until sugr dissolves.  Chill at least four hours. 

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions (in my book about 20-25 minutes).

Pour into nonreactive container (preferably glass or stainless) and freeze for at least five hours. 

Garnish with mint leaves and serve.

Buono appetito!

*Note - To make superfine sugar, process granulated sugar in food processor with metal blade for 1 1/2 minutes. 
**Another great note on this one is the calorie count~~only 190 calories per 1 cup serving...Nice :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Yes, they are almost ready!  Take a look at this beautiful fruit :)  Although the lemons are a bit scarred from the recent outbreak of black sooty mold, it won't affect their juice production or taste. 

I know, I will have a bumper of crop of lemons all ripe at the same time.  I'm not complaining, mind you, but the question becomes (as always) what to do with them?  Well, I've been doing some thinking and planning this year and I've got several wonderful lemon dishes up my sleeve: 
  • Lemon Curd - delicious on yogurt, cereal and oatmeal
  • Preserved Lemons - I have a fabulous braised chicken dish in which to use these
  • Lemon Bars - When I had my Cafe, these were the 2nd best selling dessert (next to my cheesecake)
but first on the list...Lemon Buttermilk Ice Cream!  Stay tuned :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Look at this beautiful creature that was feasting on my (of all things) butterfly bush plant Saturday afternoon.  It is a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio glaucus, and s/he is gorgeous!

This photo looks as if she is dancing on the flower :)

 Such a beautiful gift on a Saturday afternoon.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Unpleasant but Necessary Garden Maintenance

Spending time in and tending to my vegetable garden is one of the greatest joys in my life.  It's where I go when the challenges of life seem overwhelming and I need to refocus on what's really important.  

Since retiring three years ago, I've been able to devote much time to two of my favorite past times:  gardening and cooking.  Harry and I have spent a lot of money and time on my garden in the past few years making it beautiful, functional and productive, and he knows how much I love it.   

This past week we had to make a difficult but necessary decision.  We have one big oak tree that is blocking about four hours of sunlight from my garden.  This tree is directly in the path of the rising morning sun and its shadow is adversely affecting my garden. 

When we put the garden in four years ago, the trees were not a problem.  But they've grown since then.  Something I did not anticipate.  And now my garden is not getting enough sun and my vegetables are growing slowly or not at all.  It became particularly evident this year when I put in my fall garden.  I even had seeds this fall that did not germinated due to lack of sunshine.  We came to the painful realization that this cannot continue.  With heavy hearts, Harry and I made the decision to take out that one oak tree.  Believe me, we didn't come to this decision lightly.  I spent many hours in the garden watching the path of the sun and timing it as it came over the top of the tree canopy.  It's true; I'm losing at least four hours of morning sun.

This is where the sun is at 7:45 am...

and this is where it is at 11:30 am...just beginning to rise above the tree canopy.

And here are two beds in my garden at 11:30 am and they haven't yet seen the sun.

On Tuesday, we had a crew out to remove that tree and clean up two more oaks that are contributing to the lack of sun on the West side of the garden, although not to the same degree.


We had the crew cut and stack the wood to use for the fire pit this winter, to take to the ranch house and to give to friends who have fireplaces.

As you can see from this after photo, removing that tree opened up my garden to the sun like I never imagined.  All six beds are now getting at least 8 hours of sunlight which is far better than the scarcely 4 hours they had been getting.  And that's in the fall when the sun rises later and doesn't get so high during the day.  In the spring and summer, the garden will get much more sun. 

When we built this house, we only took out one small oak tree so I'm trying not to feel too badly about removing this one.  There are hundreds more oak trees on the property.  I know it was necessary and right thing to do and I'm OK with it...sort of...kind of...mostly :'/

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall Vegetables

My fall vegetables are growing beautifully, albeit slowly this year.  I'll explain more about that in a future post.  But my radishes are beginning to peak through the soil.  Take a look...

The heads on the cabbage plants are beginning to form and (in my opinion) are gorgeous!

and look at these teeny little Brussels sprouts beginning to form on the plant. 

I'm not worried about the Brussels sprouts and radishes being hit with frost.  Actually, their flavor is much more intense (and better) when they've been exposed to frost.  I just hope I can keep the beetles away until they get to that point.  So good (sshhh :)

Even the tomatoes are beginning to set fruit. 

Although I think it's too late for the tomatoes this year.  I'm not likely to harvest any before the first frost hits.  Bummer, but understandable.  Again, more about that very soon.

I even have a volunteer Red LaSoda potato plant beginning to emerge!  My sister has adopted this little plant as her very own and waters it religiously.  She's hoping to get at least a few potatoes from it.  Gee, I wonder if she'll share? :-)

Just the fact that these beautiful vegetables are growing with only sun, water, a little organic fertilizer and a lot of love is in my book, a complete are most things in God's Universe.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Day at the River

This post has nothing to do with gardening and everything to do with my life in the Texas hill country.  My husband and I have a beautiful second home deep in the hills on the Dry Frio River.  We go there often, mostly on weekends, and just hang out.  It's a beautiful place and our dogs love it out there almost as much as we do.  We turn them loose in the river and they are as happy as they can be.

Last weekend was the first weekend in 10 years we were at the ranch house without our dog Bandit.  A sad time for sure, but it also made me realize that as much as Bandit loved the water and loved to swim, I had no pictures of either him or Tyson in the river.  I set out to remedy that last weekend.  I turned Tyson loose in the river and began taking pictures.  Now remember, Tyson is almost 11 years old; but in the water, he still acts like a young pup.  His mission in life is to chase and retrieve sticks.  Here is a small sampling of what our Saturday afternoon was like:

 Shake shake shake...

Would ya throw the stick already?!

 No stick is too big for Tyson :)

My beautiful sister just moved to Texas and is staying with us for awhile until she gets settled.  She and her little dog, Chico, came with us last weekend and Chico was "baptized" into the Dry Frio River (a misnomer because there is always water in the river).  Here is the lovely Carol and a few snapshots of Chico enjoying one of Texas' most beautiful rivers.

The dogs get along very well and Tyson was a great mentor for Chico, although Chico was *not* interested in going any deeper in the water than where her feet could touch the bottom!  The little minnows were quite intriguing to Chico as well. 

Despite missing Bandit and the huge void created by his absence, it was a wonderful weekend for all of us.  And Tyson was totally wiped out by Sunday afternoon.

But he is my best dog ever and I am so grateful that he is healthy (although quite arthritic) and still has such a zest for life.  Hang in there beautiful old boy Tyson, there's plenty more sticks to chase!