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Sydney Jordan Brown

Don’t Be Gloomy! Get Yourself a Sweet Goumi!

By Beet 2022 05 May

 

 

Elaeagnus multiflora, Goumi berry, also known as Cherry Silverberry, Cherry Elaeagnus Cibie, Longpipe Bush, and Daio-Gumi has many names and many benefits. Not so well known in the USA, the Goumi berry (not to be confused with the Goji berry) has been rising on the garden scene.

It originated in China, Korea, and Japan. It’s one of three edible species of Elaeagnus including Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) and Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia). Although both Autumn and Russian Olive are invasive, the Goumi is considered the least invasive of the three but has not shown itself to be a problem in Oregon.

 

How is the Goumi good for us as well for our gardens? As a perennial, the Goumi (unlike annuals whose short life span takes nutrients from soils to mature rapidly) has better roots for absorbing minerals from soils.

In the Elaeagnaceae (oleaster) family, it’s a nitrogen fixer. So instead of taking from the soil, the Goumi actually renews it with nitrogen, benefiting nearby plants as well. So, planting more than one is even better. Note that it grows to 6’-10’ tall, so plan accordingly.

The Goumi berry also requires little fussing over and generally prefers poor soil. Once established, it’s also drought tolerant. It’s long-lived and doesn’t need replanting.

Along with improving soil for neighboring plants, the Goumi berry is bee friendly. It provides us with edible fruit! Note that each berry contains a single large seed. If you’re gardening following permaculture principles, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect species.

This super-powered plant beautifies the garden. Its emerald-colored oval leaves have a shimmering silver underside.

Early in spring, creamy bell-shaped flowers fill the air with a delicious fragrance. Following on are bright scarlet silvery-speckled drupes that resemble cherries.

Whether part of an edible hedge or an orchard tree neighbor, both you and your other plants will benefit from its plant-based nutrition, garden beautification and what appears on your dinner plate.

Goumi berries taste great when completely ripe. Immature berries are astringent like unripe persimmons. When ripe, their tart sweetness resembles pie cherries or sweet rhubarb.

They’re great in many recipes, whether consumed fresh out-of-hand (when ripe), cooked, made into jams, jellies, desserts, or more.

They can grow in USDA hardiness zones 4-9, and roots have been known to survive to -20 F. Established shrubs tolerate drought and air pollution. Growing in shade though a half day of sun is preferred. They are pest and disease resistant and partially self-fertile.

So, get rid of the gloomy. Bee friendly and plant and treat your garden to a sweet Goumi!

Seed Sources:

For this season, it may be a challenge to acquire a Goumi. But don’t despair, it’s worth waiting for them to come back in stock.

One Green World

They have a wait list that’s definitely worth getting on!

http://www.onegreenworld.com

Rain Tree Nursery

http://www.raintreenursery.com

 

Locally

Shooting Star Nursery

http://www.roguevalleynursery.com

3223 Taylor Rd, Central Point

541-840-6453

 

Recipe:

Very Berry Goat Cheese and Greens Salad

About 4 servings

Vinaigrette:

2/3 cup Goumi berries

¼ cup white wine vinegar

2-3 tablespoons honey or Agave nectar

2 tablespoons fresh French tarragon, minced fine

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

juice and zest from one organic lime

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

 

Salad:

6-8 cups mixed fresh salad greens, like arugula, red and green lettuces, baby beet, kale, or chard (from the garden or market)

½ cup each strawberries (quartered), blackberries, and raspberries

4 oz of goat cheese, crumbled

¼ cup lightly salted pistachio nuts

 

Pit Goumi berries then purée in food processor. Add wine vinegar, honey, tarragon, garlic, mustard, oil, lime juice, zest, and sea salt. Pulse until well blended. Put excess vinaigrette in glass jar to store for up to 2 weeks.

Mix together greens and pile on 4 individual salad plates or in shallow bowls. Divide among plates and sprinkle the berries, goat cheese and pistachio nuts over the greens. Pour vinaigrette over as desired and serve.

 

 

 

Growing for the Green!

By Beet 2022 04 April

 

It’s been a stiff competition, but we have a finalist for our Gardener’s “Olympic Green Medal.”

2022’s winner is…Brassica oleracea, for team Heirloom Cabbage! And what a huge family team it is.     

Wild cabbages (ancestors of cultivated heirloom cabbages), as well all others in the Brassica family, (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts) can be traced to the Mediterranean. Brassicas then spread to coastal northwestern Europe including the southern coast of England, western France, and Holland.

The word brassica derives from bresic, a Celtic (Northern European) word for cabbage. Many European and Asiatic names for cabbage are derived from the Celto-Slavic root cap or kap, meaning “head”. The late Middle English word cabbage derives from the Old French word caboche (“head”).

The Romans also cultivated a varietal team with three main differences: crinkled or curly-leaved like kale; smooth-leafed, open-headed cabbages; and a wild lot with small-roundish leaves.

Unfortunately, many of the earliest heirloom cabbage varieties have vanished, but there are still many available today that are worth exploring and propagating.

While today’s cabbages are usually “heading” types, heirlooms take other forms.

There’s the Wakefield group, those with pointed heads; the Copenhagen group, forming round balls; drumheads with flattened heads; and Savoys varying from very loose-leafy heads resembling giant-crinkled kale, to monster-sized drumheads. (Most Savoys are the hardiest cabbages of all heading varieties.)

Unfortunately, many of the oldest varieties are no longer around. However, the home gardener can cultivate a number of wonderful unique heirloom varieties they’ll not find at any market.

Whether heirloom or not, good soil is what creates winning cabbages, with ground that’s generously amended with the richest compost (manure-mix is the best).

Sow your seeds indoors (about 6-8 weeks before last frost) ¼” deep in sterilized soil mix.  Sprouting should happen in about 7-10 days in 50-75° F heat.

Pot seedlings up when they’re about 3-4” high. Once they root in a couple weeks, acclimate them outside (harden off) by gradually lengthening their exposure time. Plant out in spring, spacing 18-20” apart depending on variety.

Cabbages are thirsty creatures, so keep them consistently irrigated (no overhead watering) and heavily mulched to retain moisture. Keeping plants cooler avoids bolting.

Row cover is key to keeping pests away. Using a frost-blanket type keeps more sensitive varieties from freezing in early winter.

Heads are ready for harvesting when firm and filled out. Cut from the stem with a sharp knife. If enough remains, the stem will soon give you “mini” cabbage side sprouts like Brussels sprouts to clip and savor.

From tight, round or frilly ruffles to pale green, bright emerald, variegated purple, or rich ruby red, heirloom cabbages astound the avid gardening spectator. Guaranteed!

So, what does that mean for today’s home gardener? We have quite a variety of heirloom cabbages to select from that will surely bring home that “Olympic Green Grower’s Medal” to grace supper, picnic, or pickled (there’s nothing like homemade kraut!) presentations.

 

 

Seed Sources for Heirloom Cabbage:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

http://rareseeds.com

You’ll find a multitude of varieties.

 

Pinetree Garden Seeds

http://superseeds.com

They have several varieties.

 

Seed Savers Exchange

http://seedsavers.org

They have five varieties.

 

 

Braised Heirloom Cabbage

 

One large heirloom cabbage, any type, cut lengthwise in thick wedges

One large organic red onion, peeled and cut in thin wedges

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced crosswise

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

1/3 cup white wine or red for red-leaved varieties (Vermouth enhances cabbage sweetness)

1/4 cup chicken or turkey bone broth (or vegetable stock)

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

fresh ground sea salt and pepper

3 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar

 

Preheat oven to 300° F. Put cabbage and onion wedges in bottom of a Dutch oven or other heavy, ovenproof pot. Mix together garlic, olive oil, honey, white wine, broth, and minced rosemary. Add about 1/8 teaspoon sea salt and a few twists of ground pepper or to taste. Pour over cabbage and onion. Cover tightly with lid or heavy foil and cook for an hour.

Rotate cabbage and onions, then braise for another 30 minutes. Then, remove from oven. Increase oven to 400° F. Pour balsamic vinegar over vegetables and roast uncovered for about 20 minutes until glazed and tender.

Serve hot. Makes about 6-8 servings loaded with vitamins and minerals as well a delicious taste.

 

 

It’s an Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Tom that’s Truly Keenie

By Beet 2022 03 March

 

While Tom Thumb, no larger than his father’s thumb, may have been a long-ago fairy tale figure, Micro Toms are quite real.

 

Not familiar with this little tomato gem? You aren’t the only one. Solanum lycopersicum ‘Micro Tom’ was developed in 1989 by Dr. J.W. Scott and Dr. B.K. Harbaugh at the University of Florida, but it’s unlikely to be seen at local nurseries.

 

Where then does one find this charming and smallest tomato? Fortunately, it’s carried by a few specialty seed catalog companies.

 

So, why sow this miniature plant with its pea-sized fruits instead of a dwarf tomato? Genetic dwarf tomatoes (plants for another tale), while compact, are still too large to perch on a window sill or ledge.

 

They are not GMO but bred conventionally. Most are open pollinated, growing true-to-type unless crossed with another variety.

 

Micro Toms grow best in very small 4–6” pots. The plants grow to a whopping four inches and sometimes up to six inches! Their unique size is due to three genes, each from a spontaneous mutation.

 

A dwarfing gene is common in dwarf tomatoes. Another self-pruning gene is responsible for its being determinate. The third, sun-dwarfing gene results in extremely short internodes under high light intensities. Under less intense light, Micro Toms might be a bit taller, but not much.

 

Anticipate harvesting around 10 to 15 under-an-inch big fruits per plant. Remember, you can have a number of plants in a very limited space. Micro Toms will even grow and give you fruit during the winter months, when planted in a petite pot on the window ledge.

 

No, you can’t expect to feed your family on these dazzling little dainties, but you can surely have some fun in very little space.

 

Their taste is not bad. While not claiming to duplicate something like “Sungold” (not many taste better than that cheery little hybrid cherry), Micro Tomatoes taste sweet just the same.

 

Micro Toms produce fruit in 90–115 days like larger tomatoes. They definitely prefer pots to open ground. Also, seeds sown in April–May will give you plants that won’t mature in summer, so you’ll have fruits for winter!

 

With a bit of gravel in the base of a 4-6” pot filled with good potting mix, you can transfer seedlings sporting their first true leaves to their new homes. Watering with a 50% solution of fish and kelp should keep them well nourished throughout the season.

 

Put each plant in a pretty little pot tied with ribbon. Micro Toms make the perfect winter gift resembling a compact Christmas tree that will soon be complete with its own red, orange, or gold ornaments to decorate a delicate holiday dinner salad.

 

So, if you have quite limited garden space or a sunny window sill, but are passionate for your own home-grown tomatoes, then the Micro Tom is for you!

 

Seed Sources:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

http://www.rareseeds.com

Micro Tom, Orange Hat, Spoon Tomato, and Cherry Berry

Plant World Seeds

http://plant-world-seeds.com

Tomato Micro 

Urban Farmer

http://www.ufseeds.com

Micro Tom

Trade Winds Fruit

http://tradewindsfruit.com

Micro-Tom

Recipe:

Tom Thumb Angel Hair Pasta (serves 4)

This is a lovely mixture of different tomato varieties.

Sauce:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ cups Micro Tomatoes (cherry or grape tomatoes may be substituted)

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

½ cup of half and half or nondairy substitute (soy, almond, cashew milk)

1 tablespoon homemade or fresh-purchased pesto

1/8 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh ground pepper

One 6 oz can organic tuna

6 pickled organic pepperoncini peppers, seeded, stemmed, and sliced thinly

1 tablespoon capers

Zest and juice from one organic lime

8 oz organic whole wheat or spinach angel hair pasta

2 cups home grown or organic arugula, washed and dried

10 Kalamata olives, sliced

Fresh shredded Italian cheese (Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio is great for this dish) or Parmigiano-Reggiano and Fontina

Pasta:

Bring 4 quarts water to boil and cook angel hair pasta al dente, about 2-3 minutes. Drain, toss with a little olive oil, then return to pot covering with lid to keep warm.

Sauce:

Heat olive oil in skillet then sauté garlic on medium until golden, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauté about 1 minute. Pour in half and half or non-dairy milk, pesto, sea salt, and pepper. Gently stir to mix. Add tuna, pepperocini, capers, lime zest and juice, then stir again to mix.  

Coil angel hair pasta in 4 shallow pasta bowls. Top each with sauce, shredded cheese, arugula, and Kalamata olives. Serve immediately

Love Lettuces for Your Sweetheart

By Beet 2022 02 February

Prefer propagating to penning a love letter?  Instead of verses that aren’t quite flowing, get out and do some sowing!

Lay aside those lackluster letters and send your love a luscious bouquet of a dozen heirloom lettuces.  They’ll last much longer and taste far better than roses!

 

“Lettuce?” you ask.  Not just any lettuces, but the most spectacular crimson, brilliant emerald, speckled and other heirloom varieties grown from your own garden.  With varieties such as Merlot, Solar Flare, Trout Back and Outrageous Red, how could your sweetheart be disappointed?

 

Lactuca sativa, lettuce is the world’s most popular salad green.  Lac, the Latin root for “milk” appears in lactuca, its Latin name, and is derived from lettuce’s characteristically milky juices. In Old French, laitue means milky. In English, it became lettuce.

 

Today’s myriad types of cultivated lettuces likely descended from L. scariola, wild lettuces (prickly lettuce). Lettuce was originally farmed by the ancient Egyptians. Depictions of lettuce have been found on Egyptian tomb walls with Min, the male god of fertility, from around 2700 B.C.  Lettuce was served on the tables of Persian kings in 6th century B.C., praised by the Greeks and popular among the Romans not only to promote sexual stamina, but also to aid in digestion; they used the seeds’ oil for medicine and cooking.

 

Lettuce was transported by the Romans who introduced it to their subjects in Western Europe. By the 1400s, loose-headed lettuces had developed in Europe. Lettuce cultivation was substantial in France, Holland and Italy in the 1600s. American immigrants brought seeds they had cultivated with them.

 

Thomas Jefferson had 17 varieties of lettuce at Monticello. Many heirloom lettuces were developed in the US during the 1800s and later to accommodate the wide variety of growing conditions in the coldest to hottest areas. Many of those wonderfully colorful heirlooms were left behind for the more productive – but way less nutritious – varieties. Fortunately, heirloom lettuces have come back since the 1970s health craze.

 

In 2015, “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce was even cultivated by astronauts on the International Space Station.  Now that’s reason enough for offering a lettuce bouquet to someone special!

Those vivid, leafy whorls are also worthy for offering value to our daily diets.  They are a rich source of vitamins K and A, and provide minerals and fiber for very little cultivation or preparation.  They also make a most spectacular salad presentation.  Just try doing that with roses!

Sowing your sweetheart’s salad bouquet early will gift them with your “Love Lettuces” before you know it.  Of course, including a little rich dark organic chocolate never hurts either…

Seed sources:

Baker Creek

http://www.rareseeds.com

 

Pinetree Garden Seeds

http://www.superseeds.com

 

Territorial Seed Company

http://www.territorialseed.com

 

Seed Savers Exchange

https://www.seedsavers.org/  [Cassandra, please cut and paste the web address and create the link. We couldn’t do it. Maxine & Lisa]

 

Recipe:

Sweetheart Salad

Serves 4-6

6-8 cups freshly harvested heirloom lettuce (mixed colors makes it more spectacular)

2 smaller or 1 medium organic tart apple (Pink Lady, Pinova, Honeycrisp), washed, cored, sliced in thin wedges then cut crosswise into julienne strips

½ cup organic dried cherries (cut in halves) or cranberries

1/3 cup pistachio nuts

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Vinaigrette:  Mix the following ingredients together in a jar and shake well.  May be prepared ahead.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons organic honey

zest of one organic lemon

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Gently toss salad ingredients together except for goat cheese and pistachios.  Pour half the vinaigrette and gently mix.  Use more if salad seems too dry.  Arrange salad on plates and sprinkle goat cheese and pistachio nuts on top.

 

A New Year’s Radolution

By Beet 2022 01 January

This year, why not resolve to try and bear your cross by sowing seed for Raphanus sativus?  Even if you fall short, the heirloom Long Scarlet radish that grows 5 to 7 inches long on a thin root will bear one for you.

Radishes belong to the family Brassicaceae, along with mustards and cabbages. Cruciferae is another name for this important family and means “cross-bearing.” All maturing plants in the cabbage family have flowers composed of four petals that are reminiscent of a lovely white cross when blooming.

 

Radishes have been doing their part by providing sustenance for thousands of years since originating in China. Gradually spreading westward, they became important foodstuff for the Greeks and Romans.  They were extensively cultivated in Egypt during the Pharaohs’ reigns and were consumed there before the pyramids were constructed.

 

Radishes were first documented in Europe in Germany in the 13th century.  They were cultivated in England by 1548, Mexico in 1565, and finally made their way to Massachusetts in 1629.

 

Today, radishes are readily propagated just about anywhere and in nearly every US state.  The Brassicaceae family (including cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, mustard and radishes) is of great economic importance, providing much of the world’s winter vegetables.

 

Fresh radishes contain rich sources of ascorbic and folic acids, potassium, vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper and calcium.  

Their compact, pungent leaves can also be consumed (bet you hadn’t thought of that) by adding them to soups, sautéing them with olive oil and garlic, steaming them as a side dish or snipping some directly into your salad.  Delicious!  Move over arugula!

 

As for our featured star, the Long Scarlet radish, its tapered shape is similar to a carrot with a curved shoulder and distinct pointy tip.

 

The root’s vibrant, scarlet-pink skin is very thin.  The interior flesh is brilliant white, crisp and slightly sweet with a milder, peppery bite than most other radishes.

 

Unfortunately, for quite a long time, heirloom radishes were nearly replaced by the more familiar common round red radish. Seed for the Long Scarlet radish can again be found in select specialty seed catalogs.  Fortunately, someone reintroduced these seeds so we might again sow them in our own backyard gardens.

 

When those early birds get their worms, you’ll soon have your first Long Scarlet radishes if you sowed them in early spring.  When well-fertilized and provided with plenty of moisture, you could have your first taste in as little as three weeks!

 

Sowing directly in a fully sunny spot that’s loamy (add sand if compact) and well-composted is definitely the key for exceptional radish roots.  They’ll be sweeter and most tender the more rapidly they grow.

 

So, plan for that New Year’s cross-bearing with a Long Scarlet radish radolution!

Seed sources:

Long Scarlet radishes may be named Cincinnati Market radishes in some seed catalogs.

Pine Tree Garden Seeds

http://www.superseeds.com 

Listed under the name Cincinnati Market radish. 

Urban Farmer

http://www.ufseeds.com

Has both Cincinnati Market and Long Scarlet Cincinnati Organic seeds.

Recipe:

Long Scarlet Radish Slaw

Slaw:

2 cups coarsely shredded radishes

3 cups shredded cabbage

1 cup tart apple cut in fine julienne strips

½ cup chopped toasted almonds or walnuts

Vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons organic honey or agave nectar

¼ cup organic apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix slaw ingredients in a large bowl or 2-gallon zip type bag.  Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until mixed.  Pour over slaw and gently toss, or if using bag, close zip and gently flip bag over several times with hands until everything is mixed. 

Serve immediately.  About 6-8 servings

A Very Merry Winter Berry

By Beet 2021 12 December

 

A Very Merry Winter Berry

While you’ll likely savor Alpine strawberries until late autumn, on occasion you might snatch the last few stragglers in December.  However long they last, you’ll be glad to have Fragaria vesca in your edible landscape.

Commonly known as Alpine strawberries, they’re not only native to the USA and Canada as well Asia and Europe, they’re also true heirloom berries. Because they are so tender, they are not usually a commercial crop.

Although petite in size, these hardy little perennial beauties that will survive to minus 0°F pack a surprising punch with super sweet fruitiness.  Their fragrance and flavor will scent your plate like no other garden strawberry.

Alpine strawberries are also commonly called wild strawberry, woodland strawberry, European strawberry and fraisier de bois. The woodland strawberry variety (Fragaria vesca var. vesca) bears fruit in June, while Alpine strawberries produce fruit all summer long (according to The Strawberry Store).

Like all woodland berries, Alpines aren’t hybrids as with most of the usual strawberries we grow in our gardens.  So, Alpines are one of the only types that will grow true-to-seed, if you collect their seed to sow the next year.

They’re very well-behaved in the garden scape given their lack of runners.  However, they will self-sow but usually remain within reasonable space. Excess plants can easily be potted to share or enjoy the larger yield.

Requiring little attention, Alpines flourish in most garden soil as long as it’s not soggy. Growing to 1 to 2 feet tall, they make excellent border plantings beneath taller plants or trees that provide them with their preferred filtered light.

Alpines also make wonderful container plants if kept in the shadier side of the garden. Unlike hybrid strawberries, they don’t need bright sun to enrich their crimson blush-colored and creamy-skinned fruits as do hybrid strawberries.

There are creamy-white Alpines, too.  If the red ones don’t get you, then the whites surely will with the pronounced fragrance and flavor of intense pineapple. No kidding!  You certainly won’t taste that with hybrid strawberries!

Flowering from early spring through summer and well into autumn, you can have a readily- available supply of these delicious, petite berries on hand.  They bear fruit the first year they’re planted.

If you plan on starting Alpines from seed, be patient as it can take up to a month for their first green sprouts to pop.  Plants are an option if you’re not one to wait.  Whichever way you choose, once started, your plants will self-sow so you won’t need to plant them again.

You can divide the crowns of mature, established plants for more plants and thinning brings new life to existing plants.

Alpine strawberries are best enjoyed fresh when fully ripe.  When mature, they easily slip from their stems.

So, if you’re craving some of these intensely fragrant strawberry and pineapple-flavored berries, put in some Merry Alpine berries of your own.

 

Sources for Alpine Strawberry Plants and Seeds:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

http://rareseeds.com

They have seed for Alexandria (scarlet) and White Soul varieties.

 

The Strawberry Store

http://thestrawberrystore.com

They have the most varieties, including: Yellow Wonder and Pineapple Crush, the best-flavored white varieties as well many red types, both seed and plants.

 

Raintree Nursery

http://raintreenursery.com

They have five varieties of Alpine plants.

 

 

Recipe:

Alpine Strawberry Napoleons

1 package frozen puff pastry (17 ¼ oz) thawed

½ cup organic confectioners’ sugar

1 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup 2% vanilla Greek yogurt (Tillamook was used here)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

zest from one organic lemon

2 pints of Alpine strawberries (red, white or both)

2 tablespoons organic sugar

 

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Open pastry and with a serrated knife cut into eighteen 2×3-inch rectangles.  Place strips on parchment-covered baking sheets. Bake for about 7-10 minutes until puffed.  Remove strips from oven and gently press them to about 1/8” thick with a wire rack. Bake another 8-10 minutes until light brown.

Increase oven to 475°F.

Dust all the strips evenly with confectioners’ sugar (a small shaker works best or a fine sieve) and return to oven for about 10 minutes until browned.

In medium bowl, combine cream and organic sugar.  Whip until soft peaks form.  Add vanilla and almond extracts, yogurt and lemon zest.  Whip until stiff peaks form.

To assemble six pastries:

Spread or pipe ¼” layer of whipped cream on 12 of the pastry rectangles, then top with a single layer of berries.  Stack six filled pastries atop the other six filled pastries. Place a plain pastry rectangle on top of each of the six filled pastries “towers”.  Pipe a rosette of cream atop and pop on a berry.

Six servings.

Plummeting Through Autumn

By Beet 2021 11 Nov

Although we’re finally far from those scorching, smoke-hazed summer days, they were “Plum Good” ones for the Elephant Heart plum. Named for its oblong fruit reminiscent of a heart, its meat is sublimely sweet, succulent, and red as the richest Burgundy wine.  However, given their tenderness, you’ll likely never see or savor one unless it’s from your own tree.

Fortunately for us gardeners, this plum grows wonderfully in the home garden.  Although partially self-fertile, if you have the space, it produces even more if planted near (within 50 ft) a Santa Rosa variety pollinator plum.  

The Elephant Heart plum is a member of the Rosaceae family, as is an apricot. Both are in the Prunus genus, where their shoots have a terminal bud and side buds are solitary, not clustered as with others. Flowers grow in clusters up to five together on short stems and fruits have a groove down one side and a smooth stone.

 

Luther Burbank, who was instrumental in developing many plum varieties, created a gift for us with the development of the Elephant Heart plum in 1929. 

The Elephant Heart, or simply elephant or blood plum, is not only a very decorative specimen tree but produces one of the most striking and deliciously-flavored plums to be had.

The fruit of the plum is also a drupe, meaning it has an outer fleshy part (exocarp or skin and mesocarp, or flesh) surrounding a pit (or stone) with a seed inside. The true characteristic that defines a drupe is its hard lignified stone derived from the ovary wall of its flower.

The plums can be up to 7”-8” across, have freestone pits and have been nicknamed “blood oranges” for their luscious, richly red meat. Sliced or wedged displays on platters, or atop salads or other dishes, Elephant Hearts make a real showstopper along with the brilliant autumn leaves. They store remarkably well, so your late August-September harvest should last several months if stored in the fridge.

One of these heirloom plums will thrive if you have a sunny, well-drained spot to plant a tree in. A variety with a dwarf rootstock is available (see below). With diligent pruning, you’ll be rewarded bountifully each year. 

So, why not plant a tree of your own to pluck from it an impossible-to-find-elsewhere Elephant Heart plum?

A Bit of Trivia

Did you know?

  • Plums can be as small as a cherry or up to 3” in diameter. The Owen T cultivar is considered the largest, at 3” in diameter. For comparison, a U.S. baseball is up to 9” in diameter.
  • Plums grow on every continent except Antarctica. 
  • There were tart-tasting native plums in North America when the first European settlers arrived,
  • Plum remains have been found in Neolithic age archaeological sites along with olives, grapes and figs. 

Sources for Elephant Heart Plum trees:

One Green World

https://onegreenworld.com

They have very good stock in a number of sizes.

The author of this article has been using them for over 20 yrs.

Recipe:

Plummily Colossal Crumble

Preheat oven to 350°F and oil bottom and sides of a 9” square baking pan

Crumble mix:

1 cup white whole wheat flour (or gluten free alternative)

½ cup oat flour

1½ cups regular rolled oats (not instant)

½ cup finely chopped toasted walnuts

2/3 cup organic brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon each ground allspice and nutmeg

¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix together all the dry ingredients. Pour the oil into the dry ingredients and mix with hands until topping begins to clump together.

Fruit filling:

½ cup organic sugar

2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour (or gluten free flour)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

6 cups plums (about 8-10) washed and each cut in to 6 wedges.

2 tablespoons organic honey

zest and 2 tablespoons of juice from one organic lemon

Mix together dry ingredients.  Add plums, lemon zest and juice, and fold gently together until well-coated.

Spread fruit in prepared pan then cover with topping.  Bake on a cookie sheet in a preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes until bubbly and top is browned.  Serve warm with whipped cream, vanilla yogurt or ice cream.  Makes about 8 servings.

These Roots Are Made For Walkin’

By Beet 2021 10 October

These roots are made for walkin’

and that’s just what they’ll do

One of these days these roots

are gonna walk on over for you…

Although most rooted plants are stuck at the same address throughout their lifespan, not so the Egyptian walking onion. Its traveling abilities have taken it to new lands.


Allium cepa var. proliferum, formerly classified as Allium cepa var. vivparum or var. bulbiferum, is a cross between Allium cepa, cultivated onion, and Allium fistulosum, Welsh onion.

Some consider it rather a tall tale (like those magic beans of Jack’s) that a plant could move to another location on its own. However, the Egyptian walking onion – also known as tree onion, top set onion, top onion, perennial onion and winter onion – is such a miraculous plant.

These onions originated on the Indian subcontinent. Although they can “walk” themselves to their next rooting place, immigrants deliberately selected these hardy plants and carried them from Europe to the US circa 1850.

And hardy they are – down to Zone 3! Burr!!! Egyptian walking onions stay green until winter. Ground bulbs as well as the topset bulbils that fall over and replant themselves can be removed and replanted (in autumn) or be consumed on the spot.

Autumn planting provides for optimal growth, allowing bulbs to root and bulk up on provisions for overwintering. Leaves usually wither back allowing nutrients to concentrate in the bulb.

Plant bulbs with their roots down and the bottom half of bulb below ground, then cover halfway with richly amended soil. They prefer regular irrigation, a well-drained and sunny location to thrive, and a light feeding of balanced fertilizer.

Another unique feature is that bulblet production outdoes all other alliums. More bulblets can form on additional stems off of the existing bulblets making a second layer that resembles a Medusa-style hairdo on an onion plant!

Once established, bulblets at the tips of these green stems can reach an incredible 15” or more. As the top-weighted stems tip over, rooting bulblets (called bulbils) start a whole new generation, hence their “walkin’ on over” to a new location.

Concerned with invasiveness? Although you’ll have a continuous onion supply if they are left unattended, when harvested, Egyptian walking onions’ advancement is easily controlled.

Leaves reemerge in late winter to very early spring. Later in the season, new bulblets will form at leaf tips that will eventually tip over to continue the migration process.

Harvest ground bulbs as well as topsets mid-to late-summer by plucking them from dried parent stalks or from the ground where they’ve already toppled. These topset bulbils may be replanted (store in the fridge in paper sacks until replanting in autumn) or consumed.

What miraculous creations – the entire plant can be consumed! Base onions can be eaten like any onion, the hollow greens chopped like chives, and bulblets can be cooked in soups, peeled and fried, pickled, or roasted whole.

So, if you’re seeking a year-round source for alliums, try sowing some Egyptian walking onion sets. They will soon be “walkin’ on over” to be savored at your next meal.

Did You Know?

Topsets of Egyptian walking onions may fall as far as three feet away from the parent plant.

Ancient Egyptians worshipped onions and believed their spherical shapes and concentric rings represented eternal life. Onions were used in Egyptian burials for pharaohs and small onions were found in the eye sockets of Ramesses IV.

Bulb sources:

Sow True Seed
https://sowtrueseed.com

The Egyptian Walking Onion
https://egyptianwalkingonion.com

Territorial Seeds
https://territorialseed.com

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

https://rareseeds.com

Both Baker Creek and Territorial have Egyptian onion sets but are sold out this season. However, you can get on their waiting lists.

Recipe:

Egyptian Onion and Pepper Relish

4 ripe sweet peppers (Bell, Corno di’ Toro, Marconi or other), washed, stems and seeds removed, then cut in strips

2 to 3 bunches of Egyptian walking onions (you can substitute 2 regular red onions), skins and roots removed and sliced. Put either type of onion in boiling water for 1 minute then remove. Skins will then slide off easily.

2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon each minced fresh rosemary, sage and lime thyme (can use regular thyme instead)
Zest of one organic lime
Fresh ground sea salt and pepper

In a heavy sauté pan, heat oil, then toss in peppers and onions. Stir fry until limp, about 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Slowly pour in the vinegar and honey, stirring to mix thoroughly. Sprinkle minced herbs on top. Continue cooking while stirring frequently until liquid is dissolved, about 10-12 minutes, and vegetables start to caramelize. Sprinkle over the lime zest and add salt and pepper to taste, tossing to mix in. Serve hot, warm or chilled.

Great over meats, poultry, seafood, salads, pizza and sandwiches. Store extra in fridge in covered glass or plastic container.

Shallottery!!!

By Beet 2021 09 September

Are you hoping to be a winner?  Then Allium cepa var. ascalonicum, is the ticket!

 

Of course, this particular “ticket,” rarely to be had at any market, is the classic shallot.

Why bother with this rather small prize of a bulb when you can have a heftier onion trophy?  Because, shallots are the real treasure among alliums, which include regular drying onions, ramps, garlic (and their scapes), scallions, leeks and bunching onions.

 

Ever heard of good things coming in small packages? It’s definitely true here since shallots trump the onion in many ways. To start with, they’re more delicately mild and sweet-flavored, with a hint of caramel and a touch of garlicky piquancy.

 

Shallots are also winners with their richness in fiber, vitamins A, B6, and C, potassium, folate, manganese and antioxidants (which are released when bulbs are sliced or crushed).

 

Although cultivated for thousands of years, today they’ve become a rather unknown treasure just waiting to be rediscovered.

 

Most likely originating in Southeast Asia, they spread throughout India and the Mediterranean region.  Noted in Greek history and literature, they were further transported through trading and general crop movements.

 

So why are shallots such a treasure?  If you’ve never had the pleasure of sampling one, you’re in for a real treat.

 

Although on the outside shallots may appear like an onion, if you cut one open, you’ll discover that instead of rings like onions, they’re composed of several cloves similar to garlic.

 

Aside from milder flavor, its texture, form and unique aroma make it a “favorites” winner for a diverse number of dishes.  You can use the bulbs, cook the leaves as a vegetable, add it to salads, pickle it, shave it raw, or even top your presentation with some shallot flowers.

 

Similar to garlic, shallots should be planted in autumn in our area.  Bulbs, not seeds, are the only way to receive your “prize” of cloves. Order bulbs as early as possible this month.

 

Shallots prefer a rich, moist soil that’s somewhat sandy, but they will grow in many soil types as long as they’re fertile and well-drained.

 

Break bulbs apart into individual cloves (like garlic) planting each one 6-8” apart with the root end down (points up, please!), then cover with more composted soil.  Leave about one-third of bulb tops exposed.  Sprinkle the soil surface generously with fine ashes so any fungus thieves won’t steal away your prize.

 

Keep lightly moistened by watering until rain (pray it comes this autumn) arrives.

 

Similar to garlic, shallots’ early leaves will die back in winter only to resprout in early spring when bulbs start forming.

 

Adding nitrogen-rich fertilizer will enhance your growing treasure, as will frequent watering.

 

In about 90-120 days when leaves have dried, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing jackpot.  After curing in a shaded, well-ventilated area for a couple weeks, they’ll be ready for you to savor. Your very own shallottery!

 

FUN FACTS

Did you know?

It takes 18 pounds of fresh shallots to make one pound dried?

In the US, shallots are also referred to as scallions, bunching, or spring onions, but of course they are all very different bulbs.

Some Asian cultures deep fry shallots as a condiment.

Shallot Sources:

Territorial Seeds

https://territorialseed.com/

Dixondale Farms

https://www.dixondalefarms.com/

Hudson Valley Seed Co

https://hudsonvalleyseed.com

French gray shallot

Gardens Alive

https://www.gardensalive.com

Recipe:

Golden Caramelized Shallots

2 pounds whole shallots peeled (place in boiling water for 1 minute for skins to slip easily off)

2 tablespoons cooking-type olive oil

3 tablespoons honey, good maple syrup or agave nectar

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (black may be used but is stronger)

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary finely minced

Zest of one organic lemon

Preheat oven to 400°.

In heavy ovenproof skillet, heat olive oil until hot.  Add shallots and honey, stirring until shallots begin to brown.  Add in vinegar, salt and pepper, then stir until shallots are well coated.  

Sprinkle the rosemary over the shallots and roast in oven about 20-30 minutes until caramelized.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with lemon zest and serve as a side dish, a topping for meats, poultry, or seafood, or serve warm or chilled for salad.  Also great on a sandwich as a gourmet relish.

This rad is a dish!

By Beet 2021 08 August 5 Comments

There is definitely nothing dreary about this most distinctive vegetable, Raphanus sativus, the Red Meat radish.

Native to China (one of the first vegetables traded along the routes between Europe and Asia), Red Meat radishes, also known as Watermelon and Beauty Heart, are quite different from their daikon relations.

Likely originating in Southeast Asia or Central Asia, radishes have been cultivated for several thousand years. Its propagation for food and medicinal use by the ancient Greeks starting about 2,500 years ago, and continued by Romans, encouraged its spread across new lands.

It’s no wonder the original Chinese named them Xin Li Mei or Shinrimei, meaning “in one’s heart beautiful.” These names also denote the vibrancy of its fuchsia-colored flesh.

Unlike spring radishes, Red Meats are winter radishes that can be sown from mid-August through September.  

Tender but crisp, sweet flesh varies from mildly spicy to pungent and peppery. Though known for “watermelon-like” interiors, the exteriors are unique With shoulders of pale green fading to creamy white, Red Meats can grow anywhere from golf ball to soft ball size. 

Chefs have had a long-lived love affair with Red Meats since they pair so delightfully with many ingredients and dishes, from salads and stir-fries to sandwiches and appetizer plates. They’re delicious with fennel, tart goat cheeses, cooked eggs, and seafood or sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Both roots and greens provide an excellent source of vitamin C, (this is particularly so when consumed raw), phenolic compounds and fiber.

Radishes contain isothiocyanate. This chemical compound serves as a natural pest repellent. When planted alongside other crops, the release of its pungent isothiocyanate compounds can repel weeds, pests and soil-born pathogens. What a deal from one tasty and unique little plant!

Although it’s a bit of a challenge in our area to sow seed successfully in August, especially during a summer of such searing summer heat, it can be done. Using shade cloth as well as a good coating of mulch on soil kept consistently moist will assist with more successful sprouting. The mulch will also retain needed moisture so watering may be kept to a minimum.

Sow presoaked seeds, (soaking in water overnight helps hard seeds sprout better), about ¼” deep in well amended soil that’s very friable. Radishes prefer lofty and light soil over heavy and hard soil for their temporary home.

Once they’ve sprouted, thin Red Meat radish seedlings to about 3” to 4” apart. This generous spacing will allow them adequate space to grow larger.

Depending on when they’re sown, you could well have your first spectacular radish root crop by summer’s end. And that’s not all.  If well protected with a good layer of mulch or straw, your radish roots will not only keep on growing, but will also bring forth even sweeter treats all winter long.

So, if you’re looking for a fiery and sweet sensational addition to your garden plot and serving plate, sow in some Red Meat seed to add some new “Rad” to your every dish.

 

Seed Sources:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Johnny’s Select Seeds

Pinetree Garden Seeds

 

Recipe:

Red Meat Radish Salad

Ingredients

3 Red Meat radishes, with roots removed and sliced thin

1 large seedless-type cucumber

4 cups arugula

4 oz herbed goat cheese

1/3 cup pistachio nuts

Lemon vinaigrette:

Lemon vinaigrette (best made 24 hours ahead)

Juice and zest from one organic lemon

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoon honey, agave nectar or real maple syrup

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons minced tarragon (fresh or dried)

Directions

Put all ingredients in a pint jar with lid and shake until well blended. Refrigerate until needed.

On individual salad plates, mound arugula, then arrange slices of radish and cucumber on top.  Sprinkle goat cheese and pistachio nuts over each salad. Drizzle with lemon vinaigrette and serve.

Makes 4 servings.