Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fun in the Garden - Roselle

 
Roselle Calyx
A new addition to our perennial garden at the VegHeadz garden drew a lot of interest at the Fall Festival and from our volunteer gardeners.  Roselle Hibiscus sabdariffa) or Jamaican Sorrell, or Flor de Jamaica is a wild hibiscus grown in many tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world. 

We successfully grew it from seed we planted this Spring.  We will see if it is truly perennial in our area, or if we will need to reseed it next Spring.

It is a beautiful plant with pale yellow flowers with a red area at the base of each petal.  The flowers yielded to beautiful deep red calyxes which contain a seed capsule inside. 

All parts of the plant are edible, and provide a tart refreshing taste to salads and other dishes.  The plant is grown for fiber from the stems which is used in making burlap, and the calyxes are harvested for use as food coloring and in teas, drinks, jams and sauces.  They can be used fresh or dried.  The basic ingredient in Red Zinger tea is dried Roselle.

Internet references are confusing as they often refer to hibiscus flowers when it is actually the calyx that is being sold or used.


Roselle Flower



















Before using the calyxes, you must remove the seed capsule.  It is hard to do this with out demolishing the petals of the calyx, but with a simple tool this can be accomplished rather easily.  We found a foot long section of 1/2" copper tubing in the plumbing section at Lowe's.  It had the advantage of being closed on one end to avoid injury while using it.  You may want to wear gloves when removing the seed capsules as the calyx will be slightly crushed and stain your hands.  It does wash off easily though. 

Insert tool into the bottom of the calyx.  We sharpened ours just
a bit to make it easier to cut through

Twist and push the pipe through the layers at the bottom of the
calyx into the seed capsule and out through the top of the calyx


The seed capsule is not yet mature.  To save seeds allow it
to mature and open on the plant

Calyxes ready for drying or use in teas, sauces, and drinks
A friend had given us a small jar of "Wild Hibiscus in Syrup," which is in fact these very calyxes preserved in sugar syrup.  We have now made our own.  See recipe below.  Pour a little of the syrup in the bottom of a wine glass and add one of the preserved calyxes.  Carefully add white wine or champagne much in the manner of making Kir.  Delicious.  Or use as a sauce over ice cream or pound cake, or add to fruit salad.  They can be cooked and used like cranberry sauce and taste very similar.  Before cooking, wash the calyxes well to remove any grit or other foreign matter.


 
The calyxes are rich in Vitamin C and other beneficial compounds.  We've enjoyed watching this beautiful plant develop and yield its secrets.  Thanks to Farnaz Khoshbakht who was visiting in the garden for the photos. 

Roselle Calyxes Preserved in Syrup
 
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 cups whole Roselle calyxes (1 cup if chopped)
 
Heat the sugar and water until sugar is completely dissolved.  Add washed calyxes, bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer.  Continue cooking until liquid is reduced by one-third.  Cool.  Strain if you wish just syrup or leave whole calyxes in the syrup to use in cocktails and desserts.  The syrup will remain fresh in the refrigerator for up to a year.   

Dont' Kill Anonymous Bugs


Milkweed Assassin bug nymphs
Master Gardener Glenn Berman was worried about these bugs he found on milkweeds in his yard.  After some inquiries and research, he determined they were Milkweed Assassin bug nymphs.  Great!  Assassin bugs prey on other insects and are very beneficial for your garden.  More about Milkweed Assassin bugs here

The first instinct on seeing an infestation like this is to get rid of these dangerous looking pests.  It's very important to identify the bugs in your garden as you might be destroying some of your most helpful partners.

Other nymphs that look similar to this are Leaf-footed bug nymphs.  As you can see from Glenn's photo, the nymphs look different at different stages of their development.  Some bad nymphs resemble each other or good nymphs or lady bugs, and the confusion goes on. 

It's worth the effort to do a bug ID search before you kill.  And solving a mystery is part of what's fun in the garden. 

Milkweed Assassin bug adult
Leaf-footed bug nymphs



Sunday, October 23, 2016

Growing Vegetables in the Shade

If you missed the recent article in the Tallahassee Democrat about growing vegetables in the Shade, it's available on the right side bar of this blog under the heading Guest Articles in the Tallahassee Democrat.  Another recent one is an article about the varieties of broccoli which grow better in our area. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bacterial Wilt in Tomatoes


Photo courtesy of University of Florida IFAS

Although Bacterial Wilt is said to be a prevalent problem in the Southeast and Florida, we had not experienced it in the VegHeadz Demo garden until this past growing season.  Tomatoes in one raised bed would suddenly wilt -- the whole plant -- and soon die.  The problem was immediately diagnosed by our supervising Extension Agent, Trevor Hylton.  Glenn Berman is the coordinator for that bed, a square foot garden, and he felt challenged to find a solution.  After researching the problem he determined there is not much to be done about the problem, as it is resistant to treatment, and infects the soil in the bed for many years.  See more including identification pictures at:    Bacterial Wilt of Tomato - IFAS

The only solution is to grow varieties of  tomatoes (as well as peppers, eggplant, potatoes, etc., - members of the Salonaceae family) which are bred to be resistant to bacterial wilt.  Glenn located three varieties that were advertised by their sellers to be resistant.  He planted them in the same spot as the tomatoes which had succumbed to the disease.  Only one variety has survived so far - Kewalo.  Glenn planted two of this variety which he had grown from seed, and both are surviving and beginning to bloom. 

This brings to the fore a caution about interpreting and relying on descriptions of plants when you buy seeds or seedlings.  Words like "tolerant of" and "resistant to" don't necessarily mean the plant will be free of disease when grown in an infected location. 

Below is a list of the varieties Glenn grew and the exact description of each provided in the seed catalogs of the companies where he bought them.

Tropic Boy - Evergreen Seeds

"Tropic Boy is a hybrid tomato developed by Takii Seed Company in Japan. Plants are indeterminate and produce large size fruits, 220 grams in weight, with green shouldered and turn to red when matured. This variety is vigorous grower, 6-7 loculi and 5-6 fruits per cluster. Fruits have tough skin and firm meat and crack free, suitable for long distance shipping.  The plant is high tolerant to Bacterial wilt, Fusarium, Nematode and Stemphylium attacks. Very good for tropical area productions."

Neptune - Southern Exposure Seed

"An early- to mid-season fresh market tomato specially bred for heat tolerance and resistance to bacteria wilt which is prevalent in the Southeast and Florida.  Recommended for gardeners and market growers in hot, humid, rainy growing regions where it is difficult to grow tomatoes.  4-oz. red fruits in clusters of 2-4 on short vines.  (67 days determinate)"

Kewalo – Tomato Growers Supply

"This round, red tomato from the University of Hawaii is tolerant to both nematodes and bacterial wilt, serious problems in tropical and sub-tropical climates. It is the only open-pollinated variety we know of that can boast of these traits. While it is well suited for the tropics, it is well adapted to more temperate areas also. Determinate. 78 days."

 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Garden Expansion Update

The new keyhole beds at the VegHeadz garden are coming right along.  Cardboard has been laid over the existing cardboard (now mostly decomposed) and mulch that we placed there last spring.  Additional mulch has been applied over the cardboard on all pathways surrounding the beds.  Soil from an area in the back of the garden which has built up from the addition of wood chips, compost and other amendments has been moved into the planting areas of the beds.

Compost will be applied over this before planting. These beds will be used for greens such as collards and kale during the fall season and once the seedlings are in place, a thick layer of oak leaf mulch will be added.  Voila!  New garden beds.

Thanks to bed "T" coordinator Carole Hayes and all our other faithful VegHeadz who have been working hard the last couple of weeks to get it in shape. It's looking good!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

VegHeadz Garden Expansion

A new area of the VegHeadz garden is under development to provide growing space with more sun.  An area at the back of the garden previously known as the D rows for rotation purposes has been moved to the top of the garden and joined with two existing raised beds to become beds T1 (for top), T2, T3, and T4.  The new area has been laid out as two keyhole beds as pictured above.  They will include flowers as well as the vegetable varieties designated on our rotation schedule each season.  Thanks to Carole and her hard-working crew, these beds should be ready for the Fall Festival and garden open house scheduled for October 22.  Put it on your calendar.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

August in the Garden

Don't forget to consult Gardener Ed's posts about what to do in the garden each month.  His advice about what to do in the garden in August is the featured article, on the right of the blog screen.

We've also added a new feature--VegHeadz guest articles published in our local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat.   Material for most of these articles comes from our experience in the VegHeadz garden at the Leon County IFAS  Extension and is applicable to all gardens in the North Florida area.  If you missed them when they were in the the Democrat, check them out.  The links to the articles are also at the right of your screen. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Cherry Tomatoes

Today we'll share another quick, easy, and delicious recipe for cherry tomatoes.  There are still plenty growing, but better enjoy them now, as they will soon be gone.



8 oz. Papparedelle or fettuccine (the wider noodles work best)
2  to 2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes (if large, cut in half)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large or 6 small garlic cloves
Pinch of sugar
Red pepper flakes, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil and parsley
Freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese
Pasta cooking water or wine (optional)

Bring large pot of water to boil and add pasta.  Cook to al dente.  In the meantime, add olive oil to saute pan and heat on medium high.  Add garlic, then tomatoes, sugar, and pepper flakes, and reduce to medium.  Saute until most of tomatoes have burst and released their juices.  Add salt and pepper to taste and then basil and parsley.  If mixture appears dry add a little of the pasta water or a little  wine.  Drain pasta and add to tomatoes.  Mix to combine.    Add grated cheese to each serving. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Conversations in the Garden



Conversation thrives in the VegHeadz garden while we are pulling weeds and harvesting our crops.  We share personal and gardening information, have teaching moments with plants and bugs, enjoy visits from our supporting Extension Agents, and laugh a lot.   One of the fun things is sharing recipes.  With an abundance of squash and tomatoes this year in gardens and farmers markets, we decided to share a couple of the simple and delicious recipes we have talked about this week while harvesting squash and tomatoes.  Enjoy







Sam's Sauteed Squash and Eggs

3 or 4 medium  yellow crookneck squash (ideally smaller and a few more)
Slice thinly and saute lightly in olive oil until just becoming a bit tender. Salt and pepper to taste.

Mix  2 large eggs with about 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Pour mixture into pan with squash and cook till eggs are set.  Continue to scramble the combination together. (or fold like an omelet, or cook top in oven like a frittata).  When eggs are done, serve.  Cold leftovers are delicious!!!

 
Summer Spaghetti

2 1/2 cups (about 1 lb.) peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh tomatoes (Dip in boiling water for 45 - 60 seconds before peeling) (or just chop with the skins on--slightly different sauce, but still delicious)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. shredded fresh basil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic (about 2 med. cloves)
6 to 8 pitted green olives, chopped
2 tsp. capers
1 1/2 Tbsp. wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. each dried oregano and crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. each paprika and pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
8 to 12 oz. spaghetti or other pasta

Combine all ingredients except pasta in a large bowl.  Let stand at room temperature for an hour, or refrigerate up to 8 hours.  Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.  Add the hot pasta to the tomato mixture and toss well.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4-6.  The contact of the cold sauce with the hot pasta releases a unique and delicious aroma and flavor.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Trap Plants

Leaf-footed bug on giant sunflower
We discovered more bugs in the garden on Wednesday and learned something  about trap plants.  Extension agents Trevor Hylton, Mark Tancig and Horticultural Assistant Kelly Thomas joined us in the garden.  We identified and removed a few Army Worms and Leaf Footed Bugs from various vegetables.  The infestation was light for this time of year, particularly after the mild winter we experienced.  One reason may be trap plants.

Laurie has planted giant sunflowers around the garden, and we have left some other plants that appeared attractive to bugs as evidenced by their leaves.  We have a Pokeweed in the perennial area that looks like lace.  No other plant in the garden has been so well-liked by munching pests.  We haven't identified the culprits yet, but we are happy to furnish them an alternate menu.


Bug-eaten pokeweed
 
We removed army worms from several plants including one that was feasting on a young eggplant.  Army worms are the larvae of a grayish brown moth which sometimes has distinctive spots on it's wings.  The most common are the Fall Army Worm (which is evident in all seasons), and the Southern Army Worm.  They eat plant leaves and bore into fruit.  The greenish or light-colored eggs are laid in clusters on the underside of leaves.  A layer of scales is deposited among and over the eggs giving them a fuzzy or moldy appearance.  Bt, Horticultural oil sprays and Neem oil are somewhat effective as well as hand picking where practical.    Natural predators are birds and other insects, including a number of wasps.  See more about army worms at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_armyworms

Army worm on eggplant
Hole where Army worm was removed
Our best discovery was multiple leaf-footed bugs and their nymphs on our first giant sunflower bloom.  We only found a few of the adults on our other plants, but the sunflower was bug city.  We thought about killing them with insecticide, but not many work on leaf-footed bugs, and there was concern about the bees which frequent our garden.  Then Mark asked if we had tried shaking them off.  Well that was just too simple.
 
We added a couple of tablespoons of dishwashing liquid to a few inches of water in a bucket, held the flower head over the bucket, tapped it vigorously, and bugs and nymphs fell into the soapy water, never to plague us again.  We're sure there are plenty others lurking in the vegetable plants, but we interrupted the life cycle of those we found.  See more about leaf-footed bugs in our previous post. 

Nymphs of leaf-footed bugs on Giant Sunflower