Local Food, Fresh from Our Garden

Friends from Springfield, MO and British Columbia came for dinner on Saturday. I like to cook and it's fun to fix food for people who know and love good food. Here's the menu. If you'd like the recipes, visit my recipes blog. First was Banana Salsa, from my book, Sensational Salsas from Apple to Zucchini.
I didn't intentionally set out to use just recipes from my own books, it just turned out that way. One of the reasons I give for writing, is it gives me a place to record my favorite recipes and be able to look them up again.

There were 2 "salad" courses, the first was Bruchetta Salad with feta and olives.
Bruchetta Salad on French bread toasts.
That was followed with the "lettuce course" which was Chilled Lettuce Soup. It's garnished with thinly sliced Romaine lettuce and radish slivers. The Tortilla Cracker on top is from my book, Homemade Crackers Using Herbs, available on my website.
Chilled Lettuce Soup, with Chili-basted Tortilla Chip.
Josh made an excellent loaf of whole wheat bread so that was put on the table just as the plates were ready to serve.
Josh's homemade whole-wheat bread.
The main course was Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs, Fresh Corn Pudding, and a circle of Red-Seeded Long Beans with Carrot Spears sauted in fresh ginger and butter. If it hadn't been for the beef, everything else came from our garden for the meal. You just can't get more local than 60 feet away from the table! Everything had been picked that day or the day before.
Joyce, Tom and Saunny.
 I like to give guests the job of making the dessert. Everyone took a few turns at turning the crank on the sorbet maker. Dessert was Blackberry-Basil Sorbet (again, from one of my books) with Lemon Balm Cookies. I had to look back to some of my early books to find my own recipe for the Lemon Balm Cookies!
Blackberry-Basil Sorbet with Lemon Balm Cookies.
The sorbet only takes about 15 minutes to freeze and the sorbet maker went around the table about 3 times. There were more Lemon Balm Cookies with coffee, as well.

Good friends, good food, what a fine way to spend a Saturday evening! And thanks to the garden, I could harvest right before cooking.


Recycled Corn Stalk Horses

Cornstalk horse, Blue Eye, MO
Fall isn't here yet (thank goodness), but some end of summer garden art is showing up around the country. Some folks in Blue Eye harvested their sweet corn patch and created this great horse from the stalks this week. The horse gets moved around every few days, so it appears to "graze" its way across the back yard. You may not be able to see it (you can click on the photo to enlarge it) but the horse has mane and tail of grasses and even a corn husk "ribbon" on its ear.
Wild corn stalk horse, Dallas Arboretum
This one, above, was on the grounds of the Dallas Arboretum when I visited. It looks like a wild horse, with those big ear of corn eyes.
Same horse from the side.
Note the pampas grass mane and tail. Since this one is in Texas, it has to be a wild mustang. Who wouldn't want that in their garden? Each of the horses are built around a simple stick frame with the corn stalks wired or tied in place.
Metal buffalo.
The buffalo, above, is made of metal but wouldn't it be fun made out of corn stalks?
Bent wood ant.
How about a giant ant, made from cornstalks? It would require a more thought-out frame, but still could be done.
Billy A. Goat, eating corn stalks.
While not as creative as cornstalk horses, this is how we recycled the last of our sweet corn stalks this week. Billy, and his harem of nannies, enjoyed every bite.

I'm not ready to give up on summer yet but it's fun to run across these creative pieces of garden art that show off the slowing down of the garden season, and great ways to recycle corn stalks into something t adorn the garden.


Missouri State Fair

Long Creek Herbs booth at the Fair
I love fairs, especially state fairs. I've been going to the Missouri State Fair nearly every year since I was 3 years old. This year, because we signed up with AgriMissouri, we were offered a one day booth in the Agriculture building. What a great way to see the Fair! And the AgriMissouri folks were wonderful to work with.
AgriMissouri's store
AgriMissouri, a part of the Dept of Ag, is there to promote farm products and to assist growers and producers. They stocked a wide variety of MO-made products, including our Herbal Nail Fungus Soak, my books, Doggie Cookie and Cat Cookie Kits, etc. The photo, above, was one of the few times the AgriMissouri store wasn't packed with shoppers!
One of the great things at the Fair this year was Rock-it robot. He talks to kids, shakes hands, walks and dances. He dances really, really well! I overheard a couple of ladies say, "that's the best butt I've ever seen on a robot!" Here's what they saw, below. (Do a Google search for rock-itrobot to see more; his painted "skin" turns colors due to a special Chromilusion paint).
Rock-itrobot from the back.
The Highway Gardens are always a place to relax, nap, picnic.

Some things at the Fair don't change. Like teens who take their girlfriend to the Fair. I remember taking Sharon one year, and Mary Ann another.
Young couples, young families, it's a fun place to go.
Fair food. This one sounds really bad. I wasn't tempted.
One very proud papa and one happy son on the Merry-Go-Round.
The future of agriculture.
Highway Gardens drinking fountain.
I've been drinking at this Highway Garden drinking fountain for more than 60 years. I'll probably still be doing that, when I'm the age of these folks, below.
Never too old for the Fair.


Book Authors Gather in Minnesota

Sharon Lovejoy with me -  what a fun reunion!
It was the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Minnesota Herb Society. Sharon Lovejoy, Pat Crocker, Susan Betz and I, were the speakers. It was held at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, MN. We had a fun-filled day with lots of long time and new herby friends. The meals were outstanding, the Arboretum is beautiful and it was fun to be "up north" again. I had to stop along the way to buy long-sleeved shirts, long pants and a jacket because it was chilly there (it had been 100 degrees as I crossed the MO line into Iowa).
Theresa & Jim Miesler
My gracious and thoughtful house-hosts were Jim and Theresa Miesler, long time friends through Herb Society of America and the International Herb Association. They're the proprietors of Shady Acres Herb Farm and kind and generous hosts. They hosted a Minnesota style barbecue at their farm after the day of speaking. Once again, amazing food, prepared by a professional chef. We ate very well!

One entry of the herb garden at the Arboretum.
Part of the audience for one of my programs at the Arboretum.
Food is always a big part of any herb event. I sometimes think people join herb societies and have events, just for the food! Look at this homemade sage cheese, made by one of the members:
Sage cheese, from homemade cheese.
She said she started with several cups (I forget how much but the amount isn't important) of heavy cream. She added about a 1/4 cup of buttermilk and let that mixture set out on the counter, covered, for a couple of days. Then she poured it into a cheesecloth and let it drain for 3 more days, then mixed in finely chopped sage. Good thing I photographed it early, as it didn't last long! My homemade crackers would have gone well with this. (To find the recipes for the cheese ball and other foods at the event, visit my Recipes blog).
A view of Shady Acres Herb gardens.
Theresa took Pat Crocker on a 4-wheeler hunt for an herb they needed for a dish.
My favorite vegetable of all was in plentiful supply at the barbecue!
Part of the food at the barbecue at Shady Acres.
Just a small hint of the menu: Honey Sesame Grilled Shrimp, Grilled Chicken, Beef Bulgogi (a marinated Korean barbecued beef), Sweet Corn, Couscous Salad, Cucumber Salad, Heirloom Tomatoes, Watermelon and Dark Chocolates. Needless to say, we ate and ate and ate.

Sharon Lovejoy has a fantastic new Bird Book, just out, so new she didn't have any with her. It's packaged like a bird feeder, very clever. Sharon is a prolific writer and you may know her other titles, Toad Cottages; and Shooting Stars; Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots; and Trowel and Error, all can be found on her website.
Sharon Lovejoy
Susan Betz had her new book, too, and I'll be telling you about that soon. Her book, Magical Moons and Seasonal Circles is about the cycles of nature and the connections to Native American traditions. More about it later.

Susan Betz with Magical Moons.
Pat Crocker and husband, Gary, had driven all the way from their home in Canada for the event. Pat, like Sharon and Susan, also has a new book about canning and preserving. I'll be telling you more about her book soon, too.

Pat Crocker and her Preserving book (500 pages!)
With the new books in had by these wonderful writers, I realized I needed to get home get more books ready. I have a new one, coming in a few weeks to tell you about. It was wonderful to see all these creative gardening friends. More stories and some recipes coming up from the trip, a bit later!
For several of the great recipes from the MN Herb Society, click here for my recipes blog.


Fairy Gardens, Garden Fairies

Do you see fairies in your garden? Look closer, you might.

I've written about fairy gardens several times in the past, specifically about the Ozarks tradition that hails from early European immigrants, of leaving a corner of the garden un-plowed, for fairies. It's that very corner where hollyhocks, four-o-clocks, bachelor's buttons, poppies and other re-seeding plants grow. To read more, here's the link if you'd like to know more about those fairy gardens.

Fairy hat left on an allium blossom, evidence the fairies were working there.

But there are other kinds of fairy gardens, too. I want to tell you about 2 books, both from friends of mine, each taking a different position on fairy gardens. First, Betty Earl, has a wonderful new book, Fairy Gardens, A Guide to Growing an Enchanted Miniature World.

Betty Earl

Betty's focus is on what used to be called dish or miniature gardens, but with a new twist. Her gardens are planted with tiny plants in a small space - such as the size of a patio plant saucer, or smaller. In the miniscule landscape she builds entire fantasy worlds, complete with itsy-bitsy pathways, thumb-sized fairy houses, people, furniture and fairy-sized garden tools.

When Betty Mackey, the publisher (B.B. Mackey Books) asked me for a quote for possible inclusion for the back cover of the book here's what I offered:

"I really don't think I would trust any gardener who claims they don't believe in faeries. Either they aren't being truthful, or they don't believe in the magic of sprouting seeds and blooming things. Gardening is always an adventure in hope and imagination. Betty Earl opens the enchanted door to creating your own garden for faeries."
A miniature world, all of  your own creation.

So, if you like miniature gardens and creating special fantastical places, you will love this book! Lots of photos, sources for delightfully tiny items, along with suggestions for miniature plants. You will learn how to make your own enchanted miniature world! $21.95, plus postage. Look for it on Amazon or ask for it directly from the publisher at B.B.Mackey Books.

Betsy Williams with some of her books.

My long time friend, Betsy Williams, has hosted Fairy Festivals at her herb business, The Proper Season in Andover, MA for many years. Her book, Are There Fairies at the  Bottom of Your Garden? describes an enchanted world where children and adults alike, delve into fairy lore, lifestyle and customs.

Betsy gives resources of children's gardens, fairy festivals (did you know there are many across the U.S.?) and a section on garden fairies' favorite plants (they especially like nasturtiums and hollyhock blossoms, for example). There's also a history of where fairies come from and how they go about their hidden work in the garden, making plants grow, bloom and produce.

If you'd like to create your own fairy festival, she has included the details for that, too. Do you know how to make magic fairy dust? The recipe's in the book. So are recipes for a fairy cakes, fairy beverages and lots more. Visit Betsy betsywilliams.com if you'd like to get her book. 

Bachelor's Buttons, another favorite flower of fairies.


All the Flavors of Summer in a Bowl!

My mother had no name for this except, Summer Salad
This salad was always a treat for us in summer. Everything in it, except for the vinegar, came right out of the garden.
Cabbages, planted in August, harvested in November, kept all winter in the fridge.

Last November we harvested the fall cabbages that our intern, Adam had planted back in August. We trimmed off the outer leaves and put the cabbages in the extra refrigerator, where they stayed all winter, except for the ones we ate, of course. So a few days ago I was cleaning out that refrigerator and we still had 2 heads of cabbage. Yes, they were still just as good, or better, than when we'd put them in, months ago. So I decided to make one into Mom's Summer Salad.

Here's the recipe:
1 head of cabbage, core removed, sliced
1 sweet bell pepper
1 slightly hot pepper, optional
1 large sweet onion, diced
4-6 tomatoes, cut in chunks
1 or 2 cucumbers, cut in chunks (diced is too small)
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup sugar (I use Truvia or stevia instead)
2 teaspoons celery salt
2 cups ice cubes

When you're cutting up the tomatoes, cut over the salad pan so the juices drip into the mixture. Combine the ingredients including the ice cubes and mix well. The ice chills the salad and keeps it crisp and also thins down the vinegar so it's not too strong. Wait for at least an hour before serving. This will keep for several days in the refrigerator (I drain off the liquid so the salad doesn't get too strong with flavor). It's a great way to use up extra garden produce, it's healthy and darned good, too!
All the flavors of the summer garden in one bowl!