Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Farmers Markets - Have You Visited Your Local Farmers Market Recently?

Dear Folks,

As many of you know I have been a supporter and participant at local farmers markets for going on 2 decades.

Since I began participating, the number of markets in the valley has grown exponentially.  What started out with as few as 6 or so has grown to dozens and dozens!  A real achievement in an area many visitors and outsiders consider improbable if not impossible.  A Farmers Market? In the desert?  Locally grown?

I decided a little reminder was in order.  It is no coincidence that the chain grocery stores highlight Arizona Grown.  The growth in local farmers markets triggered those chain stores to at least try to keep some locally grown or produced food in stock.  However the chain stores do not have the wide breadth of offerings compared to YOUR local farmers market

Just remember - local means seasonal!  That means fresh, best for nutrition and taste, and sustainable.

Many of the markets offer entertainment and informational assistance along with all the locally grown or raised foods, craft foods (breads, jams, tamales, sausages, cheese, candies, cookies etc.), and local crafters.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market to host a class on Edible Flowers.

The week before that I hosted my thrice annual seed share at the Mesa Community Farmers Market.

I am at the Mesa market each Friday (9 am - 1 pm), one of the oldest markets at 20+ years, going on year-round.  (FYI the new location at 20 East Main Street (north side across from the light-rail station) offers better parking access -- off of Pepper Place.)  This Friday looks like a beautiful day to come on out.

In Phoenix, this coming Saturday, the Uptown Farmers Market in Phoenix is beginning a series of classes each Saturday.with other local experts.

Jump Start Your Spring Garden with Greg Peterson 
9 a.m. the Market is on the southwest corner of Central and Bethany Home Road.

Saturday should be a gorgeous day to get to the market, take in a class before heading out to SHOP LOCAL!

Not sure where your local farmers market is in the Valley and  State?  Check out these links:

FACT:  Did you know many local farmers (big and small) started out selling a few things at the farmers market?  And "grew" from there!

Likewise, many beloved local foods like jams, tamales, and bread producers got their start at a farmers market?

So, what are you waiting for?  Find, shop and support your local farmers markets.  The more you shop, the more local producers bring out foods you love or will fall in love with.

Have a great week!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Savory Golden Oatmeal - A Sidedish for Lunch or Dinner.

Dear Folks,

I've shared recipe ideas on using oatmeal for meals other than breakfast.

Oatmeal makes an great economical, tasty, good-for-you option to rice as a side dish and it is FAST to make.  Once you have your ingredients ready it cooks up in 5-6 minutes.

I recently entered a contest Quaker Oats is having on finding new flavors for their instant oatmeal varieties.  I entered 3 flavors - maybe I will win, but whether I do I want YOU to know how good oatmeal is as a fast and easy side dish (or meal if you add in a protein - think Paella for meat etc ideas and flavors).

Here I decided on turmeric, ginger and pistachios as the base.  I added shredded red lettuce from my garden for texture and color.

Savory Turmeric, Ginger, Pistachio Oatmeal

Serves 2

1 teaspoon of butter or oil (I used my homemade butter / avocado oil spread)

1 cup of old fashioned oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric (or more to taste or 1 teaspoon fresh grated)
1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger (or more to taste or 1 teaspoon fresh grated)
1 teaspoon dried onion (1/2 teaspoon of fresh)
1 3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons of pistachios (or more)
1 1/2 cups of shredded lettuce

In a pot, melt butter/oil stir salt, turmeric, ginger and onion for 1 minute.  Add water, stir, add oats and bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until thickened, while stirring, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, fold in lettuce and serve in bowls topped with pistachios (or you can fold in the pistachios).

2 Servings each has 6.5 grams of protein, 4.75 grams of fiber and 190 calories.

! cup of this oatmeal/pistachio has about the same amount of protein as brown rice, more fiber, less calories (218 compared to 190 for the oatmeal), and cooks up faster.

What rice dishes do you make that can be changed out with oatmeal?

One of the contestants in the Quaker contest showed an "oatmeal burrito bowl"!  I thought that was a wonderful idea.  Made like the filling for a burrito and topped with fresh shredded cheese and diced tomatoes.

If you enjoy my recipes, check out my cookbooks on the side bar.

Have a great day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Sprouted Corn for Salads

Dear Folks,

A while back I read about some chefs sprouting corn to include in their dishes.  Hmmmm, I thought, I need to keep that in mind.

Fast forward to last month and I suddenly got the bug to sprout some beans for use in our salads, soups and stews and I had my beautiful harvested Glass Gem Corn.

I had not actively sprouted foods in a long time because I had so much to choose from either in my garden or at the farmers market.

But cold and damp weather got me thinking about sprouting.  There is something soothing about having something growing on your counter in the middle of bleak weather that is reassuring.

I finally started some on January 9th, and with one thing and another, other than rising twice a day, I did not get to use them until yesterday. About 20 days - FYI you will probably want to harvest and use at about 10-12 days because the roots get a little to tangled to pull freely of each other (I like the roots in sprouts).  If you don't want the roots then just cut them off and use the tops as I did in the salad below. (I used 1 tablespoon of corn to sprout -- that is a pint mason jar.)

The results were fun and surprising.  Sprouted corn is sweet with a mild taste of corn on the cob flavor.

In the early part of January I posted on sprouting beans etc. where I discuss getting back into growing real food - fast - beans take about 2-3 days and they are ready.  By combining some bean types together you also increase the nutrition.  Also if you or your family want beans in the diet but have 'issues' with them, sprouted anything are easier to digest.

Harvesting from the garden is absolutely my favorite thing to do. Having said that, there is a lot of be commended about sprouting on your kitchen counter.  If the weather is dismal or you are too over-loaded to go out and pick, clean and prep salad, sprouted beans, grains and corn are truly easy-peasy.  Soak, rinse, repeat, eat!!

Yesterday I made a salad totally from our garden and the sprouted beans and corn.  Red Romaine, Green Ruffles and Arugula Lettuce, Sugar Peas, and a Red Scallion along with the Garbanzo and Green Lentil sprouts with the corn, pulled it all together. Just awaiting my limequat vinaigrette dressing.

Folks, if you enjoy my posts, please share.  Thank you.

Have a great week, watch your tender plants, protect them while we are in this cold spell and get ready to sow and plant after the system moves out.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Weather Alert! Freeze Possible

Dear Folks,

Weather Watch /  ALERT!  - Don't let the lovely temperatures this coming weekend distract you from frost protecting your tender plants.  A system looks to be moving in around January 31st / February 1st that may drop day time temps into the 50s and night time temps below 32.  Keep those frost and hail coverings available until mid-March.  Pay attention to the overnight forecasts - if 40 or lower have the covers ready.  Systems can speed up or stall changing the "landing" time.

343 AM MST FRI JAN 29 2016

. . .




-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Free Lectures Coming Up! Mark Your Calendars - January 30th & February 20th

Dear Folks,

This coming Saturday I will be talking on the subject of Edible Flowers at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market.

All of the beauty and usefulness of flowers can be found in Edible options instead of many pretty but toxic flowers.  Come on out, see and learn all the variety to have something blooming in your gardens year round, for your enjoyment, along with the hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects.

Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market
Saturday, January 30, 2016 - 9 a.m.
3806 North Brown Avenue,
Scottsdale, Arizona

The transition time from late Winter to Early Spring in our desert gardens can be a bit of a challenge. Are we going to get frost? When is the last frost day? Do we sow seeds or transplant seedlings?  What types/varieties of edibles should you plant?

I will address these and other factors for the gardener heading into spring and summer in the desert garden.  Unlike 4-season areas, if you plant at the right time for the variety you can have an edible garden year round in the desert!

Mesa Urban Garden (MUG)
February 20, 2016 - 1:30 p.m.
Sow, Plant, "Mulch", Protect
Late Winter/Early Spring in The Desert
How To Grow Successfully 
212 East 1st Avenue
Mesa, Arizona

I hope to see you at these events.  Have a Best Day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Yesterday's Seed Share Q&A and a Free Children's Gardening Book From Baker Creek.

Dear Folks,

Yesterday turned out to be a great Free Seed Day!

Over 120 seed packages went to new homes and I got some great seeds in too - Thank you Jacq Davis for the Papaya and Moringa Seeds and a very nice young man who brought Passion Flower seeds for the Seed Bank.

I did a lot of Q & A and clarifying on frost protection, planting time and some soil questions.  And, what about using shade cloth?

Shade Cloth or Planting in Shade.  Here is the thing, if you plant at the right time for the variety, shading in any form except with a limited number of species, is not necessary.  If it is edible it needs the sun, as much of it as can be accessed.  Plant like strawberries and peppers benefit from a bit of the late afternoon shade, but still like about 6-8 hours of direct sun.

If you absolutely feel you must use shade cloth for whatever reason you have to understand how high to place it.  Shade cloth too close to the tops of the plants holds in the heat, creating a HOTTER not cooler environment for the plants.  Have you ever stood under an umbrella or ten canopy on a hot day and wondered why it felt hotter when you have "shade"?  Same principle there is no air flow sufficient to minimized the radiant heat produced by a fabric when the sun is beating down on it.  (There are exceptions like mylar coated tents or similar.)  Most folks presume that because you can see through shade cloth there is air movement.  Nope!  There should be a good 4-6 feet clearance between the top of the tallest plant in the garden and the shade cloth to avoid heat retention.

Preferably it should be place directly over - or slightly to the west of the garden area so that the plants can get at least some of the sun they need.

Tomatoes - One of the gardener's Holy Grail of plants and worth it if you do somethings right in the desert garden.

To begin with, we get two growing seasons out of a tomato planted in January/February.  Spring and fall.  The pollen can't set in the middle of the summer when our night time temperatures are in the 80s.  The fruit starts to set again as soon as those temps drop back in late August /early September.

Seeds or transplants need frost protection until mid-March (on the outside of the time frame).  Tomatoes do not like cool/cold soil and will actually stop growing if we hit a couple of cool/overcast days. They will start growing again when the soil warms back up.

Unless you plan on planting a forest of tomatoes - many, many plants all planted close together - do NOT stake or cage them.  Let them Sprawl.  High up is hot and dry, low down is cooler and moister.  The vines get very strong and will generally hold the fruit up off the ground without a problem.  Usually the sprawling vines also cover the fruit well enough to keep them visually out of bird site.  IF Fruit touches the ground, just slip an un-coated white paper plate under the fruit to keep off soil.  Do the same thing with melons or squash or any fruit which touches the ground. Use can use a piece of wood or a brick instead.  (Large growers frequently use straw for the same purpose.)  The bacteria in our soil is great but also a problem for tender fruits, causing them to rot and attract bugs.

Amending Soil:   First about our "native" soil, worms and moisture.

Looking at a very dry, hard as a rock area of backyard or land most folks just can't see what lies beneath.  Worms and moisture!  Where are they?  About 3+ feet below where the moisture ensures the worms a hospitable home and they are NOT going to come up into the dry earth above until it is more welcoming.

How do I know this?  Because 20 years ago when Deane decided to completely rework the barren (except for mallows following a rain), hard as a rock backyard, the only thing we got sticking a shovel into the earth was an occasional grub.  No Worms.  Period.

He brought in several tons of compost, used one of the huge tillers to work the property stem to stern, until the soil looked like black talcum powder, and then he watered, leveled and bermed the entire perimeter and started planting trees by digging enormous holes for each one - six feet to be exact.

Along the way down - he encountered impressive caliche (a chemical reaction between the intensity of the sun, and high mineral content of the soil and water) a couple of feet down and below that was moist soil with an occasional worm!

Fast forward 1 year and digging and working in this revitalized soil we started encountering worms.  Fast forward to today and we can stick a spade into the worked areas and find 2-3 worms per spade or 8-12 per shovel full.

Amending  is about bringing in "organics" like finished compost, well rotted manure and working them into the native soil to "fluff" and increase drainage.  There are minerals in un-amended soil,  along with microbs and beneficial fungus, which together with the healthy "living" compost and manure create a perfect recipe for happy plants.

Compost vs. Mulch
          Compost is worked INTO the soil.  Mulch is put ON TOP of the soil, to cool the soil, minimize evaporation and begin or help the process of creating a hospitable environment that those worms - remember them - will want to come up into, bringing their rototilling, manure spreading, reproduction activities into.

The reason for the BIG difference in where the mulch is placed comes down to this:  wood chips are not composted yet.  If they are incorporated INTO the soil they steal nitrogen from the soil, rather than add to it.

I had a nice conversation on reclaiming a barren lot with a young man and gal.  He was bringing up the concept of wood chips, mulch layered to begin the process of revitalizing his backyard - he knew his subject very well and we discussed the methods and sources.  Layering with wood chips, mulch, compost if you have it, manure creates an incredible reclaimation environment that you can begin to plant in after about 6 months.  You are looking for 8+ inches in depth.

Free Wood Chips  You can call a tree trimming service and arrange for a load of wood chips to be delivered, Free, to your home.  This is a wonderful win/win because the landscaper is saved a run to the dump or landfill and you get a free mulch.  FYI - IMPORTANT points:  1)  They will deliver a load when they are in your area - sometimes you can arrange and exact date and time, but not always.  2)  You will get a HUGE amount of wood chips all at once - about the entire length of your driveway, which you will have to wheelbarrow to your garden locations yourself, unless you want to pay for it to be moved.

I found an excellent short video illustrating just how big the pile is along with aspects of what might be in the pile.  The videographer makes a nice point of building a relationship with a landscaper if you envision getting more than one load of wood chips.

Wood chips can be a component of "Sheet Mulching".Layering mulch to create healthy soil is referred to as Sheet Mulching or Lasagna Gardening.  Watch Greg Peterson over The Urban Farm show you how to get a healthy bed going this way.  Greg explains both long term use and short term use of the layer area.

Frost Protection / Planting Time.

We are at the end of cool weather planting the beginning of warm weather planting. BUT - planting the warm weather plants now means having frost protection available or in place (Poor Man's Cloche) until mid-March.  It is about the occasional frosty night until then and even the possibility of hail.

Sowing seeds directly in ground, with proper watering, generally results in healthier plants overall.  Water/sprinkle every day until you seed germination above ground (that means keeping it moist - not soggy - during the entire under-ground germinating process), and then you can start backing off the water to less frequency and more duration (deeper) to encourage good strong roots deep away from the soil surface and excess cold and heat.

Many of us "artificially" start seeds, in posts, jiffy pellets (I use these), indoors, using grow lights and heat mats.  This works very well, germinating most seeds if done properly.  The thing is -- these plants may not have the same stamina if started directly in the ground.  It is a matter of the "strongest survive".

So if you have the option - direct sow.

We can still see soft frost (anything under cover whether blanket, tree or patio cover) will generally be okay with little or no damage.

Hard frost is possible this year with our freaky El Nino and its huge temperature swings.  Hard frost moves "horizontally" as opposed to soft frost's vertical pattern.  Hard Frost also means sustained (4 hours +) below 32 degrees and is difficult to prevent damage without the use of a heat source like old-fashioned Christmas tree lights and cover.  Or moving plants into an above freezing level area.

DO NOT remove any frost damage yet.  Not until we have no possibility of additional frost.  If you did not see my previous post of February Planting, Hail is the link.   I discuss a little more about end of frost and include a picture of a poor man's cloche.

Getting Back To Seeds:

Baker Creek Seeds:  I received this email from them yesterday (so timely to my seed share), which I wanted to pass on to you all.

"Did you know that Baker Creek has published a kids' gardening booklet? Yes! This fun and informative publication, Amazing Seeds: A Kids Guide to Strange and Wonderful Garden Veggies, contains 32 color pages of interesting facts and how tos for growing veggies. And the best part? We are happy to send quantities of booklets for FREE to schools and homeschool groups, as well as to libraries and special events. Just send an email to,“Attn: Free Kids Book” in the subject line."

I'm always happy to answer questions via email or at the Mesa Community Farmers Market.

Watch my post regarding my Free Lecture open to the public at Mesa Urban Garden on February 20th.  Details to be announced.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!


My Publisher is Offering A Discount good through Monday, January 25, 2016.  On PRINT books and calendars.

15% Off All Print Books, Photo Books, and Calendars
Cannot be combined with other offers.
Use Code: JANSAVE15
Offer ends January 25th at 11:59 PM

Publisher's Site:

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Survey Results and Notes.

Dear Folks,

I want to thank all of you who took the time to take my little survey back at the beginning of the month.

I also received an additional comment about more monthly planting information.

Here are the results of the survey:

desert gardening  (87%)
edible landscaping in the desert (75%)
culinary herb gardening (50%)
more like my 25 days of Herbs & Celebrations (50%)
cooking from the garden (37%)
more on edible flowers (37%)
healthier recipe versions of traditional foods (25%)
chickens, ducks, goats (0%)

I'm going to take these one at a time and comment.  If you wish to add a comment, please do, it helps me know what you need to be more successful in YOUR garden.

Desert Gardening  (87%)

In looking at the interest in this option I probably should have been more specific, because what I had in mind was Native Edibles.  So I'm going to go with that as the focus.  If any of you had something different in mind I would like to know that!

Native plants are, of course, more tolerant of our desert conditions, require less watering than your usual veggie, fruit and citrus tree gardens, and have a cultural significance that makes them attractive over and above their edibility and other uses.

I would encourage you to check out Jean Groen's growing (pun intended) list of books on foods of the Sonoran Desert and other areas of the state.

Jean is a friend and as knowledgeable an expert on desert foods as I try to be on the 'traditional' garden-grown foods.

Order via sending her an email through the website. You can also find her books at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum bookstore.   Or find some of her books on Amazon. I recommend starting out with  "Foods of the Superstitions Old and New"

With that in mind, many of the food plants most gardeners so like, such as corn, melons and squash, have native heirloom varieties.  Those are regionally adapted for this climate, but also take a bit more water than true desert plants.

Take Mesquite for example.  This wonderful bush/tree has edible pods, provides shade, requires no watering once established (they do grow taller etc. if they get regular watering) and can be used to reclaim fallow areas in order to establish a vegetable garden.  I will post more on that in a future blog.

Prickly Pear and Jojoba are some of the best known edibles.  Both do well in a low/no water use garden.  The Prickly Pear has edible flower, fruit and pads (being mindful of the thorns and glochids (hairy base of thorns).  I will discuss these and more in future blogs.

Edible Landscaping in the Desert (75%)

My top passion.  Upon arriving in Arizona in the 70s I discovered that there was no summer only gardening, but all-year gardening.

Like many new-comers it took be a bit to start understanding that spring fever enthusiasm for planting EVERYTHING as soon as the temperature was in the mid-70s to 80s was NOT a key to growing things.

What actually began as a need to put more flavor in my cooking through culinary herbs and spices (due to family salt and fat restrictions), morphed into a true passion to try and grow everything I tasted.

I found the concept of edible flowers intriguing - color and safety in my food and color and happy pollinators in the gardens.  Win/Win for everyone and everything.

Gradually I discovered that trialing a couple of each type of plant in different areas of the gardens yielded not only successes but also what did not work, at the same time observing the timing of planting and sowing.  As each variety showed me where and when it was happiest, I also learned to take that learned knowledge and apply it to what might be considered exotic food plants.  I was insatiably curious about new-to-me veggies and herbs from other cultures.  I read and researched every chance I got, purchased plants and seeds to add to my trialing.  I quizzed folks of ethnic backgrounds on what their grandparents and parents grew and ate.

That proved to be both a challenge and a delight.  While at the farmers market I would ask someone what their ethnic heritage was.  This almost always, initially, brought a guarded look and answer.  When I told them I wanted to know what their grandparents or parents grew and cooked with - the delight just lite up their faces and I listened and learned..

The results in my gardens with all of my Trowel & Error gardening yielded an amazing result.  I have found very, very few food plants that cannot be grown here.

The key is always, always to plant at the right time for the variety.

Culinary Herb Gardening (50%)
More Like My 25 Days of Herbs & Celebrations (50%)

The breadth of culinary herbs may seem small, but the range within families is quite large.  You could use a different flavor of basil every day for a month and not exactly repeat the flavor.

I will weave posts on culinary herbs into the Edible Landscaping posts.  It is interesting to me that so many folks view of herbs begin with a notion that herbs in the garden are unattractive and relegated to the back of the yard, out of view.

Most herbs are not only attractive, their flowers are edible (fragrant and tasty like the herb itself) and while some are 'plain' some are just drop-dead gorgeous plants in or out of bloom.

I am so pleased many of you enjoyed the 25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations.  I will definitely keep the concept of series in mind when choosing topics.

Cooking from the Garden (37%)
More on Edible Flowers (37%)

I have to pay more attention to my recipe building as this survey result would indicate I don't always showcase what I used from the garden.  I do regularly create or re-share recipes but I don't always mention when I worked from the garden harvests.  I need to get better at that :-)

The range of edible flowers goes from vegetable and herbs flowers (sugar pea flowers and basil flowers) to old-fashioned cottage beloved flowers like hollyhock, stock and nasturtium.

I will try to do a blog post which incorporates more discussion on individual edible flowers with appropriate planting/sowing time.  The great thing about edible flowers, here in the desert, is you can have edible flowers in bloom every month of the year including the summer.

Healthier Recipe Versions of Traditional Foods (25%)
Chickens, Ducks, Goats (0%)

Okay no discussions that only focus on chickens, ducks or goats - got it!  However if you have the place and a need for "fresh" -- goats milk (and yogurt and cheese made from it) is wonderful along with your own chicken and duck eggs.  There are side benefits for your gardens too - fertilizer :-)

Healthier Recipes.  I am more and more interested in making my own version of commercially produced foods.  Just recently I made a version of Cheeze-Its crackers using locally made cheese.  There is no way this was low calorie, but I'm going to adjust the ingredients to make it higher protein to calorie ration, which is one of my guiding principles when making a homemade version of something.  Compared to Cheeze-its my recipe has only 5 ingredients.

There are exceptions - if it is a dessert I just try to make from better ingredients (organic sugar, organic butter etc.)

Most of my recipes, including my homemade versions of commercial products is focused on my formula for what constitutes nutrient dense.  The total number of grams of protein and fiber added together and divided into the calories for the serving resulting a factor number.  Nutrient dense food has a factor of 20 or less.

An example is my "Seed/Nut Cheese Cracker"  which has a ND factor of 12.97 compared with Triscuits which has a factor of 20 (THE best of the commercial crackers but still with a lot of chemicals and high sodium in it).

I have some more ideas for homemade versions of foods I will be sharing in the future.

. . .


I want to thank you again for taking the time to give me feedback on what matters to you.  I won't try to follow a proscribed schedule, instead doing regular posts addressing one or more of these themes.

Have a great week - it is going to be pretty nice most of it.

REMEMBER - my Free Seed Share this coming Friday at the Mesa Community Farmers Market - 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Changing Hands On Line Book Store carries my books.

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.