Sunday, August 30, 2015

Watermelon Rind Jam - More Re-Cycled Foods.

Dear Folks,

I saw this posted on Yahoo from Food52 and had to share another great use for food scraps normally discarded.

I'm pickled and candied watermelon rind and honestly they were okay, but I'm not hurrying to make more.

I have the last of the Black Tail Mountain Watermelons I was planning on cutting open today and then I saw this recipe and I'm going to make it.  (Normally I do compost all kitchen scraps that are not used for making stock.)

Do read the whole article.  The peel is discarded in the basic recipe, but the article author did try a version with peel, so you may want to try both version, perhaps split the basic mix in half and add peels to one half and see what you think.

Olia Hercules' Watermelon Rind Jam

    • 500 grams (1 pound) watermelon skin, tough thin green rind peeled and discarded, white skin finely chopped
    • 300 grams (10 ounces) golden caster sugar (or substitute superfine sugar or demerara or turbinado, ground fine in the food processor)
    • 4 limes, halved and thinly sliced (optional, see note in Author Notes above)
    1. Mix all the ingredients together in a container, cover with cling film, and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
    2. Cook the mixture in a non-reactive saucepan over low heat, making sure the sugar melts before it boils, for 50 minutes or until the watermelon skin turns translucent.
    3. Pour into 2 warm sterilized 450-milliliter (3/4-pint) jars, seal and let cool. Store in the refrigerator. It should keep unopened for several months.
Note:  you can certainly water-bath can the jam for shelf-stable storage.  I would can half-pints for 10-12 minutes, pints for 15 minutes.

Food52 has launched a "Cooking with Scraps" column - you may with to check out.  This is the kind of side cooking ideas I just love.

And one more recipe for watermelon - a "watermelon pudding" which is described as similar to lemon curd.  Love the idea - they strain the pulp out - I might try it with the pulp (again not to waste anything).

And finally the watermelon seeds.  If it is an heirloom you may wish to save the seeds for replanting (here in the desert plant watermelon in January or February).


You can roast them just like pumpkin seeds.  Rinse well, dry, toss with a bit of oil and a dash of salt. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, stirring half way through.  Watch so they do not burn.

All the melon cucumber seeds can be roasted - some may be too small to bother with, but why toss them out when you can make a fun snack.

Talk about using ALL the fruit - this is a winner of a set of options for the beloved watermelon!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you would like more recipes check out my cookbook "101+ Recipes from The Herb Lady"

Lulu (my publisher site)


amazon - print

Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Garlic and Potatoes - Time to plan for planting this fall and later

Dear Folks,

This is the time of year to start looking for 'seed potatoes' and garlic bulbs to plant.

SATURDAY - August 29th is "More Herbs, Less Salt Day" - another reason to get growing more flavorful herbs and foods in your garden!

Garlic is planted October 1st - no later than October 31st to achieve the nice heads for April harvest.

Potatoes are planted Early December and no later than late January (I traditionally plant my potatoes on January 1st to celebrate the new year).

NOTE: Sweet potatoes are planted the opposite time to Irish potatoes - you plants the sweets late May to early July for October/November harvest.

If you have not saved some potatoes or garlic heads for re-planting (I keep in separate cardboard boxes chilling out in my frig for re-planting later - and yes, they will sprout but that is just fine), I have several sources the I like for purchasing seed potatoes (these are small potatoes grown and harvested specifically for planting).

Baker Creek has a nice selection of garlic to choose from.

I've ordered great garlic and potatoes from Potato Garden before - they are not shipping until mid-October - just an FYI - they do not have a listed email right now -- 1-877-313-7783

I have also gotten organic potatoes from the markets for replanting out.  If large, cut into pieces with a couple of "eyes" on each piece and let air dry for a couple of days before planting out.

. . .

My 2016 Desert Gardening Wall Calendar helps you be more successful in the garden with month-by-month planting info.

The calendar is now discounted 10% off the list price of $19.95.

The fall gardening info is helpful NOW!

Have a great day in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Monday, August 24, 2015

August 24th - Last Day For Shipping Discount

Dear Folks,

This is the last day to take advantage of the shipping discount by my publisher.

Enter code  FGA815 to receive free mail shipping or 50% off ground on my 2016 Wall Calendar or any of my books.

AND the calendar is 10% off until the end of September

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Publisher Shipping Discount - Good through August 24 - just in time for my calendar release.

Dear Folks,

Just in - free mail shipping or 50% off ground

My publisher just added a discount on shipping - free mail or 50% off ground - use code FGA815 - good through August 24th

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

2016 Wall Calendar is Now Available! - Edible Landscaping In the Desert.

Dear Folks,

My Wall Calendar is Now available!

Through the end of September buy at a 10% discount off the $19.95 price ($17.96, plus tax and shipping).

I am excited to get 2016 out in time for you to use not only next year, but for this coming fall gardening information.

As with my 2015 calendar, you have month-by-month planting detail, gardening tips and timely maintenance information.  And pictures from my gardens.

I hope you enjoy this year's calendar and I welcome your comments.  Order here.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Planting an 18th Century Herb Garden

Dear Folks,

There is a really nice series on Youtube called "Jas. Townsend & Son" featuring everything about the 18th Century from clothing to food.

Two episodes feature planting an 18th Century Herb Garden which I thought you all might enjoy watching.  They are each about 5 minutes long.

. . .

Speaking of Herbs -- watch for the release of my 2016 Wall Calendar!!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady 

Sunday, August 02, 2015

The Great Caper Caper Mystery - Solved!!

Dear Folks,

Note:  Suzanne has these special plants for sale until her inventory is gone for now.  See her contact info near the end is you are interested in plants.

This picture shows the mother plant in different stages of flower bud (this is the caper your purchase in the condiment aisle) through flower, baby berry to ready to pick and brine berry (the berries are showing up a lot more in restaurants).
The Caper Caper Mystery –  How To Get Caper Seeds to Germinate And How To Grow Capers in The Phoenix Metro Area.

I have know Suzanne Vilardi of Vilardi Gardens now for several years, and we wound up with a quest – how to get Caper (Capparis spinosa) to grow successfully here.

In September 2011, I purchased some caper seeds from a reliable source and proceeded to try and germinate them in my usual fashion - pre-soaked for a couple of days and seeded into jiffy pellets and placed in trays.  None ever germinated.   I chalked it up to the wrong time of year and planned to try again.  

Fast forward to October 2012, and I met up with Suzanne at The Urban Farm Nursery and she offered me 2 caper plants she had been growing, and thought I might have good luck with them.

On October 27, 2012 those 2 mother plants went in the ground at my home.  One has always done better than the other and is currently in excess of 4 feet across - I have not pruned her, wanting to see what she would do.

In Early 2013 Suzanne and I had a discussion about the difficult of germinating caper seeds, notoriously difficult to break the “super-dormancy” they go into once dried.

The 2 plants were doing okay, having come through their first winter here, however we knew it would be a while before we had any flower etc result from the plants

Suzanne offered to get a fresh packet of seeds and Gibberellic Acid (GA), which is used to assist germination of seeds, and asked if I could trial this process.  I agreed.

On March 1, 2013, I prepared the seeds with 2 solutions of GA 500 and 1000 (which were recommended in the accompanying literature).

I also decided to run a comprehensive evaluation and choose multiple other methods of breaking the dormancy through extreme solutions, and one trial of just pre-soaking overnight.

I made solutions using Limequat juice, Pink Grapefruit juice, Beer, Hot Water, Boiling Water (then chilled in the refrigerator) and freezing. – in all 8 different methods were tried.

There were 6 seeds in each method.

The results were more than disappointing.  Of all of the batches 1 seed each came up from the Limequat solution and the boiling water/chill.  However neither seedling survived more than a couple of weeks.

I was traveling in late 2013 and early 2014 and pictures in May 2014 show the one primary Mother plant doing very well.  While assisting a relative with health problems I was back and forth and did not see the flower, but we discovered the first Fruit on August 8, 2014 – SUCCESS!!

The fruit split (the ripened-ready-to-harvest-seed stage) in early October and I mailed the seeds off to Suzanne.

Suzanne: “The fresh seeds were planted in propagation trays mid-October, 2014, with a few emerging about 45 days later and the rest over 90 days, with near 100% germination.“
Suzanne transplanted into 4 inch pots in March, 2015.

In early June I picked up 9 plants to trial for optimal location.

The happiest of the surviving plants (4 did not make it) are in full sun in amended well draining soil given deep watering.

Catherine recommends the following growing conditions and has made these observations:

1) Well draining amended soil.

2) Full or most day sun.

3) Deep watering, then allow to dry out some before watering again.

4) The plants may frost back or go dormant in the winter depending on amount of hard freeze.

5) Flowering begins in late April or early May and continues into late July or early August.

6) Container growing is possible. A large (20-24") container is recommended for optimal growth possibility.  The original Mother Plant is now approximately 4 feet across.

The picture is one of the transplants taken July 30, 2015 from a 4” pot transplanted on June 9, 2015.

We believe the Caper plant will do well here in the Phoenix Desert region, and can produce flowers and fruit when the above conditions are followed.

For questions contact

Suzanne Vilardi of Vilardi Gardens –


Catherine, The Herb Lady –

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Bacon" and "Steak" - Great Taste, Surprising Ingredients!

Dear Folks,

I've been playing with my food again!

A recipe for "eggplant bacon" caught my eye a couple of weeks ago and low and behold my beautiful eggplants are finally producing.  My favorite "Casper" the white eggplant and another heirloom which is new-to-me "Listada de Grandia" (from Spain).  Just gorgeous - don't you agree?

Both of these lovely fruit are less seedy and sweeter than the big Italian variety.  I've grown the Casper for years and I am now adding the Listada as a regular member of my garden.

One of the many great things about eggplant is its "meat" like taste, so the "bacon" concept seemly like a great recipe to try.

I looked at quite a few recipes, many or most of them were Vegan, and called for good, but not necessarily easily found ingredients.  So I adapted the idea to the ingredients I used for overall convenience.

Almost all of the recipes called for the eggplants to be sliced length-wise and I chose to do rounds.  I will go with the long slices next time for sure.

Marinating longer will give greater flavor and any unused marinade can be stored in the refrigerator as you would a salad dressing.  I've got more eggplants ready so I will be making up another batch in the next couple of days.

These are addictive!!!  The taste and texture are meaty like bacon with many of the flavors you expect from a maple/smoked bacon.  A real winner and a "keeper" as Deane and I like to say.

My Eggplant "Bacon"

Marinade: (makes a 1/2 cup)
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) soy
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Pinch (1/16 teaspoon) liquid Hickory Smoke

Eggplants, cap trimmed off and sliced about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.  A mandolin will make the slices even.

A ziplock bag works well for this.  The 2 eggplant made about a cup and half of slices, the marinade would easily cover 4 cups.  Fully zip the bag and lay on its side to marinate, turning once or twice.

Pre-heat oven to 325**

Slice eggplant and marinate for at least 20 minutes or longer.  Reserve left over marinade for another time.

Drain (reserve marinade) spread out on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (or parchment paper).

Bake for approximately 25-35 minutes, flipping the slices about half way through.  You are looking for crispy but not burnt.

**  I made this batch at 375 and baked for about 22 minutes but the center pieces wanted to burn, so I am recommending lower temperature for longer baking. (Low and Slow).

As I said - addictive!!

Next Up "Venison Ground Steak"

Several Years ago I wrote about "Emergency Steak" a recipe out of World War II during the rationing days, when the cooking shows on the radio (yes there were cooking shows then), talked about trying to give your family a "steak" without that specific meat available.

Most folks probably know this as "Hamburger Steak" or "Chopped Steak".  Unlike a hamburger or a meatloaf the aim was to have a "not ground" solid steak-like texture, so the idea was to create a large flat 'patty', which was not "over-worked" or over-cooked.

Deane was gifted with some venison from a friend the other day and some of it was already thawing when he got home so I had to put my "cooking" hat on quickly.

Venison, if you are not used to cooking with it, is extremely lean and needs "help" so it does not overcook and turn into shoe-leather.

At the same time for safety concerns I do not go 'rare' when cooking Venison as we might when doing hamburgers or steak with grass-fed beef.

So I opted for a Venison Ground Steak.

I frequently use a grated potato in my burgers etc. to compensate for low fat - the potato helps keep the meat moist while baking or grilling.

"Venison Ground Steak"

1 pound of ground venison
onion, celery leaf, rosemary, garlic, ground black pepper (portioned to the amount of meat, so you can adjust up or down)
Potato, small to medium size
1/3 cup of finely grated Parmesan Cheese

We grilled this, but it can be done in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Arrange grill for direct heat.

Take a piece of aluminum foil and punch 6 or more holes in it.

Scrub potato, leave peel on,  and grate.  It is best to use a smaller grate than appears in the picture [the fork is to show size]  (I was multitasking that day and already stuck the smaller grate in the soapy water and was running out of time :-)

Sprinkle the meat with the seasonings, then the cheese and then the potato and gently work in by folding several times.

Lay out on the aluminum foil in a flat patty about 3/4 - 1 inch thick.

Place foil/meat on the grill, cover and check at 10 minutes.  If cooked through it is done.  Don't over cook.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

You can find my books at my publishers site. 

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