Thursday, July 14, 2016

In the Garden: July
Monthly guide for gardening tasks, forecasts, and more

"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability." 
- Sam Keen  

Fertilize: Give annuals a complete fertilizer. Water well before and after application. Deadhead and fertilize roses. Fertilize young fruit trees (except pears) with a 3-1-2 ratio product at 1-2 cups per inch of trunk diameter.

Water: Water all planted areas deeply but infrequently during dry periods. Outdoor container plants need daily watering. Consider landscaping with drought resistant native plants in the future.

Soil: Mulch all bare soil. Turn compost pile and add new ingredients. Clean up spring vegetable gardens and replenish with compost.

Lawn Care:   Mow every 5-7 days and leave the clippings on the lawn. Watch for take-all patch. Set mower higher in shady areas to promote denser turf.

Diseases/Pests to Look for: 
spider mites, leaf rollers, lacebugs and aphids, chinch bugs, fleas, ticks, chiggers and grubs in lawns;
scale insects on euonymus, hollies, peaches and plums;
webworms in pecans and persimmons;
powdery mildew on crape myrtles and roses;
aphids on crape myrtle, roses and Mexican milkweed;
scale on peaches and plums.
Remove any diseased leaves from beds; do not add to compost.

Prune:   Remove vigorous growth from center of peach and plum trees to prevent shading of fruiting shoots. Tip new blackberry canes at 4’ to force side branches. Prune dead and damaged wood from trees and shrubs as needed.

Things To Plant In July:

Flower Plants:
ageratum, ajuga, alpine aster, balsam, blue daze, boltonia, cockscomb, silver dollar plant, periwinkle, portulaca, purslane, gloriosa daisy, mexican bush sage, sedum, stoke's aster, wax begonia, wishbone flower, vinca, zinnia

Flower Seeds:
ageratum, balsam, castor bean, cleome, cockscomb, cosmos, four-o'clock, gaillardia, impatiens, marigold, moonflower, morning glory, periwinkle, portulaca, tithonia, torenia, vinca, zinnia

autumn crocus, liriope, lycoris, monkey grass

  • Early—Mid Month: Pumpkin, Sweet Potato    
  • Mid—Late Month: Corn, Eggplant, Peppers, Tomatoes
Additional to-dos:
  • Gather herbs and flowers to dry.
  • Preserve the bounty by freezing, canning or drying vegetables and fruits.

  • Plan fall gardens and prepare beds by removing perennial weeds before tilling

  • Add compost and fertilizer.

  • Drink lots of water,

Gardening tasks courtesy of the Garden Guide for Austin & Vicinity, published by the Travis County Master Gardener Association, copyright 2000-2002

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Farmers Market Favorite
Summer Tomato Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice. Though referred to commonly as ratatouille niçoise, ratatouille is popular among the entire Mediterranean coast as an easy summer dish. Wikipedia

Summer Tomato Stovetop Ratatouille
Serves 6

All vegetables sourced from Texas Farmers' market vendor Johnson’s Backyard Garden.


¼ cup grapeseed oil, divided
1 large clove elephant garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 leek, sliced, separated into ringlets, rinsed thoroughly and dried by squeezing in paper toweling
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
4 sweet peppers, sliced thinly (we used banana peppers, bell peppers, and Italian peppers)
Assorted in-season tomatoes, chopped, to yield 4-5 cups
1 small bunch fresh basil, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat a small layer of oil over medium, to medium high heat to shimmering. Add garlic to heated oil and sauté, stirring constantly, about one minute.

Add sliced leeks to garlic in oil. Sauté, continually stirring, for about a minute, or until limp.

Add diced eggplant to mixture. Stirring frequently, cook until eggplant is tender. (Eggplant will soak up oil. Add oil as needed to prevent ingredients from sticking to the pan.)

Add sweet peppers and tomatoes to tender eggplant. Continue cooking over medium heat as tomatoes release juices and peppers reach tender-crisp stage, about 15 minutes.

Add minced fresh basil to pan, tossing to incorporate. Season well with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for additional 5 minutes, or until all vegetables are soft and seasonings are well-incorporated.

Serve warm as a side dish, sandwich filling, pizza topping, or complement to meat, poultry, seafood or cheese.

This dish was prepared as a Chef Demo for local Texas Farmers Market, where I work as market chef, preparing seasonal dishes with best of the market ingredients monthly at both TFM Lakeline and TFM Mueller markets. All vegetables were donated by Johnson's Backyard Garden

If you find yourself in the Austin area next month, I will be at the TFM Lakeline market from 10-12noon, August 13, and the TFM Mueller market from 11-1pm, August 14. Bring your seasonal food questions and an appetite! I'd love to chat.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Home Cheesemaking 201
Zilker Brewing Company | Kitchen Underground

Hey food friends! You asked for it, you GOT it. A second class in the Home Cheesemaking series will be held Thursday, May 26, 2016.  Find the details below, and information on grabbing a ticket here. Class size is limited so grab your spot ASAP!

You are a cheesemaker! Sound impossible? Well it's not. It's absolutely within reach of beginning and experienced cooks alike. 

In the second class of this beginning series, local food writer and market chef Maggie Perkins will lead you beyond your first cheesemaking experience, into delicious, wholesome, homemade soft cheeses.

You'll taste and learn how to make cultured butter, cultured buttermilk, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, and Labneh, a traditional Middle Eastern yogurt cheese. You’ll even take home your very own jar or olive-oil marinated Labneh balls, prepared in class, as well as a packet of recipes to keep your skills fresh.

Thursday, May 26th


Class will be held at Zilker Brewing Co. (1701 E. 6th. Street). Beer will be available for purchase.

Let's get CHEESY, y'all. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Farmers Market Favorite | French Bean & Potato Salad with Aioli

Employing the old adage what grows together, goes together this weekend at the market, we prepared a simple, classic French potato salad using the best of farmers' harvests, and a favorite vendor condiment. Find the basic recipe below, and following, additions and adjustments for carnivores and vegans, alike.

Green beans are in season in southern markets this month, so with that morsel in mind, and without a recipe, I set out for the market looking for inspiration for my monthly chef demo. I wanted to keep it simple, seasonal, and market-sustainable; that is I wanted to use only ingredients available at the market. A quick perusal of the always-generous Johnson's Backyard Garden market stall set the tune-- young green beans rubbed shoulders with small, freshly dug potatoes, jewel-red onions, and flat-leaf parsley. The culinary stage was set, as I swung by the booth of Stellar Gourmet, for a sampling of their popular aioli. I had a stash of Texas Hill Country Olive Company extra virgin olive oil, and a little salt and pepper. I was golden.

Here, the basics:

French BEAN & POTATO Salad with Aioli
Yield: 6 servings


6 small potatoes, quartered
½ pound young green beans, trimmed, sliced
½ cup Stellar Gourmet aioli
1 cup flat leaf parsley, minced
3T extra virgin olive oil
2 small red onions, halved and sliced thinly
Salt and Pepper to taste.

In a large Dutch oven, bring potatoes to a boil in salted water, reduce heat, and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes.  Strain from boiling water and drain. Reserve.

Prepare an ice bath in a large mixing bowl by filling ½ with water, and adding a cup or two of ice cubes. Reserve.

Bring water back to a boil (adding salted water if necessary), and add green beans. Reduce heat to a medium boil and cook beans until just tender, about 3-5 minutes. Shock green beans (to retain bright green color and retard further cooking) by removing from pot with a slotted spoon and placing in ice bath, above. Allow to cool about a minute, then remove and drain on paper toweling.

Prepare dressing by combining aioli, parsley, and olive oil. Mix well, then add potatoes, green beans, and sliced onion, folding gently. Serve chilled, warmed, or room temperature.

Variations on a theme

While potatoes and green beans are the basic building blocks of this dish, a few substitutions, additions, and adjustments can be made to suit individual preference:

  • Try a little lemon juice, or the zest of a lemon
  • Toss whole garlic cloves or garlic scapes in with the boiling water if you just can't get enough garlic (and need to keep vampires at bay?)
  • Add chopped celery, sliced radishes, sliced scallions, olives, cornichon, dill or sweet pickle, or capers to the salad. 
  • Turn a side into a hearty main dish with the addition of bits of smoked pork or bacon. Try serving with hanks of leftover roasted chicken. And in my mind, shrimp goes with everything.
  • Add fresh, chopped herbs like tarragon, thyme, or chervil, or dried herbs such as Herbes de Provence or Fines herbes
  • Substitute alioli for the aioli suggested for a no-egg vegan version.
  • Blend your favorite mayonnaise, minced garlic, and a squeeze of lemon juice in a blender or food processor to closely approximate the flavor of aioli

So what is the difference between alioli and aioli you ask? 

Arguments abound, most suggesting it is the same sauce just incorrectly spelled by the offender. Am I just misspelling? Trying to put the difference in words was challenging me, however. Research unearthed the same question on, and the answer so spot-on, I cede to their authority:
I read recently somewhere that allioli was a sauce from Provence. I always thought it was Catalan. M. Brun
It's amazing how fiercely one can defend a national dish.....Allioli is from a family of oil and garlic-based-emulsion sauces found around the Mediterranean rim. Pliny the Elder, based in Roman Tarragona in the first century AD, observed a sauce made only with garlic, oil and a little vinegar. Tarragona sits in the south of Catalonia. Allioli, pronounced ah-ee-ohlee, is a Catalan emulsion sauce made with pounded garlic, olive oil and a little salt. That's it. In his authoritative book Catalan Cuisine Colman Andrews quotes an old Catalan saying, "allioli made with egg is just fancy mayonnaise". In greater Spain it is called alioli (ah-lee-ohlee) and is often made with egg. Aioli is another garlic and oil emulsion sauce from Provence in France. This velvety garlic mayonnaise is emulsified with raw egg yolk and is famously napped over morsels of fish in the fish stew bourride.
Texas Farmers' Market vendor Stellar Gourmet produces BOTH aioli and alioli so be sure to look them up on your next visit to the market and learn more about the versatility of this classic sauce. 

If, by poor fortune, you're nowhere close to a Stellar Gourmet booth, learn how to make your own Aioli or Alioli. The challenge is to find a source that correctly represents the TWO sauces. A good recipe for Aioli can be found here, and a good recipe for Alioli, below

THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING. Whew. I got that off my chest.  
Alioli | Olive Oil and Garlic Sauce Traditional Recipe: adapted from
1 cup extra virgin olive oil6 garlic clovesa pinch of saltmortar (ideally marble) and wooden pestle
Chop the garlic cloves and put in mortar with salt.Using a cruet, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mortar, while stirring the oil and garlic with the other hand, non stop. A thick, uniform paste will form, that will grow as you pour in oil. Remember that you must not stop stirring. You know that Alioli is ready when it has a very thick consistency.  
At the TFM Mueller chef demo, we used award-winning Pogue Mahone pickles, chopped, with a little pickle juice used to thin the alioli dressing. It created a completely different flavor profile, with heavy dill tones that were favored by many visitors used to a mustard-based potato salad.
If you find yourself in the Austin area in the month of June, please drop by the Texas Farmers' Market Lakeline on Saturday, June 11, 10-12 noon, and the Texas Farmers' Market Mueller on Sunday, June 12, 11-1 pm, for a visit and a tasty bite during my monthly market chef demo. Come with questions and let's put our heads together to figure out the best, healthiest, and most efficient use of your bountiful market haul. I'll be happy to see you there!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In the Garden: April
Monthly guide for gardening tasks, forecasts, and more

UPDATE: This In the Garden, monthly guide for April has been updated with new gardening tasks and scheduled plantings, and Farmers' Almanac weather forecasts and moon phases for April 2016. 

Thinking about starting a new hobby? Maybe grow a bit of your own food or flower this year? Get growing and going with this post from the archives, Preparing Your (New or Existing) Garden.

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.

  ~William Shakespeare

The subtle signs of the season are springing up around the Texas Hill Country. Chilly mornings warm to sunny afternoons.  Tender green-leafed branches provide the perfect stage for the trill of birdsong. Winter's thaw yields a riotous profusion of color soon-- the bluebonnets are already dotting roadsides, to be accompanied by wildflowers of yellows, oranges, reds, and purples so vivid they seem to have been hand-painted.  

It promises to be another glorious Texas spring. 

In the Garden: April 

In this post, find information about gardening in general, and planting advice specifically for USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8. To find the USDA zone in which you garden, consult the map, below, or visit, and adjust planting dates accordingly.  

Fertilize: Tomatoes and peppers should be fed with a liquid fertilizer. Feed crape myrtle beneath the branch spread with 1/3 cup complete fertilizer per sq. yd. After second mowing, fertilize lawn with 3-1-2 ratio product; aerate first, if needed. Fertilize all houseplants with complete fertilizer.

Mulch trees, shrubs, vegetable garden and flower beds (after soil has warmed) with 2-4 inches of mulch. Pine needles and oak leaves make a good mulch for acid-loving plants. Spread coffee grounds around azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

Water: Water as needed.

Transplant: Divide and transplant late summer-and fall-flowering bulbs. Container-grown plants (almost any kind) can go into the ground now. Plant summer annuals to get their root systems established before the extreme heat arrives.

Lawn Care: Plant grass sod or plugs. Water daily for one or two weeks to establish. Begin regular lawn care. Mow every 5-7 days, leaving the clippings on the lawn. Keep St. Augustine grass at 2-1/2 to 3 inches.


1st-3rd. Stormy weather conditions. 4th-7th. Sunshine, dry weather. 8th-11th. Blustery winds spread east. 12th-15th. Fair skies prevail for most areas. 16th-19th. Unsettled weather. 20th-23rd. Potentially severe thunderstorms for Arkansas, down into Louisiana. Storms may be capable of cloud-to-ground lightning, damaging winds, large hail, even tornadoes. 24th-27th. Abundant sunshine. 28th-30th. Clouds, showers move in from the West.


1st-3rd Excellent time to kill weeds, briars, poison ivy, and other plant pests.
4th-5th Set strawberry plants. Excellent for any vine crops, such as beans, peas, and cucumbers. Good days for transplanting. Favorable days for planting root crops.
6th-7th Poor planting days. Break ground or cultivate.
8th-9th Favorable for planting beans, corn, cotton, tomatoes, peppers, and other above-ground crops.
10th-11th Poor days for planting, seeds tend to rot in ground.
12th-13th Plant seedbeds and start flower gardens. Plant tomatoes, beans, peppers, corn, cotton, and other above-ground crops on these most fruitful days.
14th-18th Grub out weeds, briars, and other plant pests.
19th-20th A favorable time for sowing grains, hay, and fodder crops. Plant flowers. Plant corn, melons, squash, tomatoes, and other above-ground crops.
21st-23rd Start seedbeds. First day is a favorable day for planting above-ground crops, especially cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, celery, and other leafy vegetables. Last two days are good days for transplanting. Last two days are also good days for planting beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, peanuts, and other root crops. Also good for Leafy vegetables.
24th-25th Neither plant nor sow on these barren days.
26th-28th Favorable days for planting beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, onions, and other root crops.
29th-30th Excellent time to kill weeds, briars, poison ivy, and other plant pests.

Flower Plants: Ageratum, ajuga, joseph's coat, balsam, wax begonia, blue daze, blue cardinal flower, boltonia, scarlet bouvardia, calico plant, chocolate plant, cigar plant, cockscomb, coleus, columbine, coneflower, copper plant, coreopsis, cosmos, dahlia, shasta daisy, feverfew, geranium, gomphrena, hibiscus, hollyhock, impatiens, jacobinia, lantana, marigold, nierembergia, penta, periwinkle, persian shield, plumbago ,phlox, portulaca, purslane, rudbeckia, salvia, sedum, stokes aster, sunflower, wishbone flower, yarrow, zinnia.

Flower Seeds: Ageratum, balsam, castor bean, celosia, cleome, cockscomb, coleus, coral vine, cosmos, cypress vine, dahlia, coneflower, feverfew, four-o'clock, globe amaranth, gourd, impatiens, linaria, nasturtium, marigold, moonflower, morning glory, periwinkle, petunia, pinks, portulaca, scabiosa, sunflower, sweet pea, tithonia, torensia, vinca, zinnia.

Bulbs: Achimenes, acidanthera, allium, alstroemeria, amarcrinum, amaryllis, ground orchid, caladium, calla, canna, crinum, dahlia, daylily, dietes, ginger, gladiolus, gloriosa daisy, host, spider lily, hyposix, liriope, monkey grass, rain lily, society garlic, tigridia. 

Vegetables: Early to Mid-Month: Pepper, Radish, Squash, Tomato
All Month: Amaranth, Bean, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Muskmelon, Okra, Peanuts, Pumpkin, Southern Pea, Sweet Potato, Tomatillo, Watermelon

Herbs: Anise, star anise, basil, bay, borage, bouncing bet, caraway, catnip, chives, comfrey, costmary, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, scented geranium, germander, horehound, horseradish, lamb's ear, lavender, lemongrass, lemon verbena, mexican mint marigold, monarda, oregano, perilla, rosemary, sage, santolina, summer savory, winter savory, sesame, sorrel, southernwood, tansy, tarragon, thyme, common wormwood, roman wormwood, yarrow.

Fruit: Container grown fruit and nut trees, vines, bushes



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