Giving Thanks for Corn

Indian Corn_DBG-CO_LAH_9050Corn pudding and hush puppies, cornbread stuffing and succotash. If anything qualifies as authentic American cooking, it surely involves corn. We eat it fresh—still on the cob, creamed, and as the critical ingredient in corn chowder. We eat it dried and ground into cornmeal—in corn pone and muffins, as fritters and johnnycake. Domesticated for millennia, corn has come a long way from its teosinte roots.

Today have six types of corn, five of which are the result of selective breeding: pod corn, flint corn, popcorn (this could be considered a subset of flint corn), flour corn, dent corn, and sweet corn. (Pod corn is a mutant that forms leaves around each kernel, and isn’t commercially useful.)

Continue reading

Slimy Lady’s Fingers

Okra @DC LAH 229I’m really not a fussy eater. While I draw the line at some animal parts (Rocky Mountain oysters, anyone?) and various invertebrates (no deep-fried scorpions in my diet!), I’m not nearly as fussy about dining on plants. Of course, I think some plants taste better than others—I’m a big fan of broccoli, artichokes, and papayas, for example, while I tend to avoid cucumbers and those bitter Italian greens—but for the most part, if it’s prepared well, I’ll eat it.

Except.

I don’t do okra. I’ve had okra (also known as lady’s fingers or gumbo) in soups, stewed, curried, stir-fried, roasted, deep fried, and in various other random recipes that my friends—skilled in the culinary arts—assured me I’d love. All I can say is, they were wrong. I admit, I like the flavor. No problem there. But the slime gets me every time.

Continue reading

Green Tomatoes & Purple Carrots

Indian Corn_DBG-CO_LAH_9050Green beans. Orange carrots. Red tomatoes. How normal. How boring. One of the joys of growing your own veggies is that you can have some fun and mix up the colors. Beans come in yellow and purple as well as green. Carrots can be white, yellow, orange, or purple. Tomatoes come in green (such as Green Zebra), purple, orange, yellow, or even sporting saucy stripes. Even fresh corn on the cob (as opposed to the dried stuff) now comes in fun colors. Why settle for growing what you can easily find at the market, when so many other options are waiting?

Continue reading

Yellow Green Beans

Some gardeners plant the same varieties year after year, depending on past performance to guarantee future success. Why mess with something that works? Others, myself included, like to try the latest cultivars. We’re always searching for that new and improved flower or vegetable that will make this year’s garden the best ever.

When several of my seed catalogs proudly featured a new pole bean, Monte Gusto, I was eager to try it out. How would it compare to my usual choice, Emerite? (Emerite is an awesome bean—long, straight, early, prolific, and delicious!)

Then I discovered that my favorite catalog had discontinued Emerite. How could they? Not wanting to order elsewhere (I’d have to pay shipping for a single seed packet), I ordered Fortex, a variety that has received rave reviews in past years.

Continue reading

More Better Tomatoes

tomatoes-greenhouse-2008sept08-lah-296Summer is just around the corner and the weather is (hopefully) settled. You’ve finally planted your tomato seedlings and you’re dreaming of luscious, red, ripe tomatoes—the sooner the better.

However, this is Colorado, and there’s no guarantee when it comes to growing tomatoes. Now that your plants are in the ground, what’s the best way to care for them to ensure the biggest, fastest harvest?

Continue reading

Caveat emptor

Black Petunias_DBG_LAH_0511Today’s post is a simple reminder to gardeners hoping to grow something new and exciting. As gardeners, we’re always tempted by a special cultivar that is unusual, a bit out of the ordinary. Why else the hunt for black flowers—roses, or petunias—especially when the colors they do come in are so much prettier? I have a friend who paid a considerable sum for a yellow peony—just because most peonies are white, pink, or red.

There are plenty of unusual plants to keep us happy. We can grow purple carrots or potatoes, orange cauliflower, and corn with hues to rival a box of crayons. Apparently that’s not good enough. There are scurrilous people just waiting to take advantage of gardeners who desire something truly unique.

Continue reading

Don’t Dig It

I was wrong. Hard to admit, but there we have it. I passed on advice from those I deemed older and wiser than I am, and they were wrong too. But hey, none of us knew any better. Then.

It seems that the last thing you want to do when planning a new garden is dig.

Yes, we were all taught to plan out where the garden would be, then spread amendments, and likely fertilizer, and dig it all in—at least eight inches, and two feet is even better. Now we’ve learned that the only things we gain from all that work are sore muscles and aching backs.

Continue reading