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August 17th, 2011

Home-Grown Popping Corn—It’s GOOD

popcorn1The popcorn I started on April 9th has matured and now I am harvesting and eating it. Here in the desert It has taken just 4 months to grow it and to let it dry on the stalks. This variety is ‘Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored’, an heirloom variety from Fedco that we are trialing this year. I found it to be worth the space and the time—I like it.

I have been popping some now and then since about the first of August using either canola oil or olive oil. I like the flavor of olive oil better. Next I’ll try popping it in peanut oil. I also purchased some white cheddar cheese powder from King Arthur Flour Company to sprinkle on the popped corn. I like cheesy popcorn.

popcorn2Yesterday I tried popping the popcorn while still on the cob in the microwave. The problem I had was that all the kernels popped and they smashed each other—most didn’t explode off the cob. This was fun for a few minutes. I wish I knew the trick for popping on the cob—it’s annoying to have to remove the kernels from the cob first! —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada

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August 12th, 2011

A Bouquet of Summer Flowers

gaillardiaI’ve decided there is no such thing as a normal growing season. At least something in the garden does well, no matter what the conditions. But it’s been a tough season for our Minnesota gardens. This year we had a cold, very wet spring that made planting difficult. For the first time ever, we planted some of the early salad crops without working the soil first. If we had waited until the soil was dry enough to till, it would have delayed planting by another month!

Not wanting to upset those of you in the South, I’ll say only very quietly that we are more than 4 inches over normal rainfall for the year. We’ve certainly had ample rain, but the cold was a problem early, followed by unbelievable humidity once it warmed up in July. Of course the humidity and rainfall have contributed to a bounty of fungal diseases. My tomatoes are now around 7 feet tall, but the bottom half of the plants are denuded of leaves from fungal leaf spots of one kind or another. But, hey, it’s a lot easier to find the tomatoes when you don’t have to dig through a riot of leaves.

salviaIt seems like a good time to report on three of the trial flowers we’re growing this year. Gaillardia ‘Arizona Apricot’ (top), which won an All-America Selections award this year, is a very nice gaillardia that has bloomed non-stop since early June. The color is a bit more yellow than apricot, but certainly a different shade than the older ‘Mesa Yellow’ from a couple years ago.

scabiosaSalvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’ (left)—another All-American—is identical to the older salvia ‘Lady in Red’, only much smaller. I like the more compact form, but the taller ‘Lady’ works better when intermingled in a perennial border.

Scabiosa ‘Black Knight’ (right)—beautiful! The flowers of this heirloom annual draw comments from everyone who sees them. —Jackie Smith, Belle Plaine, Minnesota

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August 8th, 2011

Broccoli in a Northwestern “Summer”

DebbieLeungThe ‘Piracicaba’ broccoli I’m growing in our variety trials is heading up! The one shown below is a bit loose, but it sure made a pretty sight in the garden. Tasted quite yummy, too! Notice the side shoots. If it keeps on pumping out side shoots, I’ll be quite happy. ‘Toscano’ kale is behind it. I found it a bit chewy; I personally like the more delicate kales (the Russians) better, but the others I served it to liked it a lot.

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With so many of you suffering from the heat, I hate to complain about our cool, gray days, which the weather people are saying have set records and may be a new pattern as the continent heats up. The Seattle Times had a column a couple weeks ago counting summer as when it is over 80 degrees and at that time, counted only something like 78 minutes of summer! Since then we’ve had a couple more minutes, but still…

The lime basil germinated promptly, then succumbed—too cool to sustain growth (my hunch as to what happened to the ‘Galeux D’Eysines’ winter squash as well). —Debbie Leung, Olympia, Washington

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August 4th, 2011

A Twig Fence for Peas

kathy_tnThis spring I planted ‘Oregon Giant’ and ‘Super Sugar Snap’ peas on woven “fences” made using the long, straight sprouts from box elder stumps. I love finding uses for cutting down these weedy trees and this gives me the opportunity to cut more stump sprouts (and apple tree water sprouts) every year. I cut the sprouts in lengths of about 4 feet and shove about 6 inches or so into the soil. I arrange them diagonally in both directions about 3 to 6 inches apart, making overlapping X’s and weaving them back and forth. Just make sure you put the top end into the ground or they may actually re-root. Once the fence is set up, the tops can be trimmed to even it out if wanted.

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This photo was taken in spring, but I’ll be using the same technique when I plant my fall peas. I think we got 3 pounds of pea pods and almost a pound of shelled peas from the 10-foot double row of ‘Oregon Giant’ peas. Yum!  —Kathy Shaw, Neenah, Wisconsin

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