We are members of Texas Garden Clubs, South Central Region Garden Clubs, and National Garden Clubs; the Garden Club year typically runs from September 1st through May 31st. On the second Friday of August we will have our “Membership Social/Pot Luck” at – if we are back to anything like normal by then – Peace Lutheran Church, 2201 Rio Grande Blvd, College Station, starting at 9.30 am. You are welcome to join us and find out who we are, and what we do! Find us on Facebook, and check our website amgardenclub.com
Despite the temperature roller coaster this spring, Cilantro is already setting flowers and going to seed. I know many people can’t stand the taste or smell of Cilantro, but my daily diet would be sadly lacking without it! I start my days with it chopped in with my scrambled eggs, along with Jalapeños, Moringa leaves and onions (sometimes mushrooms and mint, too!) All this on a tortilla, topped with lashings of hot chunky salsa!!!
Cilantro/coriander (Coriandrum sativum) has been cultivated as a medicinal and culinary herb for more than three thousand years. References to this wonderful herb abound in Sanskrit texts, Egyptian papyri, a translation of The Arabian Nights and the Bible! It was introduced to Central and South America where it quickly became associated with that cuisine by the Spanish Conquistadors. Easy to grow, readily self-seeding, the only drawback is that it fails to cooperate in hot weather!
Enter Papalo (Porophyllum ruderale).
Papalo is known by many names; Quilquiña, Yerba Porosa, Killi, Papaloquelite and broadleaf in English. It is a member of the informal quelites), the semi-wild greens rich in vitamins and nutrients that grow among the fields in central and South America. These green edible plants grow without having to plant them. They sprout with the first rains or field irrigation, often providing a second or third harvest, costing no additional work but giving food and nutrition. Other quelites include lamb’s quarters, amaranth, quinoa, purslane, epazote and Mache or corn salad.
Papalo pre-dates the introduction of cilantro to Mexico by several thousand years, which is a very interesting story all by itself. South America is thought to be the ancestral home of papalo. The name Papalo originates with the Nahuatl word for butterfly, and Papaloquelite is said to mean butterfly leaf. The flowers provide nectar to feeding butterflies, while also attracting bees and other pollinators to the garden with their pollen.
Use this “summer cilantro” just as you would the real thing. Although it is not related to Cilantro, it is a good fresh-picked substitute.
If you have an abundance of cucumbers and are looking for something different to do with them (aside from “pickles”), here’s a recipe you might want to try – Cacik – a cucumber and yogurt salad from Turkey, which is extremely popular throughout the Middle East.
To make this you will need:
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, peeled and diced White pepper
Salt 1 tbsp dried, crushed mint or
2-3 cloves garlic 3 tbsp fine chopped fresh mint
1/2 pint Greek yogurt Mint to garnish
Sprinkle the diced cucumber with salt, and leave in a colander to drain for 1/2 hour. Crush the garlic with a little salt; use more than 3 cloves if you like. Mix a few tablespoons of the yogurt with the garlic, then add the mixture to the rest of the yogurt and mix well. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Finally, add the mint, whose aroma and flavor make the salad deliciously refreshing. Drain the cucumbers and mix with the yogurt dressing.
Pour into a serving dish and decorate with more mint.
Especially delicious when made from home grown cucumbers and mint, and home made yogurt!! (This recipe originally in Claudia Roden’s “A Book of Middle Eastern Food” 1968
Following is a reprint (with permission) of an article written by club member Sandy Williams in December 2015 after our first trip to Guatemala, where we saw Luffas growing in the fields and being sold along the roadside.
Loofah (Luffa aegyptiaca) A “Fun” Gourd to Grow!
For those of you who haven’t thought about it, growing loofahs is quite an exciting undertaking. For little time and effort, the reward is quite startling imagine giving a loofah as a gift, and explaining to the recipient that it was grown in your back yard and not harvested from the sea …
Once spring has arrived, the seeds can be sown directly into the warm ground, in the same manner as zucchini, making sure that plenty of support, such as a trellis, is available. Germination doesn’t take too long and then growth is rapid and vigorous. Children like to be involved in the process, I think the imagination is captured by the concept of the huge loofah at harvest time. It is best to remove the first flower of two and then be prepared for more growth.
Adequate water is required and some of the fruit may be removed when still small, and may be eaten, prepared as any squash. However, when left on the vine to mature, the loofah takes on a real growth spurt, quite easily reaching 2 feet in length. Let it mature in place on the vine, allowing the green skin to dry and turn dark. Make sure to remove it before the first frost, as this will rot it. Remove the dried skin, I prefer to peel it off piece by piece, but you may also soak it in water and remove it. Then of course the loofah must be allowed to dry out. This drying process is best done in the hot Texan sun! When it is thoroughly dry, shake it around to remove the numerous seeds. The colour can vary, from dark beige to oatmeal, the longer it is left in the sun, the lighter it will be. If you would prefer it lighter, a bleach solution (one part bleach to ten parts water) can be used.
(Oops! forgot to push “publish” in November)
Tucked out of the way on an Architecture building on A&M Campus is a plant wall, also known as a living wall, that looks straight out of a science fiction novel, worth a visit if you are in the area. You might think a plant wall in Texas in November after a freeze would just have past peak plants, but these planters are filled with tough native plants and many were thriving, especially the grasses and succulents. With more and more impervious cover and development as our populations increase, living walls may be a way to preserve many native plant species, provide plants for pollinators such as butterflies, moths, bats, and bees, and grow food close to where we live or work.
The wall has an irrigation system watering each planter and is structurally on a frame. There are around 300 individual planters, and of course some are maroon and some are white to celebrate the college colors of maroon and white. Now that I’ve seen the Aggie (Texas A&M) living wall, I hope to see the Longhorn (University of Texas) wall soon, so stay tuned to this blog for more on living plant walls.
Consider taking a garden club pilgrimage to a unique garden like a living wall. National Garden Clubs encourages clubs to schedule a pilgrimage to explore gardens in person. There is nothing like enjoying a bit of nature to nourish the spirit and delight the senses.
While exploring the topic of jewelry made from plant materials when preparing for a presentation on Botanical Arts, someone told me about this plant called Job’s Tears, Coix lacryma-jobi, which has a seed used as beads for making jewelry. Turns out the seeds are also edible and sold as a grain, although I did not see it for sale in a grocery store before I stopped shopping inside at grocery stores due to the pandemic. Some gardeners grow it just for looks, which makes sense if the seeds are used to make pretty jewelry.
It took some exploring, but I was able to find some seeds for sale and get them mailed to me. Out of the four seeds from about a dozen in the packet, four came up. This is an exceptional germination rate from my experience with other seeds. The directions said to nick the seed coating, which I did with a knife and narrowly avoided nicking myself. A file is probably the better tool, which was mentioned on the directions, but being me, I did not use a file. (Who said with age comes wisdom? They clearly did not know me.) The packet says it takes 14 to 21 days for seeds to sprout. It was about 14 days for the first one to show itself and more than 21 days for the last of the four to come up.
My plan is to transplant the seedlings into a large clay pot as am not quite sure how to put them in my landscape yet and whether or not it is even a good idea to plant in the yard considering the germination rate of 100% which could be a recipe for being overly hardy. It is a grass, non-native one at that, so has potential to be invasive, depending on how it survives our Texas winter. Wish me luck. If you know how to prepare home grown Job’s Tears for eating, please comment. If you have grown Job’s Tears in the southern part of the United States and know it can be invasive, please comment. Or if you know it can be invasive even in places it freezes reliably in the winter, definitely comment as then I will want to account for every seed produced. I have a soft spot for native plants and want to avoid adding competition from invasive plants, but enjoy experimenting with interesting plants that may not be native to the area. Writing this, am seeing a pattern of risk taking with the knife and with non-native plants, which is something for me to think about while sheltering indoors during this pandemic.
Before what some call “shelter in place” went into effect in Austin, Texas, due to the pandemic, got some snapshots of Zilker Garden when there to give a talk with Suzanne M. on judging photography and what makes a good photograph. Must have already been anticipating not being able to visit for a while as spent more time than usual enjoying the garden. Each visit to the garden brings new discoveries and delight for favorite things. Hoping a virtual tour via a few pictures will bring you hope and healing and strength and appreciation for the plants and nature you do have access to during this time. If you have a favorite thing from your visit(s) at the garden, leave us a comment. And may you and your loved ones have many opportunities in the future to safely visit many public gardens again together.