Garden Rows

Wednesday, July 27

The Amazing Papaya

I was at the grocery store the other day and saw some lovely blushing papayas.  I weighed one out to see how many pounds an average one was since they were priced by the pound.  I decided to go for it, though I was unsure what all I would do with it, and at the time, I was not aware of just how much fruit it would end up being!

When I was a kid I loved dried papaya.  I was just as happy to have papaya as I was to have a candy bar!  We got a fresh papaya one time and I was thrilled! I usually liked fresh fruit better than dried, so I had very high hopes for this amazing, orange tropical fruit.  When it was cut open it was beautiful.  The seeds were pretty intriguing. They looked like tiny black/brown pearls.  I finally had a piece of the soft orange fruit in my hands, the anticipation was terrible, I took a bite and . . . it was not at all what I hoped.  I actually thought it was kind of gross! What a disappointment that was!  That moment has stuck with me for about 15 years.

I have wanted to like papaya all this time, but even when I have had some in a little tropical fruit bowl, it's just not the good one in the bunch.  I have certainly not been looking for this fruit, it just seemed like the time to revisit when I saw them in the store the other day.  Papaya has tons of nutritional value and even the skin and seeds are being researched for more benefits.  It is a wonderful digestive aid, helps keep the digestive tract healthy with enzymes.  It helps the body's metabolism working in high speed.  If you want to learn more, look it up, there is a ton of info and sooo many benefits.  I guess maybe I can choke some down.

Honestly though, now that I am older and my palate has developed a bit I have less dislike than the first time I tried fresh papaya!  It's not to bad really.  I think it is about pairing it with the right things.  The other day I made a strawberry papaya smoothie that would have been much better if I had not used the protein powder.  It's good protein powder and I thought it would help round out the odd papaya flavor . . . not so much.  Next!

This morning I made a smoothie that turned out surprisingly good!  Papaya Mint.  Here is my recipe, though I did not use precise measurements.  You can adjust to your taste.
1/2 cup papaya
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1-2 Tbs pina colada mix (non-alcoholic)
1-2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
20 or so mint leaves (these came from my garden)
Combine in a blender or food processor until very well blended.  I blended until the mint was tiny green flecks in a light orange smoothie.  Enjoy!

One of my favorite web sites is Scoop Adventures.  It is basically a blog of an ice cream lover, hence, the reason I like the site so much.  She has a recipe for Papaya Lime Sorbet if you are interested.  I would be inclined to think it would be pretty good.

Tuesday, July 26

Sweet and Spicy

It is nearly the end of July and I am still waiting on my tomatoes.  It's my fault for not getting the plants out a few weeks earlier.  Now that I have had it in a spot that gets more sun there are a few that have started blushing.  So excited!  There will soon be tiny cherry tomatoes.  I am still waiting on the Heirlooms to blush, but it will be a bit longer since they are destined to be larger fruit!  I will post pictures as they become ripe.  

The Basil knows the summer is winding down and it is time to make sure the next generation has a chance.  I have been pinching buds daily.  Time for pesto!  Do you have a favorite recipe?  I was thinking about toasted pine nuts rather than walnuts this time.

When I went out this morning I was surprised to find this cutie peeking out of the foliage!  I though this Gerbera Daisy was done blooming, what a nice surprise.

I have a couple Jalapeno plants and a few baby peppers.  The larger ones are about 1-2 inches long.  I am not sure if they will manage to get much larger, but they will still be warm and peppery :)

There are also some "Sweet Red Peppers"  I am keeping my fingers crossed that there is enough sun light for the sweet little peppers to turn red.

After putting some cilantro in a pot I still had 2 little plants, so I just randomly put them in a strawberry pot with an extra jalapeno plant.  The cilantro just exploded and now looks like a frilly skirt for the pitiful skinny pepper plant.  I love how voluminous the cilantro got, it is just so elegant.

Can you see the little jalapeno just above the rim of the pot?

Friday, July 22

Garden Goodness on a Plate

My husband brought home a big box of left over squash and cucumbers from a friend's garden the other day. There will be some pickles in the near future!  That night, I decided to be inspired by a recipe in Everyday Food and fresh yellow squash.  I did not have any onion, so I adjusted things a bit and used some garlic.

 I used two cloves during cooking and then when it was nearly done I put 2 more minced cloves in, minced with a bit of fresh thyme from my own garden!

In another skillet I cooked up some chicken with yet a bit more garlic and fresh thyme, chopped it up and added it to the yellow squash.  Oh, it was good!

The piece of toast on the plate in the first picture was also pretty awesome.  Oat bread from the Bread Basket Bakery in Danville, IN, basil from my garden, tomato from the friend's garden, and Havarti cheese . . . from the store.  I tried, almost completely not from the grocery store!  It was a pretty great dinner.

The veggies that my husband brought home were pretty amazing.  This is the largest zucchini in the box:

The dog is 16 pounds.

Wednesday, July 20

Orchid Ballad

Oh orchid so fair
You enjoy an occasional douse
So picky about the flow of air
I hope you like your new house

It seems my poetry skills have deteriorated some since high school.  But the simple start to this ballad says it all.

Last week I was walking through the grocery store in a bit of a deliriously tired state after work on a mission for trash tags.  As I walked through the floral department, the big yellow "Manager's Special" stickers caught my eye on a table full of orchids.  I know better than to actually consider buying plants from the grocery store, but I had to see how much the beautiful orchids had been marked down.  They were $4.99, crap, a plant less than 5 bucks.  Yes, price marketing, I know!  Ok, I saw why they were marked down.  They had little black and green spots.  Scale?  Was it worth it?  Remember, I was tired and did not posses the best decision making skills at that point in time.  Orchids are very finicky plants.  They have very specific requirements, that as long as they are met, the plants are very happy!

I decided that for $5 I would get a learning experience.  My plants are out side, so if this orchid actually had scale it would not infect anybody else.  I have gotten rid of scale before, so I was up to the challenge.  It did not really look like scale though, there were flies landing on the blossoms in the store, and I can't help but wonder if they were the cause for the little green and black spots.  Scale is usually a kind of brown.

When I got home I gently scraped off the spots I could and peeled a few petals that looked worse than the others.  I knew that I would have to re-pot soon since the pot it came in had no drainage holes and no ventilation either.  I spent about 2 hours on the internet that night reading and watching youtube videos about how to care for orchids.  Based on what I learned, I decided to wait a bit on re-potting since it was blooming.  Sadly, over the next day or two it dropped 2 blossoms and the bud that was about to open.  I realized that re-potting might be the only thing to save it.

I bought the plant Monday night and went to a local nursery on Wednesday to get a bark based orchid potting medium and an orchid pot.  Now my $5 orchid cost almost $20.  On the up side I now have a bag of bark...looks like more orchids might be in my future.  My husband really likes the electric blue ones, but before spending $25 on one I would like to keep the "learning experience" alive!

It is a good thing I decided to do the emergency re-potting.  When I pulled all the moss out of the roots there was a lot of stagnate moisture and dead roots.  I cleaned and trimmed as youtube instructed me.  Orchids are much tougher than people think.  They just need air flow, bright indirect light and a good watering about once a week.

It has now been in it's new pot for a week.  In that time it dropped one leaf and all but one blossom.  I was not feeling optimistic, but I expected it to have an adjustment period.  Though I am happy to report that the one blossom seems quite happy over the last few days.  I think it was worth it.

 Maybe more orchids are in my future :~)

Tuesday, July 19

Poinsettia Propagation

I have always thought it would be nice to have a poinsettia, but I thought they were difficult to care for so I just let it go.  Toward the end of the holiday season of 2009 my husband brought home a spindly poinsettia.  He saved it from an impeding future in the dumpster.  It was one of those situations that would be great if the plant survived, but no big loss if it died, since it was free and all.

Here I was with a puny little poinsettia and had no idea what to do, just happy to have the chance to try to keep it alive.  It had a couple large white blossoms.  I like the white one better than the red, so I had a little extra motivation.  I looked on line for a little info and found out that my house is the kind of environment it would like.  There is really no direct sunlight in any window that I could put plants near and they like temperatures similar to people.  The only thing I could see being a problem was ever getting to see the beautiful white blooms again.

By the time the summer came around it was a happy plant, it just needed some tlc.  I put it outside and was surprised how well it did with the sun it got!  It almost seemed happier than having indirect light.  (I wish I had a picture to post from last summer.)  I pruned it a bit toward the end of the summer because it was just growing upward so much and I wanted it to grow out ward a bit, generally be fuller.  Now I know there is a better way to do things, but it was a pretty gentle pruning, so no big loss.

Since poinsettia require a very specific environment to bloom I decided to do what I could to mimic that environment.  Basically, they need a specific schedule of light and PURE darkness.  Also, the temperature needs to be in the low 50's.  I do keep the thermostat low in the winter (about 68-70), but I am not going to be a polar bear just to get my poinsettia to bloom!  I put it in the front room because it tends to be a little cooler and I did not spend much time in there in the evening, so it would be dark all night.  I read something suggesting to put a black trash bag over the plant at night or put it in a closet so that it got the required darkness.  Hmm, no closet space here! and my schedule was too variable to provide the plant with a routine of being covered for the same amount of time each night.  Some how it actually had one large, long lasting, beautiful white bloom!  I was thrilled!  It did not emerge until after Christmas, but I am ok with that, it actually bloomed.

I did some pruning research last week.  It's a good thing I did.  I would have been freaked out to do this to a happy plant with out knowing what I was doing!

It was pretty dramatic.  I read a few articles on  They said to leave two or three leaves per stalk.  Depending on how it grows over the next 6-10 months I may prune a little harder the next time.  I would like it to fill out so it does not look like an umbrella again.  As you can see, there are some new shoots popping out all over the place. (there is a bamboo plant behind it)

After pruning, I had a bunch of leafy stalks.  I hated to toss them all out so I pulled a few of the lower leaves off and poked them down into a few flower pots.  I have reason to believe this might result in some baby poinsettia plants because over the winter one of the branches got knocked off, and a few weeks after being stuck in the pot with the big plant it was a happy little plant. (can be seen in the first picture)

Some of the leaves are falling off, but the newest growth looks very happy.

The pots have been under my patio table (wire mesh) where they have gotten filtered light.  The small pot in the pictures seems to be quite happy with the arrangement, so it can stay out there.  The other pot has slightly taller shoots and looks a little more wilted.  That pot is going to come inside with the parent plant.  This will be an experiment to see if the baby plants like one environment better than the other for rooting.

Monday, July 18

Good Morning

It is mid July in central Indiana and the Hoosier state is certainly not letting us down with a mild morning.  My plants are still thirsty even though it is really muggy!  When I went out to water this morning I found the hibiscus had bloomed!  Aside from watering and an occasional feeding I have not been paying enough attention to this plant.  Last week I realized that the summer was about half over and it had not bloomed yet.  The plant must have heard me thinking because with in a few days flower buds started peeking out of their leaf cocoons.  There are now more than a dozen buds.   I did an internet search on hibiscus and they seem pretty easy to keep blooming for most of the year.  Mostly it's about food, temperature and light.
     Stay cool in the garden, it's supposed to be a scorcher this week!