Heirloom Tomato Sauce

heirloom tomato sauce

When your garden tomatoes get into high gear and start producing, start saucing! We used heirloom tomatoes in this recipe, creating more color and flavor diversity. We enjoy Black Krim, Brandywine, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Pineapple, and Oxheart, but any tomato will make delicious sauce.

Ingredients:

5 lbs. fresh heirloom tomatoes
2 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup sweet peppers, finely chopped (like Italian Marconi)
1/8 cup mild to medium hot peppers, finely chopped (like Hungarian Wax – optional)
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. dried oregano leaf
1 1/2 tbs. honey, agave, or sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice or red wine vinegar
black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1.Using a paring knife, gently cut out the top of your tomatoes, where the stem was connected to the fruit.

heirloom tomato

2. Slit an “X” into the bottom of each tomato, and drop them into boiling water in batches. In about 60 to 90 seconds (larger tomatoes may take a bit longer), the skins will begin to wrinkle and split. Remove tomatoes and plunge into ice water, allowing them to soak for another 60 to 90 seconds. Remove from ice water and gently peel skins away from the tomato.

heirloom tomatoes

3. Using a blender or food processor, pulse the skinned tomatoes to the consistency that you prefer (chunky or smooth).

4. Pour the tomato sauce and the garlic and peppers in a saucepan. Bring to a low boil, adding remaining ingredients as it heats.

heirloom tomato sauce

 

5. Reduce the sauce to almost half, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes.

6. Allow your sauce to cool, and continue to thicken before using or freezing. Tomato sauce can stay fresh up to a week in the refrigerator or up to several months if frozen.

Broom Corn Door Swag

img_0486

Broomfield, Colorado, the home of Botanical Interests, was named after the broom corn plant around 1900 when a lot of farmland was devoted to growing it. Brooms were traditionally made from the straw-like fibers after stripping off the seeds. ‘Broom Corn’ is not related to corn, but is actually a sorghum, a member of the grass family. Instead of growing tassels and ears, it is topped by richly colored shiny seeds.

This year, we grew a patch of broom corn in our trial garden. It performed beautifully and produced plentiful tassels. Instead of making a broom, we made a fall-inspired door swag that will greet guests with the hues of fall and the wonder of harvest.

img_0481

To create your broom corn door swag, you’ll need the following:

  • Several tassels of broom corn
  • Thick gauge wire
  • Wired ribbon (we used two colors)
  • Garden sheers
  • Wire cutters
  • Scissors
  • Door knocker or hook for hanging
  1. Using garden sheers, cut broom corn stalks from plants to desired length. We cut ours to about 18″ from the tips of the tassels to the end of the stalks.
  2. Using thick gauge wire, tie tassels of broom corn together leaving at least 6″ of wire. You will use the extra wire to attach the swag to a door knocker or hook.
  3. Dry the broom corn by hanging the bunches upside-down for at least two weeks.
  4. Gently lay broom corn stalks on a flat surface and tie a bow around the stalks. We used two ribbons for a two-layered bow. Using a wired ribbon helps the bow keep its shape.
  5. Using excess wire, attach your swag to a door knocker or hook.

img_0489

We’d love to see how creative you get! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

Extend your season with containers

container gardening - vegetables

Apples are ripening, mornings are cool, and weeds have slowed, which is natures’ way of telling me that frost is only a few weeks away. As fall approaches, vegetable gardeners are sowing their last cool season crops, ordering garlic for planting in the next month or so, and hoping for a long, moderate fall, so the harvest will continue.

If you don’t have a cold frame or row cover, sowing some cool season veggies in containers is just about the easiest way to extend your season. Manageable containers can be moved to a protected area if frost threatens. Cool season crops thrive in cooler weather and so are the ideal varieties to sow in containers. “Days to maturity” is helpful information, but when growing cool season crops in the fall when the days are shorter and cooler, growth slows, and maturity may take longer, so quick-maturing varieties are a good choice.

Today I sowed some easy-peasy Farmer’s Market Blend mesclun lettuce seed tape, and cute-as-button, round, small Tona di Parigi carrots in some long, window box-style containers. Usually, sowing carrots in containers isn’t recommended, but these small, ball-type heirloom carrots don’t need nearly as much root space as other carrots. They also look adorable at Thanksgiving dinner! My window box containers are light enough for me to move indoors and out for cooler weather if I need to, and also, big enough to keep in moisture. Both of the varieties I sowed can handle a light frost (down to 28°F), but if I am concerned, I can just push these containers up against the house and there is enough radiant heat to keep them warm. Hard freezes (below 28°F) will prompt me to bring them into a garage, porch, or shed for more protection. After being indoors overnight, the soil holds some warmth, and so most of the time, the following morning I can just push these back outside to get fresh air and sunshine before heading off to work. Frost tolerance varies among species, so we wrote a frost tolerance article to offer some guidelines.

Here are some tips on choosing or mixing container soil and choosing a container.

I am an optimist at heart, and at this time of year especially, it shows, or should I say it sows! I sow seeds like frost may never come, because though it may be late, I may continue to bring fresh veggies to our table into late fall. Even if the seeds don’t germinate in fall, I often see them as the first, delicious green things up in spring, so my efforts still pay off.

Happy sowing and harvesting, everyone! Share your late season sowing tips with us!

Carrot Tonda di Parigi   Lettuce Mesclun Farmer's Market Blend

 

Sun Prints

IMG_8989

Turn your blooms and foliage into permanent works of art by making sun prints!

Sun prints capture the imprinted shadow of foliage and blooms on a piece of paper that can be framed and displayed long after the garden has entered the compost bin.

IMG_1570

To create your sun prints, you’ll need the following:

  • Light-sensitive paper (we used Sunprint paper)
  • Acrylic or glass sized to fit paper
  • A full basin of water
  • Paper or cloth towel
  • Foliage and blooms (We used zinnia blooms and cosmo foliage.)
  1. In a low-light area away from the sun, arrange foliage and blooms on the light-sensitive paper.

IMG_4602

2. Place the acrylic or glass on top of the blooms and foliage to flatten them and hold them in place to be printed. Apply enough pressure to flatten but not damage the foliage and blooms.

3. Take the paper, plants, and acrylic/glass outside and place in direct sunlight for 2 to 5 minutes. If it’s cloudy, the process can take between 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the clouds.

IMG_2460

4. Rinse just the paper in the basin of water. You will see the silhouette show up in 1 to 5 minutes.

IMG_1323

5. Lay sun print flat on a paper or cloth towel to dry.

Frame your sunprint and display! We’d love to see how creative you get! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

Botanical “Outback” (out back in the trial garden)

BI Trial GardenWe love what we do. We love to “play” in the dirt, and watch things grow, reveling in the fact that a cucumber was produced by a tiny seed we tucked into the ground; marveling at the beauty of a blossom from a seed that we casually scattered about in the joy of spring.

To ensure that the seeds we offer are keeping up to our standards, and producing the best specimens, we have trial gardens. One trial garden is right in back of our warehouse in Broomfield, Colorado, where we can keep a close eye on the progress of our gardening endeavors. Many of our employees have been known to sneak out there for a quick, refreshing encounter with nature.

The broomcorn is “high as an elephant’s eye”, as Brandon from our marketing department is demonstrating.
HollyhockWatchman
The Watchman hollyhock with its stunning color is a sight to behold.
SunflrTeddyBear
We wonder how many people don’t know that sunflowers can be this cute. This is “Teddy Bear”, a dwarf, fully double charmer.
Alyssum
Sweet Allure Pastel Blend alyssum is happy as can be in this hot spot. There must be hundreds of blooms.
Zinnia Thumbelina
This is an eye-popping patch of Thumbelina zinnias. They are so prolific, you can’t even tell that we’ve been cutting them for bouquets.
gourd
The birdhouse gourds have spilled over the garden wall and are returning the parking lot to paradise!
PoppiesMission bells
Mission Bells California poppies are especially delightful with their silky petals waving in the breezes.
HyacinthBean
Hyacinth bean pods are really this brilliant! They are excellent as an enhancement to cut flower bouquets, especially white and blue flowers.
Nicotiana Peace Pipe
Indian Peace Pipe nicotiana is an unusual, eye-catching plant with its huge leaves and most interesting flower stalks.
Flower Mat
We are so pleased with the Sunshine Flower Mix flower mat, which we grew in our container trial garden. So many beautiful blossoms; so little effort!
Bulb Companions
Bulb Companions Flower Mix—gorgeous blooms, excellent for covering up browning bulb leaves.

 

Green Bean Fries

gREEN BEAN FRIESOne of the best vegetables fresh from the garden is green beans. They are also surprisingly versatile in the kitchen. This recipe delivers on crunch and keeps the beans crisp, too!

INGREDIENTS

1/2 pounds fresh green beans
1–2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola or olive oil (may use more depending on number of batches)

DIRECTIONSgreen bean fries

  1. Pour flour into a plate, 2 eggs in another plate or bowl (lightly scramble), and breadcrumbs in another plate or bowl.
  2. Toss beans in flour, shake off excess.
  3. Dip into egg mixture to fully coat beans.
  4. Toss beans into breadcrumbs, completely covering.
  5. Over medium heat, cover bottom of frying pan with oil.
  6. Add breaded green beans and fry until lightly browned. Turn over after 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Salt to taste.
  7. Repeat step 6, wiping pan and using new oil for every batch.

Serve with our garlic aioli!

0004p_Bean-Bush-Blue-Lake-274   BEAN BUSH FERRARI

 

DIY Potpourri

IMG_4263

Extend the life of your fading blooms by turning them into potpourri. Potpourri is easy to make and can be customized to include your favorite aromas. The fragrance can last for weeks, and can be refreshed with a spritz of essential oils, or the potpourri can be boiled to release its full aroma for a special occasion.

When choosing your blooms and foliage, select ingredients that have interesting or complementary foliage, colors, and scents. We’ve chosen sweet annie, zinnias, carnations, marigolds, cloves, oranges, and lemons.

IMG_4259

What you’ll need:

  • Sheet pan
  • Parchment paper
  • Scissors
  • Spray bottle
  • Small bottle essential oil, (We used lavender).
  • Flowers, citrus fruit, cloves

You can use fresh or faded blooms to create your potpourri. For fresh blooms:

IMG_4261

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
  2. Cover a sheet tray with parchment paper.
  3. Trim flowers to flower head, or foliage into small pieces and place in single layer on parchment paper.
  4. Slice citrus fruit in thin layers and place in single layer on sheet.
  5. Add 1 teaspoon of essential oil with 1 tablespoon of water in spray bottle.
  6. Spritz potpourri ingredients and coat thoroughly. Do not leave standing water in tray.
  7. Dry on center oven rack for at least 2 hours, leaving oven cracked open to allow moisture to escape. Flowers should be brittle but not burnt.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
  9. Spritz lightly with essential oil/water mixture and allow to dry.
  10. Gently mix potpourri and set out in bowl or place in a closed container for later use.
  11. Spritz with oil/water mixture to refresh.

If you choose to use faded blooms, allow them to fade thoroughly, and then remove from plant and place in a single layer on a sheet pan with parchment paper and skip to step 9.

Get creative by adding herbs and spices to your potpourri! We’d love to see how creative you get! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

 

 

 

What’s so great about seed tape?

seed disc collage
Of course I love gardening and the feel of seeds in my hand, but I also love tools that simplify or make gardening more efficient, like seed tape!

Seed tape, disks, and mats contain high-quality seeds incased in fine, biodegradable tissue paper, which keeps seeds in place, and makes thinning minimal. The seeds are distributed throughout the paper to make spacing a snap, which is helpful for small seeds like lettuce and carrots that are hard to grab. This is especially ideal for children, as it can be difficult and time consuming to sow one seed at a time. Creating a straight line with tape keeps my garden beds looking like a professional did it! The 4″ and 8″ discs fill pots fully in one effort, and the flower mat brings easy color and diversity to planters or garden beds! Tips for using seed tape and disks:

  • Pre-moisten the soil/media, then sow at the correct depth, cover the seed tape with soil/media, and water. Water dissolves the seed tape, making way for the sprouting seed.
  • Tape, disks, and mats should be completely covered with soil/media.
  • Be sure to keep seeds and seedlings moist.
  • Garden soil will still require preparation before sowing seed tape.

See how easy it is!

Four new varieties!

Noveau Fines Herbes Disk Carrot Seed Tape Parsley Seed Disk Viola Seed Tape

Fall sowing made easy!

romanesco broccoli

Summer! I’ve been harvesting my spring-sown crops, and already looking toward the bounty of fall. At our mile-high elevation, our average first fall frost date is near the end of September, just a little over 2 short months away. For a couple of reasons, there are many cool season crops that are more dependable in the fall than in the spring: 1. Fall weather is more reliably cool; 2. Some varieties, like winter radishes, need the shortening days of fall to create a crop; and 3. Many cool season varieties like parsnips and broccoli are sweeter when they have been kissed by frost.

Timing and planning is everything, partly because in our busy lives we will forget to sow the cauliflower and broccoli of our fall dreams, and also because some of these crops need 100 days to grow before harvest. Here is my method to ensure I don’t forget about fall sowing:

  1. Mark your average first fall frost date on a calendar.
  2. Look on your seed packet for “Days to Maturity” or use our Outdoor Sowing Guide for Late Summer/Fall. Soils may be hot, and quick to dry in summer, so you may consider starting some fall crops indoors or creating some shade over the garden bed. Some cool season crops like lettuce and spinach will not germinate in soils over 80°F or 85°F respectively, so you may want to start them inside if the soil is still too warm. However, root crops should always be direct-sown.
  3. From your average first fall frost date, count backwards the number of days to maturity, which will bring you to your ideal sowing date. Move your sowing date up 1 to 2 weeks to accommodate cool growing temperatures and shorter days that may slow growth, unless you plan to use season extension techniques like row covers. Most cool season varieties have a sweeter flavor after a frost, as cool weather increases the sugar content in these varieties in order the help them survive cool temperatures.
  4. Mark your calendar with variety sowing dates, and use it year after year.

Now that we created a handy, reusable schedule, all that is left is the fun part—sowing!

I am so excited about our new, eco-friendly recycled paper pots that I am using them for all my fall indoor sowing. While outdoor sowing is ideal, it is not always practical (as mentioned above), so I am starting some varieties indoors this fall— broccoli, cauliflower, kale, leeks, and fennel, to name a few. These pots are ideal not only because they are made from 100% recycled, biodegradable materials, but also because they are transplanted directly into the ground with the plant! This avoids transplant stress and root disturbance, and I have easy clean up! Romanesco broccoli and fennel are at the top of my culinary wish-list, and they take a bit more time so I started them inside, allowing me to better regulate moisture and temperature. Romanesco has this awe-inspiring, natural fractal pattern, and when cooked, it has a nutty flavor that reminds me of a cross between asparagus and cauliflower. Fennel elevates many flavors in a dish; we even love it grilled (here is a recipe). Once these seeds sprout, I right away start the hardening-off process or put them in the ground, under a row cover for 1 to 2 weeks.

 

On this hot summer day, I sow, and daydream about cool, fall mornings, harvesting a colorful bounty to enjoy even into the holidays.

As gardeners we are always growing; share your fall sowing tips with us!

Creative Catnip Cover

catnip cover

Catnip is a multi-purpose plant. The tea is very pleasant with a lemon-mint flavor and fragrance. Along with indoor containers of catnip plants, toys filled with dried catnip leaves will provide your feline friends with hours of fun. But be warned; they may ignore you for a while! Grow indoors for fresh catnip year-round, or plant it outdoors in the garden; catnip is very hardy and grows in almost any soil.

The minty aroma of catnip is very appealing to most cats, so you’ll need to protect seedlings from being eaten or crushed by enthusiastic cats. You may also want to limit the access your cat has to the fully grown plants.

IMG_3355

IMG_3357

What you’ll need:

  • Small bird cage, or a tall fruit basket, or any tall container with openings that are no wider than 2”
  • Small container of catnip plant

Place your catnip plant in the container under the protective cover and set near a bright window. If desired, trim the plant regularly to keep a tidy appearance and out of kitty’s reach.

IMG_3358

If you are growing catnip outside, cover seedlings with a tent of row cover or chicken wire. Remove when plants are 10”-12” tall. Alternatively, roll chicken wire to form a cage and place around seeds when sown. Bury at least 3″ of the cage in the ground to prevent it from being knocked over. Cut back up to 50% of plant after flowering to prevent seed formation and control the size of the plant for a tidier appearance. Established plants can reach 3′ wide.

We’d love to see how creative you get with your catnip covers! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.