5 Favorite Ways to Enjoy Roasted Garlic

Botanical Interests roasted garlic

Arguably one of the best ways to eat garlic is roasted. It’s mild enough to eat straight from the oven on its own, but packs a flavor bomb when mixed with other foods. We collected our favorites to inspire your next

Basic Roasted Garlic recipe:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the top of the garlic bulb to expose the cloves. Place the bulb on a piece of foil and heavily drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves; add salt; wrap tightly in foil. Place on baking sheet and cook in the oven for about an hour or until cloves are browned and can be easily squeezed out of their skin.

how to roast garlic

Ways to enjoy:

  • Mashed potatoes: Our absolute favorite way to use roasted garlic cloves is in mashed potatoes. Mash the garlic cloves and mix into boiled potatoes before they are whipped. It’ll incorporate the flavor into every bite.
  • Garlic bread: This is a no-brainer! Blend the garlic into butter and spread over loaf. Sprinkle with mozzarella or Parmesan cheese (and fresh rosemary!) and bake or broil until crispy. Perfect addition to your Italian night dinner.
  • Salad dressing: Use an immersion blender to whip up several roasted garlic cloves, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. We love ours over a fresh arugula and endive salad.
  • Deviled eggs: Mash cloves and add into your usual (or unusual!) deviled egg recipe. What a pleasant surprise for guests at your next party or brunch.
  • Hummus: Throw some roasted garlic cloves in the food processor with chickpeas, lemon juice, and tahini. Devour with crackers or cut, raw veggies.

roasted garlic recipes

Plentiful Pleasing Poppies Next Spring

‘Black Swan’ Poppy

Fall is a great time of the year to reflect on your garden and write down some new ideas for next year. And I have poppies on the brain! What’s great about poppies is their diversity—all shapes, colors, sizes, perennial, annual— I love them all! Regardless of their annual or perennial status, they do best when sown in place, and by sowing this fall, seeds are primed for the earliest possible germination next spring. Poppies are quite cold tolerant and you may be surprised how early they come up.

Mission Bells Poppy Blend

Sowing Poppies
Choose a full-sun to part-sun area and consider the height of the poppies and any neighboring plants so none of the flowers get overshadowed. All I really need to do for soil prep is to get rid of weeds, dig out rooted perennials, and scrape away wimpy annuals. Poppies are happy with near neglect; they are drought tolerant, and do fine in poor soils but need good drainage. I scratch the surface of the soil with a hard rake to loosen the top ½”–1″, leaving the surface fluffy but level. Then I’m ready to sow! Poppy seeds need light to germinate, which means they need to be close to or on the soil surface. I usually just broadcast the seeds (adding a few extra in case birds find them), rake them in very lightly, and I’m done! Late winter and spring precipitation usually provides enough moisture to germinate seeds next year, but if I have a dry winter I will water these seeds come spring. (P.S. You can also sow in raised beds to improve the drainage of your soil.)

Oriental Blend Poppy

I am already imagining all the beautiful blooms I will be seeing next spring and summer! Poppies aren’t the only flowers that germinate best after the chill of winter. Read more about Fall Sown Flowers for ideas on what you can sow now.

Spinach, Sausage, and Tortellini Soup

Spinach Tortellini SoupFor gardeners, the arrival of fall can be bittersweet. It’s rewarding to finally harvest all that you’ve worked for, but that also means our growing season is coming to an end. So we cooked up this savory soup to use our garden spinach in, and to enjoy as the days get cooler.

INGREDIENTS
4 sausage links (we used chicken apple), cut into half circles
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
10 ounces fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
Salt, and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

    1. Sauté sausage, onion, and garlic in olive oil in a large pot until sausage starts to brown, about 6 to 10 minutes. Add flour and stir.
    2. When flour is browned, about 1 to 2 minutes, add broth and mix well (you may have to use the spoon to scrap the brown bits from the bottom on the pot, but that is where the flavor is!)
    3. Bring broth to a boil and then add tortellini and cook until tender, about 10 minutes, or if frozen, until they float to the top. Add Parmesan cheese and fresh spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted, only a few minutes.
    4. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve with crusty Italian bread.

 

Botanical Interests Spinach Bloomsdale Botanical Interests Spinach Matador Botanical Interests Baby Greens Spinach

Endless Harvests: Inspiration for All Those Veggies

It happens every year. Each spring I am so excited to garden that I grow more than my family could ever eat. I realize this is a bonus, so I try to make the absolute most out of every single vegetable I harvest. If you are also fortunate enough to have too many veggies, try these preparing and sharing ideas.

  1. Freezing. Greens (kale, spinach, collards), onions, peppers, tomatoes, and winter squash can be frozen without blanching (boiled quickly and then cooled in ice water to preserve nutrients and color). Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, and green beans maintain a better quality when blanched before freezing.
  1. Batch meals. Cook up a big batch of tomato sauce, eggplant cutlets, or even a whole casserole and freeze the extra portions in well-marked, freezer-safe containers.
  1. Canning. Preserve the bounty by canning. Be sure to follow a tested recipe (like these from the USDA) to avoid any chance of food-borne illness.
  1. Meet your neighbors. You’ll not only make new friends (or delight the old ones), but you may even turn some into gardeners! The more gardens in a neighborhood, the higher everyone’s sense of pride, too. So bring over that extra zucchini, flower bouquet, or basil.
  1. Donate. Do you know that food banks around our nation find it difficult to consistently provide fresh vegetables to their communities? Find your local food bank and share the harvest.

For more ideas see our article Preserve the Harvest. Share your creative uses for extra garden goodies in the comments!

Summer Fun in the Trial Garden

Every year we go to garden shows where we “ooh” and “aah” at the gorgeous, the unusual, and the unique, and yearn for a big enough space to grow them all. Alas, we must choose only those that most capture our attention, and bring back the seed with growing anticipation. Then, when the time is right, we sow them in our trial gardens, to see for ourselves how they perform.

Our seed buyer, Alex, has a rich history of market farming, so he is our guy for our on-site trial garden. He “fixes” the soil, sows the seeds, and tends the plot, with a little help from other staff members. We all provide encouragement, of course! And there is no shortage of volunteers to test out that new tomato, or corn, or pepper.

We’re growing some of our new varieties this year to make sure we deliver the high-quality product we promise. These can be found in our 2017 catalog, or on our website:

Hollyhock Outhouse Several of us couldn’t run fast enough for the seed after seeing this glorious display of old-fashioned hollyhocks.

Pea Sugar Magnolia What a beautiful color in a snap pea, and the blossoms are equally as appealing.

Sunflower Schock O Lat Shockingly beautiful, isn’t it? And sunflowers are so easy to grow, everyone should!

This summer we are also trialing some special things that look very promising for a future season. Color and form are catching our attention in a mix of burgundy and lime green celosia with red and golden plumes bursting forth; a small, adorable zinnia with quite bold colors; gomphrena in hot pink and creamy white; an interesting grass that is reminiscent of fireworks; and a stunning sweet corn that has striking, deep burgundy stems, tassels and husks, with contrasting white kernels!

Stay tuned!

 

Hollyhock Dolls

Hollyhock dolls have been enchanting folks for generations. They make delightful table decorations and are fun for the whole family to make. This old-fashioned craft is easy, requiring only blooms from a hollyhock plant and some toothpicks! Here’s how to create a hollyhock doll.

Supplies

Instructions

Break off an open bloom including the green sepal, and invert it for the skirt. You can use multiple blooms for a layered effect.

Push a toothpick horizontally through the sepal to form arms.

For the face, push a toothpick vertically through the middle of a green (unripened) seed pod, with the seedpod in the middle of the toothpick; then attach to body by pushing it down through the middle of the sepal.

For the hair/hat, attach a small, barely opened bloom to the toothpick sticking up past the face.

We’d love to see how creative you get with your hollyhock dolls. Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

10 Crops in Under Two Months

August has arrived and it has me thinking about all the tasty fall crops I can still sow and enjoy in two months time before a frost is likely in my area. So if you are also right up against the two-month mark and want to squeeze in just a little more gardening, I suggest trying cool-season crops (frost tolerant)! Several of the cool-season crops I grow are even more enjoyable in late summer because I can worry less about pests and bolting, while the cool temperatures of fall will sweeten my leafy greens (kale is particularly improved by a kiss of fall frost). But you may notice that these crops seem to take longer–and you’re correct! Late summer/early fall warm-season crops may take a couple of more weeks to reach maturity than usual as day length wanes and temperatures cool.

Try 10 of my favorite varieties to sow in late summer. They will not disappoint!

  1. Arugula sown in late summer/fall provides a mellower flavor, and attracts flea beetles less than spring-sown crops.
  2. Beets are silky, earthy, and delicious. We love them roasted, pickled, or raw. Our new, white, ‘Avalanche’ beet has a mild flavor that is a hit and better for juicing without the stains of red beets.
  3. Broccoli Raab is so fast, and what a delicacy! You can cut it 2-3 times and keep enjoying the delicate, slightly spicy flavor for weeks.
  4. Collards are heat tolerant and survive to 20°F, which lends to my love of this productive, heirloom green.
  5. Kale just keeps on going past first frost, getting sweeter, and adding depths to soups, and diversity to fall salads. ‘Dwarf Blue’ and ‘Redbor’ are exceptionally cold tolerant and the latter’s purple color intensifies after frost. ‘Nero Toscana‘ is my favorite!
  6. Kohlrabi has the crunch of an apple, is mildly sweet, and has a touch of a mild radish flavor. I love it raw with a sprinkle of salt.
  7. Lettuce is a staple in my garden all summer long, and I love to grow a bunch of different varieties, but always the ‘Marvel of Four Seasons’ which glows cranberry red as the days shorten, and ‘Little Gem’ that forms a perfect head. Both are more heat tolerant and frost tolerant than others.
  8. Peas are for fall too! ‘Cascadia’ is my favorite snap pea for fall because it is not only delicious, but also mildew resistant, an issue I often battle in the late summer.
  9. Radishes are always welcome in our kitchen, and late summer is the time to sow winter radishes which only form during shortening days. I grow daikon (if you’ve never tried daikon you are missing out!), black radishes, and the stunning, scarlet centered, watermelon radish. When you remove (and eat) the greens these radishes store for a month or more in the crisper.
  10. Spinach is also sweetened with cooling temperatures and can over-winter, even in my climate (USDA zone 5B). I like to sow a little extra for freezing.

There’s more to grow, too! Check out other quick crops like cucumbers, mustards, summer squash, and turnips. Get the full list and read more about our most frost tolerant crops. Well, those garden beds aren’t going to prep themselves; I better get sowing!

What are you sowing now for fall? Share with us in the comments below.

 

Fun Garden Craft for Kids: Fairy Garden

Creating a fairy garden is a fun and constructive activity for the whole family, and a great way to introduce children to gardening, teach them about the design process, inspire their creativity, and teach them how to properly care for plants.

Many local garden centers feature beautifully made fairy garden furniture, décor, and dwarf plants. You can also try crafting your own miniature furniture from wire or recycled aluminum cans, and weaving place mats out of twigs or stems you have pruned in the garden. Fill acorn caps to the brim with tiny seeds from your flowers to make fairy seed buckets.

What you’ll need:

  • A large container (at least 24” in diameter if round; at least 24” wide and long if square or rectangle)
  • Fairy-garden props: furniture, fairies, decorations, small stones, etc…
  • Potting soil
  • Seeds for low-growing container plants such as; sweet alyssum, bluebells, Yellow Buttons daisies, forget-me-not, impatiens, lobelia, pansies, portulaca, and violas.
  • Fairy garden plants from your local garden center such as; dwarf ferns, scotch moss, polka-dot plant, dwarf thyme, and ripple peperomia.

First, select where you want to place your fairy garden based on the exposure needed by the plants you choose. You can build your fairy garden in a large container or directly in the ground.

Next, head to your local garden center and pick up some fairy garden décor. We are using a small house, mushrooms, fairies, gnomes, and some pebbles. You can also build some natural décor from twigs and other stuff around the garden. Check out this blog for more info: Nature Inspired Fairy Garden

Fill your container with potting soil, and sow seeds or transplant plants directly into the container.

Next, get creative! Place fairy garden décor among the plants, or places where the seedlings will emerge, to fashion an enchanted garden that will delight and attract fairies.

Water, watch and wonder. As your plants grow, keep them trimmed to a tidy, small size. Once you’ve made a fairy garden, you’ll be drawn to it every day, and want to share the pleasure with friends and family. Enjoy!

We’d love to see how creative you get with your fairy garden. Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Advice From a First-Time Gardener

 

sunflower

Usually, I write to share my gardening loves and experiences. We’ve been thinking about new gardeners and how best to give them the tools they need. Jennifer, our marketing manager, has just started gardening since working at Botanical Interests, and I’m excited about her progress! So I thought, who better to give advice to a novice gardener, than a novice gardener herself? I think you’ll find her thoughts on hope and patience helpful no matter what level gardener you consider yourself.  — Judy

My grandfather gardened and my mother gardened; I, however, did not. But I love to cook, so the thought of running to my backyard for fresh ingredients just before dinner was very exciting. Working at an awesome seed company didn’t hurt either.

Last season was my first garden. My space isn’t big–only a 6′ x 7′ raised bed, but I was determined to get the most out of it. My season started out strong; all the seeds germinated (thanks, Botanical Interests!), so I immediately thought I was “a natural”. I took pictures of my seedlings and showed them off to Judy and our horticulturist, April, like my preschooler does with her macaroni necklaces. Imagine my disappointment, though, when mid-season, slugs skeletonized my pea leaves, my herbs were wilting, and I had only a handful of tiny tomatoes, which had blossom-end-rot to boot. I did have some success with Bunny Tails grass, growing the cut fluffs at the top, but it was certainly not the dramatic flowerbed I had planned. And while I did harvest four zucchini, two handfuls of Sun Gold tomatoes, and one sprig of cilantro, it again was certainly not the glorious bounty I had imagined.

But I am not a quitter. I was excited again this past spring, but a little more determined and “grounded” (pun intended) about my goals. Even though we’re only at mid-season here in Colorado, my garden is already growing better than last year. Here’s what I learned:

Stay hopeful. Some plants are more forgiving than you may think. If it seems like you killed it, try more or less water, fertilizer, or sun. More water and sun revived even my wilting herbs. And, of course, there’s always next year! Which brings me to my next lesson…

Be patient. New gardeners always hear this. I’m not exactly a patient person, but nevertheless, it’s true. When I’m in awe of another’s beautiful and bountiful garden, I remind myself that that garden has probably taken years to perfect. And speaking of perfecting…

Focus. Improve one thing at a time. Because I was fruitless and bloomless last year, this year I focused on amending my soil with phosphorous (that’s the middle number on the fertilizer container) so that I will get more out of what I sowed. And last but not least…

Use your resources. I know that I’m lucky to work with a slew of garden nerds, but ask any gardener–chances are they love to talk plants. They’ll share their immeasurably valuable experiences, especially how to grow in local conditions. Last shameless plug–I refer to the helpful information our seed packets regularly, and it works!

garden pepper tomato bean

I have to admit, I’m still not doing everything right this year, but I do have gorgeous, bright yellow sunflowers, and lots of budding jalapenos, tomatoes, and green beans, and I wake up every morning wondering if something new grew overnight (that actually happens, by the way). So even if you’re like me, impatient and most definitely not a natural, you can sow one seed and turn it into a salad, sauce, or bouquet, and that on it’s own is pretty spectacular.

Honey & Orange Glazed Rutabaga with Fresh Thyme

Rutabagas have a mild flavor and are often cooked and used like potatoes. In this dish, we use citrus and fresh thyme to lend bright, fresh flavor to these cold-hardy roots. This recipe also works wells with turnips. Sow them in early spring for summer harvest or summer fall harvest; they store for months!
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 lbs rutabaga or turnip, greens removed (we used rutabaga)
1–2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 orange, for juice and zest (about ½ cup juice, 1–2 tablespoons zest
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoon fresh thyme

1. Peel roots and cut them into ½” pieces.
2. Put roots in a heavy-bottomed skillet or pot with about 1¼ cups of water, or enough to cover the roots halfway. Add butter, salt, and honey. Heat on medium high and cover, simmering until roots are soft, 8–10 minutes.
3. Remove lid, add the orange juice and vinegar, and simmer for another 12–15 minutes until sauce has reduced.
4. Remove from heat and toss roots with fresh thyme and orange zest.

Enjoy!

Use the comments to share your root cooking tips.