Tuesday, August 27, 2019

We've Moved! Visit our New Website!

"Times change, and so must we."

We've moved our blog to a new and improved website, and we hope you'll check us out!

To find all the latest Philly Master Gardener news and blog posts, visit us at https://extension.psu.edu/programs/master-gardener/counties/philadelphia/news. 

We're still in the process of moving all older posts to this new site, and this blog will remain here for the time being so you don't lose access to our archives. We'll let you know if and when that changes.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Lemon Basil: Tips for Using This Delicate Herb

By Michele Koskinen

The Master Gardeners' annual plant sale provides gardeners and cooks with a variety of options for herbs, and vegetables. I am partial to Lemon Basil but, what do you do with it? I have used it in tea, as a basil for tomato salad, sprinkled over fish, in some vegetable dishes and in stir fries at the end. Lemon and bime basil, as well as Thai basil, are used in many Asian recipes. Infusing your favorite summer cocktail is also a pleasing way to use this herb. Let me know how you used this basil in our comment section. 

Happy cooking!

  • Butterfly a chicken, and rub it with crushed garlic, ginger and oil if you'd like. 
  • Cover the bottom of a shallow dish with half of your lemon basil. 
  • Place the chicken over it, and cover the bird with more basil, saving about 1 cup of leaves for the chicken glaze. 
  • Rub the basil into the bird's surface. Lightly cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • To cook, slow roast on the grill or in the oven. 
  • During the last 30 minutes, glaze the chicken by brushing with a pureĆ© of 1 cup basil leaves, 3 tablespoons sugar, a seeded and minced Thai chile, the juice of a lemon and 1/3 cup canola oil.
Check out these other ways you can use lemon and lime basil:

  • Infuse olive oil and drizzle on your salads or anywhere a fresh lemon taste can be used
  • Make a pesto, and use it in a favorite pasta recipe
  • Use the basil as a butter for fish, steak and chicken
  • Freeze the butter and cut it into chunks as needed when you cook
  • Try a little lemon or lime basil in your iced tea or vodka tonic 
  • Chop it up and use it over fruit
  • Use it in Asian soup recipes, curries & stir fry
  • Add this basil last once your dish is taken off heat to preserve its delicate taste
Try it in any recipe that calls for basil. Be adventurous!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Fruitful Partnership: A Strawberry Community Orchard at Woodford Mansion in East Fairmount Park

By Martha Moffat
An aerial view of a mansion surrounded by trees

In 2008, the Woodford Mansion, the Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP), and the East Park Revitalization Alliance (EPRA) began a collaborative project to plant the first fruit modern trees at Woodford Mansion in East Fairmount Park. The orchard is currently maintained by the East Park Revitalization Alliance (EPRA) and includes dozes of fruit and nut trees, a berry garden, a pollinator garden and an herb garden. These gardens serve the residents of the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, providing fresh fruit and educational programming.

(Pictured at top right: an aerial view of Woodford Mansion)

History of Woodford

Woodford Mansion was built in 1756 as a summer home. It is a National Historic Landmark and has been operated by the Naomi Wood Trust as a House Museum since 1928. The Naomi Wood Collection of antiques is displayed at Woodford Mansion.

Historically, there had always been an orchard at Woodford, as mentioned in an advertisement from 1769 for the sale of the property (pictured below). It seemed only natural to bring that back to the area in 2008.

Challenge: How Can Woodford Mansion Help and Engage Our Neighboring Community?

An image of the Woodford Orchard design plansWhen POP received a donation to plant a new orchard to benefit neighborhoods in Philadelphia, the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood and Woodford Mansion was the logical choice.

Strawberry Mansion is one of the most challenged neighborhoods in the City of Philadelphia. The area is a food desert with high poverty, a high crime rate, and many health issues.

(Pictured above is the plan for Phase 1 of the orchard and pollinator garden.)

Since the orchard was planted, POP, EPRA and Woodford Mansion co-host numerous community events there, including strawberry, apple and peach festivals. 2018 marked the 10th annual Apple Festival! (Pictured bottom right: members of the community pick strawberries in the orchard at Woodford Mansion.)

Children pick strawberries next to a mansionAll members of the community are welcome to visit the orchard. Children from the Mander Recreation Center visit the site during all four seasons. During the winter season, children from the Mander Playground make ornaments for Woodford’s tree and pay a visit to hang them and get a special tour of the orchard.

Plans are also in the works for a Fair-amount Food Forest to be planted under the trees outside the fence for the Strawberry Mansion community. Stay tuned!

Martha Moffat is a Penn State Extension Philadelphia Master Gardener and the Site Manager at Woodford Mansion.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

What do you do with lime basil?

By Michele Koskinen

Growing different varieties of basil has been fun, and using it has been an adventure.

Lime basil can be used in drinks, pies, sorbets, with chicken and in salads. Search for lime basil recipes and up pops interesting recipes to try.

Today's recipe take us to summer and a cool refreshing treat.

Summer Time Lime Basil Sorbet Recipe

What would summer be without something cold and refreshing? And, if you have a nice supply of fresh basil -- or even better some fresh lime basil leaves -- don’t you want a cool recipe to use them with?
How about lime basil sorbet or frozen pops? And, what if you could alter the recipe to fit the kitchen gadgets you already had? Of course, this recipe could just be the best ammunition to convince yourself you need an ice cream maker, blender or new finely-meshed sieve.
Let’s get started.

The ingredients…
  • 2 cups of fresh lime basil leaves (you can use sweet basil leaves too), gently packed or a nice-sized, wrapped bundle with stems
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 1 cup sugar – you might want to increase or decrease to taste but changing the quantity may impact how your sorbet will freeze
  • 3 ¼ water

The choices for making the juice…

Method 1 – Blending
If you would like your lime basil sorbet to have a pretty green color, blanch the basil leaves in boiling water for about 10 seconds. Drain off the water and quickly plunge the basil into cold water to stop the cooking process. Remove the leaves from the cold bath and they’re ready to be turned into a cool, refreshing treat.
Put all of the ingredients, including the 3 ¼ cups of water, into a blender on high speed for about 60 seconds or until smooth. Strain the liquid through a fine-meshed strainer to remove the unblended bits of basil leaves and stems.

Method 2 – Steeping
If you don’t have a blender or if your strainer may not catch the little blended pieces, you can go old school. Put the sugar and water into a pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, throw in the lime basil bundle and remove pan from the heat. Let steep for around 15 minutes (longer if you want a stronger basil flavor). Strain. Add the lime juice once the mixture cools. Don’t forget the lime juice or your sorbet won’t be as tasty.

Method 1 – The easiest way to create a nice, creamy sorbet is to use an ice cream maker. Process until the mixture looks like a firm slushy. Scoop the semi-frozen mixture into a freezer-safe container and freeze until it can be served using an ice-cream scoop.

Method 2 – If you do not have an ice cream maker, you can still create a true sorbet texture. Place the mixture into an air-tight container in the freezer. When it is frozen to a semi-solid state, mash it with a fork and return to the freezer. Once frozen, use a blender or food processor to ‘cream’ up the sorbet. Can be refrozen until served.

Method 3 – Maybe you don’t have an ice cream maker and method 2 just sounds like too much of a nuisance…why not make frozen juice pops? If you already have a set of molds, just pour the lime basil mixture into them, freeze and enjoy.

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Cindy Barr 
Lime Basil Sorbet
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup) By JOANNE WEIR July 2009  
A traditional salt and ice electric freezer works best for this sorbet, as opposed to a tabletop freezer, which won't freeze the mixture firmly enough. Use sweet Italian or lemon basil or lime basil. 

1 1/2 cups sugar 
2 cups fresh lime juice, divided (about 15 limes) 
1/2 cup light- colored corn syrup 
3/4 cup packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped 
2 cups water 
1 tablespoon grated lime rind 
How to Make It 
Combine sugar, 1 cup juice, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook 2 minutes or until sugar melts, stirring constantly. Stir in basil. Cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Pour mixture into a bowl. Add remaining 1 cup juice, 2 cups water, and 1 tablespoon rind. Cover and chill. Strain mixture through a fine sieve; discard solids. Pour mixture into a freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Spoon mixture into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze 1 hour or until firm. Garnish with finely grated rind, if desired. Finely grated lime rind (optional)

Other links for recipes:


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

One-of-a-kind planters from Master Gardener Kay

For the second year in a row, Philadelphia master gardener & local artist Kay N. has created a handful of unique ceramic planters, which will be on sale at Sunday’s Garden Day & Plant Sale.

ceramic planters with plants

Kay created these planters specifically for the plant sale, and you won’t find them anywhere else! Handmade ceramic garden stakes, prearranged planters and garden tools will also be available for purchase at the green elephant table. These items sell quickly, so come out early to grab one for your home or for gifts.

All proceeds from sales made during the plant sale benefit the Penn State Extension Philadelphia Master Gardener programs and community outreach.

The 2019 Garden Day & Plant Sale will be held from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park. Come rain or shine! For more information, visit
our website.