Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pickling vegetables

Michele Koskinen

Summer canning and preserving for me is a wonderful hobby that I have been doing since I helped my mother in her kitchen as a child. A few weeks ago in my email box was an article from Organic Gardening about vegetables to pickle. Since I love pickled foods I took a look and found new ideas for this foray into the world of pickling. This seems to be the newest, found, old way, of preserving foods.

Many cultures uses fermentation and pickling in their everyday food choices. Pickling has been traditionally used to preserve fruits that do not store well in their natural state. Thus far, I have pickled beets, string beans, cucumbers 3 ways, 3 kinds of hot peppers and today with 2 zucchini staring at me I am trying zucchini pickles.

I am attaching the link to the article for all of you home canners. Have fun.


The USDA guides are also a great resource for beginning canners as well as extension sites and of course food blogs. Remember that all safety precautions should be followed to prevent spoilage of food and botulism.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Monarchs at the Pollinator Garden

Karen Melton

We have been thrilled when we happened to witness Black Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies laying eggs in the Pollinator Garden.   For the Black Swallowtails we have a variety of host plants (plants that those specific caterpillars are adapted to eat) which are plants in the carrot family such as parsley, dill and fennel.  For the Monarchs we have several species of Asclepias (milkweed), the only host plant family for this butterfly.

Here is a female Monarch butterfly laying an egg on our Asclepias Tuberosa (Butterfly Weed).  You can see her bending the lower end of her body forward to deposit the egg.  It is not known exactly how butterflies are able to sense the specific host plants on which they must lay their eggs.

The two white dots on the right side of the center buds below are Monarch butterfly eggs.

At maturity this caterpillar will enter a chrysalis stage then later emerge as a Monarch butterfly.  Many butterflies overwinter in the chrysalis stage, but Monarchs perform their legendary migration to an overwintering site in Mexico.  Given the time of  year, if this caterpillar makes it to the butterfly stage (which few do), it could be one that attempts the migration.  American agricultural practices have dramatically reduced the amount of milkweed growing in the U.S.  In addition, climate change is altering the characteristics of the overwintering site in Mexico, so that fewer butterflies survive the winter.  And with the prolonged drought in Texas, it is increasingly difficult for butterflies to find enough nectar flowers to survive this leg of the journey.  Gardeners everywhere should consider giving some space to milkweeds.  They produce beautiful flowers that attract native bees as well as butterflies.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Butterflies, Bees and more

Michele Koskinen

Butterflies, Bees and more....   The Butterfly Garden Committee has created a beautiful new brochure that details the benefits of gardening for pollinators and lists the plants growing in our demonstration garden. .  Thanks to MG Andrea Lewandowski and Howard Goldstein, for the useful explanations and gorgeous artwork.  Additional thanks to all the gardeners who get out and weed and water and plant so there is a thriving environment for the Butterflies, Bees, beneficial insects.  

All the gardens at the Horticulture Center are looking beautiful.  Get out there for a visit.