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.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Garden Day and Plant Sale: Worth the Drive

Karen Primble

Like many other thrifty gardeners, I am always on the hunt for a great deal.  So, I go to a lot of flea markets and yard sales.  As I search for deals, I always try to ascertain if the bargains are worth the drive.  I can honestly confirm, this sale is worth the drive!
The 2019 Garden Day and Plant Sale is just two weeks away.  You’ll want to add this event to your schedule.  The variety of vegetables for sale is impressive.  You will be able to choose from thirty varieties of tomatoes.  Looking for heirlooms?  Twenty of the thirty tomato varieties are heirlooms.    Looking for a hybrid variety?  This sale has those, too.
Several varieties have interesting back stories.  The Rutgers 250 Schermerhorn, for example, is being touted as a “new heirloom.”  The Rutgers tomato, first made famous by Campbell’s Soup Co. years ago, has come to be known as the quintessential Jersey tomato.  This seed pays homage to the original; you be the judge.
Sun Gold remains our best-selling cherry tomato year after year because of its sweet, delicious flavor.  But this year, you might want to check out the Artisan Series cherry-type tomato.  Some are round and stripy; others are blush-colored and long and pointed.  All are super cool-looking and seriously do taste as great as they look.  Artisan performs well as a container plant, too.

You might want to add a plum/paste tomato to your garden this year.  Some think plum tomatoes are used exclusively for canning.  Actually, plum tomatoes tend to be meatier and have fewer seeds than beefsteak varieties.  For this reason, they are fantastic for salsa, as well as, sauce.  Jersey Devil is a plum tomato that performs well in our area, prolifically supplying sweet, sausage-shaped tomatoes all season long. 

Try adding a little color to your garden this summer.  We have a number of uniquely-colored beefsteak varieties for sale this year.  Ranging from the enormous, yellow Pineapple (fruit can weigh up to 2 pounds) to the hybrid Chef’s Choice Green, to the bi-colored stripes of the heirloom Mr. Stripey.

Of course, you will also find herbs, lettuces, eggplant, peppers, and kale.  The Green Elephant Table promises to provide some great gardening treasures.  You can be sure to find something wonderful at the Garden Day and Plant Sale in beautiful Fairmount Park on April 28th.  Hope to see you there.  It’s so worth the drive!    

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Save the Date! Spring Plant Sale is April 28, 2019

The Penn State Extension Philadelphia Master Gardeners will hold their 6th annual Garden Day and Plant Sale on Sunday, April 28 2019 from 10am - 2pm at the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park!


We will be selling a wide variety of affordable seedlings and house plants, as well as herbs, vegetables and more than 25 varieties of tomatoes.

This event is more than just a plant sale. Penn State Extension Philadelphia Master Gardeners will host workshops and demonstrations throughout the day. There’s something for the entire family!

Scheduled workshops and demos include: 

Science in the Garden (ongoing; 10:00 am - 2:00 pm): Science in the Garden features hands-on activities related to climate change, science and the superpowers of plants.

ColorWheels Make & Take (10:00 am - 1:00 pm): Get on the ColorWheels bus! Children of all ages will enjoy this arts and crafts activity that connects the world of the garden to artistic expression.

Edible and Useful Flowers (10:15 am - 10:45 am): Join the Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP) for a talk on the culinary and medicinal uses of the plants grown in their orchard. Take a guided tour at 11:00 am or 11:30 am, sample teas made from the fruit trees, and then check out the POP plant sale table.

Shake Up Your Salad! (sessions at 10:30 am and 11:15 am): Penn State Extension’s Nutrition Links Coordinator will demonstrate how easy it is to make a healthy, tasty and inexpensive salad. Taste the results yourself, and then visit the plant sale tables for ingredients to make your own.

Bugging Out! Know the Insects in Your Vegetable Garden (11:30 am - 12:15 pm): From pill bugs to mantids and butterflies to cabbage worms--share your insect pest management strategies and learn from others’ experiences too.

Indoor Plants: Beautiful, Beneficial, Sustainable (12:30 pm - 1:15 pm): Learn about the value of indoor houseplants! Have a plant you want more of? Bring it to the workshop—or purchase one at the plant sale—and learn how easy it is to propagate plants. We’ll provide the pots and soil.

Master Gardeners will also be available to answer all your gardening questions, and don’t forget to check out our Edible Landscape Garden and our Certified Pollinator Habitat Garden for inspiration when planning and designing your own home garden.

We hope to see you there! 

This event will be held rain or shine! For more information about the Penn State Extension Philadelphia Master Gardeners’ Garden Day & Plant Sale, visit

For directions and information about the Horticulture Center, visit

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Fairmount Organic Recycling Center

An old post but it's still valuable information for Philadelphia residents. Need compost take your buckets, ID and get some compost for your garden. 

Lauren McEwen
If you are a Philadelphia resident and a gardener, then RUN, don't walk to the the Fairmount Organic Recycling Center located at 3850 Ford Road in Fairmount Park.

It may not look like much from the entrance, but you've come to the right place!

The Organic Recycling Center is an amazing resource that many gardeners don't realize they have access to. For residential use, city residents may obtain free compost, mulch, wood chips and herbivore manure. Residents are allowed to take up to 30-gallons of material per trip, and to make up to two trips per week. Giant logs are also available for cutting into firewood at no charge. You must provide your own tools, and a chain saw and splitter are recommended for cutting logs into firewood. For the organic materials, I would suggest bringing gardening gloves, a shovel, and a tarp or plastic sheeting to protect your trunk from any spillage.

Residents that wish to obtain more than the free allotment must purchase the materials. Non-residents, landscapers, garden centers, contractors and soil dealers can also purchase materials, which can be loaded into trucks and trailers with a front end loader by Park Staff. 

The Organic Recycling Center Office is the building in the center.

Upon arrival, residents must stop in the office to provide their driver's license to Recycling Center staff to demonstrate proof of residency. Residents must also complete a daily log-in sheet and waiver form prior to loading materials onto their vehicles. There are a few shovels in the office that you may borrow, but I would suggest bringing your own. 

Today I'm here for mulch.

For those driving cars, you can pull up directly next to the huge piles of organic material to load your containers. Trucks (even non-commercial ones) are not allowed in this area. Folks driving trucks must stay parked by the office and then load their containers onto a provided cart to wheel them over.

I like to bring six 5-gallon containers because I can still lift them when full.

I'm not able to produce enough of my own compost at home to fulfill all of my gardening needs, so the Organic Recycling Center is a resource that I greatly appreciate and use often. Maybe on my next trip I'll see you there!

The Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center is located at:
3850 Ford Road, Philadelphia, PA 19131

Hours of Operation:
Monday-Friday 7:30AM-3PM

Saturday Hours:
April 1 - October 31

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Orchids: A Splash of Color to Brighten a Long Winter

What can be better on a cold, grey, winter day than stepping into a greenhouse bursting with color from exotic plants? Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square has an annual Orchid Extravaganza from January through March, with hundreds of orchids on display. You will find everything from more common plants such as Phalaenopsis, to rare gems such Fredclarkeara After Dark 'SVO Black Pearl', in many colors and creative displays.

One of the many orchid "trees" on display at Longwood Gardens.

The lovely Fredclarkeara After Dark 'SVO Black Pearl' not only looks beautiful, but it also has a subtle but pleasant spicy scent.
Growing Your Own Orchids
You can also enjoy the winter beauty of orchids in your own home, and having a windowsill full of blooming orchids is easier than you may think. With proper care, blooms will return year after year. Phalaenopsis, commonly referred to as moth orchids, bloom for extended periods of time and are readily available (you can even find them at many grocery stores). Here are a few pointers to keep your plants healthy:
  • Potting medium: When you purchase an orchid, it will often be in a pot full of bark. Never transplant orchids to regular potting soil, as the specialized roots need the aeration that a loose medium provides.
  • Light: Most orchids do best with all day exposure to bright, indirect light. 
  • Water: Careful watering is important to keep orchids hydrated, but not too wet. Watering once a week is typically sufficient, though be sure that the potting medium is dry before adding more water. To increase humidity in the winter, you can place orchid pots on a tray with pebbles covered in water. 
  • Fertilizer: You can use either a regular 20-20-20 fertilizer or an orchid-specific fertilizer. Apply a weak solution monthly to your regular watering
Whether you enjoy them at a greenhouse such as Longwood, or at home, the exotic flowers of orchids are sure to add some sunshine and color to your winter day. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Architecture and Landscape Patrick Hauck - Master Gardener Class Presentation

Architecture and Landscape
Patrick Hauck - Master Gardener Class Presentation

I’m Patrick Hauck, and like all gardeners, I like to dig in and get my hands dirty.  I’ve spent nearly forty years working in the world of historic preservation, promoting the revitalization of historic buildings and landscapes, so I’m really in my zone when these two passions intersect.

This is a brief overview about our home and garden on Rural Lane in West Mt. Airy, an ongoing effort for the last 14 plus years.  The house is one of four identical Victorian cottages built in the late 1880s along the Chestnut Hill West rail line.

This is an image of the Allen Lane station showing the four newly built houses in the distance on the far left. 

Here is another image of the rear of the houses, circa 1920, as seen from a neighboring farm.  Our house is the second from the right on the ridge.

Here is the front of the property when we purchased it in 2004. As you can see the house is more than a little tired and the landscape features one dying tree and one planted way too close to house. A project after my own heart.

Fast forward to a few years ago and you can see what a nearly a decade of sweat equity, a good paint job and the introduction of a mix of plant materials including trees, perennials and annuals has done to breathe life into the situation.

Here’s another view of the front of the property at the start of the project, including a peek down to the back yard, showing a little more of the side of the house and the lack of plant materials.

And here we see that same view with the now more established perennial bed coming unto its own, helping to anchor the architecture to the land through the introduction of color and texture. 

And you thought the front was tired, check out the back.  It was time to roll up my sleeves (and get out the checkbook) in order to restore this crumbling porch and establish a new garden.

Sleuthing out the clues as to what the original porch looked like and creating a really close match was a long process, but the results still blow me away. In this image the establishment of the perennial garden beds at the base of the porch area is beginning.

Here is a view of the same perennial bed in the spring a few years later when it has become more established and serves as a stronger visual anchor to the house.

This is the rear viewshed in the backyard before any work began. Even in its ragged condition, it offered a gentle slope with southern exposure--a blank slate and a gardener’s dream.

Here is the same view in early summer a few years back with established perennial beds. Although the entire property is less than a quarter acre, the borrowed view of the woods of the Cresheim Valley provides the illusion of a much larger space.

Looking toward the lower part of the garden is another great borrowed view – this time of the neighbors’ beautiful copper beech tree.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This little metal 1920’s garage was rough, but full of potential and function.

Here is it, all buttoned up and painted. It serves as both a storage shed and garden folly and is anchored into the landscape with bushes, perennials, flower boxes and a raised bed.

Porch/Patio/Dining Room:

I love to create rooms in a garden--separate areas each offering a different feel, such as the back porch area pictured here The views from that room include the amazing mimosa tree in July and surrounding plantings.  It is a great gathering place.

Water Garden:
Tucked away in the side yard is another room- the water garden - featuring a koi pond on one side, and on the other side, my favorite luxury, an outdoor shower.

 Lower Garden/Outdoor Library: The lower garden holds what I call the library. It is wonder shady retreat for reading on a hot summer day. A gated opening provides a view of the woods behind the house, and the room provides a vantage point to see the entire garden and rear of the house.

Putting this overview together, I mused on what gardening has taught me both through failure and success. No matter how much experience we have under our belts, we are always learning. And our gardens reward us for our hard work with a bounty of beauty and color. 

I’m primarily pollinator gardener and keep expanding each year, doing the botanical math of addition, division multiplication and subtraction of plants. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is to just keep plugging away. If you build it, they will come.

Thanks for letting me share this brief overview of my project with you, and happy gardening!