Monday, February 22, 2010


Photo taken by Linda Turner Collins on the Tippecanoe River, Indiana.

Hey Herbies!

OK, I know that we are "Herbies", right? However, I do know that we also love our trees, especially here in Aransas County. So I thought that I would post some "tree" information on our Rockport Herbies blog.

Ruth and I attended a tree seminar here in Rockport this past Saturday, February 20, 2010. It was interesting even if the speaker dwelled on chain saws more than I cared to hear. However, I did learn some new information about trees.

Tree Paint
Do not use tree paint on trees with the exception of Oaks and Citrus. Make sure you paint within 30 minutes of the cut otherwise don’t bother. One man said that he uses Elmer’s Glue (I have to assume Elmer’s Wood Glue.) to seal wounds and it works. Who knows?

No Spiking Trees
No spiking trees regardless of what type of tree they are. Since I didn't know what tree spiking was, I researched it and here is the information that I found: Tree spiking is a form of sabotage which involves hammering a metal rod or other material (commonly ceramic) into a tree trunk in order to discourage logging. And that Tree spiking was declared a federal felony in the United States in 1988.

Training Trees
Training trees, so start young, between 2 to 3 year old trees. Tallest limb with bud has control of the tree so don’t cut the tallest limb when pruning. This limb has the energy for the tree and cutting it will cut off the energy to the rest of the tree.

If you are going to prune, do not remove more dead fronds than there are live fronds on the tree.

If you are going to prune then do so not more than the 3 to 9 o’clock position.

If you are going to prune then don’t prune in the fall because it provides insulation to the palm and shelter for wildlife.

The palm tree should have a 360° crown which includes the brown fronds (skirt) on the tree which:

Provide habitat for wildlife including bats;
Provide insulation for the palm;
Provide food for the palm even though the fronds are brown.

When planting a tree, dig the hole to only the depth of the root ball and 2 to 3 times as wide. I read that Malcolm Beck suggests digging a square hole opposed to a round hole to encourage the roots to expand outward.

Do not add any thing into the hole other than the tree, i.e. no mulch, no compost, no fertilizer, no potting soil, etc.

Put the tree into the hole, slightly higher than the rest of the land; put in the soil that was removed from the hole. Do not add any potting soil or other amendments; use only the soil that was removed.

I remember that Michael Womack said that if you need to stake a tree after planting, then be sure to use 3 stakes at equal distances and secure with a soft retainer of some sort and do not use wire which can cut into the bark of the tree. I use old panty hoses and sometimes new ones. I used to buy lots of them, and since I no longer wear them, I thought that it would be a good way to get rid of them. Michael also said not to keep the trees staked for more than 6 months. However, with living here on Live Oak Peninsula, I feel that 12 months is a better choice.

It should be noted that if the roots are bound, you can try to separate them just a little to encourage new growth. Michael says you can run a sharp knife into the roots to encourage them to spread out.

The speaker did say to make sure the person that wants to trim your trees has insurance. If not, don’t hire him. If he gets injured on your property, you as property owner, are responsible, i.e. liability. Make sure you have insurance and be careful.

Citrus trees: sanitize after each cut.

Other trees: sanitize between different trees.

Don’t leave tools in bleach water (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) too long because they will rust; oil after they have been sanitized.

Can use 70% active brand of Lysol and not some of the weaker solutions.

Heat can sanitize, but only do so as a last resort because extreme heat can alter the tools.

Oak Wilt
Some of the things that I learned were that Oak Wilt isn’t that far away from us. When I asked how far away, the speaker didn’t know. I asked if it was as far as San Patricio County, and he said yes he thought so. Ruth stated: I suspect oak wilt is still not any closer than Goliad, not that far away but has been that close for a long time.

And so Ruth did her research and here is an Oak Wilt website for Texas. And here are some maps showing the counties that have occurrences of oak wilt.

And in my research I found a really good website by Texas A&M on pruning.


by: Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

"Trees" was originally published in Trees and Other Poems. Joyce Kilmer. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1914.

Trees courtesy of website:

Now go plant a tree!


Photo taken by my Dad, Wayne Turner on the Tippecanoe River, Indiana.

Oak Wilt Tree

Ruth and I attended a tree seminar here in Rockport this past Saturday. It was interesting, and I found out that tree paint is only recommended on freshly cut wounds on oak and citrus trees. And by freshly, I mean within 30 minutes!

Ruth found the latest Oak Wilt Tree maps here on this site: Be sure to check out Oak Wilt for lots of information about it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How do I do that?

Do you ever ask yourself "How do I do that?" Well here is a list of answers to different gardening questions including How to prune a rose bush. It is time to start pruning roses. I have read that when you prune hybrid roses, prune only 1/3 of the rose. However, when pruning antique roses, you should only prune about 1/5 of the rose. Please feel free to add comments and let me know what you think, i.e. am I right or wrong??

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Herbs can add color and attract butterflies

Queen Butterfly on Butterfly Weed

It is going to warm up soon, and we will see lots of hummingbirds and butterflies going from plant to plant. So I thought that we might want to start thinking about what herbs to plant to attract these beautiful jewels of the air. The following article by Michael Womack, Horticulturist and Executive Director of the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, was published in the Caller-Times. Be sure to check out Herbs can add color and attract butterflies for lots of good information.

Herbs can add color and attract butterflies

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Herbs are wonderful plants for South Texas because many of them love full sun and hot temperatures. Although most people plant herbs for their own culinary use, many can be used to attract birds and butterflies.

Lavender plants will provide one of the best nectar sources for butterflies, including monarchs, whites, skippers and swallowtails. However, not all lavender is great for our area. Our summers are too hot for English lavender. Fernleaf lavender seems to do the best in our region, but Spanish lavender is also popular. The new minutolii lavender also shows promise here.

Mints attract butterflies including swallowtails, cabbage whites, gray hairstreaks, painted ladies, red admiral and monarchs. Just be aware that many mints are aggressive and may be considered slightly invasive. Mints will throw out runners and keep creeping into other plants if not kept in check. A good solution may be planting them in large pots or in contained beds.

Male Gulf Frittilary on Passionvine

Not only are butterflies looking for nectar plants, they also need larval food sources. That means that adult butterflies are looking for plants on which they can lay eggs that their babies (caterpillars) can eat. Some of the best herbs for this purpose are dill and fennel. Monarchs will devour these plants, so don't be upset if one disappears one day. Remember that those hungry little caterpillars grow up to be beautiful butterflies, so plant enough for them and you if this garden is supposed to meet the needs of your kitchen, too.

Monarch cat on Butterfly Weed

Salvias (sages) are good wildlife plants. The most popular for cooking are the garden sages (Salvia officinalis) but these tend to attract hummingbirds rather than butterflies. One of the best sages for both is pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) which attracts both hummers along with swallowtails and sulphurs. This attractive plant grows to 24 to 36 inches and provides masses of red tubular flowers which hummingbirds love.

Other herbs that I like for butterflies include oregano, thyme, hyssop and rosemary. Oregano and thyme are good, low-growing nectar plants for butterflies, blooming in mid-summer. In fact, thyme can be a great filler between flagstones in a walkway, providing a pretty groundcover and food for our fluttering friends.

Hyssop and rosemary are perennials, returning yearly to your garden. Hyssop (Agastache sp) can give height and beautiful pink or salmon flower spikes. I like the giant Mexican Hyssop variety "Acapulco." Rosemary will provide perennial greenery to your garden in the winter when other herbs are dead or struggling. It has small blue flowers throughout much of the year in South Texas.

When placing herbs in your garden, keep in mind diversity, mass and constancy.
• Plant many flower colors and shapes to attract a variety of butterfly species.
• Use masses of flowers; single plants simply won’t do in most cases. Butterflies may find your individual plant, but large groupings will yield more butterflies.
• Plant herbs that will provide a constant supply of flowers throughout the seasons. We often have butterflies until the first frost, and some have been sighted on warm winter days.

Giant Swallowtail on Gemini Rose

Photos by Linda Turner Collins

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cumin Recipes from Lois Atwood

We had a wonderful meeting yesterday. A great program and yummy food from Lois.
She sent the recipes to share with us.
 When I asked if she found ground ancho pepper, her reply was, "No, I just used what I had. That's my cooking style. A recipe is just a guide. If you don't have something, use something that will probably do. It drives my son and grandchildren crazy."
If you read my post on craziness in the kitchen after our last meeting you will understand that is what I do,too.  It usually turns out well and we don't talk about when it doesn't.
For Lois this all turned out well and we all enjoyed sharing the food. Now we can share her recipes.

Chocolate-Red Chile Zucchini Cake Recipe
2 1/2 cup sifted flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp new Mexican red chili powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cup zucchini, grated
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9- by 13- by 2-inch pan. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter, vegetable oil and sugar, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Next, add the vanilla and chile powder. Mix in the dry ingredients that have been set aside, alternating with the buttermilk. Stir in the zucchini.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the chocolate chips and walnuts.
Bake for about 55 minutes or until a toothpick in center comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack.

North African Spiced Carrots
Serves: 6
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3 cups sliced carrots
1 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Cooking Directions
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, paprika, cumin and coriander; cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 20 seconds. Add carrots, water, lemon juice and salt; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until almost tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover and simmer, stirring often, until the carrots are just tender and the liquid is syrupy, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Yield: 6 servings

3. Still Hungry?
The trinity of North African seasonings, cumin, coriander and paprika, lends exotic appeal to this simple carrot preparation

Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus with Cumin
2pounds butternut squash, cut into quarters with seeds and skin removed.
2Tablespoons tahini
1garlic clove, minced
½teaspoon salt
1tablespoon olive oil
1teaspoon ground cumin
1tablespoon lemon juice
Serves 6 -8
Cook Time 1 hour
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add butternut squash and let roast for about an hour, until pumpkin is soft.
In a food processor combine, butternut squash, tahini, salt, garlic, olive oil, cumin and lemon juice. Blend to a smooth consistency.
Taste for seasoning. You may need a bit more salt. If the hummus is too thick either add olive oil or water. Blend again
Tahini (Sesame Seed Paste) Recipe
Tahini is a paste made of ground sesame seeds which is used in many Near and Far East recipes. This is a traditional recipe that is very simple to make with a blender or food processor.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup tepid water
Place sesame seeds in a blender or food processor and grind until smooth. Add sesame oil and salt. Process until combined. With the motor running, add the water in a very slow, steady stream and blend until smooth.
Yield: about 1/2 cup

Spinach, Red Lentil, and Bean Curry
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 MinutesReady In: 35 Minutes
Servings: 4
"This very tasty vegetarian curry combines lentils and mixed beans with sautéed onions, fresh spinach, curry seasonings, yogurt, and tomatoes. Serve with rice or on naan."
1 cup red lentils
1/4 cup tomato puree
1/2 (8 ounce) container plain yogurt
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground dried turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger root, grated
4 cups loosely packed fresh spinach,
coarsely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
4 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
1 (15.5 ounce) can mixed beans, rinsed and drained
1.Rinse lentils and place in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Drain.
2.In a bowl, stir together tomato puree and yogurt. Season with garam masala, turmeric, cumin, and chile powder. Stir until creamy.
3.Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion, garlic, and ginger; cook until onion begins to brown. Stir in spinach; cook until dark green and wilted. Gradually stir in yogurt mixture. Then mix in tomatoes and cilantro.
4.Stir lentils and mixed beans into mixture until well combined. Heat through, about 5 minutes.

Tahini (Sesame Seed Paste) Recipe
Tahini is a paste made of ground sesame seeds1 which is used in many Near and Far East recipes. This is a traditional recipe that is very simple to make with a blender or food processor2.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup tepid water
Place sesame seeds3 in a blender or food processor and grind until smooth. Add sesame oil and salt. Process until combined. With the motor running, add the water in a very slow, steady stream and blend until smooth.
Yield: about 1/2 cup

I was going through some websites and came across the following one.

cumin = comino = cummin = jeera
Pronunciation: KUH-min or KYOO-min or KOO-min
Equivalents: 1 oz. = 4 tablespoons ground = 4 1/2 tablespoons whole seed.
Notes: Cumin is a key ingredient in Southwestern chili recipes, but it's also widely used in Latin America, North Africa, and India. Freshly roasted and ground cumin seeds are far superior to packaged ground cumin.
Substitutes: caraway seeds (use half as much OR black cumin seeds(smaller and sweeter) OR caraway seeds + anise seeds OR chili powder.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Check out The Lazy Gardener

I'm a follower of The Lazy Gardener, Gardening with Brenda Beust Smith. She does her blog for the Houston Chronicle . She recently posted a great little website Pinkie's Parlour with information about old wives tales about plants. Although it refers mainly to Wales and England, many of the sayings are similar to what some of us still hear today. Maybe I should get me some violets! HA! Check it out and see what you think.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group February 10, 2010 -- Cumin presented by Lois Atwood

SUBJECT: “Cumin Cuminum cyminum” presented by Lois Atwood

WHAT: Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group

WHEN: Second Wednesday of every month, next meeting February 10, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport, Texas

WHY: To educate those interested in herbs.

Lois is a member of our group and a Master Gardener. Lois is going to give us a program on cumin which is one of our native herbs here in south Texas. So drop by and learn all about cumin and its history and uses.

Come and learn everything you ever wanted to know about herbs. Did you know that there are over 2,000 herbs and that roses are herbs too? And did you know that many of our Texas Native Plants are also herbs? Herbs have been used for centuries for not only culinary purposes, but also for medicinal uses, in cosmetics, cleaning solutions, clothing (one of which is Gossypium cotton), building supplies and art and craft purposes.

Our herb study group was founded in March 2003 and meets the second Wednesday of every month at the ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport, Texas at 10:00 a.m. to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs including the historical uses of the herbs and tips for successful propagation and cultivation. We are open to the public. Some members of the group are available as speakers to other audiences.

The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group, founded in March 2003, is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to increasing public knowledge and awareness about herbs.



Every year the International Herb Association names an herb of the year. This year’s herb is Dill Anethum graveolens which belongs to the family Apiaceae, formerly called Umbelliferae. It is both a spice and an herb, and recipes will specify the “spice dill seed” when calling for the seed or the “herb dill weed or dill” when calling for the leaf.

History, Myths & Folklore

Dill is an annual that is native to the Mediterranean region. The name dill is from the old Norse word, dilla (to lull) which pertains to its soothing properties. It has long been used as both a culinary herb and a medicinal herb. Records show that it was used medicinally over 5,000 years ago in Egypt. The ancient Greeks believed that dill cured hiccups. In the Middle Ages, dill was one of the herbs used by magicians to cast love potions and was used to ward off witches’ spells. In Germany and Belgium, brides would attach a sprig of dill to their wedding gowns or would carry dill sprigs in their bouquets in the hopes for a happy and blessed marriage. Early American settlers called dill seed "meetinghouse seed" because both adults and children chewed them to be quiet and to stave off the boredom and hunger of long sessions in church or town meetings.

Growing & Cultivars

Dill is aromatic, feathery and has fernlike plumes. It is grown as a cool weather herb in south Texas and should be planted in the fall. It prefers full sun although it can be grown in partial shade in Texas, providing that it has good drainage. It grows best in medium-rich, neutral to somewhat acidic soil and needs plenty of water. Plant it every two weeks or so for continuous dill. Depending on the cultivar, dill can grow from 2’ to 5’ tall. Some of the dill cultivars are as follows:

“Bouquet” is compact, making it ideal for container growing and one of the most widely grown cultivars of dill. It is a dark blue-green color, which blossoms early with large seed heads, has good foliage for pickling, can grow from 30” to 40” tall and is very aromatic.

“Dukat” has more foliage that is greener and lasts longer on the plant than other dills. It is mild, sweet, and never bitter or overly strong, has small yellow flowers in a 6” wide upside down umbrella shaped flower cluster and grows from 36” to 48” tall.

“Superdukat” is an improved variety of Dukat with high essential oil content. The flower heads are uniform in height and the plant is straight and clean for easier harvesting and flowers later than Bouquet dill. It grows to about 24” tall.

“Fernleaf” is a draft cultivar with fine foliage and idea for container growing getting about 18” to 24” tall. It has dark green leaves and is said to be slower to bolt than some of the other cultivars.

“Mammoth” is a vigorous grower which can grow up to 3’ to 5’, and it bolts quickly and is considered best for pickling.

“Long Island Mammoth” is a tall variety and is used for pickling and grows to about 30” tall.

Some other cultivars are “Delikat”, “Green Sleeves”, “Hercules”, “Monia”, “Tetra Leaf” and “Vierling”.

The flowers can be pinched off for higher leaf production. To harvest, pick the leaves as the flowers begin to open, and collect seeds when they are green for salads, or let the seeds ripen on the plant to use for drying or planting. Dill is self-sowing, so when the heat of summer arrives and causes it to bolt, just let it go, and come fall when the temperature starts to cool, lots of little baby dill weed plants will be seen.

Dill attracts beneficial insects including hoverflies and predatory wasps. It also is a favorite food for the swallowtail butterfly larvae. According to Michael Bettler of Lucia's Garden, dill provides not only food for the caterpillar but camouflage for the caterpillar as it eats and food for the emerging butterfly. So be sure to plant enough for you and the butterflies!

Basil and dill planted near your tomato plants will help keep tomato hornworms away and encourage your tomatoes to grow steadily. Dill improves the growth and health of cabbage, onions, lettuce and cucumbers, but keep it away from carrots.

Do not plant dill and fennel near each other because they can and will cross pollinate. We found this to be true in our Master Gardener demonstration gardens when our dill and fennel cross pollinated! According to the Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses by Deni Bown, page 386, she states the following: Closely related genera may also interbreed if they are grown together and flower at the same time; dill and fennel are known to cross, resulting in plants that are indeterminate in flavor.


The best time for harvesting dill is in the early morning because the higher moisture content of the plants at this time results in better flavor. If you want a continuous supply of dill, do not let your plants bolt by keeping their tops trimmed regularly. Dill weed is best harvested before the plant is fully mature and before the flower buds have opened. Dill seed is harvested at the end of the plant’s life cycle. The flowers will be spent, the stems will start drying out, and the seeds will have turned a golden brown color.

To collect dill seed allow the seeds to turn pale brown in order to collect them and dry them for culinary or sowing purposes. Cut the tops from the plants with about a foot or so of the stalk intact and hang upside down over a screen or with the umbels in paper bags to catch the seeds. When dry, store in dark glass jars.

Another method involves laying the freshly harvested seed heads on a cookie sheet and then placing them in the freezer. Remove the frozen seed heads after a few days and rub the seed heads between your hands over a piece of paper to harvest.


Fresh cut dill can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days. Place the stems in a cup of water to help keep the leaves fresh. Fresh dill is preferred over dried dill because of its superior flavor. However, there are several methods for preparing dill weed for long term storage. To dry naturally, lay freshly harvested dill on waxed paper or a paper towel and place in a frost-free refrigerator. Dill weed can also be dried in a food dehydrator or frozen and placed in plastic bags for later use.


Dill has long been used as a culinary herb and a medicinal herb. It is one of the carminative herbs which soothe the digestive tract because of its antiflatulent power. Records show that it was used medicinally over 5,000 years ago in Egypt. It has long been used as a tea to calm colicky infants, calm upset stomachs, aids in digestion, promotes sleep and reduces nervousness. To freshen one’s breath and aid in digestion, chew a few dill seeds or drink a cup of dill tea (1 to 2 teaspoons of leaves for each cup of boiling water). Dill is a diuretic and also helps to tonify the liver and pancreas. It has been used to increase milk flow in nursing mothers and to ease menstrual pain. Dill is also very rich in manganese, iron, magnesium, vitamin C and flavanoids. The seeds contain so much calcium that 1 tablespoon contains 100 milligrams which is more than in 1/3 cup of milk.


We all know about the wonderful flavor of dill pickles. However, both the dill leaves and dill seeds can tantalize the culinary senses when used in just about any dish including salads, soups, sauces, meats (especially fish and sea food), egg dishes, vegetables (especially potatoes), breads, butters, vinegars and oils. And if you really want to perk up an omelet, put a little dill in the egg mixture. Add the chopped leaves to cold sour cream for a dip or add as a garnish for mild cheeses. To preserve its flavor, add dill leaves at the last minute of cooking to sauces or vegetables or dill can be added at the beginning of cooking and right before serving. Fresh dill is much more aromatic than the dried one.

Other Uses

Dill is often made into an essential oil which is used in soaps, perfumes, detergents, creams and lotions.

Spinach, Dill & Strawberry Salad

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 cloves minced garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon onion powder

Whisk oil, vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt, pepper, dry mustard and onion powder until blended, and then cover and chill at least 2 hours.

2 pounds fresh spinach, torn & coarse stems discarded
1 bunch green onions, chopped
½ cup toasted slivered almonds
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh dill

Toss spinach, green onions, almonds, strawberries and dill in a salad bowl and just before serving pour dressing over salad and toss.