Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I think pomegranates are no marvels in the kitchen- they are seedy, hard to process, and a lot to deal with for the home cook. Though touted for their health benefits, I simply cannot believe they are any better for us than any variety of whole foods. But pomegranates simply shine in the Virginia and southern garden. I first saw a pomegranate in flower at Norfolk Botanical Gardens (see top photo) and was smitten. I read that my zone (7b) was not quite warm enough for pomegranates to thrive. Then I went to Edible Landscaping in Afton, VA and purchased a "Nana" dwarf pomegranate that I have in a pot, though I do intend to plant it in the ground. It is supposed to be hardy in my zone. For two years I have have vibrant red blooms, the brightest red in the garden and, this year, it set a tiny fruit, which I enjoyed for its ornamental value (bottom photo). Pretty in flower, pretty in fruit...I recommend it!
Happy gardening!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Put Up" Soup: Tomato, Veg and Chick Pea Soup

Here is one simple soup you can make to use some veggies/produce you put up (in this case, four home grown items: canned tomatoes, frozen shredded zucchini, dried herbs and dry-stored onions).

Tomato and Chick-Pea Soup

1 large can (drained) or 2 cups home-cooked* chick peas, pureed in food processor or blender
1 t olive oil
1 t butter
1 large onion, finely diced
1 t marjoram
1 T rubbed sage (dried sage that is rubbed between your fingers)
ground black pepper
1 qt tomato puree or stewed tomatoes, pureed.
1 c shredded yellow or green zucchini
vegetable or chicken stock, or broth.
Parmesan, to serve

Melt butter in olive oil in heavy pot. When warm, add onions and a pinch of salt. Saute until onions are caramelized and golden brown. Add dried herbs and pepper and saute another minute to release flavors. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Serve with a topping of Parmesan cheese...and homemade bread, of course.

Additions/substitutions can include shredded carrots, potatoes, turnips, celery, celery seed, thyme, parsnips, peas (at the end), cooked pasta or rice....

* It is easy to home cook beans: soak beans overnight or while you are at work, drain. Place in a heavy Dutch over and add water to cover (add a bay leaf if you like). Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, put a lid on it and winder back to it in a hour. They should be perfectly cooked.

Happy eating!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Winter squash

An excellent article on winter squash, including varieties, hand-pollination and seed saving and cooking is in the New York Times at:


Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Happy Serendipity

I impulsively purchased this pink, daisy-flowered mum a few years ago at Sneed's Nursery in Richmond, VA. I did not need a mum, nor did I have a spot for it (I have a rule I try not to break- don't buy a plant until a place has been prepared for it). But it was pretty and on sale. I planted it in an area that gets only dappled sunlight, despite the full sun label, because it was the only spot I had. The plant has thrived and spread and makes gorgeous, long-lasting cut flowers.

I would not recommend placing a plant in an area that the label suggests is not best for its growth, but I will occasionally take a risk, if it is a low-cost one. Plant labels give incomplete information at best, as this one did. And I got lucky!

Happy gardening!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Grow Your Own, and Dry 'em

I greatly prefer natural dried flowers, leaves, seed pods, grasses, pine cones, etc., to any of the artificial ones, even silk. Last fall, I hosted Thanksgiving and had lovely arrangements of dried flowers at the table, on the mantle and around the house. Some I dried myself- marigolds keep their deep color when they dry, and I also dried river oats (this is an invasive plant, so be careful if you plant it) and other grasses, roadside rye and buckwheat, and grape vines. A kind friend gave me some lotus seed pods. I also found some discarded plants that had lovely seed heads for drying and collected those as well (yes, I took them from a trash pile). But I had to purchase some dried flowers to round out the arrangements, so, this spring, I decided to try my hand at growing my own.

First off, I grew gomphrena or globe amaranth (top photo)- it was an easy seed to start and transplant. If we hadn't had such a hot a dry season, I expect it would have taken off, but I got sufficient quantities to use for dried arrangements from a few plants. I also grew out the seeds from the trash-picked plant (if you know the name, fill me in!) which grew like gangbusters (second photo).
Next season I will expand my drying flowers group and will report back!
Happy Gardening!