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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Your Seed Order Helps Kids Gardening Project

A few of the 500 kids in one of their 3 gardens at school.
I've posted this before but thought a reminder would be in order since it's seed-ordering season. If you are going to order garden seed, consider ordering some of your seed through my website. On my home page, scroll down to the bottom and on the left you'll see this button:
We raised $465 from Renee Shepherd, from people who ordered her seed through our website, all of that money going directly to the kids' garden project. Thank you to all who ordered!
Kids gardening is important! When kids learn how to grow plants, learn where their food comes from and how to prepare healthy meals, they learn skills that will stay with them for their entire life. I've written about the amazing kids' garden project at the magnet school in Jonesboro, Arkansas, several times before. (Click here to see an earlier post and more photos). And here for the story about cooking with the kids in their amazing kitchen. But I thought you might like a reminder that this project is always struggling to find enough money for seed, soil and other supplies the kids need.

Learning to weed and identify the edible plants.
For 3 years we've had a button on our website, "Buy Seed, Help Kids." It's a project whereby you can order garden seed from, for your own garden, and Renee Shepherd generously donates 25% of the revenue from your order, back to the school! It's a wonderful project. Unfortunately we only raise about $25 a year for the school. I don't know if people don't find the link, or don't want to order seed, but if you go to our website,; here's the button you will see on the left side:

The lower left corner on our home page has the Help Children-Buy Seeds button. When you click on that, you are directed to a page with a code to enter when you place your order at Renee's Garden Seed You can order seed for your spring garden and when you order, it will count toward a donation for the kids' garden project, and you will receive outstanding seed.

Renee Shepherd, owner
Renee Shepherd donates to a wide variety of children's garden projects, both in the United States and in other countries. That's why we are so pleased to partner with her in helping this garden in Jonesboro, Arkansas. If you have not visited her website, please do so, her seed selections are outstanding and I grow many in my gardens each season.

To visit Renee's Garden website, go to our website at Long Creek Herbs, and click on the Help Children- Seeds button.  You'll find the link to Renee's Seeds website, look around and see if you aren't tempted by her spring seed offerings. Then when you order, use our code (it's in the instructions you'll see), so that she can make a donation to this wonderful project. Then, you will know that more kids, like this boy, below, can experience for the first time in their life, the taste and smell of a chive blossom and learn how to fix a meal using fresh herbs and vegetables right out of the garden.
I hope you'll consider ordering seed from Renee Shepherd, she has outstanding varieties you won't find anywhere else. And when you order, won't you do it through my website so the kids get credit? Thank you!
This was his first time smelling or tasting chives!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Papalo, an Old-Time South American Herb

Recently I've been working on a couple of magazine assignments about the hot new herbs and plants for 2014 for restaurants. My research started with new restaurant trends on-line, then I've been concentrating on interviews with chefs around the country. Not surprisingly, locally sourced produce is even bigger this year than last, new introductions of non-wheat pasta and noodles, sustainable seafood and children's menus in upscale restaurants are a few of the items.

Papalo, growing on mature plant.

One hot new herb that surprised me a bit for this year is papalo (Porophyllum macrocephalum), sometimes commonly dubbed "Buzzard's Breath" (although I'm guessing there won't be any chefs across the U.S. who will use that name; let's see, how might that sound on a menu..... farm-raised pork cemitas with seasonal chilies and buzzard's breath sauce...)

Used like cilantro in Bolivia, where my original seed start came from, as well in some states in Mexico, it's easy to see (or smell) why it got dubbed buzzard's breath. Just getting near the plant you'll get a whiff of something akin to aluminum with lemony overtones with some rue and other smells thrown in. That's on the mature plant, which isn't the stage of the plant normally used. The flavor has been described as something like a combination of arugula, mint and cilantro, although that doesn't quite describe it, either. The flavor is unique to the plant.
Cemitas, a Mexican sandwich.

Papalo is also commonly eaten raw on cemitas - sometimes known as a cemita poblana, which is a Mexican sandwich and street food that originated in the city of Puebla. Papalo is also sometimes found in guacamole and in Mexico it is used fresh in soups and stews. In Bolivia native Quechua people call it Killi and eat it daily just torn up onto foods. (If you use the search button on my blog for papalo, to the right, you can find more that I've written about this interesting herb).

Papalo sold as young, pulled seedlings in Acalpulco markets.

Papalo is showing up in gardens from California to New York City, and in markets with large Hispanic populations. However, a lot of Hispanics from other parts of Mexico or South America may not know the plant at all. I found it in the markets in Acalpulco when I visited there a few years back and admit I didn't understand the plant at all until then. I'd always let mine get to 3 or 4 feet tall and found the flavor of the leaves unpleasant. But in the markets of Acalpulco I discovered it was being grown as seedlings, the whole plant pulled up at about 12 to 15 inches tall, and the flavor of the plant was vastly better than from the mature plant.

Vendor in Mexico selling papalo.
Even though regular cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is used extensively in Mexican cooking, that herb is not native to anywhere in the Americas (it is native to the eastern Mediterranean). But Papalo is native to the Americas and can be found growing wild from Bolivia northward as far as the southern U.S.

Here's a simple recipe to try when you're learning the flavors of this ancient herb. It's a simple green sauce and if you travel in Mexico, you may encounter the sauce used on eggs, sandwiches or other dishes.

8 green tomatillos, diced
1 green onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, stem and seeds removed
4 or 5 fresh papalo leaves
1 large or 2 small avocados, diced
2 teaspoons olive oil

In a small skillet, combine the oil, tomatillos, onion, garlic and chile and simmer on medium heat until the tomatillos are soft, about 10 minutes.
Pour the ingredients into a food processor, along with the papalo leaves (I sometimes add juice of 1/2 lime, too) and pulse blend until everything is chunky-smooth.
Pour into a bowl and add the diced avocado. Let stand for about 30 minutes for flavors to blend well. Serve with chips or as a sauce on your favorite morning egg dish.

The following companies offer papalo seed:
Nichols Garden Nursery
Southern Exposure Seeds
Johnny's Selected Seeds

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

All American Winners 2014

All-America Selections
Additional Winners 

DOWNERS GROVE, IL – January 28, 2014

Just in time for the 2014 gardening season, All-America Selections (AAS) is pleased to present eight more AAS Winners that proved themselves to be superior garden performers. With the addition of these eight winners, we have a grand total of nineteen winners for the 2014 gardening season, the most AAS Winners announced in one year since the first winners were announced in our first decade of existence in the 30’s and 40’s.

Both growers and retailers will want to offer the following National and Regional Winners to fulfill customer requests.

The four newest Regional Winners are:
Cucumber Saladmore Bush F1
Eggplant Patio Baby F1
Pepper Giant Ristra F1
Radish Rivoli

The four newest National Winners are:
Angelonia Serenita™ Pink F1
Impatiens, New Guinea Florific™ Sweet Orange F1
Ornamental Pepper NuMex Easter
Osteospermum Akila(R) Daisy White F1

A seed source list for those wishing to purchase recent AAS Winner seeds can be found here:  (Please allow several weeks for seed sources of the AAS Winners in this announcement to appear.) 
A complete list of trial grounds and judges can be found here:

A list of all AAS Winners since 1932 can be found here and is now sortable by National or Regional Winners.
Cucumber Saladmore Bush F1
AAS Regional Edible Winner

Saladmore Cucumber boasts a bush-type growth habit making this AAS Winner perfect for growing in container gardens. Anyone looking for a good slicing type cucumber with dark green skin and long straight fruits will enjoy this beauty, along with its superior taste and texture; a perfect reflection of summer’s bounty. An added bonus is the disease resistance that proved to be especially valuable in warmer climates where comparison varieties easily succumbed to late season diseases.

Bred by Seeds By Design
Eggplant Patio Baby F1
AAS Regional Edible Winner 

Two things judge after judge brought up about this eggplant: 1) This entry produced such an attractive plant that it could be used as both an ornamental and an edible and 2) It is a perfect plant for container gardens. Patio Baby is indeed compact at less than 24” mature height, and yet it produces a prolific number of small 2-3” teardrop shaped glossy purple-black fruits. And of course, taste is a top priority in the AAS Trials and judges agreed that the taste was excellent, noting it was less bitter than the comparison varieties. Several northern judges were extremely pleased that Patio Baby grew so well in their conditions and was earlier to harvest by about a week, which is important when the gardening season is shorter.

Bred by PanAmerican Seed
Pepper Giant Ristra F1
AAS Regional Edible Winner 

Talk about versatility! Giant Ristra looks like a red Marconi pepper but has the heat of a cayenne. The texture and heat (hot, but not too hot) of this pepper makes it an excellent eating variety while it can also be dried and used in dishes for up to one year. Should you choose to use the peppers for a decoration, they can be used to make a beautiful ristra of dried peppers. 
In the mountain and southern trial gardens, Ristra produced an exceptionally high yield of uniformly shaped peppers on attractive plants which judges reported were very easy to grow.
Bred by Seeds By Design
Radish Rivoli
AAS Regional Edible Winner 
(Southeast, Heartland, West/Northwest)

Rivoli earned the judges’ favor by producing a very large, uniformly-sized root with a bright red exterior and an exceptionally smooth, clear white interior. Unique to most radishes, Rivoli holds well and does not get pithy or woody, even under stress. All these attributes combined mean a tasty, sweet, crisp radish that also matures earlier than the comparisons. A helpful tip from the AAS judges is to space Rivoli further apart than normal radishes since roots are much larger.
Bred by North Carolina State University, produced by Bejo Seeds
Angelonia Serenita Pink F1
AAS National Flower Winner

Serenita is a compact, tough little angelonia ideal for very hot/humid temperatures like in southern areas but it does great in northern gardens too. This Serenita variety features a unique deep pink flower, not usually seen in angelonias. The AAS Judges praised this entry for being drought and heat-tolerant while continuing to produce a large number of flowers all season long.

Commercial growers should note that this is a new color for the Serenita series that require fewer PGRs to produce plants that are 2” shorter in the greenhouse, and can be up to 5” shorter in the garden.
Bred by PanAmerican Seed
Impatiens New Guinea Florific Sweet Orange F1
AAS National Bedding Plant Winner

Huge 2” blooms in beautiful shades of light orange against dark green foliage create a giant impact in the garden, especially in shade or semi-shaded areas where color is needed. The natural disease tolerance of a New Guinea Impatiens is a welcome addition to a plant that boasts such beautiful flowers on a compact plant perfect for small space gardens.

Commercial growers now have an alternative to vegetative New Guinea Impatiens and one that needs fewer PGRs to keep this beauty compact and tidy.

Bred by Syngenta Flowers
Ornamental Pepper NuMex Easter
AAS National Bedding Plant Winner

You know the AAS judges were impressed when the scores sheets read like this: “Exceptional plant. Love this little pepper! Striking color! Eye-catching! So easy to grow! Loaded with pepper fruits in fun colors. A favorite of garden visitors!” NuMex Easter is a very compact plant, growing to only 6” high but packs quite a punch in such a small package. Beautiful purple, yellow and orange conical fruits pop up above the foliage for a great display of color.

Commercial growers will appreciate the shorter crop time for NuMex which results in earlier blooms on a very compact, well-branched and uniform plant with fantastic fruit coloration. Judges familiar with the bedding plant market think this is the first real ornamental pepper for bedding plant growers.
Bred by The Chili Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University
Osteospermum Akila(R) Daisy White  F1
AAS National Bedding Plant Winner

White osteospermums are not unique but a clear white osteo with a yellow center is a novelty, plus, it’s easily grown from seed. Akila® Daisy White is a tidy, uniform plant with open flowers that produces non-stop blooms all summer long. Even southern judges praised Akila’s ability to keep blooming in the heat and they also showed more drought tolerance than other osteos.

Daisy White is part of the Akila series and boasts the same great greenhouse performance as the other colors in the series, none of which need pinching or vernalization.
Bred by PanAmerican Seed
Other recently announced AAS Winners:

National Winners:                                                                    Regional Winners:

Petunia African Sunset F1                    Sunflower Suntastic Yellow with Black Center
Pepper Mama Mia Gaillo F1                                          Cucumber Pick-A-Bushel F1
Tomato Chef's Choice Orange F1                             Penstemon Arabesque Red F1
Tomato Fantastico F1                                           Pumpkin Cinderella's Carriage F1
Gaura Sparkle White                                                         Tomato Mountain Merit F1
Bean Mascotte
Zinnia Profusion Double Hot Cherry
Zinnia Profusion Double Deep Salmon 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fish House Green Tomato Pickles

Ozarks Gardening
Copyright 2013, Jim Long

Green Tomato Pickles

We’re at the end of the tomato growing season with lots of green tomatoes on hand.  There are several choices about what to do with the tomatoes before cold weather arrives.

You could wrap them individually with newspaper and put them in a box where they’ll ripen slowly over the next few months. A drawback to this method is you have to unwrap every tomato to see if it’s ripening. You could use my method and leave them on the windowsill over the sink, unwrapped, where they will ripen slowly and provide tomatoes right up to the Holidays. Or, you could make a batch or two of fish house green tomato pickles. Here’s my recipe, it’s easy, quick and provides a batch of outstanding green tomato pickles.
Quartered tomatoes.

Fish House Green Tomato Pickles

2 quarts quartered green tomatoes
2 large onions, chopped or sliced
1/3 cup chopped hot peppers
1/3 cup chopped sweet red bell peppers
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons salt
3 cups white vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seed

Combine ingredients in a large cooking pan and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Ladle into hot, sterile jars, wipe lip edge of jars, screw on hot, new jar rings and flats and finger-tighten. Place jars into a boiling water bath, with at least 1 inch of water above the jar lids. Bring to a boil and keep slowly boiling for 15 minutes (for pints, 10 minutes for half-pints; if you are above 1,000 ft. elevation, increase processing time accordingly). Remove and cool on a towel. Don't tinker with the lids, they will seal in 30 minutes or so. Let cool overnight then label and store in the pantry. These are best after the flavors have matured, about 2 weeks or more, and will keep for one to two years in the pantry.
Fish House Green Tomato Pickles, ready for winter.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

World's Hottest Pepper

For many years I've been growing what was the World's Hottest Pepper, the Bhut Jolokia, or Ghost Pepper. In my book, Make Your Own Hot Sauce, I give some background of the pepper and offer a few recipes in using it in hot sauce. This year for the first time, I'm growing the current record holder for the world's hottest pepper, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. Later today I'll be making a batch of hot sauce with both of these peppers.
The two world's hottest peppers.
Depending on the source (I accept the New Mexico State University Chili Pepper Institute's measurements) the heat, measured in Schoville Heat Units, or SHU, can vary slightly. They rate the Ghost pepper at 330,000 to 1,023,310 SHUs. The new record holder, the Scorpion, weighs in at 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 SHUs.
In other words, it's pretty darned hot! So you may wonder, why would anyone want peppers that hot? Well, for the guys (and it IS a guy thing) who crossed the ghost pepper with a Red Savina habanero pepper and came up with the Scorpion, it means bragging rights. It also means they can license seed companies to sell their seed, and make a profit. But beyond that, believe it or not, these intensely hot peppers, have flavor, as well. Flavors not necessarily found in other peppers. And you don't eat them raw, or you shouldn't because it can be dangerous. But if you mix them with other kinds of peppers and ingredients, you get the flavor and not as much of the heat. To give an idea of where this heat comes on the giant pepper heat scale, keep in mind the Scorpion comes in at between one million and half and two million heat units. For comparison, look at the Jalapeño and Cayenne listing, below.
A Jalapeño pepper is rated at 3,500 to 8,000 SHUs. And my favorite for roasting and eating, the Poblano, is almost without heat, with 1,000 to 2,500 SHUs.
But if I combine some roasted Poblanos, a few Jalapeños, onions, garlic, vinegar, cilantro and a couple of Ghost peppers and a Scorpion, it will be a tasty hot sauce for just about anything I put it on. I'm getting ready to do a program on making hot sauce for the Ozarks Area Community Congress coming up next weekend and we'll have some tasting of my different sauces. This one I'll probably name, Two Ghosts and a Scorpion.
Various hot sauces I've made so far.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pepper Roasting

A pepper roaster, ready to work.

A few years ago I drove the entire Santa Fe Trail. I’ve been a speaker for the Santa Fe Trail Symposium, but had never actually driven the entire route from Independence, MO, through southern Colorado and into Santa Fe. It was enjoyable, of course, but it also created an addiction for me. Traveling that route in early fall means passing hundreds of roadside pepper roasters in action.
Pepper roaster in action.

At every roadside stand, people were standing in lines to buy hot roasted peppers to eat or freeze for later. I bought some to bring home, just to see what all the excitement was about. That’s what got me hooked on roasting peppers.

Now, 5 years later, I’m growing 40 varieties of hot and mild peppers. Some are for drying but many are for roasting and eating on top of steaks, or turning into hot sauce. I make lots of hot sauce and wrote a book last year with my favorite hot sauce recipes (Make Your Own Hot Sauce, available on my website, including directions for canning sauces for winter.

I’ve been roasting peppers on my grill and in the toaster oven ever since, but it’s more tedious and slow. I still have to put the hot, roasted peppers into a paper bag to steam them and loosen the skins. It’s certainly worth the effort, but not as efficient as using a pepper roaster.
The propane flame underneath roasts and peels the peppers.

This year I felt I could justify buying myself a real pepper roaster. It’s a metal cage with a hand-crank handle on the end. It holds 5 pounds of peppers and has a propane burner underneath. Turning the handle keeps the peppers moving over the flame and as they toss, the pepper skins char and fall off, leaving me with roasted and peeled peppers.

Sweet peppers are just as tasty as hot peppers, just without the heat. Thick walled peppers roast better than thin walled ones. Hatch pepper, an especially good flavored, little heat pepper are available through the fall season in several local grocery stories.

To see a pepper roaster in operation, one place you can visit is the Springfield (Missouri) Farmers Market on Republic Road any Saturday morning (or a check the farmers market near you). You can roast them on your barbecue grill, as well. Once you've tasted this amazing culinary marvel, you can join me in enjoying one of the authentic flavors of the 1840s and of life along the historic Santa Fe Trail.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Canning Salsa

Ozarks Gardening
Copyright 2013, Jim Long


Canning Salsa

This week I’ve been canning salsa. Like nearly every other gardener I’ve talked to this summer, I’ve had a lot of split and damaged tomatoes from the earlier rains. I don’t want to waste the tomatoes so I cut out the damage and turn the good parts into salsa. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of canned salsa recipes and this one has become my favorite. Using 2 jalapenos gives a mild sauce, 4 makes a medium and for a hotter sauce, use 5-6 jalapenos.

8 cups, peeled and quartered tomatoes
1 large yellow onion, sliced
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled
2-4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Combine the ingredients in a food processor and coarsely chop everything. Pour that into a cooking pot and bring to a simmer, about 10 minutes. Pour hot salsa into hot pint jars, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace. Seal jars with two-piece lids and process in boiling water for 15 minutes. Makes 4-5 pints.

If you want a simple fresh salsa, you might like this one.

Basic Fresh Salsa

3-4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped (about 3 cups)
4-5 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup red or yellow bell pepper, diced
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons freshly-chopped cilantro
1/2 (or 1 whole for hotter) jalapeno, seeded and diced fine
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine ingredients and refrigerate for an hour before serving with chips.

Visit my website to see my books which have lots more of my recipes and gardening information. Happy gardening!