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Archive for April, 2010

rosacea grandiflora


“How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.” ~ Victor Hugo

Lemon tree with roses

Some days lately have just been too cold and clammy to enjoy gardening. The roses, however, are in full bloom so I decided to make rose water one day and stay indoors. It’s expensive to buy but easy to make and, thanks to Alton Brown, I knew ahead of time exactly how I would do it.

First of all, you MUST HAVE CHEMICAL FREE ROSES! Absolutely no pesticides ever come into contact with my roses, so I’m good to go:

1) Take your biggest stock pot and put a brick, rock, small meat rack or other “thing” in the bottom to keep your rose water catcher up out of the water. I used a rock:

yes, it's a rock in a pot


2) Pull the petals off your roses and rinse them if needed, also removing any bugs. I get little beetles on mine, but they shake right off. Choose juicy looking petals and discard all leaves and stems. Put the petals in the bottom of your stock pot and cover them with water.
3) Take a bowl and set it on top of your rock/brick. This will catch your rose water as it drips so it needs to fit in the pot with the lid on. I used stainless steel but next time I’ll use an older bowl because the roses discolored it.

4) Put the lid of the stock pot on UPSIDE DOWN. You want to choose one with a curved lid and a handle. The point is to have your evaporated rose essence run down the lid, down the handle and into the bowl.

upside down


5) Put some ice on the inverted lid to cause the steam to condense…this condensation is your rose essence!

6) Turn the heat on! This is where the instructions I looked up start to vary. All over the place in fact. Some advice said to boil for hours and some said 20 minutes. The reasoning behind what I did was this: I have plenty of petals out there to keep making more water with, so I didn’t need to abuse these petals by over-boiling them and thereby DILUTING my rose water. Once I felt the roses had given their best, I turn the heat off and said Amen. You can tell by scent. Once the kitchen stopped smelling so strongly of roses, I knew it was finished. Make sense? So, I simmered on low for about 40 minutes. Next time I may try 30 minutes, or put more rose petals in.
7) When it’s done, it looks like this:

I’m sure there were some uses for this boiled up mess, but today I was only after the water!

I got half a cup of rose water, enough to fill two of my apothecary bottles. (thank you Gina and Lori! I love them!)

This was so easy and fun, I will be making more all season! My favorite use so far is as a facial toner. I mix it with a little witch hazel on some cotton – done! Other great uses: put the rose water or petals in your bath with some milk (all of my expired milk goes in the tub with me) and your skin will be soooo soft! Or, spritz a little on your pillow or in the room. It’s even good mixed with Champagne/sparkling wine – be sure to float an extra petal in your glass 🙂 As I find more uses and recipes, I’ll post them. In the meantime, here’s the recipe that started it all. Thank you, Alton Brown – and also Tom, for catching that episode for me.

Simply beautiful

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A few months ago, my dear friend Lucie told me she had a friend I MUST meet. She said he was a gardening nerd like me and that we would get along famously. Thanks to the modern miracle that is Facebook, we have indeed become long distance gardening buddies, and we get along famously! Kenny inspired me to plant potatoes and when he was ready to plant his, I asked him if he would take some photos and make notes so he could be a guest star on my blog. So here goes: (and Kenny, thank you for being such a sweet muse – you rock!)

Kenny’s Potato Method:

This year, I chose 3 varieties to try. One called “All Blue” is exactly as named – the skin is blue and the flesh is blue! I’m looking forward to making a batch of blue mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving this year!

All Blue


The second variety is call “Superior”. It’s just your basic white potato. It is supposed to be heat and drought tolerant…those abilities will definitely be tested here in Arizona!

Superior


And lastly, just for good measure, I planted a good ole Idaho spud I got from my local supermarket. All 3 are supposed to be good all-purpose potatoes…baked, mashed, or fried.

Making my bed:
Hmmmm, where to start…I guess I’ll start with the place where I’m growing them. I have a nice sunny spot that doesn’t get any shade at all throughout the day. I live in Phoenix so no shade could end up being a problem in the heat that is quickly on the way…we’ve already hit 97 one day last week!!

I’ve decided to use the raised bed method. First, I built a basic raised bed which is approximately 9 square feet. The bed is about 12 to 14 inches deep and the bottom is rocks. My whole yard it rocks so that part was easy!

custom-built raised bed


Next, I put down a layer of newspaper to prevent any weeds from growing. I then dumped in a bag of quality garden soil mix from my local nursery to fill the bed about halfway, added some manure to the soil and mixed that all in well, then leveled the soil.

add newspaper and soil


To plant the taters I dug a hole about 3 inches deep, placed 3 potatoes in the hole and covered with soil. I spaced my tater groups about 8 inches apart so I have 9 group plantings.

nesting potatoes


I watered everything really well, then lastly I place some chicken wire over everything to keep the neighborhood feral cats from using it as a litterbox.

NOT a litter box!


Unlike Pam, I did not “chit” or pre-sprout my potatoes so I’m not really sure how long it will take for them to start. The instructions that came with my potatoes said it can take 2 to 3 weeks for them to sprout and push through the surface. Now the wait begins!

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Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, are all very good words for the lips. ~ Charles Dickens

My almanac tells me that the best time to plant potatoes is when the moon is waning in Pisces. Well, that’s today! Thankfully, the seed potatoes I ordered from Seed Savers Exchange had already sprouted and were quite ready to go. I just love it when things fall into place at the right time. They seem to do so when I pace myself with the moon, much like ovaries or oceans and such.

Never having grown potatoes before, I have been sifting through my books and internet websites for hints and tips. What I took for myself: 1) they like lots of sun and room 2) you don’t have to grow them in the dirt, you can use a trash can or bucket filled with dirt, straw or shredded paper 3) never let them dry out. 4) keep covering the tops and stem with dirt as they grow 5) when the plant dies off they are ready to harvest. There’s a lot more info but, since I decided to go the bucket method, I didn’t need a lot of the other tips. This method seemed best since I won’t have to struggle to find adequate dirt space and dig a new bed, I can move them around to get enough sun and when I dig them up they’ll be cleaner.

Since Ms. Peanut uses cat litter in the plastic buckets and I never throw them out, I had enough buckets to use. First, I drilled drainage holes in the bottom:

Shredded office paper went into the bottom of the bucket to absorb water and keep the dirt from falling out of the drainage holes:

Whenever I use my paper shredder, I think of Watergate and Monica Lewinski-type intrigue and I hear the theme song to Mission Impossible in my head.

Straw went on top of the paper – I buy mine at the pet store in the hamster section and it comes in handy in the garden quite often:

On top of that went some potting soil and worm castings. According to some websites, I didn’t need any dirt, but the thought of eating a root that had not come into contact with any earth kinda creeps me out. Enough room was left to be able to build the soil up around the plant as it grows:

I stirred the straw and dirt together a bit and went to chop up my seed potatoes. You want about 3 “eyes” or sprouts for each piece you plant. Cut the rest of the potato away, leaving an inch or so of potato around the eyes to nourish the plant:

I got quite a few nice pieces to plant:

These went into the straw/dirt mix and they were buried with potting soil about 3 inches deep. If you plant them too shallow, you won’t get many potatoes:

Then, I watered them all very well and put them in the sun. The remaining bits of potato got buried under the apple tree.

And now, to dream and wait. Tom has a knack of cooking potatoes to perfection, so I am going to have trouble with the waiting part!

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