An Amazing Collection of Bonsai at Behnke’s

ducky-hong

As you probably know, Ducky Hong has been exhibiting and selling his bonsai here at Beltsville for the last several years.  Prior to that, he had a bonsai nursery in South Korea. Ducky has expanded his offerings and inventory, and will now be working full time at our location, continuing as an independent business.

He has an inventory of 3,500 bonsai plants, 1,000 of which are on display now at Behnke’s in Beltsville. In addition to selling the plants, he will be selling a line of supplies, and teaching bonsai technique classes here. (He has been offering classes in English and Korean, he will be teaching more classes during the week.)

He says that the plants are primarily Japanese and Korean in origin, and there are many specimen plants available here at Beltsville. Ducky’s enthusiasm is contagious: you may come in to look and leave with a whole new hobby!

Too Many Tomatoes: A Jarring Experience

Tomato_Sauce_and_Girls_Night_Out

Tomato Sauce and Girls Night Out

It’s the time during the summer harvest that certain veggies might be leaving you feeling a bit jaded.  I know I am up to my eyeballs in tomatoes.  It seems that no matter how many are canned or consumed with every meal, and I mean every meal, I’m beginning to wonder if they’re not multiplying while ripening on the countertop.  And there’s only so many nights a week you can keep creatively integrating zucchini into the menu.

But if you’re anything like me, if you’ve grown it it’s going to get utilized. Waste not, want not.  So that being said, my mission over the coming weeks is to provide a couple of my most favorite ways to incorporate a couple garden goodies you may be getting tired of seeing.

Zucchini Cakes

Zucchini Cakes

My most favorite way to prepare summer squash and zucchini is by making them into serving sized cakes.  They are a little bit cheesy, have a delicious crunchy crust on the outside and a crab cake-like consistency.  I’ve played with and developed this recipe over the past couple seasons, and I have made my best attempt at writing down accurate measurements.

Zucchini and Summer Squash Cakes

4-5 Medium, Firm & Fresh Zucchini, Yellow Squash or Mix of the two
1 Tbsp Salt
1 C Breadcrumbs (See below for homemade recipe)
1 Can (16 oz) Whole Kernel Corn; drained
½ C Grated or Shredded Parmesan
2 Eggs
Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste
1 tsp Italian Seasoning (See below for homemade recipe)

Grate squash into a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and mix gently to combine.  Set aside for 30-60 minutes.  Next, rinse squash thoroughly to remove most of salt.  Strain and squeeze through clean tea towel or cheesecloth to remove majority of moisture from veggies.  Return to mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients.  Incorporate all ingredients completely, but don’t over-work mixture.  Form into small hamburger sized patties.  Pan fry over medium heat, in equal mix of olive oil and melted butter until golden and crispy. Yield 6-8 cakes.

A couple key suggestions:  be patient and don’t turn frequently or too soon or you will not obtain a nice crust on the outside. If using seasoned breadcrumbs, consider skipping or reducing the additional Italian seasoning.  As the squash is already salted and the parmesan is too, wait to add additional salt until after serving and tasting. You can also be creative with this by adding other shredded vegetables.  A carrot or sweet pepper would add lots of color and sweetness.  Leftover cakes can be re-heated quite nicely if toasted again on a skillet.

Homemade Breadcrumbs

Homemade Breadcrumbs

DIY breadcrumbs are awesomely easy and much more affordable than store-bought. I like to make my own breadcrumbs and add dried herbs from the garden.  Rather than tossing out bakery bread that’s gone stale, reinvent it.  Not to mention, you can control what goes into them.  For a healthier kick, use a multigrain or wholegrain bread.

Homemade Breadcrumbs: Pulse day old bread, cut in small chunks, in the food processor into a coarse mix and toast under broiler, watching carefully and turning frequently until crispy. Some grocery stores sell crustini round s(which I’m convinced is their way of selling day old French bread) in large bags in the bakery section, which are already toasted and ready for the food processor.  Toss in a generous handful of Italian seasoning for seasoned breadcrumbs.  Leftovers can be stored indefinitely in a sealed container in the pantry.

Homemade Italian Herb Seasoning:  2 Tbsp each dried basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary & red pepper flakes.

Salsa

Salsa

Canning was also on the agenda this week. I escaped out for a much needed girl’s night with my best friend Bethany over the weekend and we canned homemade pasta sauce from our garden tomatoes. We have been canning together for about ten years now. The pasta sauce recipe we used, we encountered several years ago and have been raving about ever since.

So I dug it up out of my canning binder for the occasion.  It was one of the first canning recipes that we ever did that ventured outside of jams and jellies. Twelve quarts later, I was feeling confident that I had mastered and caught up with the tomato harvest.  And then I went to the garden again in the morning.  So once again, after my little tyke went to sleep Monday night, I canned until close to midnight.  This time, I tried canning salsa for the first time and am patiently waiting for the excuse to pop open a jar for quality control.

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Sun Dried Tomatoes

In another attempt to rein in the tomato yield, I oven roasted ‘sun dried tomatoes.’  I have two small heirloom varieties of cherry tomatoes, Yellow Pear and Principe Borghese, which have produced abundantly and make wonderfully tangy sun dried tomatoes.  I did quite a bit of research online about how to safely prepare them.

The general consensus was to roast on baking sheets in single layers in a 225 degree oven until pliable but no liquid is released when squeezed.  This process takes the better part of a whole day (10 hours +/-), so choose a day you know you will be home.

Once tomatoes have reached proper consistency, store in a sterile container that is close to the same volume as the tomatoes, and cover completely with olive oil.  I use canning jars for everything. They not only look beautiful in a pantry, but are also in my opinion, the best for the job.  There is a bit of inconsistency and controversy about the safeness of chopping and adding fresh herbs. So for safety purposes I added about one tablespoon of the homemade dried Italian seasoning to the oil, as they are not adding any moisture that could promote mold growth. The tomatoes can be stored in the fridge or pantry for up to 9 months.

I hope this leaves you feeling inspired with renewed hope and faith in tired ingredients. It’s the time of year to take advantage of delicious and fresh produce, whether homegrown or from your local farmer’s market. Try the zucchini cakes; I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford

Digging Potatoes with Grand-dad

digging potatoes

I have read about Grandparent’s gardens in the past. A place where you and your little ones can go to have fun, imagine and play. For one reason or the other, I have never actually made one. But the other night I saw that we have had one all along.

Our little Aaron came over for a surprise visit, and of course right away he and his granddad were out the door to let the chickens out and go on a tractor ride. But then, the big question was asked! “Hey Jaimie, (our daughter) you want any potatoes?” I had to laugh, nothing is ever simple. They had to go get gloves, shovels, and a bag. And off they went.

I had not been down to the garden for a long time but I tagged along with my camera. I am not sure if Aaron thought they were big Easter Eggs or what, but he had so much fun. He could not pick them up fast enough. He kept telling his granddad he needed the shovel and gloves which of course he got.

I made a rude comment about all the weeds and was rightly told that I was welcome at any time to help pull them. Shut me up pretty fast. I think having a little one outside in the garden reminds us of all of the simple joys that can be found in everyday things.

I can’t wait to hear how it goes when his Mommy cooks those big old potatoes and gives them to him for dinner. I hope he enjoys them more then she did when she was a little girl!

Posted By: Stephanie Fleming

A Days Harvest

A Days Harvest

I love this time of year. After a few months of hard work, maintenance and a healthy dose of patience the garden is in full swing. Now the real work begins. Every morning, I head out to the garden to check on what’s ripening and coming in. Essentially every day my garden rewards me with at least a bucket of bounty to lug back up to the farmhouse.

Heirloom_tomatosThis year, I acquired 25 heirloom tomato plants from the Master Gardener at my local agriculture center. She had such a wide variety available that I walked away with hardly any duplicate varieties. I love heirloom tomatoes. Although they are a little more finicky to grow than hybrid tomato varieties, I prefer them. I always feel that the prettier the food, the better the taste. And the heirlooms never cease to amaze me with their unusual and sometimes-so-ugly-its-beautifulness.

Heirloom_Seed_SavingI tried my hand at seed saving some of my new heirloom favorites for next year’s garden. My husband Chris and I have been canning tomatoes all week. Over the years, I’ve been slowly roping him into canning with me. With the abundant harvest this year I’ve definitely appreciated the late-night canning help after our little guy goes to bed.

We’ve made Spicy Tomato jam, a couple batches of crushed tomatoes and a double batch of bruschetta topping. My mother and I cracked open the first jar of bruschetta topping for lunch yesterday on a piece of crustini with a shaving of parmesan – amazing. I made a second batch to reserve for Christmas and hostess gifts.

Bruschetta

My herb patch has also been thriving prolifically and required a little attention in order to keep them producing through the first frost. I spent some time drying them to preserve them for later and Winter use. Depending on the hardiness of the herb and my mood, I either dried them low and slow on a baking sheet in a 225 degree oven (turning frequently, they dry quickly!) or the old fashioned way by tying them and hanging them to dry naturally.

Hang_Drying_HerbsIt’s so rewarding to pull homegrown herbs out of the cupboard long after the plant has shriveled. In fact, I was able to use my homegrown dried herbs in the canned bruschetta topping. I ended up being able to harvest four basil varieties, pineapple sage, lemon verbena and lemon grass.

In addition to drying, I also whipped up a couple jars of one of my most favorite and refreshing summertime drink; Lemon Verbena infused gin.

Concoction: Infuse one bottle of gin with two generous sprigs of Lemon Verbena and one lemon sliced thin. Gently turn to mix ingredients. Store in a cool dark cupboard; turning once a day for two weeks. After two weeks, strain and discard solids; the gin will keep for a couple months in a cool dark location. I also infused red currant and thyme with gin this Spring, which was equally delicious.

Grayson's_HarvestPickling_Cucs

With the help of my pint sized picking assistant, I saved up enough pickling cucumbers through the week to make a batch of bread and butter pickles. The most delicious and only kind of pickles as far as I’m concerned. The jalapenos have also begun to start really producing and I was able to can a batch of Candied Jalapenos.

Candied_Jalapenos

The candied jalapenos are very easy to make and would be a great recipe for someone new to canning. Always wear rubber gloves when preparing hot peppers!

This week was certainly productive and bountiful. I hope you enjoy the pictures. And please take note of my latest and greatest yard sale find (the enamel farmhouse basin). I’ve been ogling them in antique stores for years but I can never justify the expense. It always pays to be patient and frugal.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford

Herbaceous Perennial Hibiscus

Herbaceous Perennial Hibiscus

By Larry Hurley – Behnkes Perennial Plant Buyer/Manager

There are lots of different hibiscus out there.  Tropical Hibiscus are used as landscape plants in Hawaii, Florida and other climes that are usually warm—or even tropical—year round.  Here we use them as patio plants in the summer, and houseplants in the winter.

The shrub, Rose of Sharon, is a Woody Hibiscus.  Officially Hibiscus syriacus, it is the National Plant of South Korea.  Rose of Sharon does well here but has a reputation for weediness, although some of the newer forms don’t seed out into the garden like the older ones did.

What I am writing about is a third type of Hibiscus, the Herbaceous Perennial Hibiscus that die to the ground each winter, overwinter as a crown, and resprout in late spring to flower in summer.  Most of the perennial hibiscus that we sell are hybrids between several species, many of which are native to Maryland.  You should be able to see them in bloom in summer in marshy areas (for example, where the Patuxent River crosses Highway 4 east of DC; big white flowers)… Read the rest of this article

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