Lifestyle

Beautiful Gardens by William Johnson

While gardeners love flowers for the beauty they provide to the home landscape, few gardeners grow flowers for eating. That’s a shame because many flowers, in addition to being edible, bring lively flavors, colors, and textures to salads, soups, casseroles, and other dishes.
Eating flowers is not as exotic as it sounds. The use of flowers as food dates back to Roman times, and to the Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures. Edible flowers were especially popular in the Victorian era during Queen Victoria’s reign. So, just what are the guidelines for munching on flowers?
There are some basic guidelines when it comes to edible flowers. Much of this information is pure common sense, but it’s important to be mindful when venturing into new gastronomic pursuits. Many of us do not have a family connection of an experienced “elder” to tell us which flowers might be safely edible, so it’s good to review some basics.
It’s important to be cautious. If you have allergy issues or a compromised immune system, it’s best to skip these adventures with edible flowers unless you have total control over their production. Identify the flower exactly and eat only the edible parts of those flowers. Tulip flowers, for instance, can be eaten, but only the petals. If the taste of any flower is objectionable—too bitter, too sour, too spicy, or just plain weird—don’t swallow it. Flowers can vary in edibility depending on the time of year. Once you have established that a flower is safely edible, experiment with its flavor and texture at different times of the year.
Toxicity is a major concern. Some ornamental plants are distinctly poisonous though beautiful, including several adorning gardens at this time of year: bleeding hearts, lily-of-the valley and oleander. Even though a lovely daffodil may seem to be just the thing to top a birthday cake, stay away from using those. Other beauties to avoid eating include hydrangea and Texas mountain laurel.  Be sure flowers are free of pesticides. Regulations for how to use pesticides on food crops differ from regulations for ornamental crops. Be sure that the rose or pansy flower you have your eye on has not been treated with any pesticides which are illegal to be used on a food crop.
Roses, for example, are sometimes treated with a systemic insecticide that is applied to the soil. This should not be regarded as safe for human consumption due to the use of a systemic insecticide that can be present in most or all parts of a plant for several weeks after application.
When choosing flowers for edibility, look for those grown safely. Don’t pluck a flower at random from an unfamiliar location or make the assumption that flowers in florist displays are edible. In most cases, the petals are the palatable part of the flowers listed as “edible.” Remove the stamens and pistil from larger flowers such as daylilies (the stamens are covered with pollen, which may aggravate allergies). Reliably edible flowers include calendulas, dandelions, geraniums, nasturiums, pansies, roses, squash blossoms, and sweet violets. This is only a partial list of edible flowers.
One flower that is particularly abundant in many area landscapes is the daylily. While the daylily nowadays is considered a delicacy by wild food gatherers and knowledgeable chefs, it has a long history in Chinese cuisine in addition to Chinese medicine.
Daylily flowers can be used in a variety of ways. They add sweetness to soups and vegetable dishes. Flowers that are half opened or fully opened may be dipped in a light batter of flour and water and fried in a wok. You can add the petals to egg dishes and salads. Dried daylily petals, called “golden needles” by the Chinese, are an ingredient in many Chinese recipes, including hot-and-sour soup.
Some food preparers have suggested that varieties with pale yellow or orange flowers produce the sweetest, most delectable taste. However, it appears that daylily taste is related to daylily   cultivar more than flower color according to serious taste trials.
Eating flowers is not a weird or unusual gastronomic endeavor. If you like broccoli or cauliflower or artichoke, then you are already a flower connoisseur since a head of broccoli or cauliflower is composed of a few hundred unopened flowers! The general rule is that the flowers of most herbs and vegetables are safe to eat (with flowers of tomato, potato, eggplant and pepper being notable exceptions). Always check first, because as with anything in life, there will always be exceptions.
The guidelines provided here are definitely related to a common sense approach to selecting other types of flowers as food. Adding flower petals to a salad or garnishing a stack of pancakes with a small rose can be fun and effective, but it’s necessary to become informed before ingesting your floral creations.

William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit his website at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm.

Inspirations by Frances Durisseau

Through the years, as I have gone through the wanderings of my life, there are some tidbits of wisdom  I have gleaned and held onto. With the ups and downs of life, the seasons that we endure , and the valleys and the mountain tops we find ourselves traveling through, we can all use all the wisdom nuggets that we  plant into our hearts and minds, to bring back up and reflect upon when we need them the most. So today I wanted to share some with you, just in case you were ever in need. There are three life bits of wisdom that we all need to commit to our most sacred memory. Home is not just one solitary place, but it is also a feeling we take with us wherever we go. Time is not measured by the second hands of a clock but by the moments that we experience. Heartbeats are not only heard and felt while they are beating, but they are felt and shared long after they are silenced. Just some things to reflect on when you need them!

 

May 5
Aaron Sevedge
Born January 9, 1975

May 20
Marinel Morrison
Ammenheuser
Born March 31, 1932

May 24
James Jarrell Sanderson
Born May 11, 1935

May 28
Judith Speck Milby
Born June 22, 1943

May 29
Robert Johnson
Born January 29, 1929

May 30
Angel Luis Feliciano
Age not advised
Kathy Arlene Lawrence
Born December 9, 1949
Charles Melvin Mims
Born August 15, 1965
Eddie Lee Price
Died at age 70
Allen Craig Stone
Born March 5, 1958

May 31
Tammy Ochoa
Born June 17, 1955
Juanita Saxon
Born August 27, 1922
Deborah Jo Winkler
Born November 16, 1950

June 1
Joseph Lopes Cortez
Born January 30, 1928
Shirley Marguerite Daulong
Died at age 94
Joy Grogan Lemons
Born December 6, 1938
Billie Joyce Simpton
Born October 20, 1932

June 2
John Cappadona
Born October 9, 1951
Glenda Faye Christie
Born December 30, 1949
Cecilia Josephine Heyart
Age not advised
Annie Martin
Died at age 75
Julia Miranda
Born July 5, 1921
Claudine McGrue Murray
Born August 12, 1920

June 3
Desmond Lemel Benjamin
Died at age 26
Marion Davis
Age not advised
Joanna Devine
Born September 14, 1940
James Edward Elder
Born November 11, 1945
Connie Enbey
Born June 12, 1935
Mildred Bradshaw
Ritchney Hanks
Born February 15, 1922
Donald Smith
Born June 24, 1951

June 4
Gertrude Escobedo Garcia
Born October 18, 1931
Howard Paul Lane
Born August 24, 1959

June 5
Mary Hinojosa
Born July 10, 1934

June 6
Joe Grubbs
Born January 27, 1936

June 7
Francisca Ledezma
Died at age 84

By William Johnson
Q: My tomato plants have stopped setting fruit. What’s the problem?
A: This condition is due to a blossom drop. Blossom drop is a condition suffered by tomatoes, peppers, snap beans, and some other fruiting vegetables where the plant blooms but fails to set fruit, the blooms die and fall off. Tomato plants lose their blossoms for several different reasons usually related to some type of stress. The stress may be either nutritional, environmental or some combination of the two.
During this time of the growing season the most likely factor is temperature-related. Despite the fact that the ancestors of tomatoes evolved in the tropics, the flowering and fertilization process in tomatoes is quite sensitive to temperature conditions.
When day temperatures consistently exceed 85 degrees F. and night temperatures exceed 72 degrees F., tomato blossoms will start to drop. Since our daytime and nighttime temperatures have exceeded these upper limits over the past few days, gardeners across the county should expect blossom drop to increase over the next few weeks.
It is interesting to note that although the combination of high day and night temperature causes blossom drop, high night temperatures alone can be detrimental to flowering even if day temperatures are not over 85°F. Blossom drop caused by warm temperatures is primarily a problem on large-fruited tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are even more sensitive to the high temperatures that occur during the latter part of our spring growing season.
To help extend the tomato growing season, I always advise gardeners to plant one or several cherry tomato transplants. Cherry tomatoes have small, cherry-sized fruits often used in salads and for immediate consumption. Plants of cherry tomatoes range from dwarf (such as Tiny Tim) to seven feet or taller plants (such as Sweet 100).
Cherry tomatoes are easy to grow and will provide bountiful yields of flavorful and juicy fruits. Cherry tomatoes are less prone to many of the problems that plague larger-fruited varieties (such as blossom end rot) and they often produce fruit early.

Q: My citrus tree has black mold-like growth on the upper surface of some of the leaves? Should I use a fungicide to treat it?
A: You most likely have sooty mold, a fungus that grows on the sweet residue (known as honeydew) produced by sucking insects such as aphids and whiteflies. So don’t use a fungicide. That will not get to the cause of the problem. You need to treat with an insecticide to control the insects. Try using one of the horticultural oil sprays such as SunSpray Ultra-Fine Spray Oil or Green Light Neem Oil. Two or more applications about 7 to 10 days apart are recommended. Be sure to also apply either product to the lower side of all the leaves. Read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for use including conditions of air temperatures.
The horticultural oil suffocates the insects and greatly reduces their population while not harming most beneficial insects that also feed on the aphids and whiteflies. The horticultural oil will also help loosen the growth of sooty mold. Then rainfall and normal weathering will gradually cause the sooty mold to disappear.

Q: How can you tell the difference between a slicing type cucumber and a pickling type cucumber?
A: All pickles are cucumbers, but not all cucumbers make good pickles. Slicing type cucumbers are generally dark green in color and are from six-to-eight inches in length when mature. Pickling cucumbers tend to be lighter in color and are short and blocky in shape. An important point to remember is that if you intend to put up pickles, then you definitely should grow a pickling type variety. Pickling cucumbers were developed to go through the brining process and will generally produce a higher quality pickling product.
 If you intend to use cucumbers mainly in salads, it is generally recommended that you use a slicing type cucumber. However, pickling varieties can also be used in salads–I rather like their crispness and flavor.

Q: The limbs on our young crape myrtle tree touch the ground after a rain. Is it safe to prune them now?
A: The weight of the old flowers and seed pods will cause the limbs to droop, especially when wet. You can safely remove the old flower and seed heads by clipping them off just below the flower bract. You can do this throughout the growing season. You can also remove any lower limbs that make it difficult to mow around.
However, I caution owners of large trees not to do any major pruning at this time of the year. Heavy pruning on crape myrtles in late summer and fall can cause winter injury to tender new growth. Postpone major pruning to provide size control until February and March of next year.

William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Visit his website at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm.

Inspirations by Frances Durisseau

There are times that our lives can seem to be a chaos of contradictions. We feel like we are constantly at a fork in our road with signs pointing in every direction, and we have to choose the appropriate  way to go. What if we choose wrong? What if left is more right, and right seems totally wrong? Do we dare choose or do we stay stuck on the road of indecision, which in itself is a choice or decision.There are times we just need a small time out to breathe. Take a deep breath and listen to our heart and our spirit. We may not always make the right choice, but the good thing is, we can always put ourselves in reverse, and head in a new direction. Life is often times a chaos of contradictions. But what is totally awesome is we get to live it-really live it before we die. We can choose to live a life full of love. We can savor this sweet life we have, even if its not always easy, or with a clear path ahead of us. Just keep your head up, your feet moving, and your heart open.  The right path will unfold.