Warm Thoughts…

These were some of the first videos posted on YouTube by A Slice of Southern Illinois on the Slices of Southern Illinois channel.

It was a few summers ago, extremely hot, and as usual, the AC didn’t work in the house we were renting. The oven may or may not have been working, but when it’s already about a hundred degrees, who wants to add heat? So, we tried to make the best of it.

Yes, there is a learning curve to making videos. We are still somewhere on the bendy part…

Sundried Tomatoes Part One

Sundried Tomatoes Part Two

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Since I had spent the past year kicking cancer’s butt, I didn’t grow as much fresh produce or herbs as I once did last summer. However, I did grow a few of my beloved San Marzano tomatoes (plants from the Carbondale Farmer’s Market,) basil, a bit of oregano and rosemary– and a lot of mint. This gave me some flavorful options: salsa, pestos, gazpacho, and more.

Above: San Marzano Tomatoes and Thai Basil

Below: Herb Pesto and a bit of Pico de Gallo sauteed with mushrooms.

So far this season, I have a little lettuce, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil cilantro, and an expanding mint patch. I still need to finsish areas for tomatoes, peppers, onions, lots of basil, and hopefully even watermelons…. and more flowers. I am a fan of edible landscape.

Mixing herbs and flowers and veggies can be a good thing. Consulting a companion planting chart might be wise if they will share soil. Essentially, some have researched the Native American practice of planting certain plants together that support each other’s growth. Tisquantum, also known by many as Squanto, acted as a lifesaving liaison to the pilgrims. Without his assistance and sharing his knowledge of companion planting and organic fertilization, food would have been much more sparse. What is referred to as the Three Sister’s Method involved planting corn, beans, and squash together for successful growth. Squanto also taught the new immigrants to plant fish with corn as natural fertilizer. People now also may use other organic material when planting such as egg shells and shrimp shells.

Above: Cayenne peppers

Below: Japanese Eggplant

Listed below are some common companion planting groupings:

Tomatoes/basil

Corn/squash/beans

Mint/peas

Onions/garlic

Garlic/roses

Some No-No’s/Plants that Don’t Play Well Together:

Dill doesn’t go by tomatoes, rosemary, sage, onions, peas

Tomatoes don’t go by corns, peas, beans, cucumbers, squash

Fennel doesn’t go with onions, parsley, asparagus, cucumbers, carrots, nasturtiums, marigolds

There are also some functional benefits to landscape gardens beyond beauty and food. Marigolds have been used for many years as a detourrant to wildlife eating gardens as well as mosquitoes when used as a border.

Below are a few plants and what they are known for repelling:

Marigolds- plant lice, mosquitoes, rabbits.

Above: Marigolds

Chrysanthemums- Ants, Japanese beetles, roaches, bed bugs, spider mites, silverfish, ticks, lice

Mint- spiders, ants, mosquitoes. (Will spread and take over an area quickly. Planters or separate patches are best.)

Below: Fresh Mint

Below: Basil-mosquitoes, houseflies

Citronella grass- mosquitoes and flying insects

Lavender-Gnats, mosquitoes

Chives-Japanese beetles

Petunias-beetles, leafhoppers, aphids, tomato worms

Above: Petunias

Bay leaves- flies, roaches

Garlic-beetles, root maggots, carrot root flies, moths,aphids

Rosemary-bugs

Above: Rosemary

I’m also a fan of repurposing or using unexpexted items as planters. A few things, usually at least tomatoes, tend to go directly into the ground when possible, but that also increases the prospects of weeds. I have previously turned old door frames and box springs into raised garden beds for more shallow-growing plants like my oregano, lettuce, and green onions.

In Southern Illinois, we are blessed to have a climate that allows us to grow many things. I am thankful for that opportunity.

Cucumber Chef Salad

I have been craving cucumbers since I watched Katie Lee make a yummy cucumber salad (I know it is yummy because I made a version of it at home…) on “The Kitchen” last weekend. So, I packed a cucumber with my salad fixings for my lunch yesterday. Unfortunately, I forgot my lettuce. This actually turned out to be a good thing.

I decided to use the cucumber as the base of my salad instead of lettuce. After peeling the skin, I cut it lengthwise into quarters and then cut those quarters into smaller bite sized pieces.

Chopped sundried tomatoes, olives, palmitos (hearts of palm,) shredded mozzarella, shaved turkey breast, and some pepitos were added to the cucumbers. A bit of sea salt, pepper, and Caesar dressing (because that’s what was handy…) topped off the creation. I did manage to wait long enough to eat it to snap a photo.

It shouldn’t be too much longer before Southern Illinois cucumbers are ripe. I can’t wait to try it again with some local produce and perhaps a homemade vinegrette.