Berry Good Shortcake Using Herbs

shortcake
This is it. The one. The winner for an upcoming garden party dessert. Yum.

While I like the lemon thyme pound cake, it didn’t shout: “Party Dessert.” It said, “Brunch on a Summer Weekend.”

This berry shortcake recipe however, is pretty to look at, tasty to eat and screams “I’m dressed to the nines for this party.”

And with some of the ingredients coming right from the garden, such as lemon balm in the batter, strawberries, blueberries, and sweet woodruff sprigs, this dessert deserves to be a guest of honor at the garden party.

The recipe is one of herbalist Susan Belsinger’s creations. If you love growing herbs, you need her cookbooks. It is as simple as that. They are must-haves for anyone wanting to use the herbs they are growing and perhaps planting a specific herb in order to try one of the recipes in her books.

She is a master at using herbs and edible flowers in the kitchen. Check out her website: http://www.susanbelsinger.com

I can’t tell you how many times I have used her books as my “go-to” guides.

She used strawberries in the following recipe. I added blueberries for more color. We’re talking about a party after all.

You can find Belsinger’s recipe at The Vegetable Gardener website http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/13822/homemade-strawberry-shortcakes-with-herbs-and-whipped-cream. They have a great photo of the strawberry shortcake there.

Not Even This Humidity Can Dampen Gardening Spirit

I checked the humidity before I headed into the garden at 6:45 and saw it was 88 percent. Ugh.

Motivating to do physical work when it feels like this is near impossible.

It’s just too hot and sticky. If you must do some chore, keep yourself hydrated, keep it simple and keep it short. I lasted 22 minutes, managed to rake one small area of mulch smooth and felt like a winner.

Now, I’m inside, drinking an iced coffee and looking at the photos I took yesterday at the Moreau Community Garden where we are growing pumpkins, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, carrots, dill, rosemary, basil, tarragon, green beans, snap beans, rhubarb, zucchini, summer squash and more.7MCG8

Moreau Community Garden

The area I am responsible for is approximately 20 plots that are part of the Family Gardening Program, an initiative funded by a $2.1 million dollar Carol M. White PEP Grant that was awarded to the South Glens Falls school district to promote fitness and nutritional programs over a three-year period. The Family Gardening Program is part of this grant and designed to teach nutrition and a healthy style of living to children and their parents by growing food organically.

As the Garden Coach, I’m doing that and more because I’ve opened the garden lectures to all Moreau gardeners interested in learning to vegetable garden successfully. All community members are welcome to come, ask questions, bring samples of their garden problems – in a sealed plastic bag please – to be identified and remedies discussed. And each week, community gardeners have attended and asked questions about their plots in the community garden and their home gardens.

Learning how to garden builds confidence, teaches cooperation, caregiving and discipline and gets you outside in the fresh air, bending, stretching, lifting, digging, raking, weeding . . . in other words exercising as part of an activity you enjoy. This is the best kind of exercise because when you enjoy what you do, you will do it again and again.

It’s not work if you love it, right?

As part of the experience we do:
Math – For example: we divided our garden plots into equal squares and within each square evenly spaced a predetermined number of seeds depending on the future size of the plant.
Estimating – For instance: We will have a contest this week to see who can guess the correct number of seeds on the average strawberry.
Science – We are continuously identifying insects and what they do, their lifestyle and whether they are good for the garden or not. We do the same for weeds and had a wildly successful weed scavenger hunt. These gardeners know their weeds from common crabgrass to red-root pigweed and the edibles: purslane, lambsquarters and dandelion leaves.
Language skills – Example, we review labels and learned how to read a seed packet for the information we need about disease resistance, days to harvest, plant requirements, etc.

We are going to need a recipe for Bok Choy soon!

We are going to need a recipe for Bok Choy soon!

Food, Fun and Friendships

Our garden is social. When we need a break, the picnic tables under the trees offer a place to sit in the shade, share stories and sometimes food from the garden. We’ve had lip-puckering rhubarb lemonade, Fran’s home-made salsa, and as the vegetables mature we will have a tomato taste test of the different varieties we are growing, pasta sauce, a salsa making demonstration, and at least four more variations of lemonade using the herbs we are growing, including mint, rosemary and basil. This week, because strawberries are at their peak, we will sample strawberry lemonade and I will read aloud a Native American legend about the first strawberries.

(I can tell you the strawberry lemonade is very good, having made it yesterday. But I can’t tell you the average number of seeds on a strawberry until after Tuesday. Wink.)

Every week we begin with a garden talk led by yours truly. I show people the insects currently in the garden, the damage they do, and how to get rid of them without the use of harsh chemicals. We have had sessions on knowing when and how much to water and setting a fertilizer schedule using organic products such as fish emulsion. Everything we do is organic.

There’s an “Acceptable Garden Products” information sheet posted here on this blog and also in the garden on the bulletin board showing what can be used in this organic community garden.

I teach how important observation is in the garden. When you look closely and know your plants, you spot things before they become big issues. If I had to say what one thing makes one garden successful over another, that would be it. Look, really look, and you will notice small things like holes chewed in a leaf when it’s just one bug doing damage and not an entire army of bugs.

Bulletin Board and the Blog

The goal is sharing information. In the garden, attached to the Recreation building, is a bulletin board and under it is a wicker window box. On the bulletin board are sheets updated weekly with information on insects, diseases and weeds to help the gardeners. There is also a plastic container in the window box where gardeners can trap insects they can’t identify. When I come to the garden I identify the pest, print out a mug-shot and what needs to be done to remedy the problem if anything. There are good bugs, too. And we welcome those.

The blog’s goal is to reach all the gardeners and review what is happening in our plots. My goal is simple: I want everyone to build their gardening skills, have a successful experience growing nutritious, healthy food and enjoy the many different ways vegetables and herbs can enhance a meal.

Gertrude Jekyll once said: “The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”

I believe that.

I hope to meet you in the garden, Natalie Walsh, Master Gardener

Next Meeting – June 6th

Today we worked in the Moreau Community Garden and as part of our morning seminar, I explained square foot gardening, planned plots, handed out coupons and got started marking beds and helping gardeners with their plants.

Gina LeClair, Mary Meade and I also planted plots. A lot got done! We planted five different varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, zucchini, beans, green peppers and more. It looks terrific.

Next week – and every week in June – the Family Gardening program will meet Thursdays at 4 p.m. in the garden.

Planning and Planting Today

This morning at 9 a.m. I will be in the Moreau Community Garden holding a workshop on the Square Foot Gardening method will be using in the Family Gardening Program this season.

Everyone is invited to come.

We will start with deciding what to grow, how to purchase plants for a vegetable garden, square foot gardening concepts, designing a garden plan for a bountiful harvest with few problems and lower maintenance. We will also have on hand the materials for participants in the Family Gardening Program to set up the beds for the season.

The goal for the morning is to have the beds planned and for planting to begin. And to set up ways to communicate about the insects we find, troubles with the plants, garden tips and we hope to build and paint some trellises that will be laden with red, juicy tomatoes in the months to come.

If you don’t have a plot, but would like one, there are a few still available free of charge. Come to the garden for an application or to check out what we are doing. The garden is located behind the Recreation department, off Jan Street, in the Moreau Recreational Park. When you drive in the park, you will see the green building straight ahead on the left side. We are behind that building with perfect southern exposure. 🙂

Applications are also available through Town Hall, 61 Hudson Street, Moreau.

I hope to see you later – Natalie Walsh