Category Archives: Gardening

The Hottest Pepper in the World

The harvested crop of Carolina Reaper hot peppers are a brilliant scarlet. We’ve probably picked a peck of peppers, and there are more on the plants!

Last year, a friend gave my husband one Carolina Reaper hot pepper, considered to be among the hottest peppers in the world.  After my husband used the pepper very sparingly in chili and other dishes, he saved and planted the seeds.   The seeds sprouted and prospered.  He repotted the plants as they grew.  He kept four plants and gave away several more pots of pepper plants to friends and family, who said they liked hot peppers.  As the plants grew even larger, he gave away two more.  The remaining two plants produced enough hot peppers to destroy the taste buds of the population of our county.  The peppers didn’t seem to be as hot as the original pepper (the Scoville Scale link below explains why that might be the case), but they were still very hot — too hot for me!

Half of the ripe Carolina Reaper peppers have already been picked from these plants. Very prolific!

Many people do enjoy really hot peppers.  Last year, I attended (as an observer) the Hot Pepper Eating Contest in Palestine, Texas.  This year (2017), the Palestine Hot Pepper  Festival is Oct. 21. Links to the festival and my blog post about 2016’s festival are below.

The early growing stages of my husband’s Carolina Reaper hot pepper crop.

 

My husband kept four Carolina reaper plants, but eventually gave two more away. Like many pepper varieties, the Carolina Reapers start green, then turn yellow. In their ripe stage, they are a beautiful brilliant red color.

 

 

The City of Palestine, Texas, Hot Pepper Festival.

The Scoville Scale Measuring the Hotness of Pepper Varieties.

The Hottest Little Festival in Texas.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Food, Gardening, Kansas City, Life, Photography

A New July Fourth Tradition — Picking Blueberries

Blueberries are worth getting soaked to the skin. My friend Pat invited me to pick blueberries with her at The Berry Patch in Cleveland, Missouri., early on the morning of the Fourth of July. It was fun, despite the rain.

My friend Pat invited me to pick blueberries with her on July 4th at The Berry Patch, in Cleveland, Missouri, which is about 20 minutes from where we live. I’d heard about the farm years ago, but had never visited so I was glad for the invitation.

The forecast called for rain, but we decided to go anyway.  Rain started as we drove, but optimistically we continued, thinking that at least we’d have the place to ourselves. Wrong.  There were about fifty cars parked there when we arrived at 7:25 a.m. The farm opens at 7 a.m. For some, picking blueberries on Independence Day is a tradition. Since blueberries are only available for a few months — several types of blueberries are planted to stretch out the season — July 4th is a good reminder to get to the farm.  You can rush home with your blueberries to add them to a red white and blue dessert.  Pat said that because of the rain, the crowd was actually quite thin.  When it’s sunny, you have a lot more competition for blueberries.  There are many bushes, however.  The Berry Patch is the largest berry farm in Missouri.  There are 30 acres of blueberry bushes and four acres of blackberry bushes. A store sells jams, syrups and baked goods, and there is a playground area for kids, and picnic tables for picnic lunches.

Thunder crashed when we got out of the car, but fortunately we didn’t hear much thunder or see lightning afterward.  It did rain a lot, though. After a while, you forget the rain as you pick pick pick those blueberries.

The Berry Patch provides white buckets with a plastic bag liner.  They provide twine so that you can attach the bucket to your waist so you have two free hands to pick.  After about two hours of picking, I picked almost six pounds and Pat almost nine pounds.  She had two buckets.   I bought some blueberry jam and blueberry syrup, too.

As we climbed into the car, we were soaked to the skin, but I was so glad we ignored the weather report. I hope to make blueberry picking a July 4th tradition. I may even go again this summer to replenish my supply.  I’ve already eaten two cups of blueberries today.

Thank you, Pat, for a fun morning.

 

The Berry Patch Facebook Page

The Berry Patch Website

7 Comments

Filed under Food, Friendship, Gardening, Kansas City, Photography, Travel

Bountiful Butterfly Garden

A male monarch butterfly sips from a tropical milkweed flower in my neighborhood butterfly garden. Just a few weeks ago, almost two dozen Monarch butterfly caterpillars were feasting on these milkweeds. Is this an adult returning to his nursery before heading off to begin the journey to a winter in Mexico?

A male monarch butterfly sips from a tropical milkweed flower in my neighborhood butterfly garden. Just a few weeks ago, almost two dozen Monarch butterfly caterpillars were feasting on these milkweeds. Is this an adult returning to his nursery before heading off to begin the journey to a winter in Mexico?

As summer draws to a close, our neighborhood butterfly garden is now a flowering paradise finally crowded with bugs and animals. During June, July and August, the garden reminded me of a dinner party where few of the guests showed up, despite the mass of plants that bloomed all summer. We did get a lot of rabbits, who found the young plants very tasty and ate them almost to the dirt.  Joan, one of the hardest working neighborhood gardeners, built cages around the tender coneflowers and tropical milkweed plants so that they’d have a chance to provide food for other animals, and of course to be beautiful for our enjoyment.

A Monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a tropical milkweed flower in the neighborhood butterfly garden.

A Monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a tropical milkweed flower in the neighborhood butterfly garden.

I’ve seen many types of butterflies in the garden this week.  The two species I plant specifically for are the Monarch Butterfly and the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.  We plant food plants for the caterpillars and lots of flowering plants that butterflies and other pollinating insects prefer for nectar. For Black Swallowtail caterpillars, we plant bronze fennel and parsley. Monarch Butterfly caterpillars will only eat milkweed, and they sometimes are picky about which kind of milkweed.  Tropical milkweed is the most popular milkweed in our Kansas City area garden, and it has lovely scarlet and yellow flowers, too. Unfortunately, it’s an annual in our climate so it has to be re-planted every spring. I buy my plants from Monarch Watch on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kansas, at their plant sale in May. Monarch Watch sells a lot of plants for butterflies and other pollinators.  Their butterfly garden is worth visiting.  They also have an open house in September every year.

Protecting and fostering pollinators is good for the environment and for our food supply. A large percentage of our food plants must be pollinated to produce a crop. On a recent visit to the garden, a ruby-throated hummingbird whizzed by me. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, which are also pollinators, also visit the feeder at my house.

The Monarch butterfly population is in serious decline, so I would encourage everyone with a yard to plan a butterfly garden.  To find out more click on this link: Monarch Watch.

In the upper left is a Red-spotted Purple butterfly. The lower left is a Painted Lady butterfly. Can anyone tell me in the comments what the other two butterflies are? Can you see the insect lurking or resting under the petals of the coneflower?

In the upper left is a Red-spotted Purple butterfly. The lower left is a Painted Lady butterfly. Can anyone tell me in the comments what the other two butterflies are? Can you see the insect lurking or resting under the petals of the coneflower?

In the top left photo, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating fennel. In the lower left photo, a crowd of Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley. In the upper right photo, two Monarch butterfly caterpillars thrash around as their antennae meet. In the center right photo, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar eats Tropical Milkweed. In the bottom right photo, Black Swallowtail butterfly eggs glisten on the narrow leaves of a bronze fennel.

In the top left photo, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating fennel. In the lower left photo, a crowd of Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley. In the upper right photo, two Monarch butterfly caterpillars thrash around as their antennae meet. In the center right photo, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar eats Tropical Milkweed. In the bottom right photo, Black Swallowtail butterfly eggs glisten on the narrow leaves of a bronze fennel.

Here is a collage of photos from the founding days of the neighborhood butterfly garden. The top photo is from 2012, a hot summer in which I had to bring gallons of water from my house to water the new plants, because the sprinkler system didn't provide enough water. The bottom three photos are from 2013.

Here is a collage of photos from the founding days of the neighborhood butterfly garden. The top photo is from 2012, a hot summer in which I had to bring gallons of water from my house to water the new plants, because the sprinkler system didn’t provide enough water. The bottom three photos are from 2013.

An empty Monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from a butterfly bush.

An empty Monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from a butterfly bush.

15 Comments

Filed under Butterflies, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Kansas City, Life, Natural History, Nature, Photography

Welcome, Spring!

Daffodils, blooming early in my neighborhood this year (February 2016) . Always a cheerful sight.

Daffodils, blooming early in my neighborhood this year (February 2016). Always a cheerful sight.

Our 2015-2016 Winter hasn’t been harsh, very little snow, so I won’t complain.

Magnolia blooming at Boone Hall Plantation, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

Magnolia blooming at Boone Hall Plantation, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

However, that doesn’t stop me for wishing for the flowers of Spring! I’ve already seen daffodils in bloom in the neighborhood, so I’ve gotten part of my wish. Here are some photos of blooms from previous Springs from my travels in different parts of the country.

Wisteria In Bloom At Loose Park Bridge Poster

Wisteria in Bloom at Loose Park Bridge, Kansas City, Missouri.

New Mexico Apple Orchard in Bloom Poster

New Mexico Apple Orchard in Bloom.

Texas Bluebonnets
Texas Bluebonnets near Tyler, Texas.
Gazebo on Azalea Trail
Gazebo on Azalea Trail in Tyler, Texas. For more Azalea Trail photos, click on the link below.
https://catherinesherman.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/the-azalea-trail-in-tyler-texas/

7 Comments

Filed under Gardening, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Photography

It’s Tea Time at Charleston Tea Plantation

A sign shows the distance to other parts of the world where tea plants are grown.

A sign shows the distance to other parts of the world where tea plants are grown.

What sounds perfect on a rainy chilly day?  Hot tea!  We’d set out from Kiawah Island in late February (2015) to visit some notable outdoor sites in Charleston, South Carolina, but the morning rain persisted so we saw little more than gift shops (where we could stay dry).  As we returned to Kiawah, we turned off at the Charleston Tea Plantation, which is about twenty miles south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island. We could stay dry in a trolley as we rode around the plantation.  And there was plenty of free hot tea in the gift shop!

Guests tour the Charleston Tea Plantation on one of two trolleys. This one was purchased from the Kentucky Derby city of Louisville, Kentucky, and still retains its name of "Man of War," a famous race horse.

Guests tour the Charleston Tea Plantation on one of two trolleys. This one was purchased from the Kentucky Derby city of Louisville, Kentucky, and still retains its name of “Man of War,” a famous race horse.

It was overcast and a little misty when we arrived, but no umbrellas were required.   My hair was already frizzed out by now anyway.  According to the plantation’s website, “Wadmalaw Island is in the heart of South Carolina’s Lowcountry…Wadmalaw provides the perfect environment for propagating tea. With its sandy soils, sub-tropical climate and average rainfall of 52 inches per year, Wadmalaw possess idyllic conditions for the Camellia Sinensis plant. This plant is currently used to produce both black and green teas and exists in over 320 varieties on the 127 acre grounds of the Charleston Tea Plantation.”

Here are two kinds of American Classic Tea -- Charleston Breakfast Tea and Governor Gray, flavored with bergamot, one of my favorites.

Here are two kinds of American Classic Tea — Charleston Breakfast Tea and Governor Gray, flavored with bergamot, one of my favorites.

Owned by the Bigelow Tea Company, the plantation grows the tea sold under the brand name American Classic Tea. The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only working tea plantation in North America and is open to the public for tours of the grounds and factory and for hosting private events. Every year the plantation also hosts the First Flush Festival celebrating the beginning of the harvest season.  The name, First Flush, means the new leaves that are beginning to grow on the tea plant bushes that are ready to be harvested for production.

The tea Plant, Camellia sinensis, needs a lot of moisture, but doesn't like wet roots, so good sources of water, as well as good drainage are required to keep the plants healthy.

The tea Plant, Camellia sinensis, needs a lot of moisture, but doesn’t like wet roots, so good sources of water, as well as good drainage are required to keep the plants healthy.

Since 1987, the American Classic Tea brand of the Charleston Tea Plantation has been the official tea of the White House.

Plenty of rain is what Camellia sinensis likes, so at least the tea plants were happy!  There were several types of hot tea waiting for us to try, which we happily drank while waiting for our $10 trolley ride. Our trolley was called “Man of War,” named after the famous horse. Our driver told us that the plantation bought the trolley on ebay from the city of Louisville, the Kentucky Derby town.  We stopped along the way at the state-of-the-art greenhouse, where tea plant propagation takes place. The tour is narrated in a recording by William Barclay Hall, founder of American Classic Tea and world renowned Tea Taster, as well as by the very knowledgeable driver.  The plantation was only started in 1960, although other southern plantations had tried to grow tea plants previously.

The leaves are processed at the plantation factory, but the final product is packaged in Connecticut. We were there during the off-season, so we didn’t see any harvesting or processing.

Experimental tea plants at Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina.

Experimental tea plants at Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina.

From Wikipedia:  “In 1799, French botanist, Francois Andre Michaux brought the Camellia Sinensis  plant to the United States and gave it to Henry Middleton. They planted the tea at Middleton’s plantation. The tea seemed to thrive in areas like Charleston and Georgetown.  It took many attempts by multiple companies and individuals to successfully establish a tea company without an early failure. These failures included plantations in Georgetown, Greenville and Summerville, the longest of which lasted less than twenty years. The Thomas J Lipton Company decided to give it a try.  In 1960, they bought the failing tea plantation in Summerville and in 1963 they moved out to Wadmalaw Island  and operated a research station for about twenty-five years. 

You can't visit the Charleston Tea Plantation without taking home some tea! The plantation website also links to shops where the tea is sold.

You can’t visit the Charleston Tea Plantation without taking home some tea! The plantation website also links to shops where the tea is sold.

The Charleston Tea Plantation, as it is known today, was established in 1987 when Mack Fleming and William (Bill) Barclay Hall bought the land and the research station from the Lipton Company. Mack Fleming, a horticultural professor, had been running the plantation for the Lipton Company and Bill Hall was a third generation tea tester from England.  Along with establishing the plantation, they created the American Classic Tea brand. ”  The R.C. Bigelow Company in Connecticut bought the plantation about a decade ago.

Charles Tea Plantation Website.

Wikipedia: Charleston Tea Plantation

Bigelow Tea Company.

Health and Beauty Tips Using Tea!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Click on a thumbnail to see a larger size.

11 Comments

Filed under Drink, Gardening, History, Photography, Tea, Travel

Scenes From Autumn in the Missouri Countryside

Colorful Flint or Indian Corn
“Colorful Indian Corn” by Catherine Sherman

My friend Lynn and I took our cameras to a couple of Missouri farms that sell pumpkins, apples and other goods, offer hay rides and let children pet animals. The weather was beautiful, and hopefully we haven’t seen the last of the summer-like days before winter hits.

Ripe Red apples are ready to be picked.

Ripe Red apples are ready to be picked.

Old Farm Wagon in Hay Field Poster
“Old Farm Wagon in a Hay Field” by Catherine Sherman
The Red Barn Farm in Weston, Missouri, offers a variety of farm goods for sale as well as activities for children.

The Red Barn Farm in Weston, Missouri, offers a variety of farm goods for sale as well as activities for families, and is a place for receptions, church and school picnics and weddings.

This goat hopes I can read the sign at Red Barn Farm: Goat Feeding Station.  Lucky for her, there were several children who didn't even need a sign to recognize a goat in need of a treat.

This goat hopes I can read the sign at Red Barn Farm: Goat Feeding Station. Lucky for her, there were several children who didn’t even need a sign to recognize a goat in need of a treat.

Choose a pumpkin at Red Barn Farm!

Choose a pumpkin at Red Barn Farm!

The Farmer’s House Market near Weston, Missouri, sells locally grown and produced “farm to table” products such as vegetables, fruit, honey, cheese and farm and home related items.  It's a working farm where children, youth and young adults with developmental disabilities can live, work, play and grow.

The Farmer’s House Market near Weston, Missouri, sells locally grown and produced “farm to table” products such as vegetables, fruit, honey, cheese and farm and home related items. It’s a working farm where children, youth and young adults with developmental disabilities can live, work, play and grow.

A beautiful palomino horse stands on a hill against a bright blue sky at Red Barn Farm.

A beautiful palomino horse stands on a hill against a bright blue sky at Red Barn Farm.

A scarecrow welcomes visitors to the apple orchard at Red Barn Farm.

A scarecrow welcomes visitors to the apple orchard at Red Barn Farm.

Mini white pumpkins and other produce are for sale at The Farmer's House in Weston, Missouri.

Mini white pumpkins and other produce are for sale at The Farmer’s House in Weston, Missouri.

Bride and Groom scarecrows enjoy a beautiful autumn day at Red Barn Farm in Weston, Missouri.

Bride and Groom scarecrows enjoy a beautiful autumn day at Red Barn Farm in Weston, Missouri.

About The Farmer’s House.

Red Barn Farm in Weston, Missouri.

9 Comments

Filed under Entertainment, Gardening, Kansas City, Life, Nature, Photography

Taro — It’s What’s for Dinner

These taro fries from Tropical Taco in Hanalei, Kauai, were delicious!

These taro fries from Tropical Taco in Hanalei, Kauai, were delicious!

Taro, known in the Hawaiian language as kalo, is the Hawaiian people’s most important crop. They brought it with them in their voyaging canoes when they migrated to the Hawaiian islands at least by 1,000 A.D. and possibly as early as 200 A.D. Kaua’i was the first inhabited Hawaiian island and is where most of Hawaiian taro is grown today. Seventy percent of the taro is grown in Hanalei River Valley, which includes the 917-acre Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge.  The 917-acre refuge was established in 1972 to provide nesting and feeding habitat for endangered Hawaiian water birds, including the Hawaiian duck (koloa maoli), coot (‘alae ke’oke’o), moorhen (‘alae ‘ula), and stilt (ae’o).

The Hanalei River was designated an American Heritage River on July 30, 1998. The major bridge across the river (still one lane) is on Hawaii Route 560, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Hawaii.  When you’re waiting to cross the bridge to the town of Hanalei, you can see the taro fields beyond.

A taro field in the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge in northern Kauai.

A taro field in the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge in northern Kauai.

A tractor prepares a taro field in the Hanalei River Valley.

A tractor prepares a taro field in the Hanalei River Valley.

Water flows from a taro field in Limahuli Garden in northern Kauai. The rock walls you can see in the background are part of an important archeological site and are about 700 years old.

Water flows from a taro field in Limahuli Garden in northern Kauai. The rock walls you can see in the background are part of an important archeological site and are about 700 years old.

The rock walls surrounding the taro fields are estimated to be about 700 years old in the Limahuli Tropical Botanical Garden in north Kauai west of Hanalei. The rock walls were part of an irrigation system that diverted some water from the Limahuli River to grow taro.

The rock walls surrounding the taro fields are estimated to be about 700 years old in the Limahuli Tropical Botanical Garden in north Kauai west of Hanalei. The rock walls were part of an irrigation system that diverted some water from the Limahuli River to grow taro.

I've never eaten a McDonald's pie before, but we couldn't resist trying this taro version at a McDonald's in Lihue, Kauai. It tasted like pineapple, which was likely an added flavor, because our taro fries didn't taste like pineapple. Anyway, it wasn't bad for a fried fast food pie.

I’ve never eaten a McDonald’s pie before, but we couldn’t resist trying this taro version at a McDonald’s in Lihue, Kauai. It tasted like pineapple, which was likely an added flavor, because our taro fries didn’t taste like pineapple. Anyway, it wasn’t bad for a fried fast food pie.

You can see the taro fields on either side of the Hanalei River.  This is also a wildlife refuge.

You can see the taro fields on either side of the Hanalei River. This is also a wildlife refuge.

Limahuli Garden and Preserve in northern Kauai.

Limahuli Garden and Preserve in northern Kauai.

Terraced taro fields are in the Limahuli Garden and Preserve.  The rock walls you can see in the background are part of an important archeological site and are about 700 years old.

Terraced taro fields are in the Limahuli Garden and Preserve. The rock walls you can see in the background are part of an important archeological site and are about 700 years old.

Here are some traditional Hawaiian foods, including taro, dried coconut and dried fish. We tried these foods at a Hawaiian ceremony in a park on the Kona Coast of the Big Island on February 2011.

Here are some traditional Hawaiian foods, including taro, dried coconut and dried fish. We tried these foods at a Hawaiian ceremony in a park on the Kona Coast of the Big Island on February 2011.

About Poi, Poi to the World.

Wikipedia: About Taro.

Here’s an excerpt about taro in Hawaii from the Wikipedia Entry for Taro: In Hawaii, taro, or kalo in the Hawaiian language, is a traditional form of food sustenance and nutrition, known from ancient Hawaiian culture. The contemporary Hawaiian diet consists of many tuberous plants, particularly sweet potato and taro. Some of the uses for taro include poi, table taro, taro chips, and luau leaf. In Hawaii, taro is farmed under either dryland or wetland conditions. Taro farming in the Hawaiian islands is especially challenging because of difficulties in accessing fresh water. Taro is usually grown in pondfields known as loʻi in Hawaiian. Cool, flowing water yields the best crop. Typical dryland or upland varieties (varieties grown in watered but not flooded fields) in Hawaii are lehua maoli and bun long, the latter widely known as Chinese taro. Bun long is used for making taro chips. Dasheen (also called “eddo”) is another “dryland” variety of C. esculenta grown for its edible corms or sometimes just as an ornamental plant.

The Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service puts the 10-year median production of taro in the Hawaiian Islands at about 6.1 million pounds (2,800 t; Viotti, 2004). However, 2003 taro production in Hawaii was only 5 million pounds (2,300 t), an all-time low (record keeping started in 1946). The previous low, reached in 1997, was 5.5 million pounds (2,500 t). Despite generally growing demand, production was even lower in 2005: only 4 million pounds, with kalo for processing into poi accounting for 97.5%. Urbanization has driven down harvests from a high of 14.1 million pounds (6,400 t) in 1948, but more recently the decline has resulted from pests and diseases. A non-native apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) is a major culprit in the current crop decline. Also, a plant rot disease traced to a newly identified species of the fungal genus Phytophthora now plagues crops throughout the state. Although pesticides could control both pests to some extent, pesticide use in the pondfields is barred because of the clear opportunity for chemicals to quickly migrate into streams and then into the ocean.

Important aspects of Hawaiian culture revolves around taro cultivation and consumption. For example, the newer name for a traditional Hawaiian feast, luau, comes from the taro. Young taro tops baked with coconut milk and chicken or octopus arms are frequently served at luaus. Also, one cannot fight when a bowl of poi is open. By ancient Hawaiian custom, it is considered disrespectful to fight in front of an elder. One should not raise the voice, speak angrily, or make rude comments or gestures. An open poi bowl is connected to this concept because Haloa (Taro) is the name of the first-born son of the parents who begat the human race. The ancient Hawaiians identified so strongly with taro that the Hawaiian term for family, `ohana, is derived from the word `oha, the shoot or sucker which grows from the taro corm. As young shoots grow from the corm, so people grow from their family.

11 Comments

Filed under Food, Gardening, Photography, Travel