Blog of an aspiring foodie

Archive for February, 2007

Fruits and veggies are in the ground

Posted by beer_chris on 25-February-2007

I've finally managed to find some time to get all of my garden projects in the ground.

Saturday morning I went to the Harris County Precinct 2 master gardeners plant sale – I bought about a dozen tomato plants and a couple of peppers, and got those into my garden today. The tomato garden is about half done, as I am going to mulch it this year to keep weeds down, and I am going to build a much more effective bird net frame around it as well.

Also, after 3 weeks of messing around the blueberries got planted today, although not before hours of wandering around to various lawn and garden centers to evaluate the best/cheapest potting mixes I could get. I ended up mixing about 80% Canadian Sphagnum peat and 20% organic compost mix – something with a good bit of sand in it. I mulched on top with pine bark, and hopefully this will be it.

I've had issues with finding matching concrete edging with the same type of scalloping of the stuff I already had on hand – so the rest of my patio garden is not done yet. Perhaps that's a NEXT weekend project.

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PB

Posted by beer_chris on 21-February-2007

One of my favorite foods has been in the news lately. In doing a bit of research on the topic, I've found out some interesting things. While most of us (at least those of us that were schooled since the creation of Black History Month) would associate peanut butter with George Washington Carver, that's not entirely accurate. Although Carver is credited as the father of the modern peanut farming industry because of his work with peanut plants, peanut butter has a deeper history, dating back into the late 19'th century and including such American food industry icons as the cereal magnate Kellogg brothers (they obtained the first patent for a process for making peanut paste, and coined the term 'butter' to describe it).

Additionally, the 'big' brands we all know of – Peter Pan, Jif and Skippy – have all been in existence since the early 20'th century, with very little change. Skippy, in fact, was started as an breakoff from the Peter Pan brand when one of the original inventors of the process to create creamy peanut butter created an offshoot company. In fact, Skippy was the first to create a 'crunchy' variety.

Interestingly, although I am a smooth kind of guy, this might explain why I always felt Peter Pan makes the best smooth peanut butter and Skippy makes the best crunchy – they were both the first in their industry to do both of those.

All this stuff comes from a website called www.peanutbutterlovers.com

ConAgra is in a bit of trouble of late, having been forced to recall peanut butter as a part of some type of strange salmonella poisoning. More details are easily found through Google News, but the whole thing got me wondering about peanut butter and it's position in the psyche and palate of the American consumer.

Peanut butter seems a uniquely American food – although it's fair to note I've had trouble backing that up with anything beyond subjective statements. I'm pretty sure that no matter where you go, just about every American has a jar of peanut butter in their cupboard. Whether that person actually likes peanut butter or not, it's like ketchup or Worcestershire sauce- it's one of those products you just keep around for no reason at all, and at least a few times a year you buy a new jar because you've miraculously eaten all of what you had. People like me who actually eat peanut butter regularly tend to go through the stuff a bit faster – maybe a jar a quarter – but my point is that it is one of those rare ubiquitous foods.

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Stuff about fruit

Posted by beer_chris on 3-February-2007

Goodness it's been a while since I posted anything, but I've been spending much of my time researching fruit tree planting information over the past few days/weeks, and need somewhere to post the thoughts I have and the information I've found.

First, this 'Gardenweb' forum is pretty great – every Google search I do seems to turn up exactly the question I have on this site – and almost every discussion thread includes posters from Houston or nearby cities. The below are helpful links on blueberries:

General guidelines on blueberry soil conditions
Rabbiteye Blueberry varietals and requirements

There are three types of blueberry plants – as far as I can tell – Highbush, which require lots of chill hours, primarily grown up north and can grow as tall as 10-12 feet. lowbush, which require chill hours and will grow to about 3-4 feet, and rabbiteye which can be grown in coastal climates (zone 8 and 9) and grow to about the same size as lowbush, but maybe bigger – according to some of the photos I've seen on the Extension website (and it was in a container).

On citrus – here's the guide I used to help me plant my blood orange.

I've recently figured out that the main secret to how large the tree will get is the rootstock used – very little citrus comes true from seed (save for a few mandarin types) because almost everything is grafted onto what is known as a trifoliate orange – see Wiki for more information. This is done to improve the cold hardiness of the plant. Citrus is native to India, for what it is worth. I had no idea.

Anyway, there are two main types of trifoliate rootstock – the trifoliate (or chinese bitter orange) and the flying dragon trifoliate, which is a dwarf variety. True trifoliate will grow to potentially 20', while flying dragon will top out at 6-8 ft. Obviously this matters quite a bit in terms of where you will place the tree.

The fruit tree sale where I bought my blueberries and citrus noted in the buying guide which rootstock was being used – but in both cases (for my 'Moro' blood orange and the 'Improved Meyer' Lemon I got my mother) both FD (for Flying Dragon) and TF (Trifoliate) were noted next to the name – I suppose both were available. My Moro is a Flying Dragon type (it was on the tag in the pot), and so should top out at about 7 feet – which is what the woman at the sale told me.

I have really wrung my hands out over this – mainly over where the trees should be placed since I already have so many mature trees on my property, so it's nice to know for sure what I'm after. I've planted my Moro near my vegetable garden between my sweet gum tree and my neighbor's willow – there's just enough 'real estate' between these trees for a small tree – but not something 20' high.

The big blueberry garden project should be completed by next weekend. I'll order some new dirt (and some organic material for my veggie garden while I'm at it) and prep the bed for the berries. Hopefully I can get some pictures up here when I get it done.

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