Sunday, November 13, 2016

November 13, 2016- the first frost

We had our first frost Friday night. It seemed fitting. I do not remember a frost ever being this late.

Since I do not want to talk about anything else- let me tell you about the garden.

The great plant migration inside has begun in earnest. There are so many plants to protect. Many make it as far as the garage the first night.

       Actually I put many plants in the garage, and then will take them somewhere else the next morning. The next frost is next weekend, so I can take my time bringing some inside for good. As it is we are in the middle of November. They will be able to go back out in only 4-5 months. That is a lot better than if the first frost was in late September.
      Here is sort of an inventory.
      There are cacti of all sorts. There are christmas cacti and orchid cacti and regular cacti. That is a lot of plants by itself. If you remember I obtained about 8 new little orchid cacti this summer. They nicely fit on a plant stand, for now. Some of the orchid cactus plants require younger muscles.
      Then there are the orchids, clivias, crotons, amaryllis, and scheffleras ( have you tried to spell that lately?). Who am I forgetting? Oh, I remember. There are Bougainvilleas, poinsettias, and hibiscus. Then there are the jade plants. We, or rather the younger muscle person, brought in the 3 bigget ones. Two of them are setting buds. They will have a sweet little white flower in clusters at the end of a branch. The 60 new jade plant starts are now in the light stand in the basement.
      There are all the plants without names. Actually I just found one name with Mr. Google's help. Schwartzkopf aeonium. It is black. It, like many of other wonderful succulents, came from the HyVee in May and cost $3 each. A number of them  have found a winter home on the plant stand at the office. 
       You can then try to bring annuals inside for the winter. When will this stop? I must keep the annual asclepias. What about the potted parsley? Wouldn't that be nice in a few weeks to use in cooking? Did I mention there were five pots?
      There you have it. That is the fall migration in 2016. The goal is to find places for them all inside.

With the very late frost there were plants in the garden that had enough time to do things they have not done before.

This little daylily rebloomed. I know stella doro blooms this time of year. I am not fond of that plant. This is a daylily called Bright Eyed Doll. It was amazing in that with the lower temperatures, this single flower bloomed for 3 days. In July they bloom for one day, which is why they are called daylilies.

Another plant that developed more than ever before was the popcorn plant. What you ask is a popcorn plant. Its botanical name is Cassia didymobotrya. It is also called "Popcorn Cassia."

It makes these wonderful buds on top then eventually bloom a nice yellow.
I have grown it for a few years but it never lives long enough to flower. Now we know it just needs the frost to stay away until November.
Actually this only has half day sun. With full sun I think it will bloom in Iowa.

The one company that sells this plant mail order that I could find says it is an African perennial legume that has a "new found popularity". 
One measure of that  popularity is that it was available for too much money at the local hardware store this year.

I would like to now show you the difference between amateur and professional gardens. Mine is the amateur. 

Here is the picture that inspired me to grow this plant. It had a different name but it was the same plant as far as I could tell. This picture was taken at the very professional Longwood Gardens in late September, 2011. Here is the picture that inspired me to grow this plant. It had a different name but it was the same plant as far as I could tell. This picture was taken at the very professional Longwood Gardens in late September, 2011.

This plant was called Candlestick Senna, also Senna alata, and was listed as a legume from South America. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Wikipedia, that great garden source, says it is sometime called the popcorn senna. It is also called Christmas candle and described as a small shrub. Another source says it can get to 30 feet tall, when it does not get frozen back.
Maybe someone else can puzzle through the difference between a senna and a cassia.
I should add there is a local wildflower in Iowa that looks very much like this only without the dramatic buds and flowers. My neighbor has one the is a perennial and gets to almost 5 feet tall.

A few weeks ago I posted a great picture of a reblooming iris. It was a new plant and only had about 6 flowers. I wanted to show you this picture to comment again on reblooming iris. A neighbor had this wonderfully fragrant deep purple iris that rebloomed with several dozen flowers, over almost a week. The late fall can be colorful, if you do not have a frost.

Some of the last color in the November garden was this great anemone. It actually survived the frost. Some plants do and some do not. Some plants survive hard freezes. Like Kale. Sometimes Kale will threaten to last through the winter.

The frost finished the zinnias. It did bronze this previously red or pink zinnia. The color is marvelously change.

Here is the little airplant. I think it is blooming. You can sort of see a purple thing with a little white thing on the end. It is now hanging over the kitchen sink.
Last winter I sprayed it about every time I did the dishes. That seemed to make it happy.

Here is Julia telling you about what to do with another fall vegetable.

                                                     Left over Squash Pudding

It was a bad week for the country and therefore a bad week for me, but my plan is not to talk about it. Rather, I will talk about what to do when the acorn squash does not come out even. This happens at our house when Maggie joins us for supper on an acorn squash night. One half is left over. When that happens, I make squash pudding, really more like squash custard.

Here are the cooked squash halves. I prepare acorn squash by cutting it in half length-wise, cleaning out the seeds, turning the pieces upside down in a rimmed pan, adding some water and baking until they give up. We eat acorn squash with a bit of butter and a bit of brown sugar. We do not stuff them with rice or meat or any such thing, although I hear that there are people who do that.

Here is the leftover squash guy. On Saturday afternoon, I took it out of the refrigerator (where it had been for a couple of days in a plastic container). I scooped the pulp out of the rind and put it in a bowl and mashed it up. I have a very old potato masher, and I like to use it when I can. Mashing with a fork would also work. The texture of squash that is hand-mashed is a bit coarse. If that is not to your liking, you could use a stick blender or food processor, I suppose. I don't mind a bit of texture. Then I measured, and I had 1 cup of pulp. At this point, you should turn your oven on to 350 degrees.

I put the pulp in a bowl and added 1/2 cup of sugar, about 1/2 tablespoon of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a slightly heaping 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger and a little more than 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. A couple of notes before I go on. I think that one could use cornstarch instead of the flour or even leave it out altogether. Also I am of the grate-your-own-nutmeg school, and I actually think I may have put in a bit more than I say above. It is hard to estimate when one is grating a nutmeg. And this recipe is not acorn squash specific. If you find yourself with a cup of butternut squash or a cup of pumpkin or a cup of hubbard squash, go right ahead.

Then I added 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk, about 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of butter and about 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of molasses. A couple more notes. The easiest way to deal with the melted butter and molasses is to put the butter in a stainless steel measuring cup (say a 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup), and put it on the edge a warm burner for a few minutes to melt. Watch it like a hawk so it doesn't burn, and be careful taking it off the burner as the handle may be hot. Eyeball the quantity of melted butter, pour the melted butter into the bowl and then use the same measuring cup for the molasses, using the eyeball measuring method. The molasses will slide nicely out of the measuring cup because of the butter. Or I suppose one could use a microwave. I don't have one (and I don't want one, either). 

Next mix everything up. I used a big whisk. One could use a hand mixer. It will not take long to mix. I baked my custard/puddings in little ramekins. I sprayed the ramekins with cooking spray (unflavored or butter flavored), and I used a 1/2 cup ladle to portion out the stuff. I ended up with 5 ramekins with 1/2 cup in each, and 1ramekin with a little less.

I put all of the little dishes in this handy baking pan. It is bigger than a 9" x 13" pan. One could of course use 2 smaller pans. Then I carefully slid the pan into the oven. Baking time was about 55-60 minutes. One knows that the pudding is done when the contents of the ramekins pass the wiggle test (that is, the contents do not wiggle when the shelf is pulled out) and more to the point,when a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean; that is wet but without glops of stuff. 

Let it cool a bit. This custard can be eaten at room temperature or cold. If one were feeling extravagant, one could top with whipped cream. Refrigerate anything not eaten; as I said, it is good cold (say for breakfast).

We are all in for a difficult time ahead. The garden is getting ready for the cold that is coming. The plants are tougher than we sometimes remember. So are we. 


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