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Peach Patrol!

Every year, we wait patiently for the freestone peaches to be perfectly ripe so we can begin making preserves, brandied peaches, and peach pies. Freestone peaches are the best to cook with because the fruit comes easily away from the pit. Cling peaches, the ones with fruit that sticks to the pit, generally ripen a couple of weeks earlier than freestones. There are several cultivars of each kind–some sweeter and juicier than others.

This year, warm, rainy weather across the South has accelerated the growing seasons. The mayhaws, which are supposed to be ripe in May, were all harvested by mid-April. And the cling peaches, which we usually get in June, were already ripening in mid-May.

Looks like the freestones season is about to begin! Please leave alerts about where you are finding the best peaches this year in the comments section!

Peach Pie Recipe after the jump! read more Peach Patrol! »

Hot Sauce at Home: Fermented Pepper Sauce, Part 1

My first foray into making Lousiana pepper sauce started with a search for red chiles. Tabasco chiles were introduced to Louisiana in the 1800s and became the favorite chile for bottled pepper sauces. The recipe included the elaborate step of fermenting the ripe red peppers in oak barrels. Pepper pickers carried a stick painted with the shade of red that the peppers needed to reach. The ripeness was important because you need a decent level of sugar to get the fermentation process going.

read more Hot Sauce at Home: Fermented Pepper Sauce, Part 1 »

Eating Roses

My daughter Katie Walsh writes for a food blog called Whisked Foodie She called me the other day to ask where to get edible roses. (If you have a source, please share it under “comments.”) This question seems to come up once a year around this time. I used to grow organic roses so I could cook with them, but growing roses without chemicals proved too be to big a challenge for my modest gardening skills.

Still, the question brought back fond memories of Valentine’s Day cooking projects.

This article and the recipe for Quail in Rose Petal Sauce ran in column I used to write for Natural History Magazine “A Matter of Taste.” The story was published in May of 1999. (story and recipe after the jump)

read more Eating Roses »

My Bumper Crop of Easter Eggs

What a year for radishes! A couple of months ago, I bought a mixed radish seed blend from Johnny’s Seeds called Easter Egg. I planted the seeds in mid-October and harvested this first bunch of radishes a week before Thanksgiving. I served the radishes on the relish tray and put the greens in my […]

Foodways Texas Urban Garden Initiative

Representatives from Houston Food Bank, Last Organic Outpost, Covenant Community Capital, the Harris County office of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and Foodways Texas met on Friday to discuss some intriguing urban garden opportunities.
read more Foodways Texas Urban Garden Initiative »

My Organic Garden: The Lamb's Tongue Lettuce Got Slimed!

I thought the lamb’s tongue lettuce in my little backyard organic garden was doing great. Then the leaves all started falling over and dying. Then the the other lettuces on either side of the lamb’s tongue started shriveling. Thanks to my bad gardening practices, my lettuce crop was destroyed. I had to pull […]

The Winged Bean Wonder Boy

Combine the alternative gardening passion of Michael Pollan, the eccentric marketing genius of Bonny Doon’s Randall Graham and the boyish good looks of cinema idol Zac Efron and you’ve got Houstonian David Cater, the star of the H-town Farmer’s Market scene. You can’t miss Cater at the Houston Urban Harvest market on Richmond on Saturdays or the Houston City Hall market on Wednesday mornings–he’s the one with the moony-eyed women following him around clutching his winged beans and Chinese cabbage.

read more The Winged Bean Wonder Boy »

Will Texas Legalize Bake Sales?

State Rep Eddie Rodriguez

State Rep Eddie Rodriguez (D – Austin) held a Town Hall Meeting on Monday to discuss how the Texas legislature can help support the Texas food economy in the upcoming 2011 session. Gathering around plates of locally produced cheeses, olives, duck confit and rabbit-venison pâté at the East Side Show Room, Austin food distributors, urban farmers and sustainable food advocates argued their cases for change. The lack of support for small organic farms at the state level was bemoaned at length

One measure that everyone in the room got behind was The Texas Cottage Food Law, aka the “Bake Sale Bill.” We discussed this issue with Ag Commish Todd Staples and Senator Whitmire last week.
read more Will Texas Legalize Bake Sales? »

Go Texan, Eat Local, Support Texas Cottage Food

The Go Texan Restaurant Round-Up kicked off yesterday. As part of the month-long promotion, restaurants around the state will be featuring local food products and donating part of their profits to the Food Bank. Grassfed beef meatloaf at Beaver’s in Houston sounded good. So did the shrimp at Eddie V’s.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples hosted a breakfast at Lola’s to kick off the Houston portion of the program. Staples is from Palestine. We started talking about disappearing East Texas restaurants at the press breakfast. There aren’t many Southern-style restaurants anymore we both agreed. “I used to eat at a place called Billy Burgers in Neches when I was a state rep.,” he said. “He got homemade pies from a lady that lived nearby.” The health department doesn’t allow that today.

Over-regulation is one of the problems that makes it difficult for people to make a living, he said. Senator John Whitmire, who was also sitting at our table, agreed and said he found himself becoming more of a libertarian every day. I asked the two politicians if they would support an exemption from health department regulations that would allow home cooks to sell products like pies and preserves at farmer’s markets. (Such “Cottage Food Laws” already exist in many states.) Both Staples and Whitmire agreed that this was an excellent idea.

read more Go Texan, Eat Local, Support Texas Cottage Food »

Time to Tear Up the Lawn Again

I think the Victory Garden Revival started last spring. Americans were going to tear up their lawns and plant vegetables in new home gardens in record numbers. I am not sure how it went exactly. I just know I missed this groundswell of garden activism on account of the fact that I live in Texas where people do most of their gardening in the fall. I was admiring the heirloom lettuce in the seed catalog at breakfast just this morning.

read more Time to Tear Up the Lawn Again »