Cold front, freezing temperatures and northern winds … winter is here in Houston. Due to frost warning, I had to harvest tomatoes from my September-planted tomato plants. From 8 tomato plants, the yield was about 8 pounds of cherry tomatoes and few Brandywines. They need some time to ripen, and what I have now would be enough to prepare some comforting soopas and sambars for this coming winter.
Garden dreams – When they come true, it’s a glorious feeling.
One of my lifelong garden dreams has been growing turai at home. This summer, beautiful turai vines smiled with pretty yellow flowers and it has been turai tanmayam ever since. Total number of turai harvested so far was around 60 from four turai vines. Garden goddess is in good mood, it’s the only reason I could think of for this blessing.
Turai is such a lovable vegetable with succulent, white flesh and delicate, sweet flavor. Tender turai doesn’t take much time to cook and digests easily, nourishing the spirit. We love our turai and we have been cooking many great turai recipes to our hearts content for the past one month.
The following turai recipe is Vijay’s creation. Tasty turai, little bit tomato and some chana dal, cooked together, it was a good meal and a simple solution to overwhelmed brain with excessive turai.
Turai with Chana Dal
(for 2 or 4, for 1 or 2 meals)
3 fresh and tender turai, arm length each
1/4 cup chana dal, soaked in water for about two hours
2 semi ripe tomatoes
4 green chillies, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon, turmeric
1/2 teaspoon, salt or to taste
For cumin tadka: 1 tablespoon peanut oil,
pinch each-cumin and mustard seeds and few fresh curry leaves
Peel turai ridges. Rinse the vegetable well. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
In a heavy pan, heat peanut oil. Add and toast cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves to fragrance.
Add the rehydrated chana dal to the skillet. Saute the dal to pale red.
Add tomato and cook to soft.
Add turai pieces. Sprinkle turmeric. Mix well. Cover and cook the turai for about five minutes or until the pieces become soft.
Stir in salt. Sprinkle a tablespoon of grated coconut if you wish. Cook another couple of minutes and turn off the heat.
Serve the turai with chana dal warm with rice, chapati or bread for a light and tasty meal.
Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus Coccineus), also known as Scarlet Rose Mallow or Swamp Hibiscus, is a one of a kind, native perennial plant. Hardy in warm areas, this hibiscus is known for its maple like 5-lobed leaves and star like 5-petal blooms. The big, bright red blossoms last a day, with new flowers quickly taking their place. This hardy perennial is a butterfly and hummingbird magnet.
I have this plant in my garden since last year and I am very pleased with its low maintenance and high blooms appearance. After seeing the flowers this year, many of my friends wanted to have this plant in their garden. I shared the seeds with them. I have some more seeds for sale for those of you interested in native plant gardening.
Seeds sprout easily in soil or in containers with enough sunlight and water exposure.
Once established, the plant does not need much care or water.
Dies down in winter and comes back again in late spring from seeds.
Profuse, pretty blooms from July to October.
Scarlet Rose Mallow (Hibiscus Coccineus): 20 seeds for $4
We planted a small fig plant (Celeste) last March. It survived the unseasonably snowy winter last year and has grown into a healthy looking bush with plenty of branches. Thanks to the pleasant spring season we had this year.
The branches are filled with fruit now and I see at least 40 to 50 figs in various stages of development. They started to ripen since June last week. Everyday I would see 6 to 7 ripe figs for the past one week. I leave one or two ripe fruits for the birds, and pluck the remaining for us.
We are eating them raw right away, because these luscious ripe figs are tasty, delicate and juicy. They have soft skin that splits with ripeness emitting a fruity aroma and sweet honey like nectar. I had the pleasure of eating fresh figs at my grandparents home in Nandikotkur when I was little. But never thought it would be possible here. This happy occasion reminds me of our Yogi VemanaPadyalu recitals of childhood.
I found these dried seema chintakaayalu at Canino Farmers Market, Houston. Here they are sold under the name Camachile fruits, shelled from the pods and partially dried.
In Nandyala, India, they were my childhood delicacy and we used to eat them fresh. They are readily available from trees lining the village fields and roads and on sale at the roadside stalls and public markets. The fresh, green pods ripen to pinkish red pods and that signals snack time not only for humans, but also for monkeys, parrots, and other creatures. The mature pods have whitish-pink flesh around shiny brown seeds and the soft flesh taste sweet and tart. We love this nutritious, nature’s snack and it’s a delight to find them here in Houston again after over a decade.
June started with warm weather and thunderstorms here in Houston.
Yellow squash and zucchini plants are in their final stage, so had to remove them. They were such characters with those big, prolific leaves, flowers and fruit. With them gone, the veggie patch seemed little empty this evening.
Planted few more seeds of turai, chikkudu and karela.
On green leafy front, sowed green and red amaranth (thotakura) seeds and another patch of gongura seeds last week. They thrive in hot weather and the seedlings are coming up nicely.
Kept few cucumbers on the vine until they are very big and mature for seeds.
Weighed the tomato harvest today. Yield was 10 pounds. Another 5 pounds from the last two weeks for a total of 15 pounds from 12 plants. There are still at least another two pounds of tomatoes on the plants. Not bad.
Tomato plants are growing tall, but there are no new flowers/fruit. Would it be helpful to prune the tomato plants to encourage new growth and fruit? Appreciate response from experienced tomato growers.
Here are some vegetable harvest photos for this week: