Category Archives: Seeds

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Scoville Scale

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Scoville Scale

Some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on...”~Robert Palmer (via Duran Duran)

This pepper is hot. But what does that mean? Hot when it comes to the spiciness of a pepper is subjective, right? I mean, two serranos in a Thai stir-fry is approaching the right “heat” for my son, but has me running for the milk and an alternative meal. Subjective.

If only there were some way to quantify the spiciness of a pepper without relying on the conjecture of an individuals palate. Thank you Wilbur Scoville.

In 1912, Wilbur Scoville devised a method called the Scoville Organoleptic Test, giving us a scale that measures the capsaicinoid content of a substance. In other words, how “hot” something is depends on how much capsaicin is in it.


So, what’s not and what’s hot?

The scale is pretty straightforward. If a pepper has a lot of capsaicin, it’s hot. If it has less capsaicin, it’s mild. Here is a nicely colored picture available from

Scoville scale

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Let’s Salsa! Creating a Beautiful Salsa Garden

Let’s Salsa! Creating a Beautiful Salsa Garden

I love themed gardens. I think I’ve mentioned that before. It’s fun to decide what the theme will be for your garden and then to find all the things you will put in your bed. This includes the plants but also this is where you can get really creative with accessories for the garden in the way of structures or decorations. In this way a themed garden is only limited by your budget and your imaginations, and I suppose the area you have to plant.

Today I want to talk about salsa gardens. I do a salsa garden every year. Even for the year that we lived in a high rise apartment in Houston, I had a salsa garden on the 14 x 12 patio. Although it was just container tomatoes, cilantro and jalapenos, it got the job done.

Now that I have my country place with room to sprawl I have found my problem to be…stop…adding…plants! = ) This is a great problem to have, and I am certainly not complaining. I’m not bragging, I’m blessed.

So let me give you some ideas about what I think makes a great salsa garden. I break this in to five sections: tomatoes, greens, peppers, onions, other. I try to grow at least three of these. The tomatoes are just always best home grown. Greens are inexpensive and really easy, so why not grow them? Peppers are pretty easy too and can easily be in a container. I have only started doing onions since I have had a little more room to do so. The “other” section is almost always gotten from a farmers market as these are usually more exotic finds.

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Paisley Plant of the Week: Ground Cherry

Paisley Plant of the Week: Ground Cherry

Ground Cherry? Where have you been all of my life?

Grown just like a tomato, this gem of the garden is a delightful addition to any garden. If you love to make jams and pies but don’t have room for many large bushes, this could be an option for you. So what is it?

Ground Cherry Plant

Ground Cherry

Physalis peruviana

You can put Ground Cherry anywhere you would put a tomato plant. The differences are small, but worth mentioning. For one thing, Ground Cherry is quick to germinate and grows faster than tomatoes. Another slight difference is Ground Cherry stems are stiff and rarely if ever, need to be staked. And I guess the most important difference is that the fruit grows in a paper like husk.

Ground Cherry Harvest

They remind me of the Chinese lanterns…fun. Oh, and they have pretty flowers too. A ground cherry by your eggplants make a lovely row.

Flower of "Clammy" Ground Cherry

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A Time to Reap. A Time to Sow. Timing is Key!

A Time to Reap. A Time to Sow. Timing is Key!

“If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”

“A plan is a list of actions arranged in whatever sequence is thought likely to achieve an objective.”

“Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining outside when Noah built the Ark.”

We’ve heard it all before. We must make a plan. Planning is good.

I must say though, in gardening, plans can change. This is sticky for me. I’m not obsessive as to be diagnosed as such, but I have tendencies. You know, I’m the kind of person that makes a list of the lists she needs to make. The kind of person that when she realizes she has left it off of the list, writes it in to cross it off. Yep. I’m that girl.

At this point you either, know me, hate me, or are me. I completely understand all three of these. I know…that meticulous planning helps me feel in control when there is no way to completely be in control. I hate…that I make myself and my immediate family crazy obsessing about seemingly inconsequential details. I am…aware that is just how I am and I, and my immediately family, are just going to have to deal with it.

As this is not a post about psychological awareness per se , let’s get to the garden.

There are certain gardening schedules that we really must be very strict about in order to get a good result. On the other hand, there are some things that we can loosen up about without adversely effecting our outcome or ruining our lives. As with most things in life, it seems we must do our best to prepare for an outcome, then adapt and overcome if it all goes pear shaped. It’s the ballet of the garden.

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Stuff You Missed in Botany: Germination

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Germination

One of my favorite Podcasts is Stuff You Missed History Class. I thought it might be enjoyable use this format to talk about stuff in Botany that will help gardeners.

With everyone getting their seed packets out, I think it’s a good time to talk about germination. Learning about seeds can help you increase your germination rates, helping you get more plants to yield each year. We all want that, right?

For the most part, a seed is very much like a chicken egg. They have a shell, or seed coat, an embryo that is a baby plant, and a food source, called cotyledons.

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Paisley Plant of the Week: “Gretel” Aubergine

Paisley Plant of the Week: “Gretel” Aubergine

Aubergine, eggplant, melongene, brinjal, or guinea squash, call them what you will, just make sure I have plenty in the garden.

Confession time, until very recently, five years ago, I was not an eggplant fan.

You see there had been an eggplant “incident”.

I, in all my wisdom, at the tender age of 15, you know, when you still know everything, decided I would cook for our family. Maria made the same thing every week.  You could construct a calendar by her. Monday meatloaf, Tuesday lamb, Wednesday chicken, etc. So after some considerable buttering up of my Grampa Wilson, I made my pitch. I laid it on thick, Maria had enough work to do, I could use more responsibilities, we really needed more nutritional meals. You name it, I used it. And…it worked!

Well sort of, he gave me Thursday. Thursday was to be my night, all me, oh forever more, what had I done? Of course, Grampa Wilson had seen through the buttering up, and trumped me with ease. Maria and Carlos stayed for supper every night but Grampa said that on Thursdays, their whole family would be coming. Supper for ten every Thursday night. Glub…glub…I’m drowning here!

So, I did what I always do when I find myself in a conundrum. I  hit the library and every local book store. I came home with scads of books. Over the next week I came up with a one month plan for Thursday night meals. Week one went without a hitch. We had stuffed pork chops, baby carrots, salad with homemade vinaigrette and apple pie for dessert. Easy peasy. Well sort of, it’s really hard cooking for that many people.

Week two…the eggplant incident.

Now as I’ve already said, I was 15 and I did know everything. Week two is Ratatouille. So easy a rat could make a whole restaurant with it, right? Yes, well there seems to be a little more to it than that. What turned out of that kitchen was so beautiful, it was a kaleidoscope of colors with the eggplant, the tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, Parmesan, garlic…it was beautiful and shiny.

Unfortunately, we had to eat it, not take pictures with it.

What it was, was bitter. Very bitter. Unbelievably, disgustingly, undeniably bitter. Because it had so many veggies in it, I had not done sides. I had made Rosemary bread and custard for dessert but bread and custard were not going to fill ten hungry bellies.

In true Grampa Wilson fashion, he saved my bacon. In 45 minutes he made a London Broil and mashed parsnips that, with the custard and bread took care of things.

I thought for sure Thursday cooking duties were over for me, and I must say I was a little relieved, they were overrated. I had done it for two whole weeks and that was about enough.

Fast forward 22ish years. I have never attempted eggplant again. By this time I have my own household, a husband, four kids, a huge garden. I come across seeds for white eggplant. White eggplant? Fascinating. I have some room in one corner of the garden, so why not?

It ends up, Eggplant, where have you been all these years?

So, if for any reason, you haven’t tried growing eggplant, let me introduce you to a real beauty to tame the beast.

Eggplant: Family Solanaceae, Genus Solanum

Like a tomato and potato in the family of the  nightshade. They are natives of India, but are grown everywhere. The particular eggplant I will tell you about today is “Gretel”. “Gretel” is the reason I started to grow and love eggplants. To start with, “Gretel” is white, not purple. “Gretel” is long and skinny, not teardrop at all.

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Fight the urge

Fight the urge

We have had an incredibly mild winter. This has annoyed me for many reasons. The first reason is that when we prepared to move last summer, my youngest son, Patrick was aggravated that he was going to have to leave the saltwater pool that he loved so dearly. I, in all my wisdom, comforted him with stories of the snow we would get to play in since we were moving to a much northerly climate that has had snow every year for the last 160 years. So, we’re here, and of course, not…one…flake! In actuality we have only had three days of barely freezing temperatures. Is my eight year old scowling at me? I think he is.

As for the garden. Because of this freakishly warm weather, I am now aching to be in the garden. C’mon it’s been sunny and seventy-two degrees for a week. So I am fighting the urge! I know I must fight it. For if I were to give in and plant something outside, those precious little seedlings would undoubtedly be clobbered by the long arm of the north. February and March will most likely now be unseasonably cold.

So this is how I put my cravings in check. Seed catalogs help. As I said before, seeds started arriving at my house about the middle of December. My middle son, Jonathan and I have been starting seedlings inside in preparation for this years garden. It helps to start some new seeds when I’m itching to get outside.

Getting the structures ready has been helpful as well. Jonathan and I have also been making trellis’ and cages for the melons and cucumbers we’ll have this year. I have a plan for pvc towers to grow melons on that we are installing this week. I’ll post pictures when we get them erected. I’ve also sharpened my tools and oiled the wood.

Finally, when I get really anxious about the wait, I work on my compost. I know that I’ll be needing plenty of that brown gold to feed my babies when spring actually does come calling. So, I water, and turn, and add horse poop to the compost pile. In the compost department, it has actually been beneficial to have had so many warm days. The lasagna compost beds have been settling down nicely.

See Patrick, you’ve gotten to play outside more than usual for January and mommy’s compost is cooking faster. Still scowling. Sigh. I guess I’ll start some new seeds. Have a paisley day.

Seeds! Glorious Seeds!

Seeds! Glorious Seeds!

The seeds are beginning to arrive.  The garden plan is drawn. This years plant selection has been chosen for some time now. Some seeds were saved from last year, others have been purchased and are now beginning to arrive.

I have been so excited it’s ridiculous. You know the kind of excited where you can’t sleep and you can’t sit still and all you can think about is (insert obsession here)? That’s how I’ve been about these seeds.

Why? For me, it’s all about the possibilities. When I knit or crochet one of my favorite things is picking the patterns. It’s the same with everything I do. Recipes are beautiful, lesson plans divine, don’t get me started on fabric!

The seeds are safe in their warm dry paper packets with the brightly colored illustrations of the mature plants they are meant to become. The possibilities boggle the mind. For me it’s not just the possibility of the seedlings or even the plants, it goes far beyond these. My thoughts go to the pickles I’ll put up, the salsa I’ll create, the tabasco sauce I’ll attempt to make again this year, the soap I’ll make with the lavender oil, the pesto I’ll give as Christmas presents, Rosemary pizza dough…and so on…and so on…ad infinitum. It’s all of this and so much more!