Sunday, June 7, 2020



1 single pie crust rolled and fitted into a 9" pie pan
1/2 cup unsalted butter
about 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice from 2 lemons
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1-pound bag frozen strawberries, thawed
2 cups fresh berries, washed and stemmed
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon juice
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Melt the butter, and stir in the lemon
juice, salt, sugar, flour and cornstarch. Add the eggs and
whisk until the mixture is well combined.
Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell.
Bake the pie on the bottom shelf for 30 minutes until the
center is set. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool.

Make the strawberry glaze in a medium saucepan, mix the thawed frozen berries and their juice with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and salt.

Bring the strawberry mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
When it is clear and thickened, remove it from the heat and cool.
Fold in the fresh berries, and mound the glaze atop the pie.

Garnish with whipped cream, sliced strawberries and lemon balm leaves. Store the pie, covered, in the fridge.

Thursday, June 4, 2020


Growing Your Own Sweet Potato Starts  

We love sweet potatoes and they grow very well here in the Heartland with our long warm growing season.  I usually order my sweet potato starts via mail order but this spring I experienced “sticker shock” when I discovered it would cost me $31 with shipping for 12 measly sweet potato starts!   “Too much”, I said, “there has to be a better way”.  I was having lunch soon after with a librarian friend who has been a life long farmer and described to me how she creates her own sweet potato starts every spring.  
She picks up a couple tubers from the produce department of her local grocery store. After washing them gently, she inserts 4 toothpicks around the middle and sets the tube upright in a glass of water.  Finally she places it in a sunny window and waits.  

This really works!  Even though spring is over, you can try this because our growing season is plenty long to grow sweet potatoes. I had one potato upside down, but as soon as I righted it stem-side up, it sent out shoots. In a few weeks, the eyes of the potato begin to sprout and grow.  When they get to 3 or 4 inches tall, you can snap them off at the tuber and place them in a jar of water whereupon they will immediately send out roots.  Once rooted, pot each start in a small pot with potting soil and place outside in a protected place to acclimate and to continue to grow before setting into their permanent growing area.  

If you are really feeling adventurous, you can make your own Sweet Potato Composting Tree.
This compost tree allows you to grow sweet potatoes on the lower level while feeding them with kitchen scraps and yard waste at the top.

What You Need

Plastic-covered work surface
Large batch of Hypertufa 
 Instructions here:

Black marker
Large piece of cardboard
2” wide masking tape
Large plastic bag
Stack of scrap paper or newspaper

Concrete trowel 
A brick
Four foot length of rebar or pipe
Pair of mud gloves
20-ounce tin can with bottom and top removed.

What You Do

1. Draw a large half-circle on the piece of cardboard with the black marker.  A hula-hoop is a good size if you must trace something, but I suggest just free-handing it and a bit larger, because larger is easier.  It will be wonky and uneven and that’s OK for this part.

2. Roll the half circle into a cone and secure with masking tape.  Pack the cone with crumpled scrap paper to make it solid and crisscross the bottom of the cone with tape to hold the paper inside. 
3. Cover the cone with a large plastic bag, pull it tight around the form and secure with masking tape.  You’ll use quite a bit of tape for this process.

4. Place the prepared cone mold on a plastic covered work surface.

5.  Mix up a large batch of Hypertufa.  If you run out, just mix more.

6. Start packing the hypertufa around the base of the cone, making a complete ring around the base of the cone.  Punch and press into as close to a circular shape as possible- it does not need to be perfect. The thickness should be at least 1 ½”. 
 7. Continue to pack the tufa onto the cone forming it ring by ring until your reach the top.  To finish at the top, make a softball -size ball of tufa, place it on the top peak and mold onto the form to shape.  This will ensure you have adequate material at the tip.
Tip: Stick a small piece of rebar into the top to hold an ornament for a nice finishing touch.

8. Allow to sit for several hours to stiffen and then use the concrete trowel to divide the cone into three sections. Slice all the way through the tufa touching the cone form with the trowel. You want to thoroughly divide the cone into three sections.

9. Once divided into sections, use the can to punch four holes in each of the bottom two sections. Twist the can into the tufa surface until you reach the cone form. Stager the holes in the second section form those on the bottom.  
10. Allow to set overnight or even a day or two until the tufa has set and hardened but is still “green” ( dark gray and still damp).  Carefully remove the sections from the mold and clean the edges using gloved hands.  If the hole centers have not come out, carefully punch them out and smooth the edges.

11. Allow to cure and dry out for several days.  Meanwhile, find a large pot to serve as the base for your compost tree. Cut a circle from a ¾ inch piece of scrap plywood that is a bit larger than the rim of your pot but under the measurement of the bottom of your compost tree base. Cut out the center as well.  I ended up with a ring about 4 inches thick.  Center this on top of the large pot stand.  
12. Place the bottom section of the compost tree on top of the plywood ring.  Fill the bottom of the pot and the lowest level of the compost tree with good garden soil.  Plant a sweet potato start in each of the four holed of the base section.

13. Position the middle section of the compost tree on top of the base section and fill the edges with dirt, leaving a bowl-like depression in the center to receive compostable material. Plant four more sweet potato starts on each of the holes of the middle section.  Water from the top and put the cone lid in position.

14. When the sweet potato vines begin to grow train them around the hypertufa cone and soon you will have a green compost tree as a functional yet interesting feature in your garden.