Organic Gardening

SALAD BURNET

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This is taken from the book Southern Herb Growing by Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay, 1992.
Madalene Hill was the founder of Hilltop Herb farm which now is retreat and resturant. 


Salad Burnet, Poterium sanguisorba
    An evergreen growing 12 to 18 inches high when flowering, salad burnet is easily grown from seed.  Happiest in full sun, this delightful plant is tidy in its hummock-like growth and is at its best in a deep South winter.  The dark green leaves impart a delicate cucumber flavor to the winter salad.  In hot weather the leaves become tough and taste of watermelon.  It is a good plant for both border and accent.
    A common name for burnet in Germany is pimpernel, and in France pimprenelle.  While it has a strange, small button-like flower with pale red, fringy petals, it scarcely qualifies for it's other common name, "scarlet pimpernel."  Great burnet (Sanguisorba major or S. officinalis) does qualify, with its tall, burgundy, berrylike blossoms.  Found growing in botanical gardens of eastern Europe and Russia, it is a spectacular plant with large leaves and 3-5 foot bloom stalks.
    Salad burnet was formerly classified as Sanguisorba minor from the Latin sanguis (blood) and sorbere (to stop).  It has a styptic quality, and the plant was used long ago to staunch the flow of blood.  Its new assignment to the genus Poterium (Greek- poterion- drinking cup) relates to its early use in beverages. 
      The color of burnet's small flowers is more intense on the side that gets the most sun (south or south east) - hence it was call a compass plant.  It grows wild over most of Europe.
    As with borage, the cucumber flavor is derived from the oils in the leaves of burnet.  The plant tastes like cucumber in the cool fall and spring months.  In the dead of winter, it remains evergreen but does not have much flavor, and the leaves are inclined to be tough.
    To use burnet leaves in a salad, simply cut a handful of small leaves from the center, and chop or cut them into salad greens.  Burnet grows from a crown, and new growth after shearing is very rapid.
    An excellent vinegar can be made with leaves for salads and dressing, giving a hint of cucumber flavor.  Cover the leaves and tender stems with a good quality white wine or cider vinegar, and let stand in a dark space for several weeks.

    Use burnet with asparagus, celery, beans and mushrooms.  It is great in potato salad and can be used generously in soups. 

Used with permission. From Southern Herb Growing by Madelene Hill and Gwen Barclay (Shearer Publishing).

Tomato Seeds Started

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I decided to wait to start my tomato seeds this year until after I came back from the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association conference at the beginning of February. It seems like starting them in early February makes them too big when it comes time to sell them and they need so much attention when they are growing, especially when they are tiny, I did not want to be out of town at that crucial stage. I planted them on February 16th. I made a seed starter mix from 10 parts Coconut Coir, 2 parts Pearlite, 2 parts Vermiculite, and 1 part lava sand. I used my seed flats that have trays under them to hold water. The trick is to not let them get too wet or too dry. Too wet causes fungus and the attendant fungus gnats, and too dry makes them weak and can kill them. A lady at TOFGA said you should lift up on the trays several times a day to determine the moisture level. You can tell if it is somewhat heavy that it has enough water in it. If it feels light, then you need to add water. After you do this awhile you can get the feel of it and they will be happy. I also use heated seed mats which sometimes need to be turned off during the day. To heat the greenhouse I use an oil radiator heater when needed which is typically at night. The green house can also get too hot during the day. Mine has vents at the top and bottom that fan be opened to allow heat out. When it gets really hot, I hang a large box fan from the ceiling with the door open to blow out the heat. You should try and keep the temperature between 75 and 80 degrees. Not to hot or not too cold and not too wet and not too dry is the key. I also started sweet corn in the seed flats and will put them out after the last freeze. As if anyone knows when that will be. After the seedlings get 2 sets of true leaves I will step them up into individual containers and start feeding them. The tomato varieties that I planted this year are True Gold (yellow), from Seeds of Change. From totally tomatoes I planted Indigo Rose (grown in Austin and recommended by Texas Gardener Magazine), Mexico Midget (Marble sized), Tommy Toe (Australian hybrid), Sioux (Nebraska hybrid), Copia (Yellow and Red), Black Cherry, & Umberto (pink heirloom). From my seed stock I planted Cherokee Chocolate, Genovese Costoluto, and Purple Russian. I have grown all three of these for 3 years now and saved the seed. They have all done very well. I also planted eggplant, and various pepper seeds along with sweet corn that I will put out toward the middle to the end of March. The tomatoes should be ready to sell by the end of March to benefit the Greater Dallas Organic Garden club and the White Rock East Garden tour plant sale.

Submitted by Mike Schmitt