The Mallows (aka the Malvaceae family)
This week I have been entranced by the Mallows growing in my garden. From this family I have okra, brown and white cotton, and hibiscus (aka Thai red Roselle). The Mallows’ beautiful tropical flowers open at the first touch of sun and close again as darkness approaches. The okra flowers are a lovely lemon yellow, the cotton flowers start pink and turn to pale yellow as they open, and the Roselle first look pink and open to yellow with an intense burgundy center. Once their flowers close, each creates a unique pod. The okra pods form most quickly and need to be picked only a day after flowering. The bolls of the cotton are now swelling to plum sized balls and should begin to pop open in the next few weeks. And the enchanting Roselle forms a calyxes which can be picked three days after flowering. All of these plants have beautiful leaves. Roselle and okra are amazingly resistant to insects and disease. On the other hand, the popularity of industrially grown cotton probably relates directly to it’s long history with boll weevils and blights. Luckily my cotton seems to be doing well and I am excited to make more cotton paper! While drinking Roselle tea, looking at these lovely Mellows, I wonder why doesn’t everyone have one of these growing in their front yard?
What’s in the garden?
- Fresh Red Roselle Calyxes To prepare a tea from these fresh seed pods, put a few into your cup and pour boiling water over them. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes. After steeping the pods in a mason jar, I add ice for a cool tea. The calyxes are best stored in the open– let them dry out on the counter (not in the sun). They make a stronger tea as they dry.
- Achar (Peanut butter pickles) This jar includes: cucumbers, onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, vinegar, salt, sugar, peanut butter, and sesame oil. We eat them straight from the jar or with rice noodles and basil (think Pad Thai).
- Arugula Oh poor arugula. There are some bugs in my garden right now… a lot of bugs. And they have already eaten all of my collards, kale, and cabbage. So now they’ve moved onto the arugula. So often in farming/gardening we imagine everything growing in great, perfect, abundance. Well let me tell you, the myth of “perfect” looking food is a problem when going toxic chemical-free. Although this arugula isn’t “perfect” its perfectly good to eat, packed with vitamins, and jam-packed with peppery flavor.
- Basil I imagine by this time you’ve already made pesto. So now what to do with this weeks basil? More tomato salads, Pad Thai, or another round of pesto? James and I have been eating leaves wrapped around slivers of tomatoes and roasted peppers dipped in balsamic vinegar. Add a little soft cheese…. mmm
- Peppers The peppers are loving this heat. Beautiful purple and green globes hanging in such abundance. With so many peppers, we are eating them every day. I’ve been making, and canning jars of salsa– peppers, onions, garlic, peeled/seeded tomatoes, vinegar or lime juice, salt, and cumin. Or putting them whole under the oven broiler, until they blacken, flipping them to blacken the other side. I leave them to cool a minute and peel under cold water. Great with balsamic vinegar on salad, or in a tortilla.
- Tomatoes While the arugula is fighting for survival the tomatoes are losing the battle. Between bugs and blight, most tomatoes in my garden go straight to the hens. With the heat and thunderstorms, many of the tomatoes split open, revealing their soft interior to all things hungry. Sadly Arkansas is not an ideal place to grow tomatoes, but oh how we try. In my garden, the best tasting variety are “Cherokee Purple”– however, not a single tomato has stayed intact, all have a large split just as they ripen. So although we eat them, it’s impossible to transport them to you. Instead you are enjoying the “Arkansas Traveler”– a special pre-1900 heirloom tomato adapted to the pressure of drought, flood, and plague. The multi-colored little cherry-type tomatoes taste pretty good too.