Middle South

September, 2005
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Celosia
Most of the plants in my cut flower garden have succumbed to the unusually rainy and humid weather we've had this summer. The plants that were mulched rotted, the ones that weren't mulched are lost in the weeds. A few beds have survived, but just one has thrived: the celosia.

I started 'Cramers' Amazon' and 'Pampas Plume' celosia from seed in late winter. The seedlings grew slowly and I had my doubts that they'd ever really produce. Then they took off like rockets, and they're the mainstays of my summer bouquets, along with zinnias, tall ageratum, and coleus.

The flower colors are almost fluorescent, the stems are tall and strong, and the plants continue to produce tall side branches. Plus, the flowers are suitable for drying, and I may try that later this summer, if and when the weather dries out a little. In short, they're a perfect cut flower!

Clever Gardening Technique

Making the Most of the Harvest
Use your blender or food processor to create quick and easy pasta sauces from the season's abundance. Always make a double or triple batch so you'll have some to freeze. In addition to regular tomato sauce, try some unusual combinations. Saute red bell peppers, carrots, onions, and garlic in olive oil until soft, then puree. Return the puree to the pot and add a little cream cheese or pureed white beans plus your favorite seasonings -- I like a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne. (I know it sounds strange but it's tasty!) Serve over pasta or sauteed vegetables, and freeze any extra sauce.

Puree cooked peaches and use as the basis for your own sweet-and-sour sauce, adding tamari and a little vinegar. Toss with sauteed vegetables and tofu, chicken, or pork, and serve over rice.

Puree steamed broccoli with parmesan and toss with toasted walnuts, then serve over pasta or rice. You can also use any of these sauces to replace the tomato sauce in homemade pizzas. Frozen sauce can be thawed and thinned with stock for soup.

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