Coastal and Tropical South
Preserving the Harvest
Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too, a new book by Daniel Gasteiger (Cool Springs Press, 2011, $19.95), is full of helpful information, such as his tips on ripening the best of autumn pears. He advises to let the first pear fall from the tree to signal that it is time to pick the rest; then store them in the refrigerator crisper for a month before using. That bit of wisdom is but one of many in Gasteiger's comprehensive book, whose subtitle tells the truth about the range of material covered here. More and more gardeners are discovering the joy of putting up seasonal bounty and we want to be smart and safe about it. Gasteiger's depth will give you the tools and confidence you need to can, freeze, and dry your harvest and that of local farmers.
Favorite or New Plant
The theory that a plant with many common names has widespread popularity certainly holds true for calico plant (Alternanthera dentata). Sunny garden beds that are kept consistently damp can host many plants, but few are as colorful and diverse as calico plant. Its leaves are not huge, about an inch long, with pointed tips, packed densely on sturdy, deep red stems. They display stunning shades of reddish-purplish-pink with ethereal green overtones unlike any other plant. Calico plant is also known as joy weed, ruby leaf, and Joseph's coat, depending on where it grows. One cultivar, 'Brazilian Red Hots', is so well-known that it, too, has become a common name for this plant. Other varieties to look for: 'Party Time', 'Purple Knight', and 'Royal Tapestry'.