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Garden Hero: The Lovely Ladybug

July 16th, 2010

 

With their richly colored orange-red wings and distinct black spots, lovely ladybugs often conjure up childhood memories of placing one on your hand or arm then intently watching it with fantastical awe. This beautiful bug is adored by many children for its calm nature, but it’s also adored by gardeners for its beneficial pest control behavior.

Ladybugs have colossal appetites and not only consume aphids—lice that feed on plant juices—but also eat other insects and larvae, including leaf hoppers, mealybugs, mites, whiteflies, and the eggs of the Colorado potato beetle, just to name a few. One ladybug, in its lifetime, can consume more than 4,000 aphids, their preferred meal.

In addition to consuming aphids and other insects, ladybugs require pollen as a source of food, in order to mature and lay eggs. Some plants that attract ladybugs include basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, pepper, thyme, and tomatoes. If you want to be extra considerate of your little garden heroes, consider planting bell-shaped flowers, such as lilies or tulips, which capture drinking water for ladybugs and provide a cool, relaxing oasis for them to inhabit. With the garden protection that ladybugs provide, they deserve to be pampered!

If you’re interested in using the heroic ladybug to help combat the villains in your garden, it is important that you not use insecticides—which you should try to avoid regardless. Insecticides will not only eliminate most of their food source but also discourage ladybugs from laying their eggs in your garden.

If purchasing ladybugs for your garden, do not release them during the heat of the day. Keep them in a cool place, such as the refrigerator, before releasing them in the evening after the sun goes down. Placing your ladybugs in the refrigerator will not harm them but simply slow them down. Ladybugs do not fly when it’s dark, so this is your best chance at giving them the opportunity to get comfortable in their new living environment. Also, before releasing the ladybugs, water the areas that you will be placing them in so they have plenty of water to drink. Think of ladybugs as house guests; you want them to feel welcomed and comfortable. If your ladybugs are comfortable in their new home, chances are they’ll stick around. You can’t fence ladybugs in, but should they choose to stay and live in your garden they’ll be great heroes in combating those villainous aphids and their sidekicks.

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Hot Paper Lantern: Some Like It Hot

May 14th, 2010

 

While some people do not like hot foods others cannot get enough of them, taking on the mantra, “The hotter the better!” If you’re one of those people that like to turn up the heat in the kitchen then consider planting the Hot Paper Lantern in your garden or container gardening scheme. You’ll be able to create hot and flavorful dishes that will put your taste buds to the heat test—the Hot Paper Lantern offers habanero-like qualities, from the flavor to the blistering heat. If cooking and preparing hot pepper dishes is new to you here is a great tip: If your mouth is on fire after eating a hot pepper dish drink milk. Casein, a substance found in dairy products, helps disrupt the burning sensation.

The high-yielding Hot Paper Lantern grows tall and puts on a colorful show in the garden, turning from bright lime green to shades of orange and scarlet red. The slightly wrinkled peppers grow 3-4” long, and this pepper is characterized by its eye-catching, elongated shape. It’s a beauty!

Grilled Corn with Hot Paper Lantern and Mango Butter

Ingredients

  • ¼ to ½ hot paper lantern pepper, trimmed and seeded
  • 1 small mango, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup mango nectar
  • 3 teaspoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ears of corn

Preparation

Add the pepper, mango, mango nectar, and honey to a small saucepan; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until mango is very soft. Transfer mixture to a food processor; puree until smooth. Strain into a small bowl and allow puree to cool for 30 minutes.

Clean out food processor then add the pepper-mango puree back into processor. Add cilantro, softened butter and salt to food processor then puree ingredients until smooth. Spoon pepper-mango butter into a small bowl then cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until chilled.

Prepare grill for moderate heat. To prepare corn, pull husks back to the base of the stalks, leaving husks attached. Remove corn silk then pull husks back over corn. Tie husks shut with butcher string. Place corn in a large bowl then add cold water. Submerge corn for 10 minutes. Note: Use a plate to keep corn submerged in water.

Drain corn, but do not pat dry. Place corn on the grill and cook for about 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until corn is tender. Transfer to plates, spread with pepper-mango butter and serve. YIELDS 8

If you would like planting information for the Hot Paper Lantern, check out our seed listings then scroll down to Hot Paper Lantern, and for more information about wonderful chile peppers visit The Chile Pepper Institute (CPI).

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Cilantro-Lime Dressing

March 22nd, 2010

1 Conchos jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and coarsely chopped
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place jalapeno, ginger and garlic into a blender; pulse until finely chopped. Add balsamic vinegar, honey, lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and cilantro leaves; pulse, to blend. Turn on blender then slowly drizzle in the olive oil until blended into the dressing; season with salt if desired.

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