Help Learning to Use Plant Scientific Names

There is another post containing resources for gardeners learning to use plant scientific names. You will find it if you search for "Plant ID". I have added the following new one today:

http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/2plants.htm Searchable list of common garden plant genera. Click on a genus name to get description and links to many photos of different parts and stages of the plant. It also links to another database, this one providing a simplified plant key for woody landscape plants.


Master Gardener Spring Sales--Mostly Tomatoes

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Master Gardeners will be holding spring markets in three Bay Area counties in April. As reported in my SF Chronicle Column of April 5, they will be as follows:

San Mateo/San Francisco Master Gardeners will hold two sales. The first is on April 11, 9-1, at Redwood High School, 1968 Old County Road, Redwood City. The second is April 18th, 10-2, at Central Park in San Mateo, and is part of an open house at the park on that day. For more information: 2015 San Mateo/SF Spring Garden Market Information

Marin County Master Gardeners are having two sales on the same day, April 18th, both 9:30-12. One is at the Bon Air Shopping Center, 50 Bon Air Ctr., Greenbrae, the other is at the Pini Market, 1535 S. Novato Blvd, Nave Shopping Center, Novato..For more information: 2015 Marin County Tomato Market Information

Santa Clara Master Gardeners are having their sale on April 11, 9-2 at History San Jose, 1650 Senter Road, San Jose..:For more information: 2015 Santa Clara Spring Market Garden Information

All of the sales include tomato plants galore and Master Gardeners on hand to answer questions and the  April 11th sales in Redwood City and in San Jose include other kinds of seedlings and garden talks, and  a "green elephant" sales.

Each of the Master Gardener Organizations have prepared lists of the tomato varieties they will be selling, with information on the qualities of each variety. Here are links to the three 2015 tomato variety lists:

2015 San Francisco/San Mateo Tomato List

2015 Marin County Tomato Varieties

2015 Santa Clara County Tomato List

 

 

 


Fall Plant Sale--Master Gardeners of San Mateo/San Francisco

Coming soon is the fall plant sale of the Master Gardeners of San Mateo and San Francisco. Here is their announcement:

Please join us for our Fall Plant Sale on Saturday, September 20th from 9:00AM to 1:00PM.
 
We are offering an exciting array of vegetables, succulents, perennials, edible flowers, cover crop seeds and a wonderful choice of garlic seed and shallots perfect for your Fall Garden!
 
Vegetables Varieties
Beets_Chioggia, Bull’s Blood, Golden, and Shiraz
CabbageAll Seasons, and January King
Broccoli_Quartina, Di Ciccio, Romanesco, Piricicaba, and Solstice
Peas_Maestro, and Alderman Pole Peas
Spinach_Giant Winter, Monnopa Low Acid, Monster of Viroflay
Lettuce_Outstanding Red Romaine, Bronze Arrow Looseleaf, and Arctic King Butterhead
Chard_Fordhook Giant, Rainbow Mix, and Perpetual Spinach Chard
Kale_Vates Blue Curled, Lacinato (Dinosaur), Dwarf Green Curled, Portuguese, and Russian Red
Bunching Onion_White Spear
Endive_Frisee Fine Cut
Mustard_Red Giant
Leek_Musselburgh
 
LOTS of GARLIC and SHALLOTS!!!
Artichoke Seed Garlic_Inchelium Red                                     
Rocambole Seed Garlic_Killarney Red
Porcelian Seed Garlic_Magic
Shallots_Dutch Red
 
Succulents and Perennials…too many to list
 
Cover Crop Seeds
 
Our sale location is 2645 South El Camino Real San Mateo, CA 94403. Parking is limited so please park off-site.
 
Let us help you get your FALL GARDEN off to a good start.

Roly-Poly Problems

I got the following question through my web site. I'll answer it below. I was trying to wait until I had a good photo of these little critters, but I don't seem to have very many of them these days, so there's no photo for this post.

The Question:
My veggie garden has been besieged by roly polies.  When I check gardening blogs, most answer that roly polies do not eat live plant tissue but they are definitely eating the base of my cucumber and squash plants. I caught most of them early and taped the base of the stems so they couldn't continue to gnaw away...but they have!!!  They continue to move up the stem even though the stem is tougher than when they were small seedlings.  I have lost a few plants to them. My vegies are mulched with my homemade compost which is a cold one and probably supports the rolly pollies.  How do I rid my soil of them?  They are everywhere!!  BTW I live in San Rafael, Marin County.  Should I solarize the soil?

The answer:Too many garden how-to books and other guides are researched by reading what others have written, so we get the same information over and over. And wrong information over and over is frustrating.

Roly Polies will generally eat any living or dead plant matter that is soft enough, inlcuding much dead, decaying plant matter. If there are only a few of them, they may not damage crops much, but when their populations build up, they do significant damage. While I've never seen sow and pill bugs eat squash stems, I have watched them chew up the blossom ends of summer squash fruit and eat into ripe tomatoes.

"Roly Polies" is a general common name for both sow bugs and pill bugs, which often occur together in gardens. These are two different species of animal, both more closely related to shrimp than to insects. We call the species that can't roll up sow bugs, the ones that form a tight ball when disturbed, pill bugs, but their habits and management are about the same.

Your goal is to make conditions unpleasant for them and to reduce their numbers if they get so numerous that they are becoming pests. Start by pulling the mulch back from your squash plants, leaving a bare area a few inches wide around them. Try to keep this surface, especially, but all of your garden soil or mulch surface, as dry as possible, since these creatures need to stay moist to survive.

I doubt that solarizing the soil will help with sow and pill bugs. They would tend to run out of the hot area under the plastic. You might get eggs, but the adults are very mobile.

Sow and pill bugs tend to congregate in moist dark places in the day time. You have to move fast, but if you know where they are hiding, and see a lot of them in one place, you can scoop them into a plastic bag, seal it, freeze it, and compost them. Or you can leave out traps, in the form of anchored opaque plastic sheeting or cardboard, remove it fast, and start scooping. Try using a kitchen scoop or a deep trowel.

If you have many sow and pill bugs in an area you are about to clear and replant, try to reduce the population before you plant seeds or set out new seedlings there. Waiting a couple of weeks may be enough, but if you have many of the creatures, you may want to use mechanical means, as just described, or chemical means, as follows, to reduce the population.

I never use chemical means as a first resort, but you may want to supplement your cultural and mechanical methods by using a product called SluggoPlus. In addition to the iron phosphate that kills snails and slugs, it contains Spinosad, an extract from a soil microorganism, that is toxic to sow and pill bugs, earwigs, and cutworms. Use it according to directions, including not spreading it any more thickly than the directions indicate, as it is toxic to pets. (If spread according to directions, very thinly, it is less likely that a dog might eat enough of it to harm it, but do read the directions.)

Good luck reducing your roly poly problem!

 

 


Addendum to Herb Society Lecture on Unusual Herbs to Grow

These are some extra notes about the herbs I spoke about in my talk on unusual herbs at the Annual Conference of the Herb Society of America on June 21, 2014, including a list of mail order sources for seeds and/or plants. If you want more info about these herbs, send me questions as comments. Or, if you'd like a repeat of the talk I gave to the Herb Society, send me a line about that (see Contact).

The Herbs:

Ocimum kilimandscharicum and O. basilicum 'Dark Opel'--African Blue Basil

This plant is covered thoroughly on  other pages of this blog. Do a search for other posts about it.

 

Herbalea Basils

'Wild Magic', 'Green Ball', 'Habana'

These are the three of the new, patented Herbalea basils I was able to purchase locally. There are up to 15 Herbalea varieties. I have nothing to add about them today, but will be blogging about them more as I continue to grow and cook with them.

 

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Calamintha nepeta--nepitella

This mint family herb has a flavor of mint and oregano together. It is popular in Tuscan cuisine, especially with mushrooms and artichoke.

Has, in the past, been classified as a thyme, melissa, clinopodium, and satureja. Has also been called Calamintha glandulosa.

Etymology:

cala, from Gr. kalos=beautiful   and    minthe=mint

Related Species:

There are two other common Calamintha species that you may encounter--and that are not the herb  nepitella! They are Calamintha sylvatica and Calamintha officinalis.

Funghi e Zucchini Trifolati (Mushrooms and Zucchini sliced thinly as you would truffles)

Adapted from adribarrcrocetti.com

 1 Pound mushrooms (cremini, porcini, white button, or any combination), thinly sliced

2 small zucchini (about 8 ounces), thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of chopped nepitella

2 tablespoons of chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt, divided

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

 Brush the mushrooms or wipe them with a damp towel to clean. Cut off and discard the dry ends of the stalks. Slice mushrooms thinly. Slice zucchini into very thin rounds.

Heat olive oil in a 12 inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until it takes on a pale gold tone. Do not brown garlic, or it will be bitter. Increase to medium high and add mushrooms. Sauté, tossing mushrooms until they have taken up the oil. Don't be tempted to add more oil. Add 1/2 teaspoons of salt and continue cooking, tossing occasionally.

As the mushrooms cook, they will exude liquid. Cook until the liquid is almost completely evaporated, which will take 5-8 minutes.

Add zucchini and the other 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until tender. Add a few twists of freshly ground black pepper and the herbs. Toss lightly. Remove from heat. Test for seasoning. Serve.

Eat this hot as a side dish, or cold as a crostini or antipasto.

 

Dracocephalus moldavica--dragonhead, moldavian balm

Entire plant has a lemony flavor. It is grown to make tea and for its attractive, blue, edible flowers.

This plant has been known as Moldavica moldavica.

Etymology:

 draco=dragon   cephalum=head   moldavica=from from Moldavia

Related species:

Dracocephalus parviflorum, American dragonhead, is native to Alaska and is treasured there as a native plant whose oil-rich seeds provide a food for birds. Has a slight minty smell to crushed leaves, probably hasn't been explored as an herb.

The ornamental Phystostegia virginiana, best known as obedience plant, is also sometimes called "false dragonhead." The quite similar Phystostegia parviflora was once called Dracocephalum nuttali.

 

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Dysphania ambrosioides--epazote

A strong-scented herb native to Mexico and used in Mexican cuisine with beans and in sauces.

Until quite recently, ths plant was classified as Chenopodium abrosioides, and is still considered quite similar to the chenopodiumns, although no chenopodium I know of has that strong a scent.

Etymology: 

 fr. Greek dysphanis=obscure, referring to the inconspicuous flowers, ambrosioides fr. Latin, ambrosia, referring to some similarity a botanist saw to plants in the genus Ambrosia (ragweed)

Etymology of the common name: from Nahuatle, informally known as Aztec, epatl=skunk and tzotl=dirt

Recipe Adapted From The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking, by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz

Frijoles

2 cups pinto, black, or red beans                  3 Tablespoons lard or salad oil (I used olive oil)

2 onions, finely chopped                               Salt

2 cloves garlic, chopped                                Freshly ground pepper

Sprig of epazote (or a bay leaf)                     I Tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped

2 or more serrano chiles, chopped

Wash the beans and place in a saucepan without soaking, with enough cold water to cover, 1 of the chopped onions, one of the garlic cloves, the epazote (or bay leaf) and the chiles. [If you can't find fresh serranos, she suggeste dried pequin chiles, crumbled. You could also try a bit of fresh Jalapeno, or you could reduce, or omit chiles] Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat; then simmer gently, adding more boiling water as it boils away. When the beans begin to wrinkle, add one tablespoon of the lard or oil. Continue cooking until the beans are soft. At this point, stir in enough salt to taste. Cook another 30 minutes over the same heat, but do not add water, as there should not be a great deal of liquid when the beans are done. Heat the remaining lard [or oil] in a skillet and sauté the remaining onion and garlic until limp. Add the tomato and cook for about two minutes over medium heat; add three tablespoons of beans, bit by bit, with some of the liquid from the pot, and mash, until you have a smooth, fairly heavy paste. Return this to the bean pot and stir into the beans over low heat to thicken the remaining liquid. .

[The epazote adds a very subtle flavor, not at all what you expect from the scent of the raw plant. I served this with a little bottled green sauce splashed on top, which made it even better. )

 

Cryptotaenia japonica

A celery family herb/vegetable that grows best in shade.

Etymology:

Crypto from Greek kryptos=hidden and tainia=fillet or ribbon

I think this means that oil tubes, present in plants of this family, are hidden in some way. There are typical oil-tube ridges on the seeds (really fruits), so I'm not sure what is hidden.

Related species:

Cryptotaenia canadensis

Native to the Eastern half of the US and Canada and known as honewort. Similar in appearance to C. japonica and also edible. Grows in shady places. Seed available from Prairie Moon Nursery (prairiemoon.com). If you are seeking it in the wild, check first to learn if it is a listed endangered species your state.  Also be aware that some wild members of the celery plant family are deadly poisons--so make sure you have the identified the plant correctly before you eat it.

 

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Centella asiatica--gotu kola

This celery family herb is used in Asian cooking, including blended into a sweetened drink.

This plant was once classified as Hydrocotyle asiatica.

There has been much discussion about whether the Centella growing in the Western Hemisphere (US and Canada) are the same species as the one growing in Asia. The North American plants have been called Centella erecta, but are often now considered a variety of Centella asiatica.

Etymology:

centella is a diminutive of cent, therefore a "little coin"

Related Species:

Several Hydrocotyle species are found in both Asia and some parts of the U.S. They differ from Centella in having a leaf stem (petiole) in the middle of a round leaf (peltate) rather than at the edge of a shovel or kidney shaped leaf. The Hydrocotyles are, like Centella, fond of wet places and are edible.

Be aware if you plan to collect any of these plants in the wild that they can carry bacteria if growing in unclean water and can also take up toxins that might be in the water.

 Recipe From Encyclopedia of Asian Food By Charmaine Solomon

2 bunches gotu-kola or

about 250 g/8 oz/ 2 cups leaves without stems

3 shallots or

1 small onion, finely chopped

Good squeeze lime or

lemon juice

1 sliced chilli (optional)

75 g/2-1/2 oz/1 cup fresh grated coconut

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Wash well and strip leaves from stems. Shred finely with a sharp knife, combine with other ingredients and serve immediately. The flavor is slightly sour, slightly bitter. Some people prefer this salad to be lightly cooked, if so bring a tablespoon of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the boil in a wok or pan, add all iingredients and toss over heat briefly, stopping before leaves lose their green color.

 

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Houttuynia cordata--fish mint, lizard tail

The plant has a strong scent and flavor that reminds some of fish. It is used in SE Asian cooking.

This plant is in the family Saureraceae, whose name derives from the root saur, meaning lizard.

Another genus in this family has a long, drooping, lizard tail-like flower head, and the name floats around the family.

Etymology:

Houttuynia is named after the Dutch botanist Martin Houttyn, who lived 1720-1798. Cordata refers to the heart-shaped leaves.

An Ornamental Cultivar:

The plant is sometimes called "chameleon plant" which is an echo of the name of a popular ornamental cultivar. In fact, non Asians might never have seen the original, green-leaved species that is used as an herb.

Related Species:

Anemopsis californica is a plant in a different genus in the Saureraceae that is native to California and nearby southwestern states. It was called yerba mansa by native Californians, who used it medicinally. It is now sold by native plant nurseries as an ornamental that grows to 3 feet tall, with large gray-green leaves and large spikes of tiny flowers, each with its white bract, and several white bracts at the base of the spike. It can be grown in wet places and is cold hardy.

 

Persicaria odorata--rau ram, Vietnamese coriander

Has a flavor that Westerners consider close to that of cilantro, but is not used as a substitute in Asian cooking, but as an herb with a distinctive flavor of its own.

All Persicarias used to be Polygonums.

Etymology:

 Persicaria is from the Latin word persicum, meaning peach. Someone thought the leaves resembled those of a peach tree.

Related Species:

You will come across other Persicarias, both domestic and weedy. The weedy ones are often given the common name of knotweed, as in common knotweed or swamp knotweed. The ornamental species and varieties are often grown for their colorful leaves, sometimes purple, sometimes variegated. A very common species, grown in gardens for many years, is P. capitata, a ground  cover plant with small round heads of pink flowers. I did not investigate edibility or flavor of other species of Persicaria.

 

Tagetes lucida--sweet mace, winter tarragon

Most marigolds, plants in the daisy family, have an unpleasant, pungent flavor, the leaves of this one are sweet and similar to tarragon in flavor.

Etymology:

Tagetes refers to the Roman god Tages, an adopted son or grandson of Jupiter, who was originally the Etruscan god of prophecy. Lucida is from the Latin root meaning clear or bright, referring to the bright flowers. Tagetes lucida is sometimes sold as "Mexican mint marigold." The common name marigold was given to plants in the Western Hemisphere genus Tagetes by Euorpeans. They chose this name because Tagetes flowers  reminded them of the European flower Calendula. As is frequently the case with medieval European plant names, the word marigold is a Catholic reference, short for Mary's Gold--a flower of the Virgin Mary.

Related Species:

This is not the marigold commonly listed as having edible flowers. That is Tagetes tenuifolia, or signet marigold. The flowers of that species are milder in flavor than those of most marigolds, but the plant doesn't have the sweet flavor of Tagetes lucida.

 

Mail Sources for Plants Discussed by Pam Peirce at the Annual Meeting of the Herb Society of America

In Concord, CA, June 21, 2014 (See web addresses of suppliers at the end of the list.)

 

African Blue Basil

Richters Herbs--Plants

 

Herbalea Basils (Wild Magic, etc.)

No Mailorder Source Located Yet

Sold locally by Sweetwater Nursery

 

Nepitella

Richters Herbs--seeds and plants

Valley Seed Company--seeds 

Nichols Garden Nursery--seeds

Richters Herbs

Nichols Garden Nursery

                              

Dysphania ambrosioides--Epazote

Nichols Garden Nursery

 

Cryptotaenia japonics--Mitsuba

Nichols Garden Nursery--seeds

Richters Herbs--seeds

 

Centalla asiatica--Gotu Kola

Richters Herbs--plants

 

Houttuynia cordata

Richters sells plants of both green and tricolor {'Chameleon') varieties

 

Persicaria odorata--Rau Ram

Richters sells plants including "Colosso' plants, which are shipped April-Nov and are 12.00 each!

 

Tagetes lucida--Sweet Mace or Winter Tarragon

Richters sells seeds of the species and plants of Tarragold--a trademarked variety.

 

Web Addresses of Sources Listed Above:

richters.com

nicholsgardennursery.com

valleyseedco.com

 

 


Resources for Learning to Identify Plants

Learning to identify plants by family is a really good way for a gardener to get a handle on plant ID. It gives you a head start on understanding all sorts of things about a plant. It makes it easier to learn the plant's name, if you don't already know it, gives clues about how to grow it and propagate it. You will start to organize your knowledge of plants in very useful ways.

Next week I'll be teaching some California Master Gardeners to identify 5 plant families. For my students and others who are ready to learn more about plants, the following list of books and a web site will be of help. They offer descriptions and illustrations of plants in different families, as well as explanations and drawings to show the meaning of botanical terms.

I should also say that this is the second of two talks on the subject I can present to interested San Francisco Bay Area audiences. Each covers 5 families, includes a Powerpoint slide show and an extremely useful handout, and takes about 1 3/4 hours to present.  If you might like me to give one or both talks to a group of gardeners, you can send me an email through my website, pampeirce.com,

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Flowers are central to plant ID. A rose is known by its five sepals and petals, many stamens, and single pistil. In a double-flowered rose, many or all of the stamens have been replaced by petals.

Here are resources to help you learn more:

The Botany Coloring Book, Paul Young, Jacquelyn Guiffre, Harper Perennial, 1982.  Learn plant anatomy and terminology through coloring the illustrations.

 

Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, Thomas J. Elpel, Hops Press, LLC, 6th Edition, 2013. Learn to identify plants based on plant family patterns. Covers eight common families.

 

Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary, James G. Harris, Melinda Woolf Harris, Spring Lake Pub, 2001). Twenty seven hundred definition, nineteen hundred illustrations.

 

Seed to Seed, Suzanne Ashworth, Seed Savers Exchange, 1991.  Food crops, listed by plant family, with discussions of pollination and seed saving.

 

The families of flowering plants, L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz. Descriptions and illustrations for the plant families. Includes an interactive key for plants and a set of botanical poems by Giles Watson. The link to this web site is:  http://delta-intkey.com/angio/ or use this link: Families of Flowering Plants

Often, plant descriptions in gardening books will include the name of the plant family to which a plant belongs. For example you will find plant families listed in the Sunset Western Garden Book and in Golden Gate Gardening. If you want to know what other plants are in this family, try looking it up on the Watson & Dalwitz site, or try Googling the scientific name of the family. Wikipedia has articles on each plant family and you will find other useful sites.


Recipe for Summer Squash Fritters

Today, I am giving a lecture on Dining Gloriously from your Small Space Garden. Here is one more recipe to try. Even a small garden can overproduce summer squash, so a gardener needs several ways to prepare it. In my book, Golden Gate Gardening, there are recipes for stuffed zucchini, cottage chees zucchini fritters, and several recipes in which summer squash can be used in soups or curries. Following is a very simple recipe for summer squash fritters as a side dish. I have been growing tromboncino squash, which is a bit firmer than zucchini, otherwise quite similar, so I used that in this recipe.

Zuch fritter IMG_6124 copy 2

1 cup grated summer squash, packed into the cup

1 small carrot, grated (for color and nutrition, but the fritters are fine without it)

1 egg, lightly beaten

flour--about 1/3 cup

Mix egg into grated vegetables. Add flour to take up moisture. Mixture should still be glistening with moisture and not too stiff.

Heat oil or nonstick oil spray in a large skillet. Spoon batter into skillet, making the fritters round and about a half inch thick. Smooth the top, so when you turn them, most of the batter will touch the skillet.

Cook on one side until light brown, turn and cook the other side. Serve hot. I have been enjoying them wiht just a little bit of jalepeno jam.

Makes about 5 fritters.

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More on Early Blight of Potatoes & Tomatoes

(See photos in the previous post)

In my last post, I reported having seen some potato plants in San Francisco with what looked like early blight, a disease caused by the fungus Alternaria solani. I remembered from my research for the book Controlling Vegetable Pests, which I wrote in the early '90s, that this disease is not common here in California, but much more so elsewhere in the US. I wrote then that it is "less common in arid regions of the West, although overhead irrigation and frequent heavy dew promote disease in these areas." It showed up the week after we had an unusual June rain, and in a garden that has frequent fog. But the question is: Where did the spores come from?

My first thought was that someone had planted potatoes from the grocery store. These could carry the spores, even without symptoms, or could have had dark lesions with underlying brown or blacky corky rot from spores that grew on their surfaces. However, the gardener assured me that these were purchased at a nursery as certified disease-free.

So the spores must have blown in from a nearby garden or were carried in the rain. Then they landed on potato leaves that had some injury, at a time when the temperature and amount of hunidity were right for them to start growing, and the rest is history. The ideal temperature for early blight spore growth is 75-80 degrees F, but the symptoms develop fastest at 70 degrees. 

This disease can also infect tomato, and, occasionally, eggplant or pepper. Wild relatives of these plants are also susceptible. On tomato, the leafe symptoms, the bull's eye spots, are the same as on potato, and there may be sunken lesions on older stems. In additon, there may be excessive blossom drop (common here anyway due to cold nights) and leathery, sunken, dark brown lesions on the stem end of the fruits.

If this disease shows up in your garden, take the plants out of the garden. (In San Francisco, they can go in the Green Bin, since the municipal composting system will heat up enough to kill the spores.) If potato plants have formed tubers, eat them up soon, as they may decay in storage. Don't store them where you will kep other, healthy, potatoes later.

The spores can germinate in plant material from infected plants as long as it has not completely decayed, so pick up every bit of the plant and dig up most of its root. Do not save seeds from tomatoes that ripened on infected plants, as the spores can hide in the seeds.

Remove any solanum weeds that are growing in your garden, as they can harbor the disease. (They have flowers similar to those of tomato, but usually with white or pale lavender petals, and have clusters of small, inedible berries that turn black when ripe.)

Plan not to grow tomatoes or potatoes in the place where infected plants grew for two to three years.

When you do plant potatoes or tomatoes, provide your plants with adequate water and fertilizer and avoid getting water on the leaves of tomato'potato family plants. Start examining them when they are about a foot tall to be sure they do not have symptoms. Prevention is more successful than cure when it comes to plant diseases, but if you have had the disease, or if you see the first lesions it is causing, you might try the fungicide Serenade, which is based on a soil bacterium. Follow directions on the label, including repeated sprayings as it directs. (If you are spraying after seeing lesions on a leaf or two, pick off those first infected leaves before you spray.)

May early blight of tomato or potato not darken your door, or the leaves of any plants you are growing to produce food!


Early Blight Appears on Local Potatoes

When I saw these symptoms on some potatoes in a local garden, I thought they looked like early blght of potato and tomato, a disease caused by the fungus Alternaria solani. But I thought it unlikely, because this is not a common disease in our region. I tried to return to get good photos of the diseased plants, but when I arrived, the plants had been pulled, so my photos show leaves I selected to show the symptoms.

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The most diagnostic symptom is those dark brown lesions on the leaves with concentric rings visible in them. Those are from repeated growth of the fungus and release of spores. Symptoms are similar on tomato. Also susceptible are a number of wild potato/tomato relatives and other members of this plant family.

Eventually, the brown spots coalesce so that the entire leaves become brown and die.

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(This is an entirely different disease from Late Blight, which is Phytophthora infestans. Search this blog for more on that disease, with photos of its symptoms.)

Potato/tomato early blight is spread by spores, as are most fungi. I sent a sample of the diseased leaves, through the Cooperative Extension, to Brenna Aegarter, a UC potato expert in Stockton to ask for help identifying the disease. She lifted spores from the leaves with Scotch tape and put them under the microscope. Here is what she saw, followed by her reply:

Spores on potato leaves copy

"There is clearly Ulocladium and Cladosporium (which are common “molds” on senescing/decaying leaves) as well as some Alternaria spores. However, the challenge is that there are two types of Alternarias in the world. One type is a common mold and would often be found on dying leaves. The other type are pathogens of plants and infect tissue that is living (and includes Alternaria solani cause of early blight). The ones that are not pathogens have short “beaks” while the pathogenic ones have long beaks (the narrow section of the spore that extends out).  Under the microscope I saw Alternaria spores with beaks, but the beaks were not so long as to entirely convince me that they are spores of Alternaria solani. But I have sent my photo to a colleague to see what he thinks. Stay tuned!"

Later, I heard from her to the effect that her colleague had confirmed that the beaked spores are Alternaria solani. If you look at the slide, you will see the ones with a long point on one end. There are the other, decay bacteria spores also, and I think the large, long objects are probably plant hairs.

I will, in my next post, explain this disease and what to do about it.


New Recipes for Chard and for a Tomato Soup with Carrots

Following are a couple of recipes I mentioned in my talk today at the Ortega Branch of the SF Public Library.

I had never been to chow.com, but was very pleased with the results of this recipe. The creator of the recipe suggests serving it as a side dish with baked salmon or lamb, but I found it to make a very nice main dish for lunch. It transforms and masks the chard, so it is ideal for gardeners with an excess of this crop. My chard is starting to flower now, so this was an end-of-season discovery. I will surely make it again next chard season! The vinegar and feta give it just the right piquance.  (Trader Joe's has crumbled nonfat feta if you are watching cholesterol.)

Lentils, Chard, and Feta Cheese Adapted from a recipe posted on chow.com by Amy Wisniewski  

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil                                12 ounces Swiss chard (about 1 bunch)

1/2 cup small-dice yellow onion                 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped      1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning

1 cup brown or green lentils                         4 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 cups water                                                 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, season it with salt and pepper, and cook it on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the lentils, and the water. Use high heat to bring just to a boil, then turn to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until  lentils are just tender and the water has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, cut the stems from the chard leaves, including the thick part of the stem that goes into the leaf blade.  Cut the stems into small pieces and put them in a bowl. Stack the leaves, cut them in half lengthwise, then coarsely chop into bite-sized pieces; set aside.

 4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying or straight-sided pan over medium-high heat . Add the reserved chard stems, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. (Or put them in the microwave first, on high, for 2 minutes, covered with a piece of paper towel, to hasten the process.)

5. Add the chopped chard leaves, measured salt, and measured pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the red wine vinegar and reserved lentil mixture and stir until evenly combined. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, about 3 minutes.

6. Sprinkle in the feta and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Carrot IMG_3108 copy

Cream of Tomato Soup  (Adapted from a recipe by Cynthia Scheer)

With tomato season coming up, we can always use a way to use the excess. But if your garden is too chilly in summer for a good tomato crop, you will still appreciate this recipe for its use of the cool-prefering crop, carrots. A blended soup is a great way to use up extra produce, and if the carrots have a bit of insect damage, you can cut it away and no one will know. Note that, though the title includes the word "cream", this recipe doesn't contain any dairy products. If you make it with vegetarian broth, it is vegan.

2 lbs. tomatoes (about 4 large) chopped,    A half-inch wide 3-inch long strip of lemon peel

or 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes                   1/2 teaspoon salt (less if canned tomato product is salted)

or 2 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce                 1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 onions (about 1 lb.), chopped                  1 quart of water or chicken or vegetarian broth, fresh or canned)

2 large carrots (about 1 lb), sliced               2 tablespoons each of flour and softened butter or margarine

2 tablespoons sugar                                    1 1/3 cups of milk (whole, nonfat, or even reconstituted nonfat

One bay leaf                                                     dry milk are fine)                                                             

1. In a 4 to 5-quart pot, combine tomatoes, onions, carrots, sugar, bay leaf, lemon peel, salt, pepper, and water or broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer till vegetables are tender--20-30 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, mix flour and butter or margarine until smooth.

3. Remove the bay leaf and the lemon peel from the soup mixture. Transfer the mixture a third or fourth at a time to a food processor or blender and whirl until smooth. Return to pot over medium heat.

4. Stir a bit of the hot soup into the flour and butter mixture and mix well, then stir this mixture into the soup. Heat, stirring often, until soup boils and thickens.

5. Turn off the heat, and then pour in the milk. Stir to blend well. If soup is not steaming hot, heat gently, stirring occasionally until it is. Do not let it boil again.

You can serve this soup hot, or refrigerate it and serve it as a cold soup.