IMG_7914

Parasitoid

Parasitoid. A parasite that can kill its host. As in a Braconid wasp. A friend of the garden.

What does a destroying parasitoid look like? 

Here’s a guy in serious trouble. I found him this morning: 

 This tomato hornworm is riddled with larva that have eaten their way through the skin (from the inside out) to pupate. A wasp in the braconid family deposited eggs just beneath this caterpillar’s skin where the eggs developed until this point, dining away at the insides of the caterpillar. When the pupae are mature, and the adult wasps emerge, this caterpillar will die.

The possibility of having this beneficial wasp in the garden makes it worth keeping a few hornworms around…just in case this happens…

   Nature is pretty amazing!

Version 2

Leeks – two recipes to try (quiche & tart)

Leeks

Leeks

We have leeks ready for harvest!

What a wonderful relative of garlic and onions. Delicate. Mild. Fun to cook with…in fact, here are some recipes on my radar to try:

Leek, Bacon, & Gruyere Crustless Quiche

INGREDIENTS

2 medium leeks, white and light green parts

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

6 ounces thinly sliced bacon, 6 to 8 slices

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups half-and-half

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

Freshly ground black pepper

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

4 ounces grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese, about 1 cup

DIRECTIONS

1. Trim the root of the leek, leaving ends intact to hold the leaves together, then halve lengthwise. Rinse well under running water to flush out any grit trapped between the leaves. Cut each half into 3-inch lengths, keeping leaves together. Put leeks in a large skillet with water to cover and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer over medium heat until the leeks are tender, about 6 minutes. Drain the excess water, add 2 tablespoons butter, and cook over medium heat until the leek edges are golden brown and sweet.

2. Cook the bacon in a medium skillet, until just crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie pan with 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle the grated Parmesan evenly on top. Put pan on a baking sheet.

4. Whisk the half-and-half, eggs and yolks in large glass measuring cup. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Spread half the Gruyere evenly in the pan, crumble the bacon on top; repeat with remaining cheese. Place the leeks, browned side up, on the cheese and pour the custard over the fillings.

5. Bake until the quiche is just set in the center, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving.

Copyright 2009 Television Food Network, G.P. All rights reserved From Food Network Kitchens

Leek and Olive Tart with Two Cheeses

(Martha Stewart)

INGREDIENTS

15 to 20 baby leeks or 3 large leeks, white and pale-green parts only

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 box (14 ounces) frozen puff pastry, such as Dufour, thawed

1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Scant 1/4 cup Nicoise olives, pitted

4 ounces Pave d’Affinois or other soft-ripened cheese (such as Camembert or Perail), thinly sliced (I think I will go for some feta)

DIRECTIONS

1. If using baby leeks, halve lengthwise and trim to about 3 inches long. If using regular leeks, cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces; halve each piece lengthwise, then cut into 3/8-inch-thick strips (about 5 cups). Rinse well, and drain; set aside.

2. Melt butter with oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add leeks and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are tender but not browned, about 15 minutes. Stir in thyme. Leeks can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 day; bring to room temperature before assembling tart.

3. Cut or roll out pastry to a 6-by-14-inch rectangle; place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (reserve remaining pastry for another use). Score a 3/4-inch border. Brush with egg wash; sprinkle with Parmesan. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake pastry until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and press center area with a metal spatula. Arrange leeks end to end in rows within border of pastry. Scatter olives over leeks. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 10 minutes. If bottom is soft, bake 3 to 5 minutes more.

5. Remove tart from oven, and arrange soft cheese over top. Using an offset spatula, slide tart onto a wire rack; let cool slightly. Cut into pieces; serve warm or at room temperature (tart can stand at room temperature up to 1 hour).

Sunflowers

Sunflowers make me happy

I love sunflowers.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

I love watching them track the sun through the day, the buzz of activity around them once they bloom, then the enjoyment birds get when the blossoms go to seed.

Feeding grounds

Feeding grounds

Sunflowers are fun to have in the garden.

Do you have a favorite flower?