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Archive for the ‘HERBS + SPICES’ Category

Texas Olive Ranch Harvest & Gold Crush

Open to Visitors Sept. 14-15


Texas Olive Ranch will be open for visitors to observe the largest olive harvest in Texas history on September 14-15, 2010 from 9 am to 2pm. The 2010 Gold Crush Texas Olive Harvest is expected to be the most abundant in Texas olive agriculture history. During visitors hours, mechanical harvesting and the complete process of pressing extra virgin olive oil will be open for view: harvester operation, weighing fruit bins, filling the mill hopper, and milling the new oil, or ‘Oliva Nueva,’ the Tex-ified version of the Italian “Olio Nuovo.” We will be sampling remarkably spicy, flavorful Oliva Nueva as it is produced. Hats and boots are recommended. Texas Olive Ranch is between Asherton, Texas and Carrizo Springs, Texas on CR 1557, about two hours southwest of San Antonio by car. Overnight visitors are encouraged to make reservations for accommodations early as space is limited.

On Tuesday, September 14, the USDA and Texas Olive Oil Council are sponsoring Olive Oil Field Day, a seminar to provide information about olive agriculture in Texas (agenda). Todd Staples, Texas Agriculture Commissioner, will be speaking at noon. After the seminar, there will be a soapmaking demonstration by Kathy White, KatNip Natural Bath & Body, Clear Lake. Orchard and presshouse tours will be ongoing during the day both days.

During the harvest event, PBS will be filming a documentary about the Texas olive industry. Texas Olive Trails follows the emergence of olive agriculture in the historically innovative agricultural Winter Garden region of the Middle Rio Grande in South Texas, along with the challenges of weather, water availability, rocks, varmints and more.

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From Tom Norrington-Davies:

“There is one recipe I turn to every year when I get the first wild garlic, between late March and May. The leaves have a natural affinity with many soups, especially when you wilt them in, off the heat at the last minute. This soup is so unbelievably simple, it actually champions their flavor.”

Potato and bread soup with wild garlic recipe

1. 3 tbsp olive oil
2. 2 onions, finely diced
3. 4 large (about 800g) floury potatoes, diced
4. 600ml hot vegetable (or chicken) stock
5. About 100g stale rustic bread, such as sourdough or ciabatta, torn into pieces
6. 3-4 handfuls wild garlic, washed but whole
7. Extra-virgin olive oil (preferably a peppery one), to serve
8. 1 dried red chilli, crumbled, to serve (optional)

1. Gently heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until soft but not browned. Stir in the potatoes and a good pinch of sea salt, cover and reduce the heat to low. Sweat for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes start to look fluffy around the edges. Check they aren’t catching.
2. Add the stock to the pan, increase the heat slightly and bring the soup up to a simmer but don’t boil. Simmer for 6-8 minutes or until the potatoes are really soft. Add the bread pieces and mash them gently into the soup. You could purée the soup but I use a potato masher as this gives it more texture.
3. Check the seasoning and thickness of the soup. Remove from the heat and add the wild garlic to wilt, or line the soup bowls with the wild garlic and then pour in the soup. Put the extra-virgin olive oil and the chilli, if using, on the table for people to help themselves. You could also garnish the soup with a grated, crumbly cheese, such as Parmesan, Pecorino or even  a mild Cheddar.

**You can use more potatoes instead of bread. Don’t use stock cubes as these will fight with the subtlety of the wild garlic. Use home-made stock, if possible, or just water.

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Starbucks vs. Yaupon

Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria)  is a species of holly native to southeastern North America, including South Texas. 

According to wikipedia, Native Americans used the leaves and stems to brew a tea called asi or black drink for male-only purification and unity rituals. The ceremony included vomiting, and Europeans incorrectly believed that it was the drink itself that caused it (hence the Latin name). The active ingredient is actually caffeine, and the vomiting was either learned or as a result of the great quantities in which they drank the beverage coupled with fasting.

So when times get tough and you don’t want to shell out $5.25 for a skinny grande triple shot cinnamon dolce latte, reach for some Yaupon leaves and give ’em a good chew.

p.s. Watch out Starbucks

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Les Dames d’Escoffier – San Antonio Chapter is proud to announce the Second Annual International Olive Festival of Texas 2010 on Saturday, March 27, 2010 from 10 AM to 4 PM.

The festival will be held at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard located at 25195 Mathis Rd., off of I 37, near Elmendorf, Texas 78112.  (For directions, click here).

Everyone is invited to enjoy numerous vendors, gourmet food and Texas wine concessions, cooking demonstrations, health and nutrition seminars, entertainment and an olive buffet featuring olives from around the world to sample and compare.

Admission $10 at the Gate. Advance Tickets Also Available at San Antonio Area H-E-B Stores

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Flower from the South Texas Persimmon Tree

This website from Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde focuses on native plants from the northern portion of the South Texas Plains and the southern portion of the Hill Country. Collections were made from the area bounded by San Antonio on the east, Sonora on the west, Cotulla on the south and Junction on the north. The categories access a list of common and scientific names, or you can use the color chart to find a flower. This wonderful resource was developed by the Texas A&M faculty, a research technician, and undergraduate interns.

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Gate view of olive orchard, Texas Olive Ranch.

Just got back from the Fredericksburg Wine Festival where some amazing local foods were available to sample. The best were “Don’t Panic Hispanic Salsa” (deep, smokey, tomato flavor) and perfectly good olive oil from Jim Henry’s Texas Olive Ranch in Carrizo Springs.  They use arbequina variety olives which are especially suitable for growing in the soil of the Middle Rio Grande Valley. They also grow two other varieties: arbosana, also Spanish in origin; and a Greek variety, koroneiki. The growing season in Texas is hot and the olives are ready to be harvested the first week in September. They offer tours and a comfy inn nearby for visits.  Stop by!

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South Texas Botanical Gardens in Corpus Christi, TX

South Texas Botanical Gardens in Corpus Christi, TX

The South Texas Wine & Herb Festival will be held this year at the South Texas Botanical Gardens on Saturday, October 16, from 9am – 5pm.
There will be a variety of seminars and demonstrations under the Rose Pavilion on the half hour by members of the Rockport Rose and Herb Study Group and other wine and herb enthusiasts.   Partnering with the Texas Department of Agriculture’s ‘Go Texan’ program, there will be wine tastings in the afternoon and cooking demos using Texas seafood. Vendors will be on site with potted herbs and other herb or wine-related merchandise.  Home Grown editor Judy Barrett will present her new book, “What Can I do with my Herbs?”.

South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center
8545 S. Staples St.
Corpus Christi, TX
Telephone #: 361/852-2100
Web Page: www.stxbot.org

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