Posts tagged ‘tomatoes’

The Rooftop is Bloomin’

Smithsonian Gardens and Mitsitam Café Chef, Richard Hetzler continue their partnership to provide delicious, locally grown food in the National Museum of the American Indian Mitsitam Café. This year, we have expanded the crop growing space to include more plants than ever before by “jumping”onto the museum’s rooftop!

Two varieties of tomatoes, Cherokee Purple and Manyel, tower over their potted companions. New Mex Big Jim Peppers and Serranno Peppers are a dynamic duo that keep things spicy on the rooftop and in the cafe’s recipes. These two staples of summer can be married in a great salsa.

The leaves of an herb found in the containers, Hyptis suaveolens, commonly known as Chan in Latin American countries, can be used in a refreshing drink. Its minty aroma is sure to perk up any midday slump.

The National Museum of the American Indian’s Rooftop with Wyatt Carpenter

Also included in the containers is Tagetes lucida, an herb also known as Mexican Mint Marigold, Texas Tarragon and Yerbis Anis. The lemon colored flower is used in Day of the Dead celebrations and the leaves are used as a heat tolerate culinary substitute for French tarragon.

The beautiful orange blooms of Mexican Marigold (Tagetes erecta), native to Mexico and Central America, are dried and used in traditional Day of the Dead (November 2) celebrations. It is known as flor de muertos (flower of the dead.)

Veggies on the Roof

Amaranthus spp. ‘Hopi Red Dye’ is an annual with burgundy stems and maroon foliage. The edible black seeds can be ground to make a high protien flour. Young leaves can be eaten raw or steamed for a nutritious  vegetable. Traditionally, Amaranthus is used by the Hopi Indians as a ceremonial dye used to make red cornbread.

Dysphania ambrosioides, espazote, is a small plant with lots of flavor. Commonly used to season bean dishes, epazote can also be used in chili, tamales, mole and enchiladas. Epazote is believed to cure flatulence, which is why it is often paired with beans.

The seed of Carthamus tinctorius or safflower is used to make culinary oil, yellow dyes and seasonings. Long utilized in textiles, dyes from Safflower has been found in the tombs of ancient Egypt!

Wyatt Carpenter, National Museum of the American Indian Horticulture Intern

August 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Butterfly Gardens Part 2: Did you know……

Curly Parsley in the Smithsonian Butterfly Garden

As a follow-up to last week’s blog about butterfly host plants, we thought we’d add a few more varieties of host plants that are commonly grown in gardens.

In the Smithsonian Gardens’ Butterfly Habitat Garden, visitors often wonder why we’re growing parsley and tomato plants. We tell our visitors that there are a few plants popularly grown in herb and vegetable gardens which are ideal species for hungry caterpillars (which will transform into  butterflies and moths)!

Tomato Plant in the Smithsonian Butterfly Garden

Curly parsley is a popular herb that attracts Anise Swallowtails (Papilio zelicaon) and Eastern Black Swallowtails (Papilio polyxenes) in their larval stage.

Tomatoes attract several species of moths; two of them are infamous to experienced back-yard tomato gardeners. Tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) and tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) are identified by the “horn” protruding from the rear of the caterpillar. Both are voracious eaters and will munch on tomato foliage and fruit. They are not welcome visitors in most vegetable gardens, but they are invited to dine in the Butterfly Habitat Garden.

If you’re willing to sacrifice some of your herbs and vegetables to sustain a few caterpillars, you will be able to witness the butterfly life cycle just as we do at Smithsonian Gardens!

August 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment


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