Friday, August 2, 2013

Mystery Vine

A few weeks ago, a plant popped up in my garden. I didn't put it there, and I didn't know what it was. But I was intrigued, so I watered it and let it grow. 

After a short time I could tell that it was a vine of some sort. Judging by the leaves and tendrils, I guessed it was some kind of gourd or melon, but I really couldn't tell for sure until the flowers came out. 

Finally, it bloomed!

As much as I liked the flowers, I was really hoping that it produced something that I could eat or use. After a quick internet search I determined that it was a Bottle Gourd vine. Yay! You can eat the gourds, drink the gourd juice, or let them mature and use them as bowls or noise makers (when they are dried up). How fun! I've never grown a gourd before, so I'm really looking forward to watching this one grow. You just never know what's going to pop up in your garden!

(I have not always been successful with my "experiments." Once I let a plant grow that ended up having super poisonous berries! That one gets ripped out as soon as I see it now. And just recently I let one grow that turned out to be a very aggressive weed! I'll be cutting it down today before it goes to seed.)

Blackberry Milkshakes

Blackberry bushes are a real pain. Literally! 

Every time I try to cut them back I am left with scrapes and scratches all over my arms and legs. Ouch!

Living where we do, we've got berry bushes popping up EVERYWHERE. It's a full time job just to keep them from taking over. This year, I noticed a ton of flowers on one set of bushes, so I decided to let them go for the summer before cutting them back. Boy was I rewarded! Every week my kids and I have been able to pick a large tub of big, sweet, juicy berries. For free! (Actually, I've decided that they are probably being watered by the leak in our pool, so I'm really paying to water them...... but it feels like free. Haha!)

 You can't really tell from this picture, but this is more than 5 cups of berries! This would cost about 20 bucks at the store!

We've been eating some of the berries straight off the vine, but I've been freezing most of them to use over the winter. I've also made peach blackberry crisp (SO YUMMY) and blackberry bran muffins (they were a little too dense so I need to tweak the recipe a little). And last night, we made blackberry milkshakes! Wow, were they delicious!

Aren't they a beautiful shade of purple? You'd think I added food coloring to get this color!

They were super easy to make, too. Put a few scoops of vanilla ice cream in your blender. Add a few handfuls of berries and some milk (a little at a time until you get a good consistency). That's it! I don't really like fruity ice cream, so I was surprised at how delicious they were. I will be making these again before blackberry season is over!