Cinnabar Moth Larvae Devouring Groundsel

IMG_20130711_132115_698Started to pull a groundsel plant from an Oca bed and realized Cinnabar Moth larvae were actively defoliating it. Cinnabar moths, native to Western Europe, were introduced  to Western Oregon some thirty years ago to control Tansy Ragwort, Senecio jacobaea and G alternate food source for moth larvae. Tansy ragwort is exceptionally vigorous, non native and will edge in and cover a pasture. The abundance of toxic alkaloids in ragwort can cause fatal liver damage in both cattle and horses. I’m leaving this weed in my garden to nourish these beneficial larvae but will clip off flowers and seed heads. The drama of nature plays out in the garden.


Indigo Rose Tomato Salad

This is our favorite salad using Indigo Rose OP Tomato, our new introduction for 2012. We had it nearly every day last summer and eagerly look forward to enjoying it again. Other small salad tomatoes can also be used but to my mind none are as beautiful as Indigo Rose in this delicious combination of taste and color. The deep purple exterior is rich in anti-oxidant anthocyanins and the interior of these 2” fruits is a rich bright red. The flavor is bright, tart and pleasant.

It is important to mention, Indigo Rose, the world’s first high anthocyanin tomato is a result of traditional breeding and selection over many years and not a result of genetic engineering. Bred at Oregon State University by Dr. Jim Myers, it is the result of growing out the best selections over more than a decade selecting for performance, coloration, and flavor. it is open-pollinated.
We are pleased to introduce this fine and unusual selection in 2012. We start our tomatoes from April 1 to April 15th and transplant around Memorial Day weekend.


10-12 Indigo Rose Tomatoes (weight about 1.5 to 2 lbs.
3 tablespoons diced sweet onion
1 tablespoon white balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped parsley
6 ounces feta cheese (not non fat)

Directions: Cut each tomato into quarters. Gently combine tomatoes, onion, vinegar, oil, salt and parsley. Place in bowl and sprinkle with coarsely crumbled feta cheese. This salad is also very good with one or two tablespoons of chopped basil. Serve, this can be easily doubled and serves 3 to 8 depending on whether this is a dinner salad, with bread, or simply salad.

Basil-Tomato Salsa

Salsa recipes are versatile and this is one that says Summer! Serve the “Basic Recipe” with chips or crackers.
The goat cheese log shown resting on a nest of wild arugula is summer fare. Make the full “Basic Recipe” and use half for this smokey paprika version. Add 1/4th tsp. Nichols triple smoked paprika and 1 tsp. olive oil and serve with goat cheese. Adding a spoonful of chopped capers to the “Basic Recipe” portion gives a lovely Tuscan quality. Pile onto toasted bread slices for bruschetta. These salsas are good with fish. If your palate wants more heat, acid or garlic adjust accordingly. You are the cook and summer abundance invites improvisation.

Basic Recipe
6 medium Roma Tomatoes (3 cups diced)
1 large mild onion (Walla Wallas if available)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4-6 Jalapeno peppers –deseeded
1 cup basil leaves, finely slivered and tightly packed
juice of 2 lemons or ¼ cup red wine vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste, a touch of sugar if needed

With a well sharpened knife trim and finely dice the tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Deseeding peppers improves texture of the salsa and produces a milder flavor. The basil leaves need to have stems trimmed away before chopping. Adjust seasonings to your taste. If you prefer to use slicing tomatoes, chop, let sit for a few minutes, and drain off excess juices.
I’ve used wild arugula which holds up in summer heat better than our standard arugula. Both will be delicious, Spread your cracker or toast with goat cheese “Chevre”, add a few sprigs of arugula and top with salsa.

Gardeners tip: beginning July 1 soils in the continental US are warm enough to direct sow basil seeds. Sow seeds about 1/2 inch apart in a sunny spot, keep damp as seeds germinate and plants develop. Thin to allow 3-4″ between developed plants. Start harvesting when 4″ tall. This is always my main crop for pesto. All this clipping doesn’t make for beautiful plants but the flavor and production is great.

Arugula & Rigatoni “Old Website”

Arugula with Rigatoni with tomato sauce was a standby on the old Nichols Garden Nursery website. I’m starting to catalog these for easy reference on this blog.

When you have arugula or “garden rocket” growing, try this delicious pasta recipe. The arugula flavor mellows when combined with the hot pasta and rich sauce. If arugula is starting to bolt and becoming strongly flavored try this dish.

Arugula & Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce
4 cups arugula leaves washed, drained and trimmed
1 pound uncooked rigatoni pasta
2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
3 garlic cloves pressed or minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
salt & pepper to taste

Tear washed and trimmed arugula into generous bite-sized pieces and toss into a large, shallow, heat resistant serving dish. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until barely tender. Remove and drain. While the pasta is cooking prepare this easy tomato sauce: Heat olive oil and stir garlic around until softened and fragrant. Add tomatoes and seasonings and heat to a simmer. Remove bay leaf. Combine the hot, drained pasta with the tomato sauce and pour over the bed of arugula. Lightly toss all together and quickly serve with grated parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6.

Growing arugula: a small packet of seed will provide many harvests of arugula. Start sowing every two to three weeks beginning in spring. When summer heats up make your plantings in semi-shade or just move your container from full sun. Arugula will keep growing until frost and the flowers are also good for garnishing and salads.


The other day, before the Melon Tasting at Nichols Garden Nursery,we had a Tomato Tasting! What a fabulous day to be there!! We had a baker’s dozen of tomato varieties to taste.

The folks who tasted commented:
Larger tomatoes included:
‘Black Krim’ – the favorite; with a good balance of acid and sugar; stands alone; great on a hamburger
‘Carmello’ – bland, juicy, like a store-bought tomato
‘Crimson Carmello’ – acid with good flavor
‘Heartland’ – excellent flavor; juicy for sandwiches
‘Jaune de Flamme’ – yellow, juicy, watery flavor
‘Legend’ – meaty, but not flavorful
‘Margo’ – not at peak ripeness; crunchy
‘Marmand’ – acidic, bland, good for sauce
‘Rutgers’ – the “gold standard”, heirloom, the “Jersey tomato,” parent of many hybrid tomatoes

‘Thai Pink’ – represented the plum group, flavorful, slightly acid, good in salads
‘Sugary’ is a grape, – flavorful with a good bite (others didn’t like it at all)

Cherries included:
‘Cal Hy K9’ – red, crunchy, generally not liked
‘Orange Sunshine’ – less sweet, crispy
‘Sun Gold’ – the gold standard – fabulous, sweet
‘Sunsugar’ – hard to differentiate from ‘Sun Gold’

A group of foodie/garden writers is sitting with me now at Rose Marie’s kitchen table: Josh Young, Jim Long, Jane Whitfield, and Ros Creasy, tasting the cherry tomatoes… ‘Sun Gold’ and ‘Sunsugar’ were indistinguishable – basically we loved the orange cherries!!

If you’re in the area, come to Nichols on on Saturday the 20th from 1 to 4 pm and judge for yourself.

Looking forward to hearing what your favorites are….

Cathy Wilkinson Barash