Consider Growing Broom Corn This Year

Broom Corn Arrangement

Broom Corn Arrangement

Every year I like to grow at least one plant I’ve never tried to grow before. It isn’t always a success, such as my luffa experiment, but it’s always fun. Last year, I chose broom corn because I knew I would be hosting a gathering in the fall, and I wanted a table decoration that would also serve as a conversation piece. It was a success on all accounts.

 Broom corn is interesting because it’s more like sorghum than corn. Here are the colorful seeds:


broom corn seeds

broom corn seeds


After it pops up and in its early growth stages is the when it looks the most like corn.

Broom Corn Seedling

Broom Corn Seedling

My husband and I were amazed at how tall it grew. Notice how it has no ears.


Broom Corn

Broom Corn

Broom Corn

Broom Corn


As the name suggests, broom corn can be used to make brooms. We cut several stalks to dry in the barn. Our stalks were too curved to make a good broom which was okay by me since I wanted table decorations.

Broom Corn Drying

Broom Corn Drying

I loved the decorations so much and they lasted so long, that I’ll grow more broom corn this summer. Give it a try. You and the birds will love it.



Green-Striped Cushaws

green striped cushaw

Ever hear of a green-striped cushaw, aka Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash? It can be used as a fun decoration or eaten as a tasty “pumpkin” pie. I first grew it about twenty-five years ago when we lived south of Kansas City, well over one hundred miles south of our present home. I’d forgotten about them until last winter when I noticed them in a seed catalog and decided I need to try them again.

I started one green-striped cushaw seed last May in a grow/light box and transplanted it to our clay-filled hill garden. The plant spreads like a pumpkin—all over the place, and it’s normally prolific. However, this summer has not been a normal growing season. The excessive rains made it the worst gardening season I’ve ever experienced. The cushaw kept setting on fruits but they would quickly rot. Finally, two fruits persevered and matured. The picture above shows one of them.

sliced cushaw

 Cushaws are great for autumn decorations, but they’re also great for pies. I processed this cushaw just as I would process a fresh pumpkin. I removed the stem, scooped out the seeds, and cut it up in large slices.

                                                                                             cushaw in pans

I placed the slices on baking sheets, drizzled them with olive oil, and set them in the oven for about 40 minutes at 450 degrees. After the slices had cooled, I peeled off the skins, put the meat or pulp in a food processor, and pureed them. I put 2 cups of puree in each freezer bag.

                                                                           cushaw puree

I think any pumpkin pie recipe would work great for cushaw, but here’s a recipe from American Food Roots for Sorghum-Sweetened Cushaw Pie that I plan to try during the holidays this year. Oh my, it’s not even Halloween and I’m already planning for the holidays!


Jack O’ Turnip?

Jack O Lantern

Ten or so years ago, the Schuyler County Times (Missouri) published an article of mine about how the tradition of carving Jack o’ Lanterns began. Here is my “blog-version” of the article.

According to Irish legend, we carve Jack o’ Lanterns today thanks to Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack was a drunk and miserly man who got his meals by snatching pies cooling in an open window sill or snagging a chicken from a distracted neighbor. Once, Stingy Jack tricked the Devil himself into climbing a tree to fetch an apple. When the Devil jumped onto a branch, Stingy Jack carved crosses in the trunk and wouldn’t let him down until he promised never to ask for Stingy Jack’s soul again.

A few years later, Stingy Jack died in a turnip patch. His soul was left with no place to go because he’d been too miserly to go to heaven, and since the Devil had promised not to take his soul, he couldn’t go to Hell either. He could only wander in darkness. The devil gave him a glowing coal which he put in a carved-out turnip to serve as a lantern to guide him.

Jack’s lantern, the Jack o’ Lantern, became known as the symbol of a doomed soul. Hollowing out turnips and placing candles or burning embers in them to ward off Stingy Jack and other doomed spirits became a Celtic tradition.

Irish immigrants in the 1800’s brought their Halloween traditions to the United States. But since turnips were not as readily available as in Ireland, they substituted pumpkins for their Jack o’ Lanterns. Good idea, wouldn’t you say?

Happy Halloween!                        dead bat

Autumn Joy

Gourds & Marigolds

It may sound strange, but this gardener loves autumn just as much as spring. I love the crisp air, the geese honking above as they migrate south, and the vibrant red, yellow, and orange leaves that swirl in the wind. I even admire the poison ivy’s beauty–but from afar, very afar.

fall bucket

It’s fun to decorate inside and outside the house with pumpkins, gourds, chrysanthemums, Indian corn, and those hardy old marigolds. This year, I added ornamental peppers to the decorating mix. As you can see in the photos, they look like little red tomatoes. They should turn orange soon and look like tiny pumpkins…at least that’s the plan.

pumpkin peppers

I love fall food, too. On a chilly night, our food is soup filled with tomatoes, potatoes, onions, herbs, beans, corn, and carrots (and whatever else I find in the freezer and pantry) that have been harvested and preserved from our garden.

The real reason I love autumn is that it’s a season for taking a deep breath and giving thanks for our garden produce, be it edible or just decorative.  I realize there is a day in November set aside for that purpose, but Thanksgiving gets short shrift as we rush into December and the holiday season. Besides, one day of thanksgiving isn’t nearly enough.

I encourage you all to grab a cup of hot cider or hot chocolate and walk around outside and enjoy the colors, the sounds, and the feel of autumn. It’s such a gift of joy!

joined gourdsmums