Garden to Table: Baked Okra

Before you know it your okra plants will be popping off with plenty of pods - they need to be harvested before they get too woody and inedible, which happens quickly. They also don't last for more than 4-7 days once harvested. 

This is an easy-to-make, quick way to enjoy and make use of all your tasty, homegrown okra. The crunchy and salty flavor might fool your kids into eating some veggies too. Feel free to add or subtract the quantities of salt and spices according to your taste, or experiment with new ones!



1. Preheat the oven to 450F degrees.

2. Rinse the okra, and dry with a paper towel. Trim away the stem ends, and then cut it into 1/2 to 3/4-inch pieces. Spread the okra on a sheet pan in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, paprika, salt, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Stir.

3. Bake the okra for about 15 minutes. The okra should be lightly browned and tender, with a nice seared aroma. Serve immediately.

Garden To Table: Brown Rice Pilaf with Peas and Spearmint

The mint really makes this easy recipe! Makes 6 - 8 servings.

The mint really makes this easy recipe! Makes 6 - 8 servings.


  • 1½ cups brown rice

  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon

  • one onion chopped

  • 15oz bag of frozen peas

  • 2 oz feta

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh spearmint

  • ½ tsp grated lemon zest


Cook brown rice according to directions, stirring 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base into the boiling water.

In large pot, sauté onion. Remove from heat.

Cook frozen peas in microwave according to directions. Mix into the chopped onions.

Mix together a generous amount of chopped fresh spearmint, feta cheese, crumbled, and at least ½ tsp grated lemon zest (I used more).

When rice is done, put everything together in the large pot. Toss and serve.

Can be reheated or can be eaten cold as a salad.

Flowering Dogwood: To Plant or Not to Plant

There is no prettier flowering tree than a dogwood, in my humble opinion. I love the bold white flowers (actually bracts surrounding little yellow flowers) in springtime, the lush green leaves on branches arranged gracefully in horizontal planes in summer, the burgundy fall color and bright red fruit that is favored by birds in autumn. Even its bark is outstanding, textured with small gray to black scaly blocks. In winter, the small chalky-gray flower buds stand out.

I have a childhood photo of myself and my sister reading books in the grass below “our” dogwood tree. It was a fairly young tree then and there was plenty of sun to grow grass beneath it at our house on Long Island. I remember this dogwood with affection. By the time I was a teenager, its crown was full and the tree cast significant shade. We often took photos of friends and family in front of this graceful tree.

Linda and Donna Legare under their dogwood tree in the 1950s. Family photo.

Linda and Donna Legare under their dogwood tree in the 1950s. Family photo.

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small understory tree that grows up to 25 or 35 feet. Its natural range extends from eastern Canada all the way to North Florida. Dogwoods were heavily planted in urban and suburban areas in Tallahassee in the late 1950s through the 70s. Many of these trees have died, due to old age. They are not long lived like live oaks. Unfortunately, people have been having trouble reestablishing dogwoods around Tallahassee.

There are problems to which dogwoods succumb listed on the UF/IFAS website, such as dogwood anthracnose, which hasn’t been found in Florida yet, powdery mildew, and borers that enter damaged trunks. You may decide not to plant a dogwood, especially if you do not have an ideal site for one.

However if you decide to plant one, select a spot with deep, rich, well-drained soil. Light shade is better than heavy shade. Ideally your dogwood should receive sun in the morning and protection from hot afternoon sun.

There should be lots of leaf mulch around your planted dogwood. This will provide a natural source of fertilizer and will make it unnecessary for mowers and weed whackers to cut in close, thus avoiding trunk wounds. As the tree grows, don’t plant much beneath it; try not to disturb its roots. The leaf mulch will help keep the roots cool and conserve moisture.

Drought will stress your dogwood. Pay attention to watering, especially for the first year and during extended droughts. Water when rainfall is inconsistent and apply a layer of pine straw, if leaf mulch is not available.

If your soil is just not up to par, you will probably fail with a flowering dogwood tree. Instead try a different species. Other native spring bloomers to consider are red buckeye, fringe tree, Chickasaw plum, redbud, silverbell, parsley hawthorn, and crabapple. But if you’ve got the right soil, I would encourage you to try a dogwood. I plan to plant one this week to replace an old one that has reached the end of its life. I will miss this old tree!