If you are driving down 61st street along Offats Bayou, you will see Darlene’s Shrimp Shack (a food truck) sitting pretty next to Aunt Margie’s Bait Shop and a shrimp boat named Darlene. If you are thinking that a shrimp shack next to a bait shop with shrimping boats means that the shrimp in that shrimp shack is fresh- you would be correct!
The shrimp is fresh and locally caught (when possible) and battered as it is ordered. You can get your shrimp battered or “naked” and choose from twelve different seasoning options. The baskets come with 10 shrimp and 2 hushpuppies for about $12.00. The shrimp are huge so reasonably you could share but I am not reasonable when it comes to sharing my food.
These shrimp are contenders for best shrimp on the island. I have eaten there multiple times and have loved each and every bite. Everyone in my office loves this place. The batter is on the light side, so you really taste the shrimp. My favorite flavors are Cajun or Garlic Parmesan. Other flavor options are lemon pepper, buffalo, plain, and more.
If the weather is pretty you can sit out at the picnic tables and watch the sail boats on the Bayou or watch the sea birds come and go.
From the family history I have picked up from talking with the folks who run the bait shop, Margie and Darlene were sisters. Margie was the aunt who kept most of the kids when they were little. When she passed, the family decided to name the bait camp after her. Aunt Margie’s bait camp is a popular spot for bait AND they sell “eating” shrimp in there as well. We have been buying shrimp, squid, flounder and more in there for years. If the seafood is fresh, you don’t have to be a great cook to make great seafood.
Aunt Margie’s bait camp and Darlene’s Shrimp Shack are BOI (born on the island) and as local as you can get. Give them a try, you will be glad you did!
It’s time to grow lettuce. It has been since September, actually. The thing about lettuce and other similar greens is that they need to be planted in succession. One planting is never enough! If you plant one crop and then follow it with another crop then you always have lettuce in the prime picking stage (succession planting). The weather may have turned cool, but the soil temperatures are plenty warm enough to cause Lettuce seed to germinate.
Now, you may be thinking, “Why bother?”
There are some nasty rumors going around about lettuce. I hear that it is really hard to grow with lots of insect problems. It has also been said that lettuce grown in Texas tastes bitter because of the heat. Lies, all of them.
The misinformation comes from the fact that the instructions on the back of seed packets and those great little farming magazines are written for folks living in the areas of the country that actually have four seasons and one growing season. Now do not misunderstand me, I love my gardening magazines, but the time lines do not line up. Well, welcome to Texas Gardening. There is a rhythm to gardening in Texas that is as unique as our Texas spirit. Once you learn the rhythm you will be amazed at what you can grow.
However, for now we will focus on lettuce and its cousins. It perturbs me to no end to have to purchase greens of any kind in the grocery store. Homegrown greens are so easy and tasty! Also, it is so much easier to have a bed of lettuce and just go pick you some whenever you want, than to have to go to the store when you want a salad. If you are like me, lots of times what’s for dinner is not something planned very far in advance. So, having items growing in the garden to have on hand is just the ticket.
One of the perks about lettuce and all the other greens, such as arugula, chard, spinach, etc. is that they can by eaten at all stages. Baby greens make for a scrumptious salad or sandwich. Many people, like my children, do not like mature spinach but love baby spinach. So, while the plants are growing you can pick the outer leaves and enjoy the garden abundance for many weeks. The greens( the term greens refers to all types of lettuce, herbs, kale, greens, spinach etc.) do not take a lot of space. One 5X12 foot bed of greens will keep a family of 6 in fresh greens. If there is only one or two of you, then a container that can hold 3-4 mature plants at a time is sufficient.
Now to dispel the lies.
First, that lettuce is hard to grow. Not so, you just have to know when to plant it. If you read many of the labels on lettuce sold in Texas, the labels say to plant after all danger of frost has passed. The problem with this is that if you wait that long in Texas you can have as little as 2 weeks until the temps are consistently in the mid- 80′s. The proper planting times in Texas are February- April and September- December. Lettuce is a cool season crop. When most areas of the country are having dead of winter, we are having our cool season. When we have had a mild winter, I harvest greens from September until June. That is only 2 months of store-bought greens in a year. That makes my heart happy!
The second lie is that lettuce has many insect problems. Now there are certain worms- Cabbage Loppers for example- that do like lettuce. However, these are easily dispatched with Bt. Bt- (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a naturally occurring bacterial disease that only attacks caterpillars. Bt is organic and you can eat the produce with no worries that synthetic pesticides bring. There are other insects that can be a problem at times, but I have found in my gardens that Bt is all I need to keep things in balance. Also, there are other methods of insect control, but again the Bt is simple, easy and effective so that is what I use. You can find it at most hardware and garden supply stores.
Lastly, lettuce grown in Texas tastes bitter- hogwash. Again, you just need to know when to plant and what varieties to plant. The types that are considered “slow to bolt” are the best for planting in the spring. Bolting refers to sending up a conical shaft with blooms that will produce seeds. Warm weather signifies to the lettuce that it is time to make seeds. So, those lettuces that are slow to bolt will be the most tolerant of warm weather. While you are looking in seed catalogs for heirloom selections (heirloom refers to varieties that will reproduce consistently if the seeds are saved) look for ones that were developed in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas- of course- or Israel. These areas have climates similar to ours and those varieties will usually do well here for the summer planting. Look for varieties labeled “Cool season” or “cold tolerant” on the lettuces, these will be the one for planting in the fall. When it comes to the spinach, swiss chard, and kale- these are not even stopped by a freeze so they will grow all winter.
Some of my favorite varieties are: For Fall Planting: Black Seeded Simpson, Drunken Woman, Tom Thumb, Oakleaf For Spring Planting: Oakleaf, Jericho- awesome, Tom Thumb Spinach- Longstanding Bloomsdale is great year round.
Most of your annual herbs like dill, Salad Burnett, chives are best planted on the same schedule as lettuce. I like to sow the seeds in wide beds. I thin the seedlings and use them in salads as baby greens. Keep the lettuce or greens watered one inch once per week and a little shade is very helpful for extending the growing season in the summer. The seeds usually germinate and emerge in 7-10 days.
So there you have it- the truth about lettuce. Now what are you waiting for? September is coming to a close and October is upon us, I can just taste the homegrown lettuce now.
So, I want to tell you about my favorite restaurant in Galveston. But then again, I don’t. I like knowing the local spots and if any more people find out about this gem, then I will have to wait longer. But then again, I live here full time and I can eat when all the tourist have gone home and the island settles into the off-season.
Here it is- Miller’s Seawall Grill
Their gumbo is the best on the island. A cool thing they do is to offer samples before you order. This way, you know you like it before you order. And that is great because gumbo is a controversial kind of food. How ever your grandma made it- that is the way it should be. But everybody’s grandmother makes gumbo differently. Its one of those types of foods that there isn’t a recipe written in stone, you just add a bit of this and a pinch of that.
The waffles they serve are the best I have ever had in my life! Seriously, they are fluffy and crisp on the edges. They serve it with melted butter and syrup. Yeah, not gonna lose weight on this meal, but you will enjoy it all the way down to your toes. They serve breakfast all day.
The rest of their menu is so good. Lots of comfort food and basic seafood- all of it cooked well. The fish is great grilled or fried, same for the shrimp. If you are not a seafood lover, that is okay. Their chicken fried stead is huge and delicious. The au gratin potatoes are yummy and my preferred side of choice. Dinner plates are $10.00 and that, my friend, is a steal on the island.
Not only is the food scrumptious, but the atmosphere is incredible. Sherry, the manager, and her staff are awesome. The design of the restaurant allows every table to have a view of the water. The location on Seawall means that you can enjoy the views of the water while you wait for your table. During the summer and most weekends year-round, there will be a wait of at least 30 minutes and as much as an hour and a half. But the wait is worth it.
One day, I might share a local hack so that you know where to eat that doesn’t have the long waits that the Seawall locations have, but not today.
Fall mean different things in different regions. For the Texas Gulf Coast, it means a slight break in the heat. We rarely get freezing temperatures down here, so we may be swimming in the Gulf until November.