Oh, the things a cozy mystery author must do! Oh, the hardships!
While conducting research for my White House Gardener Mystery series, not only did I spend several seasons visiting D.C. and the White House gardens to make sure that I soaked up the atmosphere and the feel for the area…
I also, lurked through the D.C. parks—sometimes at 4:30 in the morning—so I could act out in my mind the murders that take place in the books.
However, the biggest sacrifice for these books has happened…not in D.C. …not in my garden… but in my kitchen!
For the past several years my tiny house has been turned into a makeshift plant laboratory. While writing the first book in the White House Gardener Mystery series, Flowerbed of State, the kitchen counters were covered with pots of pineapple tops as I tested the best way to sprout the top of the pineapple. This also meant that every time I found myself at the grocery store, I was picking up a new pineapple to work with. And as a consequence, my husband and I ate scores of pineapples that year.
This past year while researching Oak and Dagger, the third and latest book in the White House Gardener Mystery series (and this year’s release), I wanted to do another kitchen-to-garden section at the end of the book. Instead of pineapples, I had the brilliant idea to include instructions on how to grow the tops of carrots and the bottoms of onions. Of course, I couldn’t include the instructions until I tested and determined the best ways to grow the carrots and onions.
Once again, my kitchen was transformed into a garden laboratory.
First, I grew carrots in the garden just for this purpose.
Thankfully, my husband didn’t mind when I gave him the task of eating the bottoms of the carrots.
I then placed the carrot tops in various glasses and set them on every available windowsill and counter space I could find. I repeated the process until I was satisfied that the carrots would sprout and grow for even someone with the brownest of brown thumbs.
Grow the Tops of Your Carrots
This is a quick and fun gardening project that anyone can do. When you are preparing your fresh carrots, cut off the top of the carrot (about a half-inch will do). Remove all but a few small leaves from the top.
Fill a glass or bowl with water. Set the carrot in the water so that it is partially submerged.
Place the glass or bowl in a sunny window. Change the water every few days. In a few weeks the carrot will sprout roots and new leaves will grow.
Plant the rooted carrot in a pot or in your garden.
You won’t grow new carrots from the plants, but swallowtail butterflies will enjoy feeding off the nectar from the flowers.
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The same time that the “Great Carrot Experiment” was going on, I also experimented with sprouting the bottoms of my onions—the part of the onion that has those scraggly roots. And these onion bottoms, given time and attention, will produce new onions! Here’s what I learned:
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Grow the Bottoms of Your Onions
Did you know you can grow a new onion from just the bottom part with the roots? Well, you can! Here’s a fun gardening project to try.
Cut off the bottom of your onion, the part with the dried roots. Leave about an inch to an inch and a half of onion with the roots.
Allow to dry for a couple of days in a well-ventilated area. This will allow it to form a callus and help prevent it from rotting.
You can get the roots started by soaking in water for a few days. (It’s fun to watch.) Or if you’re impatient plant the onion root-side down in a pot, burying it about a half-inch deep pot, or you can even plant it directly in the ground. Within a few weeks the onion will sprout.
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Who knew that writing adventures for my plucky White House organic gardener, Casey Calhoun, would also send me on new and challenging adventures? I sure didn’t! It’s rarely a dull moment for this author. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
About This Author
Dorothy St. James is the pseudonym for author Dorothy McFalls. As St. James she writes the White House Gardener Mystery series. (Book 1 — Flowerbed of State, May 2011), (Book 2 — The Scarlet Pepper, April 2012), and (Book 3 — Oak and Dagger, April 2013). Dorothy is a master gardener who loves puttering around in her garden and trying out new techniques.
Oak and Dagger
(A White House Gardener Mystery)
3rd in Series
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
The Berkley Publishing Group (April 2, 2013)
Published by The Penguin Group
Cover Illustration by Mary Ann Lasher
Cover Design by Olivia Andreas
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
E-Book File Size: 868 KB
A simple tree planting leads to chaos at The White House. A schematic is missing from the Grounds Office and a set of important papers has also disappeared from the Curator’s Office. The gardeners are getting blamed for both. On top of that Casey is getting death threats, the First Dog is digging holes all over the South lawn and the First Lady’s sister is creating her own havoc.
Then the curator is found dead is a secluded garden and all the evidence points at Gordon Sims, the chief gardener. Casey just has to clear his name. When she learns all the chaos and the murder could have something to do with a two hundred year old treasure she realizes she must move fast before the killer strikes again….
Casey Calhoun is a smart spunky protagonist and she is not afraid to get her hands dirty or stand out in the pouring rain to track down the killer. I am happy her relationship with Special Agent Jack Turner is moving forward. We also learn a bit more about Casey’s past.
There was so much happening in the installment that the pages were flying. The First Lady has her hands full with her twin boys and while her sister is supposed to be there to help she seems to have an agenda all her own. The decorator hired to create the nursery has much more interest in being out in the gardens instead in the space he is responsible for decorating. Jack is acting strange and seems to stand Casey up a lot. Gordon is in the hospital and Casey and Lorenzo have to work together and they never see eye to eye. The assistant curator is a strange little man who just happens to have rented the apartment below Casey.
Dolley Madison was important to this story. In fact the book starts with a quote from the famous First Lady: “And now, dear sister, I must leave this house or the retreating army will make me a prisoner in it by filling up the road I am directed to take.” Each subsequent chapter starts with a First Lady quote and I really enjoyed all of them.
Would you like to win a copy of this wonderful book?
Thanks to the people at Penguin
I have 2 copies to giveaway!!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”