Gumbo Time! by Patty G. Leander


There is nothing better than a cup of hot gumbo on a cool fall evening!

There are always a few things I can count on this time of year: shorter days, cooler temperatures, fewer bugs and either the Longhorns or the Sooners reigning over the Cotton Bowl till next year (congrats UT!). Plus a big pot of flavorful gumbo thickened with the last of the okra from the garden.


Cooking the roux while the Cajun trinity waits their turn to be added to the pot

It is too dang hot to stand over a stove stirring a roux in the middle of summer when okra is at its peak, but in the fall, when the bell pepper plants are loaded and the green onions are big enough to harvest, I feel compelled to make gumbo just before okra gives up the ghost; a little for immediate consumption, a little for sharing and a little for the freezer to enjoy on cold winter nights in front of a cozy fire. A small disclaimer here – I am Texan and did not grow up making gumbo in a Louisiana kitchen.  If you grew up in the Gumbo State I bet you make amazing gumbo and I salute you, but for the rest of the readers out there, including my two daughters, here is a pretty good version that I have been making, sharing and enjoying for over 25 years.


It really smells good now!


Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Gumbo contains onions, bell pepper and celery – the Cajun trinity.

1 pound andouille or spicy smoked sausage, cut in half lengthwise then cut into ¼” slices

4-6 bone-in chicken breasts, skinned

½ cup oil

½ cup flour

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2-3 stalks celery, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp Creole seasoning

2 bay leaves

1-2 tsp dried thyme

1 tbsp Worcestershire

1-2 tsp Tabasco

1½ quarts water or chicken stock, more if needed

1-2 cups okra, sliced

4-6 green onions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish

Cooked rice

Cook sausage in a large Dutch oven until nicely browned (I usually cook half the sausage in a separate pan for more even browning). Remove to a paper towel-lined dish to drain. Add chicken to pan and brown on both sides in sausage drippings; remove and set aside. Add enough oil to Dutch oven to measure ½ cup; when heated through stir in ½ cup flour. Now get comfortable, roll up your sleeves and cook the roux, stirring constantly, for 20-30 minutes, until medium to dark brown. You may notice that my gumbo is not as dark as what you might be served in New Orleans – I may be a Texan but I am a chicken when comes to cooking a truly deep, dark roux. A darker roux gives a rich, smoky flavor but if you cook it too long or too fast or look way even for a second it can go from perfection to scorched and you will have to start over so pay attention!

Once your roux is toasty brown it’s time to add the trinity, but the roux is so hot I like to move the pan off the heat for a couple of minutes (this also prevents the roux from burning) then stir in the onions, peppers and celery and return to the burner. Cook over medium heat for 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and seasonings, cooking and stirring another 3-5 minutes.

Gradually stir in 1½ quarts of water/chicken stock and bring to a boil. Return chicken breasts to pot, lower heat and simmer 30-45 minutes. Remove chicken and allow to cool. Return sausage to pot along with okra and green onions and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile bone chicken breasts and shred.  Return shredded chicken to pot and cook another 20-30 minutes until everything is hot and fragrant. Remove bay leaves and season, if desired, with salt and hot sauce. Serve with rice and fresh green onions.


And finally, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo…enjoy!


A couple of years ago I was fortunate to receive some bulbs for green multiplier onions from the publisher of Texas Gardener magazine. He received them from a reader in Houston, who explained that they migrated to Texas with Cajuns from south Louisiana who had been growing them for over 100 years. They grew them for use in their gumbo and refer to them simply as gumbo onions. I don’t know if this reader has a stockpile to share via this blog but if he does I will provide his name and address in a future post. These onions are dependable and tasty, but unfortunately I have given away most of my bulbs and am trying to build up my reserves.  In the meantime try asking long-time gardeners in your area if they have any multipliers to share or order some white multiplier onions from Southern Exposure Seed Catalog (

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 14 in the Zone 9 Garden

This Sunday my two favorite things cross – the Liturgical Calendar and the Planting Calendar.  Over the next few days the traditions of my church will remind me of the truly important things in life – sacrifice, forgiveness and the power of resurrective love.

While I most intensely feel the presence of God during this time of year, I most often EXPERIENCE him outside the walls of the church.  If you are not aware of the mystery and wonder of your creator right now then you are not trying.  Where I live he has once again filled me with awe and wonder by painting our yards, fields and roadways blue.  Bluebonnet season is now fully underway in Washington County.  This weekend, after you finish your ham and pea salad, why not take a drive in the country and experience the majesty of His creation.

My gumbo onions are truly beautiful when they flower.

My gumbo onions are truly beautiful when they flower.


As I write this every muscle in my body aches.  However, I actually enjoy this feeling because it reminds me (every time I move) that I finally got my spring garden planted!!!!  Spring rains made my clay soil too wet to work the previous two weekends.  This past weekend was perfect.  My wife and I cleaned out our left over brassicas and all of our spring weeds and planted five varieties of tomatoes (from the best transplants I have ever grown).  This year I am growing Big Boy, which is my favorite large slicing tomato but does have some problems with cracking.  Celebrity is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE hybrid.  Medium sized with great flavor and not too much pulp.  My wife loves to make tomato sauce and paste.  Because of this we always grow heirloom “La Roma”.  I am trying a new heirloom variety this year called “Stupice”.  Supposedly this small, flavorful tomato originated in the Czech Republic.  I am growing it because my wife is Czech and because it is supposed to be a very productive and great tasting small tomato.  Finally, I planted “Black From Tula”.  This is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE heirloom tomato.  I love it’s rich, complex and somehow smokey flavor.  While it is an heirloom that makes a HUGE bush, it produces fairly well for me.

To control blossom end rot, heavily mulch your tomatoes and water regularly.  Blossom end rot is caused by uneven moisture affecting the plants ability to take up and use calcium.  I don’t care what Facebook says, adding your wife’s calcium tablets to your planting holes will not stop end rot.  The calcium in those pills is not available to the plant.  Even if it was available, uneven watering would still prevent the plant from taking it up.  Learn to water properly.


I love irises and I several that are blooming around around my yard.


While I love growing ornamental plants in my landscape, my favorite thing is cutting their blooms and foliage to make arrangements for the inside of the house.  Things are finally beginning to bloom well enough to make fresh cuts.  This week I will be bringing in iris, roses, rosemary (for filler), dianthus, coral honeysuckle and onion blooms.  To keep your flowers producing fertilize with finished compost every couple of weeks.  If using blended fertilizer use those with good Phosphorous and Potassium.  These two nutrients encourage blooming and flower set.

Our front yard is truly beautiful right now.

Our front yard is truly beautiful right now.


OK yardeners, it now time for you.  The general rule about fertilizer is “apply three weeks after the grass greens”.  For my Zone 9 yard this is now.  As a general rule use a 3-1-2 (15-5-10 or 21-7-14, etc.) fertilizer at the rate of one pound per thousand square feet about every eight weeks.  Set mowers to 3” for sunny yards and 3 ½” to 4” for shady yards.  The lower the setting the more frequently you will need to mow.  Water your lawns only when they show stress.  A good indicator is footprints.  If you walk through and the grass pops back up, don’t water.  If the foot prints remain then water the lawn to a depth of six inches.  Even in the hottest part of summer you can get by watering every five or six days.

Now back to those bluebonnets.  If you have them in your yard (and you want them next year) do not mow them until their foliage dies.  Also do not fertilize the area they are in.  Bluebonnets, and many other wildflowers, actually prefer marginal soil.  If you improve your soil too much the wildflowers will move someplace else.

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Winter Garden Chores

There is always something to do in the Texas garden – even in the winter.  Granted, winter does kind of reduce the number of tasks, but our mild winter ensures that we can be outside tending or growing something every single month of the year.  While there are several tasks in winter that can help us get our gardening fix, winter gardening does have its challenges.  It seems like every time I need to weed or plant or harvest it is either raining or miserably cold.  Sunday was a perfect example of this.  Despite the cold and the standing water in my rows, nature had decided to provide me with a bountiful brassica harvest; as long as I was man enough to brave the elements and harvest it.

The broccoli I harvested this weekend was planted on Sept. 28.  It will continue to produce for me until April or May.  Photo by Bruce Leander.

The broccoli I harvested this weekend was planted on Sept. 28. It will continue to produce for me until April or May. Photo by Bruce Leander.

I am proud to say, I sucked it up and was richly rewarded for my efforts.  Once I got in the garden and started cutting my cole crops I didn’t even notice the cold.  Before long I had harvested six pounds of broccoli, some gumbo onions, a bunch of baby carrots and a three pound head of cauliflower.  I don’t know about you but nothing gets my garden juices flowing more than a good harvest.  As I worked I actually forgot about the cold and enjoyed myself in my muddy little garden.  When I brought the veggies in  I was reminded again why I love gardening in Texas.  I really can enjoy healthy, organic produce year round.

While I was in the garden I also noticed lots of broad leaf weeds that were doing about as well as the broccoli.  So, while I was out I took the hoe to them.  Hoeing is not nearly as much work on a 40 degree day. Because it was such a “pleasant afternoon” I actually enjoyed chopping through all of the dandelions and thistles that were popping up.

This weekend I harvested my first cauliflower of the season - a three pounder!  Photo by Bruce Leander

This weekend I harvested my first cauliflower of the season – a three pounder! Photo by Bruce Leander

Luckily, not all winter gardening chores have to be done outside.  It is currently time to do what I consider the most important gardening task of the entire year —STARTING YOUR TOMATO TRANSPLANTS!!!  If you live in zone 9 you need to get your seeds started by January 15 to ensure you have big, healthy transplants on March 15.  My friend, and MOH contributor, Patty Leander has a great article in this month’s Texas Gardener magazine on growing your own tomatoes from seed.  If you don’t subscribe I really recommend picking up this issue.  Her article is awesome.

It is time to start those tomato seeds!  There is no other way to ensure you have the varieties you want when planting time comes.  Photo by Bruce Leander

It is time to start those tomato seeds! There is no other way to ensure you have the varieties you want when planting time comes. Photo by Bruce Leander

Gumbo Onions

There are two things that really get my gardening juices flowing–pass along plants and discovering a new, exceptionally good variety of something.  This year I received a true gift – a pass along onion that has turned out to be the best green onion I have ever grown.  The “Gumbo Onion” is everything you look for in a green onion.  The white bulbs are firm and spicy and the green leaves taste great and are firm enough to be easily chopped. 


These “gumbo onions” have been grown in the same family for over 100 years

I got my “Gumbo Onions” from fellow Texas Gardener writer Patty Leander.  Patty got her starts from Chris Corby who is the editor of Texas Gardener.  Chris got these amazing onions in the mail from L. E. Andrews of Houston. L. E. sent Chris several of these amazing onion bulbs.  L.E. told Chris that the onions came from a family of Cajuns from south Louisiana who migrated to Texas.  They have been growing these onions in the same family for well over 100 years.

Shallots are grown just like regular onions.  Only they have no day length limitations.

Shallots are grown just like regular onions. Only they have no day length limitations.

Mr. Andrews’ “gumbo onions” are technically shallots.  Shallots (A. cepa var. aggregatum) are a variety of the onion family (Allium cepa) that reproduces primarily by division.  Plant a single shallot bulb and that bulb will create several “off sets” from the main bulb.  Because of this growth habit some people call them “garlic onions”

Each shallot bulb will reproduce by creating several "offsets" around the main bulb.

Each shallot bulb will reproduce by creating several “offsets” around the main bulb.

Shallots are not grown in large numbers in the U.S. I am beginning to see them in a few feed stores and nurseries in my area.  However, most of the varieties that I am aware of are still passed from gardener to gardener. Shallots are grown just like regular onions (except you don’t have to worry about any day length issues).  Plant them in the fall for an early spring harvest or in the early spring for a summer harvest.  Do not plant them in soil that has been recently manured.  Shallots should be planted with the root scar down and the pointy end up.  Stick them in the ground deep enough to just cover the top of the offset.  Now all you have to do is water and weed.    

L.E. Andrews' "gumbo onions" are the best green onions I have ever grown.

L.E. Andrews’ “gumbo onions” are the best green onions I have ever grown.

I am thankful for people like L.E. Andrews.  He, and others like him, are preserving our horticultural past by growing these old timey varieties that have slowly fallen out of favor with the nursery trade.  I am so glad that he decided to share his heirloom onions and their story with those of us that will appreciate them and hopefully keep them growing for another 100 years. 

BTW, if you live north of I10, it is time to get your onions and shallots in the ground!