Saturday, February 21, 2015

Plant of the Month (February) : Vine Hill manzanita – Arctostaphylos densiflora

Three year old Ceanothus densiflora 'Howard McMinn' - Mother Nature's Backyard

February is often rainy, though 2015 is thus far the exception.   One of the more pleasant activities this time of year is admiring the early-blooming trees and shrubs.   Our ‘Ray Hartman’ Ceanothus is usually glorious in February.  And our Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’ is a perennial favorite with humans and pollinators alike. 

Vine Hill manzanita is endemic to a relatively small area of Sonoma County, 13 miles from the Northern California coast.  It grows in the Vine Hill area, between the towns of Forestville and Sebastopol, in a part of Sonoma County best known for its vineyards.  The region is mostly forest, with openings (‘barrens’) featuring unusual sandy clay, acidic soils.  The Vine Hill manzanita grows in these barrens, as do several other endangered plant species: the Vine Hill ceanothus (Ceanothus foliosus var. vineatus) and Vine Hill clarkia (Clarkia imbricata).

Specimen of Vine Hill manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora)
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Claremont   CA
Vine Hill manzanita was first described by Milo Baker (Santa Rosa Junior College) in 1932, from specimens growing in what was later to become the Vine Hill Preserve.  To learn more about the Preserve see:   A Pacific Horticulture article by Philip Van Soelen provides a fascinating history of the Preserve, the rare manzanitas associated with it, and the hybrid cultivars arising from Arctostaphylos densiflora ( 

The species Arctostaphylos densiflora is now limited to a small number of individuals growing in or near the Vine Hill Preserve.  It is listed on the California Native Plant Societies Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants as a category 1B.1 species (rare, threatened, or endangered in CA and elsewhere).   But several cultivars of this amazing manzanita are alive and thriving in gardens throughout California.  In fact, they are some of the best known – and garden-proven – of the California manzanitas.  We are fortunate to have one in Mother Nature’s Backyard.

The ‘Arctostaphylos densiflora cultivars’ are likely actually hybrids between the Vine Hill manzanita and other California Arctostaphylos species.  As discussed in the Van Soelen article, the parentage of several common cultivars, including ‘Harmony’, ‘Howard McMinn’ and ‘Sentinel’, is hidden in history.  These cultivars arose in the wilds or in gardens which either contained (or were within pollinator’s flight distance) of other manzanita species.  Since manzanitas hybridize given the opportunity, our garden favorites are likely hybrids.  Only DNA studies may someday reveal their true parentage; as far as we know, such studies have not yet been done.

Interestingly, the common Arctostaphylos densiflora cultivars’ share several  distinctive characteristics of their Vine Hill parent.   All have rather small (for manzanita) pinkish flowers in dense clusters (truly ‘densiflora’).  Their leaves are almost perpendicular to the ground, giving the plants a neat, dense appearance compared to other manzanitas.   Most tend to grow wider than tall – at least in the first several decades.   And they tolerate a wide range of soil textures from quite sandy to clay. 

‘Harmony’ manzanita grows 2-4 ft tall and 4-6 ft wide in its first decade or so; it is often used as a woody groundcover or low foundation plant in soils ranging from sandy to clay.  But it has the potential to grow to 6-7 ft. tall and about as wide; it can be pruned up over time to reveal its attractive trunk structure and bark.  ‘Harmony’ is said to most resemble A. densiflora; it has larger leaves and a more open habit than the other ‘densiflora’ cultivars.  It can take very wet soils in winter and very dry ones in summer.

'Sentinel' manzanita - Theodore Payne Foundation, Sunland  CA

Arctostaphylos ‘Sentinel’, another popular cultivar, is taller (to 8-10 ft with time) and more upright (4-6 ft wide) than the other A. densiflora cultivars.  It also grows more quickly than the rest.   A natural hybrid (most likely) from the Vine Hill area, it is more drought and sun tolerant than the other cultivars, though not as frost hardy. It is often pruned up as a small, multi-trunk ‘tree’ to exhibit its red-brown bark.  This cultivar has slightly grayer leaves and looks wonderful combined with greener manzanitas, including ‘Howard McMinn’. 

Arctostaphylos 'Sentinel' ('Sentinel manzanita) flowers

‘White Lanterns’ manzanita is a very dense shrub growing eventually to 5-7 ft tall by 8-12 ft wide.  Similar in appearance to ‘Howard McMinn’, it has smaller leaves giving it more fine appearing texture and denser foliage.  It was introduced by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden from a volunteer seedling selected by Dara Emery.  It makes a lovely specimen, foundation plant or informal hedge.   Like all Vine Hill cultivars, it is literally covered in white flowers in late winter/early spring.

Arctostaphylos  ‘Howard McMinn’ is probably the best-known and most widely available of the A. densiflora cultivars.  It was selected by Howard McMinn, botany professor at Mills College, from the college garden (Oakland), where he raised manzanitas from seed collected at Vine Hill and other sites. It is speculated to be a hybrid between Arctostaphylos densiflora and perhaps A. stanfordiana.  

‘Howard McMinn’ manzanita was introduced into the nursery trade by the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation in 1955; it received the ‘Award of Merit’ from the California Horticultural Society in 1956.  So it is relatively old by California native cultivar standards.   There are garden specimens more than 50 years old - still growing strong!   We hope our plant at Mother Nature’s Backyard will do as well.

'Howard McMinn' manzanita
 Madrona Marsh native plant garden, Torrance  CA

‘Howard McMinn’ manzanita is a slow-growing, bushy shrub.  It was originally described as a smaller manzanita, suitable as a groundcover; garden experience has shown it can become rather large with time, ultimately attaining heights of 6-10 ft and widths of 6-12 feet.  But its slow growth will keep it a medium shrub (4-5 ft tall; 5-6 wide) for many years.

 ‘Howard McMinn’ has a dense, medium-green appearance due to its erect leaves (see below).   Gardeners often choose manzanitas for their evergreen leaves and red-brown bark.  This cultivar displays both from an early age.  In fact, from a foliage standpoint, ‘Howard McMinn’ has to be one of the prettiest manzanitas available. 

Foliage - 'Howard McMinn' manzanita

Like most manzanitas, ‘Howard McMinn’ has a nice natural shape: mounded and dense when young, more open at the base with age.  Some gardeners like to thin out lower branches to encourage a tree-like shape.  But little pruning is required – just removing dead branches is all that’s really needed.   We like to let manzanitas take their own shape over time.

Flowers and foliage: 'Howard McMinn' manzanita

Of course the main attraction this time of year is the flowers.  True to its parentage, ‘Howard McMinn’ manzanita puts on quite a show!  This year the flowers were only around for several weeks, probably due to the hot weather.  In a usual year in western Los Angeles County, this cultivar is covered with flowers for 3-4 weeks from as early as late January until well into February.  

The flowers are small and urn-shaped – typical for manzanita – and range from pink to almost white.  They are held in rather dense clusters, mostly on the sunny exterior of the foliage.   The flowers are noticeably smaller than those of our Bigberry manzanita (see: making them accessible to European honey bees as well as the longer-tongued native bees and hummingbirds.  On a sunny day, plants are literally buzzing with pollinators.

Flowers - 'Howard McMinn' manzanita
The fruits of ‘Howard McMinn’ manzanita are the ‘little apples’ of manzanita fame.  They usually ripen to red-brown in late spring/early summer in our area.  The fruits are edible and can be made into a refreshing cider-like drink (more on that this summer).  They can be used to make tasty jellies or syrups; they can also be dried, crushed and used for a pleasant tea.  Of course the fruit-eating birds like Northern Mockingbirds, Scrub Jays and Cedar Waxwings will happily devour any left-over fruits.   Birds are also known to nest in mature manzanitas.

Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) fruits

 ‘Howard McMinn’ is more forgiving than most manzanitas when it comes to garden conditions.  It can take full sun near the coast, but does better with some afternoon shade in most local gardens.  It loves well-drained sandy soils, but does fine in clay loams and clays (especially if planted on a low berm).  Quite drought tolerant once established, ‘Howard McMinn’ is more tolerant than most manzanitas of a little summer water.   But don’t over-water – once a month should be plenty.
Eight year old 'Howard McMinn' manzanita
 Madrona Marsh native plant garden, Torrance   CA 


Use ‘Howard McMinn’ as a specimen shrub in the front or backyard.  It’s pretty enough to stand muster in the most manicured of neighborhoods.   It also makes a nice hedge or hedgerow plant.  Its size is perfect for hiding a block wall (as we are doing in Mother Nature’s Backyard).    ‘Howard McMinn’  is often used with  manzanitas/cultivars that have different growth or foliage characteristics.  The year-round green contrasts are soothing, and the yearly show of flowers and fruits is magical.   It does well on slopes, making an easy-care slope cover.   Some even advocate it as a candidate for a large container.

Flowering 'Howard McMinn' manzanita on small berm -
Madrona Marsh native plant garden, Torrance  CA

However you use it, Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’ (and the other Arctostaphylos densiflora cultivars) make great additions to the garden.  They are time proven and should last a lifetime with proper care.


For a gardening information sheet see:

For plant information sheets on other native plants see:




We welcome your comments (below).  You can also send your questions to:


Monday, February 9, 2015

Gallery of Native Plants - Now Even Better

Native Plant Lists for Western L.A. County Gardeners

We've made the Gallery of Native Plants even better by adding links to relevant talks to our popular 'Lists of Native Plants for Western L.A. County Gardens'.  Check it out at:   (or access using the Gallery page (right).

Sunday, January 25, 2015

California Gourmet: Flavored Syrups

Flavored syrups made from California native and garden fruits
You can use them on pancakes or drizzle them on deserts.  They make refreshing beverages and can even be used to make cookies and pies.  One of the handiest uses for California native fruits and berries is flavored syrups. 

But why discuss syrups in January, when fruits mostly ripen in summer or fall?   First, there’s still time to plant native berry and tea plants this year. Perhaps this posting will inspire you.   Second, syrups are particularly useful right now, when fresh fruits – at least those from home gardens – are scarce. 

A third reason is that some syrups can be made right now.   Fruits/berries are the most common flavoring agents; but syrups can be made from anything used to make a natural tea as well.   If you love mint tea – and your mint patch is flourishing – now might be a good time to make mint flavored syrup.

Conditions have been perfect for Hummingbird sage this winter (see  You may be enjoying fresh tea and drying leaves for later use.  You might also make a batch of Hummingbird sage syrup.  It’s easy, cheap and a wonderful treat that can be used in many ways. We’ll post recipes featuring flavored syrups in the next few months.

Flavored syrups are essentially ‘simple syrups’ made with fruit juice or natural tea.  You can make as much or as little as you want; and you can use them immediately or process them (like you would jelly) for future use.   The flavors are unique to your garden – whether you make syrup from plums or nectarines or from the native fruits.  The syrups make unique and wonderful gifts.


Making the juice/tea

The main ingredient is either juice or natural tea.   You can make juice from just about any fruit: berries, grapes, strawberries, stone fruits, citrus, manzanita fruits, etc.  Just wash the fruits, cut and remove the pit (from stone fruits) or slice the citrus thinly.  Place fruit in a saucepan/pot and barely cover with water. 

Heat to a near-boil; then let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes.  The liquid should be colored and well-flavored; smaller fruits will have burst their skins.  Remove from the heat, let cool slightly, then strain out the pulp/seeds.  Use a jelly bag or line a sieve with several layers of cheese cloth.  The resulting ‘juice’ should be colored but relatively clear, with no visible particles.

If using natural tea, follow the instructions on making tea from our June, 2012 posting ( ).  You might want to make the tea a little stronger than normal if using it for syrup-making.


Flavored Syrup

1 cup prepared juice or tea

1 to 2 cups sugar

Other flavorings (optional): lemon juice; cinnamon (stick); other spices


You can make this syrup in any amount – just use equal amounts of sugar and juice.  A thicker syrup (good on pancakes or desserts) can be made by increasing the sugar up to a 1 to 2 ratio of juice/tea to sugar (e.g., one cup juice to 2 cups sugar).  Experiment to get the consistency and flavor combination you prefer.   You can also combine several types of juice/tea if desired.

Place sugar, juice and spices (optional) in a heavy saucepan.  Simmer over medium heat until mixture boils.  Lower heat and continue to simmer 5 additional minutes.  Remove from heat.  

Process syrup with a boiling water bath* (as for jelly) if you want to store the syrup for up to a year.  Or cool and store in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator for up to a month.  




* A good way to preserve syrups is by canning them, using the sterilizing effects of heat.  This time honored method allows you to store syrups, in canning jars, at room temperature.   You need to be sure that you follow recommended methods exactly to insure that your food is canned safely. 

If you’re new to preserving using a boiling water bath, we suggest reading a good basic reference on home canning. A classic reference book is the Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving.   Some good on-line resources are:


We encourage you to send us your questions, comments and recipes (either comment below or e-mail to us at :

Friday, January 9, 2015

Plant of the Month (January) : Munz’ sage – Salvia munzii

Munz' sage (Salvia munzii) in Mother Nature's Backyard garden

January can be an interesting month in Southern California gardens.  Sometimes the weather is cold and rainy – almost continually.  And sometimes we have periods of almost summer-like conditions.  This January is starting out to be a warm one.  Much to our surprise, the earliest blooming of our sages, Salvia munzii, is already flowering.

Munz’ Sage, also known as San Diego sage and San Miguel Mountain sage, is endemic to the San Miguel Mountains in southernmost San Diego County and  bordering northern Baja California, Mexico. This region, which includes the well-known Otay Mountain, is home to many interesting plants known for their drought tolerance.  Munz’ sage grows in both the Chaparral (higher elevations) and Diegan Sage Scrub plant communities.   Because it occurs in such a limited region, the California Native Plant Society has placed Munz’ sage on its Rare and Endangered Plants list (listed as ‘fairly endangered in California’ due to limited range and possible threats to habitat).

Munz’ sage was named in honor of Philip Alexander Munz (1892-1974), professor of botany at Pomona College and researcher at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.  He is best known for his books including A Flora of Southern California and a popular series of wildflower books (California Mountain Wildflowers, California Desert Wildflowers, California Spring Wildflowers and Shore Wildflowers of California, Oregon and Washington).  These books are still treasured by plant lovers, even though the original editions have long been out of print.  The University of California Press has released revised editions of these classics in the past decade.

Munz’ sage is a Salvia (Sage), a genus that includes many aromatic plants.  Salvia is the largest genus in the mint family, with over a thousand species world-wide.   At least 17 Salvia species are native to California, many to the southern part of the state. The genus name derives from the Latin salvere (to heal or be healthy), alluding to the healing properties of the genus.  Salvias are prized as ornamental plants - or for their culinary and medicinal properties - in gardens throughout the world.
Salvia munzii: growth habit
Among the California shrubby Salvias, Munz’ sage is one of the more petite.  In our experience it rarely grows to more than 3-4 ft tall and wide, though some growers (primarily those from moister climates) list it as growing to 6 feet.  In its growth form, Salvia munzii most closely resembles the Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii), another native with a nice, mounded shape and rather slender, open branches.   While sometimes described as similar to Black sage (Salvia mellifera), in our eyes Munz’ sage appears quite delicate compared to the robust – even chunky – appearance of Black sage.  The bark of younger stems is red – also like Cleveland sage – becoming gray with age. 
Munz' sage (Salvia munzii): spring leaves

The leaves of Munz’ sage are smaller than other local sages (~ 1 inch or less) and  medium green to gray-green in color (see above).  Like many sages, the leaves are mostly oblong to lance-shaped.  They have a crinkled ‘pebbly’ surface (like Black sage) and are very aromatic.  The scent is probably closest to that of Cleveland sage – with perhaps a hint of Black sage thrown in for good measure.   In our opinion, Munz’ sage has the nicest scent/flavor of any of the California sages.  Fresh or dried, we use it routinely as a seasoning herb and in potpourri, sachets etc.  In fact, one of the more compelling reasons to grow it is to have a ready source of the aromatic leaves.
In addition to the straight species, several cultivars are available from native plant nurseries.  The cultivar Salvia munzii 'Baja Blue' has lovely lavender flowers and is garden hardy.  It grows to 3-6 ft. tall and wide.  Salvia munzii 'Emerald Cascade' is a short cultivar (1-3 ft tall) with a mounding growth habit (to 4-5 ft wide).  It was also selected for its ability to grow well in local gardens.

Salvia munzii in Spring

Like other local Sages, Salvia munzii produces two sets of leaves a year.  The larger, greener ‘wet season leaves’ (above) are produced in winter/early spring.  As the plants dry out in early summer, they drop the wet season leaves - alarming the first time you see it in your garden!  They then produce a set of smaller, grayer leaves to get them through the summer and fall (see below).   You can delay the summer leaf drop by giving the plants a little summer water.  But ultimately native Salvias need to dry out.  So learn to treasure their different – but lovely – appearance in fall.

Salvia munzii in fall
Munz’ sage is the earliest blooming Salvia in our garden, often by several months.  The species begins flowering as early as February in lower S. California elevations and may continue until April or so.  This year, the first blooms appeared in late December, surprising us all.  Were it not for the visits of eager hummingbirds, we might have missed the early flowers entirely.

The flowers of Salvia munzii are characteristic of the genus - and of the Mint family in general.  Flowers are small, tubular (formed from fused petals) with distinctive ‘lips’ (see below).  The flowers are arranged in ball-like whorls around the upright flowering stems.  In Mother Nature’s Backyard, the flowering stalks are significantly taller than the foliage.  When the plants are mature they should be showy indeed!
Munz' sage (Salvia munzii): flowers
The flowers are a clear pale blue or violet – occasionally almost white – and sweetly scented.  They are similar in appearance to those of Black sage, but smaller and usually more brightly colored (Black sage flowers are often almost white, at least locally).   Hummingbirds are frequent visitors, but butterflies, bees and other insects also collect nectar from the flowers. Pollination is probably due to the actions of hummingbirds and large bees.  Songbirds, lizards and other small wildlife use the shrubs for cover.   All things considered, Salvia munzii is a fairly good habitat plant.

Munz’ Sage is one of the easier native Salvias to include in a home garden.  It likes full sun, but does fine with a little shade.  In Mother Nature’s Backyard, the area is rather shady in winter, but quite sunny in summer, when the sun is higher in the sky.  While it likes a well-drained soil, Munz’ sage can be grown in soils from sandy to clay.  If you’re worried about drainage, plant it on a low berm (1 ft. high is adequate) to increase the drainage. 

Like other native S. California Salvias, Salvia munzii is drought tolerant.   It can take quite dry conditions (water perhaps once a summer) if you don’t mind the dry appearance.   It does, however, hail from a region that gets occasional summer rain, in the form of the summer monsoons.  So it can take a little summer water, making it easier to garden with than the truly dry species like White sage.  

After the first summer, we recommend occasional summer water – perhaps once every 3-4 weeks in sandy soils or several times per summer in clays.  Be sure to water deeply and let the ground dry out (to at least 4-6 inches below the surface) between waterings.  Taper off the water in September to give plants a dormant period.  This water regimen provides a good compromise between garden aesthetics and plant health.   If you water more frequently, you’ll likely shorten your salvia’s life.

Local Salvias look their best with a yearly pruning, beginning with the first fall (in other words, after at least 6-9 months in the ground).   Some prefer to prune soon after Salvias complete their blooming – often in late spring or summer.  This   encourages Salvias to produce a second, fall flowering, which may be desired.   But we delay pruning until late fall for several reasons.   First, birds can eat the seeds if seed capsules are left on the plant.  Second, you avoid plant stress by pruning during the cooler weather. 

A third, practical reason involves the pruning itself; if you wait until plants begin to re-leaf in late fall/early winter it’s easier to remove just the right amount. The aim is to prune back enough to control shape, but not so much that you’re cutting back into the older, non-sprouting wood.  It’s important to prune each branch back to a point that retains 3-4 sets of new leaves.   Delaying pruning until plants are just beginning to re-leaf makes pruning Salvias easy.   And if you live in S. California, there will always be a dry spell in November/December that’s perfect for pruning Salvias.

Salvia munzii (Munz' sage) blooming in Mother Nature's
 Backyard garden: Gardena, California - 2014

Munz’ sage is a lovely addition to the sustainable S. California garden.   It provides early flowers, a nice shape and interesting foliage.   Its small size makes it appropriate for sites that can’t accommodate the larger native Salvias.  This is  probably also the best native sage to grow in a large pot.  

Munz’ sage does fine on sunny slopes and looks lovely planted with other Salvias and native buckwheats.   It’s a good habitat plant and a great addition to scented and culinary gardens.  The only word of caution applies to those whose gardens are within two miles of stands of native Salvias.  Salvias, including Munz’ sage and many others, interbreed between species, producing hybrid plants.  If you live within bee’s flight distance of native Salvias, the California Native plant Society recommends planting only the local native species and, ideally, those produced from local seed sources.  That’s the responsible – and sustainable – thing to do.

For a gardening information sheet see:

For more pictures of this plant see:

For plant information sheets on other native plants see:


We welcome your comments (below).  You can also send your questions to:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

California Gourmet: Dried Apple and Berry Crisp/Crumble

Apple-Elderberry Crisp Bites

It’s finally getting cold enough in Southern California for warm baked desserts.  Fruit crisps, crumbles and cobblers are easy ways to end a winter’s meal.  They can be made with fresh, frozen or canned fruits or with those dried last summer and fall.  Our recipes call for dried apples and elderberries because that’s what we dried last summer.   But you can use any dried fruits you have on hand.

Most traditional crisps and crumbles have fruit on the bottom and a crisp, crumbly topping (recipe 1, below); a few recipes use part of the topping as a bottom layer. Traditional cobblers have fruit on the bottom and a shortcake-like topping.  All combine the flavors of baked fruits (like a pie) but are simpler to prepare.

Crisps, crumbles and cobblers are simple to serve at home – still warm and fragrant from the oven.  They are less easy to manage for a potluck supper or other event away from home.  We know this from experience! 

We feature California Gourmet foods at events held several times a year in the garden.  Out of necessity, we developed a variation of the traditional crisp/cobbler recipe (recipe 2) which is more portable. We call them Dried Fruit Crisp Bites.   The bites are made in muffin tins (regular or mini-muffin size) and can be eaten warm or cold.  They combine the crisp topping of a crisp, with a shortcake crust that’s more like a cobbler.  If you only need a few Crisp Bites, you can easily halve the recipe.


Recipe 1 – Dried Apple-Elderberry Crisp/Crumble


1 cup dried apples, cut into small pieces after measuring

4 Tbsp dried elderberries (or other dried native berries/fruits: currants, gooseberries,

                                      dried strawberries, etc.)

2 Tbsp orange juice

Water (just to cover the fruits)

4 Tbsp granulated sugar

2 Tbsp flour

Place apple pieces, elderberries and orange juice in a medium bowl (a flat-bottom bowl is best).  Add water to just cover the fruits (you’ll need to pour off excess if you use too much).  Cover and let sit for at least one hour to let the fruits re-hydrate.  Press fruits down into the liquid half-way through to be sure each piece becomes hydrated.  After an hour most of the water should be taken up; if not, pour off the excess or filling will be too runny.   Add sugar and flour to fruits and stir to mix.   Let mixture sit while preparing topping.  Our filling is a bit on the tart side; taste and add more sugar if desired.

Filling for Apple-Elderberry Crisp



1  cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)

½   cup flour

½ cup granulated sugar

½  cup brown sugar

½   cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

In a medium bowl mix together all but the butter/margarine.  Cut in the butter/margarine with a fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles small peas.  The topping mixture should be well blended (homogeneous) and crumbly.
Topping - well-blended and ready to use

Place prepared filling into the bottom of an ungreased 8”x8” or 9”x9” non-reactive (glass/ceramic) baking dish or 9” pie plate.  You can also use single-serving ramekins.  Crumble topping evenly over the filling.  Place the baking dish on a cookie sheet on the middle rack of the oven.   Bake at 350°F until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbly, about 40-60 minutes.  Serve warm or cold.  Some like to top with ice cream or whipped cream.                                                                     Makes 6-9 servings



Recipe 2 – Dried Fruit Crisp Bites

Filling  (as above)

Topping (as above)

Shortcake crust

 All-purpose baking mix (enough for one recipe of shortcake)


Follow the shortcake recipe for your all purpose baking mix.  Ours uses 2 ½ cups baking mix with 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar, an egg and a little melted butter - but follow the instructions for your own  brand.


Prepare the muffin tins (regular or mini-size).  Non-stick muffin tins need no preparation; others should be lightly greased or sprayed with pan spray (if using cupcake liners, spray them with pan spray).   Roll out the crust on a floured cutting board or pastry cloth to about 1/8 inch thickness (pretty thin).   Using a circular cookie cutter that is just a little larger than the bottom of the muffin cups, cut out shortcake rounds.   You can also use a drinking class, jar lid or other round that’s the correct size.  Place the shortcake rounds in the bottom of the muffin tins; gently press the dough into the bottom of each cup.  

Shortbread crust in place - ready for filling

Crisp Bites ready for the oven

Spoon filling over each shortcake round, dividing it evenly between the cups.   Crumble the topping evenly over the filling in each cup.   Bake at 350°F until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbly, about 30-40 minutes for regular size, 20-30 minutes for mini-muffin size.   Remove from oven.   Serve warm or cold (can be re-heated in microwave).

                       Makes 18-24 regular or 48 mini bites.


We encourage you to send us your questions, comments and recipes (either comment below or e-mail to us at :