Monday, August 26, 2013

Harvest Monday - 26 August 2013

Welcome to another Harvest Monday, as always hosted by Daphne's Dandelions.

Looking up the field on a golden Sunday morning:

I've been saying this is the nicest September we've ever had in August. Our last rain was August 10, which is very unusual. It's not a problem in the main garden, as I have it all tricked-out with drip irrigation and micro sprinklers on timers, 10 minutes a day. The winter squash has needed some additional hosing.

In our area (Southern New Hampshire, Zone 5b) we have only about 4 or 5 more weeks until the serious chance of frost. It gives one pause! To be more precise, there is a statistical 10% chance starting September 8, rising to 50% by September 26, and 90% by October 13. But every year is different!

We had a nice mid-week harvest:

The weekend harvest was about the same. We picked 5 zucchini this week; now they seem to be resting, which is not a problem! There was one more picking of blueberries like you see above. That is it for the year for these wonderful treats.

We don't really grow many slicin' tomatoes, but we do like 'em. This particular variety is "Rutgers," and was developed by that university and Campbell's Soup in the 1920s. Last year I bought a plant labelled as such from Home Depot (I know, I know) and grew it in a pot next to the Kitchen Herb Garden, not really expecting anything. But we were blown away by its rich taste. So I saved some seeds, figuring it was far enough away from the real tomato patch that there was no cross-pollination (if that's a problem in tomatoes). I had my doubts, but the seeds germinated fully in the 5 pots I reserved for them. The guy at Fedco says the determinate version of Rutgers, the one we have, is not quite as good as the original indeterminate. If so I would like to taste some, because ours are fabulous.

They are not typically very large in our experience. The biggest one in the above photo is about 5 oz (142g.). We did pick (and put on our Sunday morning bagels!) a much larger one, over 11 oz. (312 g.). I'm saving the seeds from this one...who knows, maybe I have my own variety!

Question: do you love or hate the way tomato plants smell? Me, I love it; The Kitchen Goddess, not so much.

Freaky Carrot, Second Prize:

I can't show you Freaky Carrot First Prize, because it's R-rated and this is a family-friendly blog, at least for now. But I can show you a big'un. Almost 10 oz. (281 g.):
Something different for the harvest basket: Chinese Cabbage!

The variety is "Soloist (F1)," which I got from Territorial. This is the first of 4 plants I set out on July 4. It doesn't get too big; this is just 1lb. 5oz. (~600g). I also had a spring planting of 4 plants. Root maggots really did a number on them then, so I had to harvest what I could all at once, on June 8. Putting them out in the summer seems to have avoided that problem, so now I know. The question is, what to do with all that cabbage! In the Spring, The Kitchen Goddess, following Daphne's lead, made pot stickers, a lot going to the freezer. But that really doesn't use all that much. Stuffed cabbage was also made, but that didn't use it up either. Now we have more! I guess I won't plant more than one or two plants next year, and not in the spring. They do look nice in the garden.

Another recipe, Chinese Cabbage salad, served with spicy peanut sauce:

Most of the other ingrediants came from the garden: cucumber, carrot, spicy pepper. But not the cilantro; I just can't seem to grow it and not have it bolt almost instantly. And of course not the ginger or pork.

The Kitchen Goddess used the rest for Chinese Sausage-stuffed Cabbage:

Served over rice, it was delicious! But something strange...raw, the cabbage is very tender. Once cooked, it gets a little tough.

Another new addition to the harvest basket: eggplant!
This variety is "Rosa Bianca." We've been watching it for a few weeks waiting for it to get bigger (these are about baseball size). I went back to the catalog (Territorial) and saw the ones illustrated looked about this size. They are very pretty, but I like eggplant to get bigger and more productive.

Another new addition: Sugar Baby watermelon on the left, shown here with a second Minnesota Midget muskmellon:

They aren't kidding about "Baby"...this was only about 1 1/2 pounds (680 g.). And unfortunately, it seems it was picked too early, even though the stem was withered. Not unpleasant tasting, though; kind of like honeydew. How can you tell if they are really ripe?

We have two small Anjou pear trees. Whoever planted them sited them wrong...they are shaded much of the day. Since last week all the fruit disappeared from one tree...we have infiltrators! Maybe there aren't enough gates at Eight Gate Farm! To protect the crop, I picked all of them from the second tree. I got 26:

They aren't really ripe yet...still very hard. They did pop off the tree very easily. The best advice I read about when to know when to pick pears said: wait until you see them advertised at a local farm stand. But I could not take the chance. Apparently, though, they will not ripen on the tree anyway.
Of course we are still picking beets, beans, broccoli, cucumber, and chard. The house freezer has reached capacity, so we moved all this year's frozen produce to the barn freezer; two bushels full!

I close with a picture of a Butterfly Bush blossom (the butterflies were being shy). Get out there and work your garden, no slacking please.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Harvest Monday - 19 August 2013

Welcome to another Harvest Monday, courtesy of Daphne's Dandelions. I'm guessing that for many of you, at least those fellow gardeners in Zone 5, this was the best harvest week of the year so far!

There's nothing like sunflower season, cheerfully giving back some glory to the Sun:

The sunflower heads you see at the top of the following picture were volunteers in the tomato patch. I think they were dropped there by birds going to and from the feeders. Normally I would wait to cut the heads for drying after the flowers had wilted more, but since the birds were already pecking at them I figured they know more than I do. Also pictured is a fist-sized 'Waltham' broccoli head, another one that was supposed to wait until fall. And of course a basket of beans, which are still coming on strong; in fact, this was the second basket this week.

In the following photo are four of the eleven zucchini harvested this week, and maybe half of the tomato harvest for the week. Some of the zucchini was put by The Kitchen Goddess into Chocolate Zucchini Bread, after seeing several Harvest Monday people doing it. Also, something new! A handful of hot 'Cherry Bomb' peppers.

A "few" carrots were taken:

Not to worry, this is only about a third of the first planting from April 17. And there is a second planting of the same amount. I'm beginning to wonder what I was thinking. There is a disturbing number of deformed it just soil compaction or is there something weird about the soil chemistry that can cause this? No matter, cut up no one will ever know!
This was the biggest one:

Still a few blueberries; just enough for The Kitchen Goddess to make blueberry compote, sweetened with our own pure maple syrup, for Sunday morning pancakes.

Normally I let the corn stalks dry in the field, but this time I decided to cut them off and start composting them when they were still green. No point in them sucking up more soil nutrients than they should. You may ask why I did not just pull them up. The simple answer: I like the way corn stubble looks poking out of the snow.

I managed to take a dozen or so "baby" corn ears from the above cutting. Yes, there is a reason I'm not displaying a photo of them peeled. Whatever ate the corn silks prevented them from fully filling out. But we still got the "taste" of corn.

I haven't talked much about our grapevines yet. We inherited three 12-foot trellises with old vines when we bought the property, and have added two more. At some point they made wine here, because we found a few empty labelled bottles in the barn. The inherited vines had been neglected for years. This year we really pruned them hard to try to rejuvenate them. They bounced back, and are behaving, but there is another problem. They are infected with black (or brown) rot, which causes the berries to wither on the stem into what is called "mummies." I've been spraying weekly with Liquid Copper fungicide, but it has had limited effect. Unless someone out there knows another organic preventative, I'm seriously thinking about moving on to the harder stuff, as much as it pains me.

Given the large number of mummies, which should be removed from the area to help stop re-infection, we decided to pick all the grapes we could find, ripe or not. So this might look like a pretty good haul, but very little is usable.

Good news on the squash front. Last weekend I crawled around on my hands and knees picking off all the Squash Bug eggs and nymphs I found. By this weekend there was no further sign of them.

Finally, the crowning glory of this week's harvest. Our first 'Minnesota Midget' muskmellon!

It was fully ripe, juicy, and luscious. Nothing like it!
Thanks for reading, and here's to full harvest baskets!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Harvest Monday - 12 August 2013

Welcome to another Harvest Monday. Thanks again to Daphne's Dandelions for hosting!

Same old stuff...but wait! Something red!
Tomatoes are finally ripening! Mostly only sauce varieties so far. A few more instances of Blossom End Rot were found, but not enough (yet) to constitute a plague. The big greenish-yellow one at the bottom fell off as I was caressing it...oops. It's a variety called Incas Hybrid. It weighed in at 5.5 oz. (156 g.)--pretty big for a paste-type. Most of the others still on the vines are just as big and blocky.

In the upper left of the photo are two Diva cucumbers, which The Kitchen Goddess swears by. On the right are more purple Velour beans, whose productivity is starting to impress me.

Speaking of tomatoes, I have two "extra" tomato plants in containers next to the Kitchen Garden. They are scraggly compared to the ones in the main garden, but one had two large tomatoes on the verge of full ripeness. Then they disappeared. The Kitchen Goddess saw a squirrel running away with one. I'm afraid it's time to deploy my "squirrel solution." It's fast, it's effective, it's .22 caliber. I know some readers will be appalled, some envious, and the rest will yawn. But I don't think trapping and releasing to become someone else's problem is the right thing.


I've written about how I forgot to label when planting my winter squash, and now I don't know what's where. The butternut in the foreground I can identify, but is the one behind it a pumpkin? Or is it a Tatume, which I am trying out this year? Its stem is very thin, which is not pumpkin-like, right? Also, the vine is rooting itself as it goes along. But it looks like a pumpkin...

So if that is a pumpkin, this is a Tatume, right? Or is it? Can anyone who has grown them help me out? Here's a younger one:
It makes a difference since Tatume is supposed to be both a summer and a winter squash, so I'd like to try some at both stages.

I've found the first signs of Squash Bugs: egg cases on the underside of some leaves as well as nymphs (all promptly executed), and a single large adult (also executed without mercy). I did not note last year when exactly they first appeared (and were devastating), but I have this year for future reference. So I don't know if I am at the beginning of a true infestation. I think I have a few Squash Vine Borers too. Why does it have to be so difficult to grow crops without harsh poisons?

I bought a packet of Green Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) from Baker Creek to try out in the Kitchen Herb Garden. I'm not sure now why; it was in the Herb section but it turns out to be more like a vegetable. It got off to a slow start, but now is really coming in. It is supposed to be super-healthy for you, loaded with antioxidants, whatever those are. It can get invasive, so I cut it back.

Here it is, ready for cooking. [Pay no attention to the pathetic ears of corn in the background.] I ended up composting the stems of pencil to chopstick size, thinking they would take too long to cook. But I bet they would be good in soups. I sauteed the tops in EVOO, took them out, then sauteed onion, garlic, tomato, mushrooms, and oregano, and finally added the purslane back in and crumbled feta cheese on top, for a Mediterranean dish (according to Wikipedia).

Here it is as served, with chicken and the Divas in an Asian cucumber salad. The purslane is slightly tangy and compliments the other flavors.
Finally, a cheerful hollyhock for your Monday. Happy gardening to all!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Harvest Monday - 5 August 2013

Welcome to another Harvest Monday, courtesy of Daphne. Where did July go??

Zucchini continues to roll in at the rate of two every couple of days. While I am happy because we are getting so much more than last year, I have to say I thought the 4 plants would be producing more. Because of this, I'm not so sure this variety (Tigress F1) will be grown next year.

The beets in the first bed, all planted April 17, seemed to not be getting any bigger, so we decided to pull them all up before they got woody. There are three varieties of red beets, but they got all mixed up so another opportunity to learn something evaporated. Maybe next year I'll only plant the Detroit. We do have another 1/3 of a bed devoted to more beets, planted two weeks after the first. Those harvested went to the table and the freezer.
Beans are steady, and cukes are starting to rev up. I don't know where the yellow mutant cuke came from, but it tasted just as nice as its normal siblings.
We've gotten maybe 15 (undersized) ears of corn. One problem may be that I never thinned them when they were small. They should be a foot apart, but ours are more like 4". But mainly, I think it's the bug that is eating the silks, despite spraying with Pyrethrin. When I pick an ear I usually find earwigs at the base. Maybe that's where they get their name. I don't know if they are causing the damage, or just like hanging around in dark damp places.
I think that may be about it for the 1st planting of corn, sad, but I have high hopes for the second. I'm trying a trick I read at Fedco - putting drops of mineral oil on the silks to ward off the bad guys.

Speaking of corn, I haven't mentioned my "Three Sisters" experiments. This is the 3rd year I've tried it. In the past two years, the pole beans just overwhelmed and pulled down the corn, and the squash all got bug-blasted. This year I tried just 2 sisters, leaving out the beans. So far, better results (nothing harvested of course). As much as I love the concept, I think next year I'll use the four hills for something else entirely.
This was supposed to be some "fall" broccoli. I tried something new this year and sowed a few seeds directly in the garden on May 18, and here one is, ready for picking already. The 4 or 5 others are not heading yet though. Looks like the earlier summer heat did not hurt them. The variety is "Waltham."
I'm envious of those in my area who are enjoying their tomatoes now. Ours, while plentiful, just aren't ripe yet. Maybe soon though. So far, I've found only one two fruit with Blossom End Rot. Oh, and a reminder (mostly to myself). Make sure you don't plant vining cucumbers with anything else.
So, typical of gardening, I've read conflicting advice. Some say to pick off the bottom leaves of Brussels Sprouts and work your way up, others say to cut off the top in September, both to encourage sprout growth. Has anyone tried either or both methods? And don't you think using the SFG approach of one plant per square causes crowding? Certainly looks that way to me.
The blueberries continue to ripen, but at a trickle. This is kind of a pain since we have to part the netting each time to pick, then replace it. The netting is mostly working, but a few birds still get in, especially the catbirds. Boy do they fuss when they are under the net and see you!
So what's a great use for your own blueberries?

Pie, of course! All hand-made by The Kitchen Goddess.
So that's it for this Harvest Monday. Thanks for reading, and I wish you gardening success!