Monday, August 25, 2014

Harvest Monday - 25 August 2014

Welcome to another Harvest Monday report from Eight Gate Farm, brought to you by Daphne's Dandelions.

It's been another week of cooler-than-normal August temperatures. But production is still good.

A picking of tomatoes on Tuedsay:

The Burpee SuperSauce variety is really starting to amuse me. Two of them together weighed 1 lb 6 oz. (~623 g.).

And another picking on Thursday. The largest of the SuperSauce weighed 13.8 oz (~390 g.), and the others were not far below that. So, I'm probably not going to get any of the touted 2-pounders, but I'm happy. They are incredibly meaty too. Oh, and there's a zucchini that almost got away from us. The zucchini plants (Tigress F1) are starting to get powdery mildew, so I probably will be shutting them down before long. They are so vigorous, though. One of them even had a SVB but never slowed down production.

With all the accumulated tomatoes, it was time for The Kitchen Goddess to do the first hot canning of the season. Lucky for her the kitchen isn't too hot. She made 7 pints of rich tomato sauce, plus a pint each of pickled red and golden beets.

This is a tough year for tree-fruits for us. Here's a photo from last year at this time, showing how loaded the green apple tree (Granny Smith?) was:

This year? Hardly any. Maybe it's one of those cyclical things. Just look at the total harvest of pears for this year:

Pretty sad. Only 9, and they're not much bigger than figs.

Grapes are another story. Last year we lost almost the whole crop to black rot. This year looks to be much better. Better canopy management is helping, as well as frequent applications of (non-organic, sorry) fungicide.

Almost time to dust off the fruit press and other winemaking equipment!

Sunday's picking was more tomatoes, eggplants, and our first hot cherry peppers. I usually grow "Cherry Bomb," but this year I tried an improved variety of that, "Big Bomb." They live up to their name. Also a handful of grapes we will keep in the fridge until the rest ripen. Many of the vines came with the property when we bought it, so I'm not entirely sure which is which, but there is supposed to be some Vanessa and Canadice, good for both table and wine.

I'm now 100% convinced growing Chinese cabbage is better in the summer. No problems with root maggots like spring-grown ones. Look at these beauties (var. "Soloist"), together weighing almost 4 pounds:

The first picking of "Honey Select" sweet corn. It should be all yellow. It's an 80-day variety, and I planted it June 1, so it should be mature, right? Well, it doesn't look it. Next time, take only 2 ears at first!

And finally, the star of this week and maybe the season! Our first-ever artichoke! Yeah, I know, this is August. To read about my struggles growing artichokes, please see my post Artichoke Joke. And guess what? There's another tiny bud forming!

Until next time, thanks for reading, thanks as always to Daphne, and happy harvests to all!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Harvest Monday - 18 August 2014

Welcome to another Harvest Monday at Eight Gate Farm. Harvest Monday is graciously hosted by Daphne's Dandelions, so be sure to check out all the posts there from around the world!

This is turning into the coolest August I can remember, with daytime temps not even hitting 80 F. (26 c.) and nights in the 50s F (12 c.). We had a major rainstorm (like everybody in the East) on Wednesday that knocked over 25 or so of the corn stalks in The Survival Garden, but they were staked back up without too much damage.

We picked the ripest tomatoes before the rain to protect them.

That's Incas on the left, Rutgers on the right, Sugar Plum at the top, and another of those Burpee Supersauce guys on the scale, weighing a nice 9.75 oz. (~276 g.).

We also picked 10.5 oz. (~300 g.) of beans. Note: I like to keep the purple Velour and the green Denver filet beans separate for photography, but The Kitchen Goddess lets them fraternize!

She decided to take some of the sauce tomatoes we were accumulating and make tomato paste. She put the paste in ice-cube trays (remember those?) to freeze them individually.
Once frozen, pop them into a bag to store. When you need a small quantity of paste to thicken a sauce, you just take out one or two. I like it!
We also got our first real picking of corn. This variety is "Espresso Bi-color" and was supposed to be early, but clearly it was not for us. The plants never really got robust or put out much. The "Honey Select" I planted, not ready yet, looks like it will produce more. Truth be told, sweet corn never seems to do too well for me, which is a shame, since it is one of my favorite foods.

We picked again after the rain.
The lone eggplant went right into a meatless Tikka Masala, from a jar but very tasty.
It was time to pick the sumac "candles." This small tree is very common in the Northeast. It's a native, but can get very invasive. But it gives dour old New England a tropical look.

Here's the picked "candles" (flowers/drupes) ready for drying:

I never did get around to making za'atar with them last year. They all went to making refreshing, slightly lemony iced tea. It helps to add a little black tea to give more flavor.
On Sunday we picked about half our remaining spring-sown beets and carrots (they're slow, I know). This is Golden Touchstone and Detroit Dark Red beets, and Danvers half-long carrots. We got more than 3 pounds (1.36 kg) of beets and almost 7 pounds (3 kg) of carrots (tops removed). TKG was busy processing them while I went for a mountain bike ride!
A nice basket of more of the same stuff...but wait! Our first Diva cucumber (first cucumber period). Hoorah! They are just so poky this year.

That's the last of the blueberries too. The nets are off, and the birds can have the rest.
Now I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of the Eight Gate Farm workforce!

TKG, who likes to give everything a name, is calling her (it) "Fancy Princess" after a horse she used to ride that was, quote, "difficult but fun." I was holding out for a more manly name, like "Ferocious Tiger." Well, it is orange and black. I lost, of course. Wish I'd bought one years ago. You know, a lot of guys in the throes of middle age buy themselves the Harley-Davidson they've always wanted, but me...?
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading, and happy harvests to all!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Artichoke Joke

I love to eat artichokes. Growing up in California as I did, artichokes were plentiful and good. Here in the east, they are expensive, hard to get, and generally of mediocre quality.

This is the third year I've tried to grow artichokes. I start the seeds (enough for 4 plants) in late January/early February and carefully tend the seedlings, which grow well initially. Then comes the tricky part...trying to fool them into thinking they've already gone through a winter. By March or so the weather is usually still frosty, but not bitter-cold, so I put them outside and keep them there unless it looks like it will drop below 25 degrees F., in which case I bring them back inside. This goes on for 6 weeks or so. This will be mid to late April. Then I transplant them to the desired location and wait.

In the first year I placed them along the fence where I have some perennials. I augmented the soil a little bit, and they grew well. But they never produced the edible flowers I so craved. I tried to overwinter them by putting tomato cages around them and filling with shredded leaves, but it did not work.

In the second year I transplanted them in the same place, augmented the soil even more, but they never prospered there.

In the third year (current year) I was out of the original seeds ("Violetto" from Territorial) so I bought "Imperial Star" from Fedco (much cheaper). I transplanted them in the "row crops" part of the fenced garden, where I grow corn and winter squash. I really augmented the soil with composted manure and organic fertilzer I mix myself. They looked good. They were watered automatically. But the plants started disappearing one-by-one; once it happened right before my astonished eyes. Voles were tunneling under them and just dragging them down to Hades. Three were gone before I started sprinkling "MoleMax" in hopes of chasing the voles away. I found 3 more plants (also Imperial Star) in a local garden center and tried again. No luck. Only one plant survived. I planted squash in the vacated hills. The remaining plant (I don't remember now if it was store-bought or the one I grew) struggled along for awhile, not really putting on robust growth. I wrote it off in my mind.

So it was with great surprise that The Kitchen Goddess, who was working in the garden, made me close my eyes and led me to the plant. Lo and behold, a 'choke!

I've never been so happy! I hope it gets bigger! When we pick it it will really spice up my "Harvest Monday" post that week! Question now--how are we going to share it? We both love artichokes.

Fedco says "most plants will bear more than one, producing in the cooler fall weather that they prefer to summer's full heat." They can "tolerate light frosts." Who knows, maybe it will give us one or two more beauties.

So I was all set to give up on artichokes, now I'm inspired to try them again.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Harvest Monday - 11 August 2014

Welcome to another Harvest Monday at Eight Gate Farm, brought to you by Daphne's Dandelions.

Looking back over the pictures for this week, I was struck by how much less the color green is present in the harvests. This is normal, I suppose, for the things I like to grow.

To start us off, some "Detroit" beets and "Danvers" carrots, both starting to size-up (my beets always seem to take longer than promised).

The Kitchen Goddess took them and made a quart of her favorite thing, pickled beets. It's neat that all the ingredients, except salt, were our own: beets, onions, maple syrup, chive-tarragon vinegar.


A recent picking of tomatoes, with some blueberries thrown in (they are winding down).
The paste tomatoes are the "Incas Hybrid" variety I like to grow for their size (about 4 ounces) and vigor. The heirlooms are Caspian Pink and Rutgers (the smaller one). Of course the grape tomatoes (Sugar Plum) are giving us a picking every day.

Oh by the way, last week I said I was experimenting with picking an heirloom on the pink side and ripening it in the kitchen. Here you can see that so far it makes little difference--the one by the blueberries was last week's, while the others, which were the same ripeness last week, came straight from the vine.
Couldn't resist robbing the Kennebec potatoes again, my turn this time. It's so much fun; like a treasure hunt! Just a foot or so into a row revealed almost four pounds' worth, including the over-achiever on the scale tipping at just over a pound.

A couple of more "Amadeo" eggplant, and our first pepper. I apologize to Fedco about mislabeling--it definitely is "Chocolate" but not a bell, at least not this one.

An end-of-week picking of more tomatoes:

On the left are Incas, at the top Rutgers, and a lone Roma with the grapes. On the scale, weighing 9.3 ounces, is a "Supersauce Hybrid." I admit to being suckered in by the Burpee hype: "Two-pound sauce tomatoes! One jar per tomato!" Well, it is respectable, but not what they teased me with. Granted, they probably grow them in ideal conditions.

Oh all right, you talked me into it. Beans and zucchini:

Last year I planted a free trial packet of "Sunny Babe" sunflowers on the border of the kitchen herb garden. I was pleased with their pale-yellow flowers, and short, multi-branching habit. So I harvested and saved some of their seeds. I guess they were a hybrid, since while the habits are the same the flowers are quite different. Still nice though.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading, thanks to Daphne, and happy (and more green) harvests to all!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Harvest Monday - 4 August 2014

Welcome to another Harvest Monday at Eight Gate Farm, brought to you by Daphne's Dandelions. This week I remembered to publish the post before I link to Daphne's page! Apologies to those directed to a stale posting.

Last week Daphne wrote that her harvests consisted of "beans and cukes, beans and cukes." This week ours were the same, if you substitute "zukes" for "cukes." I don't think she was really complaining, and neither are we. Here's a bean picking from earlier in the week:

The green ones are "Denver" and the purple "Velour," both filet-type.

I traded some zucchini with a friend for some of her cucumbers. A good trade, as she isn't growing zucchini and our cucumbers are struggling.

We robbed 3 more "Kennebec" potatoes, weighing in at almost 2 pounds!

I've mentioned this is my first experience with potatoes. I was amazed at how well they seem to be growing here. But then I learned that the first potatoes grown in the United States were planted right here in my town in 1719. Must be the climate!

Blueberries were picking all week, but are now winding down. One batch went straight to this Rustic Blueberry Tart. Delicious!

An end-of-week harvest of beans, grape tomatoes, a Pepper of Mystery, and an heirloom tomato "Caspian Pink." I've read that people pick heirlooms before they are ripe, and ripen them indoors for safety. We'll see. The Mystery Pepper was supposed to be Chocolate Bell, but I think something got switched at Fedco.

We picked another eggplant, but I neglected to photograph it before it started to become the main ingredient in Eggplant Parmesan:

So I guess we're in the Summer Doldrums--where there isn't a lot of variety and the late-summer/fall rush hasn't started yet. So how about a check-in with "The Survival Garden," which I've written about here and then here? (You have to scroll.)

It's turned into a lush jungle that constantly amazes me.

There are some basketball-sized pumpkins hiding.

It turns out it was a big mistake to plant bush beans anywhere near the squash. But they are doing all right where they aren't being out-competed.

And the corn is so tall! (Spot the loony)

Last week I weeded the corn and left the weeds as mulch. Turns out to have been a mistake, as we got a fair amount of rain and they promptly re-rooted themselves. So I weeded again. No pictures; a 6'4", 137-year-old man on his hands and knees getting showered with corn pollen is not a pretty sight!

I leave you with a picture of this guy, happily chewing on some chard. I don't know what he is (other than not a Japanese beetle). I wonder if he's the same guy destroying all my perennials? But he was too pretty to squish.

Not so fortunate were these squash bugs, caught in the act and dying for it.

Thanks for reading, and happy harvests to all!