Monday, August 31, 2015

Harvest Monday - 31 August 2015

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Here are the week's harvest activities.

Our Monday harvest. This "Soloist" Chinese cabbage was over 3 pounds.

On Tuesday The Kitchen Goddess took the clusters of grapes that were most ripe. The plan is to freeze these and wait until the others are ripe before we press for wine. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know what varieties are represented. Some were there when we bought the property, but I've planted vines too, and trusted memory to tell them apart. I know there is Vanessa and Canadice, but which are which is lost to me.

Thursday's pickin's. We were finally accumulating enough sauce tomatoes for TKG to start a canning batch soon. And we treated ourselves to four ears of Honey Select corn. I swear I could eat a dozen. OK, not really, but since I don't add butter or salt, I bet I could make a good dent in it.

On Friday, more grapes to add to the freezer. 

They are in a food-grade bucket, not a toilet, in case you were wondering.

On Saturday, some new crops. First, some watermelon radishes, shown here to the right of the last of the beets.

This variety is "Chinese Red Meat" from Baker Creek, and they are lovely (and pungent).

Watermelon radish

My calendar said it was time to pick potatoes, so out they came. They'd been curing in the ground for two weeks since I clipped the foliage.

Kennebec potatoes

I only grow one variety, "Kennebec." This year's total was 29 pounds. That's good, but less than 3/4 of last year's 42 pounds. I sort of figured that would happen, as the foliage got nowhere near as lush as last year. I don't know why.

Also on Saturday, beans, chard, and lettuce.

Beans 'n' greens

The lettuce is "Mottistone," one of two varieties of "summer crisp" I planted this year, the other being "Nevada." I love red speckled lettuce, and the Mottistone sure was pretty, but it has bolted, whereas the boring green Nevada hasn't yet.

On Sunday, while I went on a mountain bike ride, the ever-resourceful Kitchen Goddess canned seven pints of tomato sauce and four pints of our pears in a brandy sauce.

When I got back, we went to the garden for the last harvest of the week.

There are three "Caspian Pink" tomatoes, the largest being 1 pound 5 ounces, and another Chinese cabbage, this one 3 pounds 12 ounces. The cabbage is piling up no matter how much we eat, and there are three more still to go in the garden. What oh what was I thinking?

Oh, more grapes too (not shown).

I want to praise all of you who knew or deduced what this year's Crop of Mystery is. That's right, it's tobacco (variety "Orinoco"). Actually Michelle of the fabulous blog From Seed To Table guessed this way back when I first showed it in June. Why tobacco? Well, I do enjoy an "occasional" cigar, but I don't think I'll have the time to learn how to roll a professional corona. It's just for fun. I'll probably buy a pipe and try it after it has cured.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! Head back over to Daphne's Dandelions for more Harvest Monday.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Harvest Monday - 24 August 2015

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm.

We started the week with our first harvest of "Soloist" Chinese Cabbage. I transplanted 6 of these on July 11. They are such a pleasant crop to grow, now that I learned not try them in spring, as the root maggots really bother them. This is not a problem in summer.

This specimen weighed almost 2 1/2 pounds (~1 k.g.) with the outer leaves broken off. It yielded about 10 cups (~2.35 l.) of shredded cabbage.

The Kitchen Goddess used the entire amount to make one batch each of fillings for eggrolls (left) and dumplings. Now what to do with the other 5 cabbages quickly heading up?

A Tuesday picking. The outer row of tomatoes, from left, is Rutgers, Caspian Pink (largest here 12.8 oz.), Taxi, Sugar Plum, and Supersauce. The inner row is Incas and Roma. And note our last artichoke, sadly. We got 11 for the season, from 4 plants. We started with 6, but voles demolished two of them early in the season.

Here's one of the Supersauces on the scale, at 13.7 ounces. Respectable, but we've never gotten the two-pounders Burpee claimed you can grow. The other weighed 9.8 oz.

A Thursday picking. It has the last of the Espresso corn. There is also a head of "New Red Fire" spring lettuce, just starting to bolt but fortunately not bitter. And with this harvest of tomatoes adding to those inside, The Kitchen Goddess had enough to make the season's first batch of pasta sauce. What we don't eat right now will be kept in the fridge until there's sufficient to justify a canning.

We took all the pears from our two small Anjou pear trees. As I've written before, these trees get too much shade and are weak, but we still get some fruit most years. These will soften up indoors now, prior to canning. Bourbon pears...a treat!

A Friday picking, with our first eggplant ("Amadeo") and "Honey Select" corn. Of course, Daphne has been picking this corn variety for weeks. Strange how we are only 45 miles from her, but our climate is just different. Though we had to wait in envy, we are delighted to have our first taste this season. It was sown May 24.

Here's the corn, shucked:

Some of you grow Honey Select, and for good reason. Compared to the Espresso I grow, HS is a hands-down winner with tall, robust stalks and multiple ears. Espresso tastes great, but HS is dream-like. But there's a problem, depending on your views. Fedco plainly acknowledges (although I didn't notice when I bought it) that they source this seed from Syngenta or another multinational that manufactures neonicotinoids. Personally, that troubles me, so when I run out of this seed I will sadly have to find another variety. The question is, which?

On Saturday I harvested all the "Kenearly Yellow-eye" dry beans from our "survival" plot, where we grow foods that can be kept without refrigeration. Here they are spread out on wire mesh in the sunroom, where they will stay until the pods are dry and crispy. The black beans need another week or two in the field.

While I was doing that, TKG braided all our storage onions. These were hung up in the garage, where they will stay until it gets too cold out there.

The Braidy Bunch
Lastly, an update on the "Eight Gate Farm Crop Of Mystery." It's a plant that is not grown much now in New England, but at one point it was a very important cash crop in some areas.

Here's what it looked like back in June:

And this is now:

It has lovely flowers, but that's not why I'm growing it.

Some of you ventured a guess what it was, and they were clever. Anyone care to try now?

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! And especially, thanks to Daphne's Dandelions for hosting Harvest Monday.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Taxi Troubles

I grew a "Taxi" yellow tomato for the first time this year. Up until recently I was very pleased with the number of small, bright fruits it produced, and the sweet taste was outstanding. It was our first producer too. But now the plant has been completely taken down by blight, or something else. There is not a living branch. Sure, my tomatoes always catch some disease or other, like almost everyone's, but they always manage to hang on until frost. Not this guy. The thing that really puzzles me is I used brand new soil in this area of the garden. The other tomatoes are doing better, and some look like they are barely touched by blight. Strange.

The Incas (a hybrid plum) next to the Taxi also don't look good, but they're not dead (yet). And the taller heirlooms in the background are fine.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Harvest Monday - 17 August 2015

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Harvest Monday, as you undoubtedly know, is hosted by Daphne's Dandelions. If you got here from there, be sure to go back there when you're through here!

A Monday picking. Heavy rain was predicted to move in, so we thought it best to take the ripest tomatoes before anything happened to them. Clockwise around the outside, there is one Caspian Pink, five Incas, two Rutgers, six Sugar Plums (grape tomatoes), five Taxis, and four Romas. Of course, there's also an overachieving Caspian Pink in the center.

That guy weighed 1 lb. 9.9 oz. (~734 g.). I'm pretty sure it's the largest tomato I've ever grown. County Fair here I come!

The heavy rain didn't actually materialize, but we did get a few welcome hours of steady downpour. And the big tomato ripened beautifully indoors. We savored it for four separate meals. I'm saving its seeds, just in case it breeds true. Anyone who wants to try a sample, shoot me an email at and I'll do my best to mail you some. No guarantees the outsized results will be the same, but it might be fun.

A Wednesday harvest, with our weekly artichoke ration.

A Friday harvest, showing our first picking from the second succession of Espresso bi-color sweet corn, and a few shishito peppers. Even though the corn stalks were coated with diatomaceous earth to repel the earwigs, when these were picked the disgusting, silk-damaging creatures were still hiding in the cob bases. I think this experiment is a failure.

And a Sunday harvest.

It's been a strange bean year. We got large early harvests, but they slowed way down after that, and many of the later pods were small and curly. I wonder what caused that? This will be the last real picking, as I pulled most of the plants. Last year, we were still picking well into September.

I love sunflowers, especially tall ones. This year I planted "Mongolian Giant." The seeds were literally over an inch long. It's supposed to grow up to 14 feet (4.25 m.) tall. These won't reach that, I'm think, but they are still pretty tall. I'm tall, but I slouch.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! I look forward to your Harvest Monday contributions.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Harvest Monday - 10 August 2015

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Harvest Monday, graciously sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions, is a show-and-tell for grownups!

The "Yellow Fin" golden zucchini continues to provide us with lots of beautiful and very tasty fruit.

We got our first "Sugar Plum" grape tomato. It's quite a flavor contrast to the Taxis we've been getting, which are sweet and mild but still full of flavor. Sugar Plum has a lot more bite. This one never left the garden.

A mid-week basket of goodness. That makes eight artichokes for the season so far.

A Friday picking:

Yes, that's our first sweet corn! The variety is "Espresso." Here it is ready for the boil:

It's the first of four succession plantings--two of Espresso, and two of Honey Select. The first of the latter is just starting to silk. The Espresso suffered from earwig damage to the silks, which prevents them from fully filling-out. I've tried diatomaceous earth (sold as "Crawling Insect Killer") to control the bugs. It was too late for the first planting, but the second looks like it might have worked. But literally I coated the leaf stalks with the white powder. For the Honey Select, I'm using spinosad out of desperation, as I can't afford to take chances with that delicious prolific corn (many stalks have "twosies"; the Espresso only single ears). The first Espresso was a mixed bag--some were very sweet, others not so. Telling when corn is ripe (or gone past) is very difficult for me. And all of it is precious.

The soup peas are now all dried and shelled. I got over 18 oz. (~510 g.), or a little less than a quart volumetrically. It's not a lot, but I'm happy for it, as I love split-pea soup.

I weeded the carrot bed on Saturday, and realized I'd neglected to thin it for the last time. The result: a harvest of true baby carrots.

And then, Sunday's harvest:

Several "firsts" in this group. There are four "Maule's Red Hot" cayenne peppers (free seed packet from Totally Tomatoes), a Sweet Chocolate pepper at the top left, and a Roma tomato that had fallen from the vine. So far, there's just not enough tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers to do anything but enjoy fresh. I hope that changes soon.

Lastly, this cute guy was spotted hanging on the side of the house.

It's a "Walking Stick." I think they aren't uncommon, but I've only ever seen a couple of them. It's always fun to see one.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! Go back to Daphne's Dandelions and see what the rest of the gardening world has to show you this week.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Harvest Monday - 3 August 2015

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm!

The week started out hot and humid; great for plant growth if not so much for sleeping. Then, after a rainstorm, the temperatures moderated, resulting in smiles all around.

Beans are keeping us well-supplied.

And we're still trying to get what spring lettuce we can, pre-bolting.

We got another ripe "Taxi" tomato. This time, I'll show how it formed part of a satisfying light dinner for a warm summer evening. It's drizzled with EVOO and sea salt, and served with Burrata. Delightful!

More summer squash, not out of control yet:

Our first shishito-type pepper. I am hoping that taking this large one will stimulate the plant into putting out more fruit.

Raspberries are still trickling in.

As are artichokes, two per week.

Our first cucumber, not very big but badly craved-for.

Some more of the above, now shown as a summer ensemble.

Right on schedule, time to harvest our Stuttgarter storage onions. Pulling onions is just so much fun!

For those practicing square foot gardening, I've proved to myself that spacing them farther apart than the recommended 16 per square (this is 9) produces larger bulbs.

And, like last year, we robbed the Kennebec potato vines at the same time as the onion harvest, to see what was happening. Not bad! We'll let the rest mature for another month or so.

I took the last of the Blauwschokkers soup peas, shown here in their former space, in which late-fall broccoli will be transplanted in a few weeks.

And lastly, our first ripe red tomato! This is the heirloom "Caspian Pink." And yes, I'm showing the good side.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! Click on back to Daphne's Dandelions for more Harvest Monday fun.