Monday, August 29, 2016

Harvest Monday - 29 August 2016

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm. Here is this week's Harvest Monday update.

First-of-the-season harvests:

"Aruba" (Cubanelle-type) peppers. I thought having a kitchen knife would give them scale, but how big is the knife? Better to say they were hand-sized. They would eventually turn red, but I got tired of waiting, and worried they'd get damaged.

Perfect size for chiles rellenos. Yum!

We pulled all our onions (Stuttgarter). We only got 85, though I started with many more seedlings. And few were big. I think next year I'll go back to planting from sets--the tiny, weak seedlings are fragile and hard to handle, and sets are much easier to plant.

We judged it was time to pick our hops. Here you can see how daunting the task was.

Here's the result. Two window screens' worth. We had to spread the picking out over two days, especially since the first day was in the hot sun. Better to finish in the cool morning.

All this from a small vine planted four years ago. It just keeps coming back stronger and stronger, from the ground up. The variety is Mt. Hood, which is an aroma hop, as compared to a bittering hop. We added some to a sub-batch of our hard cider last year, and the result is very different and enjoyable. Of course, this is far more than we can possibly use ourselves. I'm going to see if I can trade the majority with one or the other of the local micro-breweries, for (what else?) beer!

Now, a last harvest. We bid so-long to Espresso corn, taking all the remaining small ears.

Some were starchy, but others were surprisingly good. Of course we couldn't eat them all in one sitting. The rest went into the freezer for the makings of corn chowder. I'm still hunting for an early (~70 day), cool-soil tolerant sweet corn.

Continuing harvests: Honey Select corn, Diva cucumbers, an artichoke, yellow wax beans, and zucchini.

I just had to show a picture of the Honey Select to compare with the Espresso above. I know I go on and on about how good it is, but it really is the best.

Tomatoes, eggplant, and more zucchini and Divas.

A colorful assortment of solanacea:

We had another batch of broiled shishito peppers. Again, no hot ones in the lot. And The Kitchen Goddess made Cowboy Candy with all our accumulated hot peppers.

She thought she had enough for three jars, but it was only two. What to do with the other jar of sauce? juice? whatever the heck you call the stuff the peppers were cooked in? We used some for a delicious sweet/spicy glaze for charcoal-grilled pork tenderloin.

And end-of week harvest. It's really nice that we still have lettuce this late in the season.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! Please visit all the lovely Harvest Monday posts at Our Happy Acres, hosted by Dave. Thanks, Dave!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Water, water...where??

I guess I really shouldn't be complaining about drought, when you think of what the Western US is going through. And many gardeners in other parts of the country are losing crops to too much rain! But we are in a drought, with all of the consequences.

I was talking to the farmer down the road. He is fortunate to have an irrigation pond that is spring-fed. He uses its water to drip irrigate his fields closest to it. But for his upper corn field (just through the woods from my land) he has to pump nightly from the lower pond to an upper pond, which he drains daily to overhead-irrigate his corn. He's using 50 gallons of diesel a day.

The US Department of Agriculture has divided up the state into five categories of drought condition.

These are:
Abnormally Dry
Moderate Drought
Severe Drought
Extreme Drought
Exceptional Drought

My town is in the part of the state that is being labelled as having Extreme Drought (no one is Exceptional yet). Statistically 74% of the state is in some form of drought, and 4.4% is in Extreme. Last year only 40% was in some form of drought.

Much of the town is on a public water system, and so far no restrictions have been imposed. We, and most of the rural parts, are on private wells. The rather nice housing development down the road is on a shared well. They have an outdoor water restriction in effect; not quite an outright ban. I don't know what their restrictions actually consist of.

How are we ourselves doing? So far, we have no problems with our drilled service well. I sure hope that continues! Unfortunately I don't have information on its depth. The town should have a record of that but it doesn't. To be safe, we gave up on trying to water the lawns, and they look accordingly. Hopefully they'll recover. The gardens have drip irrigation, so nothing to worry about there.

We also have a hand-dug, stone-lined well probably dating from the 19th century. We don't really use it for anything (the water probably is not potable) but it is there in case we need to manually water things. I installed a hand pump and a locked hatch on it a few years ago, for safety and just plain looks.

A few years ago I measured the depth of water in the old well, and it was about four feet. Now it's two. Here's a peek down the well, with the water reflecting back way down there maybe 18 feet.

I sure have respect for the tough men that dug that well and lined it with stone.

Sunday night we did get some welcome rain, but I don't know how much.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Harvest Monday - 22 August 2016

Here's another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Once again, I present the firsts first.

We took a single ear of Honey Select sweet corn as an experiment. It was exactly 80 days since seeding, the "expected" harvest date. For me, the expected dates rarely match my results. This ear was beautiful and well-filled out, but the kernels were not as deep yellow as riper ones. It was sweet, but is just a promise of things to [hopefully] come.

A heirloom Japanese "Mitoya" eggplant, and two generic hot chile peppers. The Mitoya looks a lot like Black Beauty except its calyx is purple rather than green.

Two Rutgers tomatoes (right) and two Costoluto Genovese on the left. All except one of the Rutgers are way undersized, but were ripe.

Now for continuing harvests, and first, a last. This is all remaining carrots. I didn't plant that many this year.

More "Espresso" corn. It has finally reached its potential, but still can't compare to Honey Select.

Artichokes, Diva cucumbers, and Yellowfin and Cocozella Di Napoli zucchinis.

Hot chile, hot cherry, Hungarian Wax, and shishito peppers, and Ping Tung Long eggplants.

The lettuce which had been ravaged by the woodchuck has recovered enough for us to start eating salads again. Also there are more Divas, zucchini, and Espresso corn.

Yet more Divas, zucchini, and some beets. I would never have believed it, but we are actually giving Divas away.

I promised myself no more photos of our pickling cucumber glut, but the contrast in this picking amused me. On the left, normal-sized picklers, in the middle, our new technique of picking them very young for cornichons, and on the right, The One That Almost Got Away.

I wrote last week about the failure of Dorinny Sweet corn. This week I took all the pathetic remaining ears. They remind me of Ancestral Puebloan maize. These are destined for corn chowder, so they won't go to waste.

An end-of-week picking of artichokes, zucchini, Divas, yellow wax beans (starting their second flush), a few seedless raspberries the birds somehow missed, and a Honey Select corn along with three Espressos. The Honey Select is so much larger.

And lastly, chard. What a great year for this cut-and-come-again crop!

Now a bit about using the harvest. Right off I have to say how lucky we feel to be able to have meals with our own artichokes and corn together. This is what gardening is all about.

Speaking of cornichons, The Kitchen Goddess made and canned what we had at the time.

A delicious meal of grilled shishito peppers and tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, to accompany grilled TriTips. Yes, California readers, you can find TriTip in New Hampshire, but you really have to luck into it. For those who haven't had it, see if you can find it. It is the best tasting beef in my opinion. The shishitos were brushed with olive oil, flash-grilled, and sprinkled with sea salt. Yum, what a treat! And for those who have asked, so far we have not had a hot one yet.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! Make sure to read all the lovely posts on Harvest Monday, graciously hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Harvest Monday - 15 August 2016

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Apologies in advance if this post is long.

Again I'm starting with the "firsts" this week. Along with the noble artichoke, probably our favorite crop is sweet corn. We picked the first "Espresso":

How was it? Truthfully it doesn't compare to the later-season Honey Select in terms of sweetness. But we enjoyed it. I like the concept of an early, cool-soil emergent corn, and now that the Espresso seed is used up, I'll definitely be moving on.

Another "first," but a fail. I was intrigued by the heirloom corn "Dorinny Sweet," which was touted as adapted to northern climates. It did emerge early, but from that point on performed poorly. The result was short, spindly, weak stalks with tiny ears that had poor pollination. And the taste...meh. To be fair, we probably waited too long to pick it, for as you can see the kernels are big, which usually means they will be starchy and tough. Dorinny will not be attempted again, sorry.

We picked the first "Caspian Pink" (much smaller than is typical) and two "Sugar Plum" grape tomatoes. Delicious!

We picked the first "Black Beauty" and "Pingtung Long" eggplants, and a solitary hot cherry pepper:

Now for the continuing harvests. Almost every day we picked some or all of the following:

Shishito and Hungarian Wax peppers:

Carrots, zucchini, and picklers (note the sparse foliage on the carrots; the goldfinches, AKA the "salad birds," have been stripping the leaves relentlessly).

Artichokes, zucchini, Diva and pickling cucumbers. Funny thing about the Divas. The chipmunks have decided they like gnawing on them, but they leave the picklers alone. This is probably because the Divas have no spines on either vine or fruit, and the picklers are covered in them. Or maybe we have gourmet chipmunks.

Some more Espresso corn, chard, zucchini, Diva and pickling cucumbers.

Artichokes,  Divas, and zucchini.

Okay, so the pickling cukes are getting tiresome. We think so too, with over 10 pounds in the fridge. So like I said last week, it's time to pick them tiny and save up to make cornichons. Here we start:

The Kitchen Goddess is doing the best she can with the cucumbers. Here she made 9 pints of "Burger Chips." Note that the labels demonstrate goddess-logic...she puts the date they will be ready, not when they were canned.

And here, sweet/dill cucumber relish (9 pints). Now down to two pounds in fridge! But, enough relish to last 9 years.

Here at Eight Gate Farm, we try to waste as little as possible. Processing all that relish left a good amount of cucumber juice. TKG found a recipe for Cucumber Cocktail. It was delish, and refreshing (we used gin instead of vodka). As TKG says, "it's kind of like juicing."

Lastly, presenting Fun With Food with The Kitchen Goddess. Here, she shows you how to make an eggplant swan with shishito pepper wings!

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading! And thanks as always to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Harvest Monday - 8 August 2016

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm, in drought-y New Hampshire. The little bit of rain we got this week has accomplished nothing I'm afraid. The grass in the back field, impossible to irrigate, is crispy.

But the gardens are irrigated, so the harvests roll on. Let's start with the new things this week. First, a lonely "Taxi" tomato, so sweet and delicious:

The Kitchen Goddess begged me to let her rob the potato patch. "Just two small ones," she said. Well, what she found was not exactly small, almost 11 oz.

Our first "Diva" cucumber of the season. Tasting it, I see what the fuss is about.

Continuing harvests, with a pickling cucumber theme. BTW, I like picklers as slicers. They're crunchy!

The last harvest of the week, with Swiss Chard, squash, carrots, a Diva, and of course, picklers!

OK, we seriously have a glut of picklers. What to do? People complain about zucchini overload, but at least it can be frozen. Picklers can really only become...pickles. So TKG did some pickling. First, some lacto-fermentation for immediate enjoyment:

Then some long-term kosher dills:

Well, there goes a few pounds anyway. In search of ideas, I Googled "too many cucumbers." One site had some unusual suggestions. Maybe "All-Natural Vegan Dog Chew Toys?" And if you or your child likes to play with Mr. Potato Head, how about "Carla Cucumber?"

All right, I guess it's more pickles. You can give them away, right? "We like you guys so much, here's a gift of our unwanted pickles!" Actually, if it really gets out of hand, we can always pick them very small, and make cornichons. I like them, and we have plenty of tarragon.

Finally, TKG cleaned up the remaining garlic for storage. Note the obligatory US quarter-dollar coin for scale.

"German White":


That's all for this week Thanks for reading! Please check out all the other Harvest Monday posts at Our Happy Acres. Thank you, Dave, for hosting Harvest Monday.