Monday, August 28, 2017

Harvest Monday - 28 August 2017

Here's another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Weather-wise, we are having a bit of fall, with sunny days in the 70s and nights in the low 50s--not conducive to ripening of warm-weather crops. But we are getting some. Once again, I'll present the "first harvests" first.

The first "Martino's Roma" tomatoes. Martino is supposed to be an improved Roma in terms of yield, but having grown it many years I don't really see the difference. Nothing wrong with it, just not special.

Martino's Roma

The first "Caspian Pink." This has proven to be one of our favorites.

Caspian Pink

The first "Costoluto Genovese." I love the pumpkin shapes, and they taste good too.

Costoluto Genovese
The first "Plum Regal." This was purchased because of its reported blight resistance. Well, either it isn't (completely), or I have something other than blight. The plant is healthier than others, but it is still losing lower leaves. I will contrast it to the "Pony Express" paste tomatoes I am also growing. Those are now nothing more than skeletons with some green fruit clinging. Certainly won't grow that variety again. Plum Regal fruit is nice and blocky, weighing in at 5 - 6+ ounces. I have not sampled its taste yet.

Plum Regal
The There's a story here. I bought a packet of Amish Paste for this season, and planted two pots with them. One died, so I bought 2 AP plants from a garden center. Their fruit has the typical nippled shape. This fruit came from the one surviving seedling of mine. Well, it certainly isn't Amish Paste. Maybe it's a new variety...Mennonite Paste? 

Mystery tomato

Is it even a paste tomato? Let's slice one open...

Nope. It looks suspiciously like Caspian Pink above. So is it a mislabeled seed packet? Or did I screw up my planting? No way to know, so I will buy another packet of hopefully real Amish Paste for next year.

The first (generic) Cubanelle peppers:

The first "Sugar Buns" corn. This crop suffered from poor germination due to the very cold weather that lingered into early June. 

Sugar Buns
My cunning plan was to plant 3 varieties of corn at the same time, with different maturities. Sugar Buns is the earliest, at 72 days, with Honey Select at 80 days, and Silver Queen at 90+ days. As is typical with my plans, it just didn't work out that way. The Sugar Buns was late, while Honey Select is right on time (stronger plants, too). In fact, we took one to check its maturity. Here it is on the left below, next to more Sugar Buns. You can see how much bigger it is.

L: Honey Select, R: Sugar Buns
Sugar Buns tastes fine, but Honey Select is superior. This one tasted fantastic. Once again, I'm putting my principles on hold and growing it, even though it comes from a big nasty agribiz conglomerate (it itself is non-GMO, but the company sure does a lot of GMO crops).

OK, this post is getting too long and wordy. I'll just show representative other harvests for this week.

Hungarian Hot Wax, Cherry Bomb, Shishito
Mitoyo, Nadia, Bride, Ping Tung Long

Lastly, The Kitchen Goddess wants to show off her new hand-carved fruit-ripening bowl, looking like a dugout canoe:

We may be harvesting dozens of tomatoes, but most of you lovely people are getting bushels of them. Blight, or whatever it is, is just such a scourge here. I hope you are able to escape it. Thanks for reading this overly-long report, and I really look forward to reading everyone's posts on Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres

Monday, August 21, 2017

Harvest Monday - 21 August 2017

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm! Harvest Monday, as you know, is hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres, and we are grateful for it. Let's dive right in to the "first" harvests of the week.

We got our first Mitoyo eggplant, a productive, good tasting variety, but the sharp thorns on its calyx get me every time!

A mid-July transplanted "Brisk Green" pak choi:

The first "Umberto" tomatoes. This was a free seed packet I got a while ago. They are an heirloom, and are supposed to have "up to 250 2-inch fruits per plant." Well, these are one inch, and if I get 250 I'll be amazed. Still, it's fun to try different tomatoes.

The first "Calabrese" hot pepper. I got these seeds from a winery garden out in California last fall. The gardener said they were "atomic." OK, bring it on!

The second planting of Toy Choi this season. Sadly only three of the seedlings I started survived, and slugs had their way with the remainder, but the stalks at least are nice, and taste just as good as the leaves.

Oh boy Toy Choi!
Now on to representative continuing harvests. Here's some solanacea harvested one day:

One of the last blueberry pickings:

And the shishito peppers finally gave us enough for a feast, or at least a delicious appetizer:

Mellow Star
In fact, it turned into a kebab meal, with everything grilled, including potatoes and zucchini. Nice to think that all except the lamb (and condiments) came from our gardens. The Kitchen Goddess's technique of double-skewering everything sure helps prevent dreaded kebab pivoting.

And the "Mom CSA" for the week. See, I told you TKG would eventually start giving away Diva cucumbers. Unlucky Mom arrived just a day after a large batch of beans got frozen.

A Saturday harvest. The Bride eggplant steals the show in my opinion.

"Carson" wax beans on the left, and on the right, Calima filet beans and oh-god-more-Divas.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading! I'll be travelling by the time you read this, so apologies if I don't respond to comments, but please make them anyway!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Harvest Monday - 14 August 2017

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Once again, we lead off with the "first" harvests of this week.

Full-size tomatoes have finally started rolling in. The paste-types were the first to be ready. There were two "Pony Express" (left) and one "Roma," shown with a handful of not-the-first Sugar Plum grape tomatoes for scale.

Pony Express was a variety I'd never heard of. I got them at a garden center to make up for other paste-tomato seedlings that did not fare well. All I could find about them was they are "early" and "productive," which sounds like damning-with-faint-praise.

Shortly after, Amish Paste presented itself. This is an heirloom nearly everyone is aware of and many grow, though it's the first time for me.

Amish Paste

We did a blind taste-test of Pony Express and Amish Paste. Both were good, but AP had a more rounded, better-balanced flavor.

After that the first slicing tomato was picked. This is "Rutgers," a variety we've grown for years and depend upon. Really it's a dual-purpose tomato, and as always it had outstanding flavor.

The last first this week was a "Bride" eggplant. I find it very attractive.

Last week I wrote that we took a few "Reliance" peaches from the tiny tree we planted just last fall. We let them sit on the counter for a few days, then tried them. They were wonderful. So The Kitchen Goddess picked the entire crop this week. Not bad for the first year!

She also strip-mined the remaining spring Mesculin Mix, and separated the results. There was Red Russian kale:


And a bunch of varieties of lettuce:

I guess she was full of energy this week, because she attacked the badly-overgrown herb garden.

A representative mid-week harvest:

And another:

The beans are slowing down just as the Diva cucumbers are picking up. We now have close to 3 pounds of them in the fridge, and TKG is considering revising her never-give-'em-away policy!

TKG made a batch of Pico de gallo (fresh chunky salsa) from our tomatoes, hot peppers, and cilantro. She then made a batch of corn tortillas. So our Sunday morning breakfast was Huevos rancheros, even including our own black beans. Delicious and hearty!

Huevos rancheros
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading! Please join me in viewing all the exciting posts on Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Harvest Monday - 7 August 2017

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm! As before, I will lead off this Harvest Monday post with the "first" harvests from this week.

The first "Nadia" eggplant:


The first "Cherry Bomb" hot peppers:

Cherry Bomb

And the first peaches. We bought a marked-down end-of-season "Reliance" peach sapling at Tractor Supply last fall, with no great expectations. Surprisingly, it flowered its first year in the ground, and set fruit. Now, these are just walnut-sized, but they were of perfect color and starting to soften and smell like peaches, so we took four to see how they ripen indoors.

Reliance Peach
And on to continuing harvests. A few more grape tomatoes:

Sugar Plum
Another "Maule's Red Hot" cayenne, and a Ping Tung eggplant:

Ping Tung, Maule's Red Hot
The Kitchen Goddess took a rare night off from cooking, so I demonstrated my stir-fry powers, using zucchini, eggplant, snow peas, broccoli, and all the hot peppers. I added Virginia peanuts, and made a sauce from chicken broth thickened with corn starch. It was served over thin Chinese noodles.

The hot peppers were extremely spicy raw, but they toned down in the stir-fry to add a pleasant richness. Funny thing though. I cut and seeded the peppers without gloves. Even after repeated hand-washings and a morning shower next day, putting in my contact lenses was a literal "eye-opening experience."

TKG cleaned the now-cured harneck garlic from a few weeks ago. Here they are, all nice and pretty. Clockwise from top, Katterman, Turkish Red, Killarney Red, and Vietnamese Purple, which are very colorful. You'll note she left extra-long handles this time, presumably for easier hurling at vampires.

The beans are producing nicely, though they look like they may be starting to take a break. I continue to be impressed with the "Calima" filet bean, which tastes outstanding.

L: Calima, R: Carson
Here's a true fact. TKG loves sharing our produce with family/friends/people walking by on the road. But there are three things she will not share. Can you guess them?

One: Diva cucumbers.


Two: artichokes.

Imperial Star
Three: sweet corn.

No, this is not our corn. Ours is still not ready. But TKG was craving corn, and in a clear insult to my masculinity, made me go to the local farm stand for their first-of-the-season corn. At 70 cents an ear, it seemed expensive, but it was sure flying out the door. I wondered what kind it was, but the cashier only said "butter and sugar," which was the extent of her knowledge I guess. It actually was pretty good.

A representative harvest of zucchini, beans, snap peas (vines taken down this weekend), and more Divas. 

The zucchini looks pretty normal in the above picture, but it actually was one that almost got away from us.

Cocozella Di Napoli
Using that and another large one, TKG got to show off her new spiralizer attachment for the KitchenAid and made a big batch of zoodles.

Now for some wildlife notes. A few years ago I planted several Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) plants from seed. They did well, and have actually seeded themselves in several other places. It is a nice plant, with lovely pink flowers with a vanilla scent. Being a milkweed, it is attractive to monarch butterflies. This week we noticed a half-dozen monarch caterpillars happily munching on the leaves. This big guy is hanging upside down and sawing away on a leaf.

Here's another big guy and his baby brother. Off to the left, you can see the strange bright yellow aphids that also love this plant. Normally I would spray them with Neem, but I dare not, for fear of harming our monarchs. I'm just happy we are doing a tiny part in the effort to conserve this threatened butterfly.

Thanks for reading this week's overly-long post. Now join me in viewing all the posts on Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres. Thanks again, Dave!