Monday, August 27, 2018

Harvest Monday - 27 August 2018

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm! As summer winds down, I'm going to present some "last harvests" of the season before turning to the "firsts."

The Taxi tomato plant gave up its last fruit. This variety is always the first to arrive and the first to depart. Still, I can't complain about the 50+ sweet fruits it gave us in its short life.

I removed the netting from the blueberry bushes and gleaned a small final picking to add to the stash in the freezer.

And the "Illusion" all-white sweet corn was completely picked over and the stalks cut for fall decorations. In the photo, some of the cobs look white but this is just a trick of light. We ate what we could from this final harvest, and the rest were cut for "niblets" for the freezer. Then The Kitchen Goddess boiled the cobs to make corn broth.

But don't cry for me! The next day I harvested the first of the "Montauk" bi-color corn.

Montauk, another synergistic variety, turns out to be every bit as sweet and tender as Illusion. Its cobs are a bit larger, but it doesn't have as good tip-fill. It's considered a "late-season" corn, while Illusion is "early," but it's funny that only 8 days distinguishes the two (72 vs. 80). Every afternoon this week I've been going out to the patch and picking five ears. What a treat.

By the way, "synergistic" means it's bred to have a certain ratio (varies by variety) of "Sugary Enhanced" (se) and "Supersweet" (sh2) genes. It's careful breeding, not GMO. The advantages to synergistic are many: excellent sweetness, tenderness, good field-holding ability, and what's called "cool-soil vigor." I hedge the bet by buying seed that is treated with an organic fungicide. If you've struggled to grow sweet corn, I suggest you try a synergistic variety.

The first "Halona" muskmelons were fully-ripe this week. They are fantastic.

I cut the first head of "Soloist" Chinese cabbage. This was planted in early summer.

I picked the first "Jilo" eggplant. This is a South American favorite, but I'd never heard of it. I got the plant from a fellow Master Gardener, who in turn got the seeds from some Brazilian friends. These are picked small, about the size of a duck's egg. If left to turn orange-red, they are quite bitter, which some like, but my friend's friends say at that stage they feed them to the chickens.

The plant is large and looks to be quite a producer. TKG added them to other eggplants in a dish she made. The Jilo is only very slightly bitter, but pleasant, and is noticeable from the other eggplants.

I set out three little Walking Onion bulbs last fall when I planted garlic, and they produced this for me. I didn't let them "walk," but they should still keep producing over the years.

Walking onions
I got the first "Cherry Bomb" and two "Maule's Red Hot" cayenne peppers.

Also, the first "Jimmy Nardello's" and a "King of the North" bell pepper. Normally I don't grow bells, but I scored a free seed packet and wanted to see how it produces. I was waiting for it to turn red, but it detached itself.

Jimmy Nardello's (left) and King of the North
Last year I purchased and grew a "Thai Hot" pepper plant that produced scores of 1" firecrackers. This year I bought some seeds, and somehow the result is even smaller than last year. Ridiculously so! I wanted to pop one in my mouth, but TKG claimed them for something she is making. Maybe that saved me from a mouth on fire.

Thai Hot
I picked all the D'Anjou pears from our two scraggly trees. These are now ripening indoors.

And the last of the "first harvests," Kennebec potatoes, 18 pounds in total. Not as good as some years, but definitely better than last year's.

In the picture you can see the bed they grew in, one of the galvanized steel stock tanks I set up as "raised beds" last year. This certainly kept the voles out, but might have had an impact I was not expecting. Most of them are funny-shaped, and look like snowmen. Doing some research, I learned that this can be a function of excess heat. So while the metal beds protected them from damage, they may have heated up too much.

For ongoing harvests, here is a sampling:

From TKG's community garden plot:

4th of July tomato, and Imperial Star artichoke.
I close with a picture of a Mexican Sunflower I planted for the first time this year. It is really lovely, with odd 3-lobed leaves, a velvety stem, and beautiful orange-red flowers. It's a winner.

Once again, a long post! If you made it this far I admire your persistence. Thanks for reading, and thanks as always to Dave at for running the Harvest Monday forum that lets us show off our harvests.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Harvest Monday - 20 August 2018

Here's another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Once again I will start with the "first harvests" of the year.

The first "Stellar" tomatoes. These are a determinate variety which is said to have good disease resistance. This turns out to be true, but nothing is immune from blight. So while these are afflicted, they are showing less of it than my other tomatoes. It's a terrible year for blight here. Of course, no point in growing it if it doesn't taste good, and I'm happy to say these are quite good.

The first "Cour di Bue" heirloom indeterminate. It's my first time with this variety. It wasn't tasted directly, as it went into sauce (see below).

Cour di Bue
The first "Ping Tung Long" eggplant. I've been growing this variety for several years, and in the past it was a great producer. This year, with its challenging weather, may not continue the tradition.

Ping Tung Long
A comical "first harvest," which is also the last. Here is the entire crop of garbanzo beans.

Garbanzo beans (chick peas)
I grew about 8 row feet of these as an experiment this year. The plants grew well until they didn't. I'll try again next year, as maybe it was the weather once again. The plants are unusual and quite attractive. They bear pods that have only a single bean, so they better produce a lot of pods to make it worth it. Meanwhile, does anyone want to share a quarter-teaspoon of hummus?

Now on to a sample of continuing harvests. We got a nice batch of shishito peppers.

Some Costoluto Genovese tomatoes, with their adorable pumpkin shape.

Costoluto Genovese
More Dar and Diva cucumbers.

3 Dar and 1 Diva cucumbers
I picked the last of the "Kenearly Yellow-eye" beans (in the big basket), and a further picking of Pinto beans. These will have quite a lot of drying indoors to do before I can shell them. Once everything is dried and shelled, I'll report how much in total I got.

The "Illusion" white sweet corn has been fulfilling my gluttonous needs for the crop I most crave. After picking every night, the big ears are mostly all gone.

So we've had to pick the smaller ones. They are every bit as sweet and tender. It's an amazing variety.

A "cornucopia" picture summing up the harvests of the week.

The Kitchen Goddess finally had enough tomatoes to can six pints of her prizewinning pasta sauce.

Last week I mentioned we were going to have a blind taste-test of heirloom tomatoes. It was prompted by the fact that I've never tried Brandywine (the gold standard according to many), and that Caspian Pink was said to be even better. I've grown Caspian for many years, but never Brandywine before. Here are the contestants. From left, Brandywine, Caspian Pink, Cosmonaut Volkov, and Pruden's Purple.

TKG labeled four identical plates on the bottom, cut each tomato into equal size and quantity chunks and put them on their respective plates. We then sampled each one twice, having a bite of saltine cracker to cleanse the palate in between. It was surprising that we both rated each in the same order. Number 1? Brandywine! It had the richest and most complex flavor. The word that came to mind was "luscious." Then was Pruden's Purple, Caspian Pink, and finally Cosmonaut Volkov. I know this was just sampling one fruit at one point in time, but it was a fun and interesting experiment. I'll be growing all of them again next year, because all were really good. Brandywine just was the best.

I close with a little story about one of my favorite native plants, Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). This beautiful plant thrives in damp, shady places. It has many other names, among them "Touch-me-not." This is because its small seed capsules explode when touched, sending the seeds many feet. I had some growing wild on the property, and collected seeds last year. I sprinkled them around our little water feature. To my surprise, one emerged this year, and is now flowering.

Spotted Jewelweed
Here's a close-up of its lovely flower, a favorite of pollinators.

Thanks once again for wading through another long post. Thanks also to Dave at for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Harvest Monday - 13 August 2018

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm! It was another week of many "first harvests," so I'll get right to them.

Although the local farm stands have had sweet corn for several weeks now (GMO??), we got our first this week. This is a new one for me, the all-white, synergistic variety called "Illusion." It produces long, slender ears with small kernels that are incredibly sweet and tender! They just pop. As an added feature, it has the best tip fill of any corn I've grown, which I guess is not all that important for a home grower, but is nice. We've been enjoying it every night. It's a winner for sure.

Illusion sweet corn
Earlier in the year, The Kitchen Goddess went to a talk on seed saving given by the owner of Hudson Valley Seed Company. She came back with a packet of heirloom "Blue Jade" sweet corn. This was part of the reason she got a plot in the community garden, as I did not have space for it. She picked some this week.

Blue Jade sweet corn
It really is an interesting plant. It only gets 3 feet tall, and has multiple stems, so you'll get a lot of  small ears from each plant. They say it's one of the only corns for container gardening. And the taste? Well, it is sweet, but not like the modern hybrids. I guess that isn't a fair comparison. If you like the "old fashioned" taste and texture, this is one to consider.

I picked most of the "Kenearly Yellow-Eye" beans I was growing for drying and storage. I like to pick them when the pods have turned yellow-white, and finish drying them indoors. I planted them heavily this year, two 20-foot rows. Harvesting them was a lot of stooping in the hot sun, not very pleasant. I'll finish harvesting by pulling up the plants, which is much easier.

Kenearly Yellow-Eye beans drying on a screen
I also harvested most of the Pinto beans I grew for the first time this year. I only gave them about ten feet of space, so the harvest is much smaller. Still, I'm happy with the result, and plant to grow more next year.

Pinto beans
We got the first Cocozella di Napoli zucchini. I've grown this for several years, and love its rich, nutty taste. I think the fruit is very attractive, too.

Cocozella di Napoli zucchini
I think I've mentioned that all the onions I started from seed didn't do well. To make up, I bought starts and sets. Here is the result of the generic white onions from sets. I hope they store well, but I have no way of knowing.

Generic white onions

Now for tomato talk. I've grown Caspian Pink for many years, and we love its flavor. Some say it's superior to Brandywine, which is the standard for heirloom taste. I don't know about that, because I'm not aware if I've ever tried Brandywine. So I grew it too this year. They both came in about the same time. Here they are, in all their ugly, heirloom glory. The Brandywine (left) weighed over a pound. We're letting them get a little riper.

Brandywine and Caspian Pink

We also got the first "Cosmonaut Volkov." It weighed about ten ounces.

Cosmonaut Volkov
And the first "Costoluto Genovese." I grew this last year, too, and liked it. This year it seems kind of bland. But it should be good for sauces. I do love the pumpkin shape of the fruit.

Costoluto Genovese
We also got the first "Plum Regal" (left), and Romas.

Plum Regal and Roma
Now for a sampling of ongoing harvests. TKG brought back more Pruden's Purple and Fourth of July tomatoes from her allotment. I finally got to taste them, and they are quite good.

Pruden's Purple (left) and 4th of July
More Taxi, Oregon Spring, and Sugar Plum

And here's the biggest Oregon Spring so far, at 10 ounces:

We got some nice harvests of Diva cucumbers.

And more carrots as needed.

Scarlet Nantes
We still have a lot of salad turnips from the spring planting, and they are getting quite large.

White Egg and Purple Top White Globe turnips
Back to heirloom tomatoes. For fun, we are going to somehow conduct a blind taste-test of Brandywine, Caspian Pink, Pruden's Purple, and Cosmonaut Volkov. Besides Pruden's, I haven't yet tasted them so far this year. Will Caspian beat Brandywine? I'll report the results next week.

Finally, here's a ratatouille made by TKG in her own style, with green and yellow zucchini, Anaheim pepper, and purple turnips (that's right). It was absolutely delicious, and so colorful.

Whew, another long post...sorry! Future posts should be shorter, as the "firsts" are winding down. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave for hosting Harvest Monday, now in its new home at