Monday, October 22, 2018

Harvest Monday - 22 October 2018

Our first killing frost arrived this past week, as anticipated. The days leading up to it were thus a flurry of activity for picking and processing.

The Mad Hatter peppers (that our Harvest Monday host, Dave, featured awhile ago) would not ripen any further, so here's my entire crop. I'd say it's a productive plant, but for me it took forever for even one to turn red-ripe. I will try again next year though.

Mad Hatter sweet pepper
The rest of the sweet peppers were hauled in and processed for the freezer, except for the shishitos which we will eat now.

The hot peppers came in as well.

The Kitchen Goddess turned all of the above into a spicy green chile base, using a recipe from the great book Fiery Ferments.

All of the remaining zucchini, eggplants, and beans came in and were frozen.

I've struggled to grow Swiss chard (usually an absurdly easy crop) in recent years. Not sure why. But I did pick some before the frost.

Peppermint and Fordhook Giant Swiss chard
I planted Summercrisp lettuce and then largely ignored it. I was surprised what the harvest added up to. And for us it's novel to have fresh salads in mid-October.

Mottistone and Nevada lettuce
Another crop I planted (in spring) and largely ignored was Red Malabar 'spinach', which of course is not a true spinach at all. It took awhile to get going, and produced lovely long vines. The only drawback is bugs seem to have a fondness for it. Despite that, the harvest was pretty large.

Red Malabar
I lightly blanched it, and here's the result. Some reviews I saw say it's too slimy for them, but that did not put me off at all. It tastes and smells just like real spinach, without the bite of some other spinach substitutes like Swiss chard or beet greens. I had some in a ramen and it was very delicious. If you, like me, struggle to grow real spinach I highly recommend this variety.

Blanched Red Malabar
Our green apple tree (maybe Granny Smith?) is a late-season variety. We picked two bushels, and there is at least that much left on the tree which will probably stay there. The reason? We already have so much canned applesauce, apple pie filling, and hard apple cider in storage. 

TKG rewarded our hard work with delicious caramel apples. I wish you could taste how good these are.

So, a busy week, but it's the last of the season. The only things left to harvest are carrots and leeks. I hope your harvests extend further than this. I look forward to reading about them!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Harvest Monday - 15 October 2018

Our fall continues atypically cool and damp. Yesterday morning there was an apparent very light frost, but the plants did not seem to be affected by it.

This translates to very diminished harvests:

I did a final harvest of winter squash. Here is a Neck Pumpkin (also called Crookneck Squash), an Early Butternut Hybrid, and a so-called Jack O'Lantern pumpkin that would be a pretty pathetic jack o'lantern.

I like to grow tall sunflowers, but doing this has been challenging in recent years for some reason. I did get a couple this year, and here's the best head. It's a variety called "Giant White-Seeded."

I'm trying a new technique to harvest sunflower seeds. Instead of trying to let them dry on the flower, where they usually mold, I pried them out soft and damp. I'm drying them in pie dishes like I do with beans.  So the beautiful fractal pattern of the seeds above became this:

Raspberries are continuing to reward us, though the canes have finally stopped flowering. Still lots of unripe ones.

But the big show this week came from the community garden plot The Kitchen Goddess shares with her mother. The two of them dug 17 pounds of sweet potatoes, and pulled a dozen leeks.

Flowers are all that's left in their plot now.

That's all for this week. According to at least one forecast, we will get a killing frost, maybe by Wednesday night. So it will be a scramble to harvest the rest of the peppers and eggplants. The tomatoes won't even be worth it. Thanks for reading, and thanks once again to Dave at for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Harvest Monday - 8 October 2018

It's been an untypical fall so far, with cool and damp conditions. Predictably, harvests have slowed to a crawl.

Two eggplants made their first, and unfortunately last, appearance in the harvest basket. On the left is "Rosita" and on the right, "Nadia". Rosita is always a slow, shy producer here but I love the color. Nadia last year was a star, but not this.

I planted "Yellow Pencil-pod Wax" beans in early August, unsure if I would get any before first frost. They reached picking size this week. Here they are along with some of the last flat-podded "Romano" bush beans.

The Kitchen Goddess got some nice things from the community garden plot.

A beginning of the week harvest basket from our home garden at least was colorful!

But by week's end it has diminished to the point of sadness.

The last two "Halona" muskmelons had detached themselves from the shriveled vines. They were good, but not as sweet as the ones from high summer. One is oddly shaped because it was stuck in the fence.

One crop that hasn't disappointed is raspberries. We estimate we've picked 10 pounds so far, and they aren't slowing down.

I’ve been wanting to write about an unusual pepper I attempted to grow this year. Since it is obvious that I won’t get any fruit, I’ll talk about the variety and what I think happened. It starts with a visit we made last fall to Regusci Winery in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa Valley. They have a huge, beautiful, well-tended vegetable garden, and sell some produce in a farm stand outside the tasting room. A pepper caught my eye. It doesn’t look anything remarkable; maybe just another hot cherry pepper. But I was not familiar with its name, “Manzano.”

$1 each? Not exactly giving them away, are they?
I obtained one with the intent of trying to grow it. I was very surprised to find it had black seeds, which I at first thought meant it had spoiled. But researching it, I found that was just one of the unusual characteristics of this species, C. pubescens. Besides that, it has purple flowers and hairy foliage (hence its species name). Its heat rating approaches Habanero. It is native to Peru, where it is called “Rocoto,” and thrives in cool climates, which I thought gave me a leg up.

Planting it this year, it grew fairly well, and began to flower very quickly. Alas, no fruit was ever set. I’m thinking it was our excessive humidity this summer. This weekend I potted up the plant, and moved it into the sunroom. Maybe it will continue to grow, and thus will get a head start next year. Worth a shot, anyway!

Manzano pepper plant ready to move indoors.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, and thanks once again to Dave of for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Harvest Monday - 1 October 2018 - Blue Ribbon Edition Part III

The last week of September is time of the nearby Deerfield Fair, now in its 142nd year. For three years, we have enjoyed entering our produce and home goods in the competitions. The Fair even made the national news this I will describe in a moment.

Our involvement started immediately after the last fair...when we fantasized about all the lovely things we would enter next year! Then it's a season of planning, growing and hoping. What will it bring? So many things out of our control.

During fair week, the schedule went like this. On Tuesday, The Kitchen Goddess with help from her mother dropped off the entries. On Wednesday judging occurs. On Thursday, the fair opens. We visited on Friday, instead of Saturday as usual. I'm glad we did, as I read that the line of cars waiting to enter was backed up for six miles, but we just breezed in. Still, it was very well attended for a weekday. On Sunday after the fair closes at 7 PM we have to go back and collect our entries. It's a lot of running back and forth, but fun!

This year TKG entered nine jars of canned goods, plus two other special entries. I entered four vegetables. I wanted to do several more, but had crop failures.

Here are TKG's entries, and the results. For canned goods, the judges give helpful comments when they don't award a first prize.

  1. Strawberry Sauce - Blue
  2. Raspberry Jam - Blue
  3. Bloody Mary Mix - Blue
  4. Chopped Tomatoes in Juice - Blue
  5. Spaghetti Sauce - Blue
  6. Salsa - Blue
  7. Tomato Sauce - Blue
  8. Pears in Light Syrup - Red (judges said it was over-packed)
  9. Stewed Chopped Tomatoes - White (judges said too much headspace)
Of course she agonizes over anything that wasn't blue, but I think it was an impressive array.

Here are my results. The fresh vegetables were downright gross by the time we picked them up, so no pictures of them! The judges here don't give comments unfortunately.

  1. Pinto Beans - Blue
  2. Jilo Eggplants - Blue
  3. Calabrese Hot Peppers - White. I knew these weren't going to get 1st, because I couldn't pick 5 the same size.
  4. Romano Bush Beans - White. I thought I would do better with these; not sure what went wrong.
Next year, try harder!

There were two untypical entries for us this year. First, TKG entered the Scarecrow Contest. There aren't any rules except it has to be no more than a certain size, and must feature at least five fruits or vegetables. I think she did a really imaginative creation. It's a representation of a Corn Maiden effigy. The body was our own cornstalks and leaves, and she was adorned with seven products of our gardens, such as hops, ground cherries, corn cobs, etc.

Corn Maiden for the Scarecrow Competition
She got a 4th place award. Comparing the higher-scoring entries, I guess the judges value humor and kitsch over artistry. Still, she got a $70 cash prize.

Her other entry was in the Flower Show. It was in the category "Wild or Garden Flowers in an Unusual Container." She arranged our own flowers in a whimsical vase we found at a flea market.

The judges gave it 3rd! I thought it was super-cute.

Our total cash winnings were $119, with TKG deservedly earning most of that. Of course it's not about the money. We just love the competition, and a chance to show off our stuff. Nothing wrong with that, right?

So what's this about the national news? It was in the giant pumpkin competition. A New Hampshire man set a new US record for heaviest amazing 2,528 lb. (~1147 kg) monster!

A new US record!
He earned $6,000 in prize money. No, I'm not really tempted to get involved in the giant pumpkin process.

We continue to encourage you to get involved in fairs or agricultural expos if you have the opportunity. You won't regret it.

I'll be back next week with "real" harvest news. Until then, thanks so much for reading. Thanks as always to Dave at for providing this fun forum.