Tuesday, July 26, 2005

tassels in the morning Posted by Picasa

"Pollen shed"

It’s a hot one today. But the southwest breeze is picking up even as a fog bank moves in from the ocean. Tomorrow will be even hotter. And, of course, I ran out of Allegra so I am sneezing and snurfling as whatever is in the air has taken me over.

Speaking of pollen. There is this thing about the corn that I never really understood. Somehow I thought the corn was fertilized by the tassels rubbing together. For weeks now I’ve been in the garden thinking “I have to look up how corn pollinates,” but never got around to it until yesterday morning. This is significant because I have these huge platter sized blue hubbard squash leaves and they are (were) blocking the silks from receiving the pollen from the tassels. But since I thought the tassels fertilized each other, to me there was no problem. I KNEW that each kernel was created by a pollinated silk, but my old tassel to tassel paradigm hadn’t budged. Once I got it straight that the tassels need to reach the silks, I cut back the obstructing blue hubbard squash leaves … and just in the nick of time.

Then this morning I saw “pollen shed” in all its full glory. About 8:30 I was looking into the sun and I saw one of the anthers explode and release a shower of pollen that got carried on the slightest breath of a breeze in what I would have called a dead still morning. Then another and another. Sometimes they would be aided by a bee, sometimes they were spontaneous. The garden continues to amaze me.

Monday, July 25, 2005

a blue hubbard squash Posted by Picasa

the Spanish Roja Posted by Picasa

garden in the morning Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Blister Beetle Posted by Picasa

Blister Beetles

Just when I thought I could turn on the auto-pilot along comes a new garden pest. I found the first ones in the flower bed and mistook it for a lost squash bug. I seem to have dealt handily with the squash bugs on Tuesday removing them AND their egg cases from all of the zucchini plants.

But these blister beetles are something else. First I had to identify it and with a combination of Pests of the Garden and Small Farm (thanks, Jim Fechner) and the internet (thanks, Al Gore?) I learned that this was the blister beetle. They are so named because if you squash them in your fingers they can cause blisters. If ingested they can make you very sick and their effect on your urinary tract can be like that of Spanish Fly. The real fear for farmers is that they swarm alfalfa and can be baled up in feed hay without knowing it and make livestock very sick.

They have a very complicated life cycle as illustrated here. -->

As I say, they started in the flower bed and stripped the anemones. They had then moved to the cherry tomatoes. I carefully dropped every one I could find into a glass of water. Now this morning I see that they have made it to other tomato plants. I will be enlisting my entire household in a blister beetle hunt as soon as they awaken.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Managing the Harvest

Zucchini Hash Browns


1 lb. zucchini
½ tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup butter


Toss zucchini with salt let stand for 15 minutes. Wrap in a clean towel and squeeze out the moisture
Combine zucchini, eggs and Parmesan cheese and mix well. Heat butter in a skillet, over a moderate flame. Drop zucchini by tablespoonfuls into the skillet, do not crowd. Brown well on both sides and drain well. Put on a cooling rack and blot with paper towels. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven. Serve warm.

Zucchini Soup (The Zucchini Solution adapted from “Fat Free Flavor Full”)

4 zucchini, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 cups water
1 Knorr chicken bullion cube (for 2 cups)
1 cup nonfat yogurt or buttermilk

Simmer the zucchini, onion, garlic, and seasonings in the bullion for 15 minutes. Puree the soup in batches in a blender. Stir in the yogurt or buttermilk. Serve warm or chilled.

Note: You can add 1 cup cooked brown rice. If so, increase the water to 4 cups and add another bullion cube.

Zucchini Gratin with Goat Cheese
(Adapted from Provencal Light by Martha Rose Shulman)

2 pounds coarsely grated zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cloves minced garlic
¼ cup chopped parsley
2-4 tablespoons slivered fresh basil to taste
2 medium eggs beaten
2 ounces fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons fresh or dried bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil a 2 quart gratin. Salt the zucchini and let sit in a colander for 15 – 30 minutes. Rinse and gently squeeze out the moisture.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy bottomed no stick skillet medium heat and add the zucchini, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for 10 minutes until the zucchini is starting to cook through. Add garlic and cook another 5 minutes until zucchini is fragrant but still bright green. Stir in parsley and basil and remove from the heat.

Beat together the eggs and the goat cheese. Stir in the zucchini. Adjust the seasonings and transfer to the gratin dish. Sprinkle on the bread crumbs and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned and the mixture is sizzling. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Zucchini Nitza

½ onion sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 sliced zucchini
Chopped mint leaves

Saute onion and garlic in the olive oil. Add zucchini and stir until cooked but still bright green. Aprinkle with mint leaves. Add salt and pepper and serve.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Zucchini manadatory at all meals

No matter what is coming in abundantly, I am always waiting for that first tomato. The garden has not really reached its promise until that first big slicer makes its way to the kitchen.

But currently there are zucchini in abundance and I made my first zucchini soup yesterday. It was a real quencher today at lunch. In fact all meals, breakfast, lunch AND dinner must have some form of zucchini featured. Breakfast was Zucchini Hashbrowns. If I were home tonight I would be making Zucchini Nitza named after my Greek neighbor in Arlington. But since I am eating out, I delivered fresh zucchini to my hostess for the evening earlier in the day.

I pulled up the last of the peas. They are staying crisp in the refrigerator. I weeded that bed well and after amending the soil I planted the last of my pot started basil.

I also pulled up the last of the garlic. The only silverskin I had was a Nootka Rose. They were pretty small. That freed up the one garlic bed inside the garden for the four “Long Keepers” I’ve had potted waiting for ground. In no time (I mean the next day) one had fruit on it. They are a remarkable variety that will keep on the shelf well into January.

The corn is “Spring Treat” and it has the most delightful purple corn silk. I fertilized it on Saturday with “Sweet Corn Alive” as it was coming into tassle.

The squash vine borer moth IS in my garden. I spied it on Sunday evening. It was sitting quietly on some potato leaves. I have done nothing to protect my zucchini. When the end comes it will be rapid and without mercy.

I also have my first little New England Pumpkin and I have two blue hubbard squash. The butternut squash shows no inclination to flower or fruit.

The weather has been beastly humid and the heirlooms are exhibiting blossom drop again.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Potato Fruit !

A new mystery confronted me the other morning. There on my potato plants where the flowers had been were little fruit! A quick internet search revealed that my little discovery is the stuff of research grants. Here is a commentary from a geneticist at Cornell.

What is that fruit? You mean the green berry that looks like an unripe tomato? The potato fruit looks like a tomato because the potato and tomato are closely related. Like tomatoes, the potato fruit contains seeds (300-500 per fruit). Potato breeders typically create and harvest several hundred thousand of these seeds each year. These seeds are then planted, and the resulting plants are sifted through over a period of 10-12 years in order to identify new genetic combinations that are good enough to be released as new varieties. Unlike tomatoes, however, the potato fruit is not edible because it contains high levels of toxic glycoalkaloids.

I think it best that I make sure these little fruit are picked if any children should wander through the garden. Apparently they only show on certain varieties like Yukon Gold. (I have Yellow Finns.) If they HAD been growing in the past I wouldn’t have known it because the CPB’s had pretty much wiped out the possibility.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

two possible "contenders" Posted by Picasa

corn tassle Posted by Picasa

baby speckled swan guard Posted by Picasa

snap peas with inadequate support Posted by Picasa

Sumo Wrestler

I’m looking out over a newly mown hayfield. No more disappearing deer for awhile. As I look into the garden the asparagus bed is feathering out nicely and is taller than I am.

After the soaking rains of the weekend, the garden is more lush and is pushing upward and outward.

Some recent milestones: I have my first eggplant blossom. There is a “baby swan” in the squash field. I’ve finally seen my first nasturtium. The corn tassels are emerging. The Blue Lake bush beans are flowering and setting beans.

Some recent setbacks: I’ve tossed maybe five tomatoes for blossom end rot. The “Italian Sweet” is particularly susceptible. The support I had in place for my snap peas is totally inadequate. They are producing, but they are toppling. And the garlic continues to puzzle me. The stiff necks look much more ready for harvest than do the soft necks, but underground the stiff necks are still showing potential for bulb growth.

In the quest for a blue ribbon in the category of “largest tomato,” I have pruned back one of my Belgian Giants and am concentrating the plant’s resources on three fruit. It will now be on a diet fit for a Sumo wrestler until the Fair.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Garlic Decisions

As the rain bore down on our embattled island yesterday morning I had to think quickly about how to deal with the garlic crop. The soft necks were very close to harvest. The ophios need another week. More rain will only further damage the crop making it susceptible to mold. In a soft mist I harvested about half of the soft necks. I then covered the “contenders” (these would be the ophios I think have the best chance of winning a ribbon at the fair) in plastic trash bags in the hope that they would stay dry during the rain fall.

The soft necks are now in the basement resting on an old screen door suspended between two saw horses. The dehumidifier is running non stop trying to bring a soggy basement into the 55% relative humidity range. The “contenders” are dry and cozy amid a heavy downpour. I’m hoping for the best.

The reason dryness is so critical at this stage is that moisture late in the season can create a moldy set of wrappers around the bulb. Each of the ten leaves of the garlic plant is a wrapper around the final bulb. As you can see from this Inchellium Red I harvested, the four outer leaf wrappers are wet. If I strip them off there are still 6 good wrappers going into the curing stage. The ideal would be to harvest a dry bulb and dust off the dirt and put it in for curing. Then fewer wrappers have to be removed after curing.

In other news, the rainy day made me want to make another sorrel soup (see May entry for recipe) and this one was PERFECTION. It went right to my bones.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Garlic and Tomatoes

The recent rain has done a number on my garlic. There are 10 leaves on a garlic plant. When 4-6 of them turn brown it’s time to harvest.

Well given the fact that I just cut the scapes on Monday and Wednesday (6/27 and6/29) on the stiff necks, it can’t possibly be time to harvest. Yet, there is definite browning on 4 leaves on nearly every plant. I harvested one Spanish Roja today.

#1 the outer wrappers are wet and this can lead to rot. I had to peel back 5 leaf sheaths (wrappers) to get to a clean bulb.

#2 the bulbs are not fully developed yet.

There is a dry, less humid spell coming up soon. If I remove the straw mulch and let them dry out, they will be in much better position to be stored without worry of mildew.

Learned some things about my tomatoes from the GardenWeb today.

Problem #1 Leaf curl - I have been having leaf curl on my “Big Early” and “Old German.” It turns out that inward leaf curl can happen when there is an imbalance between the amount of above ground plant and its root system. It does not damage performance and will adjust itself as the root system catches up.

Problem #2 Blossom drop- My heirlooms have been dropping blossoms. Apparently this can be caused by to much wet humid weather. It has been ONLY that for 5 days. A drop in humidity should help that problem.