Tuesday, December 13, 2011


We are in Paris, and exploring local markets with a vengeance . I came home with WAY too much frisée on Saturday. .... Travel adventures are posted on our travel blog

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The long and the short of it

The days are getting so short that pictures of both sunrise and sunset are not hard to come by. Yesterday was particularly stunning with soft clouds refracting pink in all directions. One would think that these hardy rutabagas would keep longer than a tomato, but such is not the case. I used my last Longkeeper Tomato to make an end of season (out of season?) BLT. Its orange color is not so inviting, but the flavor is better than anything found in a supermarket. The rutabaga on the other hand have a short span of freshness. That is why they are waxed in the stores. But it is a wonderful seasonal flavor, and I was glad to be able to offer them to the Thanksgiving table again this year.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Turkey Day

These are local turkeys raised in a field near my house. I have one happily in my freezer for later consumption as I will be eating at another's table this Turkey Day

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Through the night with a light from a bulb

The title here is from one of the lyrics quirks that kids come up with ... like Round John Virgin in Silent Night. It is a child's misinterpreted lyric to a line form God Bless America. But at this time of year it works. Bulbs bring the festivities indoors and stave off the early darkness of shortened days.

Gotta love the paperwhites. They are energetic little bundles and they always surprise me with their perfume. I also put several amaryllis to pot, including two new baby bulbs that came through this season when I went to repot.

Friday, October 07, 2011

What do these pictures have in common?

I thought before too much of the post season passed by, I would pose this question. What does this picture
have to do with this picture?

The answer is that these eggshells helped to create a series of heirloom tomatoes this summer (my Italian Sweets to be exact) that did NOT develop blossom end rot (BER). I got this idea from Daphne's blog, but learned it too close to planting time to have collected any eggshells. That is why I am bringing it up now. Once you have a few dozen, wait until a time when you are preheating the oven for some other reason. Lay the shells out on foil or parchment and bake for about 10 minutes at something over 300 degrees. Don't let them burn. The purpose for this is to kill any salmonella. The next step is to place the shells in your food processor and give them a good pulverizing. One word of caution, over time you will dull the inside of your plastic food processing bowl. Then I find an old container ... and mark it with a marker CRUSHED EGGSHELLS ... and pour my shells into it. The two of us did not consume enough eggs last year to fully plant out my tomato plants with the recommended one cup amendment of eggshells. But I was sure to use them on those that a prone to BER, and was very pleased with the results.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A slice of honey

This morning, after a two year journey, I have finally tasted the finest melon on the planet from my very own garden. It is called a Tranche de Miel cavaillon melon and I saved the seeds from a melon I had in the Aligre Market in Paris two summers ago.

I tried to grow these last year, but was thwarted by an early infestation of cucumber beetles that infested all my curcubits. This year I planted commercial Cavaillon melon seeds as well as my tranche de miel. I tasted the commercial fruit melon from my garden a few days ago ... nice, but nothing like the remarkable sweetness of this melon.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Who Knew?

Who knew ??? I looked with glazed eyes at this sidebar ad and thought to myself, "why have you been braising your fennel in a regular old skillet?" And even more worrisome ... "why did you not plant any fennel this year so you could USE your $205 fennel braiser?" It was only when I clicked on the side button that I realizedthat this one was not a pan for braising cherries.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The excitement builds

Despite the disappointment of losing a biggest tomato contender, the excitement continues to build for the Ag Fair. This year is the 150th anniversary of the Fair, and so yesterday there was a parade from the "Old Ag Hall" aka The Grange Hall to the "New Ag Hall. The parade route went right past my driveway. Here are some of the highlights.

The Whiting Farm ..........

brings sheep to the Fair ....
The alpacas are headed for the Fiber Tent

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Biggest Tomato Heartbreak

Timing a Biggest Tomato entry is bloodsport. In hindsight, I should have removed the pink tomato from the vine the day before the big rain. But hoping for that last bit of water weight I left it on the vine and covered the vine with an improvised raincoat.

When I went out to check it last evening, it was starting to rot from the bottom. No way it could be saved. I brought it in and weighed it ...

TWO POUNDS, Eight and two tenths ounces ... THE biggest tomato I have ever grown. I put my ball cap on its head just for size comparison.

Then I cut away the parts that were rotting and tossed the good parts in a sauce pot.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


I planted a new variety of tomato this year ... Soldacki. I have been watching a few early ripeners trying to judge when to harvest. Then yesterday my eye fell across my Smith and Hawkin Heirloom tomato book on the shelf, so I opened up to the page on Soldacki.There I learned that they ARE pink ... that I should not wait for red ... and that they crack if left on the vine. So I harvested one. I have always been fond of May Dreams Gardens First Tomato ritual which involves eating the first slice without salt to get its "unimproved" flavor. So I did that with this one. It tasted as described in the Smith and Hawkins book "luscious, intense, with a good ratio of sweetness to tartness." This is one excellent tasting tomato.

And while we are on the topic of tomatoes ... I have a contender for "Biggest Tomato" among my Big Zacs. I am afraid that it will crack from its own weight sometime in the next 10 days, so I have placed it on a stool (homage to May's tomato pillow) and hope that it will fill out happily while on its little throne.

From the Garden Gate

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Turning Points

It is 7:30 pm. The shadows are long across the field. There is a chill ... yes a chill ... in the air. We are a little less than halfway form solstice to equinox and already I can feel fall stalking me. I am always caught off guard by the shift of seasons. I mean with only 4 harvested tomatoes, how can one be thinking about the end of it all? Sure, there will be plenty of blistering hot days ahead. But the build UP is slowly turning toward the build DOWN. Some of it is the weight of the harvest itself. The garden can only sustain so much vertical rise before the weight of the fruit begins to topple into the pathways and cause the bean trellises to lean precariously in the wind. But some of it is that the plants are spent. The zucchini are no longer turning out the way they were. The artichokes have had their run for glory.

Each season I watch for the turning point ... the point at which the garden begins its natural decay. All season plants have been pushing upward ... escaping the soil and journeying UP against gravity, and now ... slowly ... it is gravity that is winning.

That is why root crops are the crops of fall. Leeks and rutabagas ... carrots and parsnips ... they are using gravity to their advantage.

Slide Show

Here is a recent slide show mostly of garden photos

Early August promise

While the general tenor of the garden is still one of promise, I DID have to pull up a zucchini yesterday that had succumbed to the squash vine borer. I had just about run out of zucchini options in the kitchen anyway. But I can highly recommend dehydrated zucchini chips as a solution for the squash overload this time of year.

My tomato knife is quivering in the knife block. So far I have brought in 3 red tomatoes ... a Better Boy won the race this year for first tomato. There is blush on the Soldaki fruit. I am curious as to its flavor. I have not been tending to "the biggest tomato" challenge as in years past, but there is one Big Zac out there that might be a competitor. I will have to give it a little more focus as there are only two weeks until the Fair.

I would really like to be able to put in some artichokes this year, but my timing may not be right. So far I have pulled in a total of 17 artichokes !!! A banner year.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


The radishes in my garden seems to have always been bitter. Somehow this year they are my star early summer crop. Perhaps it is variety ... I am using Cherry Belle from Reimer Seeds. Each evening before dinner I pull out 10 or so radishes from the fridge and circle them on a plate. Then I add a little pile of salt in the center. It is a wonderfully refreshing way to transition to the evening.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Garlic Harvest and a Little Midnight Magic

With rain pending on Friday night I decided it was time to get at least half of the garlic in and under cover. Last year travel plans forced me to harvest early, and over te winter I was pleased with the results. I had MUCH less spoilage than in past years. The more green leaves at harvest time, the longer the storage it seems. So instead of waiting for 6 dead leaves (out of 10) I have started harvesting at 4 dead leaves. I might lose a little in head size, but in the end the garlic lasts longer.Some of the varieties in this harvest were Music Pink, Montana Giant, Place Monge*, Nurenberg Red*, Pskem, and Romanian Red
I take them to the garden shed and lay them out by variety on an old screen door setup between two saw horses. I face the heads in opposite directions by variety to avoid confusion.

They will live here for about six weeks while they cure. I do not wash my garlic, just brush it roughly with my glove. I will clean the dirt off when I clean them up in late August.

As an added treat to garlic harvest day, I had a midnight show from my Night Blooming Cereus. I had removed these plants from southern sun this spring to make way for vegetable flats and I was not sure I would get the reward of a bloom this season.
I almost missed it ... only when I awakened at midnight did I remember to check and there she was in all her exotic glory smelling hauntingly intoxicating.
Note : * indicates recent European varieties having hitched a ride in my suitcase

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

From the garden gate

click to enlarge

Lots has changed in two weeks. The squash are filling the bed and the peas are just about spent. Soon the green beans will be producing.
I had given up on my parsnip seeds. They had been interplanted with radishes on the first of June and no sign of them despite constant moisture. THen all of a sudden there they were !!! I remember the first time I planted them, I had no idea what a parsnip seedling looked like and so I was afraid to weed for fear of weeding a parsnip. I would have given anything to have been able to find a picture like the one below.
Parsnip seedling

I ate my first artichoke the other day for lunch. It is a delicious vegetable fresh off the plant. I am not sure if I am leaving them on too long or too short of a time. The outer leaves were a tad bitter. They shoot up on stalks from the center of the plant and each stalk produces 3 artichokes. It should be a bumper year.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Possibilities of June

I love the June garden. All is possible. The moths carrying the squash vine borer have not arrived yet. The cucumber beetles are still at bay. And with the exception of the garlic which is starting to brown out, all is lush and green and moving upward.

As the tomatoes move upward they will need support. A friend was cutting out bamboo, so I gathered generously from her pile and used them to build this ungainly structure to hold up merely 5 tomato plants. I will add cross pieces as the plants grow taller.
The successfully overwintered artichokes numbered three. This one is sending up its first thistle. A June artichoke would be a record around here.

Here is the Tomato Count.

Better Boy - 8 ; Italian Sweet - 7; Brandywine - 4; Soldaki - 5; Viva Italia - 1; Big Zac - 4; Sungold -2; Delicious - 3; Long Keeper - 3. A total of 37 plants.