Sunday, August 25, 2013

August joy

Well the Fair has come and gone and now the work of harvest management begins in earnest.  I was very pleased to take a first place in heirloom tomatoes this year with the Italian Sweets I grew from seed.  

The Class of 2013

Blue Ribbon Heirloom Tomatoes

I made the first Tomato Tart of the season, and this morning I will run 10 pounds of cooked tomatoes through the food mill for canning later today as tomato juice.  There is nothing quite so wonderful as a glass of tomato juice in the dead of winter to keep hope alive.  I am roasting tomatoes every chance I get and keeping them in mason jars in the fridge.  

Oh, and thanks to Annie for giving me her orphaned sunflowers.  What a treat in the garden they are.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Garlic Harvest

The garlic harvest has begun.  This year I have decided to put the drying screen under the oak tree near the beds and "pre-dry" them for a few days before taking them to the cellar where the humidity is well below 60%.  We are running dehumidifiers full time because we have clothes down there now.  

I gathered each variety in a bucket

and laid it out to dry in the shade.  

They look well formed and in tact despite the fact that there is brown in all the leaves.  These pictured here are Montana Giant and George.   I like this staged method of harvest and storage.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The celery journey has begun

Back in February, about the time I was planting artichoke seeds, I started some celery seed.  Celery is new for me, and I wanted to see if fresh was worth the work.  I use celery in the kitchen all the time.  Lately the store bought has been showing its road weariness.

Well the seed DID come up, so in April I planted some more and transplanted them into the garden in May.  I now have about 36 celery plants in the garden.  I started them below the level of the lip of my raised beds in a modified trench and have hilled them up with soil as they have become even with the bed.  Then last week I used newspaper to tie up the February stalks as a way of blanching them.

This is all new territory for me.  I have read that old timers used to dig narrow trenches in the fall, put in a layer of sand and then lower the pulled celery plants into the narrow trenches side by side.  The celery would root cellar happily below ground during the winter months and be plucked from its subterranean vault as needed through the winter.  

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The sex life of the zucchini

I grow a variety of zucchini called Raven.  It produces a dark 7"-8" compact fruit.  But this year I have a problem. Bad sexual timing.

The zucchini produces both male and female flowers.  The female flower has an immature fruit on its base and needs to be pollinated by the male pollen in order to grow into a robust fruit.  I have four plants in the garden and for some reason, the male flowers are all coming out on one day and the female flowers on the next leaving me with these immature nubbins.  

I have never had this problem before, really.  And where in the past I would have more male to female flowers, this year it is more female to male.

Before the bees came, I had a few good timing days, but it meant I was out there playing Gregor Mendel every morning.

Isn't zucchini the crop you can turn your back on and not worry about?  What is with this sexual dysfunction?

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Fava Math

I think it was Nigel Slater's vegetable tome entitled Tender that interested me in growing fava beans.  Last year I took an initial stab at the crop , but this year I put in 16 seeds in a 4x4 row.  The plants have been vigorous and they blossomed during a nice dry spell.

In all regards I would say this was a successful planting with good yield ... BUT ... after shelling two pounds of favas ... the double shelling that is necessary ... I ended up with what could not have been more than six ounces of beans.  Now mind you this is well over half of my crop.  SIX OUNCES ??? 

But I was able to create a lovely antipasto to take to a friend's Italian dinner last night.  It was perfect for a warm summer evening.
Fava Beans and Prosciutto

Fava Beans and Prosciutto
Nigel Slater, Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch

2 pounds fava beans in their pods
3 1/2 ounces paper thin prosciutto or even better Serrano or other air dried Spanish ham


1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp of a light olive oil
handful of parsley minced

Shell the favas and add to lightly salted boiling water.  Reduce the heat so they bubble along 2-4 minutes.  I would err on the short side here if they are right out of the garden.  Maybe only 2 minutes.  

Drain and cool under running water.  Pop the beans from their skins.

Add a pinch of salt to the sherry vinegar and stir until dissolved.  Whisk in the tiny amount of Dijon (don't be tempted to add more).  Whisk in the olive oil with a fork and add the minced parsley and add a few grinds of pepper.  Toss in the beans and set aside for at least 20 minutes before serving.  

Loosely lay out the ham .... scatter the beans on top and serve.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

True love and ....

The tomatoes are, of course the main act in the garden.  I HAD been holding at 29 plants when yesterday, I was able to carve out space for number 30.  The varieties are as follows:

Rutgers -3, Hillbilly -1, Italian Sweet - 6, Sungold - 2, Big Zac - 2, Soldacki - 2, Better Boy -7 Pink Ponderosa -2 and Cosmonaut Voklov - 5

Everything but the Rutgers and Hillbilly I grew from seed.  I chose the Cosmonaut Voklov because Lynne Rossetto Kasper had it at the top of her taste list for 2011.  Pink Ponderosa was a result of catalogue lure probably due to potential size.  I needed a backup in case my Big Zacs failed to come through.

Soldacki returns this year after making a splendid debut in my garden the last few summers.  It comes close in flavor to the Italian Sweet which is by my reckoning the best tomato I have ever tasted.   
The potato leafed Italian Sweet
a cluster of Sungolds
The Sungolds, to my palate, remain the best tasting cherry tomato and the Better Boys are there because after all the blossom drop, blossom end rot and blight the heirlooms are prone to, the Better Boy will insure that SOME tomatoes will make it into the house.
Sungolds already over the top of the tomato ladder
In recent years I have adopted the practice of saving plants for fall harvest.  I let the first fruit set, then until about the middle of July, I remove all subsequent blossoms from the plant.  Then I let fruiting resume.  The result is that these plants are able to withstand the assaults of August and produce solidly up until frost.  I might do this with 3 of my 30 plants.

This year I tried to keep up with the practice of removing all leaves below the first fruit.  It reduces the spread of disease on the leaves.  The problem is I NOTICE this in the morning when the plants are wet, and I have learned not to touch a wet tomato plant.  So I must return in the evening to do my pruning.
the 30th plant ... a Cosmonaut Voklov ... needs to catch up
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes  ~ Guy Clark

Friday, July 05, 2013

Return to the garden blog

I decided the best way to re-enter the habit of regular posting was to start with a picture.  Here is a picture of the new deer fence.  I must admit I was pretty discouraged about gardening after last summer's tomato loss to deer.  But the new fence has lifted my spirits and sent me back into the arena.  I kept the old split rail vertical posts and used those to attach the new 4x4s.  I also kept the chicken wire that ran along the lower rail and reattached it to the new bottom horizontals.  

So sorry to the rabbits, the deer and the turkeys, but this is MY garden now.

The garlic scapes are all picked and I harvested the Uzbek Turbans yesterday.  

For those of you like me with more garlic scapes than you know what to do with, you might find this new list of recipes helpful.  

I will be posting regularly now, so stay tuned.