Monday, September 26, 2016

Harvest Monday 26 September 2016


I finally got enough Ancho Poblanos to make a batch of chilies rellenos this week. The plants are a meter tall and very healthy, but unfortunately the weather is getting colder. It is 40 F/4.5 C this morning, which is getting uncomfortably close to freezing. The mature pepper plants can endure a little cold weather as long as we don't have a killing frost. Seems we are never lucky in that respect.  Also in the pile is a Melrose sweet red pepper, a pile of Jimmy Nardello, and a ripe jalapeno.


Another boring basket of cherry tomatoes. I already had a large number of these in the refrigerator from our Acadia trip. I ran out of time to process them so I threw two bags of them in the fridge, following Mark's lead. One bag was then slow roasted and frozen. The second bag went into the blender for gazpacho, along with onions, peppers, summer squash, and a chili. I used some of the suspect red onions I had set aside, the ones with the apparent bruise on the side.


You can see the flat spot on the top of this onion. The spot is flat but does not seem soft. I don't remember dropping any of the onions, and even so the onions are rock hard and wouldn't show a mark unless they were whacked hard. In fact, they had these spots when they were harvested.


On peeling the onion, you can see the black mold growing under the skin. So it was a good idea to set these aside and not put them in the onion storage bin. The mold must have caused the flat spots by collapsing the onion cells on the surface.


Slice off the infected spot and you can see the mold has not yet penetrated the interior of the onion, so the onion is still good. I only have  a few more to use up.


I also used garlic in the gazpacho and was disappointed to find some of the bulbs are already starting to soften and dry up. Unfortunately I just grabbed a bulb and did not notice which variety it was. From the same head, the two cloves at bottom right were white and juicy, the two at the top had yellowed and softened but were still used, and the clove on the left was brown and nasty and was tossed. So I have to get on with trying to preserve some more of the harvest this week. I plan to slice and dehydrate some, and I will also try roasting a number of whole heads and freezing them. I tasted one of the fermented cloves I made and it was eye opening. Very pungent but the clove was still firm and could be used in cooking.

That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Dave at Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Harvest Monday 19 September 2016




I missed Harvest Monday last week because we spent a week in a cabin on Somes Sound on Mount Desert Island, Maine, doing strictly non-gardening tasks, like watching the sunset from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.


Or a little before the sun set, we watched the moon rise over the fog bank on Frenchman Bay from the other side of Cadillac. A storm front went through the day before and it was very cold and windy up there, so not a lot of flatlanders were around to spoil the picture.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Potato Onions, etc.



I have been interested in trying potato onions (also called multiplier onions, hill onions, mother onions, pregnant onions) and finally on impulse included some with my springtime seed order from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. These got shipped in the Fall and my order arrived last week, a bit early for planting here but in time to prompt me to start my planning. They keep well (8-10 months) so I don't have to worry and will plant them about the same time as I plant the garlic.

Potato onions, Allium cepa aggregatum, are similar to shallots, but larger. A single bulb, planted in the fall, emerges in the spring and eventually divides into a cluster of at least 3-5 bulbs, maybe even 10-12 bulbs, giving you a big "multiplier" effect. Potato onions are not grown commercially because they do not plant or harvest easily and are not suitable for commercial growers. But they are ideal for home growers. Despite that, they were almost lost, but SESE reintroduced a strain that dates back to 1790.



 

The bag of onions I received was eight ounces (227 g)  and the bulbs varied considerably in size. That is OK because potato onions do not grow like garlic, where you are always selecting for size. From what I have read, large seed bulbs will tend to produce a large number of smaller bulbs, while the smaller seed bulbs produce 2-3 large bulbs. So regardless I will wind up with a variety of sizes in the harvest.

The origin of potato onions is not known, but they probably came from Europe with settlers in the mid-Atlantic states. They are still planted in the UK where they are called Egyptian onions (but are not the top-setting  onions we refer to as Egyptian walking onions). The name seems to indicate their probable origin in Egypt.

The advantages of potato onions to the home gardener are many:
  • They are easy to plant and easy to grow. Just plant bulbs in the fall and harvest in the summer when they go dormant and  their foliage dies down. They can also be planted in the spring if needed. They are very cold hardy so fall planting is not a problem in northern latitudes.
  • They are almost trouble free, but onion thrips and onion fly maggots can still be a problem. The thrips like hot, dry weather and the maggots like it wet.
  • They are not day length sensitive and can be grown in most areas of the US, except southern Texas and Florida.
  • They are supposed to have a sweet, mild taste, less pungent than seed onions. And they peel easily, easier than shallots.
  • They are productive, producing, by various estimates, 3-5X to 8-10X the quantity planted, by weight (figure 5X as an average).
  • Sizes range up to 3-4 inches in diameter, which is pretty good size, big or bigger than the seed onions I grow. You get a variety of sizes from each cluster, which home cooks like but commercial growers hate.
  • They store very well, staying rock hard into spring..
  • You save some of your crop for seed so they are a one-time purchase. Since the onions are grown from divisions, they tend to have a very low rate of bolting. The scape does not come from the center of the bulb, but rather from the base of the onion, so it can be removed without affecting the quality of the bulb.
Planting instructions call for divisions to be planted with 1/2 to 1 inch of soil above the top in warmer climates, and deeper if grown in northern areas. Then add several inches of mulch to protect them. I plan to handle them the same way I plant my garlic. I will add compost to the beds, and supplement with bone meal, kelp meal, crab shell and rock dust.



While searching for cultivation information on multiplier onions, I re-encountered Michelle's spotlight article on L'itoi onions, another rare multiplier onion. Baker Creek was still showing an out of stock message but the original source, Native Seeds, had them in stock and I ordered a couple of packets (about ten tiny onions in each packet). I figured if I have to find space for potato onions, I might as well try this one, which I hope will provide some green onions before the bulbs go dormant. That would be a nice supplement to the potato onions, where bulbs are the goal.

Since it is adapted to high desert conditions, and probably does well in Michelle's climate,  it may well be a challenge to get it to survive a New England winter. But if they do, given our desert-like conditions this summer, maybe they will like it here. As a back up, I plan to put a few of them in a pot to keep indoors.



The bulbs are small and pinkish, with some having a bluish cast. You can see some of the bulbs are already twinned with two independent sprouts emerging. There is not a lot of planting information available, but my plan is to plant them in the raised beds with six inch spacing, or four per square, the same as I do garlic. Both of these onions will go in the garden with the garlic, but it may take a year to evaluate the results. You have to be an optimist to be a gardener.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Harvest Monday 5 September 2016




Not much is coming from the garden except tomatoes. Here I did get a few beans, a Romanesco squash and the first Super Shepherd pepper. The squash is very stingy this year, with a squash per week if I am lucky.



I am still picking tomatoes as they start to color, but the birds seem to have backed off a bit in their attacks. On the right, the three tomatoes at the top are Rose de Berne,then a Black Beauty and a badly cracked Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye, and my first Sunkist at the bottom.



A basket of cherry tomatoes. From the top clockwise: Bing, Juliet, Sweet Treats, and Black Cherry. That is another Rose de Berne in the middle.



I used my four heads of cabbage to make sauerkraut. A lot of the outer leaves had to be discarded because there was mold and discoloration, so I only got a quart of kraut from about 2.5 pounds of cabbage. The jar is topped with a nifty silicone rubber lid called a Pickle Pipe from Masontops. You use it with the standard band to seal the jar while it ferments. It has a tiny slit in the top of the "pipe" that releases any fermentation gases.



Here is another Pickle Pipe on my jar of garlic cloves, now going into its second week of fermentation. You can see how the top is bowed out from the pressure, which I consider a good thing. It does occasionally burp some gas, but the bulging indicates that the slit is tightly sealed and only releases under enough pressure, keeping contamination from getting into the jar. I almost photographed the two jars side-by-side but decided that would look a little obscene.

I also made a batch of tomato sauce from a bag of tomatoes I purchased from a farm stand. I used my Ninja Ultima blender so there was no need to peel or seed the tomatoes, just cook down for a few hours. I am not really getting enough of my own tomatoes to use for sauce, but I may roast some of the cherry tomatoes and freeze them.

That's what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Dave at Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Harvest Monday 29 August 2016


 

I had a few random pickings from the garden last week, including the first Jimmy Nardello pepper. I continue to bring in the tomatoes as soon as they color a bit to save them from the birds. My mother-in-law had a suggestion for the birds. She used to hang red Christmas ornaments in the vines. The birds peck on the hard red ball and get frustrated. They eventually leave the tomatoes alone. Haven't tried it yet.



The Black Beauty tomatoes are starting to ripen on the counter and we have had a few. They are indeed like the Indigo series of tomatoes, where they turn black on areas of the skin exposed to sunlight and are green elsewhere. The green sections ripen to a red color. The tomatoes are tasty but not up to the hyperbole of the Baker Creek catalog. I am hoping to get one riper than this to taste but a lot of them are rotting from bird pecks so they have to be eaten sooner.



I cleaned up and weighed the Red Wing onions that were drying on the back porch. It was a good crop and I got 27 storable onions weighing 5 pounds (2.3 kg.). Largest was a half pound.These store quite well, for at least 10 months or longer.

















Unfortunately, a significant number of onions (10 onions weighing 2 pounds, about a kilo) had what looked like soft, flat spots on them. If you press on the spot it seems hard, but I kept these separate from the storage onions and will use them first.

In the garden I did get peas and spinach planted for the fall. The beds were bone dry down to the bottom so I had to re-hydrate the soil. It took 12 gallons of water to moisten 6 square feet of one bed where I put the snap peas and spinach. Unfortunately the drought continues and no rain is forecast for this week, so continuous watering of the seed beds is going to be necessary to get anything to germinate. At least the temperatures are more moderate, in the mid 80s F.

Sunday we went to the (third annual) Boston Fermentation Festival held at the Boston Public Market. I was surprised fermentation was popular enough that there was such an event. There is even a Berkshire Festival in Great Barrington in September but we will be at the MDI Garlic Festival. If you find one in your area and are interested in fermentation, they are worth attending. They have presentations and workshops. Interesting were the "mobs", where at various times and places they would set up a table with bowls and chopped vegetables and invite people to make their own jar of kraut or kimchi. And really nice, they had a starter sharing table where people would freely share their extra starters, like kombucha starter or sourdough starter. If you search for "fermentation festival" you will find events all over the country, and maybe one near you.

That's what happened in my garden last week. To see what gardeners around the world are doing, visit Dave at Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.











Monday, August 22, 2016

Harvest Monday 22 August 2016


 

The drought continues despite our getting about an inch of rain last week. I am getting a few small harvests here and there. It is no big deal for me but some of the small farmers around here are going to be hurt. A freak -15F freeze in the middle of 70F weather in February wiped out the peach crop in New England. And some of the orchards are having to irrigate their apple trees for the first time in recent history. Surprisingly the corn is pretty good. Ears are much longer than usual and they are very sweet. But a neighbor up the street who grows a field of corn to sell has corn stalks at knee level in mid-August because he can not irrigate.



The patty pan squash is a Sunburst which is supposed to have a central green spot in the center around the blossom end, but the green has bled out of the center.



I harvested the last two Golden Acre cabbages because their quality was not improving, cooking away in the sun. In addition, the cabbage caterpillars seem to have made their appearance and were chewing on one of them.





The Swiss chard has rebounded with the rain and slightly cooler weather. The coloring on Pink Passion is more attractive than earlier. Some of the leaves do have cercospora spots on them.



I am harvesting tomatoes as soon as they color a little to avoid loss to the birds and chipmunks. I have talked to other gardeners who are having the same problem. The big tomato above is my one and only Mortgage Lifter, an impulse purchase. That plant is not going to pay my mortgage, but so far it is my largest tomato.



More tomatoes. The birds have really attacked my Black Beauty tomatoes so I am removing most of them. One I picked earlier is now showing some red on its green areas. The black color comes from exposure to sunlight so the undersides are green. Apparently the green will turn to red as they ripen. And to top off a smashing year, late blight has arrived and is affecting most of the tomato plants.





The Pink Berkeley Tie Dye I picked green is now almost ripe after sitting on the kitchen counter.  The colors are very attractive, random green stripes on a pink background.



The peppers are happy enough that they are starting to flower. This is Lemon Drop.



Likewise for the Ancho Poblano peppers. They are now almost a meter tall and starting to flower.



Sunday I started some dill pickles fermenting. I had to buy the pickling cukes from a farm stand since my cucumber vines are mostly dead. The garlic and dill seed are from my garden, however. And the grape leaves covering them and in the bottom came from wild grapes in the back yard.



I am also trying a lacto-fermentation of garlic cloves, hoping I can preserve some more of my garlic harvest. This is a quart jar slightly more than half full. It was a tedious job to peel all that garlic, even using a silicone rubber tube designed to peel garlic. The brine is just a basic brine: 2 cups (450 ml) of unchlorinated water and 1 1/2 Tbsp (26 .) of sea salt. The brine looks cloudy in the photo because I added a teaspoon of whey to get the fermentation started. Garlic does not produce a raucous ferment and will need to ferment for about a month.

That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what gardeners around the world are harvesting, visit Dave at Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

PS I was planning to post this early Monday morning but we had a freak storm go through the area at 3 AM. They are not sure if tornadoes or microbursts were involved, but whatever, it took put a tree down in my driveway and across the power lines. So no power until  9 AM. And we did get a lot of rain in a very short time, which will definitely help.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Monday, August 15, 2016

Harvest Monday 15 August 2016

The garden benefited a bit from a few thunderstorms that dropped a little rain. These were mostly small storm cells that produced a quick shower that just evaporated immediately. We had one downpour on Friday that resulted in 1-2 inches, but a lot of that ran off the dry ground and prompted flash flood alerts. So the drought continues and daytime temperatures remain mid-90s to 100+ (35-40°C). The garden is still producing a little while  I still wait (apparently with everyone else) for peppers and tomatoes.

 

The Revolution bell peppers are starting to produce fruit. The peppers in general are doing the best in these conditions but are taking their time. The plants are stocky with lots of healthy foliage. However, they do not have a lot of time because that first killing frost is maybe 6-8 weeks away. A few of the tomatoes are starting to color, but unfortunately that is causing attacks by the birds. I doubt they are finding many wild berries in these dry conditions,. I picked a green tomato with a bird peck since it will just rot if left on the vine. I also picked the one next to it which was showing some coloring to see if I could ripen it on the counter.



This is a Pink Berkeley Tie-dye starting to show its green stripes. I am really looking forward to trying one of these so I need to try deploying some bird netting. The marketing hype on these says that 10 out of 10 customers at a farmers market taste-off preferred the flavor of these to Cherokee Purple. And so far other than the bird pecks, the fruits are perfect, no cracks or cat-facing or BER.





The Black Beauty tomatoes continue to size up but I still have no idea when one is ripe. I have tried squeezing them gently but so far they are all rock hard. The birds did attack these as well, eating half a mid-size tomato. That tomato's insides were green at the stem end and slightly pink at the blossom end, so no where near ripe.

 

These are the first two of my flea-bitten Golden Acre cabbages.  This is an heirloom compact cabbage that can be grown in a square foot, which makes it perfect for raised bed gardens. The cabbage on the right was my target since it had formed a dense head. Then I noticed the cabbage on the left had developed an elongated head and I was worried that was a sign of bolting, so it was harvested as well. They weighed a pound and a quarter and a pound and a half (.57 and .68 kg.), which is a nice size for home use. Initially the flea beetles were not a problem because they don't like the waxy surface of the leaves. But once their preferred targets were harvested or killed by the drought, they developed a new fondness for cabbage leaves, but damage was mostly to the edges of the outer leaves.

 

I declared the Red Wing onions to be done. They have not flopped but the foliage was looking sad and thrip-damaged, so I pulled them and laid them out to cure a few days in the sun. This happened last year with the Red Zeppelin onions. The red onions always take much longer than yellow to mature. Dixondale Farms says 100-120 days for Red Wing, 110 days for Copra. Both are long-day varieties which require long daylight hours to develop bulbs, which starts when the days shorten. They also warn that Red Wing requires a minimum of 15-hour days to bulb, which is no problem here. We get 15+ hour days in June and now in August that has dropped to 14 hours.

 

The Copra onions harvested a few weeks ago were cleaned and trimmed and put away in the basement. They were not particularly big, which is not surprising given the dry conditions, but they were very health. Thirty-one onions from 6 squares weighed in at 5.44 pounds (2.5 kg). I am thinking I will plant more onions next year so I produce more of my onion needs. I wasted a lot of garden space and my time trying to grow crops like beans, peas and turnips that failed in these dry conditions. Onions have been more reliable.

That's what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, visit Dave@Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC