Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Seedling Progress

The weather has been variable and it is chilly and breezy, more like March than late April weather. It has also been quite dry but still cloudy, and starting the garden is going to be difficult until the pump man re-installs the foot valves removed for the winter. I have not done anything in the garden yet except visit a few times, but I need to get going really, really soon.

As an example, the kales above are just about ready to be set out in the garden. I will have a single brassica row for the kale, broccoli, collards, and cabbages. Putting them in one row will allow me to cover them with row cover on hoops to keep the flea beetles and cabbage caterpillars at bay. From left: Red Ursa, Nash's Green, and Nero di Toscana.

Most of the broccolis are also ready to go. From left: Spigariello liscia, Blue Wind, and Atlantis. I am particularly impressed by the size and vigor of Atlantis and have high hopes for it.

The cabbages are ready as well. Clockwise from upper left: Golden Acre cabbage, Flash collards, Green Wave mustard, and Minuet Napa cabbage. The Green Wave mustard is getting impatient and starting to bolt. I may just re-seed it in place. The Minuet cabbage seedlings, new this year,  look a little strange for a Napa. The leaves are serrated on the edge and a bit fuzzy. I may start some Soloist as a backup.

The kohlrabis are doing well and are ready to go. These will get planted in the raised beds. Again, I have to plan the bed assignments so I can group plants that need covering together. Flea beetles are a big menace but the caterpillars seem less likely to attack these smaller plants. Top row is Azur Star and the bottom row is Winner.

Lettuces are also ready. Clockwise from upper left: Green Ice, Red Sails, and Buttercrunch, The fourth flat has escarole in the top row and endive in the bottom. I decided I was planting too may of them and didn't use them all before they bolted. So this year, three of each to start. The three lettuces above will go into my City Picker self-watering container on the deck, for easy harvesting without driving to the garden. I have also started seeds for Midnight Ruffles, Winter Density Romaine, and Webb's Wonderful crisphead which will go into my raised beds at the community garden.

I have shown the good and the bad, so now for the ugly. Above are pictured my successes with the solanums this year. The peppers clockwise from upper left: Revolution, Jimmy Nardello, Hungarian Paprika, and Lemon Drop. The sole tomato flat is Juliet. The rest of my tomatoes and peppers either failed to emerge (even after pre-sprouting) or I killed them by failing to notice a flat or two under the humidity dome had dried out. Just takes one oversight to wipe out weeks of effort.

I am happy with what I do have. Revolution and Jimmy Nardello are must have peppers for me. And how can I not be happy that I managed to sprout and grow those beautiful Lemon Drop plants after swearing off baccatam peppers. The best of those will go in containers to be brought inside for the winter to see if I can get some to ripen. And I have three (maybe four) Hungarian Paprika plants to play with again. Carmen completely failed to germinate from fresh seed, so that is puzzling and disappointing, but I may be able to buy them locally. The Super Shepherd peppers germinated but I managed to let their flat dry out and kill them. If I can find Carmen I will just substitute them for the Super Shepherd, which were just an experiment.

The tomato situation is a somewhat bigger disaster, since none of the tomatoes I was planning to grow are available locally. I did push some new seeds into the cells in the flats and some of them are starting to emerge now, so I may recover partially. After all, it is still 5 weeks or more to setting out.The Chinese gentleman in our community garden direct seeds his tomato plants and they eventually catch up with everyone's transplants. So not all is lost.

Finally, just to add additional pressure to get the garden ready, my onion plants arrived from Dixondale Farms last week and are being kept cool in the basement. These are Copra yellow storage onions and Red Wing red storage onion. They are huge and beautiful, better than anything I can grow. The one disadvantage is they are dormant, which makes it possible to store and ship them. I have found it takes up to a month before they break dormancy and resume growth. I suspect a well grown onion start might compete, being actively growing when it is set out in the garden. Anyway, the race is on to get these in the garden since day length is what it is all about, and how much foliage they can add before the summer solstice starts to shorten days up here in the northern latitudes.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Spring Tiptoes In

I took a photograph of my Meyer lemon tree in January and noted it lacked blossoms, which it produces in abundance each spring. Well, the tree now has blossoms, so it must finally be spring. The sun is definitely stronger but it is still chilly and windy outside. On Sunday I stopped at the garden while doing a shopping excursion. It may be spring but the garden looks like tundra.

The only green is from the weeds that overwintered. The soil is still a bit boggy and not really ready to work. And there is more rain in the forecast, so no need to rush things.

There is a bit of green showing in my own garden plot. The garlic looks healthy and just needs a shot of nitrogen to get it really going.

Inside it is warm and the seedlings are doing well under the grow lights. The lettuces, broccoli and cabbages are sown and have germinated. While small now, they are weeks away from weather where it would be safe to plant them outside, so  these are on schedule. A couple of years ago I was wooed by an unseasonably mild spring and transplanted early, only to be set back severely by a single hard freeze.

The peppers this year are doing very well. The technique of pre-sprouting with a wet paper towel inside a plastic bag worked really well and all peppers have germinated adequately, and most of the sprouted seeds have emerged from the flats in which they were transplanted.

The tomatoes, however, are a mixed bag and I am not real happy. Usually I have much better luck with tomatoes. I tried the same pre-sprouting technique used for the peppers with the tomatoes. I was really surprised with how long some varieties took to sprout. Currently I am still waiting for Sunkist, Black Beauty, and Jaune Flamme to sprout after two weeks.. I sprinkled a few more seeds on the paper towels in case the original seeds are DOA. These are three varieties I can not buy locally so if they do not sprout soon I will not be growing them this year.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Seed Starting Season

Here in Massachusetts zone 5b, the gardening season has begun. Most of the brassicas have sprouted and are tucked snugly under the grow lights. The pepper seeds were placed in damp paper towels inside plastic bags on top of the grow lamp, where a warm  environment is maintained 16 hours a a day, and have started to germinate.

Outside, the picture is a bit different. We had a quick moving storm come through which gave us an inch of wet snow and some wind, but the sun is now out. This will all melt quickly.

This cardinal arrived on its way north and is not bothered in the least by a quick spring snowstorm. And fortunately, no power outages.

The pepper seeds have been on top of the grow lamps covered with a kitchen towel since March 27 and are starting to germinate. First to germinate were Revolution, Carmen, and Super Shepherd.


These germinated Super Shepherd seeds were placed in 6-cell flats and are now kept on the heat mat until they emerge from the starting mix.

The onions and shallots have received their second haircut and the trimmings are destined for omelets and other culinary uses. The expensive Takrima leek seeds finally emerged after a month and received their first trim along with the onions. I’m happy I will not have to buy leek seedlings after all.

Sunday I sowed nine varieties of tomato seeds, using the same technique I used with the pepper seeds. They are now on top of a grow lamp and will hopefully start to germinate within a week’s time. The plan is to get six of each started, or 54 tomato plants. That is much more than I have space for, but I will pot them up into 4 inch pots and then select the best for myself. The rest will be shared with friends.

Next up will be lettuces and chard. The lettuces will mostly go into self-watering planter on the deck where they are easily accessed without a drive to the garden. Then I have to get the garden beds cleaned up and figure out where I am going to put all of these plants. Hopefully we don’t fall into a pattern of stormy Sundays because that is the only day I have free until late April.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

2016 Planting List

Most seeds are in hand and the seed starting and planting schedules are being worked out. The onions and shallots have already sprouted and are under the grow lights. The following is a list of what is planned to be included in this year’s garden, always subject to the gardener’s whim (whimsy?). Next is to complete the plot layout. I better hurry because given this seeming early spring, I could be out planting peas and spinach right now.

  • Bean Bush Provider (PT)
  • Bean Bush Jade (PT)
  • Bean Pole Helda (T)
After last year’s mosaic virus disaster I decided to go back to bush beans for awhile, since they exhibit a higher degree of disease resistance. Of course, that is subject to seed catalog enchantment, so I succumbed to Territorial’s promise of some BMV resistance and ordered a pole bean to try, Helda, a Romano type bean.

  • Beet Paonaza D’Egitto (PT)
  • Beet Touchstone Gold (HM)
  • Beet Shiraz (HM)
Beets are the same as last year, with the impulse addition of an Italian heirloom from Italy, Paonaza D’Egitto. I hope I have a repeat of last year’s great beet harvest.

  • Broccoli Atlantis (J))
  • Broccoli Blue Wind (T)
  • Broccoli Spigariello Liscia (J)
I am trying a different strategy this year after the broccoli did not like last year’s hot, dry summer. Blue Wind is a standard type that produces heads very quickly and hopefully does well during the cooler, wetter part of early spring. Atlantis is a broccoli/Gailon cross and produces lots of small florets.  The Spigariello is a leaf variety grown for its edible leaves. So I am giving up trying to grow big heads of broccoli in exchange for hopefully more tonnage of broccoli-like shoots and greens.

  • Cabbage Chinese Minuet (J)
  • Cabbage Golden Acre (HM)
  • Collard Flash (T)
Soloist did well the last two years but I am trying a new mini Napa cabbage, Minuet, this year. And Golden Acre is my first attempt at standard cabbage. It is an heirloom compact cabbage that can be grown with a 12 inch/30 cm spacing, making it suitable for raised beds and denser planting. Its disadvantage is it has a short harvest window and does not store well.

  • Carrot Yaya (F)
  • Carrot Cosmic Purple (BC)
  • Carrot Eskimo (T)
Nothing new this year, I will be replanting some varieties I planted last year.

  • Cucumber Ashley (SESE)
  • Cucumber Pickler Calypso (F)
I had a terrible year with the cucumbers, getting only a few small fruits. It was not bacterial wilt, the usual scourge, because the cucumber beetles were not a big problem Rather the hot, humid weather seemed to trigger other diseases that wiped out the cuke plants. This year I am trying Calypso, a pickling cuke with good disease resistance that Mike had insane good luck with last year. And Ashley caught my eye in the SESE catalog, which described it as a cuke with good disease resistance to help it survive hot, humid Southern summers.

  • Eggplant Ping Tung (PT)
This is the only one I grow now. It is fairly early and seems a bit more resistant to flea beetles, but I still have too keep them covered most of the season.

  • Endive Dubuisson (J)
  • Escarole Natacha (J)
I grow these every year and they always do well and virtually never bolt.

Greens (Chinese)
  • Greens Pac Choi Win-Win (J)
  • Greens Tatsoi (F)
  • Greens Komatsuna (PT)
  • Kale Nash’s Green (HM)
  • Kale Nero Di Toscana (F)
  • Kale Red Ursa (HM)
I almost tried some of the kales from Adaptive Seeds but then got attracted by some new kales offered by High Mowing. Red Ursa is a Frank Morton cross that looks a bit like a Siberian kale with the red veining of Red Russian kale. Dave of Our Happy Acres did a Spotlight on it. Nash’s Green is a field selection of Nash Huber of Washington State, a curly green kale. It is supposed to be very cold tolerant and a good candidate to overwinter, even better than Siberian kales. Nero Di Toscana repeats.

  • Kohlrabi Azur Star (HM)
  • Kohlrabi Winner (F)
These are a repeat from last year and I had good luck with them.

  • Lettuce Green Ice (PT)
  • Lettuce Red Sails (PT)
  • Lettuce Buttercrunch  (PT)
  • Lettuce Webb’s Wonderful (F)
This year I am back to my old faithful varieties. What is new is my first crisphead, Webb’s Wonderful, now that seed is available here.

  • Mustard Green Wave (PT)
Tried and true. Slower to bolt and so what, the flowers and stalks are tender and edible so I just keep eating whatever it keeps making.

  • Onion Copra plants (DF)
  • Onion Red Wing plants (DF)
  • Onion Purplette (J)
  • Onion Shallots Conservor (HM)
  • Onion Leeks Takrima (J)
Copra and Red Wing are storage onions I will be growing from plants from Dixondale Farms. And this year I will be trying Conservor for shallots. I am not impressed with Ambition’s storage ability and still miss Saffron, which was a superior and very long storing seed shallot. Also new for me is Purplette, a pretty little fresh onion from Johnny’s with a purple blush. So far, the Takrima leeks are a pricey bust, one seed germinating, so I will likely be buying leek plants again.

  • Pea Snap Super Sugar Snap (J)
  • Pea Snow Green Beauty (BC)
I wanted to grow Green Beauty last year but Fedco sold out. This year I ordered as soon as the catalog was available online and still sold out. Re-ordered from Baker Creek and I finally have seeds.                                                                                                                                                 
  • Pepper Tiburon Ancho (J)
  • Pepper Carmen (F)
  • Pepper Revolution (F)
  • Pepper Jimmy Nardello (BC)
  • Pepper Hungarian Paprika (SESE)
  • Pepper Super Shepherd (SESE)
  • Pepper Lemon Drop (BC)
  • Pepper Jalapeno (purchased plant)
 I already announced I am giving up on baccatam peppers, however much I would like to grow them. The exception this year is Lemon Drop since I already have seeds and I will try growing it in containers that I can bring inside. The only new pepper is Super Shepherd, a long red sweet pepper of Italian origin. It will be interesting to compare it to Carmen, which is a reliable and productive pepper bred by Johnny's in Maine. Bacterial spot was a problem last year and since it can be seed borne, I have to research seed treatment techniques like bleach and hot water baths in the next few weeks before I have to start seeds.

  • Radish Celesta (HM)
  • Radish D’Avignon (HM)
  • Radish Korean Alpine (J)
  • Radish Zlata (F)
Zlata is a repeat, a superior brown radish (similar to Helios). New are Celesta, a red cherry radish, and D’Avignon, a French breakfast type, both from High Mowing Seeds. Alpine is a Korean type radish, shorter and blockier than a daikon. If I get some, I plan to use them in pickles and kimchee.

  • Spinach Tyee (F)
  • Spinach Escalade (HM)
I hope to have some luck with spinach again. Last year I tried starting seeds inside in 3/4 inch soil blocks. About half germinated which is apparently typical for spinach, so I planted twice as many blocks as I needed. The small seed blocks worked well and I had no transplant problems.This year I am going to try scarification and cold treatment first to see if I can improve the germination rate.

Summer Squash
  • Squash Zucchini Dunja (HM)
  • Squash Zucchini Costata Romanesco (R)
  • Squash Pattypan Sunburst (PT)
These are the same as last year. The Costata Romanesco strain from Renee’s is definitely different and more productive than the heirloom seeds I previously used.

Swiss Chard
  • Chard Magenta Sunset (J)
  • Chard Orange Fantasia (PT)
  • Chard Pink Passion (HM)
Repeat, sticking with winners.

  • Tomato, yellow Sunkist  (HM)
  • Tomato, cherry Honeydrop (F)
  • Tomato, cherry Bing (HM)
  • Tomato, Juliet (J)
  • Tomato, Sweet Treats (F)
  • Tomato, Jaune Flamme (HM)
  • Tomato, Rose de Berne (HM)
  • Tomato, purchased plants
New this year will be Bing, a red cherry; Honeydrop, a yellow cherry (not the yellow pear of Russian origin with the same name); and Rose De Berne, a French heirloom producing medium size pink fruit. I still need a full size non-heirloom red slicer and will look for plants locally. That greatly limits my choices since the nurseries only grow/sell the crowd favorites like Jet Star and Early Girl.

  • Turnip White Hakurei (J)
  • Turnip Yellow Golden Ball (PT)
  • Turnip Royal Crown (PT)

These are all repeats. Hakurei is a superior white Japanese turnip, much better than the standard Tokyo Cross. And I found Royal Crown, an F1 hybrid, a much improved version of the standard purple top turnip.

The seed starting season is beginning. This weekend I have plans to start kale, kohlrabi and mustard. Next week it is spinach, then broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard and peppers. We are getting into crazy season, juggling seed trays on the heat mat and under the lights. All this happens just as we are approaching tax filing deadline, which reminds me I have to do my own. The next four weeks will be interesting, but seeing green things growing under the lights makes it  worth it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pimenta Moida

Continuing with my interest in Portuguese cuisine, I noticed my Azorean cookbooks talk about a pepper paste called Pimenta Moida that is used as a condiment. You can find it at the small Portuguese shops around here but I have not seen it in the Portuguese food sections at the local supermarkets so I have never tried it. It is a fermented product and looks like a good way to preserve and use some of the peppers from the garden.

The local Azorean community used to make their year’s supply every fall, buying cases of Shepherds peppers from the produce markets and enlisting all family members to process them. I have never heard of this pepper but it is supposed to be a long, slender sweet red pepper, probably of Italian origin. Apparently it is very popular in Ontario, who knew? I have not seen this type of pepper in the stores around here, at least under that name. Checking seed catalogs, there is a “Super Shepherd” pepper which seems to be the right type: long, red, slender and of Italian origin. Another one is called “Shepherds Ramshorn”, described as originating in Spain but now commonly grown in Italy. This pepper is supposed to be very sweet, having one of the highest brix ratings. I may try growing one of these two next year, or maybe I will just grow some extra Carmen peppers.

Since it is far past pepper season here in New England and I do not have peppers from my garden, I checked out the supermarkets. What I found was mostly hothouse peppers, except for these. The peppers below are LeRouge Royale peppers. LeRouge is an elongated red pepper that was developed in Israel. It is commonly field grown in California, Florida, and Mexico. Mine came from Mexico. In addition, I picked up a few red Fresno peppers to add a little spice. Little spice? These Fresno peppers are hot! Since I can not believe that Pimenta Moida is not just a little spicy, I will make my paste spicy to taste by adding the Fresno peppers one at a time until I get a paste spicy enough for my timid tastes.

The preparation for making Pimenta Moida involves cutting the peppers into strips, removing seeds and membranes, and salting with sea salt.

The salted peppers are placed in a glass bowl. I covered them with a piece of plastic wrap and placed a plate on the wrap. The bowl was covered with a towel and set aside to ferment for a couple of weeks at room temperature.

After fermenting for two weeks, the peppers were limp and a lot of moisture was extracted from them, forming a brine in the bowl. There were a few small moldy spots I trimmed off first, then I drained the peppers and put them into a food processor. The result was a bright red paste. To spice it up, I started adding  the Fresno peppers, one half at a time. It turns out just one half pepper made it spicy enough for me. I can enjoy the intense pepper flavor of the Moida with a little added snap from the Fresno but without a lot of pain.

The three peppers only made a half pint of paste. It has a nice pepper flavor but is very salty, so it probably needs to be treated as a condiment and any additional salt in a recipe needs to be adjusted. I poured a thin layer of olive oil over the top to help preserve it and put it in the refrigerator. My first use of it was to coat some split chicken breasts. I let the breasts sit for an hour before baking them. The result was excellent. The Moida formed a nice peppery, salty crust on the breasts and added a lot of flavor to otherwise bland chicken.

I did eventually find a commercial Pimena Moida in the supermarket. Gonsalves is a New England based distributor specializing in Portuguese foods. Their Pimenta Moida was labeled “Crushed Red Peppers” and looked like any other jar of hot peppers. I was about to buy a jar until I read the ingredients. While actually sourced from the Azores, their product contained vinegar and a long list of preservatives and additives. The vinegar means it is not a fermented product and it is certainly not a “living” food, so that was disappointing and made any comparison pointless.

Pimenta Moida is a fermented living food and is another way to preserve the garden harvest in a way that is both tasty and healthy. I am reading two of David Perlmutter’s books, Grain Brain and Brain Maker. Grain Brain shows the research that gluten and carbohydrates negatively affect cognitive health. Brain Maker details how our gut biome (the trillions of organisms that live in our gut) also affect brain health. At the end of the book he has recipes for foods that will help restore the health of our gut biome, all of them fermented foods. So fermented pickles, salsas, sauerkraut, kimchi (yes, you kimchi skeptics, he considers kimchi one of the healthiest of foods!),  yogurt, kefir, pickled fish, pickled meats (e.g., corned beef), pickled eggs are all brain-healthy foods. I am really looking forward to the coming garden season and planning to try fermentation as a way to preserve more of my harvest.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Garden Planning for 2016

The seed catalogs have arrived and garden planning for next year is under way here. The pretty photos in the catalogs are eye candy and I like to read through the catalogs and circle promising looking varieties. Another planning tool I use is my Garden Ideas List, where during the year I enter varieties I may want to try next year, and a source of seeds if I know it. If I don’t do that, I can’t possibly remember things that struck my fancy during the season, like the Calypso cucumber that Mike grew with such spectacular success. Eventually I will generate a planting list for the year, check my seed inventory, and prepare my seed orders.

But first you have to assess the year just past and decide what you want to do new or different this year. First of all, lets look at what my gardening philosophy was going to be for last year:
  • Purchase Onion Plants – Yep, did that. I purchased too many, however, but it was an experiment. The storage onions (Copra and Red Zeppelin) did fine. The Tropea onions were also fine but I did not need 60 plants. I usually just poke some plants in the corners of squares planted with something else and pull them for fresh onions. They do not store so I don’t want a large number of them. The intermediate day onions were a waste of space, except for a few Red Candy onions I pulled for fresh use. They also do not store and have to be used or processed after harvest. I will definitely purchase plants again but reign in my enthusiasm.
  • Total War on Cucumber (and Flea) Beetles – Well, I tried that. I did buy and apply Surround. It washes off after the first rain and you have to reapply with a sprayer. Boy, does that gunk up a perfectly good sprayer. I need one of those industrial sprayers designed to spray concrete (don’t ask me why you want to spray concrete) but those cost $100+.  I actually saw very few cucumber beetles this year and those were in the flowers on my squash and did no harm. The cucumbers, however, seemed to croak pretty well on their own without assistance from the beetles. Lousy year for cucumbers.
  • Cover Brassicas and Eggplants with Row Cover - I bought row cover and used plastic tubing for hoops to cover the brassica and squash beds. That worked pretty well but is a colossal nuisance. You have to remove the cover to water or weed, and things still get in under the edges. I will repeat this exercise again this year because what else are you going to do?
  • Grow Peas on a Trellis – I did that and plan to repeat. I was buried in snap and snow peas until the PM arrived. I think a large trellis is more likely to catch spores sailing by on the wind. What I will do differently is abandon the use of the expensive nylon trellis material and just string hemp twine back and forth. That way I can just snip it off and dump the whole rats nest in a trash bag.
  • Mineralization – I did purchase a bag of local rock dust, as well as a tub of crushed crab shells and a bag of kelp meal, and used those whenever I planted. I have no idea if they helped. Theoretically you don’t need these things in a SFG garden because the compost is supposed to supply everything. Certainly the other plot I gardened last year could have used the help because the soil is fairly poor. Anyway, I will continue because I have to use up these large, heavy bags of “stuff” the wife keeps asking me about, and I am sure they are doing a lot of good.
  • Tomato Choice – Avoid heirlooms. I mostly did that. I did plant a Prudens Purple as a last minute attempt to plug a hole, and I planted Jaune Flamme and Opalka, which are considered heirlooms. The Prudens Purple was more robust than Brandywine but not as productive. I got a couple of decent slicers but it is not worth the space. Opalka was a bust because of BER and they do not really taste that good. Jaune Flamme was a winner and will repeat.
Here is what I am thinking of doing different in 2016:
  • Beans – I am talking about fresh beans, I don’t grow shell beans. Last year I planted four varieties of pole beans and no bush beans (although I bought seed). Pole beans are attractive because I can grow large quantities of beans in just the four squares at the end of a bed, not to mention they are very tasty beans. The beans last year were affected by what I self-diagnosed as bean golden mosaic virus (BGMV). The Gold Marie beans were hit first, right out of the ground. Eventually it spread to the Musica beans. Fortex was less affected, but then I find it has some resistance. Looking at the Johnny’s catalog, most pole beans have no listed resistance to any bean diseases, while the bush bean varieties show much more disease resistance. Most pole beans seem to be heirloom varieties with no breeding done on them to produce disease resistance, unlike bush beans that are commercially grown (because they can be machine harvested) and so are bred for desirable properties. So I may go back to planting bush beans this year, which have a much more impressive disease-resistance package. Johnny’s catalog is really helpful with information on these types of issues.
  • Beets – It was a good year for beets despite the hot, dry summer. At least we had rain in the spring and I got a good germination of seed, which has always been a problem in the past. I will probably go with Shiraz and Touchstone Gold varieties again since they did so well last year. Shiraz is an encouraging example of the plant breeding being done to improve the characteristics of a variety. Open pollinated varieties are what make that possible since they can be bred and selected.
  • Broccoli – Another bust this year despite the row cover protection from flea beetles and cabbage caterpillars. A dry, hot summer did not help. I may try Blue Wind this year to get a quick crop before it gets hot.  And maybe some Aspabroc or Apollo for shoots, but the overall square footage is definitely getting reduced.
  • Carrots – I got some fall carrots to germinate and grow by simply planting the seed deeper than you would think given their tiny size. I will definitely try fall carrots again and may even try some in the spring.
  • Cucumbers – Another complete bust. Given the hot, dry weather last year the cucumbers did not do well. I didn’t notice any bacterial wilt but there are plenty of other things around ready to afflict them. Not completely sure what I will do. Cucumbers are one of our favorite vegetables so it is hard to not try again. I will probably be trying Calypso, hoping Mike’s incredible results come with the seed.
  • Eggplant – Covering with row cover until well established and starting to flower worked well. I got a few eggplant this year, but the hot, dry weather did affect them (not a drop of rain for 2 months in New England, what is going on??).
  • Kale – Did OK. I got a few cuttings from the Toscano. Trouble with it is the bugs also love it and leaves tend to get smaller as it grows. Seems you need to replant it frequently. The Beedy’s  Camden did OK but not great because of the drought. I tried Tronchuda Beira but didn’t care for it or its growth habit. So next year I will be trying something new in the kale patch and maybe planting collards again. I am looking at some of the kales available from Adaptive Seeds, like Western Front. And I may also try a red Russian kale. It would be nice to find a Toscano kale with better growth habits.
  • Kohlrabi – Both Winner and Azur Star did well and I will grow them again. I tried a fall planting of Winner but it didn’t do well when we got a freeze, even under row cover. The choi and Napa were fine but all the foliage on Winner was killed.
  • Onions – I will be ordering Copra and Red Zeppelin plants from Dixondale again this year, but nothing else. I may start some Tropea onions and a leek from seeds because I only need a small quantity of those. For shallots I think I will try Conservor. The Ambition shallots are showing signs they are not going to store well.
  • Peas – Snap and snow peas grown on trellises again. I managed to score some Green Beauty snow peas from Fedco this year before they sold out, to replace the Golden Sweet I planted last year as a substitute.
  • Peppers – I need to get more preemptive in controlling bacterial spot, which has caused me big problems two of the last three years. In addition, I will be more selective in what I grow. This is a weird climate and I don’t have enough time to effectively grow a lot of the C. baccatum and C. chinense peppers, so maybe I should stop trying. I will try to stick to what works well for me, which will be a lot of peppers like Carmen, Revolution, Tiburon Ancho, and Jimmy Nardello.
  • Radishes – Definitely Zlata again, plus a red cherry (maybe Champion if I can find it). I also am looking for a Korean radish I can use in making kimchi and pickles, a shorter version of a daikon.
  • Squash – I will repeat growing Dunja and Costata Romanesco zucchini and Sunburst patty pans. They did well this year, squash bugs were controlled, no SVB but eventually the PM got to them after I had my fill.
  • Tomatoes – I have already said I am going to give up on paste tomatoes, given their propensity for BER.  I’ll just grow more of something else, process them in my blender and boil them down into sauce. There will be some new tomatoes, no doubt, but repeats will be Juliet, Sweet Treats, Sunkist, and Jaune Flamme. I am not sure Esterina gets a repeat or I try another yellow cherry like Honeydrop (a sport of Sun Sugar, not teh Russian tomato
  • Turnips – Hakurei is a winner and I need to plant a lot more. I will also be planting a golden turnip and the Royal Crown purple top.
All this is subject to change as I proceed with my planning. It is already January and some seeds need to be started in February, so I better get to it. Hopefully, the overall plan will be simpler than years past so it will be easier to implement. Now all I need is some decent weather with a reasonable amount of rain for next summer. Hope you too have a great new gardening season.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Meyer Lemons

We had a balmy, 70 F (21C) Christmas day, but winter was not far away. On Tuesday we got the remnants of Goliath, which dropped an inch or two of snow and then turned into sleet and freezing rain. With a name like Goliath, is that all you got? Our first storm last year dumped 5 feet/1.5 m.. of snow. Best of all, we got an heating oil truck up the driveway during the storm so I now have a full tank to start off the winter. We are now having some sunny weather and my Meyer lemon tree is enjoying the light reflected off the snow/ice on the deck. The tree spends summer days on the deck and gets yanked inside before really cold nights begin. Note there are five lemons on the tree, which has been a fantastic producer given its small size. It is the holidays and time to use a few of the lemons, which are my Harvest Monday crop.

We picked two of the lemons, which are a little smaller than the first few lemons off the tree but produced almost half a cup of juice. The recipe we used is my mother’s, saved by my sister, Sharon. We used a little less sugar with the Meyer lemon juice because the juice is sweeter than regular lemons, about a cup. The recipe is included below and I apologize it is in American measure. I am not adept at converting recipes.

Lemon Meringue Pie

1 ½ c. sugar (less for Meyer lemons)
3 Tbsp. corn starch
3 Tbsp. flour
1 ½ c. hot water
Pinch of salt
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 Tbsp. butter
½ tsp. lemon zest
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 9 inch baked pie shell
1 recipe meringue

1. In saucepan, combine sugar with corn starch and flour; then stir in hot water gradually. Bring to boil stirring constantly to make a smooth mixture.
2. Add salt and continue cooking for 8 minutes stirring occasionally until thick.
3. Stir a small amount of the hot mixture slowly into egg yolks, stirring constantly. Return to pan and cook 4 minutes longer. Add butter and lemon zest; stir until melted. Slowly add in lemon juice. Cool the mixture.
4. Pour into pastry shell. Cover with meringue, and bake in 325ยบ F. oven until delicately browned, about 12-15 minutes.


3 egg whites
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

Beat egg whites and lemon juice until stiff. Add sugar gradually (1 Tbsp. at a time), beating constantly until soft peaks form. Pile lightly on pie filling, sealing meringue to edges of pie crust.

It is the New Year and it is totally fitting that we start it off with all our/my plans completely blown up. The lemon pie was supposed to be dessert served with our New Years Day dinner but I forgot to make it. So we had it Saturday after the Osso Bucco that was supposed to be our New Years Eve dinner. That got put off while we stuffed our faces with the excess of appetizers I procured for New Years Eve (not to mention the Champagne).  Oh well, hopefully my garden planning goes better. Most of the seed catalogs are in and nothing better than to start planning the new gardening year.

That is my modest harvest this new year. Hope your year starts off wonderful. I do seasonal tax preparation and my season starts Monday, so my blog posts will become less frequent as I start my 75-hour a week work schedule. To see what other gardeners are doing, check out Harvest Monday at From Seed to Table, our host for Harvest Monday during January.
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