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

Filling
 
Ingredients
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

Instructions
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 325º F. oven until delicately browned, about 12-15 minutes.


Meringue

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

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.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Punched Potatoes

While planning side dishes for the Christmas Roast Beast, potatoes naturally come up. My wife loves potatoes but I try to avoid them because of the carbs. So the compromise was I would buy a bag of the cute little mini spuds, since I do not grow them. The idea of preparing them as punched potatoes came to mind after recently seeing a recipe on the Internet. If you do grow potatoes, there are always the runts and this is a good way to use them.

Punched potatoes, or Batatas a Murro, is a Portuguese dish that is simple and delicious. I first encountered the idea of punched potatoes while planning a trip to a nearby Portuguese restaurant. We live surrounded by a lot of Portuguese Americans whose ancestors came from the Azores, so there are Portuguese bakeries and Portuguese food items in the stores. But other than the kale soup I make, which is Azorean in origin, I haven’t had a lot of authentic Portuguese cuisine.

So I researched the restaurant menu online and decided I was going to order Polvo à Lagareiro, grilled octopus served over a punched potato. The octopus is boiled for an hour, then tossed in olive oil and grilled over charcoal for a few minutes to char it a little. It is served over a punched potato that was crisped in garlic-infused olive oil, with the extra oil poured over the dish. The octopus was wonderful but the “punched” potato I received was half a huge restaurant-size russet potato, grey and gummy inside. Not the crisp, garlicky potato I was expecting.

Batatas a Murro are not hard to make and what I decided to do for our Christmas dinner. There are plenty of recipes around and there are many variations. What I will provide is simply a concept with some suggestions for variations. The basic idea is you cook (bake or boil, but baked is preferred) some small (golf ball or slightly larger)  potatoes until they are done. Let them cool a bit, then using your fist or the bottom of a glass or mug, slightly smash (“punch”) the potatoes to break their skin and slightly flatten them. Then heat a small frying pan and sauté some garlic in olive oil until the garlic is fragrant and just starts to brown.



The final step is where there are many possible variations. You can:
  • Place the punched potatoes in a serving bowl, drizzle with the hot olive oil and serve.
  • Put the punched potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet, brush with the olive oil and bake until slightly browned and crispy. This is what I decided to do, putting them in the oven for the final minutes of the roast. Not a beautiful presentation but tasty.
  • Sauté the potatoes in the pan with the garlic and oil until they are browned and crispy. This is what I expected to get with my octopus but did not get.
  • Or, brush the potatoes with the olive oil and brown them on a gas or charcoal grill. If making the Polvo, you could grill the octopus and potatoes at the same time.

 Hope everyone enjoys their holidays. It is warm and balmy here, not typical for early winter. I am not that upset about it and the oil tank (and my wallet) is happy. But El Niño keeps pumping out winter storms and Goliath is on its way, so we will see. After last year, I can deal with anything.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Making Kimchi

Kimchi


























There was nothing new from the garden this week but I used some of the Napa cabbage I harvested last week to make a batch of kimchi/kimchee, the Korean soul food. Kimchi is a fermented product and a good way to preserve some of the garden harvest. The kimchi I made is called mak-kimchi or “easy” kimchi, because it uses chopped cabbage leaves rather than whole cabbages and is simpler and faster to make. Napa cabbage is best to use because it has thinner leaves which will make the fermentation faster. This recipe calls for 2 pounds (1 kg) of cabbage.






















In addition to the cabbage, there are a few other ingredients, counterclockwise from upper left:
  • A bunch of scallions, including greens
  • A small leek, including greens
  • A carrot or two
  • A 2 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • A head of garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1/4 cup Korean chili flakes (gochugaru), or more to taste
  • A turnip or daikon radish
  • An apple or Asian pear, peeled and cored
  • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce or fermented shrimp paste


The first step is to chop and brine the cabbage. Cut through the root end of the cabbage to quarter it, then pull the quarters apart. Each quarter is sliced lengthwise in half, then chopped into 2 inch pieces. Place the chopped cabbage into a glass or earthenware bowl.


Prepare a brine using 3 Tbsp. of sea salt to 6 cups of water. Pour the brine over the cabbage, then place a plate on the cabbage to make sure the cabbage remains submerged. Drape a towel over the bowl and set aside for 3-4 hours. Another method just salts the leaves and leaves them to wilt. The leaves are then rinsed several times to remove excess salt. I used that method last year and found the leaves to be very salty. Mac commented that the brine technique produced a less salty kimchi, so that is what I am trying this year.


While the cabbage is soaking, prepare the other ingredients. The whites of the scallions and leek are cut into 2 inch lengths, then sliced lengthwise into slivers. The greens are sliced diagonally into small pieces. The turnip or daikon is cut into matchsticks, as well as the carrot. Or you can slice the carrot diagonally into thin slices as I did here.


After the cabbage is finished brining, spoon it into a colander using a slotted spoon and squeeze out any liquid. Place the drained cabbage in a bowl and add the diced fresh vegetables and mix thoroughly. Reserve the brine for later use. 


Prepare the pepper paste by putting the ginger, garlic, pepper flakes, fish sauce or shrimp paste, a teaspoon of sea salt and the apple or pear into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add some brine if you need to thin it. The pepper I used is gochugaru, the traditional Korean red pepper flakes. The gochugaru in the bag above from my local Korean grocery was grown in Korea. All the other bags in the store were of Chinese origin and I try to avoid Chinese produce if possible. The Korean pepper was only available in 1 kilo bags, so I probably have a lifetime supply.


Note that the Korean red pepper is flaked, not ground, and is seedless. Supposedly it is less spicy but more flavorful than other peppers such as cayenne. There really is no substitute for it so a search is worthwhile, or you can mail-order it. You certainly could use your own dried pepper flakes if you have them. Results will likely have a different flavor and heat from using gochugaru, but go ahead and experiment.


Spoon some of the the mixed vegetables into a large mixing bowl and add a scoop of pepper paste. Using disposable gloves, work the paste into the cabbage mix with your fingers until the cabbage is well coated. Continue with layers of vegetables and paste, mixing well, until all is done.


Pack the kimchi into quart canning jars, pushing down to compact the kimchi into the jars. Spoon reserved brine into the jars until the top of the kimchi is covered. My batch filled 2 quart jars. Cover the jars with a loosely-fitted plastic cap and set in a dark, cool place for 3-6 days. Taste the kimchi and when it is sour enough, tighten the caps and store in the refrigerator.

There is a lot of onion in this version which I found to be pretty strong initially. That strong onion flavor subsided as the kimchi fermented. I didn’t use a follower in the jars, but they could have used one. The kimchi was tightly packed in the jars and tended to rise as a mass from the gasses of fermentation. I used a spoon daily to push the mass down below the liquid level. After a week, the kimchi is now pleasantly sour and flavors have melded a bit. It is very tasty, not as salty as my previous attempt,  and the the amount of pepper I used adds enough bite without making it painfully hot (your taste may vary).

That’s my offering for Harvest Monday. Head over to Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday,  to see what other gardeners around the world are doing in their gardens.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Harvest Monday 7 December 2015



I took a calculated risk last week when I left my cabbages in the garden and visited my daughter in South Carolina. I figured the cabbages would maintain better in the soil under the row cover than in the refrigerator. It looked like night time temperatures would be above freezing, so I would not have to worry about freeze damage. Of course, one of those pesky Canadian cold fronts descended so temperatures were lower than the 5-day forecast predicted, but the cabbages seemed to do well

These are two heads of Soloist cabbages that I have been nursing, hoping they would head up enough to give me enough to make kimchee. These heads were tied up so the interior has blanched but they have not formed a tight head. That is OK, these will be perfect and the good news is no slugs or earwigs in these. Each head weighs about a pound and a half (.7 kg) and with a smaller head will give me the 2 pounds I need for a small batch of kimchee.




These weird looking objects are two more Solist cabbages that I did not tie up to blanch. The leaves laid flat so the inside leaves are green and not the nice yellow color of the first two cabbages. The proximity to the ground also made it easier for something to munch on the leaves. These heads are about a half pound (.25 kg) each. So one of these and a full head will give me the 2 pounds (.9 kg) I need for a batch of kimchee or kraut. Maybe I will make one of each.



I also salvaged two out of three Joi-choi plants left in the bed. These two have had their leaves munched on but the third was down to stubs. With this harvest, I have nothing left in the garden (except for maybe a couple of small carrots).  I still need to clean up some beds but those might wait for Spring, depending on the weather. With the seed catalogs arriving, it's time to think of Spring.


That is all from my garden this week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Tomato Review 2015



The 2015 tomato season was not bad, given the dry summer we had. The dry weather led to some water stress as I could not water the tomatoes every day, but at least there was no late blight, just the usual Septoria spot that happens every year. What was new this year was I tried a soil drench for the tomatoes when setting them out, which also included adding some extra mycorrizhae inoculant.  I did not do a comparison of untreated and untreated plants, but that would not necessarily show anything because of so many other variables. The drench was simple enough that I will do it again and I trust the research done by others.

The other experiment this year was planting several varieties of tomatoes in both the raised bed plot and the in-ground plot. Both variants did well, partly because the plants in raised beds did better this year than last. For example, last year Jaunne Flamme was pathetic, but I tried it again. This year it did very well in both environments, setting multiple large trusses of fruit, with really no significant difference.

As far as the individual varieties of tomatoes, I do have some opinions. For one, I think I will give up on paste tomatoes. I’m tired of the low yield and the BER. This year I wasted eight spots in my garden on Opalka and an unnamed Roma type. I lost most of my Opalkas to BER and the few I harvested had a fairly bland favor. I don’t remember even tasting the Roma. If I had planted another 8 Juliet tomatoes, I would have bushel baskets of fruit and gallons of sauce. The high-speed blender technique of sauce making really changes things, and non-paste tomatoes tend to have superior flavor anyway. Who cares if you have to cook them down a little longer.

Here are my opinions of some of the tomatoes I grew in 2015:

Opalka
I saw Opalka growing at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens and was intrigued with it. It is a Polish heirloom first obtained by Carolyn Male from a co-worker and submitted to SSE in 1997. Last year I tried growing it but managed to kill all the seedlings. This year I had enough seedlings to plant four and gave several away to gardeners in the community garden. Vines grow very tall, well over a 6 foot stake, and fruit ripens late summer. A lot of people like this variety but my problem was BER. I lost 75% of the fruit to BER so it was pointless to waste the space growing this one. I did slice up some for table use and flavor was OK but nothing special. I will not be growing this again.

Sunkist
This is my second year growing Sunkist, an F1 orange slicer from High Mowing Seeds. This is a great tomato, assuming you are OK with it being orange and not red. Vines are healthy and very stocky. It sets clusters of fruit that ripen to an attractive orange color. Fruit are very meaty with small seed cavities, but still juicy and flavorful. Fruits are almost always perfect, unblemished by cracks or warts., and I have never encountered BER Vines are disease resistant and always one of the last to succumb .A great tomato and one I will plant again next year.

Jaunne Flamme
I tried this one last year after reading about Michelle's experience with it. It was a bomb, unhealthy vines that produced a few fruit and then croaked. This year I gave it another chance and it was great. Vines were healthier and more vigorous and it set large trusses of apricot-colored fruit, about inch and a half (4 cm) in size. Flavor is very tart and fruity, soft and very juicy. This was another tomato that frequently wound up in salads. The vines appeared they were going to repeat their semi-determinate behavior of setting fruit and then croaking, but after a period of time resting they resumed their growth and set new fruit right up to frost. This is a tomato unlike others I have grown and I will likely grow this again next year.

Juliet
Not much to say about Juliet except what a great tomato. Sort of a large grape/small Roma in shape and size, it is far better than those. When red ripe, flavor is terrific. Split resistant and disease resistant, early to ripen (always one of my first) and keeps producing heavily. Good for salads, sauce, and drying. This one will always be in my garden. One thing I noticed about the Juliet planted in-ground was the production of fruit in the first few feet of the plant. It was staked rather than trellised and seemed to have multiple trusses of fruit produced within a few feet of the ground. It was late season before I was picking fruit more than a few feet off the ground.

Sweet Treats
This is a pink cherry tomato I first saw growing at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in Boylston, MA in 2013. The weather that summer was horrid and Sweet Treats was a knockout due to its health and vigor. I decided I wanted to try it but seed was not easily available until last year when Fedco started carrying it. This is an F1 hybrid from Sakata Seeds of Japan and reflects the Japanese preference for pink tomatoes. It is the first pink cherry tomato available and is outstanding.

Vines are tall and vigorous and produce long trusses containing 12-15 tomatoes. Fruit are up to an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter and ripen to pink and finally a deep rose color, with a beautiful matte finish. They are gorgeous and when fully ripe taste as good as they look. They have a good, full-size tomato taste, not  the insipid candy sweetness of some cherries. When I wanted a tomato for my salad, this is the one I chose. Fruits are crack-resistant and I had very few split on me. They ripen later than Juliet and Esterina, but once they start producing they keep up right into first frost. The vines are fairly disease resistant. There really is no reason not to grow this one. Check Fedco’s description in this years catalog, which rates it in its top 5 in taste (among cherry types).

Esterina
Esterina is a yellow cherry I have grown two years now in place of Sungold, a cherry that I love. It is supposed to be more crack resistant than Sungold, which splits horribly after every rain, and it is, early in the season. But by the end of the season, Esterina is as prone to splitting as Sungold. I also think the color and flavor is good but not not quite as good as Sungold. The vines of Esterina seem to be the first to be attacked by Septoria but they still keep producing right up to frost. Esterina has been OK but not great and I am not sure what I will do next year. Maybe I will try Sungold again next year, and maybe I will replace it with something like Fedco’s  Honeydrop, or maybe both.

Chocolate Pear
I have tried growing Chocolate Pear (from Baker Creek) twice, as a replacement for Black Cherry, a tomato I love but can not seem to grow productively. Chocolate Pear is touted as a productive tomato and it is. It is late to ripen  for a small tomato, well into August before you get ripe fruit. It is also highly prone to splitting after a rain, which often renders almost every fruit on the vine useless. Fruits are bountiful but small and taste is not exceptional. The vines have purple stems and also seem prone to browning of the lower foliage. While the vines are still healthy, you look at the brown foliage with dark stems and you think, OMG, late blight! I gave this variety two years but I will not grow it again.

Pruden’s Purple
This is an heirloom beefsteak tomato I bought on impulse when I found out the Rose de Berne I wanted was sold out. I did not expect much but this tomato did well. I lost several of the largest fruit to BER unfortunately, but the vines kept producing. I did not expect much and did not get much, but I was surprised how well this tomato did. That said I will not be growing it next year.

Celebrity
I grew this one because someone offered me a plant. Celebrity is a 1984 AAS winner with a lot of disease resistance. It is a determinate variety but definitely not an early producer. It developed a cluster of fruit that ripened in late summer. The 4-5 fruit I got were OK but I do not plan on growing this one again.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Reedy River, ,Greenville


















These are the Falls on the Reedy River in downtown Greenville, viewed from the Liberty bridge. It was T-shirt weather down here while it was a bit frosty up north in my garden. We picked the week of Thanksgiving to visit my daughter in Central, South Carolina. She is working in Greenville and planning to start classes in January at Clemson to finish her degree. Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday and she is definitely a foodie like her dad.

Before the trip, Kate gave me a shopping list for some New England treats she can not find in the South. Apples (Macintosh, Macoun, and Empire), fresh apple cider (including Bolton Orchards’ amazing Golden Russet cider that tastes like an explosion of bananas and apples), maple syrup, and maple sugar candy. I also brought some sugar pumpkins (including Cinnamon Girl) and some winter squash (Autumn Crown and Kikuza, both smaller Long Island Cheese types). Also brought a selection of wines from Nashoba Valley Vineyards, including a couple of bottles of the Vignoles we helped harvest in 2012 and the Apple Cranberry that is popular for Thanksgiving. Threw in a maple Whoopie pie for good measure.

We kept Thanksgiving dinner simple. Kate had to work that day (she is a server at an upscale restaurant in Greenville that had all of three customers all day) and we didn’t want to leave her buried in left overs. So I cooked. We did a turkey breast, mashed potatoes, gravy, candied sweet potatoes, home made apple sauce, Brussels sprouts, rolls and pumpkin pie.



On Friday we avoided crowds by driving west, away from the malls in Greenville, to enjoy the mountains. This is a view of Table Rock mountain (with the cliffs, elevation 4100 feet) taken from the lookout on Caesars Head mountain (elevation 3215 feet).



Another view from Caesars Head. On the drive up the mountain, I noticed the forest understory had a lot of rhododendron and mountain laurel, some of which you can see in this photo. Maybe there is some dogwood out there as well. At the right time in the spring when all this is blooming, the mountains must be beautiful.

Turns out the area’s only winery, Victoria Valley, was nearby, so we sat on their terrace for an hour and enjoyed a cheese plate and glass of wine. South Carolina has very few wineries, mostly near the coast. However, North Carolina has lots of wineries, many easily accessible from I-77 on the way home. Unfortunately, traffic Sunday was insane, so stopping was not feasible. We finally had to stop for the night short of our intended layover and make it up on Monday. Regardless of the commute home, we had a good visit with Kate, ate at lots of great Greenville restaurants, and enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner with (most) all the trimmings. Hope you had an equally good week.
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