Saturday, August 30, 2014

Allium Harvest 2014



The allium harvest in general was a mixed bag this year, the bright spot being the seed shallots shown above. I started seed of Saffron in February and transplanted the seedlings to the garden in early May (late this year because of weather, should have been in early April). The shallots were pulled in late July when the foliage appeared to be sort of tilting horizontally. The foliage did not actually flop like onions do, but I decided it was time to pull them. They spent about 4 weeks on the porch drying out.




In about 5 square feet of bed, the Saffron shallots produced 37 bulbs (approximately 7 per square foot) weighing a total of 45 ounces, with the largest bulb weighing 2.5 ounces. Seed shallots are supposed to produce a single bulb per transplant. I actually had 3 produce twin bulbs, which can happen if they have sufficient spacing. And if you look at the close-up above, you can see from the shape of the bulbs that many of them are dividing, some are quite obvious. I will definitely be growing these again next year.




The storage onions were less successful, partly due to my own efforts to start seed. When I sowed seed in February, it was difficult to see the black seed on the black starting mix, so I sowed the seeds too thickly and the resulting seedlings were crowded. The result was spindly transplants, many of which did not survive in the garden. Above are the Red Wing onions. Five squares yielded 20 onions weighing a total of 58 ounces, compared to 139 ounces last year for the same space. I did not photograph the Patterson yellow onions, but six squares yielded 67 ounces of onions compared to 140 ounces of Copra onions last year. Pretty poor, but next year will be better!




This week the garlic was finally dry enough to clean it up. I don't know why but this year the garlic took a very long time to dry. Besides that, it was mostly a poor garlic year. The German Extra Hardy garlic above yielded 17 heads weighing 18 ounces. This garlic did not keep well last year and is only good for a couple of months given my storage conditions in the basement. When I went to plant garlic last Fall, I found that a lot of the cloves in my reserved seed garlic were turning brown and soft. The result was I only had enough viable cloves to plant three squares. Last year I got 2 pounds of garlic from four squares. I planted these a little later, so I have to be sure to get at least this variety into the ground by mid-October. Storing seed garlic is tricky I found, as detailed in my post on storing seed garlic.




The Chesnok Red garlic I grew last year produced nice, fairly large heads and stored much better than the German Extra Hardy, so I had enough seed garlic to plant the allocated 4 squares. Given the poor garlic season this year, it did alright but yield was down. Last year I harvested 2.5 pounds from 5 squares, and this year I got 32 heads weighing 1.7 pounds from 4 squares. Largest head weighed 1 ounce. Still, it is a great garlic and gets re-planted this Fall.




I was infected with garlic fever after my success last year growing garlic for the first time. I decided I wanted to try an additional variety, and high on to try list was Spanish Roja garlic. I bought mine from Territorial, which touted that their garlic seed stock was certified virus free and therefore the heads would be much larger. Whatever, this garlic did very well this year, the best of the garlics. Six squares yielded 33 heads weighing almost 3 pounds. The biggest bulb weighed 2 ounces. This is a keeper and gets planted again this Fall, and I recommend Territorial as a source of excellent seed garlic.




Unfortunately, when I go looking for something like Spanish Roja seed garlic, I get exposed to all the pretty pictures on the Internet describing the dozens of varieties of garlic. For some reason I became enamored of Rossa di Sulmona garlic, a  legendary garlic from the village of Sulmona in Abruzzo, Italy and had to have some. Most vendors were sold out but Seeds of Italy had some stock coming in from Italy, waiting for clearance through customs.


The heads of garlic from Seeds of Italy were big and beautiful but my results were less so. You can see my harvest of this garlic above. Note that the large white head of garlic above is a Spanish Roja I put in the basket for size comparison. My half pound of seed garlic planted in 5 squares yielded 40 small heads weighing a total of 17 ounces. So what’s the deal? Is this a matter of the garlic getting acclimated to my climate in New England, which is probably a bit different than Abruzzo, or just a bad year here for growing garlic? There are a couple of larger heads I could use for seed garlic to see if it adapts better next year, but I am on the fence about re-planting this variety.




I also was tempted into trying Viola Francese, a garlic popular in the Mediterranean regions of France and Italy. It is a beautiful garlic with large heads, supposedly an artichoke-type softneck garlic (which it is definitely not, as I will detail in a future post). I found some at Cook’s Garden and tried it. The results were the worst of the 5 varieties I planted. This one was grown in the US so I can’t blame the source climate. From two heads weighing 4 ounces, I harvested 15 heads weighing a total of 9 ounces. They are teensy and were difficult to clean, since the outside skins seemed to stick to the cloves. Most likely not planting this one again.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Beans and Squash and Tomatoes, Oh no …

It’s August in the garden, so the harvest includes the usual suspects, beans, squash, and finally, tomatoes in large quantities. The beans I did not bother to photograph, and I only show a sampling of the tomatoes.




Some more beets and a couple of turnips. A rabbit in the garden has discovered that beetroot tastes a lot better than just beet leaves and has been nibbling the beets. The ones above were the only survivors. I need to set a rat trap in that bed since I have more beets and spinach seeded there.




I finally got my first broccoli. This is Bay Meadows, which Fedco raves about. It was very slow to start and only now has decided to put on a growth spurt.




The ugly tomatoes on the left are Cherokee Purple from the vine that fell over. The big fruit there was 12 ounces.




Finally getting a few cucumbers. Others have had a banner year, but not me. Bacterial wilt has wiped out a large number of the vines. The large cuke in the center is a Poona Kheera, an Indian heirloom variety that is new for me. I picked the first one while still white and small, thinking it was the Crystal Apple. This one I let get bigger. When mature they are supposed to turn yellow and then brown, but all this thing did is get bigger. I have no idea how big they get, so I picked this one (it already weighs a pound) since they are still edible at any stage. I haven’t tried it yet since it takes a little planning to figure out what do do with a one pound cucumber.




The Richmond Green Apple cucumber above is an Australian heirloom that produces small roundish cucumbers, similar to Crystal Apple and Lemon. They can be eaten without peeling, just like an apple, and are sweet and crunchy. The Crystal Apple cukes were to small to pick one for comparison. For some reason both varieties were very late to produce fruit this year but the remaining vines not killed by wilt are now growing rapidly up the trellis and setting lots of fruit. So it’s a race with the cold weather to see if I get any more of these.




An assortment of peppers. The red pepper in the middle is my first Lipstick, next to a couple of Carmen. I thought these two varieties were roughly equivalent, but they are not. Carmen is much larger, much more productive and ripens faster than Lipstick. At the bottom, my first Poblanos. The one on the left has turned yellow as it starts to ripen but I picked it anyway because I want these for Chiles Rellenos.




An assortment of squash, including my first Tromboncino and just the second Costata Romanesco.




The Brandywine tomatoes are starting to color and these were picked to lessen the load on the vines.




Pineapple tomatoes above. The biggest one unfortunately cracked badly.




Finally, more Cherokee Purple on the left, to get them off the ground where things have been eating holes in them And the remaining Sunkist on the right.


That’s all from my garden this week. To see what is happening in other gardens around the world, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chili Sauce

Most of my Blue Beech paste tomatoes ripened and some were going bad, so I had to do something with them. If I had pecks of tomatoes maybe I would can them or make tomato sauce. I did not have that many and I wanted to make something special with them. I decided to make chili sauce using the recipe in Joy of Cooking that I used several years ago. The chili sauce I am referring to is not hot sauce, it is the ketchup-like, spicier condiment commonly used in cocktail sauce. All the commercial versions are made with high fructose corn syrup, a poisonous industrial chemical made from GMO corn. And its taste can not compare to the homemade version.




Besides, I would bet you commercial chili sauce is not made from the ingredients above, Blue Beech tomatoes, Carmen, Lipstick, Jalapeno and Revolution peppers, and Rossa Lunga onions, along with brown sugar, apple cider vinegar and spices. The recipe I used is below. I actually halved the recipe since I only had four quarts of tomatoes and it made four pints of sauce.


Chili Sauce

  • 1 peck/8 quarts tomatoes
  • 6 green peppers, seeded
  • 1 Tbsp. dried red pepper
  • 6 large white onions

 Peel and quarter the tomatoes. Put onions and peppers in a food processor and chop fine. Place all of this in a large sauce pan and add:

  • 2 c. brown sugar
  • 3 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. celery seed
  • 2 Tbsp. dry mustard

Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer slowly at least 3 hours until thickened. Adjust seasoning. Put sauce in small, sterilized jars and seal. I used pint canning jars with seals. The recipe does not call for processing because of the acid content, but I chose to process in a water bath for ten minutes. The full recipe should make 8 pint jars of sauce.




The chili sauce is not a bright red but a bit brownish because of the green peppers and brown spices, but it tastes terrific. It is good on hamburgers, steaks, or your morning eggs.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Harvest Monday 18 August 2014

Last week, the weather was moderate with a lot of cloudy days that suggested rain, but it only rained significantly for one day. We got several inches that day but the garden was so dry that it was all absorbed. When I got back to the garden, a few things were a little overgrown. At this time of year  the beans and squash really need to be checked every day.




More beans. The purple ones are Trionfo Violetto. I froze a lot of those but have no more room in the freezer. A large amount of the beans were again donated to the food pantry.




Some of the heirloom tomatoes are starting to ripen. Above are a Brandywine and a Pineapple on the right. The heirloom tomato vines are loaded with clusters of very large tomatoes and show little signs of actually ripening. I am a little worried about the tomato stakes snapping under the load. That’s a problem I haven’t had in a long time.




The long peppers are Carmen, a sweet pepper that is turning out to be very productive. A few Sunkist orange tomatoes and a very green Cherokee Purple. My Cherokee Purple plant was loaded with large fruit like the one above when it fell over. The heavy rain saturated the soil and the pole wasn’t driven deep enough, so the plant toppled toppled over as the pole came out of the soggy ground.




A fully ripened Sunkist tomato sliced up. This is a meaty, low-acid tomato with good flavor. It is very productive and fairly disease resistant, a tomato I will be growing again.




More squash and a few Cherokee Purple tomatoes starting to color up (as well as crack, damn rain).




More beans.




The last Napa cabbage, considerably reduced in size after removing the slug-damaged outer leaves. This one was used for slaw. I used some of the previous cabbage and some radishes to make kimchee, which turned out OK. It is a little too salty and a tad too hot for my taste, but not bad.


That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their gardens, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Harvest Monday 11 August 2014

It has been a pretty nice summer so far, more of a “typical” New England summer, with warm (but not hot) days, cool evenings, low humidity and a little breeze blowing most of the time. Great weather for those at the beach or the mountains. Unfortunately, I’m here, not at the beach. We had a lot of partially cloudy days with predictions of showers, but little actual rain. So that means a trip to the garden every day to water the raised beds, which tend to dry out faster. Still, the garden is being amazingly productive. I used the warm, dry weather to harvest my shallots and the rest of the onions, the Rossa Lunga di Tropea.




The seed shallots above are Saffron, an F-1 hybrid from Johnny’s. I started seed in February and transplanted these in early May (should have been April), just like onions. These are gold or brown or copper skinned shallots (depending on your perspective) and are considered to have a good storage life. Seed shallots don’t divide, so you get one bulb per seedling (but you can see two of them did twin and produce two bulbs). I was impressed by the size of the bulbs.




I have been pulling the Rossa Lungas above as needed for fresh onions. They are starting to get diseased, as you can see from the white specks on the foliage, so I decided to pull them. One of these went into a batch of salsa and I plan to use them and not try to store them. I also found a couple of shallots I missed to add to the pile of drying shallots.




The rest of the harvest gets a little monotonous. Beans, tomatoes and squash.




A huge pile of Gold Marie and Musica beans above, larger than it appears here. I froze a lot of these and a large bag was donated to the local food pantry. These beans are very tasty and amazingly productive. I have been proselytizing my fellow gardeners by giving them handfuls to try. I think I have won a few converts for next year who may abandon their Kentucky Wonders, the only pole bean they have ever known. Sad but true.




Finally got some beets (Boldor golden beet and Boro red beet). I have replanted these so I hope I get a few more.




And finally some peppers. Two Carmen sweet peppers, and some Shishito peppers. One of the Carmen peppers wound up in a salsa. I also picked some of the Blue Beech paste tomatoes you see above. The largest one weighed 12 ounces. The Blue Beech has a variety of shapes, including the block shape of the three tomatoes upper right, and the long, skinny tomato just below them. I have no idea what influences the variation in shape, appearing on the same plant in the same cluster.




I have not cut chard for a while. The pile above is just a sampling of the harvest. I froze two thirds of the chard and the rest was used for dinner last night, since there is no room in the refrigerator.




More tomatoes and squash. The food pantry did get a generous bag of squash to dispense this week.




I allocated 2 squares for Trionfo Violetto pole beans on a shared trellis but didn’t check the seed packet., so I didn’t have enough to plant the 2 squares. I also had some losses after germination and from some errant bunny nibbling on the stems at the base of the plants. Nonetheless I am still getting a nice harvest and these beans were frozen to enjoy this winter.


That’s what happened here in Bolton, Massachusetts. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cilantro or Coriander?



What do you call it? Here in the U.S., the green leaves are called cilantro and the dry seeds are called coriander. The herb is Coriandrum sativum, an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. It is commonly used in the cuisines of China, Thailand, India, the Mediterranean basin, Europe and Mexico. Here it is an important ingredient in salsa and other Mexican dishes. All parts of the plants are used, including the leaves, stems, seeds, and roots. Some people, probably based on genetics,  find the leaves to have a soapy taste and an offensive, perfumed smell. Others love it. The seeds have an attractive citrus aroma and are used in sausages and some Belgian-style beers.


I try growing cilantro every year. A maddening characteristic of it is its lack of desire to germinate where I plant it, yet it self-seeds wildly wherever I don’t want it, in the paths, in the beds, wherever an errant seed lands. It also to tends to bolt quickly to seed, even if I plant slow-bolt varieties. That is why I usually wind up buying cilantro at the farm stands when I want the leaves. But the seeds are not to be spurned. When harvested green, they still have a strong cilantro aroma in addition to a lemon, citrusy scent that the leaves do not have. You can use them in cooking (just smack them with the side of a knife to crush), and the seeds freeze well so you can save a little bit of summer.




Here is another use for the green seeds I learned from Willi Galloway’s book, Grow, Cook, Eat that will warm you up in winter. Put a handful of seed clusters in a quart canning jar and pour a fifth of vodka (no need to use Skye or Grey Goose here) in the jar and cover. Allow this to sit for a week while the vodka is infused. Pour the infused vodka back into the bottle, using a funnel lined with a coffee filter to strain out any sediment. You now have a fifth of coriander-infused vodka you can use to make vodka tonics or other drinks.




Or try my signature cocktail, which my daughter declared the best cocktail she has ever tasted.


Dave’s Cortini


Add to a cocktail shaker with ice:

  • 2 parts Coriander-infused Vodka
  • 1 part St-Germain
  • 1 or 2 dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit bitters

Shake or stir and stain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon and enjoy while you pore over the seed catalogs in January.



Monday, August 4, 2014

Harvest Monday 4 August 2014

The mild but humid weather has continued with a lot of cloudy days and some rain. The garden is in full production and keeping me busy. The local food pantries have benefited from the excess food produced by me and fellow gardeners, including two Girl Scout troops who have plots in the community garden dedicated to growing food for the pantries and the senior housing facility. The beans and squash in particular have been heavy producers, while the tomatoes' biggest production lies ahead.




Above are the Gold Marie and Musica pole beans. Many of these were frozen and I have been cooking large amounts for dinner. A lot of the Musica were donated to the food pantry.




Jade and Provider bush beans above.




Tomatoes above include the first Blue Beech paste tomato.




I am picking lots of summer squash now, some not quite in time. Since I said I kind of like the big ones, well I got one. It was stuffed with ground veal and baked in a tomato sauce.




The Y-Star in the photo above looks a little weird. Since some of the squash start growing squished between leaves, it looks like a branch with flowers was squeezed against the growing squash and fused to it.




First Crystal Apple cucumber above. I have also been pulling the Rossa Lunga onions and using them fresh in cooking.




More squash and some Jackson Classic picklers. I am hoping they start producing some decent shaped fruit so I can make some refrigerator half sours.




More Blue Beech paste tomatoes, plus Juliet, Esterina, Jaune Flamme, and a Big Beef. Below the Big Beef you can see my first and only Chocolate Pear tomato




Jaune Boule d’Or turnips and more Rossa Lunga di Tropea onions.


In addition to the above, on Sunday I picked another five pounds of  beans and pulled the Patterson and Red Wing onions. I will photograph the onions when I clean them up after they cure. Only one or two of the tops had fallen over but the foliage is being affected by what looks like Botrytis leaf blight so I decided to pull them. You can see the white spots on the foliage of the Rossa Lunga in the photo above. The storage onions were worse.


That’s what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.


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