Monday, September 28, 2015

Harvest Monday 28 September 2015

The dry weather continues and the nights are now colder, with night temperatures dropping into the 40s. We have had plenty of sunshine but the sun is dropping lower in the sky and some of the garden is now being shaded by the trees. The warm weather plants like the tomatoes are not happy, but the brassicas are liking it. And for some reason the lettuce in the container has decided to bolt now that cool weather has returned.




The tomatoes are spent, with just some cherry tomatoes and a few paste tomatoes left.




We are getting into cool Fall days and my interest in the kale crop has returned. The batch above was destined for a kale, sausage and white bean dish. The Crystal Apple cucumbers were slow to get going but are still producing a lot of fruit, which is welcome.




The Tronchuda Beira went into a pot of Portuguese kale soup. The version I make from the Victory Garden Cookbook turns out to be an Azorean recipe. Not surprising because most of the Portuguese communities around here immigrated from the Azores.  I tried the mainland Caldo Verde this year but found it boring in comparison to the hearty Azorean version. There are lots of recipes for it on the Internet (here is one:  I used kale, tomatoes, garlic, and onions from my garden. I may have to try growing some dried beans so I can use them in the soup. This dish is tasty, good leftover, freezes well, and can be made vegetarian by leaving out the sausage.


That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Allium Harvest 2015

It was a mixed year in my garden for onions and garlic. One thing new this year was I ordered some of the onion plants from Dixondale Farms, rather than starting them myself from seed. Good thing, given my success starting the shallots from seed last spring. The lack of successful plants led to the small shallot count this year. The other factor was the weather. It was a hot (but not damn hot) and very dry summer. We have gone for 6 week stretches with hardly measurable rain. This is New England, not southern California or the high dessert. But the humidity was sky high, which caused problems with fungus in  the garden and when it came time to dry the harvest. Given the conditions I had a good harvest and am mostly satisfied with the results.


Storage Onions


Total Wt.

No. Bulbs

Avg. Wt.


Ambition Shallots

37 oz.


1.85 oz.

3.2 oz.


200 oz.


3.7 oz.

6 oz.

Red Zeppelin

76 oz.


3.125 oz.

4.7 oz.





This year I grew Ambition seed shallots because my favorite, Saffron, has apparently been discontinued. In looking for an alternative, I chose Ambition because I did not want a huge shallot, but one with long storage potential. I still have a few small Saffron shallots I found cleaning out the storage bin and they are still hard. Ambition did OK. The plants were slow in getting established and growing but towards the end of the growing season they put on a lot of foliage and sized up nicely. Too bad I only got twenty but I will enjoy them this winter.


Last year the Saffron shallots produced 37 bulbs weighing 45 ounces, averaging 1.2 ounces per bulb with largest being 2.5 ounces.




The Copra onions grown from Dixondale starts were quite successful, over 12 pounds from 10 square feet. The plants were healthy (almost no thrip or fungus damage) and most bulbs are perfect. I am very happy with them. Last year I grew Patterson from seed and harvested a little over 4 pounds from 6 squares, so big improvement this year.




The Red Zeppelin onions were less successful. The bundle of plants from Dixondale contained half very large plants and the rest tiny, spindly plants. That was OK because I allocated less space to the red onions (I use fewer). Unfortunately, a lot of the large starts failed to break dormancy and just rotted, reducing the yield. These onions later were somewhat afflicted by onion thrips and I failed to spray. At least no purple blotch appeared this year. Last year I grew Red Wing and 5 squares yielded only 20 onions weighing 58 ounces.




Unfortunately, a lot of the Zeps looked like this. I had some of this last year with the Red Wing onions, but not nearly as bad so I did not worry about it.



You can see some lesions and the outer layers of the onion have split. I have no idea what causes this.  I find nothing similar in any of the onion pest and disease guides. Any ideas?


Other Onions

 The trouble with ordering from Dixondale is the more you buy, the cheaper (per bundle) it gets. So I wound up with 4 bundles of onions containing 6 different varieties of onions.




The past couple of years I have started some Rossa Lunga di Tropea onions from seed. I usually tuck them here and there in odd corners and just pull them when I want a fresh onion. I was surprised that Dixondale offered them, so I added a bundle to the order. Of course I wound up with far more plants than I usually use, so I allocated 6 square feet to them and wound up with this nice pile. They are not great keepers, so this pile is where I am going right now for onions.




The other bundle I purchased was a mixed bundle of three different intermediate day onions: Candy, Red Candy, and Super Star. I pulled a number of them as they formed bulbs, so this pile does not represent the total harvest. The Red Candy were the best performers, forming nice attractive bulbs with no disease issues. The bundle contained few of the yellow-skinned Candy onions and they did not grow well at all. The third onion was Super Star (actually half of them were leek plants) and they seemed to do well. Unfortunately, they did not dry well and I tossed most of them because they had stem rot. The two white onions above are the only survivors from the harvest. I did not bother to weigh these onions. The only onion I would consider growing again is the Red Candy.




  Total Wt. No. Bulbs Avg. Wt. Largest Bulb
Duganski 26 ox. 16 1.6 oz. 2 oz.
Chesnok Red 15 oz. 15 1 oz. 1.3 oz.
Spanish Roja 29 oz. 21 1.4 oz. 2.6 oz.
German X Hardy 20 oz. 17 1.2 oz. 1.8 oz.
German Red 35 oz. 16 2.8 oz. 4 oz.




German Extra Hardy is one of the first garlics I grew and is a reliable producer every year, although yield seems to be dropping. The first year I got 32 ounces from 4 squares, last year was 18 ounces, and this year I got 20 ounces. I selected some nice sized heads for seed garlic so hopefully next year is better.


This photo shows a trick I picked up from someone. While weighing the garlic I select the heads I am going to save for seed garlic for the fall. Those heads are labeled with a fine Sharpie to identify them and make sure they don’t get selected for dinner.




This is an example of what not to do with your garlic. The Spanish Roja, normally one of my best garlics, was in a separate bed from the rest and was not quite ready when I dug the other bed. Unfortunately, I forgot about them and harvested them too late. The result was a lot of the bulbs were opening up. In addition, they dried very poorly and as you can see, have a lot of mold I could not get off. I am going to break out a recipe like Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic to use these up since they will not keep. In fact. some of the heads are already bad and had to be tossed.


Last year I harvested 33 bulbs from 6 squares weighing 48 ounces, largest one was 2 ounces. This year I got 21 bulbs weighing 29 ounces, with largest bulb at 2.6 ounces. Last year some of the bulbs also did not clean up well and looked a lot like the picture above, so it has a bit to do with the variety.




I like Chesnok Red but it is not performing well in my garden.. This year I got 15 bulbs weighing a grand total of 15 ounces from 4 squares planted 4 per square. Last year I harvested 27 ounces from 4 squares planted  4 per square, which was also down from the year before. I am thinking of replacing this garlic with a different variety next year. However, reading descriptions on some garlic farm websites, it seems Chesnok Red typically produces smaller heads, and they point out the smaller garlics keep better than the larger. Not sure what I will do.




Duganski is new this year, with seed garlic purchased from Territorial. I was not happy with the bulbs I got from Territorial because they were harvested late, just like my Spanish Roja above, and were coming apart. The cloves germinated just fine and I got a nice harvest, with bulbs being dug at the appropriate time. This was my second largest garlic, coming in behind German Red.


German Red garlic


The German Red garlic did really well. It had the tallest foliage with the thickest stems, which promised big bulbs. That is exactly what it produced, very large bulbs with 4, sometimes 5 cloves. The largest bulb weighed 4 ounces (1 ounce per clove) and the average weight was 2.4 ounces. This garlic was new to me this year. I purchased bulbs at the MDI Garlic Festival last September from Goosefoote Farm of Vermont. They had the same garlic this year and it seemed (eyeball test only) their heads were smaller than last year and smaller than my harvest this year.


I visited the Mount Desert Island Garlic Festival again this year and intended to look for a garlic to replace Chesnok Red. There are so many great varieties, so it is a tough decision. I decided to look for some Phillips (also spelled Philips) garlic and purchased some nice heads from Salty Dog Farm of Milbridge, Maine. Phillips is a Rocambole hard neck variety acquired from a farm in Phillips, Maine by the Scatterseed Project. The farm owner, Raymond Rowe, got his original seed stock from a man in Rome, New York whose parents brought it from Italy when they immigrated to work on the Erie Canal. Besides the local origins and nifty history, this garlic is also supposed to be hardy and a relatively long keeper among Rocamboles. We will see.


While looking for Maine-based sources of the Phillips garlic, I ran across the useful web site of True North Farms in Montville, Maine. They are a large organic garlic grower and can sell seed garlic in large quantities to other garlic growers. Their web site has a lot of useful information for both commercial growers and home gardeners. On the Background tab of their site they show their cultivation practices, which involves a 3-year crop rotation with an elaborate sequence of ground cover crops. The Planting tab has detailed instructions for home gardens (including raised beds) and their recommended process for commercial growers.


Their commercial process was interesting and I learned a few things. Besides their extensive sequence of cover crops, they use certain amendments when planting and during the growing season. These include fish emulsion, humic acid and some of the Quantum Growth products. These are initially applied as a drench and then are sprayed on bi-weekly. The Quantum Growth products supply microorganisms (Rhodopsuedomonas palustris) that are capable of photosyntheis as well as other bacteria (Bacillus amyloliquefacien, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis, and Bacillus megaterium) that protect the plants from disease. In addition, they spray bi-weekly with Procidic, an organic bactericide and fungicide, something I need to start doing. At harvest, they spray an OMRI-approved sodium bicarbonate solution the day before they harvest to tamp down any mildew spores. Overall, an interesting process that might have some application to home gardens.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Harvest Monday 21 September 2015



We spent last week on Mount Desert Island in Maine, where we rented a cabin on the shores of Somes Sound, so I missed last week’s post (but I did not miss the garden and the weeds awaiting me). One of the tasks before we left was a quick pass through the garden, which resulted in the basket of cherry tomatoes above, to be added to the bowls already on the kitchen counter. Some  of these went along with us for salads. To clear the counters, the rest were turned into sauce, using Michelle’s Lazy Baked Tomato Sauce. It smelled wonderful but it all went into the freezer for now.




A few more things were picked from the garden. The larger tomatoes were used with tomatoes from the counter  in a batch of gazpacho that served as dinner, with leftovers taken along for lunches. With the beans essentially dead, it was surprising to find a few more beans that were not affected by disease. I also got my first Amarylla tomatillos, a yellow tomatillo from, surprisingly, Poland. It was bred to grow in cooler climates. Also pictured is the first Arroz con Pollo pepper, a spice pepper that is new to me this year. It ripens to yellow.




The peppers of Arroz con Pollo are small and grow upright at the top of the plant. The plants are looking very stressed from the drought. Fortunately it rained the weekend we left, so hopefully they recover because I want a few more of these peppers.




I did no gardening last week, just hiking, sightseeing and lots of eating. But I did get to the MDI Garlic Festival. It is a small event compared to other garlic festivals, but it was fun. I scored a few things at the festival. I found the Phillips garlic I wanted to try. These heads were purchased from the Salty Dog Farm of Milbridge, Maine. They grow beautiful garlic. The sea salt in the middle came from the Eggemoggin Salt Works in Deer Isle, Maine. A very potent salt that is going to be saved for seasoning and not brining. Not pictured  were the goat cheeses we purchased from Sunset Acres Farm & Dairy, a piece of Sea Smoke and a small wheel of the cultured Camembert-like cheese. We bought a baguette on the way home and the cheese was the star of a wine and cheese party on the porch while we watched the lobster boats do their evening rounds on the Sound.


Did I mention lobster? Part of the plan for the week was to eat a lot of lobster and crab. The best experience was probably the lobster stew at Jordan Pond House in the park. The lobster stew is a signature dish at this restaurant on the shores of Jordan Pond, along with its popovers, strawberry jam, and afternoon teas on the lawn. I have had many great dishes here but have avoided the lobster stew. I am not cheap, just value conscious. Paying $22 for a bowl of soup and a popover does not seem a great value, but this year I did it!


My vision of a lobster stew was a few pieces of lobster in a milky broth. The bowl I received would be considered a cup at some restaurants, and was actually dwarfed by the popover I chose (it was a good day for popovers, which are finicky beasts even for the pros). I tried the first spoonful of the broth and could not believe the flavor that was concentrated in that one spoonful. My wife had the same reaction. It was creamy and buttery and intensely flavored of lobster and the sea. There are lots of attempts to duplicate the recipe, and I am going to try to find one that approximates it. If you get a chance to eat at Jordan Pond House, the lobster stew is something you have to try.


We are back and the weeds in the garden are still calling my name, but I am ignoring them for now. Meanwhile, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions with me, our host for Harvest Monday, to see what is growing in other gardens around the world.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Harvest Monday 7 September 2015



The week started off hot but fortunately moderated later in the week. The drought continues with no significant rain the last month. Thursday I watched the Pats pre-season game in Foxborough, about 40 miles south and east of here. It started raining during the game, a nice soaking rain, but here we got a couple of rumbles of thunder but not a drop of rain. All of the shrubs and plants around here are showing signs of stress. My lawn is a dustbowl and the crab grass needs mowing, but it is too dusty to mow.




I picked an assortment of cucumbers and peppers. The white cukes are the first Crystal Apple cukes, which always seem to start late but then are pretty productive. Those vines are looking very good despite the dry weather. And a plus is their simple oval shape is hard to distort, unlike the other cucumbers. The brown cuke is a Poona Kheera.


The lack of pickling cucumbers has been frustrating, so I bought some nice, crisp picklers from the organic farm stand up the road and made two quarts of fermented dill pickles. I used grape leaves from the wild grapes that have invaded my herb garden. First time I made this type of pickle and I am amazed at how good they taste. I may buy some more and see if I can make some half-sours by letting them ferment for a shorter time. I will not have grape leaves to use because the vines are now dead from the drought, so I may substitute an oak leaf or use a tea bag.




I cleaned out one of the beds that had the now-dead pickling cucumbers and the beets. These are the last of the beets that were too small to harvest earlier. I also found a few small cucumbers among the weeds, shown above.




Picked some more paste tomatoes and a bag of cherry tomatoes I did not photograph. The counter was getting crowded so I finally made a batch of blender tomato sauce. I used my Ninja Ultima (I’m too cheap to buy a Vitamix) and it made quick work of it. It takes just a few seconds to turn the tomatoes, skin and all, into a puree. After cooking it down to thicken it a bit, I put it into containers and froze it. Had to clear out some tomato sauce from two years ago to make room for it. Hopefully this sauce will not have the same fate, but things tend to go into my freezer to die.




I was planning on saving the leeks for the fall, but it has been so dry the leeks are not happy. I harvested these leeks from the onion bed. They were supposed to be Super Star onions, so they did not get planted deeply, just the 1 inch depth I used for onion seedlings.




After being cleaned up they looked like this. Lots of green, not a lot of white, but I think they will be OK.




I mentioned to Daphne I have a neighbor who trellises his melons (I think these are melons, could be some kind of squash). Here are a couple photos of his vines. Above you can see one melon near the ground, supported by a stack of rocks. On the left is another one supported in a plastic grocery bag tied to the trellis. You can also see his vines drooping from the heat and drought.




Here is another melon/squash sitting on an inverted plastic flower pot. The white on the leaves is not PM, just lighting from the strong midday sun. It was 90+ that day.


That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday. I will not have a post next Monday because we will be camping in Maine on Mount Desert Island and attending the MDI Garlic Festival. One of the farm exhibitors will be Four Seasons Farm, the farm owned by Barbara Damrosch and Elliot Coleman.

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