Monday, June 20, 2016

Harvest Monday - June 20, 2016

This past week was a pretty generous one for harvests. A number of the spring vegetables are coming to an end and one more summer vegetable is just getting started.

All the cauliflower was ready (or past ready) to be harvested this week. One was on the small side, not quite a buttoned head but not close to full sized either. Another was larger but a bit past its prime so it was loose headed.

Amazing Taste Cauliflower
And I caught the third one just a bit past its prime, it could have been a bit more dense, but it's pretty nice. I roasted the larger florets from the big head shown above and served it atop a Delicata squash puree (still some of those keeping from last year) with some crisp bits of bacon. Last night I roasted the rest of that head after tossing the florets with a mix of finely chopped capers and shallots (shallots from last year also).

Amazing Taste Cauliflower

Sabre Shelling Peas
The shelling peas are just about finished and they put out one big almost final harvest, there's just a few pods left on the plants that I've got to get to today before they get to be too large and starchy. I've been enjoying a lot of the peas straight from the pods in my almost daily lunch salad.

Bolero Carrots
Many of the carrots were in prime condition for pulling. I cleaned out all of the Bolero carrots in 2 separate harvests.

Bolero Carrots

Nelson Carrots
Then I pulled the largest of the Nelson carrots. They were a bit shaded by the Boleros so they are sizing up more slowly.

Rotild Carrots
The Rotild carrots were at the back of the carrot patch and were quite shaded by the quick growing and huge topped Pusa Asita Black and Pusa Rudhira Red carrots. They've started to size up now that they're getting more light.

Purple Sun Carrots
The Purple Sun carrots are in the middle of the patch and have also been slow to size up. I think most purple vegetables are slower growing than their green counterparts anyway, so the next time I grow these they will get to be in the sunniest position.

Purple Sun Carrots

Pusa Rudhira Red Carrots
I pulled all of the Pusa Rudhira Red carrots and got a decent amount.

Not Pusa Asita Black Carrots
And that's the last of the Pusa Asita Black carrots which turned out not to be Pusa Asita Black. I emailed Baker Creek and sent them a photo of the carrots and they have offered to refund the price of the seeds or send me another variety.

Last night I tried whole roasted carrots for the first time (inspired by the roasted carrots from Glen Ellen Star restaurant that Dave had remembered having about a year ago). The weather was quite warm so instead of heating up the kitchen I fired up the Big Green Egg and roasted the carrots in a cast iron skillet in there instead of the oven. They came out great! I preheated the skillet first and then slicked two each of the Bolero, Nelson, Purple Sun, and Pusa Rudhira Red carrots with some rice bran oil (I use rice bran oil for high heat cooking because it has a high smoke point) and kept the BGE at about 450º F. They all got turned once so they developed some nice dark caramelization on two sides. When the were almost tender I sprinkled them with some brown sugar and a spice blend that was about equal parts dried green coriander seeds, cumin seeds, canela cinnamon, and cocoa nibs, then served them with some chopped cilantro. I used that same spice blend to season a sort of BBQ sauce made from dried Quatro Milpas chiles from my stash that I simmered in water until soft, blended until smooth, then sizzled the spices in some oil, added the chile puree back along with some sugar and pineapple vinegar and salt and simmered it all until thick. Simple and delicious atop a grilled pork rib chop.

Pink Plume Celery
I've always been leery of growing celery in the spring since I've read that they are fussy about temperature fluctuations which is the norm from winter through early summer here, but I really wanted to try the Pink Plume celery so I tried a spring sowing and the plants have performed far beyond my expectations. I've been harvesting a few stalks almost every day and the plants just keep getting bigger and seem to be resisting the urge to bolt. It will be interesting to see how they do as summer progresses. I will be sowing another round soon to get me through this fall and the winter of 2017.

Buck's Horn Plantain
I cut the Buck's Horn plantain back hard and kept just some of the youngest and most tender leaves. It came back very nicely from the initial harvests for which I cut back the entire plant to within an inch of the soil line. Some of the plants have been producing flowers but it hasn't had a detrimental effect on the flavor and the young flower stalks are tender enough to eat too.

Manoa Crisphead Lettuce

I harvested the first two heads of Manoa crisphead lettuce. This variety is adapted to warm weather having been selected to perform in Hawaii and so far it is doing well in the warm but generally not too hot weather that we've been enjoying lately. Each head was just the perfect size for a main course salad for the two of us.

Manoa Crisphead Lettuce
Romanesco Zucchini
If you have watched my harvests for the past few summers you will be familiar with the hybrid Romanesco zucchini that I've been growing. There's the first one for this year! It didn't get pollinated so it wasn't much larger than that when I harvested it, but the next couple of ones will be more typical of this variety as you'll see next week.

Fresh Caper Buds
The caper harvests are continuing. I'll have more than enough to get me through the year - 2.2 pounds so far!

Other harvests that didn't get photographed included just a few shoots of broccoli and the last of the radicchio which was getting to be a bit brown around the edges but seems to be ok after a bit of trimming.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past week:

Batavia broccoli - 6.2 oz.
Capers - 5.7 oz.
Bolero carrots - 3 lb.
Nelson carrots - 14.9 oz.
Purple Sun carrots - 4.9 oz.
Pusa Rudhira Red carrots - 1.6 lb.
Rotild carrots - .7 oz.
Not Pusa Asita Black carrots - 3.2 oz.
Amazing Taste cauliflower - 4.4 lb.
Pink Plume celery - 1 lb.
Manoa Crisphead lettuce - 1 lb.
Sabre shelling peas - 3.2 lb.
Buck's Horn plantain - 7.7 oz.
Palla Rossa radicchio - 2.8 lb.
Romanesco zucchini - 3.1 oz.

Total harvests for the past week - 20.5 pounds
2016 YTD - 317.2 pounds

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to be inspired by what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Harvest Monday - June 13, 2016

Can it be, is there a "summer" veggie in the harvest basket?

Green Fingers Persian Cucumber
Yes! Congratulations, it's a cucumber.

And another first in the harvest basket is Pink Plume celery, which I've been harvesting stalk by stalk by stalk.....

Pink Plume Celery

This is an heirloom variety of celery that was introduced in 1894, became very popular, and then virtually disappeared from the commercial seed trade. Seed Savers Exchange offered it this year and I couldn't resist. And I was so eager to try it that I attempted a spring sowing of celery for the first time and it seems to have worked.

Pink Plume celery is full flavored but sweet and very crunchy. The stalks aren't as juicy as a typical celery but they aren't tough either, although I haven't yet tried just munching on a stalk so I don't know if it's stringy.  I've been cutting a few stalks almost every day and slicing them into my salads for lunch and also added some to a white bean and tuna salad that featured some Purgatory beans from my stash in the pantry.

Little Jade Napa Cabbage

I cut the other 2 napa cabbages that were in the garden and it's a good thing I did because I found that something had gotten into the heads and started to munch.

Pixie Cabbage

And then I found that yet a different pest had found the green cabbage - a blasted RAT! I'm afraid that it may be The Second Year of the Rat - the count has started and I'm up to 7. If you don't know what I'm talking about check the sidebar on my blog and scroll down until you find the tally that I kept in 2011 as Zeke and I caught rat after rat until the tally hit 96 rats - all in less than 6 months. Ugh. Sigh.

Sabre Shelling Peas and Apollo Brokali

The broccoli and brokali plants are not producing very many side shoots, just little things like the ones shown above with the peas. I'm happy I've got a few new broccoli plants coming along and didn't count on side shoot production for the summer.

Sabre Shelling Peas
My little experimental patch of shelling peas continues to produce. I think it was well worth the space, the plants are producing just enough to enjoy some fresh peas every few days and I don't have to deal with a glut. Lately I've been enjoying them raw in my salads. We also enjoyed a bruschetta topping made with some of the peas and some of the last of the freshly peeled Robin Hood favas with crumbled ricotta salata cheese, shallots (still some from last year!), basil, and mint. I grilled the bread after lightly smearing it with some Green Garlic Cream.

My caper bushes are producing lots of buds this year, about 1/2 pound a week.

Ramata di Milano Onion
I keep finding an onion here and there that has decided to bolt. By this time last year a lot of the Candy and Superstar onions that I was growing were sending up flower stalks. It's not as bad this year, just a few onions and not any one particular variety has bolted. I don't know if it's because the new varieties that I'm growing are more suited to my climate or if it's because the temperature swings haven't been as extreme and frequent as they were the last couple of years. But I'm still keeping my fingers crossed, the onions aren't anywhere near mature yet so there's still plenty of time for misbehaving.

Last week I showed a photo of my friends who rescued a couple of big plants of chard. I felt a bit guilty about foisting such a glut upon them so I decided to take the Chard Challenge up myself and cut a big stalk of Peppermint Stick Chard. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of it but I did weigh it after cutting the leaves from the main stem. But then I had to cook it. I started by dealing with the sheer mass of all that greenery by cutting the greens from the stems and blanched the greens to reduce the volume so I could wedge it all into the fridge. Then we had a different chard dish for dinner three nights in a row. Night #1 featured the greens - chopped and sauteed with spring onion (one of those bolters) and pancetta. I put the sauteed greens in personal sized cazuelas and dosed them with tomato sauce (still a bunch in the freezer), topped it with a couple of slices of grilled homemade levain bread with sliced mozzarella and grated parmesan, drizzled with olive oil and baked until hot. Dave love that one and couldn't believe that I only made 2 portions. Night #2 was a gratin made with some of the stems sauteed with butter and shallots, placed in a gratin dish with tomato sauce and creme fraiche, topped with bread crumbs and parmesan and baked until bubbling hot. That was another hit. Night #3 featured both greens and stems. This time I sauteed them in olive oil with some spring onion and then added some cooked Greek Gigante Beans, placed that mix in a gratin dish, topped that with strips of roasted Shepherd's Ramshorn sweet peppers (from the freezer), added a generous drizzle of pomegranate molasses, topped it all with bread crumbs and a good amount of olive oil. Baked until hot. Another winner! Ahh, but there's still some blanched greens and a few stems left in the fridge...

So here's the details of the harvests for the past week:

Pixie cabbage - 1.6 lb.
Little Jade napa cabbage - 5.7 lb.
Capers - 8.5 oz.
Pink Plume celery - 1.1 lb.
Peppermint Stick chard - 4.3 lb.
Green Fingers cucumbers - 3 oz.
Ramata di Milano onion - 1.1 lb.
Sabre shelling peas - 2.2 lb.

Total for the week - 16.8 pounds  (7.6 kg.)
2016 YTD - 296.7 pounds (135 kg.)

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Harvest Monday - June 6, 2016

The summer veggies are taking up more space in the garden but aren't producing yet so the harvests are still full of spring veggies.

I can't remember the last time I even tried to grow shelling peas. Sugar snap peas have long been my favorite because of the generous volume they produce for a given space and because they require so little effort post harvest. But this year I had the space to try a low growing variety of shelling pea so I put in an experimental patch. These might do even better if I gave them some support but it's worked out ok to just let them sprawl and support each other. They sure are delicious and I'm thinking I'll devote some space to them again next spring.

Sabre Shelling Peas
Sabre Shelling Peas
Sabre Shelling Pea

Pixie cabbage is back in the harvest basket again. I think this is the 3rd year that I've grown this variety of green cabbage. It is reliable, not too large and not too small, and it's sweet. It's quick to produce also, this head was ready 60 days after I set the tiny seedlings in the garden. I used half of this head in a saute with the first harvest of the Sabre Peas, some Bolero carrots, a spring onion, some Chicken Bacon Rodeo sausage from a local artisan butcher, and some fresh basil.

Pixie Cabbage
Bolero Carrots

Some of the spring carrots are sizing up nicely now. The Boleros are the carrots that I used in that cabbage saute. Later in the week I harvested more carrots. The Nelson carrots went into a second saute of peas, carrots, and cabbage in brown butter with basil and onion.

Nelson Carrots
Pusa Rudhira Red Carrots
Rotild Carrots
Shanghai Baby Pac Choi

I sowed an experimental patch of pac choi back on April 25. These are supposed to be best sown in the fall since they are prone to bolting in the spring, but they did ok for me, probably because we had our usual Gray May cool foggy weather this year, but they were on the verge of bolting when I got around to harvesting them. I haven't gotten around to cooking them up yet, so it remains to be seen if I grow them again since they do have to be tasty to return to the garden.

Speedy Arugula
My latest succession of Speedy arugula produced a generous basket of goodness when I finally got around to cutting it. A few of the plants had started to bolt, but that's ok since Speedy doesn't get too spicy when it decides to bloom.

Tropea Rossa Tonda Onion

Yellow Spanish Utah Onion

Speaking of blooming, I found the first bolting onions last week. The red one ended up in the first cabbage saute. Half of the second one ended up in the second saute of carrots, peas, and cabbage sans sausage.

Buck's Horn Plantain
I shaved another part of the Buck's Horn Plantain patch. It's amazing how the dust sized seeds end up producing really big lush plants. The next time I sow this, and there will definitely be a next time, I have to have a little more faith and sow them more widely spaced. I may try moving a couple of the plants to another part of the garden where I can let them bloom their hearts out since they are supposed to be perennials and the flowers are supposed to be attractive to butterflies and beneficial insects.

Robin Hood Fava Beans
Robin Hood Fava Beans

That's the last 2 harvests of Robin Hood fava beans. Out of curiosity I weighed the beans in the pods that are shown in the first photo, then the shucked beans, then the peeled beans. The results were 12.1 pounds pods, 4.74 pounds shucked beans, 2.72 pounds peeled beans. The yield of peeled beans might have been a bit greater but I harvested a number of beans before they fully filled out because I needed to cut down the plants.

Scarlet Ohno Revival Turnips
Yikes, I could not believe how large the Scarlet Ohno Revival Turnips got while I was not looking. They look good in spite of their size and I have in mind turning them into something mashed and buttery.

White Beauty Radishes
I cleared out the latest bunch of radishes, all of which I've grown and shown before except for the White Beauty. I'll spare you photos of the rest of the radishes.

Palla Rossa Radicchio

It seems that only 1 of the 8 Palla Rossa Radicchio that I planted didn't turn into a round head but came out tall and a bit on the green side, which really isn't bad for an open pollinated type of radicchio.

Chard Rescue Society
The Chard Rescue Society made sure that some of my oversized Italian Silver Rib and Peppermint Stick chard escaped the confines of the compost bin. I won't feel bad if much of it turns into chicken treats, that's a lot of chard! Thanks Catherine and Lee for rescuing the greens...

Monticello Poppy
My patience with the volunteer Monticello poppies has been rewarded, they have started to bloom. The beautiful blossoms are huge and hugely attractive to bees. It's great fun to watch the bees swim around in the blossoms gathering up loads of pollen. If I can spare the space and let them mature I should be able to gather the edible seeds which is what this variety is grown for.

Not photographed last week were the latest lettuce harvests since they were a bit ragged looking and I've shown them before. And there were a couple of very small shoots of broccoli that escaped the camera as well.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past week:

Speedy arugula - 1 lb., 5.1 oz.
Batavia broccoli - 2.2 oz.
Apollo brokali - 1.2 oz.
Pixie cabbage - 2 lb., 4.3 oz.
Capers - 15.7 oz.
Bolero carrots - 9 oz.
Nelson carrots - 7.4 oz.
Pusa Rudhira Red carrots - 5.8 oz.
Rotild carrots - 4.5 oz.
Other carrots not true to type - 1 oz.
Italian Silver Rib chard - 4 lb., (guesstimate)
Peppermint Stick chard - 3 lb., (guesstimate)
Robin Hood fava beans - 19 lb., 12 oz.
Joker Crisphead lettuce - 10.4 oz.
Red Butter Romaine lettuce - 10.1 oz.
Tropea Rossa Tonda onion - 13.7 oz.
Yellow Spanish Utah onion - 1 lb., 8.9 oz.
Shanghai Baby pac choi - 1 lb., 12.5 oz.
Sabre shelling peas - 1 lb., 11.5 oz.
Buck's Horn plantain - 1 lb., 14.8 oz.
Helios radishes - 11.6 oz.
Malaga radishes - 7 oz.
Petit Dejeuner radishes - 10.6 oz.
Pink Punch radishes - 6.9 oz.
White Beauty radishes - 12.5 oz.
Palla Rossa radicchio - 13.7 oz.
Round Red turnips - 6.2 oz.
Scarlet Ohno Revival turnips - 2 lb., 13.9 oz.

Total harvests for the week - 49 lb., 8.5 oz. (22.5 kg.)
2016 YTD - 279 lb., 15.4 oz. (127 kg.)

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Tomato and Pepper Progress Report

I'm a few days late this year but close enough to my target date of June 1 to get the tomatoes and peppers into the garden. I've covered the basic bed preparation in previous posts, most lately in my Winter to Spring Progress Report, where I describe my process of growing a cover crop and digging it in. After digging in the cover crop and spreading a layer of compost I covered it all up with some newspaper and cardboard, turned off the irrigation to that bed, and let it rest until last week when I dug in a natural slow release fertilizer blend.

Tomato & Pepper Bed May 24

One of the reasons I was a little late getting the bed planted was because of my fava harvests. You can see in the photo above the bed beyond the soon to be tomato and pepper bed. The closer side of that bed is where I grew the favas along the entire length of the bed, two varieties this year. My good old reliable Extra Precoce Violetto favas were done producing in time to be cut down as you can see, they were on the right. But the new Robin Hood favas were a couple weeks slower to finish and I couldn't move the trellis without tearing out at least half of them. I put that off as long as I could but finally harvested all the beans, ready or not, from the plants on this side of the trellis last weekend. One good thing about the Robin Hood favas is that they are short and bushy so they don't need staking. I only had to cut down half the plants to move the trellis because I hadn't tied any of them to the trellis.

Last year I switched from using tomato cages to the trellis for various reasons. I have been growing my favas in succession after the tomatoes, previously in the tomato cages and this year along the length of the trellis. It was handy growing them along the trellis because it was easy to tie the plants up to the trellis when they started to flop over. The trellis was also easier with the favas because the beans were easier to harvest, it was always awkward to reach inside the cages to get to the beans. The succession has worked well with the Extra Precoce Violetto favas, they have always finished producing by the end of May so I could reliably get the cages moved to plant the tomatoes on time. So the Robin Hood favas threw me for a bit of a loop this year with their lateness. Next year I think I'll stick with the EPV favas. It's nice to be able to keep the trellis in the garden because it's difficult to move and I don't have a good place to store it without rolling it up which I don't want to do.

So, at last, there's the bed yesterday morning shown above, finally prepped, drip lines firmly in place, trellis set. And there it is below at the end of the day, all the tomato and pepper plants set out. I used Mykos mycorrhizal inoculant and Azos beneficial bacterial inoculant when I watered them in. I've been using those treatments on my peppers for the last couple of years and they seem to promote some really good healthy growth, the leaves on the plants get to be larger which protects the large fruited sweet peppers that I adore from getting sunburn. The plants also seem to be more productive than ever.

Another thing that I'm experimenting with this year is the spacing for the peppers. The last few years I've set them out in 3 rows with the middle row staggered. Last year I had problems with some of the plants in the center row getting shaded by plants in the outer rows. Part of the problem was that I grew a number of new varieties and I didn't realize that some of them were going to be quite tall and I had them planted next to shorter varieties. This year I've got a lot of new varieties again and have the same problem, I don't know how tall they might get to be. So this year I'm going for two rows with the plants spaced more closely in the row, about 10.5 inches, but set further apart from the second row, about 18 inches apart. The second row is staggered. I've placed most of the plants that I know will be quite tall in the inner row at this end of the bed. The far end of the bed is where I've grouped all the plants that I know will be short. The plants that I have no clue how tall they will become are placed in the outer row in front of the tall growers. 

Tomato and Pepper Bed on June 4

Ok, so what tomatoes and peppers am I growing this year?

I ended up with 11 different tomato varieties. I skipped growing any paste or sauce varieties this year because I still have loads of canned tomatoes and frozen sauces and purees and a couple of the beefsteak types I'm growing are good for sauce anyway. Two of my favorite cherry types are back - Camp Joy and Sweet Gold. I'm trying one new cherry/plum variety from Italy called Piccolo Dattero (thanks for the seeds Sue!). And there's an oddball tomato called Reisetomate From Transylvania which is basically a pull apart bunch of fused cherry tomatoes. Lime Green Salad is also new in the lineup, a small determinate type that ripens to an amber skin and chartreuse interior. (Thanks Dot for the Reisetomate and Lime Green Salad seeds!) Another new tomato that I'm trying is Orange Jazz from Artisan Seeds, an orange beefsteak with yellow stripes. And there's one more new tomato in the lineup - Pomme d'Amour is supposed to be quite similar to some of the first tomatoes that made their way from the Americas to Europe, a curiosity that I found at Roughwood Seeds. And a few favorites are returning - Jaune Flamme, Mavritanskite, Chianti Rose, and Pantano - you can see all of those in my harvest posts from last fall.

Now for the peppers. I squeezed 24 varieties in varying amounts for a total of 55 plants into the bed. Returning peppers include:
  • Aji Amarillo (2)
  • Craig's Grande Jalapeño (1)
  • Florina (4)
  • Gogosar (4)
  • Lady Bell (4)
  • Mareko Fana (1)
  • Odessa Market (2) 
  • Rosso Dolce da Appendere (3)
  • Shepherd's Ramshorn (4)
  • Sonora Anaheim (2)
  • Yummy Belles (4)
Most of those are sweet peppers with the exceptions of Aji Amarillo, Craig's Grande Jalapeño, and Sonora Anaheim. I grew all of them last year so you can see those in my harvest post from last fall as well.

So 31 plants are old favorites and the remaining 22 plants include the following varieties:
  • Aji Amarillo Grande (2), a larger fruited version of the Aji Amarillo from last year
  • Etiuda (2), a yellow sweet bell type
  • Mirasol (1), the dried pepper is called a Guajillo
  • Negro (1), also known as Pasilla, it ripens to a very dark brown
  • Ometepe (2), a large sweet red pepper from Nicaragua
  • Petite Marseillais (3), a small sweet golden pepper from the south of France
  • Pimento (Turkey) (1), a complete unknown other than that it is sweet and from Turkey
  • Violet Sparkle (2), a small sweet pepper that starts violet and ripens to red
  • IPK P 262 (Turkey)
  • IPK P 557 (Italy)
  • IPK P 632 (Italy)
  • IPK P 633 (Italy)
  • IPK P 852 (Italy)
The IPK peppers don't have names, those are the accession IDs used by the seed bank that the Seed Savers Exchange obtained their seeds from. All I know is that they are supposed to be sweet and what the country of origin happens to be. It will be interesting to see what they turn out to be. I put in one plant of each variety.

Summer is well and truly here when there are tomatoes and peppers in the garden. I just wish I still didn't have to wait a few months to taste them.