Monday, January 19, 2015

Harvest Monday - January 19, 2015

I was playing hooky last Monday trying to hone my bread baking skills at a 2 day workshop so I skipped last week's harvest post so this post shows off two weeks worth of harvests. There's a few new or returning items in the harvest basket, most notably a head of Romanesco that suddenly demanded to be harvested. I used 1 1/2 pounds of florets to make a gratin with a cheese sauce and buttery bread crumbs (from one of the loaves from the bread workshop). That leaves another 3 1/2 pounds to enjoy in a couple more dishes.

Romanesco broccoli
The latest sowing of Speedy arugula has taken a cue from the dry and relatively warm weather to try to bloom so I harvested a good sized bunch of it. It's not too spicy or bitter in spite of starting to bolt. That's what I like about Speedy, it stays mild when most arugula varieties turn strong tasting.

Speedy arugula
This harvest of chard is not from the latest sowing, I sowed the seeds for these plants over a year ago on January 10 of 2014. They produced incredibly well through most of the year and then were hit with a severe powdery mildew infection in the fall. I stripped the plants down to the nubs and then they just sat through the cold and wet weather of December. Now that it's dry and warm again they've started to regrow. They probably won't produce a lot, they should start to bolt fairly soon, but it's nice to get a little something different.

Peppermint Stick and Golden chard
Ruby Gem is the one lettuce that I'm harvesting leaf by leaf. I love the contrast of the dark red and bright green. These leaves are small enough that I can arrange them whole on a plate to show off the pretty texture and colors. We've enjoyed a number of salads with this lettuce paired with winter fruits such as pomegranates or grapefruits and a simple vinaigrette.

Ruby Gem Romaine
More lacinato kale went into the harvest basket. Other than pecking birds, the kale has been mostly unmolested by pests this winter. They generally get a pretty good population of aphids round about now, but the aphid population in general seems to be lower this year.

Lacinato kale
I had to clear out the carrot patch to make way for shallot seedlings that were ready to plant out. Most of the carrots are on the small side except for the Muscades, not surprising considering it took me three attempts to get the carrot patch going last fall so they got a very late start. These are all waiting in the fridge for me to think of a way to use them. I also harvested a couple more big Spanish Black carrots that were volunteering in a different part of the garden, but those didn't get photographed.

Rotilde and Muscade carrots
Lunar White and Amarillo carrots
Deep Purple carrots

This is the first head of butterhead lettuce from the fall sowing.

Rhapsody butterhead lettuce
I was pleased and a bit surprised to see that some bulbs had formed in the fennel patch. They are growing from the stumps of the plants that I direct sowed into the garden nearly a year ago on January 20. I left the plants to bloom to feed beneficial insects and to provide a harvest of green seeds that I dried. Then I cut them down to the ground in December and they have struggled to grow back faster than the birds can peck away at the foliage. I hadn't paid them much attention lately other than to think that I need to get around to pulling them out. That may not be a perfect pale specimen, but it turn out to be delicious thinly sliced. It went into a salad with blood oranges, celery, hearts of palm and that head of Rhapsody butterhead lettuce.

Romanesco fennel
The celery continues to produce firm, crisp, sweet stalks that I'm harvesting stalk by stalk.

Dorato D'Asti celery
The only other things harvested in the past two weeks were the Mikado baby turnips that I wrote about in my post about Braised Baby Turnips and Carrots and some radishes. I cleaned out most of the radish patch except for the China Rose radishes. I did pull some of the China Rose that looked like they were on the verge of bolting, they had small roots and huge greens. This variety is described as a dual purpose radish, both the roots and greens are supposed to be good. So I tried braising the greens and indeed, they are delicious and surprisingly mild. I had expected them to have some "bite" like rapini but they turned out to be totally sweet. I'll be sure to photograph the next harvest to show how big the greens are.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past two weeks:

Speedy arugula - 11.4 oz.
Romanesco broccoli - 5 lb., .4 oz.
Amarillo Yellow carrots - 1 lb., 1.8 oz.
Deep Purple carrots - 11.1 oz.
Lunar White carrots - 6.4 oz.
Muscade carrots - 2 lb., .3 oz.
Rotilde carrots - 11.5 oz.
Spanish Black carrots - 11.7 oz.
Dorato D'Asti celery - 14.5 oz.
Golden chard - 3.9 oz.
Peppermint Stick chard - 4.9 oz.
Romanesco fennel - 6.8 oz.
Lacinato kale - 13.4 oz.
Rhapsody butterhead lettuce - 9.1 oz.
Ruby Gem romaine lettuce - 5.3 oz.
China Rose radishes - 1 lb., .4 oz. (including the greens)
Pink Beauty radishes - 4.2 oz.
Pink Punch radishes - .6 oz.
Selzer Purple radishes - 3.1 oz.
Mikado turnips - 27.4 oz.

The total harvests for the past two weeks were - 18 lb., 4.2 oz.
Which brings the harvests for 2015 to - 19 lb., 15 oz.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Variety Spotlight - Sweetie Baby Romaine Lettuce

Sweetie Baby Romaine

I think it's time for me to write a variety spotlight post about one of my favorite lettuces, perhaps my all time favorite lettuce if my harvest records are an indicator - Sweetie Baby Romaine. I try to restrict my spotlight posts to varieties that I grow time and again, tried and true favorites, and Sweetie Baby fits the bill. My detailed harvest records go back to January 1 of 2010, that's 5 complete years of weighing and tallying the vast majority of the vegetables that come out of my garden. Sweetie Baby shows ups every year - 6.7 pounds in 2010, 12.1 in 2011, 11 in 2012, 11.5 in 2013, and 8.3 in 2014. My interest didn't wane in 2014, I just expanded my interest in growing butterhead and other lettuces last year and there's just so much lettuce the two of us can eat, Sweetie Baby had to give some ground.

A look back through my blog before I started keeping harvest records indicates that I didn't grow Sweetie Baby or any other heading lettuces before 2010, all the lettuces I grew before that were cutting lettuce mixes. It's funny how you can keep serving up something that you think your spouse likes, after all they eat it without complaint time and again, and then finally they let you know that they prefer something else, in this case my husband's preference for crunchier lettuces like hearts of romaine, or tender butterhead lettuce, or even a wedge of iceberg (with blue cheese dressing!). Thus my abrupt shift from cutting lettuces to heading lettuces in early 2010. Of all the different varieties that I've tried over the past 5 years Sweetie Baby is the only one that I've grown every single year.



Shown above is my first planting and harvest of Sweetie Baby back in August of 2010. You can see that I spaced them a bit too close and that they were starting to bolt. My intention had been to thin them by harvesting the babies, leaving space for the rest of them to mature, but that didn't work since I didn't get around to the thinning part of the plan. It's a good thing that this variety lives up to the Sweetie part of it's name, it doesn't get bitter when it starts to send up it's flower stalk. Part of my evolution as a gardener has been to resist the temptation to plant everything that I manage to get to grow. In the past I just couldn't bear to toss out the excess plants that I started. These days, I select the best specimens to set out in the garden and the rest of them are given away or go into the compost.

Here's my current winter planting of Sweetie Baby, only 4 plants set out at the proper spacing. I resisted the temptation to grow a dozen or so plants so that I could grow other varieties of lettuce as well. That's a couple of butterhead lettuces on the right. This succession was sown into 4-inch pots on October 10 and set out in the garden on November 17. That may sound like a long time to wait for the lettuce to size up, but the days are short and the nights are cold and that really slows things down. My spring crop of Sweetie Baby was sown on January 17 and the first harvest was on April 28 at which time it was on the verge of bolting, which tells me that I need to get more seeds sown right away so that I could probably be harvesting again in early April.


I've got my fingers crossed that the current run of above normal temperature days don't give these the signal to bloom, they are just starting to form some nice hearts.

Sweetie Baby does well in a range of weather conditions, although it doesn't seem to like the hottest weather that we get here (which generally comes along in September and October), my intended fall crop this year became infested with powdery mildew and also bolted early. I think this fall's crop failure was because of a number of factors, for one it seemed that powdery mildew really ran rampant through the garden this year and I had the lettuce in a tunnel that restricted air circulation which may have worsened the PM infection. The weather also got to be quite hot just as the lettuce was maturing. My records show that I've had harvests every month of the year except January, but the bulk of the harvests have been from March through September. From the looks of it I'll be getting my first January harvests this year. This succession of plants sailed through the high 20ºF temperatures that settled on the garden a couple of weeks ago, but they are in a tunnel and also had added protection from a layer of frost cloth that I put on top of the tunnels.

Sweetie Baby is small as the name implies, it doesn't get to be as large as those huge heads that you find at the market. That's one of the things I like about it, one head is perfect for a generous salad for two if you use the outer leaves, and one head trimmed down to the heart makes a good serving for one person. Plus the small heads are much easier to store in the refrigerator if I need to clear out a patch.

If you are looking for seeds for Sweetie Baby that's the only downside to this variety, so far as I know the only source is Renee's Garden Seeds. Lucky for me Renee's is a local company so the seeds are carried by a number of local retailers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Braised Baby Turnips and Carrots

Mikado baby turnips

Wow, this really exceeded my expectations. Sometimes the most simple preparations are the best, and of course it doesn't hurt to use vegetables plucked fresh from the garden. The baby turnips are very mild and almost sweet, and of course the carrots are sweet, but big surprise, the turnip tops were sweet also, I had expected them to have some bite or heat but there was just a bare hint of that. This is based on the recipe of the same name from Chez Panisse Vegetables, with just some slight alterations on my part.

I used about 10 ounces of Mikado baby turnips, harvested when they were about 1 1/4-inches in diameter, give or take 1/4 inch (about a dozen turnips with their tops). Trim off the thin tap root and remove the leaves leaving about 1/2-inch of the stems attached. Reserve all but the yellowing or battered leaves, trim off the larger stems if desired. Scrub the roots lightly but don't peel them.

Use a like amount of baby carrots, I had a mix of purple, white, and orange carrots, tops removed with a bit of the stems left, lightly scrubbed. The carrots were large enough that I cut most of them in half lengthwise.

Put a few tablespoons of butter in a medium sized skillet. Melt the butter over medium heat, add the turnips and carrots and a couple of tablespoons of water, toss everything together. Cover the pan and bring the contents to a boil, toss the vegetables again, place the turnip leaves on top of the vegetables, cover the skillet and let everything steam for a moment or so. Toss the vegetables again, recover the pan and let everything steam a moment, do that a few times more until the veggies are tender but not soft. Season with salt (truffle salt!) and pepper and serve. And don't trim off the green stems, the stems on the baby vegetables are tender and sweet also.

This made enough to serve the two of us.

Next time I have to try to take a photo, it was a very pretty dish. I really wish the lighting in my kitchen was more conducive to photography, but most of the photos come out awful so I rarely bother with photographing finished dishes.



I definitely have to grow more of these. They are easy to grow, I sowed the seeds directly on October 21, they germinated quite quickly, but they did take quite a bit longer than the 30 days to harvest stated on the seed packet, my first real harvest was yesterday, a bit more than 2 months to the first harvest. That's to be expected though, everything grows much more slowly in the short days of winter. I imagine that spring sown seeds will size up much more quickly. One of the turnips had a bit of damage from something that bored into it, so I trimmed out the damaged part and consumed that turnip raw to see if it is actually tasty that way (as claimed on the seed packet), and indeed it is. I'll be trying some of these in a salad with the next harvest. They would make a great addition to a crudité platter as well.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Harvest Monday - January 5, 2015

Last week the weather got even colder than the week before. Temperatures dropped to freezing a number of nights and daytime highs struggled to max out in the mid-50ºF's (about 12ºC). That's a cold day for us, but I know those of you in colder climates might think that a balmy day at this time of year. So guess what the high is forecast to be today - a balmy 72ºF! (22.2ºC) But the rain has disappeared before the drought is even close to being over. I would definitely trade some cold wet days for the balmy ones ahead.

There's a couple of new things in the harvest basket this week, I've started to harvest the Ruby Gem romaine on a cut-and-come-again basis. It's so pretty. Oh, and that's a few sprigs of arugula that I didn't tally. There were just a few snap and snow peas ready to harvest. I haven't taken a good look at the plants since the nights got to be so cold, they could be frost nipped into oblivion by now.


And I harvested the first spinach. I've got two varieties for the winter. Guntmadingen is a Swiss heirloom. I love it for the unique shape of the leaves and it's sweet flavor.

Guntmadingen spinach
And Summer Perfection spinach which also happens to do well in the winter around here. I used some of the Guntmadingen spinach is a dish of wilted spinach with garlic and Maitake mushrooms. The rest of it and the Summer Perfection spinach was used in a dish of creamed spinach and mushrooms baked with eggs and Parmigiano for a meatless main dish accompanied by a salad of the Ruby Gem lettuce with radishes, celery, apple, and pomegranate arils.

Summer Perfection spinach
More of the rapini needed to be harvested, it was getting leggy even though it really wasn't forming flower heads, the leafy greens will be good. I think it's probably best to grow these for spring or fall harvests.


I keep getting to harvest stalks of celery. I've got four plants so I can harvest a stalk from each plant without cutting them back too hard. I hope these plants don't bolt early this spring.


Most of the radishes except for the China Rose are nearly all harvested.


I had to clear out part of the carrot patch to make room for the new onion plants. The Muscade carrots have sized up the best.

Muscade carrots
Most of the rest are on the small side, although many of the Deep Purple carrots are a respectable size. Next fall I have to do a better job of keeping the birds out of the carrot patch, it took three attempts before I could get the patch going so these were weeks later than they should have been.

Rotilde, Lunar White, Amarillo, and Deep Purple carrots
There were a few other things that didn't get photographed. I had a basket of Tarbais beans that hadn't been shelled yet, they were from the second round that the plants produced, so I cleaned those and got them into the tally. And I harvested more Tronchuda Beira cabbage leaves for some soup and probably the final harvest of Di Ciccio broccoli.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Tarbais beans - 8.9 oz.
Di Ciccio broccoli - 9.6 oz.
Tronchuda Beira cabbage - 8.7 oz.
Amarillo carrots - .9 oz.
Deep Purple carrots - 2.5 oz.
Lunar White carrots - .7 oz.
Muscade carrots - 9.9 oz.
Rotilde carrots - 4 oz.
Dorato D'Asti celery - 1 lb., 9 oz.
Ruby Gem Romaine lettuce - 4 oz.
Super Sugar Snap peas - 3.1 oz.
Golden Sweet Snow peas - 1.8 oz.
China Rose radish - .9 oz.
Helios radishes - 1.2 oz.
Pink Punch radishes - 2.8 oz.
Selzer Purple radishes - 9 oz.
Early rapini - 12.9 oz.
Guntmadingen spinach - 1 lb., 1.6 oz.
Summer Perfection spinach - 13 oz.

The total harvests for the week were - 8 lb., .4 oz.
Which makes the final tally for 2014 - 1207 lb., 6.7 oz.
And starts the tally for 2015 with - 1 lb., 10.8 oz.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Garden Share Collective - January 2015

I'll start with a quick tour of the garden on the last day of the year.

Bed #4
Bed #4 has been cleared of all the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Half the bed is sown with Extra Early Violet fava beans. They are enclosed in netting draped cages to protect the seedlings from the birds. The first beans have started to emerge. The other half of the bed has been sown with Kodiak mustard as a cover crop and green manure. I cut the peppers and eggplants nearly to the ground and sowed the mustard around the stumps. I hope that by the time the mustard is ready to turn in, likely some time in March, the roots of the peppers and eggplants will have rotted for the most part and added to the organic matter in the soil. The mustard is also covered up to keep the birds from feasting on the plants.


Bed #1 had a few stragglers from the fall garden, snap and snow peas on the trellis, a few Watermelon radishes, a patch of multi-colored carrots, and bolting cilantro. The area with the fabric covering the soil is where I had cut down a mustard cover crop and dug it in.

Bed #1
I had planted the far end of the bed with garlic on November 8 and most of it had sprouted by the end of December.

Garlic in Bed #1
Bed #2 is devoted to fall and winter vegetables, including chard, celeriac, celery, Romanesco broccoli, Lacinto kale...
Bed #3
Di Ciccio sprouting broccoli, Tronchuda Beira cabbage, some experimental late plantings of escarole and radicchio.


Bed #3 was just lately cleared of the Tromba D'Albenga squash and cucumbers after the first frost of the season about 10 days ago. We've had overnight temperatures dipping into the freezing range since then so I started to cover the celery plants with frost cloth to protect the stems. I've found that even though celery can survive overnight freezes it makes the stems spongy and unappetizing. The bottles of water shown below are warming up in the sunlight and then I place them amongst the celery plants before I cover them up for the night. The water should add a bit more protection from the cold temperatures.

Bed #3
The tunnels in Bed #3 are protecting more winter greens. The tunnels are for bird protection but they also provide support for an additional cover of frost cloth. This tunnel has a few struggling beets and some happy lettuces (Michelle batavian, Ruby Gem romaine, Superior iceberg, Rhapsody butterhead,  and Sweetie Baby romaine). I've started to harvest the Ruby Gem romaine on a cut-and-come-again basis.

Bed #3
The other tunnel is protecting the winter parsley, arugula, radishes, turnips, rapini, and spinach. I will have to clear out this bed by the end of January so that in February I can dig out the invading oak roots, line the bed with a root barrier, and then sow it with a cover crop in preparation for setting out tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants by June 1.

Bed #3
December seeding and planting activities -

  • December 13 sowed favas directly into Bed #4.
  • December 17, sowed seeds for Blue Solaise and Lungo Della Riviera leeks, Zebrune shallots, Express Red and Pixie cabbages, all in 4-inch pots.
  • December 23, sowed more favas to complete the sowing along the length of Bed #4.
  • Sowed Kodiak mustard in Bed #4 as a cover crop (didn't record the date).



Here's a summary of the harvests in December:

December Summary
Lb.
Kg.
Beans
0.6
0.3
Broccoli
3.0
1.4
Cabbage
1.8
0.8
Carrots
2.7
1.2
Celery
2.7
1.2
Cucumbers
1.4
0.6
Eggplant
10.0
4.5
Kale
1.8
0.8
Lettuce
0.2
0.1
Peas
2.9
1.3
Radishes
2.1
1.0
Rapini
1.5
0.7
Spinach
1.9
0.9
Turnips
0.1
0.0
Zucchini
2.8
1.2

35.4
16.1



December
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
Beans, dried

1.2
1.2

0.6
Beets

0.8



Broccoli

3.4
0.6
1.4
3.0
Broccoli, Romanesco
5.4




Cabbage, incl. Napa



6.2

Cabbage, Portuguese


2.1

1.8
Carrots



0.2
2.7
Celery


2.1
1.8
2.7
Celeriac
18.3
7.3



Chard


2.0


Cucumbers




1.4
Eggplant


5.1
4.1
10.0
Garlic



0.4

Kale
7.5
1.9
2.2
1.7
1.8
Lettuce

1.8
0.2

0.2
Onion


4.1


Pea, snap and snow



0.3
2.9
Peppers
0.6
3.0
7.5
29.6

Radishes




2.1
Rapini




1.5
Spinach

1.7


1.9
Tomatoes


11.0
6.0

Turnips




0.1
Zucchini



0.5
2.8

31.8
21.1
38.1
52.1
35.5

You can see photos and details of my harvests in my weekly Harvest Monday posts.

Plans for January include -
  • Plant out onions in Bed #1, which is half finished already. I received my order of mixed onion seedlings from Dixondale Farms on January 2 and planted them on January 3. The onions that I started from seed will be planted out by the end of the month.
  • Finish cleaning out Bed #1 in preparation for planting shallots and leeks.
  • Remove broccoli from Bed #2.
  • Find new strawberry plants to go into Bed #2.
  • Clear out Bed #3 as mentioned before.
  • Sow seeds for spring broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuces? I may wait until February for that, depending on whether or not the plants in Bed #2 look like they are on the verge of bolting or not.
  • Finalize my seed selections and order up!


The Garden Share Collective is a group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills. Creating a monthly community to navigate through any garden troubles and to rival in the success of a good harvest we will nurture any beginner gardener to flourish. Each month we set ourselves a few tasks to complete by the next month, this gives us a little push to getting closer to picking and harvesting. The long-term goal of the Garden Share Collective is to get more and more people gardening and growing clean food organically and sustainably.

The Collective is hosted by Lizzie on her blog Strayed from the Table, there you will find links to gardeners in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Europe, and United States. There's lots of garden inspiration waiting for you there!