Monday, October 16, 2017

Harvest Monday - October 16, 2017

It's mid-October and the last varieties of tomato and sweet pepper to ripen have finally joined the party in the harvest basket. I thought for a while that the Jazz tomato plant hadn't even set any tomatoes but it was when I was in the process of whacking the vines down because of their failure to produce that I discovered some very green tomatoes lurking in the tangle of greenery so I stopped whacking and waited to see if they would amount to anything. I'm glad I waited because that first tomato turned out to be very tasty. Ometepe set plenty of peppers but they really take their good old sweet time ripening. Again, it's been worth the wait. The peppers have a medium thick flesh that is very sweet. Ometepe peppers are a good size too, about as large as a small bell pepper.

Jazz Tomato and Ometepe Pepper
Another first glimpse...

Hopi Greasy Head Corn
Taos Red Beans
That's about half the ears of Hopi Greasy Head flour corn that I rescued from the rodents. The Taos Red beans have colorful pods as well as beans. You'll get to see the shelled dry beans later.

Mareko Fana
The two year old Mareko Fana plant has produce more peppers this year than last year. It will be more than enough to restock my supply of pepper flakes.

Baby Aji Amarillo
The two year old Baby Aji Amarillo plant produced enough peppers to make a batch of pepper jam, which I haven't gotten around to making yet.

Unnamed Turkish Sweet
The Turkish pepper has some very nice specimens ripening now. Growing the plant in a cage made for a lot of wonky shaped peppers so I'm looking forward to growing them again next year and giving them room to spread their branches out so that the peppers are more straight. I'll have more than enough seeds to be able to grow this pepper again in years to come.

Florina, Petite Marseillais, Topeop Giallo,
Gogosar, Rosso Dolce da Appendere
For the latest harvest of sweet peppers I had no time to photograph each variety by itself so here's a group shot.

Marzano Fire
Marzano Fire has totally exceeded my expectations. The plant started off quite spindly and seemed rather week and it never did get to be a large plant, but it is producing a lot of really nice tomatoes. I plan on turning these into more tomato paste.

Pantano is another favorite. It's a basic red beefsteak from Italy that is well adapted to my climate.

Jaune Flamme
Good old Jaune Flamme starts early and keeps on going...

Sweet Gold, Sunrise & Purple Bumble Bee,
Green Bee, Piccolo Dattero
The Sweet Gold cherry tomato plant is petering out, which is a surprise because it usually produces prolifically through the fall. The Bee cherry tomatoes haven't been prolific but it's been nice to have a variety of colors and actually it's kinda nice to not be overwhelmed with a glut. On the other hand I'm really happy to have a glut of Piccolo Dattero tomatoes since they are my favorite. I love this one so much that I'm growing 2 plants instead of the usual 1 apiece because I didn't get enough last year.

Pink Plume Celery and Green Fingers Cucumber
The celery is finally large enough that I can cut stalks on a regular basis. There's a few cucumbers still trickling in too but not for long, the plants are looking pretty tired.

Tromba D'Albenga
Tromba D'Albenga is a reliable producer through the fall. The plants don't produce a lot of squash but I'm getting 2 or 3 nice ones every week which is plenty.

Rice Stuffed Peppers Turkish Style
This dish was too pretty to not attempt to take a photo of it. It's based on a Turkish recipe from the book Eat Istanbul (thanks Jane for inspiring me to buy the book). The recipe called for green bell peppers which I hate so I used some Gogosar and Topepo Giallo peppers instead.

Other harvests this week included a few heads of Manoa lettuce and more side shoots of Batavia broccoli. I also didn't get around to photographing the latest harvests of Ethiopian Brown, Shepherd's Ramshorn, and Lady Bell peppers. The birds have been pecking at the Shepherd's Ramshorn and Lady Bell peppers which is why I didn't photograph them.

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, October 9, 2017

Harvest Monday - October 9, 2017

First up this week is something green again.

Kurin Kabocha
I harvested all of the Kurin Kabocha squash. I'm not sure what size I should have expected, they are supposed to be small, but the small ones are really small. I'll wait to pass judgement until I taste one of them.
Manoa Lettuce and Speedy Arugula
And there's more green in the form of lettuce and arugula. I'm relieved that both of them got through the excessive heat that bore down on the garden when these were still very small. There's no signs of bolting or bitterness. It's so nice to have fresh salad greens again.

OK, back to the pepper harvests. The harvests are peaking now, some nearly finished last week and others are in full swing or getting there. I did a series of "portraits" with one round of the harvests.

Rosso Dolce da Appendere
Rosso Dolce da Appendere is a long slim thick fleshed sweet roasting pepper. That's the first harvest of ripe ones shown above. This is my third year growing this variety and they're keepers.

Shepherd's Ramshorn
Shepherd's Ramshorn is in mid production now, as is Ajvarski. This is year 6 for Shepherd's, so it's obviously a favorite and year 1 for Ajvarski and it's promising to be a favorite.


Violet Sparkle
Violet Sparkle is about done, there's just a few small peppers left on the plants and Odessa Market is winding down also.

Odessa Market

The harvests from the Gogosar plants are a mixed bag this year. The small peppers are coming from the plants that I caged for seed saving, but there's one plant that I didn't cage that is producing what I would normally expect. There's still a number of peppers ripening on all the plants.

The Turkish pepper was also caged for seed saving so many of the peppers are on the small side, but I'm getting a few nice specimens. It seems that caging the pepper plants keeps the peppers from becoming large, I noticed the same thing with the caged Florina plants, but other than size the peppers are good quality and I'm getting plenty of seeds.

Hungarian Magyar
The Hungarian Magyar peppers are in mid production now. I've dried one batch of these but haven't ground any into paprika yet, I'll save that task for when the entire harvest is done and dried.

Topepo Giallo
Topepo Giallo is about way through the harvest now. I've been searching for a good thick fleshed sweet yellow pepper and have not been impressed with the ones that I've tried so far but this might be the one. I'll try it again next year to confirm.

Petite Marseillais
Petite Marseillais is thin fleshed and sweet. This is a great frying pepper and also dehydrates well. This is year 2 for in my garden and it was one of the few varieties of peppers that I got to enjoy last year before powdery mildew and rodents set in. I'm enjoying it again this year and will grow it again next year.

I wan't very good at getting the camera out last week so you'll just have to believe me when I say that I harvested a bunch of cherry tomatoes, the last Romanesco zucchini, more Tromba D'Albenga squash, the first stalks of celery, more chard, and more broccoli. I had a busy week last week and it was all I could do to get things harvested and dealt with.

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.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sweet Pepper Jerky

This is not your usual jerky. First, there's no beef involved, nor turkey, nor any other animal, with one minor exception. Nor is there any black pepper, as would be the case with the usual Pepper Jerky, aka a strip of dried seasoned beef (typically beef) with a liberal coating of cracked Piper nigrum. No, this is Sweet Pepper Jerky because I couldn't think of a better name for it. It's a lot easier to call it Sweet Pepper Jerky than it is to call it Dried Seasoned Roasted Sweet Peppers which is what it is.

This all started 3 years ago when I had a wonderful glut of sweet peppers, 70 pounds of good sweet roasting peppers, and I was running out of space to store the preserved versions. Coincidentally I had just purchased an Excalibur dehydrator and I was, I think, at least I should have been, trying to find ways to justify the investment. So with no more room in the freezer for another bag of frozen roasted peppers and no more room in the second fridge for another jar of Peppers Sott'Olio I figured I had nothing to lose by seeing what would happen if I dehydrated the latest and nearly last batch of fire roasted sweet peppers.

These were the results of my first experiment with dehydrating roasted peppers. My first impression was "fruit leather" but it's not fruity even though it's very sweet and "pepper leather" sounded downright yucky so "dried roasted sweet peppers" is how I labelled them. Unfortunately the experiments stopped there because it was November and the pepper plants were about done for the season.

Dried roasted sweet peppers are really good just plain. They're good to snack on and good to cook with too. I chop them up and use them in dishes when I want to have that smoky sweet roasted pepper flavor in a dish. They can't be ground up into a sweet smoky powder, they stay sticky and leathery even when they are completely dehydrated. I found that the best way to store them is in a tightly sealed jar, no need to refrigerate. I tried sealing some of them in a vacuum sealed bag but made the mistake of stacking them together and then when I removed them from the bag they had stuck together so tightly that they couldn't be peeled apart.

So, come 2016 I didn't really get much of a chance to experiment more because the pepper gods made up for the previous glut by delivering a really dismal disease and critter impacted harvest. There were only 20 pounds of roasting peppers that year, barely enough for simply enjoying in the moment much less stocking the freezer, and the fridge, and the pantry.

So, this year it finally dawned on me when I dried the first round of roasted peppers (I'm a little slow sometimes) that the texture of the dried peppers is a bit like jerky. Ah ha! Lightbulb moment! So why not go with that texture and add some seasonings to give them more of a jerky flavor. Fortunately the harvests are looking up compared to last year so I've got plenty of peppers to experiment with.

Like these lovely sweet peppers...

Shepherd's Ramshorn and Violet Sparkle

I'll say now that one thing I like about this way of preserving is that you don't have to commit to a large amount.

For my first experiment I took the seasoning mixture that I use to make seasoned dried cherry tomatoes (fennel seed, dried onion, smoked pepper, salt - all ground together to a fine powder) and simply sprinkled it on some of the roasted peppers and dehydrated them at 125ºF until leathery. I was immediately smitten. But, still it was not quite what I was looking for.

For round two I tried to different two different mixes with more of an Asian flavor profile. Mix #1 was a tablespoon of Tamari soy sauce and 1/4 teaspoon 5-spice powder. Mix two was, 1 fresh Makrut lime leaf minced, 1 small clove fresh garlic, dried coriander seeds (forgot how much, 1/4 teaspoon?) all smashed together in a mortar and then mixed with 1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce. Toss the roasted pepper pieces in the seasoning and dehydrate at 125ºF until leathery, just a few hours. Each batch of seasoning was enough for about 2 large or 3 to 4 smaller peppers torn into strips.

Now these were more like it! If you like the flavor of a Thai style curry seasoning (without chile pepper heat) then mix #2 is for you. If you're more of a Teriyaki fan than mix #1 comes close. The one thing I would change in mix #1 is to add some ginger.

Mix #3 which is in the dehydrator now has the ginger in it as well as some dried onion powder (home grown and dried) but my first sample tells me that I overdid the ginger. That was 1 tablespoon Lite Tamari (50% less salt just because I don't need it), 1/4 teaspoon dried onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon 5-spice powder. Next round I'll try switching the proportions of ginger and 5-spice. If I had had fresh ginger on hand I would have tried that instead of the dried so perhaps I'll pick some up if I get to the store any time soon.

Sweet Pepper Jerky
I think that a super easy way to make Sweet Pepper Jerky would be to start with sweet roasted peppers from a jar. Just drain, cut into strips, and toss with some of your favorite marinade or sprinkle with a BBQ rub. Then dehydrate them at 125ºF until leathery. I think you would want to avoid a seasoning that has a lot of sugar in it because the peppers are plenty sweet to begin with and dehydrating them just concentrates the sweetness.

Now, Mix #4, what will that be?

Oh, one more thing. Tomorrow, October 5, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific Daylight time, I'll be joining a group on KKUP Radio 91.5 FM Cupertino, CA on the Old Time Farm and Garden Show. We'll be spending some of the time talking about peppers of all sorts and on other garden topics as well. You can find a link on KKUP's website for live streaming if you want to listen in.

Whoops! Got my dates screwy, the show is on October 26 and I won't be there... Sorry if you tried to tune in on the 5th and didn't hear what you were expecting.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Harvest Monday - October 2, 2017

There are a lot of peppers ripening now. Round about this time last year I was already starting to clean out the pepper plants because many of them had been completely defoliated by powdery mildew. Most of the large peppers were of poor quality, either sunburned or stunted. I was also battling a critter for the good ones that were left. It was a dismal year for peppers in 2016. This year the patch is in much better shape and so far it looks like I'll get some good peppers and the harvests should keep going for a while yet. (Back in 2015 I was harvesting beautiful sweet peppers in November!)

Lady Bell
I grow a lot of sweet peppers and I especially like thick fleshed ones that are good for roasting. Lady Bell has been a reliable producer for me since I first tried it back in 2012. It's great roasted but also good in any other way that you might eat a sweet bell.

Turkish, Odessa Market, Gogosar, Ajvarski
The long skinny Turkish pepper isn't a roaster but it is good sliced up and added to salads. Odessa Market is a small pepper but has thick enough flesh to make it a good roasting pepper. Gogosar isn't a great roasting pepper only because of its shape, but it is delicious raw and is the perfect pepper for stuffing and baking. Ajvarski is a new one in the garden this year and I'm really pleased with it so far. Those are the first 2 ripe peppers and there's one of them shown below in my hand to get some perspective on the size.


Baby Aji Amarillo, Ethiopian Brown, Hungarian Magyar,
Baby Aji Amarillo (2016), Mareko Fana
My seasoning peppers are starting to ripen also. I have 3 Baby Aji Amarillo plants, 2 that I started this year and one that came back from last year. Last year the peppers were sweet with barely a hint of heat. The peppers from the new plants have some heat but the ones from the 2016 plant are sweet again. The Mareko Fana peppers are coming from a plant that came back from 2016 also. It's actually producing more peppers this year than last year. The other brown pepper is the first Ethiopian Brown to ripen. I'm not yet sure how similar it is to the Mareko Fana (also an Ethiopian pepper), I'll compare the two after I've dried them. Mareko Fana is my pepper of choice for making pepper flakes. Another new pepper this year is the Hungarian Magyar, it's a sweet paprika type so it's destined for the dehydrator also.

Chianti Rose, Mavritanskite, Pantano, Marzano Fire
This looks to be the last harvest of large tomatoes for a bit. There's still some left on the plants but most of them are green. The Marzano Fire tomatoes are ripening at a steady pace though. I'm surprised at how prolific that plant is since it's a rather spindly thing and I really didn't expect much from it. I had 5 pounds of them which was enough to make a batch of tomato paste.

Piccolo Dattero, Sweet Gold, Bumble Bees, Jaune Flamme
The cherry tomatoes keep coming in also. The harvests are a bit down at the moment but that's primarily because I'm taking a chance on allowing them to fully ripen on the plants so there's been a lag because I was harvesting anything that was nearly ripe and then I waited to allow the next round to fully ripen. So far so good, there's only been a bit of nibbling by critters...

Roasted Peppers Ready for Dehydrating
I've been experimenting a bit more with dehydrating roasted peppers. Back in 2015 I was facing quite a glut of peppers and was running out of space to store the roasted peppers that I was preserving either by freezing or preserving "Sott'Olio" (20 jars in the fridge then!), so I experimented for the first time with dehydrating the roasted peppers. Ooh la la, were they wonderful, sweet and chewy concentrated pepper goodness. I'm dehydrating more of them this year but I thought I would go with the jerky like quality that they have and try adding some seasonings. Oh wow, big yum. I think I'll save the details of my seasonings for a separate post.

"Pepper Jerky"
Tromba D'Albenga Squash
Another notable harvest for the week was a Tromba D'Albenga squash. The vines are growing like crazy again and there's more squash about ready to harvest so it looks like I'll get to enjoy them for at least a few more weeks.

Special Baby Leaf Chard
New in the harvest basket was some Special Baby Leaf Chard, um, not quite babies anymore but still very good. I used it in a Tunisian dish of Chickpeas and Chard in a tomato sauce. I used some Pico Pardal chickpeas that I grew in 2015 and even though they were 2 years old they cooked up in no time and had a perfect texture and very fine flavor. I think I'll have to devote some garden space to those again in 2018.

Batavia Broccoli
There's still no shortage of Batavia broccoli but that harvest of Broccolini shown below will be the last one until the new plants start to produce. That was the harvest from 4 plants so I deemed it time that they made way for something new, entirely new in my garden Petite Snap-Greens.

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.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fall, Falling, Fallen

It is well and truly Fall. I love this time of year. This is when we have our best weather. Not because the heat of summer has abated, quite the opposite, the weather has finally warmed up. But the sun is less intense. The days are shorter. I hear dead leaves rustling. It's a bittersweet love.

In the garden the plants are growing more slowly, some are senescing. Vegetables and seeds are maturing.

I'm waiting for the big Aji peppers to start ripening, they are always the last.

Aji Amarillo Grande
I might have a good wait still for the Aji Amarillo Grandes. Last season I was harvesting them in December, January and February.

Aji golden
Aji Golden and Joe's Giant are new so I have no idea when they will ripen.

Joe's Giant Aji Amarillo

Aji Angelo?
Don't know what's up with Aji Angelo, it's larger and more wrinkled than the ones I've grown before. Perhaps I mixed up the labels or it crossed, I grew these from seeds that I saved a few years ago. It will be interesting to see what color it is when ripe, a true Aji Angelo should be red.

Taos Red Beans
The dry beans are starting to dry on the vines. The leaves are falling off the Taos Red vines as the bean pods dry. Tarahumara Sitakame is staying green and is sporting a lot of new flowers and baby beans even while there are mature bean pods drying on the vines. It's flowers are day length sensitive so perhaps the shorter days have given it the signal to bloom again.

Tarahumara Sitakame Beans
 Oh what a tale of woe in the corn patch.

Hopi Greasy Head Flour Corn
Hopi Greasy Head was the early favorite of the rodents. I thought first that it was rats, but never a one could I snap in a trap, not near the corn at least (got one in the tomatoes though). Then I thought perhaps it was ground squirrels because some damage was occurring during the day and I had by accident caught a ground squirrel in a trap intended for rats. And then I finally caught a very large and fat vole under the corn plants. Ah, that made sense, voles are active day and night. I have been searching and searching for their burrows but can't find one.

Santo Domingo Rainbow Flour Corn
They soon turned their appetites loose on the Santo Domingo Rainbow corn. Are they lazy, do they prefer the Hopi Greasy Head because the plants are so much shorter? They seem to know when the ears of corn are mature and as sweet as they can be. They just chew through the husks, littering the ground with the shreds, until they get to the juicy kernels inside which they devour on the spot. Wrapping the ears in fabric, a tactic which succeeded in protecting the ears last year, was of no avail, they chew right through the fabric. Covering the tops of the ears with hardware cloth, the rodents used to start at the top and work their way down, didn't work this year as it did last year, they attacked from the bottom up instead. Perhaps half of the Hopi Greasy Head ears have fallen prey to the gnawing jaws of rodents. And they found what was probably the only ears of K'uyu Chuspi that managed to get pollinated somehow. That corn was dysfunctional - the tassels were done delivering their pollen well before the ears revealed their silks. I didn't think any ears had been pollinated but the rodents proved me wrong. There's a few fat ears on the last 2 stalks, but it's questionable whether or not there's any kernels developing. The size of the ears are no indication of what's inside, that corn has the thickest husks I've ever seen on any ears of corn, layer upon layer upon layer of husks until you finally get to a teeny tiny little ear inside. I can't believe the rodents just kept gnawing and gnawing and gnawing until they found the little bit of goodness that was to be found. Won't be growing that corn again. I may not bother to grow any sort of corn again - it just ain't worth the heartache and the battles.

Armored Ears of Corn
The remaining ears of corn are now fully encased in hardware cloth. Eat that you effing batards.

K'uyu Chuspi - any kernels in there?

One more sign of fall...

Kurin Kabocha
It will soon be time to gather the winter squash. The skins are hardening and the stems are getting corky.