Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fog of a Different Stripe

I love to watch the different moods of the fog in the valley. Some mornings the fog fills the valley from top to bottom and I awake to find myself in a muted fog cocoon. Other mornings the fog creeps along the valley floor, it tiptoes in, then glides out. Yesterday morning I awoke to high fog.

As the sun comes up over the ridge behind the house it peeks between the ridge and the fog producing a stripe of sunlight on the ridge across the valley.

I may moan and groan a lot about the cold gray fog, but I would truly miss it if it were to disappear completely.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Harvest Monday - August 30, 2010

The harvests were good this week, particularly tomatoes and green beans. I've been blanching and freezing some beans and it looks like I'll have to do something with tomatoes in the next few days as well.

Here's some highlights from the harvests this week:

Chocolate Stripes tomatoes.
These are the best tasting variety so far.
Perhaps the prettiest tomato in the garden this year.

Gigantesque has produced the ugliest tomato so far.
The yellow tomato is Lennie and Gracie's Kentucky Heirloom.
We ate the first one the other night and it is delicious.
Yellow tomatoes are usually blah tasting to me, but not L & G.

Sweetie Baby romaine lettuce.
We need to eat more salads this week, the heat is pushing these babies to bolt.
They are still sweet in spite of their lengthening cores.

Strawberries! Enough to freeze some for future smoothies.

I made pizzas the other night and instead of using tomato sauce I baked a pizza crust topped with strips of prosciutto, sliced mozzarella and capers,  then I topped the baked pizza with a mixture of chopped fresh tomatoes, olive oil, and basil. Mmm, I really liked the contrast of the fresh tomatoes on the hot pizza. I also made a Meyer Lemon and Smoked Trout pizza which is always a favorite around here and since it is fig season I topped another pizza with sliced figs, shredded duck confit and pine nuts - yum. I also experimented with a dessert pizza topped with creme fraiche, honey, sliced peaches, and sliced almonds and it came out pretty darned good also.

Earlier last week when we had a surprisingly delightful heatwave (it got over 100 one day) I made good use of the tomatoes and cucumbers that had finally become plentiful and made a large batch of gazpacho. A perfect treat for a warm summer evening.

Here's my harvest totals for the week:

Garafal Oro romano beans - 4 lb., 6.5 oz.
Piracicaba Broccoli - 1 lb., 8.5 oz.
Chamomile - 1 oz.
Suyo Long cucumbers - 2 lb., 8.5 oz.
Diamond eggplant - 9.75 oz.
Malaysian Dark Red eggplant - 13.75 oz
Sweetie Baby romaine lettuce - 1 lb., 13.75 oz.
Cuerno de Cabra peppers - 5 oz.
Donkey Ears peppers - 6 oz.
Padron peppers - 9.5 oz.
Mara des Bois strawberries - 8.25 oz.
Seascape strawberries - 2 lb., 14.5 oz.
Ananas Noir tomatoes - 7 lb., 3.25 oz.
Andine Cornue tomatoes - 3 lb., 12.5 oz.
Aunt Ruby's cherry tomatoes - 1 lb., 10.25 oz.
Chocolate Stripes tomaotes - 2 lb., 11 oz.
Galinas cherry tomatoes - 15 oz.
Gigantesque tomatoes - 7 lb.
Katja tomaotes - 13 oz.
Lennie and Gracie's Kentucky Heirloom tomaotes - 9.75 oz.
Zucchini - 5 lb., 9 oz.

Total this week - 46 lb., 13.25 oz.
Total this year - 434 lb. 14.75 oz.

If you have a harvest that you would like to show off then head on over to Daphne's Dandelions and join in the fun or just go to ogle other garden bloggers' goodies.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Harvest Monday - August 23, 2010

The harvests are finally looking decidedly summery. A tray full of tomatoes, including Gigantesque on the left, a couple of Chocolate Stripes and some Ananas Noir next to that, a pile of Aunt Ruby's Not Green and Galinas cherry tomatoes, and a few Katja. The Chocolate Stripes are the best tasting tomatoes so far this summer.

The Ananas Noir and Aunt Ruby's are very pretty when sliced open.

Andine Cornue paste tomatoes and Pimento de Padron Peppers. I'm not getting enough paste tomatoes at any one time to bother with canning them so they are going into the freezer whole. I am really feeling very lazy about canning and preserving right now. I harvested a lot of green beans last week but managed to avoid blanching and freezing them by taking them to a family function this weekend and giving them away.

Zucchini with blossoms, one of the first Suyo Long cucumbers (very sweet), and a sprig of basil.

Here's what happens when I don't get around to picking zucchini for a couple of days.

And a zucchini that grew under the main stem, out of sight until it got to be overgrown and crazily distorted.

I'm having problems with some sort of fungus that is killing some stems on my tomato plants. I had to harvest a bunch of green tomatoes off the Katja plant, a number of which I used to make a green tomato spice cake (good but not outstanding).

We actually have a heat wave starting so perhaps that will give a boost to the tomato and pepper harvests this coming week. And look for some eggplant in the coming week's totals as well. Whoopee, it looks like summer has come at last!

The totals below are for 2 weeks since I didn't have time to post for Harvest Monday last week.

Garafal Oro romano beans - 7 lb., 14 oz
Piracicaba broccoli - 2 lb.
Capers - 2.75 oz.
Suyo Long cucumbers - 4 lb., 15.25 oz.
Butterhead lettuce - 13.5 oz.
Donkey Ears pepper - .75 oz.
Madrid Bell Sweet pepper - 2.5 oz.
Pimento de Padron peppers - 5 oz.
Strawberries - 1 lb., 12.25 oz.
Ananas Noir tomatoes - 2 lb., 7.5 oz.
Andine Cornue tomatoes - 4 lb.
Aunt Ruby's cherry tomatoes - 1 lb., 10.75 oz.
Chocolate Stripes tomatoes - 3 lb., 5.25 oz.
Galinas cherry tomatoes - 9.25 oz.
Gigantesque tomatoes - 2 lb., .75 oz.
Katja tomatoes - 6 lb., 13.25 oz.
Katja tomatoes (green) - 3 lb., 5.25 oz.
Zucchini - 7 lb., 13 oz.
Zucchini blossoms - 6.25 oz.

Total for 2 weeks - 50 lb., 12.75 oz.
Total for the year - 388 lb. 1.5 oz.

You can find more Harvest Monday posts at Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there for a eyeful of wonderful home grown produce.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Grilled Romano Beans with Capers, Egg, and Croutons

This was inspired by a green bean side dish in one of my Spanish cookbooks but I've take great liberties with the recipe so I consider this my own. And as usual there aren't precise measurements for one of my off the cuff dishes.

-About 1/2 pound long flat romano beans, tipped and tailed
-Olive oil as needed
-A generous tablespoon of salt packed capers, soaked in fresh water 10 to 15 minutes to reduce the saltiness, drained and squeezed dry in a towel
-About 1 cup of small bread cubes cut from a stale loaf of rustic bread
-1 freshly cooked hard boiled egg (I like mine medium boiled actually), coarsely chopped
-Flaky sea salt and fresh ground pepper
-Sherry vinegar and your best fragrant extra virgin olive oil

Toss the beans with a little olive oil to coat them on all sides. Grill the beans on a stovetop ridged griddle preheated over medium heat or on a barbecue until blistered and spotted brown on both sides and tender. Arrange the warm beans on a platter and set aside.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the capers and cook, tossing, until they have "bloomed" and become crisp. Remove from the skillet, reserving the oil in the skillet, and drain on paper towels.

Add the bread cubes to the still hot skillet and cook, tossing continuously, until they brown and crisp. Drain on towels.

Season the beans with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with some sherry vinegar and olive oil to taste. Sprinkle the chopped egg, fried capers and croutons over all and serve.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fog and Gobble

Nature's show this morning.

The fog thins as the sun comes up over the ridge

More sun, less fog

Less fog, more sun



Oblivious to the show the fog is putting on

The family Gobble forages for breakfast


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hungry Hummers

I've been trying to get some good photographs of the feeding frenzy that takes place at one of my hummingbird feeders every evening. No luck so far, if I stand outside then they won't all go to the feeder, and there isn't enough light from inside (the feeder is right outside my kitchen window) to get any decent shots. So for now I'll have to make do with showing shots from the morning feeding taken from the kitchen window. The morning feed is much more sedate than the evening feed. The evening feed at  it's craziest has 2 hummers perched at each port and more birds buzzing around trying to get at a port, some even hover over a twosome and just push their beaks right on in. It's an amazing sight and just so much fun to watch. Another indicator of just how heavily they feed here is that I took these photos between 9:15 and 9:40 this morning, note the level of food in the first shot and the level in the last three shots. The feeder was filled to the brim at about 6:30 last night and empty at 9:43 this morning. The hummers will have to fight for space at the other two feeders in the garden or forage amongst the flowers until I refill this feeder this evening. I  buy 10 lb. bags of sugar and most of it goes to the birds.

I took a number of series of photographs with the high speed continuous shooting feature on my camera and used one of them to put together this short film that will give you a hint of the frenzy that occurs around the feeder. Set the film speed to jackrabbit to get the best effect.

The video doesn't seem to get delivered if you're reading the post in a reader, go directly to the post to find it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Garden Tour on August 10, 2010

Let's start with the best looking part of the garden. Here's the cucumber tower with Garafal Oro romano pole beans and Petaluma Goldrush pole beans in the background. The first cucumber is nearly large enough to harvest.

Seen from another angle. Note the ever-present morning fog shrouding the top of the hills in the background and turning the whole sky gray.

The zucchini plants are still growing and producing nicely. I cut out some of the first leaves to be infected with powdery mildew yesterday. It's time to start the Neem treatments.

The Crane melon plants are spreading out and the first male blossoms are opening. The female blossoms are still just tiny buds. I'm doubtful about ever getting enough heat this year to set any fruit and actually get it to ripen.

Here's a surprise popping up in the bean foliage, a volunteer fava bean, apparently healthy and happy.

The Marina di Chioggia squash are stretching out, filling their corner of the garden and just starting to climb the fence. I spotted the first open female blossom the other day.

Moving across the way, the poppies finally finished and made way for 4 Romanesco Broccoli plants. The lettuce made way for a couple of Savoy Cabbage plants. On the left in the foreground the Hollow Pipe of Malines cutting celery is happy, it doesn't seem to mind the cool weather.

Here's the holdover Pimento de Padron plants from last year. I decided not to pull them out because...

They are producing peppers and doing a better job of it than the new plants.

Thai Tender amaranth, hating the summer cold. They are runts. Amaranth usually grows like a weed in the summer and provides a bounty of sweet greens. Not this year.

But the Diamante celery root is finding the cool weather agreeable.

And so is the Golden Chard.

It's got multiple crowns on each plant.

Here's the four scraggly looking Piracicaba broccoli plants that just won't quit. The one on the left is twice as tall as the other plants and puts out longer stemmed shoots.

Two new Couve Tronchuda (Portuguese Cabbage) plants. This is a primitive type of cabbage that doesn't form a tight head so the leaves can be harvested individually over the season.

Here's the new Pimento de Padron plants with a scarcity of peppers and almost no flowers. By this time of year I should be harvesting so many little green peppers that I should be getting tired of picking and cooking them. I've been giving the plants some major doses of TLC lately and I'm seeing some tiny little new flower buds starting to show....  Most of the rest of the pepper plants in this bed are faring equally poorly, seemingly a combination of fierce competition with a neighboring oak tree for water and food, and the continuing cool weather.

And the tomato plants aren't liking the competition either, especially at this end of the bed closest to the offending oak trees.

Here's the Chocolate Stripes tomato that I showed on the last tour when it was just showing a hint of ripening. Just a few more days....

The Madrid Bell sweet peppers are sizing up ever so slooowly. Ages from ripeness.

Bogyiszloi getting very close to full ripness.

Esplette peppers, coming along.

The misty mornings do have one lovely benefit. Spiderwebs become startlingly apparent.

That spider is making its home in the Viego Arruga Dulce pepper plant. The seeds for this variety were listed under the hot pepper section of the SSE annual yearbook but they are entirely sweet, and delicious.

Across the way, the new planting of Sweetie Baby romaine lettuce is growing like crazy. There's been no heat to bother these babies.

And no heat to make these babies happy. The Diamond eggplant are runty thanks to cool weather and burrowing nibbling voles.

The Malaysian Dark Red eggplant aren't much happier.

And the most maddening consequence of the vole attack is that I pulled out all of the newly planted potatoes and haven't even attempted to sow my winter root veggies. Empty space, a battleground still. I'm going for the nuclear option at the moment, only time will tell if it is working. More later....

Not to end on a sour note, some sweet fragrant Yellow Wonder Strawberries....

Frederick passionfruit....

And a strawberry update. This is the patch of transplanted Mara des Bois plants. Blooming and setting fruit...

Runnering like crazy, here's a rooted runner that's blooming and setting fruit.

This is one method I've devised to foil the rats.

And sweetest of all, at least to the bees, they are determined not to be foiled by the bee guards on the hummer feeders. Now if I could just capture a moment when the hummers are in a feeding frenzy at the feeder, the evening feed is an amazing and amusing sight. I've got to work on getting a shot of that.