Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Renee's Garden Seed Trials - Beets

Two of the five varieties of beets that I grew this year were from Renee's Garden Seeds.

Golden Beet from Renee's Seeds
I'm really happy to  have found an excellent strain of golden beets from Renee's Seeds. I've tried a few different varieties of golden beets over the last few years, Golden Grex were disappointing because they only have golden skin and their flesh turned out to be white and rather coarse. Burpee's Golden beets just didn't perform very well for me although they were an OK beet. The Golden beets from Renee's were just what I've been searching for. They have been very good producers, they size up fairly quickly and produce mostly well shaped roots with a good texture and excellent mild flavor. The greens are also very good when I can keep the aphids off of them.

The other beet variety that I grew from Renee's Seeds was Baby Ball which you can see on the right in the photo below.

Golden and Baby Ball Beets
Baby Ball beets seem to grow a little more slowly than the Golden beets, although that seems to be more about leaf size than root size. The beets shown here were sown and transplanted at the same time. You can see that the root sizes are comparable, but the golden beets are leafier. 

This is the patch of beets that I harvested those beets from, photographed on September 20. The Baby Ball Beets are in front on the left, the Golden beets in front on the right, and there are Flat Egyptian and Chioggia beets in the rear. I harvested that bunch on November 5. The first harvest of Golden and Baby Ball Beets was on October 17, but the very first harvest from that patch was a bunch of Chioggias on September 12. Chioggia beets are the quickest to grow to harvestable size and also put a lot of energy into their leaves. I sowed the seeds for all those beets on July 25 in paper pots and planted them out a few weeks after sowing.

This is the same patch on October 16 after a few harvests.

I sowed a second flat of beets on September 4 and this is how those Baby Ball and Golden beets looked this morning. The short days and cold weather have really slowed this bunch down of late, but there are a number of beets in the patch that are large enough to harvest. Fortunately, since we've been eating out a lot lately, the cold weather also means that the beets keep very well in the garden.

On October 21 I sowed an additional flat of Golden beets in paper pots and planted them out under some (rodent) protective row cover. The fabric is very light weight and not designed for frost protection, but it does seem to help keep the plants a little warmer, especially on cold but sunny days. I keep the top open a bit to allow a bit more light in.

Those little babies are looking good, although they are growing slowly, but that's because of the short days and cold nights. It will be interesting to see how prone these are to bolting as the winter progresses, it's not unusual to get spells of warm weather here in January and February. Last January we had an unusually long stretch of days with highs in the 70's which pushed a lot of the brassicas to bolt. I'll see what's in store for the garden this year, stay tuned...

So, what do I do with all those beets? Salads mostly, like Warm Beet and Apple Salad or Beet Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese. Or I simply add slices or chunks of roasted beets to a mixed green salad. I roast the unpeeled beet roots in a foil covered roasting pan at 400ºF for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on size, and then run the hot beets under cold water to make it easy to rub off the skins, then they are ready to eat. I used my last bunch of beets in a pasta dish that was really tasty. I'll be writing up that recipe and will post it in my Kitchen Notebook shortly.

Beet Happy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Harvest Monday - December 19, 2011

We have been dining out a lot in the past couple of weeks and have more nights out coming up through the rest of the holidays so I've not been harvesting a lot of vegetables.

Here's the first harvest of celery root for the season. This weighed in at 1 pound., 10 ounces as seen below, but once I trimmed off the greens and the excess roots it only weighed 12 ounces. It was just the right size to use in a stew with lentils and spare ribs that I made up that night.

Diamante Celery Root

I used about half a pound of Lacinato kale to make a favorite snack of Kale Chips that we've not indulged in since one of my last harvests of kale in December of last year. I hope my Lacinato kale plants make it through the winter in better condition than the plants I grew last year, they stopped producing in late December and started to bolt in January. Last year I started my kale plants on June 24 and this year I waited until July 25 to sow the seeds so I'm hoping that the later start will help to keep them from bolting in January. Although, the problem last year may have been that the weather in January was unusually sunny, warm, and dry, plus my Lacinato kale plants were more stressed in the fall than they normally are. Anyway, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for better kale growing conditions for this season, we are looking forward to more chips and Kale Caesar salads and other favorite kale dishes. Hmm, perhaps I will have to sow some seeds after the solstice for an early spring planting of kale.

My only other significant harvest last week was of some lettuce that I used in a salad with julienned apple, Manchego cheese, thin sliced celery, Pomegranate arils, toasted hazelnuts and my favorite Meyer lemon-honey-mustard-olive oil vinaigrette.

Here's the harvest totals for the past week:

Piracicaba broccoli - 1.4 oz.
Diamante celery root - 12.2 oz.
Lacinato kale - 7.7 oz.
Buttercrunch lettuce - 18.8 oz.

The totals for the week were - 2 lb., 8.1 oz.
The totals for the year have been - 570 lb., .5 oz

It doesn't look like I will break the 600 pound mark this year, which is far off the 700 pound mark that I passed last year. I'm going to compare the harvests from last year and this year come January to see how the harvests differed. A quick look confirms my suspicion that my tomato and pepper harvests were significantly less than last year. It will be interesting to see where the rest of the difference comes from.

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.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Harvest Monday - December 12, 2011

Most of the past week we had clear and cold weather with freeze warnings so I harvested all the ripe peppers from the late producing baccatum plants and even a few runty pods off of one chinense plant. Here's the harvest from last Wednesday.


Christmas Bell and Aji Habanero

Aji Habanero

Aji de la Tierra

Chiero Recife

The Chiero Recife was the only chinense species that I got to harvest this year. I also harvested a few other peppers last Monday plus all the remaining eggplants in the garden. Here's the harvest from Monday:

Aji Angelo

Corazon de Paloma and Yellow Manzano

Big Jim

Diamond eggplant

Rosa Bianca eggplant

The rest of the harvests were very green, mostly Di Sarno Calabrese broccoli, a bit of Piracicaba broccoli, and a head of Sweetie Baby romaine lettuce. Oh, and I shelled the last of the dried Stregonta Borlotti beans. I love the colors of the Stregonta Borlottis, most of them have a tan background, overlaid with lavendar, with dark purple blotches over all, but there is quite a bit of variation in the mix of the three colors.

I could have harvested more vegetables from the garden, there's a bit more napa cabbage left, lots of spinach, some kale, celery root, and beets that are ready to harvest, but we've been out more nights than usual so I haven't been doing much cooking from the garden. Fortunately, most of the vegetables will hold in the garden quite well during the cold short days of December and January, we rarely weather cold enough to damage them.

Here's what I harvested last week:

Stregonta Borlotti beans - 1 lb., 1.2 oz.
Di Sarno Calabrese broccoli - 1 lb., 4.5 oz.
Piracicaba broccoli - 3.1 oz.
Sweetie Baby romaine lettuce - 10.1 oz.
Aji Angelo peppers - 3.9 oz.
Aji de la Tierra peppers - 5.4 oz.
Aji Habanero peppers - 10.2 oz.
Big Jim peppers - 15.7 oz.
Chiero Recife peppers - 1.1 oz.
Christmas Bell peppers - 1.1 oz.
Corazon de Paloma peppers - 2.9 oz.
Rainforest peppers - 5.8 oz.
Yellow Manzano peppers - 2.6 oz.

The harvest totals for the week were - 6 lb., 5.6 oz.
The total for the year is - 567 lb., 8.4 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.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Harvest Monday - December 5, 2011

The harvests last week were decidedly green.

I didn't get around to photographing the lovely green sprouting broccolis, but I did remember to take the camera out to the garden to photograph the spinach and pepper harvest. It seems so strange to me to see big robust leaves of spinach in the same basket as the shiny green chile peppers, it's as if the garden is in some sort of time warp.

But there they are, spinach and chile pepppers from the late November garden.

The spinach was used in two dishes, first in a wilted salad that came out ok but wasn't good enough to go into the recipe notebook. The second preparation was a version of a dish that my husband and I simply call Beans & Greens. It's never the same twice, but always tasty and satisfying, and I managed to get the latest version into my recipe notebook.

Most of the Big Jim peppers were used to make the annual dish of Turkey Enchiladas that features leftover Thanksgiving turkey. This year they came out particularly tasty so the recipe also made it into my notebook.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Di Sarno Calabrese broccoli - 15.5 oz.
Piracicaba broccoli - 13.1 oz.
Big Jim newmex chile peppers - 15.9 oz.
Pimento de Padron peppers - 3.6 oz.
Guntmadingen Winter spinach - 31.1 oz.

The total harvests for the week were - 4 lb., 15.2 oz.
The total harvests for the year have been - 561 lb., 2.8 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.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Harvest Monday - November 28, 2011 (Plus a bit of an update)

I managed to photograph one of my harvests last week. The short days at this time of year often find me harvesting at the end of the day in the failing light and once I get done there isn't enough natural light left to take a decent photograph so I skip it. For this harvest I took the camera with me to the garden and just got the job done before the veggies even got out of the harvest basket.

The only thing new in this basket is a small harvest of Corazon de Paloma peppers, a small podded pepper with a big chile bite. I dried these using my 200°F slow roast in the oven method. I'm hoping to be able to harvest a few more ripe peppers from the garden before we get our first freeze of the season. Last year the first freeze came the night of November 24 and the year before it came on December 8. We had one freeze warning a couple of weeks ago but it didn't get that cold this close to the coast. And now, dare I mention it, we are enjoying one of those amazing warm spells that we can have here at this time of year and it is forecast to hold through the coming weekend.

This is about half of the Stregonta Borlotti beans that I harvested. I took a photograph of the harvest before the beans obscured the rest of the harvest. I harvested over 2 pounds of beans in their pods that day but I'm only including shelled beans that I've cooked in the totals shown below. The 8 ounces of beans that I shelled this week were included in my annual post-Thanksgiving pot of Turkey-Vegetable soup.

This is another head of Piracicaba broccoli from the fall planting. The other greens in the basket are shoots from the Di Sarno Calabrese broccoli that is a holdover from the spring planting, the fall planting hasn't started producing yet. It's nice that the Piracicaba broccoli produces rather quickly and the Di Sarno broccoli matures later, I can't say that I planned it that way, it just so happens to be.

The only other new item was the first harvest of Lacinato kale for human consumption, the chickens have been getting kale treats for weeks already but I don't weigh that. I used it to make Kale Caesar Salad. Oh wow, was that good, I got it right on the first attempt, I don't need to do any recipe adjustments for my taste. My husband is already asking when we're going to have it again.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Stregonta borlotti beans - 8 oz.
Chioggia beets - 13.3 oz. (w/o aphidy greens)
Egyptische Platronde beets - 15.9 oz. (w/o aphidy greens)
Di Sarno Calabrese broccoli - 22.8 oz (spring planting)
Piracicba broccoli - 14.7 oz.
Lacinato kale - 15.5 oz.
Big Jim newmex chile peppers - 4.5 oz.
Corazon de Paloma chile peppers - 7.3 oz.
Shishito peppers - 6 oz.

The total harvests for the week were - 6 lb., 12.3 oz.
The total harvests for the year have been - 555 lb., 13.6 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.

And now for a bit of an update on what's growing in the garden. I cleared out the space where the Tarbais and Musica pole beans and the cucumbers where growing and now I've got a new crop of water bottles and row cover going. Just kidding, the water bottle cloches are protecting new plantings of Flamingo chard (4 in the foreground) and Guntmadingen Winter Spinach. The rowcover in the rear is protecting newly transplanted Renee's Golden Beets.

Here's the September planting of Guntmadingen Winter Spinach (what's left of it after the sow bugs munched on the seedlings) which I've not bothered to uncover to photograph until last week. It looks like I need to harvest some of it.

This variety of Spinach has a very interesting cut leaf. I can't wait to try it, last winter I found it to be very sweet tasting for spinach, with less of the oxalic acid tang and fuzziness that most spinaches have when eaten raw. I think that this will make a really good wilted spinach salad.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Harvest Monday - November 21, 2011 and Happy Thanksgiving

This is the time of year when the baccatuum and chinense chiles that I experiment with start to trickle in. Both species ripen very late and it is often a race with the frost and cold weather induced diseases to see if I'll get any ripe peppers at all. And this year I'm also competing with the rats (what don't those buggers eat?!). I love the aromatic flavors of most of the peppers of these two species, however, most varieties tend to be extremely hot (habaneros and kin), which isn't really my thing, I'm a wimpy chile head. Last week I harvested two varieties of baccatuum chiles that are new to me, on the left is Aji Habanero and on the right is Rainforest. Which of these two varieties do you suppose is the hot one?

I preserved both varieties by removing the stems, cutting them in half from tip to tail, scraping out the seeds and then slow baked them in a 200°F oven until they were dry and crisp, about 2 hours or so.

I also harvested another head of Dorato di Asti celery that day. I've been using most of the celery in chopped salads with various other ingredients. One day it was a Waldorf type salad with apples, walnuts, and manchego cheese. Another day it was with pomegranate arils, toasted pecans, olives, and feta cheese. Yet another combo was with chicken, avocado, and pomegranate arils. The dressing varies, but is usually just a simple drizzle of any one of the many vinegars that I keep on hand plus a generous dose of my favorite extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper. The salads are never the same. And I also tried a variation on that old peanut butter & celery thing, only I used cashew butter and slivers of medjool dates.

The only other new item in the harvest basket was some Big Jim newmex chiles that I didn't get around to photographing. Those were used in my favorite Turkish eggplant stew that I mentioned in my harvest post last week.

Here's the harvest totals for the past week:

Di Sarno calabrese broccoli - 10.8 oz.
Tenderheart napa cabbage - 4 lb., 13.7 oz. (weighed after trimming off spoiled leaves)
Dorato di Asti celery - 3 lb., 1.2 oz.
Aji Habanero chile peppers - 8.9 oz.
Rainforest chile peppers - 8.9 oz.
Pimento de Padron peppers - 4.4 oz.
Big Jim peppers - 8.8 oz.

The total for the week was - 10lb., 11.7 oz.
The totals for the year have been - 549 lb., 7.3 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.

As an aside, I was musing on a short article that I read in the paper about a drought in one remote corner of Afghanistan which will result in food shortages for 2 million people. It made me think about how chic "local & sustainable" food has become in our overfed, anything is available at any time world of food. Local and sustainable has a different meaning for people in that part of the world, if they don't produce enough local food they may go hungry, they may face starvation, they can't fill in the gaps of local food production by driving to the grocery store and stocking up on imported food. Don't get me wrong, I am not against the "local & sustainable" movement, I believe that it is very important to support our local food producers, but let's also be thankful for the system we have that keeps our grocery stores stocked no matter the weather or political winds. I can't imagine that our local population could be adequately fed by relying on our local "foodshed". So, in light of the holiday to come, one of the many things that I'm giving thanks for is to be living in a part of the world where my vegetable garden is considered a hobby or perhaps even a luxury by those without the space or free time to devote to a garden. I'm thankful that if the rats ate every danged veggie in my garden I don't have to go hungry, I would throw a major hissy fit and then head on down to the farmer's market to stock up on some local & sustainable produce.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, where ever in the world you are, regardless of whether you celebrate this holiday, my favorite holiday of the year.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Garden in November, 2011

It's time for an overview of the garden for the month of November.

I've got a temporary addition to the garden, I'm raising 3 new chickens to add to the existing flock. They will be in the cage for a couple more weeks and then they get to join the old girls.

They do love their kale treats.

Here's the bulk of the winter brassicas. Di Sarno Calabrese broccoli in the rear left, Piracicaba to the right of that, Lacinato Kale in the front right, and some laggard Portuguese Tronchuda cabbage to the front left. Buttercrunch lettuce is interplanted with the brassicas.

The Piracicaba broccoli is already forming heads. I harvested this one yesterday.

I took these photos just before I cleaned out the old bean trellises. That area has now been cleaned out, turned over and is ready for the spinach, chard, and beet transplants that I started a few weeks ago.

The Lacinato kale is really happy this fall. I'm really looking forward to experimenting with kale caesar salad recipes.

Pixie baby cabbages are in the foreground. They have a way to go before they start forming heads.

One of the Buttercrunch lettuces is something else, very pretty, but definitely not a Buttercrunch.

Guntmadingen spinach getting quite big and not minding the weed competition very much. I've got another sowing of these ready to plant out.

The solanum bed is in all stages of decline. The Amish Paste tomatoes are half dead but still producing.

I think this is Katja, dead dead dead.

Fiaschetto is dead but still hanging on to the old tomatoes. The chickens have been loving these.

The intertwined Chianti Rose and Japanese Trifele are still hanging in there

And still producing tomatoes. The last couple of Chianti Rose that I harvested like this and let ripen on the kitchen counter tasted pretty good!

The Japanese Trifele just doesn't want to quit.

The Aunt Ruby's German cherry is still looking might green as well (including the tomatoes).

The Pimento de Padron peppers are hanging in there and I managed to harvest enough peppers for a nice appetizer the other night. The short days and cold weather have really slowed them down though, there are still tiny young peppers on the plants but they are growing very slooowly.

The same goes for the eggplant, there are young fruits on most of the plants but they just aren't getting very big. I'll probably harvest them as babies, but I'm waiting for that first frost warning, well, actually the second frost warning, we already had one but the frost didn't hit here.

Orient Express eggplant

Rosa Bianca eggplant

Diamond eggplant

Across the way, the napa cabbage patch is thinning out.

The last Hybrid One Kilo is looking good.

This Tenderheart is looking overgrown and when I harvested it the other day I found it to be spoiling. I did manage to salvage about half of it.

I tucked some Ear of The Devil lettuce seedlings into the cabbage patch a few of weeks ago.

And what's left of the Sweetie Baby romaine lettuces look like they will hold for a while. I was harvesting most of the patch as they started to bolt in a warm spell last month. These seem to have resisted the urge.

The oldest part of the beet patch is looking scraggly, the ants and aphids created a mess and disfigured much of the foliage but most of the remaining roots are ok.

The newer beets are not so infested so they look a lot better but they are in desperate need of thinning. 

Shishito pepper plants and amaranth.

Late planted pepper plants are happier, healthier, and more productive than the plants that went into the garden "on time". Hmm, I wonder if I shouldn't put off starting and planting my peppers until much later, they just seem to languish in the cool summer weather. I'm going to experiment with more late planting next year.

Dorato di Asti celery is showing it's tendency to golden hues.

The spring planted brassicas are showing their age.

I'm still harvesting shoots from the Di Sarno Calabrese broccoli.

But I've allowed the old Piracicaba broccoli plants to bloom.

The bees are taking full advantage.

 The ants and aphids pretty much did the Golden Chard in. This plant is making something of a recovery.

But this one is a goner.

Basil is on the way out, most of the leaves are spotted with some sort of disease. I managed to salvage enough good leaves to make another batch of pesto.

The Purple Sprouting broccoli that I planted in the middle of the basil patch is pretty happy though.

And the Stregonta borlotti beans are ready to be harvested as shelly beans.

Here's the Diamante celery root patch.

I can start harvesting them any day now.

Golden Sweet snow pea blossom.

Too bad the critters only left a few plants.

And let's not forget the Glory frisee seedlings that I slipped into the spot where the sugar snap peas met an untimely demise at the jaws of the local rodent population.

Doesn't it figure that the rodents don't go for the Portuguese Dairyman's kale that volunteered in the path?

So, that's the garden in mid-November and the prospect of the harvests to come in the months to come. What do you have in your garden now?