Monday, April 25, 2011

Harvest Monday - April 25, 2011

My husband is ever so happy that the fava bean harvests have started, they are one of his favorite vegetables. That's one of the first small harvests from about a week ago, a little over one pound of pods and about 1 1/2 ounces of tender young fava leaves. I grilled the tenderest pods to be eaten whole and the other half of the harvest was shelled, peeled, and chopped to be included in a saute of the fava leaves and some pea shoots. Unfortunately I used some crumbled peppers from a mislabeled jar of dried peppers to season both preparations and the dishes turned out to be almost unbearably spicy. Other than the excessive level of spice the dishes were still quite good and I did another variation on the sauteed fava leaves a few nights later combined with spinach instead of pea shoots and seasoned with pine nuts and zante currants instead of incendiary peppers. That recipe went over much better! When I finally harvested enough beans to get 1 1/2 cups of shelled and peeled beans I made one of my husband's favorite fava dishes, a spread/dip made by pureeing the blanched beans with lemon juice, olive oil, ground cumin and a touch of salt. Very simple, other than the shucking and peeling, and very tasty. It's delicious paired with some tangy feta cheese on crackers or toast.

Yesterdays San Francisco Chronicle has a recipe for whole roasted fava beans that is a little different from the grilled favas that I did. I'm going to give this method of using whole fava pods a try with some beans from my next harvest. If you only have a few pods to harvest or you don't want to go through the process of shucking and peeling the inner beans you too might give this a try. If you're curious to try fava leaves the Chronicle also has a short article about using fava leaves that I found to be helpful.

The rest of the harvests lately have been much the same as in weeks past, here they are:

Golden Chard thinnings - 1 oz.
Couve Tronchuda (Portuguese Cabbage) - 14.8 oz.
Fava Beans - 6 lb., 7 oz.
Fava Leaves - 5 oz.
Green Garlic - 13 oz.
Butterhead Lettuce - 1 lb., 14 oz.
Sweetie Baby Romaine Lettuce - 8 oz.
Snow Pea Shoots - 4 oz.
Guntmadingen Spinach - 6.4 oz.
Yu Choy - 15 oz.

The harvests for the last three weeks were - 12 lb., 8 oz.
The total harvests for the year are - 43 lb., 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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Plantings Taking Off

We've had plenty of rain, intermittent sun, and even an occasional Nice Day in the last few weeks which has helped my spring vegetable plantings to get growing. Yesterday I uncovered the pea shoots to harvest them and decided to take some photos while I was at it and then decided to do a post about the progress of that whole bed.

Here's the snow pea shoot plants. This is a variety that is grown for the shoots and isn't allowed to mature enough to produce any peas. I did 2 sowings about 5 weeks apart, starting each lot indoors in paper pots and then planting them out when the roots started to grow through the bottoms of the pots. That's 30 or so plants in all and it would be nice to have more so next year I'll plan a larger space for them. You can see the larger plants from the first sowing on the right and smaller plants from the second sowing on the left.  I have had to keep the plants draped with lightweight row cover to keep the rodents from munching them down to the ground. I almost lost the first sowing to the munchers before I covered them up.

Here's a close-up of a few plants from the first sowing before I trimmed them yesterday. I harvested a third picking of shoots from the older plants and the first picking from the younger plants. The plants were only about 3-inches tall after I harvested the shoots. They get bushier and more productive after each harvest if you are careful to leave a bud or two on each stem. It will be interesting to see how long I can harvest from this patch and how much the plants produce as they get more mature.

I have to cover up all my pea plants to protect them from the rodents. Here's some sugar snap peas breaking out of their protective covering. I had the cover closed up until the plants started pushing up against the top. The munchers haven't figured out how to climb up and attack the plants from the top... yet.

I snipped the plants when they were young to help them branch out a bit so each plant has two or three vines climbing the trellis.

And here's a planting of Oregon Giant snow peas. I had this planting covered with water bottle cloches until yesterday. These have to go under row cover before the rodents figure out that they are there, hopefully not last night...

The unplanned, unprotected, overwintered volunteer chamomile patch. I'll be collecting fresh chamomile blossoms soon. You can see a couple of the experimental winter potato plants in the foreground, I'm not expecting much from that experiment.

The beneficial insects seem to appreciate the chamomile blossoms, perhaps I'll leave some of the hard to reach plants to bloom for them.

The cabbage patch. Some napa cabbage in the foreground. I had problems keeping my seedlings alive and ended up with 4 transplants of Charming (thanks Winnie!) and only one of Hybrid One Kilo. These are something of an experiment anyway, the best time to plant napa cabbage around here is supposed to be late summer for fall and winter harvests. Spring planted napa cabbage may bolt before it forms a proper head. We typically have a cool spring and early summer so I'm hopeful and these two varieties are good candidates for spring planting so we'll see. Beyond the napa cabbage are some young Pixie cabbage seedlings.

Here's a closeup of one of the Pixies. This variety of cabbage is supposed to make a dense 5-inch head, perfect for feeding the two of us.

Further down the bed are four Piracicaba broccoli plants. I've had a lot of success with this variety of broccoli over the last few years through all the different seasons. In spite of that success I really wanted to try a different sprouting broccoli this spring, but the seeds I ordered took a long time coming so I started the Piracicaba. Lo and behold, the Calabrese broccoli seeds showed up! The water bottles in the background are place holders for the Calabrese seedlings that are sizing up and almost ready to go into the garden.

In the photo below you can see four new Golden Chard seedlings taking off in the foreground. The year old chard plants elsewhere in the garden are still growing and not showing signs of bolting yet, but they have become a magnet for aphids, the little black ones that infest favas. The ants are farming the aphids and the plants are disgusting, they have to go, they have to make room for tomatoes pretty soon anyway.

In the rear are some twice and thrice harvested Yu Choy plants. Yu Choy, aka Edible Rape, is a very close relative of the plants that are grown to make rape seed oil which has been cleverly marketed as canola. This planting was an experiment, first to see if it would grow in winter since it is supposed to be more heat tolerant than cold tolerant. I also wanted to see how much a given number of plants would produce. This patch grew well, although it did appreciate water bottle cloches early on and I do need more plants. I think that commercial growers would harvest the entire plant for a single crop but I found that by cutting the stalks down to one or two buds that the plants regrew some smaller stalks for a second harvest and a third harvest for the most vigorous plants. There are some new shoots developing now but I don't think they will be large enough to make much of a harvest. I'm going to pull these soon and start a larger patch. More on this veggie in a future post.

I'm also trying an early planting of Florence Fennel. I love fennel but my husband is so so about it so I only grow a little bit for me.

And a clump of chives that I rescued from the gophers in a different part of the garden last year is making a big comeback this spring. I've been snipping away at this clump for weeks now and it just continues to grow.

There's lots more going on in the garden now but blogging time seems to be in short supply around here so I'll try to report on other garden activities later (not too much later I hope).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Harvest Monday - April 4, 2011

There's a couple of new items in the harvest baskets this week, one of which is the green garlic shown above. Take a closer look  though and you will see that my green garlic is also rusty garlic. The rust is running rampant through the garlic patch this spring which means that the garlic heads will be runty this year. It's such a disappointment to see that disease this early in the season, it makes the leaves of the green garlic unappetizing so I'm not using the leafy parts this year. That basket also includes another picking of Guntmadingen Winter spinach (not showing signs of bolting yet!) and another harvest of pea shoots.

Yesterday I harvested the first young fava bean pods which didn't get photographed since I was distracted by one of my cats that managed to get himself hurt and came limping home just as I came out of the garden. The young fava pods can be slicked with some olive oil, grilled or broiled or roasted, sprinkled with some salt (truffle salt, yum), perhaps some ground chile pepper or black pepper or minced green garlic, and eaten whole. We had those for dinner last night along with a simple salad of Sweetie Baby romaine and the first young heads of Ear of the Devil lettuce. I've also been harvesting chives and tarragon which don't get included in the harvest totals.

Here's the totals for the past two weeks:

Fava beans - 9.3 oz.
Green Garlic (weighed after trimming off leaves) - 4.9 oz.
Butterhead Lettuce - 8 oz.
Ear of the Devil Lettuce - 7 oz.
Sweetie Baby Romainie Lettuce - 1 lb., 7.6 oz.
Snow Pea Shoots - 2.6 oz.
Guntmadingen Spinach - 13.2 oz

The total for the past two weeks is - 4 lb., 4.6 oz.
The total for the year is - 30 lb., 10.75 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.