Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 2011 Garden Update - Part II

This mess is the garlic bed just before the "harvest". Bleah, yuck, supreme mess...

Beyond the volunteer California Poppies are the Monticello Poppies which I never got around to corralling so they are leaning willy-nilly all over the place. I've found that my wood rat buddies ~snicker~ have developed a fondness for poppy seeds, they just lop off an entire seed pod and carry it away, what don't they eat?! Do you suppose that they get high on them? On the left are a few Super Sugar Snap Pea plants that were an experimental extra early sowing in January. They produced a respectable harvest but didn't really merit the extra early start since they didn't start producing significantly earlier than the spring sown planting. I haven't ripped them out yet since they are producing a modest second crop and I don't need the space quite yet.

A couple more radicchio plants that I tucked into the end of the bed are doing ok, well, they were doing ok until some tunneling rodent severed many of the roots a couple of days ago...

This is a bit better, the post-garlic-harvest shot. I let most of the rust stunted garlic produce maximum sized heads (relatively speaking) which left little to no protective outer skins. So I peeled all the bulbs, chopped them in bulk in the Cuisinart, and packed the chopped garlic into 1/2 cup containers mixed with copious amounts of olive oil and froze it. When I want to use it I just run the container under a little hot water and slide the mass of garlic/olive oil out of the container, whack off a chunk and throw it straight into whatever I'm cooking, put the rest of it back into the container and put it back in the freezer.

Parsley flowers. I let my Turkish parsley bloom and I'm going to collect the seeds. I usually let my Italian parsley bloom for the beneficial insects but this year I've pulled out every bolting plant I see so that the Turkish parsley doesn't cross with it.

The next bed is where I grew the bulk of my spring crops. Here's a new planting of Garden Babies butterhead and Sweetie Baby romaine lettuces. I've just started to remove the rat protection from a few plants at a time and then the rest of them if the first plants aren't massacred. (So far, so good...)

Next to the lettuce are the new Golden Chard plants, these should produce until spring of 2012 (barring detrimental rodent activity).

And next are the very disappointing Calabrese broccoli plants. These are so dang spindly, they just refuse to grow and I don't know what they want. The rats have started to chew on them and I just don't give a damn...

Here's the Piracicaba broccoli doing just fine thank you.

The Oregon Giant snow peas are done producing. I harvested almost 8.5 pounds of peas from May 20 through June 22. I found that these pea pods were sweet and not at all fibrous even when they got large and started to get rather bumpy with developing peas. And not a sign of powdery mildew on the plants, a huge bonus since that disease is always a big problem in my spring garden. I also liked their shorter stature, they never made it anywhere near the top of the 5 foot trellis that I gave them, I guess the Giant in their name refers to the large pod size not the plants.

The Super Sugar Snap Peas raced to the top of their 5 foot trellis but not much beyond. That extra height did make for a more tentative grasp at the top of the trellis so they flopped over when we had a late storm come through a few weeks ago and they had to be tied back into place. These plants are pretty much done, a few sprouts are growing back with a few extra pods but that won't last much longer since the spider mites seem to be moving in. At least the spider mites waited until most of the peas were ready to harvest and didn't seem to affect the quality of the pods at all. This variety of snap pea also fended off the annual spring attack of powdery mildew. The combination of PM resistance, good production, and very sweet high quality peas makes this variety a keeper in my garden. I harvest almost 21 pounds of snap peas from  May 6 through June 25.

This is my main planting of napa cabbages and they are not doing at all as well as the one plant that I showed in my previous post. The funny thing is that that other huge happy plant was a runt of a seedling that I shoehorned into a spare space in that other bed - go figure.

My volunteer patch of chamomile doing a pretty good imitation of Cousin It. I don't think that there will be any shortage of volunteer chamomile plants from now on...

My husband and I can never get enough of the Pimento de Padrons so I have extra plants growing in 10 gallon containers in a corner of the garden.

The row cover is for, you guessed it, rat protection. The short plant second from the left was truncated in an early attack but it's growing back.

But wait, there's more! Two more Pimento de Padron plants, two Shishito (similar to Padrons), and two Fushimi plants are growing in large terra cotta pots. Since this photo was taken the rats have started to attack and these plants have gone under cover. Damn and blast those frigging rodents! It's a good thing that I bought a huge roll of row cover a couple of years ago.

This plant was looking good for the photo, back then.

The amazing Aji de la Tierra, going on year three.

The potato planting in the old compost bin experiment. Covered up to protect it from, no, not rats, deer!

That's it for the June vegetable garden, stay tuned for an eventual Caper update, but don't hold your breath.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 2011 Garden Update - Part I

The latest heatwave was more of a warmwave but certainly better than a cold snap. This morning (make that yesterday morning now) the natural air conditioning kicked in as you can see below. This morning the fog was more aggressive, we awoke to a world enveloped in gray mist, the valley filled from top to bottom, but poof, it was gone by 9.

Actually, I prefer warm weather to hot weather so I wasn't too disappointed by the latest miss by the weather forecasters. The fog creeping up the valley in the morning is a beautiful sight to see and it usually slinks right back out in no time.

I don't think that the garden minded the milder than predicted weather either.

I've been trying to work up this post for the past few days so there is a mix of photos from the 19th through today (make that yesterday).

This is where most of the work has been lately, the favas are gone and the soil amended and turned. Last week I planted out Marina di Chioggia winter squash (middle ground), a couple of da Fiore zucchini (under water bottle cloches beyond that), and in the far end of the bed are two each of Green Fingers Persian cucumbers and Tasty Green Japanese cucumbers (also under water bottle cloches). The water bottle cloches are for rat protection rather than weather protection.

Since the photo above was taken I planted out some paper pot starts of Spanish Musica pole green beans and Classic Slenderette bush green beans at the far end of the bed. These new plantings are also covered up to protect them from the rats. (By the way, the rat zappers are working, I've lost count of the number that have found their way to a shocking end, at least 10 in the last week).

In the other end of that bed are some spring sown radicchio and one spring sown Hybrid One Kilo napa cabbage. In the pot are some "Little Lion" zinnia seedlings.

Here's a closeup of one of the radicchios today yesterday just before I harvested it.

Pearly squash leaves, a reward for an early morning garden inspection.

The next bed is tomato central. I planted these out about 6 weeks ago and they've grown fairly well considering how extra cool the weather has been this spring. No green tomatoes yet though, the nights have been too cold, generally below 50ยบ F until the last few nights.

The entire back of the bed is filled with tomato plants. This year I'm growing Amish Paste, Black Krim, Chianti Rose, Fiaschetto, Gigantesque, Katja, Japanese Black Trifele, Aunt Ruby's German cherry, and Galinas cherry.

I snuck a few Sweetie Baby romaine lettuce seedlings into the tomato bed and it looks like they will be ready to harvest before the tomatoes overwhelm them.

This one grew so fast...

The Pimento de Padron peppers in this bed are finally starting to look happy and should be producing soon.

Shishito, Fushimi, and New Mexico peppers and Diamond eggplant are still pouting about the cool weather. But the volunteer Monticello poppies that I allowed to grow in middle of the bed are covered with nice big fat seed pods are still producing a few beautiful flowers.

The Ear of the Devil lettuces are taking their good sweet time producing seeds...

One corner of this bed is home to the beet patch. I'm getting nice sized beets even though the patch is rather crowded. As a matter of fact, I started the beet seedlings in paper pots and when I planted them out I neglected to thin them and even though most of the pots have 3 or 4 seedling growing together they are still producing nicely shaped and sized roots.

The Devoy beets have the most beautiful magenta and orange stems, although I also get some "white" beets from the same pack - you can see that on the right in the photo below.

Oh, and let's not overlook the Yellow Wonder strawberry plant volunteering in the path next to this bed. It's a hearty fellow, surviving neglect and an occasional trampling, and it rewards me with sweet aromatic berries.

There's still more update to go but I don't have time to finish now. I'll cover the other two beds and other odds and ends around the garden in the next few days.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Harvest Monday - June 20, 2011

Today I had to get my hike in early because, miracle of miracles, we are actually having some summer weather and I wanted to get out there while it was still relatively cool. It wasn't the threat of heat that made me harvest the last three heads of Pixie cabbages, they were just ready. The last three heads came in at 11.5 ounces, 1 pound 6 ounces, and 2 pounds 9 ounces. The snow peas and sugar snap peas are producing their final harvests and the plants are starting to turn brown, probably from spider mites, so this is the final photo of them for the year unless I squeeze in a fall planting. And those little white things in the basket are Yellow Wonder strawberries coming off the plants that I started from seed in the spring of 2010.

My caper plants are continuing to provide new buds. Here's one of my largest harvests so far this season.

I hope that the current heat wave will really put the caper bushes into high production mode. So far I have harvested only 12.5 ounces of buds, well behind the 21 ounces that I had harvested by this date last year.

I spent far too much time schlepping back and forth to the SF bay area last week to have the rat damage to my car repaired so I haven't gotten around to harvesting the crappy garlic crop otherwise that would be included in this week's post as well.

Oh, I almost forgot, my scraggly little patch of Autumn Bliss raspberries produced a handful of berries that never got near the scale nor the camera. My husband is really lucky that I didn't scarf them all down while standing out in the berry patch, I was a really sweet girl and shared them with him.

Here's the harvest totals for the past week:

Piracicaba broccoli - 4.9 oz.
Pixie Baby cabbage - 4 lb., 10.5 oz.
Caper buds - 2.9 oz.
Super Sugar Snap peas - 1 lb., 15.3 oz.
Oregon Giant snow peas - 3 lb., 9.5 oz.
Strawberries (Seascape and Mara des Bois) - 2 oz.
Yellow Wonder strawberries - 1.5 oz.

The total harvests for the week were - 10 lb., 14.6 oz.
The total harvests for the year have been - 204 lb., 4.3 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.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Harvest Monday - June 13, 2011

I'll start with the pretty new crop from the garden, a couple of small Treviso type radicchio heads that I harvested to make way for the new zucchini plants. These were an experiment to see how they would do as a spring crop and so far the results are pretty good. There are still a few other heads growing in the garden and as long as the current cooler than normal weather hangs around they should hold and perhaps form some larger and firmer heads. I haven't tried these in a salad yet, perhaps they will go into todays lunch.

Here's the ugly new crop from the garden, one variety of the rust infested garlic. I didn't even try to cure this bunch for storage, these got peeled and chopped and mixed with olive oil, packed into 4 ounce containers and frozen.

I weighed the harvest after trimming off the roots and stems, the total came to 15.3 ounces as shown below and 10.5 ounces after the cloves were peeled.

I've been harvesting caper buds for the last few weeks but haven't gotten around to photographing any of them yet. The harvests this year are down from last year, perhaps because of the very cool weather that we've been enduring - we even had an unusual wet storm come through a week ago. That storm dumped additional snow on top of the lingering snow in the Sierra Nevada which has put the kibosh on our Half Dome hike, the trail isn't safe and the cables haven't been put up yet. Someday...

The peas aren't complaining about the cool weather, the harvests keep coming on, although the snap peas look like they are finishing up. I've put up 6 quarts of pickled sugar snap peas - that's a pound of peas in each jar! The snow peas trickled in for a couple of weeks and then all of a sudden it seemed like they were ready nearly all at once. There's a few bags of them in the fridge and I'm trying to come up with creative ways to use them. Last night I made Farrotto (like risotto but made with farro) with dried porcini mushrooms, snow peas, and pea shoots - it was a winner.

And there's a few strawberries in the total - I managed to snatch some from the jaws of the evil wood rats. Evil, evil, very evil wood rats - it's not enough that they attack my garden - I won't go into the details about what they've done to my car. Grrrrr.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Piracicaba broccoli - 8.7 oz.
Capers - 2.9 oz.
Golden Chard - 8.7 oz.
Aglio Blanco garlic - 15.3 oz.
Super Sugar Snap peas - 4 lb., 1.5 oz.
Oregon Giant Snow peas - 2 lb., 9.2 oz.
Snow Pea Shoots - 4.8 oz.
Strawberries - 4.2 oz.

The total harvests for the week were - 9 lb., 11.9 oz.
The harvests for the year so far total - 193 lb., 5.65 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, June 7, 2011

No-Crust Beet Greens Quiche

Beets are very closely related to chard, they are really just chard plants with skinny stems and fat roots, but the flavor of the greens is stronger than chard. I prefer to use them in dishes that incorporate other ingredients to offset that stronger flavor. Here's a new recipe that I came up with to use the first beet greens of the year, it's an adaptation of a spinach quiche recipe baked without a crust - both a time and carbo saver. I baked these in individual serving sized ceramic souffle dishes since a quiche without a crust would be messy to try to serve in slices. You could bake the filling in a partially baked tart shell (use at least a 10-inch quiche or pie dish), if you do that bake the quiche at 425 for the first 15 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350 and continue baking for about 30 more minutes. You could also substitute an equal amount of chard for the beet greens.

About 1 1/2 pounds beet greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, sliced thin
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh grated nutmeg to taste
4 ounces grated gruyere or swiss cheese
smoked sweet or medium hot paprika

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Wash the beet greens and trim off the tough stems. Place the wet greens in a large saute pan over medium heat, cover the pan and cook until the leaves are wilted, turning them a few times to cook them evenly. Drain in a colander, allow them to cool until they can be handled, squeeze handfuls to remove excess moisture, and coarsely chop.

Saute the onion in the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the chopped greens to the pan and saute for a minute or two to dry them a bit more. Portion the onion-greens mixture into 4 individual sized souffle dishes (my dishes have an interior size of about 4 inches by 1.25 inches) and place the dishes on a baking sheet.

Beat the eggs, milk, creme fraiche, salt and nutmeg together. Pour an equal amount into each greens filled souffle dish, top each dish with 1 ounce of grated cheese, and dust the tops with the paprika. Bake the souffles for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the custard has set and the tops are golden brown and puffed. Serve immediately, or cool and reheat later.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Harvest Monday - June 5, 2011

Here's the first beet harvest of the year - Golden Beets from Renee's Garden Seeds and Chioggia Beets. The Golden Beets from Renee's are the best golden variety that I've grown in the last few years. The seeds germinate well, the greens are tender, the roots size up quickly and are well shaped, and the beets are golden to the tender core. Most importantly, they are mild tasting and delicious - winners! The Chioggia beets have been favorites for a long time and I've gotten good results with seeds from a variety of sources.

The leaves from this harvest were incredibly pristine and tender and I used them right away to make individual crustless beet green quiches. Yum, those were really good - I really need to write up that recipe before I forget how I did it. Once I get around to it I'll post the recipe. The beet greens are accounted for separately in the harvest totals shown below.

The snow peas are starting to produce in relative abundance now. I do love the snow peas but I think that sugar snap peas are my favorite pea for their sweetness and incredible yields. In my previous post about how I use snap peas I showed a 3.75 pound basketful of them that I harvested on May 31. And then I harvested another 2.75 pounds of snap peas on June 3. In that same period of time I harvested about 1.3 pounds of snow peas from an equal number of plants. In terms of just sheer volume the snap peas win hands down, but I also love the sweet crunch of snap peas and I treasure the delicious pickles that I can make with them. Four pounds of the snap pea harvest have been turned into pickles so far. Neither the snap peas nor the snow peas are showing signs of powdery mildew yet, and the pea shoots are also PM free but unfortunately are becoming infested with spider mites.

Here's the harvest totals for the last two weeks:

Renee's Golden Beets - 10.9 oz.
Chioggia Beets - 11.2 oz.
Beet Greens - 1 lb., 10 oz.
Piracicaba Broccoli - 13.8 oz.
Pixie Baby Cabbage - 8 lb., 7 oz. (3 heads)
Caper buds - 4.5 oz.
Fava Beans - 15 lb., 3 oz. (the final harvest)
Super Sugar Snap Peas - 9 lb., 7 oz.
Oregon Giant Snow Peas - 1 lb., 10 oz.
Snow Pea Shoots - 7.9 oz.

The total harvests for the past two weeks were - 39 lb., 6 oz.
The total harvests for the year have been - 183 lb., 10 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.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Do I Eat All Those Sugar Snap Peas...

Let me count the ways.

1. Within seconds of separation from the mother plant. Mmm, sweet and crunchy!

2. Raw sliced thin in my salad for lunch today, along with arugula, haricot verts, avocado, sliced almonds, Oregon pink shrimp, meyer lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Variation yesterday with thin sliced leftover skirt steak instead of shrimp and sweet moscatel vinegar instead of lemon juice. Previous versions included leftover salmon or smoked trout, walnuts instead of almonds, sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, hazelnut or walnut oil... Use your imagination!

3. In the vegetable side dish last night - Pixie cabbage wilted with sliced snap peas in brown butter, olive oil, fresh sage, pine nuts, and garlic pulled fresh from the garden.

4. My favorite simple braised snap peas - brown butter with some sage leaves, toss in the whole stringed snap peas, add a small splash of water, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. The little bit of water will help to steam the peas and as it cooks down it will emulsify with the butter to make a lovely sauce. Cook until the peas are as crunchy or soft as you like them, cover the pan if you like your peas well done. Also good with some diagonally sliced asparagus added to the mix, and thin sliced garlic is another option. Another variation, instead of brown butter crisp some pancetta in a little olive oil, add peas to pan and proceed...

5. Raw, sliced thin on the diagonal and added to Asian seasoned cole slaw.

6. Refrigerator pickles - my latest version is made with rice vinegar and seasoned with tarragon, garlic, dried chile pepper, and sliced fresh ginger.

7. Sugar Snap Peas, fava beans, shredded duck confit - all sauteed with some olive oil, sweet onions, garlic, and thyme - braise all in some good homemade chicken stock and serve in a warm bowl with a big spoon. Poached egg on top is optional.

8. How do you eat your sugar snap peas?