Monday, June 29, 2015

Harvest Monday - June 29, 2015

Last week was still light on harvests but there was a bit more variety. The Royal Burgundy bush beans produced the first couple of handfuls of beans.

Romanesco zucchini and Royal Burgundy beans

I prefer to grow pole beans but don't have space in the garden for them until some time in May. Space opens up for bush beans much earlier, as early as late March if I I want to take a chance on an early planting. This year I waited until mid April and got lucky because they had a chance to get established before the May Gray extra foggy extra cool weather set in. So now, just as my pole beans are just starting to climb their trellises I'm harvesting the first snap beans.

Royal Burgundy beans
Not the best photo below with the white onion and purple basil. They may not make good photo mates but they do play well together in the saute pan.

Superstar onion, Romanesco zucchini, Corsican basil
The bolting cipollini onions also played well with the Romanesco zucchini and blossoms in Scarpaccia (Zucchini Tart).

Cipollini onions and Romanesco zucchini
Here's the rest of the Cipollini onions after trimming. I sliced the bulbs and roasted them to freeze and use later in soups. The tender parts of the stems went into a batch of onion cream, based on my green garlic cream. The recipe is on my recipe blog. I've got one jar of the garlic cream in the fridge that I've been using in various dishes. I used a dollop of it in a dish of fresh zucchini and onion, frozen roasted sweet peppers, and Gigante beans, all baked together with a topping of feta and bread crumbs.  I used another dollop of it with some minced rosemary, fish sauce, and white white as a marinade for lamb chops.

Cipollini onions
 I've been pulling the bolting onions and using them as I need them.

Superstar onion
The lettuces are growing so quickly that I can hardly keep up with them. The Winter Density lettuces are demanding my attention now. This one was just starting to bolt but in spite of that it was incredibly sweet. This is another variety that was recommended to me by a local gardener, along with the Italienischer, and his advice was spot on, both lettuces are winners. The huge Italienishcher lettuces that I showed last week are keeping quite well in the fridge. I've been cutting leaves from the heads almost every day and enjoying them in salads.

Winter Density lettuce
I only managed to coax one head of butterhead to germinate for this succession of lettuces and here it is. We've got some lettuce cups in our dining future this week.

Rhapsody butterhead lettuce
The only harvests not photographed were a few radishes.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past week:

Royal Burgundy bush beans - 6.5 oz.
Rhapsody butterhead lettuce - 13.4 oz.
Winter Density lettuce - 13.7 oz.
Cipollini onions - 5 lb., 3.3 oz. (I weighed only the parts I used)
Superstar onion - 10.3 oz.
Helios radishes - 1.2 oz.
Pink Punch radishes - 1.3 oz.
Romanesco zucchini - 3 lb., 14.6 oz.

Total for the week - 12 lb., .3 oz. (5.5 kg.)
2015 YTD - 361 lb., 13.4 oz. (164 kg.)

Dave was asking me this weekend how my harvests this year stack up to the harvests at this time last year and I had no idea, but I can see now that I'm about 56 pounds ahead of last year. I'm not sure what the differences are, I'll have to take a look at that later.

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.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Et Tu Allium Ampeloprasum?

Leeks, are you joining your onion cousins in the blooming brigade?

Leek Scape
I obviously have a lot more to learn about growing alliums.

There's plenty of this going on in the onion patch...

Decapitated flower stalks. The Candy and Superstar sweet onions just keep pushing them up. I've learned that if I just remove the flower head that even though the stalk keeps growing and fattening...

that they don't entirely interfere with the development of the bulb. Common advice is to just pull the bolting onions and enjoy them right away because the bulbs won't get any bigger. But that's a lot of onions to try to enjoy at one time, and as I said, the bulbs have continued to grow a bit. The best strategy for me seems to be to keep the bolting onions in the garden as long as possible. They seem to be keeping just fine so long as I remove the flower heads as soon as I see them. At first I was cutting the flower stalk as low as possible, but the problem with that is that the stalk is hollow and water collects inside of it leading to rot in the bulb. Now that I've learned that lesson I'm careful to just snip off the top. It will be interesting to see just how long I can wait before I have to harvest the bolters.

I did make an exception when I found that my small planting of cipollini onions were bolting. I pulled all of them. There really wasn't any hope of them turning into nice little flat bulbs. They were all too big, shading the shallots, and a lot of them were behaving more like bunching onions than bulbing onions, so out they came.

Bolting Cipollinis
Now, I'm finding that the onions that I had hoped would be my storage onions are bolting as well. These were one of the varieties that I started from seed way back in November. Seven months devoted to growing them and now they decide to bloom.

Tonda Musona onion starting to flower

Blooming onions. Blooming leeks. What the heck is going on?

I was really quite careful to choose intermediate day length onion varieties that should be suitable for the latitude here. But day length isn't the trigger for blooming in alliums. Alliums are biennials, they do most of their growing in one year and bloom the next. For many biennials day length is the trigger to bloom, but for onions day length triggers bulb formation, which to the plant means that they are storing food to get them through the winter and provide energy to bloom in the spring. Vernalization, which is exposure to a certain number of chill hours, triggers flower production in alliums. Alliums can be fooled into thinking (do onions think?) that they have been through winter if they are exposed to a period of warm weather followed by cold weather. And that is the likely trigger for the blast of blooms in my onions and leeks. We had an exceptionally warm winter this year, days on end from January through April with temperatures in the mid to high 60's into the 70's and even into the 80's (18-27ºC). And then we shivered through the month of May with temperatures that barely made it into the 60's. It turned out to be one of the coolest Mays in years.

So my challenge now if I want to continue to grow onions and leeks is to find varieties that are resistant to bolting. This is the second year that we've experienced an exceptionally warm winter, although last year the spring weather wasn't quite as cold. Is this the new normal? Who knows. But it's really not unusual, it's almost expected, that we will have some warm weather in winter. We also tend to have fairly cool spring weather when the fog starts to roll in. So I think I need to find alliums that are resistant to bolting when subjected to swings in temperature.

One of the sweet onions that I'm growing seems to be resistant - Red Candy Apple is one of the trio of onion seedlings that I purchased from Dixondale. This is my second year with this trio and my experience this year is the same as last year. We had really similar weather conditions and both the Candy and Superstar onions bolted and Red Candy Apple did not and has not. Red Candy Apple is a keeper.

I grew another three varieties of onion from seed for this year, two of which I've already mentioned as bolting. The third variety is a red torpedo type, Rossa Lunga di Firenze, which is starting to form bulbs now, and so far I haven't found a flower stalk, not yet, but that doesn't mean they won't appear. I've got my fingers crossed that it will be resistant. If Rossa Lunga di Firenze doesn't bolt I'll give it space in the garden next year. The problem with RLF is that it doesn't keep well. I need to find a storage onion suitable to my climate.

Here's a few intermediate day length storage onions that I think I will trial next year, click on the links to go to the seed seller:

Australian Brown - heirloom
Giant Zittau - heirloom
Talon - hybrid
Whitewing - hybrid
Expression - hybrid, not a storage onion, but similar to Candy which I like, it keeps a few months
Great Western - hybrid, not sure it's for storage, but it's suited to my latitude
Mt. Whitney - hybrid, another one suited to my latitude

Here's a couple more tidbits of advice to keep your onions from bolting, courtesy of Dixondale:

Be careful not to over-fertilize, too, because overly vigorous growth may result in bolting. So can soil that is too loose; if the plant thinks the ground has been disturbed, it may respond by trying to spread its seed.

That sounds reasonable but I doubt that either was part of my problem.

I would love to hear if anyone has any suggestions for a great onion that will grow at 36º30' latitude with a longest day of 14 hours and 49 minutes. Long day varieties require 14 to 16 hours to initiate bulb formation so some of them will work here. The challenge when considering long day varieties is that there often times isn't any information about just how many hours are required or which latitude is appropriate. I've passed on a number of long day onions because that information isn't provided.

Back to the leeks. I'm growing two varieties - Blue Solaise and Lungo Della Riviera. So far it's just the Lungo Della Riviera which are bolting. The Blue Solaise are compact and fattening up. The LDR's are more tall and thin, the tallest and thinnest are the ones that are bolting. So I'm hoping the Blue Solaise may resist bolting. I had already decided that the Blue Solaise seem to be better suited for my garden because they have been more resistant to rust than the LDR's, so perhaps they will be keepers.

With all this bolting going on in the onions and leeks I've started to more closely inspect my Zebrune shallots. So far, so good.

One more tidbit about growing bulbing onions. I've noticed that a number of my onions are splitting, as in multiplying, two or more plants form from one seed or seedling. Dixondale advises that it may be because of a number of things including genetics, spacing too far apart, temperature fluctuations (especially below 20ºF), planting too deeply, over fertilization, and uneven watering. Phew, I'm not sure what I can blame for that problem.

Enough of my stinky lily problems. How are your onions doing?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Harvest Monday - June 22, 2015

A hunger gap in June? It almost seems like it. My harvests are quite light right now. If it weren't for zucchini and lettuce we would be a bit hungry for fresh produce from the garden.

I cut the last 2 Italienischer lettuces because they were getting to be huge. I wonder how large this variety gets before bolting, neither of these heads were showing signs of it. Each of the heads was close to 2 pounds after trimming off the only slightly yellowing or tough outer leaves.

Two heads of Italienischer lettuce
I've been experimenting with using a warm bacon dressing on this lettuce and liking the results. The soft parts of the lettuce wilt a bit but the crunchy ribs retain their crunch.

Romanesco zucchini
I am glad that I reneged on my promise to not grow Romanesco zucchini again, it's definitely helping to fill the harvest gap between spring and summer crops. We've started our annual parade of favorite zucchini dishes - last week it was Zucchini in Agrodolce.

Chesnock Red garlic
I pulled all the Chesnock Red garlic early. It was so infested with rust that it seemed unlikely to produce any good heads and I wanted to use the space to grow some Delicata squash up a trellis - so out it came. I used the whole crop to make another batch of Crema di Green Garlic (now on my recipe blog).

Zebrune shallot
I keep watching my seed started Zebrune shallots and wondering when or if they will develop bulbs. I pulled one of the green plants to use in my first go at a warm bacon dressing. It didn't look too promising to begin with, but when I cleaned it up I found two nice stalks, one of which did an admirable job of flavoring the dressing. The other stalk found its way into a red cabbage slaw (amazing how well the cabbage keeps in the fridge).

Zebrune shallot and Romanesco zucchini
The only other harvests were a bolting onion, some rather large but still edible radishes, and a handful of arugula.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Speedy arugula - 1.2 oz.
Chesnock Red garlic - 8.5 oz.
Mixed green garlics (from the previous week) - 8 oz.
Italienischer lettuces - 3 lb., 14.1 oz.
Superstar onion - 15.1 oz.
Helios radishes - 6.4 oz.
Zebrune shallot - 6.8 oz.
Romanesco zucchini - 2 lb., 1.3 oz.

Total for the week - 8 lb., 13.4 oz.
2015 YTD - 349 lb., 13.1 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 16, 2015

Bean Update

It's been about a week and a half since I reported on the problem with damping off in the patch of Monachelle di Trevio beans in my garden. Well, I'm happy to say that the 6 survivors have stayed with us and are actually growing. I had sowed my remaining dozen seeds in paper pots at that time and got 100% germination, although there is one week seedling. Those babies went into the spots previously occupied by the first bunch of beans.

I had mixed up a sprayer full of Actinovate to treat a fungal problem elsewhere in the garden so the new bean seedlings got a squirt of that and I may cover my bases and give them a spray of 70% Neem as well.

I've got my fingers crossed that the next report about these beans is as positive as this one.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Harvest Monday - June 15, 2015

It was not a big week of harvests, at least not for June, back in January it would have been a bounty.

The big stars of the week were a couple of heads of Italienischer lettuce. The lettuces are growing unbelievably quickly, and the Italienischer in particular. This big oakleaf type has thick crunchy ribs making a nice mix of soft and crunch. I'm finding that I like it best in a simple green salad with an oil and vinegar dressing. We tried it one night with some blue cheese dressing, but the dressing weighed it down too much and the salad flattened out on the plate - it was tasty but not a pretty sight.

Italienischer lettuce
Romanesco zucchini came in second in terms of productivity last week, but only slipped into one photo along with some Spigariello Liscia broccoli and some strawberries. The other night I grilled some sliced zucchini, arranged the zucchini on a platter, then added strips of preserved sweet peppers, thin sliced sweet red onion that was quickly pickled with salt and red wine vinegar, and some Roquerones (preserved white anchovies), and drizzled on a simple oil and vinegar dressing. That was a tasty treat, and pretty too (some day I'll have to figure out how to do a decent photo of a finished dish in the poor lighting of my kitchen).

Spigariello Liscia broccoli

These were the last two "spring onions" for the year.

Here's another "in the garden shot" of the latest harvest of Speedy arugula.

This harvest came from the plants that I interplanted with my bush beans, which are now overwhelming the arugula. That's ok though, I got a couple of very nice harvests of arugula. I can be profligate with my arugula seeds because I collected a jar full of seeds from the plants that I allowed to go to seed last year. Now I've got some new seedlings growing between my corn plants. Speedy is a really good choice for interplanting since it really lives up to it's name.

That same day I harvested a bunch of Spigariello Liscia broccoli shoots.

The plants are getting to be rather rangy.

They are putting out long slender shoots. I cut the shoots down to just one bud, but most of the shoot is too tough to eat, so I find the point where the shoot is easy to cut through and just keep the tender upper part.

My favorite way to prepare this broccoli is to blanch it and then chop it, then saute it with onions and perhaps some raisins or dried cherries, perhaps some pine nuts, maybe some bacon, and sometime some pepper flakes make it into the mix - I don't seem to prepare it the same way twice. It's also very good in a fritatta or in soup. It's not good roasted, the stems are not as tender as a regular type of sprouting broccoli so they get to be too stringy and tough.

Here's a harvest that I didn't record. This is the mess that is my garlic this year. It may not be quite so obvious in this photo, but...

here's a look at some real nastiness. All of the garlic is infected with rust. If I didn't spray with 70% neem at least once a week there would be nothing green in the patch, the plants would be dead by now. I'm about to give up on the garlic and pull it all.

After trimming off the nasty rusty bits and peeling back the out layers this was what's left. It's perfectly edible, so I sliced up all the garlic that I pulled and confited it with white wine, butter, and rice bran oil. The green garlic didn't get as tender as garlic cloves would have been so I pureed the whole thing in my VitaMix blender and I ended up with what I've dubbed "Crema di Green Garlic". Dave thought pesto, but pesto has connotations of nuts and cheese so I thought crema was more appropriate. It is so incredibly delicious that I could just eat it with a spoon or spread it on toast. I ended up tossing some of it with some fresh asparagus which I roasted - big yum. That night I also pan roasted some wild Salmon fresh from Monterey Bay, which we topped with more of the Crema. The rest of the Crema is in the fridge. I'm going to pull more garlic and make another batch and see how well it freezes. I don't have the patience to see how far along towards maturity I can coax the garlic, which likely wouldn't store well anyway, so this seems an easier, not to mention tasty, alternative.

Here's the details of the harvests:

Speedy arugula - 6.9 oz.
Purple Peacock broccoli - 7.1 oz.
Spigariello Liscia broccoli - 1 lb., 7.2 oz.
Italienischer lettuce - 2 lb., 12.2 oz.
Candy onion - 1 lb., 6.6 oz.
Spring onions - 1 lb., 3.5 oz.
Petite Dejeuner radishes - 2.9 oz.
Romanesco zucchini - 2 lb., 1.9 oz.

Total for the week - 10 lb., .2 oz.
2015 YTD - 341 lb., 6.5 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 8, 2015

Harvest Monday - June 8, 2015

The harvests have slowed down for a bit since the spring garden is mostly done and the summer plantings aren't producing yet, with the predictable exception of the Romanesco zucchini.

Romanesco zucchini

I've managed to keep radish successions going.

Helios and Pink Beauty radishes

Most of the onions that I segregated for spring harvests have been pulled and now I'm pulling the main crop onions that are producing flower stalks. Candy and Superstar are once again trying to flower early, just like last year. I had hoped that it was the stress of a warm winter that made them bolt, and perhaps that was the case because we had unusually warm winters both last year and this year, but if that's the new normal than I need to find some new onions to grow.

Candy onion

At least there's something of a bulb to slice and most of the the stalks are still tender enough to use as well. I used this onion in a zucchini dish that I'm adding to my lineup of zucchini recipes. The recipe came from Saveur magazine, although I adapted it for what I had because the onions in the Zucchini, Onion and Ricotta Pie turned out to be shallots and garlic with nary an onion. So I used onions instead of garlic and shallots and rather than using a 10-inch pie pan (which I don't have) I baked it in a gratin dish. It was delicious and got the Dave seal of approval.

Dave has also given his approval to Italienischer lettuce, a variety that I'm trying for the first time. It's a large oakleaf type that was recommended to me by a local gardener. It's growing like crazy and I started to harvest leaf by leaf early last week but that didn't slow it down so I started harvesting whole heads.

Italienischer lettuce

We enjoyed a simple tossed salad dressed with red wine vinegar, pomegranate molasses, and hazelnut oil with a scattering of chopped radishes and toasted hazelnuts.

Italienischer lettuce
These days I keep a variety of tubtrugs in various sizes around the garden. The large one is really handy for doing the initial wash right in the garden and then I can easily use the wash water to spot water around the garden (which is less likely if I have to haul it from the kitchen).

Other harvests not photographed included the amazingly small cauliflowers. The entire harvest was equal to less than 2 of the the heads I harvested last year. I used about half the harvest to make smashed cauliflower - chopped blanched cauliflower cooked in butter with some onion until soft, then smashed with some creme fraiche - a potato haters substitute for chunky mashed potatoes. There were also more sprouting broccoli shoots and one of the last spring onions. That last spring onion went into a dish made mostly from storage items - a warm salad of Petaluma Gold Rush beans, some preserved Odessa Market sweet peppers (from October 2014 and still very good), and good Spanish oil packed tuna. I tossed the sliced onion with red wine vinegar (homemade) and a bit of fish sauce, then the salad was dressed with more wine vinegar and olive oil, and seasoned with fresh sage and ground smoked Tarahumara pepper. Another hit with Dave.

Here's the details of the harvests:

Purple Peacock broccoli - 6.3 oz.
Spigariello Liscia broccoli - 7.7 oz.
Amazing Taste cauliflower - 3 lb., 3.5 oz.
Italienischer lettuce - 11.2 oz.
Candy onions - 2 lb., 1.4 oz.
Spring onion - 9.9 oz.
Helios radishes - 4 oz.
Pink Beauty radishes - 3.8 oz.
Romanesco zucchini - 7.3 oz.

Total for the week - 8 lb., 7.1 oz.
2015 YTD - 331 lb., 6.3 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.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Damping Off Disease in the Bean Patch

You win some and you lose some. In the case of my Monachelle di Trevio beans I've lost two thirds of them.

They started off looking great. I got 100% germination and they were looking good. Here they are on May 23, just 10 days after I sowed them in paper pots and three days after being set out in the garden.

But within a few days the first seedling started to look sickly and quickly fell over and died. Then a couple more, and yet a few more. Dave and I took off on the 29th to spend the weekend in San Francisco and I pretty much expected to come home to find 100% mortality.

Well, there were a few left when I inspected the garden on the 1st. Here's what the patch looked like on June 3. Boo hoo, just 6 survivors, a bunch of dead plants and one more on the way down.

Look at this poor thing. The first sign of things gone wrong were when the first two leaves started hanging down. Within a couple of days the stem would develop a linear stripe and then the entire plant would keel over. The outer layer of the stem was mushy at the soil line and rubbed off if you touched it. All these symptoms lead me to believe that it's a Pythium infection. The other common cause of damping off of bean seedlings is Rhizoctonia. And Fusarium is another soil borne fungi that can be a bean killer as well, but is not typically the culprit when it comes to damping off.

The first treatment that I tried after the the first seedling died and more appeared to be going down was a soil drench of Actinovate. I've had success treating mature bean plants with Actinovate soil drenches, but this was the first time I tried it for damping off. It didn't work and I suspect that it may even have made things worse. The problem with a soil drench when dealing with pathogens like Pythium and Rhizoctonia is that they thrive in wet conditions. The second treatment that I tried on the beans was really sort of incidental. I was spraying my leeks and garlic with a 70% Neem solution for an ongoing rust infection and I just sprayed the beans with the attitude of "let's see what happens".  That was on June 1.

So here's the patch shown below on June 6 and it's still 6 survivors. I finally pulled that dying bean seedling shown above, it was dying much more slowly than the previous seedlings. The survivors are actually looking pretty good, considering. I think the Neem treatment actually worked.

So here's my dilemma. When I thought that all the beans were going to die I sowed some seeds of Delicata squash and intended to put them in that spot. So, do I make the surviving beans share space with the squash or do I start my remaining Monachelle bean seeds and set them out on the trellis with the rest of the plants and treat them prophylactically with  Neem. I haven't decided yet. The squash aren't ready to set out yet, so I'm going to wait and see how the surviving beans do. I'm going to start the rest of the bean seeds and if the beans in the garden look like they will do ok I'll add the new beans to the patch and find a different spot for the squash. If it looks like the the survivors are struggling I'll put the squash there and put the new beans elsewhere.

Last year it was my bush beans that struggled. Look at them this year. They're on other side of the same bed growing like crazy. The bush beans had the benefit of unusually warm early spring weather which got them off to a great start. The poor pole beans had the misfortune to be starting in unusually cool and damp late spring weather.

There's always some new challenge in the garden.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Harvest Monday - June 1, 2015

I'm not sure what happened this past week, but the camera didn't come out very often.

This is the first harvest of Speedy arugula that I interplanted with the bush beans, along with a good sized Romanesco zucchini. I am happy that I planted the Romanesco zucchini because I didn't have a free spot to put up a trellis to support the Tromboncino squash until just recently and those plants have only just popped their first true leaves.

Speedy arugula and Romanesco zucchini
My experiment with interplanting the arugula with the beans has worked well so far, I got a nice bunch of young arugula before the beans started to seriously shade the plants. The arugula between the rows is quite shaded now, but the plants along the outside edge of the beans still get plenty of light and are producing some nice new leaves. The beans don't seem to mind the competition. I think I may repeat the experiment in the corn patch now that the corn has started to grow. Speedy is a good variety for these experiments because it really lives up to its name, I sowed the seeds on April 28 and cut the first bunch on May 27 and if I had wanted to I could have harvested even earlier.

Zucchini hogged the camera a second time. At least I didn't photograph the third one as well.

Romanesco zucchini

The only other new item in the harvest basket was the first couple of Petite Dejuener radishes, a French breakfast type.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Speedy arugual - 9.2 oz.
Purple Peacock broccoli - 1 lb., 4.4 oz.
Spigariello Liscia broccoli - 5.9 oz.
Spring onions - 1 lb., 10.1 oz.
Helios radishes - 6.6 oz.
Petite Dejeuner radishes - 1.1 oz.
Pink Beauty radishes - 3.2 oz.
Romanesco zucchini - 1 lb., 7.7 oz.

Total for the week - 6 lb., .2 oz.
2015 YTD - 322 lb., 15.2 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.