Monday, July 27, 2015

Harvest Monday - July 27, 2015

I always look forward to Harvest Monday, not just the opportunity to show off the bounty (hopefully) from my garden, but to see what is being produced in other gardens. It's always interesting and inspiring or envy inducing.

So, on to the latest harvests. There's a couple of new items. The first harvest of Padron Peppers, pretty much on schedule, last year the first ones appear in my tally on July 20, and in 2013 on July 26. That's actually the second harvest of Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes.

Padron peppers and Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes

Here's the first few cherry tomatoes from earlier in the week. The floodgates haven't exactly opened on the tomato harvest, but these few are a welcome treat. They came in earlier than last year but neck-and-neck with the first 2013 harvest. You can see that the cucumbers are coming in at a steady pace now.

Tasty Treat and Green Fingers cucumbers, Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes
I've been enjoying the cucumbers in salads, or thickly sliced with a sprinkle of coarse salt, smoked paprika, and olive oil. One day I topped cucumber slices instead of crackers with dollops of Burrata.

Green Fingers cucumbers
The bush beans produced another couple of harvests. They are starting to slow down now and the sow bug (pill bug, roly poly) population has exploded in the bean patch and the boogers are climbing up into the plants and eating the young beans. The pole snap beans are just starting to produce so I'm going to clear out the bush beans, they did a great job of producing so I'm not too sorry to see them go. The Romanesco zucchini production is slowing down, the plant looks like it's not very happy anymore. That's ok, it will make it much easier to pull the plant out when the Tromba squash starts producing, which will be any day now...

Slenderette beans and Romanesco zucchini
Royal Burgundy beans
 Red Baron beets have returned, this is the first of the summer planting.

Red Baron beets

The Spadona chicory produced another flush of leaves, 3 1/2 pounds in just a little over two weeks. I blanched the leaves and then sauteed some of them with pancetta and some garlic cream. I thought it was delicious, just mildly bitter, but Dave is much less tolerant of bitter flavors than I am, he ate what I served him but said the leftovers were all mine.

Spadona chicory and Romanesco zucchini
The onion harvest this year is not exactly a beauty pageant. There's bolters, and splitters (doubles and triples), and cracked onions. I've been trying to use up the worst of the bunch first and here's a few of them.  

Most of the Red Candy apple onions looked good as I lifted them, but not this one. And that's not another torpedo onion, it's a huge shallot that pretty much harvested itself as I went through the shallot patch bending the necks to hasten their maturing process. That Red Candy Apple onion weighs over a pound which should give you an idea of how huge that shallot is.

Zebrune shallot and Red Candy Apple onion
This is my second Rosso Lunga di Firenze torpedo type onion. These are turning out better than I expected. Even though a number of them have split into two or even three bulbs, the splits are clean and each bulb has a good wrapper. Only a couple have bolted so far.

Rosso Lunga di Firenze onion

The second variety of Spigariello broccoli that I'm trying this year is starting to produce nice shoots. This is similar to the Liscia (smooth leaf) broccoli that I grew earlier, the only real difference is that the leaves are more frilly. This bunch was blanched and paired with zucchini in a fritatta.

Spigariello Foglia Riccia broccoli
There's a few things to show this week that did not end up in the tally. This is what the Romanesco zucchini plant produced while I was on vacation. That big one weighed about 4 pounds (1.8 kg.). I didn't include them in the tally because I didn't use them. I had intended on making a batch of Preserved Zucchini (Zucchini Sott'Olio) but I just didn't have the energy for it while fighting a cold.

I did a taste test of a mature green chickpea and found them to be tastier than expected, more like a fresh raw shelling pea than a bean. Can a vegetable be cute? I think these are.

Pico Pardal chickpea
These are a bonus crop that I'm enjoying but not putting in the tally. I interplanted a few Pink Punch radishes in my patch of Purgatory beans. When the radishes started to bolt I let a few of them stay and bloom to help attract beneficial bugs into the garden. Now the plants are producing seed pods and it turns out that the pods on this variety are good eating. They are crisp, not fibrous, a bit sweet with a hint of radish bite. I snack on them in the garden and have been putting them in my salads. I've grown rat-tailed radishes before, which are grown for the seed pods and not the roots, and in my opinion these are better. The rat-tailed radish plants get to be huge and require a lot of space. The Pink Beauty plants were smaller and I think pods are better tasting. I'm sure that not all radish pods are good eating, but these turned out to be.

Pink Punch radish seed pods
The only harvest last week that wasn't photographed was the first few Rattlesnake beans.

Here's the details of the harvests last week:

Rattlesnake beans - 1.7 oz. (48 g.)
Royal Burgundy beans - 1 lb., 6.9 oz. (649 g.)
Slenderette beans - 2 lb., 2.5 oz. (978 g.)
Red Baron beets - 13.5 oz. (383 g.)
Beet greens - 11.4 oz. (323 g.)
Spigariello Riccia broccoli - 9 oz. (255 g.)
Spadona chicory - 3 lb., 7.4 oz. (1571 g.)
Green Fingers cucumbers - 1 lb., 10.9 oz. (763 g.)
Tasty Treat cucumbers - 2 lb., 3.8 oz. (1015 g.)
Red Candy Apple onion - 1 lb., 3.3 oz. (547 g.)
Rossa Lunga di Firenze onion - 1 lb., .4 oz. (465 g.)
Padron peppers - 4.4 oz. (125 g.)
Zebrune shallot (trimmed) - 12.3 oz. (349 g.)
Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes - 3.1 oz. (88 g.)
Romanesco zucchini - 4 lb., 7.9 oz. (2038 g.)

Total harvests for the week - 23 lb., 9.2 oz. (10.69 kg.)
2015 YTD - 411 lb., .9 oz. (186.45 kg.)

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there to be inspired by what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It's a Jungle

Nine days of vacation followed by 4 days of nursing a cold which has left me with little energy to spare for the garden means the place has become a jungle. It may not be obvious in the two photos below taken 10 days apart, but before I left on vacation I had finished the task of tutoring and trimming all the tomatoes up their trellis (at the far end on the right). They looked so neat and tidy with no vines flopping around. You can see how the Tromba D'Albenga squash plants (right foreground) have reached the top of their trellis and the corn went through a growth spurt as well.

July 10
July 20

After nearly two weeks on their own the tomatoes have decided to try to take over the 4 foot wide path. Two weeks ago the boards of the bed were fully exposed and you could see the cilantro growing along the edge of the bed. Where's the cilantro now?

July 23
July 23

The cucumbers are somewhat under control at the moment because I worked on them on Monday morning before I fully succumbed to the cold.

I managed a bit of work on the Honey Nut butternut vines on Monday as well. It seems like the vines are growing about 6 inches a day.

But the Candystick Dessert Delicata vines have spread out all over the place. I had intended to train them up the trellis but I'm not sure how I'll manage that now.

July 23

I can't believe the Delicata plants looked like this just 3 1/2 weeks ago. When I left for vacation the vines weren't quite long enough to tie to the trellis.

June 29
Another task that I didn't get around to before heading out for Montana was digging the onions and setting them on a rack to cure. Still not accomplished...

The jungle gets another day or so to grow as it will, I'm still not up to the task today. Back to the couch for me. I'm getting my money's worth out of that Netflix subscription...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Harvest Monday - July 20, 2015

I'm reporting on pretty much one week of harvests but a week late because Dave and I were in Montana hiking in Glacier National Park. What a hiking paradise that park is. If I can get caught up I'll put a post on my hiking blog but in the meantime, if you are interested,  you can see some highlights on my instagram feed @cvveggie.

One of the views from Pitamakin Overlook, Glacier National Park

The east side of Glacier may be a hiking paradise but it is not a veggie lovers paradise. The veggies in the grocery store in St. Mary were worse than stuff I would consign to the compost bin. I'm so happy to be home and eating super delicious and fresh vegetables from my garden.

One green that has been in my garden since early spring and that is still producing is some cutting chicory. It's a nice mild chicory, not too bitter and quite tender when harvested young. I planted it for a salad green, but once it got going the leaves got to be quite large and then I ignored it in favor of other salad greens. It got to be huge so I cut it back and fed the compost bin. Then it leapt back into tender greens which I harvested. Instead of using it as a salad green I blanched it and sauteed it with some garlic and it was delicious so now I know what to do with it. The big surprise is that it isn't showing signs of bolting yet.

Spadona Chicory
The Romanesco zucchini continued to produce. There was no way I could deal with all that zucchini before I left for vacation so most of my stash was shared with my volunteer shift mates at the aquarium. There's some fat ones on the plants now that I need to harvest.

That's the very first Tasty Treat and Green Fingers cucumbers of the year.

I harvested all the Royal Burgundy and Slenderette beans that were anywhere near large enough.

The Royal Burgundy beans were starting to wind down so there shouldn't be too many overgrown ones on the plants.

I cleaned out the oldest patch of radishes. Fortunately they keep quite well in the fridge if the leaves are trimmed off.

I've got one small planting of beets in the garden that needed to be thinned. The leaves went into a mixed veggie frittata.

Here's a preview of beets to come. These are mostly the Three Root Grex from Fedco and a couple of Golden beets from Renee's

This is a Zebrune shallot that started to bolt so I harvested it. These shallots are wonderfully sweet and mild, even raw, they are much tastier than the ones that are available at the grocery store or even the farmer's market.

Zebrune shallots

I used most of the shallots along with some Corsican basil, Persian mint,

and Rak Tamachat cilantro to do a stir fry of veggies and bean thread noodles that we had in lettuce cups with a Vietnamese Nuoc Cham sauce.

Rak Tamachat cilantro

Here's the one and only harvest for the past week. When I got home yesterday evening I did a quick tour of the garden and spied these cucumbers. It's hard to tell from the photograph but they are at least two to three times the size they should be and the photo doesn't include the largest one which I used to make a salad. Even the largest of these cucumbers was still quite tasty. The skin was just a bit tough but not so bad that the cucumber needed to be peeled, but I did remove the seeds. I was craving something with some good yogurt (good yogurt was not to be found in St. Mary) so I made a sauce of yogurt, olive oil, garlic cream (it is keeping incredibly well in the fridge), and basil and folded in the  chopped cucumber - it was so good.

Green Fingers Persian cucumbers

Here's the details of the harvests for the past two weeks:

Royal Burgundy beans - 11.7 oz.
Slenderette beans - 1 lb., 5 oz.
Beet Greens - 14.2 oz.
Spadona chicory - 1 lb., 2.5 oz.
Green Fingers cucumbers - 2 lb., 9.3 oz.
Tasty Treat cucumbers - 2.2 oz.
Helios radishes - 4 oz.
Petite Dejeuner radishes - 4.3 oz.
Pink Punch radishes - 2 oz.
Zebrune shallots - 14.4 oz.
Romanesco zucchini - 2 lb., 5.6 oz.

The total for the two weeks - 10 lb., 11.2 oz.
2015 YTD - 387 lb., 7.7 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.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

New Adventure for 2015 - Chickpeas, Updated July 8

Original Post - Scroll Down for Updates
It's pretty unusual for me to not be experimenting with a new vegetable. Last year it was flint corn. This year it's chickpeas, aka garbanzos. It seems like such a common bean at first glance, it doesn't seem like an exotic thing to grow. Why devote garden space to something that you can easily find in any grocery store, either as dried beans or canned beans, it's a pretty uniform product. But as with many a commodity crop if you start looking beyond the mass produced mass marketed stuff there's a whole new world to explore. I never thought that there was much variety in the world of Cicer arietinum beyond the ordinary tan variety, or "Black Kabouli", or the brown chickpeas to be found in Indian grocery stores. But then I started to do some research to figure out how to grow these beans and found that the advice is all over the place. And that's when I figured out that chickpeas have been selected and adapted to grow in a wide range of climates. And the growing advice is different depending on the climate. Not only that, they come in various sizes and colors, the skins can be tough to tender, the flavor can be bland or full.

To grow them successfully it helps to choose a variety that suits the climate where you garden. I'm not claiming to be a newly minted expert about growing chickpeas, but I think I've whittled it down to few basics that apply to growing most types of chickpeas that are adapted to temperate or cold climates. Growing them in subtropical or tropical climates is a different story that I'm not going to explore.
  • The seeds are more tolerant of cold soils than common beans, I read one recommendation to sow the seeds when the soil has warmed to 45ºF (7.2ºC), although Suzanne Ashworth says in her book Seed to Seed that they germinate best at temperatures from 70-85ºF (21.1-29.4ºC). The general recommendation is to direct sow the seeds, but I sowed my seeds into paper pots and then set them out once the seeds germinated and started to emerge from the soil.
  • The seedlings can survive some frost but it may stunt their growth. In fact, growers in some parts of California sow their seeds in the fall for spring harvests, much like I treat my favas. I'm thinking of sowing an experimental patch with my favas this fall. I do get occasional frost or freezing weather so it would be interesting to see how the plants do. I'm also thinking of planting them in late winter or early spring next year. We rarely have frost as late as February, so I might be able to sow them any time after mid February.
  • They don't like excessive heat. Seed Savers Exchange states in their book The Seed Garden that seed set is diminished when temperatures exceed 90ºF (32.2ºC). That shouldn't be a problem for me, we rarely have days that hot.
  • They are tap rooted and quite drought tolerant once the plants are established, but they need moisture when they are young.
  • I've seen conflicting statements that chickpeas are cool season plants and heat loving plants. I think it's all in the timing. They should be planted to grow and bloom in the cool season, or at least before the hottest weather sets in. The seeds should be maturing when the weather is warm and dry. The recommendation for climates that have rain when the seeds should be drying is to pull the plants when the seeds have matured and hang them in a protected place to allow the seeds to dry on the plants.
  • One rule of thumb I read was that they will tolerate cool wet weather or hot dry weather, but they don't like hot wet weather. 
I sowed my seeds indoors on May 13 and set them out in the garden on the 20th when the shoots were just emerging. 

May 23
By May 23 the first leaves were unfurling. I covered the patch with some tulle to keep the birds from uprooting the seedlings. I read in a few places that squirrels find chickpea seeds and seedlings to be particularly tasty, but fortunately I don't have a problem with squirrels, for now...

May 23
A few of the seedlings got munched by something, either sowbugs or a cutworm. Chickpeas are like runner beans, their cotyledons remain in the soil when the shoots appear. One benefit to that growth habit is that if the initial shoot gets destroyed another shoot will likely grow from the buried cotyledon to replace it, which is what happened with my munched seedlings.

June 6
The plants grew rather slowly to begin with, but that may have been because we had unusually cool weather for most of the month of May.

June 6
Now that the sun has come out and the weather has warmed up the plants seem to be taking off.

June 19
One interesting feature of chickpea foliage is that it exudes malic, oxalic, and citric acids. It is possible to see minuscule beads of it glistening on the foliage (although not in these photos). That doesn't make the foliage poisonous, but it can be a skin irritant if you handle it a lot so it's recommended to wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting the beans. But it also adds a delicious tang to the flavor of the leaves. Yes, the young leaves are edible, they can be cooked or eaten raw. I even found a couple blog posts that mentioned chickpea plants grown in tight spacing or containers just for the greens. When I read about the edibility of the leaves I promptly went out to the garden and plucked a few leaves to try and I can affirm that they are indeed tasty. I may be happy that I learned this because I think I spaced my plants too closely. I have 3 rows of plants. The plants are 6 inches apart in the rows and the rows are 9 inches apart. Now I'm thinking that a more optimal row spacing may be 18 inches so I may remove the plants in the middle row. But I won't have to compost them because I can eat them! Anyway, I'm reserving judgement on the middle row as I watch the plants grow, if they start looking too crowded I'll remove them.

June 19
One of the biggest challenges I'm having is that different varieties of chickpeas produce different sized plants.  The seed packet for the variety that I'm growing, Pico Pardal,  says "If given plenty of space the bushes can become quite large", but I don't know what "quite large" really is. The plants may become quite large but the beans are quite small. Here's the remaining seeds in my packet laid atop a package of garbanzos from Rancho Gordo. The Pico Pardals are maybe half the size of the Rancho Gordos which are pretty much the size of the average garbanzo.

Here's the description from Adpative Seeds:

This chickpea is from León, an autonomous region in north-western Spain, where chickpeas have been a staple food since Roman times. Pico Pardal is small seeded, with a very pronounced beak. Creamy consistency, thin skin, cooks up fast & bakes well. If given plenty of space the bushes can become quite large & produce many small (2-bean) pods. The Pico Pardal Garbanzo bean is currently the subject of a lawsuit in its home region. A food packer trademarked the name in 1998 & seeks to restrict its usage; the Promotional Association for Pico Pardal Garbanzo de León is requesting the removal of the trademark because it is a traditional type that is widely grown in the region. Looks like we can add trademarks to the list of unfortunate seed control mechanisms. We sourced this variety from Paco Villalonga Lochridge, a Seed Savers Exchange member in Spain. 

The climate in León is similar to mine, perhaps a touch warmer in summer and colder in winter, but not dramatically so. The average precipitation is similar as well, although our summers are more dry. So I think this variety could be well suited for growing in my garden.

And so my chickpea/garbanzo adventure begins. I'll try to post updates as the season progresses. It will be interesting to see what color the flowers turn out to be (purple, white, pink, or blue?), how big the plants actually get to be (2 feet?), how long it actually takes to produce a crop (80-180 days...). And most important, will they be tasty?

Here's a few links that I found to be helpful or interesting (click on the links):

Update July 1

The patch has filled in quite a bit in the last 10 days. We're finally getting warm weather and nights that are generally staying above 50ºF (10ºC) so the garden is growing like crazy.

June 29
And it turns out that Pico Pardal garbanzos have tiny white flowers. No pods yet.

Garbanzo blossom
Update July 8

I've been searching for pods ever since the first blossoms opened and I finally spotted a few yesterday. They are still quite small.

Garbanzo pod
There's lots more flowers now, one from every leaf node.

And the patch has filled in even more in the past week. I never did thin any plants out.

July 8
I'll update again when there's something new to report.