Monday, August 31, 2015

Harvest Monday - August 31, 2015

There's some new goodies in the harvest basket this week. The first sweet peppers to fully ripen are the Yummy Belles. There were a couple of accidental harvests. The pepper on the left is a sweet frying pepper called Rosso Dolce da Appendere that ripens to bright red. Fortunately it is also tasty as a green pepper. The plants are growing next to the Anaheim peppers which I like to harvest green and I pulled the Rosso Dolce pepper thinking it was a ripening Anaheim. That was fine because I was making another batch of gazpacho and need a sweet pepper in the mix. Craig's Grande jalapeño is growing next to the Sonora peppers and I knocked a couple of young peppers off the plants, which worked out fine as well, I used them in the dish that I harvested the Sonoras for. I roasted and peeled the Sonoras and the jalapeños to incorporate into a stew that featured home processed posole (hominy) made from last year's Cascade Ruby Gold flint corn. The stew also had some Tromba D'Albenga squash, onions, and garlic. I made a very simple salsa of fresh tomatoes, avocado, Tropea onions, and lime juice to top off each bowl of stew. I'm working on a post at the moment about my home processed posole.

Rosso Dolce Appendere, Yummy Belle, Padron, Craig's Grande Jalapeño, Sonora Anaheim

Some of the Red Candy Apple onion starts turned out to be Tropea onions and here's the first of them that have finished curing. I have been using these to make what I call "instant pickled onions" - I cut them into thin slices using my handy little Benriner mandolin, then toss the slices with a pinch of salt and a splash of wine vinegar. They are ready in moments to top whatever you like to have pickled onions on.

Tropea onions
New crop Purgatory Beans! My best harvest in years. I wrote a spotlight post about them last week if you want to learn more about them. While finding space on my pantry shelf for the new jar of beans I unearthed the last of the 2013 harvest, about 6 ounces of beans, just enough to whip up a salad with tomatoes, tuna and pickled Tropea onions. The Camp Joy cherry tomatoes were perfect in the salad, they aren't as assertive as the sweet-tart Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes and I thought their savory flavor was a good compliment to the beans.

Purgatory beans
I've been harvesting the Tromba D'Albenga squash a bit large. The larger ones are perfect for making Zucchini Sott'Olio and the firm flesh of the large ones are also great for stews like the posole stew I mentioned before.

Tromba D'Albenga squash
A couple more harvests of Amish Paste tomatoes means I now have 10 pounds of canned tomatoes in the pantry.

Amish Paste
I'm not sure if there will be more cucumber harvests like this one. There's plenty of Green Fingers still coming in, but one of the Tasty Treat plants collapsed from wilt and the other may be on the way out. There would have been more cucumbers in the tally if I hadn't gotten tired of harvesting them. A number of them got to be huge and went straight to the compost from the garden.

Green Fingers and Tasty Treat
This was one of the Superstar onions that bolted. I've got all of them still hanging upside down on the curing rack outside. Most of them are keeping pretty well as their fat flowerstalks slowly dry out. I don't want to cut all the flower stalks off because they are hollow and cutting them makes the bulb more prone to getting some sort of infection. So I take them from the rack as I need them and trim them and tally them one at a time. This one is big enough to cook with for the better part of the week - about 1 3/4 pounds after I trimmed it. All of my Red Candy Apple onions have finished curing and I've trimmed them and brought them inside, but I haven't gotten around to weighing them yet.

This is not in the tally yet, but it was too pretty to not show off.

Mandan Parching Lavender corn

There were a few harvests that I didn't get around to photographing, they're included in the details below.

Speedy arugula - 7 oz.
Purgatroy beans - 3 lb., .9 oz.
Purple pole beans - 2.6 oz.
Stortino di Trento beans - 3.6 oz.
Green Fingers cucumbers - 3 lb., 6.6 oz.
Tasty Treat cucumbers - 4.3 oz.
Sicilian eggplant - 1 lb, 10.8 oz.
Candy onion - 1 lb., 11.9 oz.
Tropea onions - 2 lb., 7.1 oz.
Craig's Grande Jalapeño peppers - .7 oz.
Padron peppers - 8.4 oz.
Rosso Dolce da Appendere pepper - 4.2 oz.
Sonora Anaheim peppers - 8.7 oz.
Yummy Belle peppers - 9.7 oz.
Amish Paste tomatoes - 6 lb., 2.1 oz.
Caspian Pink tomatoes - 1 lb., 10 oz.
Jaune Flamme tomatoes - 1.9 oz.
Mavritanskite tomatoes - 1 lb., 9.8 oz.
Pantano tomatoes - 7.4 oz.
Tromba D'Albenga squash - 8 lb., 2 oz.

Total harvests for the week - 35 lb., 14.4 oz.
2015 YTD - 590 lb., 2.5 oz.

If I had gotten around to tallying the Red Candy Apple onions I would have passed the 600 lb. mark this week. I'll do it today so I can hit the mark this month.

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.

Totally off topic - 

I want to give a heads up to US readers who are nature lovers to watch the first segment of Big Blue Live tonight. It is being broadcast live from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a place I love and where I spend every Thursday afternoon as a volunteer guide. You will get a glimpse of something that I too often take for granted - the incredible wildlife that inhabits or visits Monterey Bay. UK viewers already got their shot at it, now it's our turn.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Variety Spotlight - Fagiolo del Purgatorio or Purgatory Beans

It's time that this little bean got the spotlight. After 10 years off and on in my gardens I think it has proven itself as one of my favorites.

Dry Purgatory Beans
If you like bean salads then this bean is for you. It is quick cooking, thin skinned but firm, and delicately flavored. I've seen it compared to a cannellini bean but to my taste cannellinis have an unpleasant waxy texture that Purgatory beans thankfully lack. They are also about half the size of cannellinis. They look absolutely tiny compared to another one of my favorite white beans - Greek Gigantes (Gigande). My favorite way to consume Purgatory beans is in salads but they are also good in soups or as a stewed bean.

Soaked Purgatory Beans
The name comes from the long tradition of consuming them at the Pranzo del Purgatorio (Purgatory Lunch) on Ash Wednesday in the town of Gradoli in Italy. The tradition goes back at least 300 years, some say time immemorial, but since these are Phaseolus vulgaris, a New World bean, they could not have been cultivating them in Italy before the end of the 15th century. I don't have much doubt though that this is an old variety of bean, not tinkered with too much after being transported to Italy. William Woys Weaver discusses native American bean traits in his book Heirloom Vegetable Gardening. He says there's two traits that have been selectively bred out of modern beans. Pre-Columbian bush beans send out a single runner up to 3 feet long while the rest of the plant remains compact. And stringless beans are a 19th century innovation in bean breeding. Native Americans didn't consume beans in the green snap phase so they didn't care about strings in the pods.  Purgatory beans both send out a single runner and they have strings. I'll take those as indications that these beans have been relatively untinkered with for a while.

I really do like this bean, I must really truly like it in light of the difficulties that I've had growing them the past few years and yet I soldier on. I'm not sure if it's my fault of if they are susceptible to spider mites, but that seems to be one of the usual problems they encounter. In 2012 I kept the beans under a cover of Agribon to protect them from birds, unfortunately that may have created ideal conditions for spider mites to take hold. The plants became completely infested and met an early demise, but not before I got a little over a pound of dried beans. That was encouragement to try again. In 2013 I learned the limits of an early start for these beans, many seedlings died a cold soggy death, March is definitely too early. But I kept sowing more successions and eventually got a decent bunch of plants going. And then the spider mites hit, between the mites and my ministrations the plants died an early death again. But I still got almost 2 pounds of beans. More encouragement... Last year I tested the limits for how late I could plant them and sowed them on July 18 - yes, the middle of summer, and pushed even harder with a second sowing on August 7. And I pretty much got away with it, the spider mites attacked again, but fortunately the plants once again set some good beans and the warm nearly rainless autumn worked in my favor for getting the beans to dry. Last year my efforts netted 1.7 pounds of dried beans.

This year I gave the beans a more fair chance at success. I waited until April 11 to sow the beans in paper pots, one and a half flats for a total of 54 pots. Instead of Agribon I used more permeable and breathable tulle to protect the young plants from the birds.

May 6
After a few weeks I removed the fabric and let the plants grow on. You can see that I also experimented with an interplanting of Speedy arugula, an experiment that was pretty successful, I got a couple rounds of arugula harvests before the bean foliage shaded it out.

May 23
The plants were very happy and healthy in spite of growing through one of the coolest and foggiest Mays on record. The weather warmed up in June and the plants took off. Not all the beans in the photo below are Purgatory beans, there's bush Slenderette and Royal Burgundy snap beans in the foreground.

June 15
After one of the coolest and foggiest Mays on record we segued into one of the warmest (but not too hot) and sunniest summers in the past few years. And for some reason the spider mites have not been as bad as usual. The stakes you see below were a makeshift effort to keep the plants from flopping over into the very narrow space between the bed and the deer fence.

July 7
The plants set a lot of beans.

July 7
By early August the beans had matured and most of the plants had dropped their leaves and dried out. That barrier in front of the beans was to keep the leaves of the Romanesco Zucchini from flopping into the space for the beans.

August 9
These are a couple of the best specimens from the patch.

The beans in the pods weighed in at 4.25 pounds. I rather enjoy the process of popping the beans out of their pods individually and I do it after dinner while watching a video with Dave. The process helps to keep me from nodding off in the middle of the program...

Today was the final weigh-in for the dry shelled beans - just a smidge over 3 pounds. Woo hoo, plenty of bean salads for the coming year!

A 1.5 Liter Jar of Purgatory Beans
My original seed stock came from an Italian member of the Seed Savers Exchange back in 2005. His beans were from Onano, Viterbo, which is not far from the town of Gradoli where the Pranzo del Purgatorio is held. He no longer offers seeds through SSE but I did find one seed company that offers Purgatory Beans - Uprising Seeds. That's one option if you are interested in growing these beans. Another would be to buy a package of cooking beans and use a few beans as seeds - a good way to see if you like the beans before devoting garden space to them. And a third option would be me - I might be persuaded to part with a few of my beans, especially if you have something interesting to exchange.

Slow Food deems these beans to be worth saving from extinction, they have included them in their Ark of Taste (Italian only, I wish I could read it...), and I agree, I'll keep growing them.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Harvest Monday - August 24, 2015

It was a good week of harvests last week. The tomatoes are ripening early this year. I have to look back to 2010 when I started my tomatoes extra early and enclosed the cages in greenhouse plastic, an effort that I just can't be bothered with again. Here's the August tomato harvests since 2010:

2010 - 25.8 lb.
2011 - .5 lb.
2012 - 2.6 lb.
2013 - 4.6 lb.
2014 - 21.6 lb.
2015 - 32.4 lb., and the month isn't over yet...

I can't remember the last time I had enough ripe paste tomatoes to start canning in August. I usually put up quart jars of tomatoes, but I've found that a quart of tomatoes is often more than what I need so this year I'm doing more pint jars.

Amish Paste
This would be closer to a typical late August harvest of tomatoes - cherry tomatoes and small fruited early tomatoes, along with small green peppers.

Spike, Camp Joy, Sweet Gold, and Jaune Flamme tomatoes
Mareko Fana and Padron peppers
I generally have to wait until September for the first harvests of large fruited tomatoes.

Pantano, Caspian Pink, and Mavritanskite
That green shouldered Mavritanskite had a big scar on the bottom, but it was only skin deep and the rest of the tomato was excellent. I cut off the scarred skin, and cut the tomato in chunks and used it in a salad with smashed cucumbers and leftover grilled ling cod, dressed with some leftover Vietnamese dipping sauce (lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, and pepper paste) with some fresh basil and mint.

Mavritanskite tomato
The small fruited tomatoes are really coming in quickly now.

Penn State Plum, Jaune Flamme, Camp Joy, and Sweet Gold

Spike tomatoes
One more eggplant was ready to harvest. My Actinovate and beneficial microbe soil drenches seem to be helping the sick eggplants, there's new growth and flowers on most of the plants. Perhaps I'll get a few more late harvests if the plants hang in there.

Bonica eggplant
The summer planting of Di Ciccio broccoli is producing a few small harvests. There's one "main" head and some side shoots in this harvest. The Tromba D'Albenga vines produce a squash or two every few days.

More cucumbers! I found a New York Times article about smashed cucumber salads that inspired me to try that treatment. I haven't tried any of their particular dressings, but I did like the texture of the cucumbers when they are smashed and have tried them in a couple of salads like the one I described before with tomatoes and ling cod.

Add Green Fingers and Tasty Treat cucumbers to the basket.
And yet more squash and cucumbers with a side of Padrons and Mareko Fana peppers. These Tromba squash are large enough to make a batch of Zucchini Sott'Olio (Preserved Zucchini). I think the Tromba squash are even better than true zucchini for the preserves because the flesh is more firm and the seed cavities aren't as large.

I pulled out all of the leeks that I had set out for summer harvesting. I used all of these to make a big batch of leek and cauliflower puree that I froze. I should be able to use the puree as is, just warmed up as a side dish or thin it with stock and cream to make soup.

The last two Di Sicilia Violetto cauliflowers really got away from me - again. These babies aren't babies, they are HUGE. I used half of the largest one to make the aforementioned puree. Another portion is even now fermenting to make pickles. More of it went into Smashed Cauliflower (for which I've still not written up the recipe). And there's still more left in the fridge. I'm going to make another batch of puree, this time with sweet onions instead of leeks.

Violetto di Sicilia cauliflowers
One more round of Di Ciccio broccoli, blanched and incorporated into a frittata.

Add caption
We had this bunch of amaranth last night, simply sauteed in peanut oil with garlic and fish sauce.

Tender Leaf amaranth
Not photographed last week were more harvests of pole beans and beets. Oh, and I weighed some runty garlic that seems to have cured ok. And I raided the curing rack for a couple of onions.

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

Tender Leaf amaranth - 1 lb., 11.7 oz.
Purple pole beans - 4.2 oz.
Rattlesnake beans - 1 lb., 3.2 oz.
Stortino di Trento beans - 1 lb., 2.1 oz.
Three Grex beets - 1 lb., 9.7 oz. (trimmed)
Di Ciccio broccoli - 12 oz.
Di Sicilia Violetto cauliflowers - 16 lb., 2.3 oz.
Green Fingers cucumbers - 2 lb., 6.2 oz.
Tasty Treat cucumbers - 1 lb., 15 oz.
Bonica eggplant - 1 lb., 4.6 oz.
Early Red Italian garlic - 14 oz.
Lorz Italian garlic - 1 lb., 6.3 oz.
Blue Solaise leeks - 2 lb., 8.9 oz.
Candy onion - 12.9 oz.
Superstar onion - 1 lb., 4.6 oz.
Mareko Fana peppers - 5.4 oz.
Padron peppers - 6.6 oz.
Amish Paste tomatoes - 4 lb., 15.7 oz.
Camp Joy cherry tomatoes - 2 lb., 2 oz.
Caspian Pink tomatoes - 13.1 oz.
Chianti Rose tomato - 8.3 oz.
Jaune Flame tomatoes - 4 lb., 6.5 oz.
Mavritanskite tomato - 12.6 oz.
Pantano tomatoes - 2 lb., 5.3 oz.
Penn State Plum tomatoes - 16.9 oz.
Spike tomatoes - 1 lb., 13.8 oz.
Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes - 4 lb., 8.8 oz.
Tromba D'Albenga squash - 8 lb., 2.3 oz.

Total for the week - 67 lb., 11 oz. (30.7 kg.)
2015 YTD - 554 lb., 4.1 oz. (251.4 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.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Brassicas for Fall and Winter

I've finally lifted nearly all of the alliums from Bed #1 and started the transition to fall and winter plantings. This is the space that was occupied by bulbing onions from the start of the year. Off to the left are the leeks that I had hoped to grow through the fall and into the winter, but I'll be pulling most of them sooner rather than later because they continue to bolt. Off to the right there's a glimpse of the wispy French Gray shallots which have been lifted since I took this photo.

One herb that thrives in my winter garden is cilantro. I had allowed a few plants to grow in the onion patch and I let them bloom to attract good bugs and then keep going to produce dry seeds. After prepping this bed for planting I shook the seeds off of one of those plants which you can see sitting on the soil in the photo above.  I'll rake these into the soil later on in the season so they can grow after our warm fall weather is just a memory.

We had a heat wave last weekend and as is typical here along the coast the temperatures swing in the opposite direction when the natural air conditioning, aka the fog, turns on. It seems like the hotter the heat wave the thicker the fog that follows. I don't mind the fog at this time of year, it rolls in in the late afternoon or early evening and departs by mid morning. It makes for some great sleeping weather if you like to sleep with your windows open. The cooler weather is perfect for setting out new plants.

My collection of brassica seedlings has been hogging space on the outdoor tables. During the heatwave they got moved to a different table that sits in the shade of a large umbrella. The tray on the left holds one pot of Di Ciccio broccoli seedlings that need to be potted up. There's three lettuce varieties - Italienischer and Jericho seedlings waiting to be set out and extra starts of Winter Density. I always sow far more than I need. The best seedlings get potted up or set out and even then I keep extras in case of an unexpected demise in the garden. I was nearly tempted to replace the Winter Density lettuce in the garden with the extras. I had set out the plants just before the heat hit and the poor things wilted, but they seem to be rebounding now so they're getting a reprieve. The other two pots are my Dorato D'Asti celery and Monarch celeriac starts.

Here's the fall/winter brassica plot set to grow. I put in three Romanesco broccoli plants which I blogged about long ago here and here. I should do a proper spotlight post about this veggie one of these days. There are also three Di Sicilia Violetto cauliflower plants which made funky but tasty heads this summer. I hope to get better results with this planting but I really have no clue how they will behave. Those 6 plants are in the foreground set out 44 inches apart in staggered rows about 10 inches apart. These plants get to be huge and will elbowing each other around in that space before long.

The other side of the bed is occupied by six Gustus brussels sprouts plants over on the right. Those are more closely spaced. I've never successfully grown brussels sprouts before so I turned to my garden bible - Golden Gate Gardening by Pam Pierce - where she recommends that a short-season variety such as this (100 days or less from transplant to maturity) be spaced 12 to 15 inches apart. To the left of the brussels sprouts are three Apollo brokali and three Batavia broccoli plants. Those are spaced a bit wider than the sprouts.

Next up in the fall/winter brassica lineup are Lacinato kale, Tronchuda Beira cabbage, and Amazing Taste cauliflower. I have to sow my seeds ASAP to get seedlings that will be large enough to be productive through the winter. If I can get them into the garden by mid to late September they should be ok. The end of this bed is where I plan to grow most of the other brassicas but it is fully occupied by the Delicata squash plants at the moment. The vines are full of squash and they are starting to turn from green to gold so I think they will be ready to harvest by the time that I need to set out the next round of brassicas in their place.

Maturing Candystick Dessert Delicata squash

Monday, August 17, 2015

Harvest Monday - August 17, 2015

Summer harvests are starting to hit their stride now. I had a hard time keeping up with the bean harvests again, this time because it was too hot to spend any more time than necessary in the garden. Hiking took precedence for the cool morning hours so some of the beans got fat while I tried to keep the fat off.
Stortino di Trento beans
Rattlesnake and Purple pole beans
Purple and Rattlesnake beans
I gave the best of this lot of Stortino di Trento beans to a friend along with a bunch of cucumbers and a few tomatoes.

Something is finding the Purple beans to be very tasty. I was blaming the sowbugs but now I'm suspecting the birds, I think they're attracted to the color thinking that it may be fruit. It's really making me PO'd, they're ruining a lot of the beans.

These are the cucumbers that went to a friend. That batch of Mareko Fanas are set aside to be fried up on their own, I'm curious to see if the recent heat wave has made them spicier than the ones I harvested earlier.

Tasty Treat cucumbers, Mareko Fana peppers, Rattlesnake beans
Plenty of cucumbers last week...

Camp Joy cherry tomatoes, Tasty Treat and Green Fingers cucumbers
Tasty Treat and Green Fingers cucumbers, Tromba D'Albenga squash
Fortunately the Tromba D'Albenga squash isn't nearly as prolific as the Romanesco zucchini was so I'm not inundated with squash. The heads on the two Batavia broccoli plants started to loosen up in a hurry so I had to harvest both of those.

Batavia broccoli
Batavia broccoli
The Padron and Mareko Fana peppers keep coming in. I'm so happy I only planted 3 Padron plants this year, they are producing just enough peppers to keep us happy. The Mareko Fana plants are more modest producers, it takes about a week to gather enough for a good fry up.

Padron peppers and another look at the Batavia broccoli
Padron (left) and Mareko Fana peppers
Mareko Fanas
I harvested a few green Odessa Market peppers to use in a batch of refreshing Tomato Gazpacho.

Odessa Market peppers

I hate green bell peppers, but the Odessa Markets don't have that nasty "green" flavor of green bells. I've found that most non-bell type peppers are good when green. I'm not sure what it is about green bell peppers that makes them so disagreeable, when I eat them I taste them for hours afterwards - they're nasty "repeaters". Ripe bells don't do that to me.

The tomato harvests are picking up. There's lots of cherry tomatoes ripening and a couple of the first larger tomato varieties were ready to harvest.

Jaune Flamme, Spike, Camp Joy, Sweet Gold tomatoes and Mareko Fanas
Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes
Caspian Pink, Pantano, Jaune Flamme, and Spike tomatoes on top of the Sweet Golds
The beleaguered eggplants offered up a couple of decent fruits.

Sicilian (top) and Bonica eggplants
The Thai Tender amaranth offered up another round of greens. They went into a stirfry with one of the heads of broccoli and some tofu.

Thai Tender amaranth
I took one of the big Superstar onions from the curing rack. Part of it went into the gazpacho and the rest I sliced into thick rounds and grilled. I cut up some of the grilled onion to include in a dish of steamed beans in tomato sauce.

I got a nice harvest of Speedy arugula to use in salads.

Speedy arugula
The basil plants needed a trim so I harvested a bunch to use in pesto. I roasted some baby potatoes that I got at the farmer's market and tossed those with some steamed beans in the pesto sauce. The basil isn't included in the tally.

Aurelia basil and some volunteer parsley
Here's the details of the harvests for the past week:

Thai Tender amaranth - 14 oz.
Speedy arugula - 14 oz.
Purple pole beans - 2 lb., 1.9 oz.
Rattlesnake beans - 2 lb., 5.6 oz.
Strotino di Trento beans - 3 lb., 3.9 oz.
Batavia broccoli - 1 lb., 11.8 oz.
Green Fingers cucumbers - 2 lb., 7.5 oz.
Tasty Treat cucumbers - 3 lb., 9.7 oz.
Bonica eggplant - 15.4 oz.
Sicilian eggplant - 15.1 oz.
Superstar onion - 1 lb., 14.2 oz. (one onion!)
Mareko Fana peppers - 5.3 oz.
Odessa Market peppers - 9.8 oz.
Padron peppers - 13.4 oz.
Camp Joy cherry tomatoes - 9.1 oz.
Caspian Pink tomato - 9.1 oz.
Jaune Flamme tomatoes - 1 lb., 14.5 oz.
Pantano tomato - 4.8 oz.
Spike tomatoes - 10.4 oz.
Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes - 3 lb., 7.7 oz.
Tromba D'Albenga squash - 1 lb., 9.8 oz.

Total harvests for the week: 31 lb., 13.1 oz. (14.4 kg.)
2015 YTD: 486 lb., 9.1 oz. (220.7 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.