Monday, March 28, 2016

Harvest Monday - March 28, 2016

Harvests are slowing down as the winter veggies finish up and the spring ones are still growing up. I got a nice harvest of chard from a couple of the plants that I got into the garden very late last fall. The little plants sat there through the winter just barely growing, but now that the days are longer and we've had a bit of warm weather (off and on), the plants have put out some good sized leaves. I used this harvest to make a gratin using the stems and the leaves along with some of the green onions that I've been thinning out of the bulbing onion planting.

Italian Silver Rib Chard
Some of the onions will be red...

Tropea Rossa Tonda
And other ones will be white...

Ramata di Milano
The pea plants that were growing in the cover crop for the solanum bed produced some really good shoots before I cut the whole lot down, chopped it up and dug it in.

Both harvests were used together in a stir-fry along with asparagus and spring onions, all seasoned with an oyster sauce based sauce and toasted sesame seeds.

One of the salad greens that I had going for winter salads, Romanesca da Taglio Endive, had a major growth spurt so I harvested most of them and used wilted them in a saute instead of salads.

Romanesca di Taglio Endive

That was it for the week. I did harvest a couple of wonky heads of Red Iceberg lettuce, half of which I had to discard, and then I forgot to weigh what remained. We enjoyed a number of salads featuring the lettuces that I harvested the week before, those heads are keeping quite well in the fridge.

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

Italian Silver Rib chard - 1 lb., 14.6 oz.
Romanesca da Taglio endive - 13.8 oz.
Spring onions - 2 lb., 2.3 oz.
Pea shoots - 11.1 oz.

Total harvests for the week - 5 lb., 9.8 oz. (2.5 kg.)
2016 YTD - 78 lb., 2.9 oz. (35.5 kg.)

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Yet More Additions to the 2016 Grow List

Yes. Really. I know. I'm a crazed seed addict. But when I learned that William Woys Weaver is trying to start a seed company to make some of the nearly 4000 varieties of food plants in the Roughwood Seed Collection available to the gardening public I figured that the best way to support his project is to buy some seeds and while I was there I added a tax deductible donation as well.

A tiny fraction of his vast collection of rare and unusual edibles is already available through Baker Creek and Hudson Valley Seed Library and some are available through the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook by members that obtained seeds from Mr. Weaver in the past and now offer them. Mr. Weaver used to offer seeds through SSE but hasn't for the past few years, don't ask me why, I don't know. The one seed that I offer through SSE, Golden Corn Salad, I originally obtained from Mr. Weaver through SSE years ago. But 4000 varieties! For a seed junkie like me that is the Mother Lode and I find it exciting that more of it will become available if the Roughwood Seed Collection can make a go of it.

I've been an admirer of William Woys Weaver ever since I purchased his book Heirloom Vegetable Gardening not long after it was published in 1997. And then a few years later his book 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From was published and of course I immediately purchased a copy. Both books are full of stories and descriptions of heirloom and unusual vegetables. I've grown a number of vegetables based on his descriptions in those books. But one of the most frustrating things about these books is that seeds for many of the vegetables that he describes are not available or extremely difficult to find. So I was very interested to learn that he's trying to make more of his collection available.

So, what did I end up with?

There's always room for greens in my garden especially in the winter so I'm trying Mizunarubasoi, a cold tolerant cross of Mizuna/Tatsoi/Maruba that should be a good overwintering green. It's supposed to be good for both salads and stir-fries. And with a name like Mizunarubasoi how could I resist.

Another mustard I purchased is an endangered (from over gathering) wild Mediterranean variety from the Cape Greko National Forest area of Cypress, thus named Cape Greko Mustard (Enarthrocarpus arcuatus). This one sounded very interesting to me since it has the potential to be a perennial in my climate. Even if it doesn't perennialize it can last through the year if started early, producing a spring crop of greens, then going dormant in the summer after it blooms, then reemerging in the fall to produce another crop of greens. This would also fit my harvest schedule since I tend to ignore most leafy green veggies in the summer but want them when the weather gets cold.

Medieval Syrian Chard is unusual because it behaves like an annual, bolting in the first season, but if the flower stalks are pruned the plants will put out new growth. The flower stalks themselves are supposed to be tasty. I'm usually one to try the unusual so this sounded interesting.

Talk about unusual, how about an eggplant that is grown primarily for it's greens? How could I resist the Gbognome (bog-NO-may) Eggplant Collards, the leaves of which are edible when cooked, which is the primary reason it is grown. It's not the same species as the eggplant that we typically grow, it is Solanum macrocarpon rather than Solanum melongena. The fruits are edible as well, although they are bitter, but they can be allowed to ripen and then dried to make "a delightful ornament for the holidays" as Mr. Weaver says in his thorough description of the plant in 100 Vegetables.

I added a somewhat more typical eggplant to my collection with the Homs 20, a variety described as "substantial, meaty, and quite tasty" and still good if it gets seedy. It's also supposed to be drought tolerant, hardy, and perhaps more resistant to pests than other eggplants.

I'm not sure where I'm going to squeeze it in, but I got seeds for yet one more sweet pepper. Petit Marseillais is an heirloom from Provence with golden yellow pods that are good for pickling or better yet they are ideal for stuffing. How could I resist?

And I'm going to wedge another tomato into the lineup. Pomme d'Amour is an old type of tomato that resembles the original tomatoes brought to Europe when the Americas were first being colonized. It will be interesting to see what "an old type" of tomato turns out to be.

And there's a few more unusual veggies that came my way.

The Vine Peach is a melon that in spite of its name has flesh that resembles a pear in texture and flavor. There's a description of Vine Peaches and numerous similar melons (Mango Melon, Garden Lemon, Orange Melon, Vegetable Orange, Melon Apple) in Heirloom Vegetable Gardening where their various uses are described. They aren't like sweet melons, their flesh is firm and crisp and sometimes fragrant. The typical uses seemed to be for making preserves or pickles. They are also good in stir-fries, baked into pies, or used in curries. The pear-like quality of the Vine Peach offered by Roughwood is supposed to make it good for using in salads. Note - not all melons like this are tasty raw, the Mango Melon offered by Baker Creek is criticized for being quite bland and not fragrant at all, apparently the "mango" part of the name refers to a process where the melon is "mangoed" by stuffing it with seasonings and spices and pickling it. There's an heirloom recipe in Heirloom Vegetable Gardening for Musk Melon Mangoes which describes the process.

The Gagon Cucumber is a very rare variety from Bhutan. It is supposed to thrive in colder climates as wells as hot humid ones. I figure that it should tolerate my cool coastal climate. It seems to be a multi-use cucumber, good as a typical cucumber in its green youth and still good when mature and dark skinned when it is supposed to be reminiscent of melons and can still be eaten raw or pickled or used to make chutney.

One more melon relative found its way into the shopping cart. Cucumis metuliferus, commonly known as Kiwano Horned Melon, or Kiwano, or African Horned Melon, or Jelly Melon, or other names, has lime-green tangy jelly like flesh that is good for fresh eating, or used in smoothies or ice cream. This strain is particularly well adapted to cold climates, ripening earlier than most other strains, making it a candidate for my coastal climate where melons struggle to ripen properly.

That's almost it, at least for the Roughwood Seeds. I also snagged a few free seed packets from Peaceful Valley when I placed an order for some garden supplies. New varieties include Calabrese broccoli, White Beauty radishes, Little Gem romaine lettuce, and  Baby Shanghai pak choi.

If you are interested in rare and unusual vegetables you should take a look at what Roughwood has to offer.   It was really difficult for me to pass up some of the beans and flour corns, but maybe next year...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Harvest Monday - March 21, 2016

The winter veggies are disappearing from the garden. Most of the lettuce is starting to bolt, I harvested the last 3 heads of Winter Density and 2 of the 3 remaining heads of Three Heart butterhead. The lettuces will keep well in the fridge if I wrap each head in a paper towel inside of a plastic bag so we will be able to enjoy these over the next couple of weeks.

Winter Density Romaine
Three Heart Butterhead

The celery and celeriac were also starting to bolt so I harvested all of those. These also store well in the fridge if most of the leaves are removed.

Dorato d'Asti Celery
Monarch Celeriac
The celeriac wasn't exactly regal size wise, the total for the 6 roots was about 1.5 pounds so after trimming it might be enough for one dish.

The Rishad cress and Speedy arugula were going the same route as the lettuces and celery so I cut them down. These don't keep all that well so I've been using them up first in my nearly daily lunch salads.

Rishad Cress
Speedy Arugula

It was past time to give the Summer Perfection spinach a haircut, though the plants hadn't actually sent up up flower stalks yet it seems like they are on the verge of doing so. I used some of the spinach paired with some Petaluma Gold Rush beans and some cubes of leftover pork chops. We got double duty from that dish, first as a warming stew and then mashed up and used as a filling in warm whole wheat tortillas with cheese and shredded lettuce.

Summer Perfection Spinach

I've harvested most of the winter sowing of radishes also. They are almost all gone now. Radishes also keep well if their leaves are removed so I'm nursing them along, slicing up 2 or 3 to put in my salads.

Malaga Radishes
Petit Dejeuner Radishes
Helios Radish
Pink Punch Radishes
One unplanned but much appreciated harvest was the tops of the pea plants that I had sown as part of the cover crop for the future solanum bed. The peas are a variety that I grew a few years ago and saved seeds from but decided to not grow them again because they too susceptible to powdery mildew. The young plants are unaffected and the top shoots are very sweet and tender if they are harvested before the tendrils fully develop. I used the bunch in a stir fry with asparagus, scallions, lettuce, and tofu, seasoned with ginger and dried maitake mushrooms. Delicious!

Pea Shoots and Spring Onions (scallions)

There's a few winter veggies left in the garden but not for long and the veggies that I sowed in late January before I left for vacation were stunted by the unexpected dry weather so I pulled them out and started over, so I may have a gap in the harvests while I wait for the March sown veggies to mature.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Speedy arugula - 8 oz.
Dorato d'Asti celery - 3 lb., 9.2 oz.
Monarch celeriac - 1 lb., 8.8 oz.
Rishad cress - 1 lb., 8 oz.
Three Heart butterhead lettuce - 12.9 oz.
Winter Density lettuce - 3 lb., 5.3 oz.
Spring onions - 5 oz.
Pea shoots - 2.6 oz.
Helios radishes - 1.7 oz.
Malaga radishes - 4.7 oz.
Petit Dejeuner radishes - 2.2 oz
Pink Punch radishes - 4.8 oz.
Summer Perfection spinach - 2 lb., 15.4 oz.

Total for the week - 15 lb., 8.6 oz. (7 kg.)
2016 YTD - 72 lb., 9.1 oz. (32.9 kg.)

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Variety Spotlight - Corsican Basil

Corsican Basil, July 20
I've spied the very first signs of life from the basil seeds that I sowed the other day and it occurred to me that I should do a Spotlight post about the basil variety that I enjoyed the most last year. Corsican Basil is a variety that I had never heard of before I chose it as a free packet of seeds when I placed an order for various garden supply items at Peaceful Valley. I really didn't have any particular expectations about the culinary quality of this basil, it looked pretty and I figured that if I didn't like the flavor that I could just let it bloom and feed the good bugs. It took me a while to get around to getting them into the garden, but once they were set in place they took off.

August 4
I planted a few plants around one end of the bed where the cucumbers, butternut squash, and eggplant were growing. The plants turned out to be vigorous and fairly tall, a bit rangy with long stems and leaves that are smaller than the no-name green basil varieties that are typically offered at stores and farmer's markets around here. And quite different from what has been my favorite basil for a few years now - Profumo di Genova.
August 6
The big surprise was that it turned out to be a lovely sweet tasting basil, not too spicy and not strongly licorice flavored - it has a nice balance of flavors. Of course this is purely subjective based on what my taste preferences are. I had expected it to be more assertive, like a Thai basil which it looks similar to. I found that when I went to the garden to harvest basil for various uses that I more often than not chose this one. I loved the flavor and I loved the color.

October 1
Another thing that I like about Corsican Basil is that it rebounds very nicely after a hard trim. I had intended to allow the plant shown back on August 6 to just bloom away for the good bugs, but it got to be too big and was crowding out the eggplant so I cut it back quite hard. Any other basil subjected to that sort of drastic trim would have likely died, but this plant recovered and produced lots of tender new growth.

October 19
My favorite plant to harvest from was one tucked into the back side of the bed wedged between the cucumbers and the butternut squash. It kept putting out new shoots as I kept cutting them out so I was able to enjoy its leaves over the course of at least 4 months.

October 1
So these highly productive plants kept me and the bees and other good bugs happy well beyond the date that the other basils in the garden, other than the African Blue, had succumbed to old age. I'm really looking forward to another season with Corsican Basil in the garden.

November 12
Even though this is a somewhat obscure variety the seeds are not difficult to find, a quick search through the Mother Earth News Seed Finder turned up 5 sources. So if you have room in your garden you might want to give this lovely tasty resilient basil a try.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

More Experiments With Cloches - Winter Sown Broccoli

One of the challenges I faced this winter was getting certain spring crops sown and into the garden in the face of a three week absence in February. There was just no way that I could nurture seedlings along in pots and then get them set out in the garden in a timely way. In 2015 I had sown three varieties of broccoli and one variety of cabbage in early January, set them out in the garden in mid February, and had the first harvest on March 31. That schedule just wasn't going to be possible this winter but I wasn't ready to give up on spring broccoli so I decided to experiment with direct sowing under cloches.

January 21
I usually plant my brassicas with the stems planted deep, at least up to the level of the seed leaves. The plants will develop roots along the stem and especially from the leaf nodes and that helps to keep the plants from keeling over in the wind. I've found that planting them deep can also encourage strong side shoots from the soil level. With that in mind I dug out the soil about 1 1/2 or 2 inches before sowing the seeds and then put the cloche in place. I sowed a few seeds in each cloche, 2 with broccoli and 2 with cabbage.

February 27

My hope was that the cloche would protect the seedlings from critters (especially sow bugs) and pounding rain and provide a bit of warmth in the cold weather. Look what I found when I got home...

February 27
The Batavia broccoli had great germination and the young seedlings were nice and healthy! Unfortunately the germination rate for the cabbage was ZERO, old seeds, oh well. The cloches not only protected the seedlings from critters, but they also kept the seedlings from drying out when the rain disappeared for a couple of weeks as soon as I left. Other seedlings that I had sown under the protection of mesh tunnels suffered from the lack of moisture and never grew well.

March 2
It took me a few days before I could get around to uncovering the plants to thin them.

March 2
After I removed the excess seedlings I replaced the soil that I had removed when I sowed the seeds so that the lower stems were buried.

March 2
Then I had to cover the young plants with some mesh fabric because the birds discovered how delicious the tender young foliage is.

March 16
At the same time I sowed some seeds of Atlantis Brokali where the cabbage failed to germinate. They are coming along nicely.

March 16

I think I'll be doing more experiments with sowing under the protection of cloches next winter, it certainly helps to cut down on the work of potting up seedlings and I'm wondering if the plants will perform better for not having their roots disturbed from the potting up and setting out process. The method won't entirely eliminate my need for starting in containers, often times the garden space isn't ready when it's time to sow the seeds, but when the space is available I'll be continuing the experiments.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Harvest Monday - March 14, 2016

It was a week of light harvests, not because there wasn't much in the garden, but because there was too much in the fridge. The harvests were mostly destined for salads, basically.

Three Heart Butterhead Lettuce
This head of Red Iceberg Lettuce was used in lettuce cups, kinda like a salad, with chopped leftover roast chicken, celery, radishes, and scallions (onion thinnings), served with blue cheese dressing and toasted walnuts.

Red Iceberg Lettuce
I'm going to run out of radishes pretty soon, a few are just starting to bolt and the rest are all nearly large enough to harvest. I have more sown and they've germinated nicely but it will be a few weeks before I can start harvesting them.

Pink Punch, Malaga, and Helios Radishes
There's lots of short scallions available, they are short because they are the thinnings from the bulbing onion plantings and bulbing onions are planted more shallowly than onions grown for scallions.

Onion thinnings, Malaga, Pink Punch, and Helios Radishes
Onion thinnings
The celery and celeriac plants are starting to bolt, so there will be more of these in the harvest basket in the coming week.

Dorato d'Asti Celery
Gustus Brussels Sprouts
Late yesterday afternoon there was a break in the rainy weather so I was able to dash out to the garden and harvest a bunch of Brussels sprouts. The aphids were colonizing the bases of a number of sprouts and some sprouts were elongating as they were on the verge of starting to bolt, but I was able to wash away most of the aphids and the sprouts were still quite sweet and were good shredded on a mandolin and quickly sauteed with some bacon, pine nuts, shallots, and dried cherries.

Earlier in the week I made a soup that featured Purgatory beans from my stash of dried beans, plus frozen fava and green beans, and frozen sauteed onions. I've still got butternut and delicata squash left that should be eaten soon, so I made a sauce (like a pasta sauce) with ground veal, dried porcini mushrooms, frozen sauteed onions, canned tomatoes, celery, carrot, and other seasonings and served the sauce atop the roasted halves of squash with a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano.

Here's the harvest totals for the week:

Gustus Brussels sprouts - 1 lb., 7.4 oz.
Dorato d'Asti celery - 10.4 oz.
Red Iceberg lettuce - 12.3 oz.
Three Heart butterhead lettuce - 9.9 oz.
Spring onions (scallions) - 5 oz.
Helios radishes - 4.5 oz. (radishes weighed w/o greens)
Malaga radishes - 6.9 oz.
Pink Punch radishes - 5.1 oz.

Total for the week - 4 lb., 13.5 oz. (2.2 kg.)
2016 YTD - 57 lb., .5 oz. (25.9 kg.)

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Coming Attractions

Spring is definitely on the make here. She has been aided by a somewhat normal rainy season. We’ve received about 19 inches of rain so far (starting October 1), with more on the way. In a “normal” year we get about 24 inches of rain, mostly from October through March. The weeds are burgeoning, the oaks are tasseling and covering everything with a heavy dusting of pollen, the wildflowers are blooming, the Anna’s hummingbirds are diving in displays of territorial claims, the Western Fence lizards are cavorting, and my want-to-grow list is out of control. I started making lists of seeds to order well before the catalogs landed in my snail mail box. I try to remember varieties that other bloggers like or have had notable success with that I want to try. And then I usually start perusing online seed catalogs in December to check on any new offerings from my favorite seed purveyors. By mid January I had received the bulk of my seed purchases.

So, what's new this year?

I’m trying Apollo arugula, Dave at Our Happy Acres likes it and we both like Speedy arugula so I thought Apollo has got to be worth a try. Speedy stays in the lineup also.

Beans. I love beans, both snap and dry, and I have perhaps succumbed to the temptation to try a few too many new varieties including:
  • Blue Speckled Tepary (dry) 
  • Hopi White Tepary (dry) 
  • Red Swan bush snap 
  • Roc d’Or bush snap 
  • Royalty Purple Pod bush snap 
  • Brinker Carrier pole snap (dry) 
Returning this year are:

  • Slenderette bush snap 
  • Golden Gate pole snap 
  • Musica pole snap 
  • Rattlesnake pole snap (dry) 
  • Greek Gigante runner dry 
Dave’s experiments with growing tepary beans last year inspired me to try some also. The Blue Speckled variety is described as not tolerating heat as well as other tepary beans so I thought that might make it more tolerant of my cooler growing conditions. And the Hopi White can be grown on a trellis which means it won’t require as much space. 

I really enjoyed growing a number of varieties of snap beans at the same time last year. Instead of starting one big patch of a single variety I mixed it up, 2 varieties of bush beans and then 3 varieties of pole beans. It was nice to have smaller portions of different colored and shaped beans so that's what I’m planning on again this year, only even more varieties packed into the same space. I start the bean season with bush beans because my rotations open up space for bush beans before pole beans. The bush bean roundup includes a rose, a yellow, a purple, and a green snap bean. The pole bean varieties include both green and yellow romanos, plus a purple speckled green and a straight green. My growing season is long enough to segue from the bush beans to the pole beans without too much overlap, especially if I clear out the bush beans before they can try to produce a second crop. 

Other than the Tepary beans I’ve not added any other new dry beans, but two of the snap varieties are dual purpose so if I get tired of harvesting snap beans I can let them grow on to the dry bean stage. Rattlesnake produces speckled dry beans and Brinker Carrier produces creamy white beans. 

My success with Brussels Sprouts this year has prompted me to add another variety to the list, Hestia is a 2015 AAS winner, noted for its uniformity and tolerance of both cold and warm weather, and most importantly it's supposed to be good tasting. 

I did not grow carrots last year but I’m going to try to make up for that this year. Last year I ordered a couple of varieties that were praised by other garden bloggers (can't remember whom now) and I’m also trying a few others because of the unique colors. The carrot grow list so far includes: 
  • Bolero Nantes
  • Nelson
  • Purple Sun
  • Rotild 
  • Pusa Rudhira Red 
  • Pusa Asita Black 
I’m going to try a new purple cauliflower this year, Purple Cape is an overwintering type with deep purple florets. One of those I just couldn't resist selections (aka an impulse buy). 

There a new celery in the lineup, Pink Plume is a rare heirloom variety that has purple tinged inner stalks and leaf tips. It is supposed to have an intense fennel like flavor. 

Palla Rossa radicchio is touted as being one of the more reliable OP varieties, producing more uniform heads and good for spring production. I’ll see, I’ve already got some seeds germinating for a trial run. If it doesn't do well for spring I’ll give it another go this fall. 

This will be my third year growing so called “field” corn. I’ve selected two new to me varieties, both heirlooms and both flour corns. Hopi Chinmark kernels vary from cream colored with red stripes to red colored with cream stripes plus all cream and all red kernels. The “chinmark” name refers to chin tattooing historically common among the Pai tribes. Puhwem grows on very large very sturdy stalks. The dried stalks supposedly can be used like bamboo. But it's the white corn kernels that I’m interested in, they are supposed to be exceptional for making cornmeal. 

Last year I grew Dutch Broadleaf cress for the first time and really enjoyed its watercress like flavor in my salads. So now I’m on a bit of a cress kick. I got some seeds for Rishad cress late last year and finally produced a decent crop of it just recently. It has a very finely cut tender leaf that’s both pretty and flavorful. And now I’ve got seeds for 2 more varieties to try - Persian Broadleaf and Greek. 

Susie at Cold Hands Warm Earth wrote about her quest to grow Mouse Melons, aka Mexican Sour Gherkins, which has inspired me to give them a try this year. 

I grow fava beans (broad beans) every year and it has been the same variety for a number of years now, Extra Precoce Violetto is early and productive and the beans are delicious. But this year I’ve added a new variety to the patch, Robinhood is also supposed to be early and is supposed to be bushy so that the plants don't need staking. The plants have stayed fairly compact so far, bushier than the Extra Precoce Violettos, and they are covered with blossoms at the moment. 

There are 3 new kales for the garden this year. One of them is actually a mustard and I got the seeds last year but didn’t find an opportune time to sow them last year. Ethiopian Highland Kale is the name that Artisan Seeds chose for the mustard greens that they are offering seeds for. It resembles a young Lacinato kale in looks but I find the flavor to have a pleasant hit of a mild mustard bite. It's quick to produce a crop and the plants produce a few harvests, first the top portion of the young plant is cut and then 2 or 3 harvests of side shoots. 

Lacinato kale has been a long time favorite of mine so when I saw a lacinato kale cross with magenta ribs on Wild Garden Seeds’ online catalog I couldn't resist. The flavor is supposed to be “very lacinato” and it is also more cold hardy than lacinato (not that that is an issue in my mild climate), I was captivated by its looks. The third new kale is Russian Hunger Gap, which I can't remember if I read about on another blog or not, but it looked interesting so I’ve got some seeds! It is supposed to be a late bloomer, thus the “hunger gap” part of its name, it's apparently keeps producing when other kales are already blooming. 

I added 5 new lettuces to the list this year. A couple of them I selected for their heat tolerance because I want to be able to have lettuce when it finally gets hot here and I purchased others just because, ah well, you know, impulse buys… 
  • Joker crisphead 
  • Little Rosebud Romaine Mix
  • Manoa butterhead 
  • Red Butter Romaine 
  • Rosencrantz 
One of my goals this year is to be able to harvest lettuce all year long. It would be fairly easy to harvest cutting lettuces at any time, it’s just a matter of sowing enough successions, but my goal is to keep a succession of heading lettuces going. One problem I had last year was that the lettuces that I started for fall harvests all bolted very quickly. Fall tends to be when we have our warmest days and nights so lettuce doesn’t keep very long in the garden. So a couple of my choices this year are supposed to be heat tolerant. Manoa is described as “a tropical-stressed selected version of the century-old ‘Green Mignonette’, itself recognized as a standout heat resistant lettuce”. So that’s one variety I’ll be trying this fall. Joker is described as an all season lettuce with excellent heat resistance. I would really like to have a crisphead lettuce when the weather warms up so I’ll put it to the test later this year as well. 

A few mustard varieties caught my eye while I was cruising the Wild Garden Seed online catalog, but I managed to restrain myself and only put 3 in my shopping basket. Dragon Tongue/Ho-Mi Z is definitely eye catching with purple veining on a bright green background with thick white midribs and is a good candidate for overwintering. Pink Lettucy is a good salad green and makes a good raab when it bolts. And Scarlet Ohno Revival is a dual purpose mustard/turnip, producing both tasty greens and roots. 

Onions. I am on a quest to find onions that won’t bolt in my changeable weather. The one variety that I’ve had reliable results with is Red Candy Apple. I would grow it again but it is only available as live plants and in amounts that exceed what I want to grow. So this year I’m trialing 8 (germination failure)  7 new varieties from seed. 
  • Bianco Di Maggio cipollini 
  • Exhibition 
  • Piatta D’Italia 
  • Ramata di Milano 
  • Savona 
  • Tropea Rossa Tonda 
  • Yellow Sweet Spanish Utah 
The only variety that is returning from last year is Rossa Lunga di Firenze, a red torpedo type that produced well with a minimum of bolting. 

When you grow your own vegetables, especially if you grow from seed, you quickly learn that veggies that are sold in grocery stores as generic interchangeable items - red bell peppers, carrots, onions, broccoli, whatever - that they are much more diverse than you could possibly imagine if your only point of reference is what is sold in the veggie morgue at the store and even at a good farmer’s market. Even something so mundane as parsley - flat leaf and curly, right? Hah, this year I’m adding Macedonian and Georgian Flatleaf to the delicate Cilician and robust Italian Gigante varieties. 

Next in the lineup of new veggies should be peppers, but I think I’ll leave them for a post of their own, along with the few new tomatoes. 

So, on to a new salad green, plantain, another inspiration from Dave at Our Happy Acres. I’m growing a different variety than the ones he covered in his Spotlight Post. Buck’s Horn Plantain is a somewhat frilly leafed variety, also know as Minutina or Erba Stella. It is supposed to have a “tender crispness with a wonderful nutty flavor & succulent texture”. I hope it will be an interesting addition to my salads. 

Radishes are a favorite addition to my salads so I’m trying a few new varieties this year: 
  • Malaga 
  • Pusa Gulabi 
  • Pusa Jamuni 
  • Violet de Gournay 
Malaga is a small purple skinned globe type that is already proving to be a winner, it’s quick to grow, beautiful, and mild tasting. Pusa Gulabi and Pusa Jamuni are heat tolerant varieties from India and I'm hoping that they will fill the radish gap in warm weather. I’ve got some started now to see what they are like, they're supposed to do well in cooler weather as well. Violet de Gournay is an heirloom winter radish from France. I first read about it in William Woys Weaver’s book 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From. It is supposed to be good both raw and cooked like a turnip, but I’ll have to wait until the end of the year or next winter to find out for myself. 

Yet one more impulse buy found its way into my seed collection, Merlo Nero spinach, aside from having a cool name, is interesting for it’s crinkled leaves. The buy was totally impulsive, but I don't have a crinkly (savoy) leafed spinach in my collection and it has been a couple of years since I've purchased spinach seeds so I could say that I needed some fresh seeds. 

Whew, I’ve come to the last NEW! item in the seed collection (excluding peppers, tomatoes and such), I’m going to try a buttercup squash. Discus Buttercup is a bush type winter squash that only gets to be about 3 feet so it's not a space hog. It's supposed to be sweet, not too large, and a fairly good keeper, so it could be a good choice for me. 

If you are interested to see everything that I’m planning on growing this year, both returning and new varieties, along with the sources for my seeds, you can find that on my 2016 Planned Varieties page. There's also a tab at the top of my blog that you can click on.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Harvest Monday - March 7, 2016

After a disappointingly dry February the rain has returned! The combination of the moisture, longer days, and more mild temperatures is putting the garden into high gear. I managed to get the overgrown cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli out of the garden and into the compost before the wet weather set in. Both the cauliflower and Romanesco were just developing heads when I left for vacation and in the three weeks that I was gone they pretty much exploded into massive open heads. I did cull a few shoots of Romanesco that weren't too loose or too full of aphids and they tasted good, too bad I didn't get to enjoy the entire heads. If we ever plan a trip for February again I'll be sure to skip planting these for winter harvests.

Romanesco Broccoli shoots
The Brussels sprouts behaved during my absence though and I harvested another basketful last week, this time prepared by shredding them on a mandolin and quickly wilting them with shallots, bacon, and dried currants. I've also started pulling baby onions. I set my onion seedlings out spaced 2 inches apart so that I could harvest half of them as scallions and spring onions so that the remaining onions will end up with a final spacing of 4 inches apart.

Gustus Brussels Sprouts and onion thinnings.
I had to put on a rain jacket to harvest half of the spinach that grew in the last month. The plants are just starting to show signs of bolting and one had an 8-inch shoot already. I'm really happy with the way my experiment with starting them late under cloches worked out, I've harvested far more than I expected.

Verdil Spinach
There was so much spinach ready to harvest that I had to fill up my veggie washing tub in addition to the basket shown above. I wilted the entire harvest right away and used half of it in a dish of Greek Gigante beans baked in tomato sauce with Andouille sausage. That was a great meal for a blustery wet evening.

Verdil Spinach
I sowed a patch of various greens and radishes on January 21 in hopes of having something to harvest when I got home from vacation and my timing worked perfectly! Last week I cut a nice big bunch of Speedy arugula and pulled the first radishes.

Speedy Arugula and mixed radishes

Helios, Malaga, and Pink Punch radishes
 Then I pulled even more radishes a few days later.

Petit Dejeuner, Malaga, Helios, and Pink Punch radishes
The Rishad Cress sown on the 21st of January was also ready to harvest.

Rishad Cress

As was the Ethiopian Highland Kale (actually a mild mustard).

Ethiopian Highland Kale

The celery is still quite small but it has been tasty, I've been using it more like a cutting celery rather than a normal sized head of celery.

Dorato D'Asti celery and onion thinnings
Most of the Winter Density lettuce is producing good compact crisp heads. We enjoyed this one with some homemade blue cheese dressing, sliced radishes, sliced green onions and crispy bits of baked prosciutto.

Winter Density Romaine lettuce
This head of Red Iceberg lettuce was intended to join the Winter Density in the salad but I only needed the one head of lettuce when our dinner group went from 6 to 4 diners. Now I think I'll use the head for lettuce cups with chopped leftover roasted chicken and other veggies.

Red Iceberg lettuce
I cut the rest of the bolting Bac Lieu cilantro. This variety has very pretty frilly tops when it bolts. I used most of it as a basis for a Salsa Verde using the method described in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. The cilantro provided the bulk of the herbs along with some flat leaf parsley, fennel tops, and mint. I also added minced salt packed capers (homegrown), anchovy filets, Meyer lemon peel, shallots, and dried Mareko Fana pepper flakes. The mixture was well lubricated with extra virgin olive oil. We enjoyed the salsa with roasted chicken and roasted slices of Delicata squash.

Bac Lieu cilantro
One harvest not photographed was a handful of sugar snap peas that I found when I uncovered the pea trellis, it was just a few since there was only one plant that was still alive. The Golden Sweet snow peas were still going strong but all the peas are too large and tough to harvest to eat, but I think I can let the peas mature to save the seeds.

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

Speedy arugula - 10.1 oz.
Romanesco broccoli - 2 lb., .1 oz.
Gustus Brussels Sprouts - 1 lb., 2.6 oz.
Dorato D'Asti celery - 14.8 oz.
Rishad Cress - 4.6 oz.
Ethiopian Highland Kale - 1 lb., 4.7 oz.
Red Iceberg lettuce - 9.3 oz.
Winter Density lettuce - 2 lb., 2.8 oz.
Spring onions - 3.6 oz.
Super Sugar Snap peas - 2.7 oz.
Helios radishes - 4.1 oz
Malaga radishes - 2.2 oz.
Petit Dejeuner radishes - 1.8 oz.
Pink Punch radishes - 4 oz.
Verdil spinach - 3 lb., 13.7 oz.

Total for the week - 14 lb., 1.1 oz. (6.4 kg.)
2016 YTD - 52 lb., 3 oz. (23.7 kg.)

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what has been springing forth from other garden bloggers gardens lately.