Monday, September 19, 2016

Harvest Monday - September 19, 2016

Is the Autumnal Equinox nearly upon us already? But wait, we haven't had SUMMER yet!

I finally started harvesting some peppers that were ready to be harvested because they were ripe or nearly so and not just because they were damaged, although one of those golden Etiuda bells was sunburned on one side.

Violet Sparkle, Odessa Market, Gogosar, Etiuda, Florina, Petite Marseillaise

Violet Sparkle
Violet Sparkle is a very pretty pepper. It has an elongated heart shape and it retains some of its violet streaks when it is ripe, the photo really doesn't do it justice. It has medium thick sweet flesh. I cut it up to include in a tossed salad. Very nice so far.

Rossa Lunga di Firenze
The Rossa Lunga di Firenze onions were ready to clean up and bring inside.

And the rest of the Exhibition onions needed to be brought in as well.

Piccolo Dattero, Reisetomate From Transylvania, Camp Joy, Sweet gold
The cherry tomatoes are coming in at a steady pace. There's finally enough now that Dave can take a good handful or two in his lunch every day.

Jaune Flamme, Lime Green Salad, Reisetomate, Pantano, Chianti Rose
The rest of the tomatoes, especially the larger ones, are still being modest in their production. But that's not really a surprise to me because I pruned them fairly hard as they grew. My goal this year was for a variety of tomatoes without excessive production. So far that's what is happening, but I have to say that it is a bit strange to not have a huge glut of tomatoes.

Rattlesnake, Golden Gate, Brinker Carrier
I inadvertently chose snap bean varieties that have been producing pretty much in succession. First the Golden Gate Beans produced the bulk of their crop (although rather modestly), then the Brinker Carrier beans came on strong, and then as the BC beans slowed down the Rattlesnake beans started to produce. I couldn't have planned it better. I have harvested far more beans than we can eat fresh so I have sliced, blanched, and frozen a few pounds of the Brinker Carrier and Rattlesnake beans in approximately 1/2 pound portions. I don't necessarily like to eat the frozen snap beans as a veggie side dish but they are perfect to use in soup or in a frittata. The Rattlesnake beans aren't as colorful as they could be because the plants are quite overshadowed by the corn plants that are towering above the bean trellis, but they are still surprisingly quite productive in spite of the competition for light.

I hope that the vines have enough vigor and time to produce a second round of beans. We'll see. So far the weather and powdery mildew just haven't been conducive to good production from the summer veggies so I won't be surprised if they poop out pretty soon.

Calabrese Broccoli, Tromba d'Albenga, Romanesco, Tasty Treat Cukes,
Mostly Rattlesnake Beans
The first Tasty Treat Japanese cucumbers were ready to harvest, although they were rather sad misshapen specimens and the vines aren't very vigorous so I don't know what is in store for the coming weeks. I guess they don't like cool and smoky "summer" weather. And my second Tromba d'Albenga squash plant finally produced a couple of squash. The squashes from this vine are atypical, being a fairly solid dark green rather than the usual light green with lighter streaks. I haven't cooked either of them yet so I don't know if they differ in their culinary qualities. The Tromba vines just aren't as vigorous as usual either and I can only attribute that to cooler than normal weather as well.

Romanesco Zucchini and Tromba d'Albenga Squash

Pink Plume Celery
Maybe it's the cooler than normal weather that keeps the celery going and prevents all of it from bolting. I took out one plant that was bolting and then decided that I don't need all SIX remaining plants so I cut down three more.

Cured Capers Fresh From Brine
I thought it might be interesting to show some of the capers that I harvested a couple of months ago. They have been sitting in a brine solution at room temperature on my kitchen counter. It was time to see if they were still good and it turns out that they are just fine. I have experimented with curing the capers by just tossing them with coarse salt or immersing them in a brine solution. Perhaps I just haven't worked out the proper amount of salt to use for the simply tossing them with salt cure, but they always seem too salty to my taste when I've prepared them that way. My preference is for the brined version. After I drain the brine I set them on towels on a tray to dry at room temperatuere for 24 to 48 hours. Then I pack them in jars and put them in the fridge where they will keep for at least a couple of years.

My reports on the Soberanes fire aren't finished yet because the fire continues on. Today is day 60. Yes a full 2 months. Over 117,000 acres burned. The local paper reported that this is the "costliest blaze to suppress in US history", the cost standing at over $200 million now and it will certainly be much more than that even if they can contain the fire by the (optimistically) projected date of September 30. The daily cost is about $2 million, down from a high of $8 million. The latest Incident Management Team (they seem to change about every two weeks now) has taken an aggressive stand with the fire, possibly because they have more resources available, and conducted a massive burnout operation of something like 5,000 acres on the east side of the fire to strengthen the containment line in hopes of keeping the fire from burning east of the Carmel River. That area (Chews Ridge) happens to be not far from here. OMG the smoke. The last couple of mornings the Air Quality Index has been between 190 and 199, the high end of the Unhealthy rating (151 to 200), meaning "Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.". A rating of 201 to 250 means "Health alert: everyone may experience more serious health effects.". It only took about 15 minutes outside for my eyes, throat, and sinuses to feel uncomfortable. So regardless of whether I wanted to garden or not, I could not. Ah well, time off from gardening California Fire Season style. Smoke break anyone?

Smoky "View" of the Park Sunday AM
Can you see the tiny orange moon in the photo above? It's there! Click on the photo to enlarge, maybe you'll see it.

Normal Foggy Morning View of the Park
For those of you interested in the fate of Tassajara Zen Center - it still stands. They are under an Evacuation Order now, meaning no one is allowed into the area, those who stay do so at their own risk and if they leave they can't return. Twenty-nine people stayed to protect the center from the fire. Thankfully, at the moment the fire seems to have slowed its progression toward the center, but that situation could easily change. I hope they have stockpiled plenty of food.

Back to the harvest report. There's a few items that didn't get photographed. I weighed all the dried Black Coco beans. A couple more small heads of Calabrese broccoli were ready. A few more eggplant hit the harvest basket.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past 2 weeks:

Brinker Carrier beans - 5 lb.
Golden Gate beans - 11.9 oz.
Rattlesnake beans - 3.3 lb.
Black Coco dry beans - 3.2 lb.
Calabrese broccoli - 1.3 lb.
Pink Plume celery - 4.5 lb.
Green Fingers cucumbers - 14.4 oz.
Mouse Melons - 1.6 oz.
Tasty Treat cucumbers - 5 oz.
Bonica eggplant - 11.7 oz.
Sicilian eggplant - 1.3 lb.
Exhibition onions - 6.7 lb.
Ramata di Milano onions - 3.1 lb.
Rossa Lunga di Firenze onions - 12.8 lb.
Etiuda peppers - 2.1 lb.
Florina pepper - 3.7 oz.
Gogosar pepper - 6 oz.
Odessa Market pepper - 5.6 oz.
Petite Marseillais peppers - 5 oz.
Violet Sparkle pepper - 4.3 oz.
Camp Joy cherry tomatoes - 14.5 oz.
Chianti Rose tomatoes - 1.6 lb.
Jaune Flamme tomatoes - 2.1 lb.
Lime Green Salad tomatoes - 1.2 lb.
Mavritanskite tomatoes - 14.9 oz.
Pantano tomatoes - 2.9 lb.
Piccolo Dattero cherry tomatoes - 1.2 lb.
Reisetomate From Transylvania tomatoes - 1.1 lb.
Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes - 2.3 lb.
Romanesco zucchini - 9.8 lb.
Tromba d'Albenga squash - 1.8 lb.

Total harvests for the past 2 weeks - 73.4 lb. (33.3 kg.)
2016 YTD - 576.5 lb. (261.5 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.


  1. Oh, that fire! So much devastation from such a careless act. Got to hand it to the Tassajara folks for bravely choosing to defend their retreat. I wish them good fortune. Pruning your tomatoes is an interesting technique--get rid of the glut, focus on variety you can enjoy. I agree, the Violet Sparkle is one beautiful pepper. And the capers look savory! What do you do with all of them?

    1. The caper glut is a challenge. I use them in the usual dishes like piccata preparations, in tomato sauces, in stews, chopped up in salad dressings, in deviled eggs. They make a crispy treat when they are deep fried. But I need to come up with more ideas.

  2. Gosh that fog and smoke layer is thick. Dreadful for you. I had to look really hard to find that moon! Oddly peppers are not ripening here either. Some are just falling off the bushes. Yellowish. And also oddly Santa Fe Grande which is usually mild is very, very hot this year.

    1. That fog and smoke layer is 100% smoke, the marine layer hasn't crept into the valley all weekend because there's an offshore flow. Bleah.

      It sounds like your pepper plants have been stressed, I guess by your hot weather, and stressed pepper plants make for spicy peppers.

  3. I don't even try to grow celery any more as attempts were never a success.
    You are certainly living a nightmare with that fire.

    1. Celery can be pretty finicky, it's sensitive to temperature and moisture, and somehow it does ok here. I don't think I have any special skill, I'm just in the right climate! It is pretty hellish here at times with all the smoke. Yuck.

  4. Sending you sympathy because of the fire! I find it hard to comprehend anything that big. We never have to contend with anything like that over here. On a different note... It's interesting to read that your Golden Gate beans produced only a modest crop. I have always felt that yellow beans yield less well than green ones; perhaps it's just a perception? That Reisetomate is a weirdo, isn't it? Does it taste nice, or is it just a curiosity?

    1. The Reisetomate actually does taste good. My friend who gave me the seeds wasn't all that impressed with the flavor, but my husband and I along with a couple of friends have all agreed that they are pretty good. I've grown other yellow beans that are quite productive, including Australian Butter and Roc d'Or. I'm not sure why the Golden Gate beans aren't so productive this year, they've done fine for me in the past. I have a hard time comprehending the size of the fire also, it is larger than any other recorded fire that has burned in the area.

  5. I couldn't imagine having to breathe that smoke every day. I'm impressed you even venture out to your garden! Your tomatoes and peppers look so pretty and colorful. I'm intrigued by your celery, I've never tried growing it because I know it wouldn't like my climate, but I'm getting curious to try.

    1. Fortunately we do get a break from the smoke at times, it just depends on which way the wind is blowing. I think I'm fortunate to be able to grow celery fairly easily here, the climate seems to be just about right. There's a lot of celery that's grown near here on big commercial farms. But even here I have to give it extra water, it has an extensive fibrous root system that just sucks up the moisture.

  6. Aha - the mystery of my 'plain' Rattlesnake beans is solved! Most of mine are hidden in the foliage and are not very colorful. Tasty though! Sounds like a good plan for the beans whether it was intentional or not. The Violet Sparkle is a pretty pepper for sure. It looks like you are getting a healthy amount of harvests even without the tomato glut.

    The impact of the fire is truly staggering, both the $$ and human costs. And yikes, it sounds like if the fire doesn't get you then the smoke will! I'm hoping you get some clearing out of the air or even rain soon.

    1. The wind has shifted again so we actually have some windows open this evening. It's a good thing because it has been getting warm and stuffy indoors. This is one of the few times when air conditioning would be nice to have.

      The harvests have been ok, but I was checking out the pepper plants today and it looks like it will be a short and intense harvest - just one big blast and then it will be over mostly by the end of the month because the plants are nearly dead already.

      I still have a hard time wrapping my head around this fire - one campfire that has resulted in so much devastation. I can't imagine being the person(s) responsible for it.

  7. So much variety and colour in your harvests this week, which are quite impressive considering the situation. There really is no type of weather that suits every crop - with our super hot summer the peppers did great, but the fresh beans were pretty of course I'm jealous of all yours!

    That air quality index is crazy's a wonder anyone goes outside. Even for those people that don't react to it as much as those that are more sensitive, being exposed to it has got to be bad for you.

    1. It's true, I can't complain about a lack of vegetables, but I know that the garden isn't as productive as it can be. I just have to accept that and move on. The smoke really has been awful and I wonder if it is affecting the garden as well, there just seems to be more powdery mildew and a lack of vigor in a number of plants. I will be quite happy to see the end of this growing season.

  8. I'm going to be honest, I read your blog because you have the veggies with the craziest names!! Camp Joy and Lime Green Salad Tomatoes? And Rattlesnake Beans!?

    1. Yes, the truth is that I like to grow oddball things with interesting names. If the growing season were better this year you might have had a chance to see Vine Peaches and Horned Melons. Don't forget the Mouse Melons, which if I remember correctly, you are responsible for introducing to me!

  9. That Pink Plume celery is crazy productive, I can see why you might get a little tired of it. It was interesting to see how you cure your capers in a brine. Do they actually ferment, which is what should happen? Sorry you have to endure that smoke. We had a similar experience camping from a fire hundreds of miles away in Quebec. It is not at all pleasant or good for your health. Still rooting for Tassajara to beat the fire.

    1. The Pink Plume celery is one veggie that far exceeded my expectations this year. I expected them to bolt long before the end of "summer" and that I would need a number of plants to produce any appreciable quantity of stalks.

      The capers do ferment, although they don't come out "pickled". They lose the bitterness that makes raw capers inedible and there is a chemical change that I've forgotten the particulars of, but it is what gives them their characteristic flavor.

      I believe that Tassajara has a great chance of coming through unscathed. They have been through wildfires a few times already, they have made the area as fire safe as possible, and the staff has received lots of training. If anyone around here has a chance of getting through this disaster it is them.

  10. Your tomatoes look so interesting! I like it.

  11. Your harvest certainly signals autumnal colours. I am sorry like everyone about the impact of the fire, and was shocked to read about it - I have cookbooks from The Tassajara Zen Centre so it puts it into context for me a bit more, and appreciate it more.


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