October 4, 2016

A Treatise on the Growth of a Luffa

I picked some more luffas to eat but Margaret from Homegrown Adventures mentioned trying to make sponges from them. Which was kind of a revelation for me since I've only ever seen them eaten, although I've definitely read about them being used for sponges.
These are some sweet peppers, mostly Jimmy Nordello but the pointy shorter fruits are a mystery since they don't resemble anything that we should be growing. With the seedling mix-up we'll probably never know.
Female luffa flower before the blossom has opened.
Angled luffa on the left, smooth loofah on the right.
Long unopened female blossom with a cluster of unopened male blossoms above.
The angled luffas are much more prolific then the one smooth variety we're growing this year. This one is growing outside the fence along the alley.
The vines are very aggressive and climb very well.
More alley luffa.
I wonder what the neighbors think of the weird vegetable growing outside our fence.
There's 7 luffas growing outside the fence and 26 inside the fence that I can tell.
12 trellises have been taken over by their vines, only 3 trellises were planted originally in luffa and bitter melon but they've taken over the whole row. I've given up trying to control them and tearing them off the fence.

They didn't start flowering till the last week of August, I think that record breaking wet month really helped them along. But it's less then 2 months until our first frost, so it's kind of iffy whether or not they'll mature in time.

September 26, 2016

Harvest Monday, 9/26/16

I've had a surprise harvest. Having left the loofa vines in the ground since they were extra lush and having taken over the whole row of trellises and starting their meander over the fence, they have finally decided to blossom and produce.
The angled luffas on the left are longer and thicker so my guess are these are the Extra Long and the four on the right are the Chinese Okra variety. Loofahs belong to the same family as cucumbers, squashes, and watermelon. And like cucumbers if they don't get enough water they can get a slightly bitter flavor.

They're easy to prepare, I just peel off the skin and then saute in olive oil with a little garlic and salt and pepper, and maybe a dash of nuoc mam.

I'm also growing a smooth variety called Summer Cross but the fruit it's forming are irregular and dying on the vine, perhaps the plants are more susceptible to squash and harlequin bugs.
You can see the dead bean vines on this trellis that the loofahs have taken over.
There are loofas everywhere, the little yellow blobs on the ground are spent loofah flowers.
They are very good at climbing fences and seem fairly drought resistant, although without regular watering you risk a bitter fruit now and then.
The vines are massive so it's no surprise the fruit grow so quickly.

Please join us at Harvest Monday where new and experienced gardeners share their delightful vegetables.

September 12, 2016

Harvest Monday, 9/12/16

The tomato beds have been cleared out so these are definitely the last of the tomatoes for the year. It's still been in the mid 90's all last week (35 degrees Celsius), so peppers still aren't setting much fruit. It's supposed to cool down now but I'll probably start pulling pepper plants up since it's late in the season for them to be putting on fruit.
Eggplants along with loofa and peppers are pretty much the only things left in the garden. (I accidently mangled the winter melon plants cleaning out the beds.) The green eggplant at the bottom is Cambodian Green Giant which is seedless and incredibly tender at this size, the plants themselves set fruit very late with this being the first.

It's mid-September and the loofah plants are finally covered in blossoms. Summer Cross is one of the varieties we're growing that's supposed to be day length neutral, even so they didn't start blossoming till August.

I had to pull out all the Brussels sprout and broccoli plants, they were dead or dying and covered in harlequin bugs. Harlequin bugs are kind of pretty compared to squash bugs, but they quickly overwhelmed the two beds and sucked the life out of all the brassica plants. Next year I'll be covering the plants.

Today is set to finish cleaning out the garden and maybe do some direct seeding of turnips, fennel, and radishes and then I'll start a few seeds for greens.

I hope everyone in the northern hemisphere is starting to enjoy the cooler weather and the coming of fall. Please join us at Harvest Monday where gardeners come together to share the joys and trials of gardening.

August 29, 2016

Harvest Monday, 8/29/16

Peppers are still coming in and with all the rain the later peppers seem to have much thicker walls which is nice. The sweet peppers were added to a beef stir fry with store bought peppers mixed in, the sauce is soy sauce, Lea Perrins Worcestershire, sugar, and hot pepper flakes.

Hot peppers haven't done as well this year, that end of the pepper bed seems to have very distorted tiny wispy leaves.
Eggplants are doing ok, the long thin one is a Mazu eggplant which was very tender.
The last of the Korean melons. The white flesh is really good chilled, when well ripe it is tender and juicy.

There's some strange insects infesting the brassicas. They look like squash bugs but they're yellow with black spots. Brussels sprouts are starting to form on the plants, but the leaves are dying off. The bugs are probably spreading some kind of virus.

I picked four more grocery bags full of basil, three were taken to work and quickly nabbed. And of course I made and froze more pesto. There's still the Asian basil "Siam Queen" to deal with, whole leaves will probably get frozen in freezer bags so pieces can be broken off easily. I find normal basil to be very herbaceous and fresh tasting, whereas Asian basil has a cinnamon sweetness to it.

I'd been making lots of dishes with roasted tomatoes, chickpeas or potatoes, Indian curries and coconut milk. And then I tried a pasta dish with pesto, snap beans and potatoes from a Nigella recipe. My partner is appreciative of the efforts but I think it's too many meals with too many bright bold flavors. So lately it's been lasagna with salads, and today I cooked cube steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, and fried corn. It's funny how simple things can be so satisfying.

Please join us at Harvest Monday, a celebration of vegetables from the garden.

August 21, 2016

Harvest Monday, 8/22/16

Fall is rushing towards us even as summer plants perk up with cooler weather and wet cloudy days. This has turned out to be the wettest August on record for us. Tomatoes and eggplant are still trickling in, although tomatoes are very much at their end.
The Ginkaku Korean melons have been a sweet surprise for us. Seeded May 1st and planted out in the garden May 30th, it feels like the plants have been giving us innumerable melons for months. At this point we're freezing cut up melons for smoothies.

Bell peppers and Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers are still coming in, and the cherry tomatoes are a surprise harvest. The thieving squirrels that used to frolic through our neighbor's oak trees and rampage through my garden haven't been around lately, nor the multitude of chirpy little birds. Something has them spooked and I'm guessing the hawk that's been flying around, or maybe the owl that can be heard at twilight.
Tomato season is definitely at an end. The plants will get pulled up next weekend, which is marked for the big garden clean up. Even so, eggplants and peppers are truly coming into their own with these wet 80 degree days with many starting to flush with fruit.
The last of the tomatoes have been made into roasted tomato sauce and frozen. Our plans for salsa this year just didn't work out, the early heat and the late pepper start really did me in. I'll have to be more disciplined and start those persnickety chile peppers in February rather than March.
I picked three big grocery bags full of basil. One bag equaled a huge colander full of leaves once destemmed. Three quarts of thick blender-ized basily goodness now rest in the freezer, topped off and protected by a layer of olive oil. Now there's only one variety of basil left to make into pesto. (Yes, I made separate pesto batches from each variety.)

The luffa vines have taken over all the bean and cucumber trellises. The long trailing vines that clamber over fences with leaves the size of dinner plates are finally blooming. I'm hoping for mountains of tender young loofah. The fry pan awaits.

Once the tomato and bush bean beds get cleared, and some of the pole bean trellises that aren't swallowed up by luffa. The peas can get planted and hopefully lettuce, spinach, fennel, turnips, beets, winter radishes and all the greens will find a place.

Please join us at Harvest Monday where rowdy and raucous gardeners share their love of vegetables and cooking said vegetables.