August 21, 2017

Harvest Monday, 8/21/17

Monday is the day of the eclipse and we should have a good view of it here in Western Kentucky. I have to work today, but our supervisor has scoped out a good place to see it and we should be able to take a peak during lunch. People have been buying up all the eclipse glasses, I figure quite a few of them are planning to sell these items for exorbitant prices. Bottled water and bread has been bought out at stores, it's like Y2K all over again. Not sure how the eclipse is supposed to effect water service...

In other news, we have cut down all the tomato plants and cleared out their cages on Saturday. The plan is to till the garden in preparation for fall planting in the next week or two. It took less than an hour to cut down the plants and clear out the cages. There were lots of green tomatoes and ripe tomatoes still left in the garden, but I was ready to move on.

Everything listed below was picked on Saturday.
With my husband's penchant for speed during the big tomato cleanup, I did not get a chance to pick any of their fruit. I managed to get a handful gleaned from the ground afterward.
Some green ground tomatoes.
And lots of hot peppers were picked. This is a mixture of Anaheim, jalapeno, Hungarian Hot Wax, Lemon Drop, and Santa Fe Grande. None of the peppers were especially hot this year, probably because of a mild and extra long spring.
The peppers were under-performers this year. Numex Joe E. Parker an Anaheim type has consistently been unproductive the last 2 years with only a few peppers per plant, although the peppers can get huge. Numex Big Jim is much more productive for me.

The hot peppers will probably get made into pickles, and maybe I'll try freezing a bunch in the form of poppers.
Queensland Blue has massive leaves for a winter squash. We had lots of squash vine borers this year plus the ever present squash bugs. Actually there were lots of new and unusual stink bugs with the majority of whom I've never seen before. Queensland showed signs of vine borer troubles early on.
 And here's that telltale sign of a vine borer, a bit of "sawdust" at the bottom of the stem.
Yokohama was the most productive having produced 6 pumpkins. They're all in various stages of ripeness with even a tiny green one on the upper left.
Thai Rai Kaw Tok also only produced three pumpkins. I think all of the varieties grown this year were susceptible to vine borer damage.
Black Futsu only produced one pumpkin from 3 plants. Next year I'll mainly grow cushaws and butternuts which are supposed to be more resistant to borers. 
And the two tiniest Delicata squashes ever. They were definitely overrun by the other winter squashes, but I've grown them before and only ever get a couple of fruit.

I ended up canning about 500 pounds of tomatoes and giving away close to 500 pounds this year. This last week I've been playing the avoidance game with the garden. I just couldn't deal anymore. I canned enough quarts of salsa to last us years, then there's tomato juice, quartered tomatoes in their own juice, and green tomato pickles.

We ended up with 38 quarts of green tomato pickles. It was actually fun experimenting with different flavorings for the pickles and making vinegary syrups. I was going to wait a month or two before opening them up and giving our opinions on them.

Some thoughts on this year's varieties. All the tomatoes were early this year by a month and with lots of consistent rain and cooler weather the flavors weren't the most intense, but they were still wonderfully delicious. We were picking large varieties like Pink Brandywine and Black Brandywine by the last week of June. Smaller varieties like Taxi and Black Prince ripened the same week as Sun Gold.

The two latest varieties to ripen were Yellow Brandywine and Aunt Ruby's German Green. Yellow Brandywine is delicious and very productive, Aunt Ruby's is less productive but the flavor is outstanding a mixture of citrus, melon and good tomato flavor. But keep in mind, they set fruit late and ripen late.

Cherokee Purple and Pilcer Vesy are the least productive tomato varieties for us. I probably won't grow either varieties again after trying these last few years. A couple years we didn't even get a single Cherokee Purple tomato from their plants.

There were lots of scary giant spiders in the garden during the dry part of August. A couple female Black Widows with their round distended bellies and I even saw a smaller male black widow in one of the female's web. The male and female were actually found on the bottom of a winter squash, which is why I always check what's going on underneath those ground dwelling squashes.

But the most interesting spider is pictured down below. So be warned, it is a close-up of a gigantic spider. I was crawling between the tomato beds when I looked up and saw a massive web and this hanging from the middle of it.

Giant spider picture below...

Wait for it....

And here's the spider.
You can even see the tiny hairs on its bottom leg segments.

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July 19, 2017

An Epic Year in the Vegetable Garden

Apologies for not posting, but we have been having the best year in the garden ever. I have been gardening for over twenty years, and I have never seen anything like this. Yesterday I gave away 90 pounds of tomatoes between family, neighbors, and coworkers. And yet, there are still tomatoes on the counter. So far we have canned 44 quarts of salsa and 14 quarts of tomato juice.

I have even started picking green tomatoes for people to fry up, which I never do. The plan is to pressure can the rest of the tomatoes in juice and make some green tomato pickles. A friend of mine says she has canned so far, 130 quarts of snap beans and last year they had only canned 50 quarts. And it's not even the end of the season yet. People in our area are abandoning their gardens and telling neighbors to come pick what they want because they're done canning for the year.

Months ago I scheduled to be off the last week of July for canning because that's usually when tomatoes start coming in strong. Instead I'll be pulling out the bush beans since rust is moving quickly through the patch and rabbits are nesting there. And I'll be clearing out most of the zucchini and summer squashes, and the greenhouse.

So here's a few pictures of what we've been harvesting.
I ordered a Victorio food strainer to help with making juices and sauces, and found it much more efficient than a food mill.
The winter squash beds are inaccessible but a few are growing along the fence. I'm hoping there's lots of them hiding in their patch.
This year we're growing Queensland Blue winter squash, Black Futsu pumpkin, Thai Rai Kaw Tok pumpkin, and Yokohama winter squash,
We won't be having any melons this year, since they're all overshadowed by the massive tomato plants. And the leeks were squished by the rampaging zucchini plants, but maybe they'll recover once the zucchini gets pulled.

July 3, 2017

Harvest Monday, 7/3/17

On June 26th we harvested tomatoes with Black Brandywine as the biggest one weighing 1.418 pounds. Also pictured is Granny Cantrell's German Red, Paul Robeson, Cosmonaut Volkov, Black Prince, and Taxi.

Black Brandywine continues to produce early heavy tomatoes. Cosmonaut Volkov and Paul Robeson are producing the biggest tomatoes I have ever seen from them, which tells me they don't like our normally hot spring weather. But there are some gigantic Pink Brandywines starting to ripen that should weigh more.
Also harvested June 26th: beans, Butta zucchini, and basil. My husband was elated to see fresh beans coming in from the garden.

I picked the basil thinking it would go well with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, but with more than 5 pounds of tomatoes harvested a day it looks like salsa canning is scheduled for Friday.

 June 27th: just under a pound of beans and some cherry tomatoes.
June 27th: Butta zucchini and Zephyr squash.
June 27th was a good day for tomatoes with more than eleven pounds shown here.
On the 27th: the never ending parade of squash continues.
 Harvested June 28th: almost seven pounds of tomatoes.
Also harvested June 28th: under three pounds of peppers. The peppers were a disappointment this year. The plants are big and lush and the peppers themselves are huge but the yield is dismal. In 2013 my first harvest of peppers was 12 pounds with almost the same number of plants. We haven't gotten a single pepper from Numex Joe E. Parker yet.

On the June 29th we were running around getting ready to can salsa the next day so I didn't get to photograph 17 pounds of tomatoes, almost 3 pounds of beans, and just under 4 pounds of squash picked that day. I'm trying to process the salsa only when our kiddo is out of the house because the fumes from all the peppers and onions can get pretty bad.

With all the tomatoes coming in we're going to try pressure canning tomato juice and sauces. It'll be great, we can add the tomato juice to our fresh vegetable juice blend. My favorite is carrot, celery, and apple that we run through our juicer. We'll probably can some crushed and whole tomatoes for  soups and chili.

Harvested this week:
41.644 pounds tomatoes
8.918 pounds squash
5.686 pounds beans
2.720 pounds peppers
0.294 pound cherry tomatoes

Total Harvest: 56.542 pounds

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June 26, 2017

Harvest Monday, 6/26/17

Harvested June 19th: Marrow zucchini, Butta Zucchini, Sophia summer squash, Fat Cherry tomato, and Sungold cherry tomato.
Harvested June 20th: Fiorentino zucchini, Butta Zucchini, Sophia summer squash, Chocolate Cherry tomato, and Sungold cherry tomato.
Harvested June 21st: Butta zucchini, Fiorentino zucchini, Striato D'Italia zucchini, Zephyr summer squash, and Sophia summer squash.

Also Harvested June 21st: Taxi tomato, Black Prince tomatoes, Black Cherry tomato, Fat Cherry tomato, and Sungold cherry tomato.

Good news, shockingly enough I have large tomatoes ripening in June. I've grown Black Prince before so it's actually a shock that it's this early. Taxi is a new lemon yellow tomato. Both varieties set lots and lots of fruit although Taxi is a much smaller plant. With a couple tomatoes ripened, I picked up some lettuce, French bread, and sour dough bread which will incidentally go great with bacon and tomatoes.
Harvested June 22: Taxi tomato, Black Prince tomato, Black Cherry, Fat Cherry, and Sungold cherry tomato.
Harvested Saturday, June 24th: Fiorentino zucchini, Striato D'Italia zucchini, Marrow zucchini, Zephyr summer squash, and Sophia summer squash.

It rained heavily all day Friday which kept me out of the garden till Saturday evening and I was greeted by boat-like creatures of the zucchini variety. The bowl they're sitting in is actually massive.
Also harvested Saturday: Granny Cantrell's German Red, Black Brandywine, Paul Robeson, Black Prince, and Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes. The pink tomato is the Granny Cantrell tomato.

I was really surprised to see all these tomatoes ripening after the rain, I don't think we have ever harvested large tomatoes in June. Even Pink Brandywine is showing color so we'll get to taste them in a day or two. The biggest tomato picked so far is a Black Brandywine weighing 1.138 pounds.
And our cherry tomato harvest for June 24th.

We've eaten a pile of BLT's with the Black Brandywine and Black Prince tomatoes. And then a zucchini and tomato medley, next on the list is zucchini bread. Black Brandywine has a very savory salty flavor with hardly any seeds, Black Prince is much more juicy with a bit of a tang. Even with all the rain they're still tasty tomatoes.

Both Butta zucchini plants have split open along their main stem. It's likely that the stems were weakened by squash vine borers and then a huge storm battered the plants till they split open. But even with the severe damage, the plants are still producing and we'll see if they can recover.

There's quite a few plants infected with what I now know for sure is Tomato Speck which also infects the stems and fruit of the plants. The infected plants got a hard trim and dosed with Seranade, I was forced to apply the Serenade even though it was forecasted to rain in the next day or two. The disease had already infected 8 plants total: two Taxi's, one Black Brandywine, two Ananas Noire, two Manyel, and one Pilcer Vesy. The bacterial disease presented first on the Manyel plants, making me suspect the disease is seedborne and then has spread by aphid vectors. Next year the seeds will be treated with a diluted bleach solution before planting.

18.08 pounds zucchini
7.214 pounds tomato
2.632 pounds summer squash
0.974 pound cherry tomato

Total harvest: 28.9 pounds (13.109 kg)

If you're curious about weight breakdown by variety, I have that listed under the 2017 Harvest Totals tab.

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June 19, 2017

Harvest Monday, 6/19/17

Green Winner kohlrabi, purple Kolibri kohlrabi, and 4 little Sungold cherry tomatoes.
A couple more bolted tatsoi heads, and 3 little Butta zucchinis.
A mixture of Black Cherry, Fat Cherry, and Sungold tomatoes. More Butta zucchini and the first Lunga Fiorentino zucchini. Male squash flowers are starting to open up so we'll get some pollinated squashes soon.

We had a huge rainstorm Sunday, it rained so much all day. Yay to not having to water the garden. Usually green tomatoes can heal when they split open after a big rain, it's when they're ripening that it's a worry. But I probably need to go ahead and top the Black Cherry plant, it's too top-heavy even with added supports. And I'll probably end up tying its cage up to a wooden fence post. My partner thinks we should tie all the tomato cages together in each bed to create more stability. It's an interesting thought. Has anyone else tried something like that?

And I can't believe it's almost July already. This summer is progressing way too rapidly. We planted almost 3 weeks later than normal, so everything feels like it's happening at a rapid pace.

0.904 lbs. zucchini
0.298 lbs. tomato
1.054 lbs. kohlrabi
1.364 lbs. tatsoi

Total harvest: 3.62 lbs. (1.642 kg)

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