July 28, 2013

Harvest Monday, 7/29/13

Monday's harvest: 36 pounds of tomatoes and 8 pounds of Hungarian Hot Wax peppers picked on last Monday became 25 gorgeous quarts of canned salsa (23.66 liters). Plus there's 2 more jars in the fridge for cooking and eating with chips. Yay! Salsa!

It took 2 days to can that much salsa. Whew, am I tired. There's still a ton of hot peppers in the freezer, so I might have to can more salsa in a few weeks. And there's even more growing on the plants which may just end up as pickles.
Tuesday's harvest: A zucchini that grew huge overnight. It must have swelled with the torrential rain, without the tomatoes it looks like a baby cradled in a basket. I also went through the garden looking for tomatoes that were missed on Monday, the greenish ones are Big Zebra and are actually nice and ripe.
Saturday's harvest: Cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, and a gigantic pile of okra! The green little orbs are actually round eggplants, which I've seen my great aunty use in Thai coconut curry soup.
On Sunday I started a 20 day sweet pickle recipe! It took every cucumber I've been collecting for 2 weeks to fill this gallon jar (3.8 liters), and yet there's still room. Next time I won't give away so many cucumbers.

I also picked some pole beans on Friday and Saturday but the husband immediately sauteed them for dinner with onion, garlic, chicken stock, and a little sugar till caramelized. Which he served with pork cooked with salsa one day and chicken cooked with salsa the next, served on rice. Delicious.

This week's harvest:
43.77 pounds tomatoes
8.02 pounds hot peppers
3.96 pounds zucchini
2.90 pounds eggplant
2.72 pounds cucumber
1.88 pounds okra

1.03 pounds sweet peppers

Totals: 64.28 pounds of vegetables

Please join us for Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions where wildly obsessive gardeners share their stories and weekly harvests.

July 24, 2013

Growing Eggplants or Aubergines in the Vegetable Garden

I try to start eggplants at least 8 weeks before the predicted last frost free date, this year it was more like 6 weeks. Eggplants need consistent warmth in the 70's to 80's to germinate, personally I keep the seed starter tray on top of the fridge. After the seeds germinate each seedling is transplanted to individual containers like a plastic or styrofoam cup that gets reused year after year, the plants are then kept under 24 hours a day light till it is warm enough to plant outside. When daytime temperatures finally reach 70 degrees and nighttime temperatures are above 50˚ F eggplants can be planted outside.

I have been growing eggplant in the garden for a few of years now, and they have always been a challenge. Most years the plants seem slow growing in the beginning due to early flea beetle damage, and once the hot temperatures hit in the height of summer they stop producing fruit till it starts cooling down again.

This year looks like it is going to be a banner year for eggplants. The plants are sizing up quickly and the leaves are huge in comparison to the short stature of the plants. Eggplants are sensitive to the cold which can stunt them, but they also need to get in the ground early so they produce fruits before it gets too hot and the pollen becomes sterilized from the heat. So, I try to put eggplants out a week or two later than the tomato plants. Then whenever the temperatures are going to dip down below 50˚ F  at night (10˚ C), I go ahead and cover them with a vented clear plastic cup in the afternoon so some heat gets trapped in there to keep them a bit warmer at night. Soil mounded on the bottom of the cups will hold them in place in case of wind.

This year when the plants got too big for cups they got covered with the Agribon floating row covers or agricultural blankets, it can get quite warm under there during the day. I keep the floating row covers on for a few weeks till the volatile temperatures of spring settles down and it warms up consistently. The row covers also excludes flea beetles and other pests from the eggplants, without the early seedling damage the plants are showing exuberant lush growth. Then as the plants grow, whenever there are signs of aphids and flea beetle damage, I go ahead and dust with diatomaceous earth which is an inert powder and organic way to manage insects. Once the plants get larger, they should be able to withstand flea beetle attacks.
The Ma Zu Purple eggplant grows very long, at 14 inches (35.6 cm) the fruit is not seedy at all so it can likely grow much longer while still being tender and sweet. The plant itself is very short probably because it is on the outside edge of the garden, all the ones on the outside edge are stunted.
This Thai Long Purple plant has 7 fruits forming on its branches. You can see the Ma Zu Purple plant at the bottom right of the picture with it's purple stems and veins, it is less than half the size of the Thai Long Purple plant.
The Cambodian Green Giant plant is just starting to set fruit. This variety is supposed to have truly massive eggplants.
The leaves from the Cambodian Green Giant are huge compared to the Bangladeshi Long leaves to the right.
Many of the eggplant plants are just starting to set fruit like this Malaysian Dark Red with its 8 little dangling eggplants.
It looks like a bunny rabbit has eaten another Thai Long Green eggplant. The brown rabbit seems to only like green vegetables like green beans, green tomatoes, and green kohlrabi.

July 23, 2013

Harvest Monday, 7/22/13

About 20 pounds of tomatoes were picked on Monday, last week. They went directly into the fridge, a deposit towards this week's salsa making extravaganza.
I ran into the garden Friday to gather everything that was getting much too big. Lots of cucumbers, giant zucchini, yellow summer squash, and okra. The okra at the top were too woody and had to be discarded.

I'm a little late for Harvest Monday, a tradition created by Daphne's Dandelions where gardeners share the past week's harvest.

It rained hard all day Sunday and throughout the night which spells big trouble for ripening tomatoes. I work long shifts so was unable to get out into the garden to save the tomatoes, by Monday morning yesterday a lot of the tomatoes were split open and there were even a few slugs sucking on the fruit. There were 36 pounds of salvageable tomatoes, and I went ahead and picked 8 pounds of sweet peppers since some of the plants had been knocked down by the deluge and were liable to get sun scald.

Then I got busy canning salsa, since tomatoes that split open when they are ripe can spoil quickly. I was only able to can two batches yesterday which equals 8 quarts of salsa. Hopefully with my husband's help we can get through 16 more quarts tomorrow.

I have to say this year's salsa is outrageously delicious. The flavors are so complex, bright and sweet with an undercurrent of fruity spicy smokiness, which is probably due to the huge variety of tomatoes and hot and sweet peppers used.

This week's harvest:
20.6 pounds tomatoes
5.76 pounds zucchini
4.52 pounds cucumber
3.14 pounds crook neck summer squash
1.29 pounds okra
0.98 pounds straight neck summer squash

Total: 36.29 pounds of vegetables

July 15, 2013

Harvest Monday, 7/15/13

Tuesday's harvest: zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, and okra. Cucumbers are good in stir fry they add an interesting and refreshing flavor, my grandmother stir fries cucumbers with pineapple.
Wednesday's harvest: hot peppers, tomato, zucchini, and eggplants. The tomato is Berkley Tie Dye, it has a good tomato flavor and weighed 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg).
The Ma Zu Purple eggplant measures over 14 inches long, it is very tender with a sweet mild flavor.
Friday's harvest: yellow tomato, bitter melon, pole beans, summer squash, cucumber, eggplant. The first yellow Kellogg's Breakfast tomato has a very mild flavor and good texture, sadly though it was eaten before making the weigh in.
Sunday's harvest: The biggest zucchini yet and more eggplants, summer squash, and cucumber.

12 pound (5.4 kg) mixture of jalapeno, Hungarian Hot Wax, and Santa Fe hot peppers were harvested in preparation for a salsa making extravaganza next week. The peppers went directly into the freezer, hopefully that wasn't a mistake since they are going to be canned in the near future. And the tomatoes seem to be ripening quickly which I will be amassing in the fridge.

The rabbit is definitely still hanging around the garden, I found a Thai Long Green eggplant nibbled on in 5 different places. The rabbit doesn't seem to like eggplant too much since it looks like it was taking tasting nibbles, and no other eggplants have been chomped on. Some of the eggplant plants are chest high already. But they may have been spaced too closely together, I am definitely having trouble reaching the middle row.

This week's harvest:
12.2 pounds peppers
6.20 pounds zucchini
4.45 pounds eggplant
3.98 pounds cucumber
2.57 pounds green beans
2.48 pounds yellow summer squash
1.57 pounds tomato
0.40 pound bitter melon
0.28 pound okra

Total: 34.14 pounds of vegetables (15.5 kg)

Please, join us at Daphne's Dandelions where garden enthusiasts share their harvests successes as well as trials and tribulations.

July 13, 2013

Picking All the Spicy Hot Peppers from the Garden

From top clockwise: Jalapeno, Hungarian Hot Wax, and Santa Fe peppers

12 pounds of hot peppers had to be harvested on Wednesday (5.4 kg). A few of the plants had fallen over from the weight of their fruit and flowers were aborting before they opened. The ripening fruit needed to be removed so more peppers can set, before the heat really comes on and sterilizes the pollen. The peppers were washed and frozen, in a couple of weeks they will be processed for salsa. I have never frozen peppers before, so hopefully that wasn't a mistake especially since I plan on canning them.

The cream colored Santa Fe peppers and yellow Hungarian Hot Wax are new peppers for me. My usual Anaheim peppers and Serrano failed to germinate this year, so let's hope these peppers are tasty and hold up well in salsa. It seems that Hungarian Hot Wax are normally pickled.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen en masse, it looks like salsa making is on for the end of July!

July 8, 2013

Harvest Monday, 7/8/13

Tuesday's harvest: green beans, eggplants, zucchini, cucumber, and tomatoes.
Sunday's Harvest: cucumbers, zucchinis, yellow summer squash, bell pepper, and yard long asparagus beans.

This week the first tomatoes, cucumbers, and summer squash were picked. On Saturday, I actually picked a summer squash and 3 more tomatoes that went unphotographed and unweighed, the tomatoes quickly went into a pile of bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwiches just like the first tomatoes that were picked earlier in the week. So good.

I have been trading green beans and other vegetables for country eggs and barbecued chicken. A coworker gave me a couple pounds of blueberries for a very minimal cost, so I was planning to give him some salsa. Lots of good food have been a direct result of the garden.

Hopefully the tomatoes will start ripening in mass quantities because I am planning to take the last week of July off to do some serious salsa canning. The hot pepper plants are laden with fruit, we are just waiting for the tomatoes to color up.

This week's harvest:
5.69 pounds green beans
1.85 pounds eggplants
2.25 pounds zucchini
2.26 pounds cucumbers
0.56 pound yellow summer squash
0.86 pound tomato
0.10 pound bell pepper
0.08 pound yard long bean

Total: 13.65 pounds of vegetables

Please join us at Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday where gardeners share their blogs and what they're harvesting every Monday.

July 2, 2013

The First Ripe Tomatoes and Cucumber with Lots of Eggplants

A basket with almost 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of produce including green bean, tomato, eggplant, cucumber, and zucchini.

Today we got the first tomatoes and cucumber! I also spent the morning picking clean the bush bean bed.

The Paul Robeson tomato plant gave the first ripe tomatoes, my husband was helping me stake the same plant and 3 little green tomatoes got knocked off. You can see the two oval Applegreen eggplants in the back of the basket, then a Bangladeshi Long and a Thai Long Purple eggplant to the far right.

The first cucumber of the season belongs to the Japanese Long variety. Training the cucumbers up bamboo poles is working very well, I love seeing them dangling in the breeze. A nice long zucchini was also harvested today.

The bush beans got away from me because I was too busy over the weekend to do much except a little hand pollination in the garden, so the snap beans were a bit plump when they got picked today but are still tender and delicious. All the varieties produced exceptionally well, except for Royal Burgundy. The Royal Burgundy plants are tall and lush and were heavy with blossoms but the blossoms did not set very many beans, I was lucky to get 2 or 3 beans per plant.

The rabbit seems to love the Blue Lake 274 beans, I found lots of munched bean remnants today. Both Blue Lake and Royal burgundy are smooth bean varieties, which makes cleaning them a lot easier than the downy beans like Romano and Tendergreen. But I think I prefer the flavor of the downy fuzzy beans compared to the smooth snap beans.

The bush bean bed was pretty much picked clean today, so I am going to fertilize them and see if they will give a second flush of beans after some rest.

July 1, 2013

Harvest Monday, 7/1/13

 Tuesday harvest: 2.91 pounds Romano green beans
 Tuesday harvest: 2.86 pounds Tendergreen green beans
 Thursday harvest: 0.60 pounds zucchini and 0.05 pounds eggplant
Thursday harvest: 1.72 pounds mix Royal Purple and Blue Lake 274 green beans

Green beans fresh from the garden are one of my favorite things to grow and eat. The bush beans produced their first big flush of green beans this week. Of the 4 rows of bushes, the Romano and Tendergreen rows cropped earlier than the other two bush bean types. The flat Italian Romano beans were delicious and sweet in a stir fry

The zucchini and summer squash have been producing blossoms, but the lack of bees combined with my poor pollination skills means very little squash. I was able to get one oddly bulbous pollinated zucchini and a couple unpollinated ones that I went ahead and picked.

And yes, the single little round Thai eggplant amuses me but there are many more in the garden growing as we speak.

This week's harvest:
7.49 pound green beans
0.60 pound zucchini
0.05 pound eggplant

Please join us at Daphne's Dandelions, a fun place to see what other gardeners are growing and harvesting.