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.

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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.

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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.

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August 8, 2016

Harvest Monday, 8/8/16

We are still getting tomatoes and Jimmy Nardello peppers. The tomato with the green/yellow stripes on the bottom is a chocolate stripes tomato.
Happily, the melons keep ripening. Although, half the plants have died at this point by animal intervention.
The yellow tomatoes are Kelloggs Breakfast which as a later variety generally gets processed rather than eaten individually.
The squashes seem to have given up at this point, so the whole row will get pulled soon. But surprisingly the cucumbers are still producing. It seems like the yellow and black striped cucumber beetles have moved on.
A little bell pepper also got picked on Saturday, along with these just ripening tomatoes. I'm still picking the tomatoes early, but the squirrels seem busy with their manic digging these days. And of all craziness, the squirrels chewed a huge huge hole at the tope of our gas can for the lawn mower. It was shocking. Must have just happened this past week. We need to get one of those fake owls to scare them off but I keep forgetting to pick one up.

I spent Saturday and Sunday roasting ripe tomatoes layered on parchment with sweet peppers, onions, garlic, and basil that were drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with a touch of sea salt. After each tray spent four hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven they got put through the blender. And we ended up with 4 gallons of blended sauce with minimal work over 2 days which all got frozen. It was a nice way to use up all the tomatoes in the fridge and on the countertop, now there's just the tomatoes that were picked Saturday.

There's a recipe for double chocolate zucchini bread I'm going to try on Tuesday along with my mother-in-laws recipe for zucchini bread. They both should freeze well.

Please join us at Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

August 1, 2016

Harvest Monday, 8/1/16

We are very excited by the first of the broccoli, hopefully they will have a long season since there's 5 varieties planted in the garden. Again, it's Waltham that is first to produce. There's also Jimmy Nardello peppers and Santa Fe Grande peppers. And the first paste tomato is San Marzano Redorta. I'm still picking tomatoes a bit under ripe trying to keep them from the critters.

With the influx of tomatoes I plan on making sauce and canning this weekend and maybe roast some for the freezer.
Zucchini, yellow summer squash, and snap beans keep trickling in. We have 4 varieties of yellow summer squash planted including a couple hybrids, but they haven't done much since the vine borers attacked. The beans are used in stir fries and dishes for our little one.
And the first kohlrabi. I was wrong, the really ripe Ginkaku melon is actually awesome when well chilled, and they keep forever in the fridge. So good. The eggplants are starting to ripen at a steadier pace. I plan on freezing some marinated grilled eggplant for the winter.

It's been raining regularly, about 10 inches for the month of July as I've been told. It's a great time of year with lots of cooking and harvesting from the garden. The wax melon plants are running wild and I have high hopes for their future. Even as my dreams for winter squash go out with a whimper as August moves in.

August is when I'll start clearing the zucchini and summer squash beds, and clearing off the bush beans and pole bean trellises to make room for fall plantings like snap peas and snow peas. Lettuce, fennel, beets, spinach, and a plethora of greens will need to be started by the end of August so they'll be bigger when they get planted out in September. There's lots to do and lots to look forward to.

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July 25, 2016

Harvest Monday, 7/24/16

It's been a hot year and I'm starting to look forward to fall and winter. We had such a mild winter last year, I wonder what this year will bring.
Tomatoes are coming in but the squirrels have discovered and are getting tons of them. They've been tearing the fruit off the vines or just eating them where they hang. What I thought were peck marks from birds, turns out they're claw marks from squirrels.
Cherry tomatoes are really nice to have around, they're great in omelets or just to pop in the mouth.
Combined the bush beans and pole beans are producing terribly this year, but at least they are starting to produce more. I'll probably be pulling them to make room for a fall planting of peas eventually.
Cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash still coming in steady amounts. Squash bugs have invaded, so every couple of days I go out with duct tape to collect eggs and the occasional nymph and adult squash bug. After being hit by vine borers, the plants just aren't producing many squashes, plus there are cucumber beetles everywhere.
Three small ripe melons and a summer squash. The Ginkaku melons keep making melons, I counted eight still on the vines. Squirrels have been digging in the bed, killing one of the four plants.

I also picked a more ripe melon that isn't pictured to see how it would taste, very sweet and still crispy but starting to get a bit mealy. We much prefer them crispier with their sweet citrusy kind of honeydew flavor.
I picked a few tomatoes on Sunday that were just starting to ripen, to beat the squirrels. You can see the puncture marks from their claws on the Black Brandywine from when they got a couple of the other fruits. I'll probably go back to using fencing as supports for the tomatoes next year.

The loofah plants have started taking over the whole row of trellises but not a single bloom has yet to form, which makes me think their blossoming is dependent on day length. The winter squash and wax melons have just started vining, hopefully there's enough time left for some fruit to set. And the first Jimmy Nardello peppers are just starting to ripen, which I'm very excited to try.

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Harvested this week:
10.632 lbs. tomatoes
3.932 lbs. melon
2.336 lbs. zucchini
2.000 lbs. cucumber
1.158 lbs. green beans
0.536 lbs. yellow summer squash
0.402 lbs. eggplant

weekly total: 20.996 pounds

July 18, 2016

Harvest Monday, 7/18/16

A mixture of Black Cherry, Sun Gold, and Fat Cherry tomatoes were picked on Tuesday.
 There was also a cucumber, zucchini, and handful of green beans picked from the pole beans. 
 On Sunday the first eggplant and Ginkaku melon was picked. 
Golden King of Siberia weighed in at 0.902 pounds and there are also two Black Prince tomatoes in the front.
From bottom left counter clock-wise: Black Prince, Goldie, and an Italian Red Pear.

A few of the tomatoes had split from the heavy rains but luckily they weren't so bad. But the squirrels have definitely gotten a few big ripe tomatoes. I found three still hanging on the vine with bites taken out of the bottoms, three were dropped in the yard where they tried to carry them away, and two were in the ally where they managed to get them over the fence.

It's so unbearably hot and humid here, I can understand why people don't garden in this area.

Please join us at Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

July 11, 2016

Harvest Monday, 7/11/16

Cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and green beans are still trickling in. We've been getting lots of big rain storms passing through last week. The plants are looking greener than ever and not having to water the garden has been wonderful.
The plants had put on so much growth, I actually had trouble tying up the tomato plants and knocked a couple green tomatoes off. Luckily the green tomatoes were fairly small.  :)

A couple of Homestead tomatoes ripened and they're very small, not much bigger than a cherry tomato. I looked up a couple of reviews and people said that this variety gets smaller the hotter it gets. Strangely enough, the tomatoes swelled quickly but once it got truly hot they just stopped growing and eventually ripened instead.
A handful of Asian greens and some basil gets picked for soup occasionally. Mibun, tatsoi, and mizuna  make up this handful and you can tell the flea beetles have been at the leaves.
And of course summer squash marks the highlight of a summer garden. It looks like the pattypan squash are starting to blossom, so they're not far behind.

My parents have been visiting this week, so I have to keep this simple. I hope everybody is enjoying the summer weather. It's shaping up to be a decent summer, no huge gluts to speak of but hopefully there'll be many good things in the future.

Please join us at Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

July 4, 2016

Harvest Monday, 7/4/16

Summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers have started producing this week. I've been hand pollinating since bees have yet to discover the squashes, but the zucchini is harder to get to and pollinate.
The first tomato is a Sun Gold Cherry. We're also growing Fat Cherry and Black Cherry, all new varieties for us.
More summer squash were gathered on Saturday. The plants have all been attacked by squash vine borers, so I'm trying to pick the squashes young and maybe they'll recover.
 And another single Sun gold tomato. My husband's being generous and letting me eat them.
Summer squash, zucchini, and green beans all from the garden stir fried with pork and onions on Sunday. The sauce was so simply and yet so good just fish sauce, a little sugar, and fresh ground pepper. With stir fries I do everything to taste, sometimes vegetables are a bit astringent so need a little sugar to take the edge off.

I also do a beef stir fry with sweet peppers and onions. The sauce is just soy sauce, Lea and Perrins worcestershire, hot pepper flakes, and a little sugar.

The garden is slowly coming into production which is really nice. Plus we got lots of rain Saturday and Sunday. Yayyy, I don't have to water after work on the 4th of July.

Please come join us at Harvest Monday where vegetable gardeners get together and share all their trials and triumphs.