August 10, 2020

Harvest Monday, 8/10/20

 I've started the process of clearing out the garden. Squash bugs and harlequin bugs have arrived in droves, decimating the once pretty free range greens. I managed to clear out 4 beds on Friday with another 4 beds to go.

Just a few large tomato types left, these mainly go on sandwiches. I've started the process of removing the cages and plants.
Black Cherry has finally started sweetening up, they've been strangely sourish which I suppose could be from a cooler than usual early summer. Really, all the cherries have been on the sour end, except for Sungold and Juliet.
I made some more zucchini hash. Shredded zucchini was mixed with shredded cheddar and chopped turkey lunch meat. Then a handful of the mixture was dredged in egg, then dredged in panko bread crumbs, and fried in a little olive oil. So light and crispy, these were served with macaroni and cheese. They also heat up perfectly in an air fryer, if you want to make a big batch of them.

I picked quite a few snap beans and little squashes while clearing out those beds, but didn't get any pictures. And the soil beneath the sweet potato vines look like it's heaving, hopefully lots of big sweet potatoes are hiding under there.

August 3, 2020

Harvest Monday, 8/3/20

There's a weird space time anomaly surrounding this year. It just seems never ending. I hope everyone is staying safe and taking care of yourselves mentally and physically. Now is the time to be extra kind to ourselves and to our loved ones.
Kale, free range greens, cucumbers, zucchini, fat green onion, and those slender greens stalks on the right are garlic chives, and a giant summer squash.
Tomatoes and summer squash.

We eat a lot of ramen soups or curry noodle soups with tomatoes, greens, squash, onions, and chives from the garden. We also make sandwiches with tomatoes, cucumbers, and sprouts.

We've gotten a tremendous amount of rain the last couple of weeks and the plants our suffering because of it. The only things doing well are greens and peppers. The greens especially, look vibrant and have had a surge of growth that I find astonishing. It's time to clear out the great majority of the beds, except the sweet potatoes, greens, and peppers will get to hang out awhile longer.

We are having a cooler and wetter than usual August, so it's probably the perfect time to get some lettuce, greens, winter radishes, kohlrabi, and a second planting of snap beans in the ground. I'll be putting off planting turnips and spinach because they're so sensitive to temperature spikes. And I've actually ordered onion and shallot sets for fall planting, which should arrive the 3rd week of September. I'm so excited to try this new experiment in fall planting.

Please join us for Harvest Monday as hosted by Dave from Happy Acres.

July 26, 2020

Harvest Monday, 7/26/20

Tomatoes have come on strong this week. There's 45 tomato plants in my garden with 15 of them being small or cherry types. We'd been talking about drying the garden produce this year, which is why there are so many cherry tomato plants. I told my husband two weeks ago that we needed a game plan worked out because they were going to start ripening en masse.

On Sunday we processed about 40 pounds of tomatoes which are in the drying tent with a dehumidifier as I'm typing this. My husband is a ceramic artist and he uses a similar setup to quick dry newly made clay pieces in preparation for a kiln firing.

We've actually eaten a couple tomatoes the week before, but I've been kind of overwhelmed by the garden to post pictures. It's the weeding. The weeds have been going to seed and I couldn't let that happen, so between torrential rain showers I've been weeding like an insane person.

More tomatoes were picked on Saturday but aren't shown here. The small and cherry tomatoes include Juliet, Sungold, Fat Cherry, Black Cherry, Gardener's Delight, Taxi, and Juanne Flamme. The large tomatoes shown include Green Cherokee which have a yellowish skin color although the interior is very green, Giant Australian, and Brandywine. We've been eating tomatoes everyday this week so not shown are Marianna's Peace, Carbon, Oaxacan, and Goldie. The standout of the large tomatoes was Marianna's Peace, unless I'm confusing it with another tomato, it was delicious with a distinctly salty flavor. And for the cherry's, Juliet is just lovely, nice firm meaty texture with a sweet flavor that reminded me of a good grape tomato.

Also, you can see where I avoided the squash and zucchini beds because of all the rain and then was greeted by massive squashes. Must not put off visiting the squash beds. Once the tomatoes are dried, we're going to dry the squashes as well.
I've had a couple good pickings of snap beans. The first picking, the snap beans were sautéed with strips of carrots in a little olive oil with salt, pepper, and dried herbs till they were caramelized with a good bit of color. Then I added chicken stock and cooked it down until most of the liquid was cooked off.
A picture of the second picking of snap beans, right before cooking. I'm only growing 3 varieties of beans this year, Merveille De Piemonte, Purple King, and La Victoire bush bean.
The second batch of green beans was prepared in a similar manner to the first but I added orange juice at the end, instead of chicken broth. Then finished it with a Pico Fruta spice blend that includes chili pepper and lemon peel.

The tomato bed with Giant Australian, Oaxacan, Carbon, and Brandywine are dying from disease. Most likely fungal because of the very wet weather we've had this year. I'm leery of using tomatoes from diseased plants, so am pulling that bed this week.

I've already cleared the lettuce bed and one of the squash beds. The plan is to plant peas, more bush beans, rutabaga, endive, and chicory in the three beds.

Please join us for Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave at Happy Acres. A place to share what you're harvesting and the fun things you might be doing with your produce because eating goes hand in hand with gardening.

June 29, 2020

Harvest Monday, 6/29/20

It has been so hot but the weather finally broke and we got some much needed rain this beautiful Monday. Hopefully we'll get a little less than the 1.3 inches of rain they are predicting between tonight and tomorrow.
The pattypan squash plants are huge with numerous branches. White Custard is tender for a pattypan squash while still holding it's shape well with cooking.

The Fordhook and Elite plants keep getting flipped over by the wind, but the zucchini they do produce are very nice. At this size they are not at all seedy with just a small spongy core.
The summer squash plants are coming into their own right now with lots of female flowers forming.
The round zucchini plants are trying so hard to put new roots down along their stems, but the wind keeps pushing them over and unmooring the little rootlets. I'm hoping they'll anchor themselves before their stem breaks from all the movement. They're not growing or producing as much because of it.

I found the first cucumber hiding near the ground. It's a little long in the tooth but there are a few more forming on the vines. These are growing in 5 feet tomato cages, which they have to be encouraged to climb.

At this point the garden is producing enough squash and zucchini, we could probably live off of them if we needed to. Lots of sautéed squash, squash in shrimp coconut curry, and squash hash have been eaten. I've ordered some udon to make squash and carrot curried noodles. 

I'm having problems in the large fruiting tomato patch. Classic yellowing of the leaves signaling magnesium deficiency which can be treated with Epsom salts. It's moving up the stem very quickly in a few plants, so I'll probably have to dig some into the soil around those plants once the rain passes. I've also been thinking about growing comfrey to use as a foiler feed for my garden.

Please join us for a gratifying and fun-filled Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Happy Acres.

June 22, 2020

Harvest Monday, 6/22/20

We've been eating greens, herbs, and green onions from the garden. They usually go in omelets and soups.
Clockwise from the top left: lemon basil, red veined sorrel, edible chrysanthemum, green onion, and red amaranth. The amaranth is fairly bland, it does very well in the heat but I'm not sure I'll grow it again. The red veined sorrel is not lemony like I expected, although the texture is good. But the edible chrysanthemum has a very surprising flavor that is fairly herbal, my husband thinks it smells like a musty attic.

In the end we definitely prefer kale and mustard greens when it comes to flavor and texture.
Free range mustard greens and green onions which went great in a spicy noodle soup. The blooming tatsoi was still very good, I just snap off the tough parts. similarly to the way we snap the tough bottoms off asparagus. These became part of a spicy noodle soup, otherwise known as fancy ramen. I add sliced pork and an egg to the soup as well.
The first picking of squash on Wednesday, June 17th. Shown here is round zucchini and pattypan squash. My son had already chopped up the Straight Neck summer squash, dark green Fordhook zucchini, and another round zucchini before I could get a picture.

I ended up making a squash, pineapple, cucumber stir-fry with ground turkey and nuoc mam. It was actually pretty amazing. My maternal grandma made pineapple cucumber stir-fry with ground beef but I found that a bit too oily, and my father says his family usually made it with seafood like shrimp, octopus, or clams.
Pale yellow Butta zucchini on the left, four Straight Neck summer squash, and a pattypan squash. The two darker yellow summer squash on the left actually have much firmer skin than the two paler yellow summer squash on the right. Then tender skin of the pale summer squash reminds of Rugosa summer squash
All zucchini in this batch that was picked on Sunday.

There's been very few squash bugs or vine borers in the garden this year. The 3 squash bugs I did see ended up disappearing later. I'm attributing this to the surprising number of beneficial lady bugs in the garden as well as a long cold and wet spring. We might actually end up with an overabundance of squash this year. I only wish I had planted some winter squash.

What to do with all this squash and zucchini? Squash hash browns. Just shredded squash dipped in a little egg with salt and pepper and lightly coated in panko bread crumbs, and then fried in patties in a little oil. They're wonderful, so light and tasty. My friend uses almond flour for lower carbs.

I've added shredded cheddar cheese and chopped ham to the squash hash browns, which is just amazing especially served with macaroni and cheese. They also reheat very well in an air fryer.

There's a lot going on in the garden. Bush snap beans are thinking about blooming, little tomatoes are swelling, and it's actually time to start thinking about starting plants for the fall garden. I read an interesting blog post about overwintering broccoli and cauliflower plants that end up setting very early heads in the spring. It'd be a fun experiment to try.

Please join us for Harvest Monday, hosted by David at Happy Acres. Where gardeners from all around post about what's happening in their little and not so little vegetable plots.

June 6, 2020

Happenings in the Garden

The vegetable garden got planted over Memorial weekend which I had to work, boo hiss. The cold wet spring had delayed planting of my seedlings, and the seeds that were directly sown mostly didn't germinate. But it was kind of nice having a long drawn out spring, even though it was a bit too rainy. But at last, summer is here to stay.

On Friday, May 22nd, my husband tilled the garden for a second time. He only tilled the top couple inches since it was still pretty wet lower than that, and I immediately started planting in earnest because it was supposed to rain from Monday on. It took 4 days to get most everything planted. It started raining while I was trying to finish seeding the last bed with bush beans.

These pictures were taken on May 31st and June 1st, when the plants had more than a week to settle in.
My friend gave me 12 tomato plants a month ago, mostly Oaxacan Jewel and Giant Aussie, but also a Black Krim and a couple Carbon. She had ended up with 36 Oaxacan Jewel plants when she thought they weren't germinating. We've all been there. I gave her a bunch of amaranth, zucchini, and pattypan squash plants as thanks.

Besides my friend's plants, this bed is also home to 3 Pink Brandywine tomato plants. It looks like all the plants have nearly doubled in size since being planted out a week ago. The plants at the end of the bed are basil and flowers that have been nibbled on by birds.
This bed is home to cherry tomatoes and smaller salad type tomatoes like Taxi and Juane Flamme. I started my tomato plants a month later than my friend's, but the vigorous cherries look like they might be catching up in size.

During planting I amended the tomato planting holes with crushed eggshells, spent coffee grounds, azomite rock dust, and Mykos mycorrhiza inoculant. Living in a humid environment I have a real problem with fungus in the garden. I'm hoping the mycorrhiza will help compete with the diseases below ground. I've also used Serenade, which utilizes a harmless bacillus and is considered an organic method to control bacterial and fungal infections in the garden.
The majority of the tomato plants I started took forever to germinate with the cold weather. They were just little sticks in the ground a week ago and even though they're still short, they are all forming blooms. My theory is we had such a chilly spring, then they were planted out on a day that reached 90 degree days (32 degree Celsius), so they thought they were dying and decided to perpetuate their species by bearing fruit.
Sungold blooms are already opening up.
Pink Brandywine with their potato leaves are blooming. They are very vigorous and productive in our climate.
This bed used to be home to 13 pepper plants, but the day after planting the birds topped all but two of the plants. Cilantro and different varieties of basil are residing here now with a nice stand of amaranth at the end of the bed.
Here's a pepper plant that was topped by a bird. It looks like it's trying to form new leaves at the joints of the cotyledon leaves.
Green amaranth at the end of the pepper & herb bed. Critters love to nibble on the amaranth leaves.
Droves of these bugs fly away when I water the amaranth. It's my first time growing it, and I've never seen this specific bug before.
The Telegraph cucumber plants were in desperate need of being planted out. They immediately put out runners once in the ground. There's also edible chrysanthemum in the bed, along with red amaranth at the end.
The red amaranth is being eaten on by those same bugs besetting the green amaranth.
Squash bugs and vine borers usually decimate my squash and zucchini plants. So I plant tons of different varieties to compensate for the high insect pressure. In this bed starting at the far left are Tondo Di Piacenza a round zucchini, Elite zucchini, White Custard pattypan, and a single Rolet squash putting out runners in the back right.

You might notice the sweet potato laying on the ground at the bottom right. It was one of the two Purple sweet potatoes I used to start my slips. My son wanted to feed it to the squirrels, and wouldn't you know it, something did take it over the fence. The second sweet potato is now waiting for the squirrels to come get it.
Starting from the left Gentry summer squash, Butta zucchini, Fordhook zucchini, and Straight Neck squash. I just noticed that the growing tip on one of the Butta zucchini plants is gone, probably nipped out by birds.
There's an itty bitty round zucchini, if you look closely.
The bush beans are just finishing germinating. Normally I plant the rows much closer together, but with the greenhouse on the other side of the bed, I thought giving them room would make picking easier.
I tried a new way to form sweet potato slips. Instead of suspending the sweets so half was in water, I planted them in little tubs with potting soil. It ended up making very healthy slips with complex root systems. They say having lots of roots during planting means lots of small potatoes, hopefully that doesn't hold true.

There's also a row of seven Burgundy okra plants next to the fence. Their red stems are very pretty, but they've been taking a great deal of water to settle in.
This is one of the two beds that didn't get re-tilled. All those greens are from free range plants of likely mixed parentage. I just dug them up from around the garden when they were little and replanted them in this bed. There's also green onion ends from the grocery store that I rooted in water.

The mass of yellow flowers at the end of the bed are blooming Asian greens that I transplanted and am letting go to seed. They've been blooming for months, and once in awhile I clip and hang dry the seed pods.

I am very happy that we were able to plant the garden. The physical activity and doing things outdoors has been nice. We've chosen to not tell our young child about the pandemic. He's been asking about the parks, pools, and playgrounds. But since he can see the caution tape all around, we've told him that they're cleaning and fixing those areas. Usually my dad takes swimming lessons with him during the summer, but that is unlikely to happen.

In the tomato beds Tuscany melon and Ginkaku melon have just germinated. I'm hoping they'll provide some groundcover to shade out weeds, plus a few melons would be awesome. We actually love watermelon, but I've never been able to grow it here. I have a friend who does really well growing gigantic watermelons but she has raised beds.

June 1, 2020

Harvest Monday, 5/31/20

It's been such a wet cold spring the garden didn't get planted until last weekend. My husband actually had to re-till because the only things that had germinated were lettuce, carrots, beets, and grass. We ended up growing a nice lush lawn.

The two beds closest to the house that were home to herbs, greens, and lettuce were saved from being re-tilled. So, we have loads of lettuce to harvest. Yesterday, I harvested as much lettuce that could fit in our fridge since 90 degree weather is headed our way.
Giant Caesar lettuce has a buttery texture. I was actually expecting more of a crunchy romaine type, but the tender leaves and flavor were still nice.
I'm pretty sure this is a Bibb lettuce and that the Nevada lettuce never germinated. It has a very nice tender leaf, but it very much was planning to bolt.
Black Seeded Simpson lettuce is as lovely as ever. It didn't look like it was even thinking about bolting.
Here's a picture of the lettuce bed before harvest. I do think the mountains of rain made the leaves a lot more delicate then they normally are.

What to do with so much lettuce? Lettuce cucumber salad with crunchy Vietnamese eggrolls sliced up on top accompanied by a sweet, sour, spicy dressing. Also chicken, celery, cucumber salad with walnuts and dried cranberries. The chicken is baked with a soy sauce, HappyWorcestershire sauce, brown sugar, ginger, lemon grass, and pear infused balsamic vinegar.

I might grill a couple pork chops marinated in a lemongrass sauce for a rice noodle lettuce salad. Which is usually served with cucumber, bean  sprouts,  chopped roasted peanuts, and the sweet and sour and spicy dressing.

Summer is here to stay. I hope we all get some glorious weather with just the right amount of rain.

Please join us for a fun filled Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Happy Acres.

April 10, 2020

Onward With The Garden, Better Late Than Never

So we decided to do a garden this year, even though last year was an unmitigated disaster. Last year I killed off my seedlings by over-fertilizing, then winds from a tornado blew apart the greenhouse, and then nothing grew because the weather was crazy.

Last week we decided to go full bore with planting because of the whole not going to the store because of social distancing thing, and then there's the possibility of inflation that could drive food prices up thing. So, on Tuesday, April 7th, my husband tilled and today, April 10th, the kiddo and I planted 9 out of 12 beds in the garden.

Tomatoes, peppers, and basil still haven't been started from seed yet, which isn't ideal but I've been too busy at work for it to impact me emotionally. Normally the lateness at starting the peppers and tomatoes would have me feeling a bit desperate.

My garden tends to be overplanted because of the high insect and wildlife pressure that exists, plants will die. It's a given.

This time around I did a lot of broadcast seeding for lettuces, greens, carrots, and bulb fennel. Then a hard-tined rake was used to lightly tamp the seeds down into the soil. I use this technique with good results for the tremendous amount of greens, radishes, and turnips I plant in the fall.

I'll probably still do some canning this year, but our main focus will actually be drying the vegetables. We've been eating a lot of internet purchased dried fruit, and my husband thought we could do the same with dried vegetables which can then be used in soups and casseroles.

January 4, 2020

Chia Seed Zucchini Bread

The chia seeds add a lovely crunch and the coconut oil adds a fragrant sweetness to the zucchini bread. Poppy seeds can be substituted for the chia seeds. For vegans, 2 tbsp. of ground flax seeds in 1/2 cup of water can be substituted for the two eggs.

Chia Seed Zucchini Bread
Makes: 1 large loaf
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 60 minutes

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp. chia seeds
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Wet Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups zucchini, shredded

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub coconut oil on bread pan, or line with parchment paper.

2. Mix the two flours, baking soda, baking powder, chia seeds, and chopped walnuts together.

3. In large bowl beat together the two sugars with the coconut oil. If your coconut oil is too firm to mix with the sugars, you can microwave it to melt it. Mix in the eggs, vanilla, and shredded zucchini.

4. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

5. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Test and make sure a toothpick comes out clean, otherwise bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.