Friday, August 30, 2013

A Mystery Tomato

In the winter, I ordered seed for an early tomato variety called Glacier. Like most earlies, they are supposed to be small, about 2 inches in diameter, and orange-red. I started several plants and ended up planting the two healthiest out in the garden. It didn't take long to see a significant difference between the fruits on the two "Glacier" plants. And this is what I got on one of them:
Two large yellow tomatoes. Now, I plant about 20 varieties of tomato. And I know I did not order any yellow varieties. Purple, yes. Yellow, no. So I have a mystery on my hands. What are these? The only thing I can say for certain is they taste quite delicious! Far better than the real Glaciers I have growing, but it's not likely I'll ever know what I'm eating!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ugliest Tomato Ever Grown?

I've been reading a few postings out there about the most beautiful tomato ever. There really are some beauties and I've even had a few myself. But I present: The ugliest tomato ever grown? This one is a doozy. I don't even know what variety it is because once I'm out there picking them I put them all jumbled in a basket and I never remember which plant I took them from.
Crazy, isn't it? How about you? Have you had some candidates for the ugliest tomato ever grown?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Harvest Monday

This has been a good week for harvest here. I surpassed last year's total August harvest by quite a few pounds already and there's still another six days to go with beans and tomatoes really kicking in. I'm very happy to be getting the tomatoes, but the plants are all diseased and dying fast. Thankfully they had set a large amount of fruit so I hope to be able to can enough pints to get us through the year. We use a lot of tomatoes in our cooking!
I pulled the last of my beets, the remaining Lutz Salad Leaf. They didn't seem to be getting any bigger, so it was time. I have two beds of beets that were planted later, but I have yet to successfully grow such later plantings. They never seem to grow healthy and bulb up and this year isn't looking to be any different.
 There was more kale from my original spring kale plants, more broccoli side shoots and finally some carrots.
 My second planting of yellow summer squash is producing nicely, which is great since the early bushes did nada.
 The green beans are in full swing, the yellow pole beans keep on producing and tomatoes of all varieties are ripening at long last! And what's that? Two small zucchinis from my second planting of four zucchini bushes. So out of a grand total of twelve zuke plants in 2013, I've gotten maybe five small zucchinis. Amazing. The second run bushes are just about dead, so I'm not likely to see more.
The big green bouquet you see is celery, a mixture of Afina Cutting and Tango. I also got a lot of cucumbers, both Lemon and Double Yield.
 And lookee here! My very first Chinese Red Noodle beans! I haven't tasted them yet, but they sure look pretty!
 I harvested the last of the spring-planted cabbages yesterday. They are a variety called Bartolo that produce relatively small dense heads, but are really excellent keepers. Kept in a refrigerator last year, I was cooking with them in January. I have a bed of fall cabbages, hoping they mature before it's too cold.
 My peppers, which did so fantastically last summer are a pathetic lot this year. So it was nice to pick one nice fairly good-sized green one yesterday. And the trombocino is still making up for my zucchini lack. I counted eight babies coming down the pike. So I celebrated with chocolate zucchini cake made with shredded trombocino, which is the most delicious way to use up summer squash.
 This is the last of the lettuce for a bit. It's getting a little bitter, but still useable. There are eight small plants in the garden just trying to get large enough to take leaves from and I have some tiny seedlings that I hope to plant out in a few weeks. Hoping to stretch out the salad days more than I've managed in the past.
I'm joining in the Harvest Monday postings over at Daphne's Dandelions and looking forward to see what goodies everyone else is getting from their gardens this week!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That

This week it seems that the summer garden is kicking into high gear and with it a few interesting observations and oddities. The weather went briefly back to warm and muggy, but not really as hot as was forecast. Now it is dry, but sunny and somewhat cooler again. What strange weather this summer!
I am busy with harvesting and preserving veggies and though I've had the tendency to focus on my losses, the truth is the gains have far outweighed them and I'm enjoying my pest-prone, disease-filled, sun-limited garden more than ever. I like to try new things, so this year it is sauerkraut. I've never made it before, but you can see the batch I have going is fermenting nicely as evidenced by the bubbles. I tasted it yesterday and it is sour and delicious! It's magic! Just a combination of shredded cabbage and salt and voila! It really does taste like it's ready, so I'll be canning it soon, I hope. I've read that I should wait until the fermentation is complete and I don't see bubbling anymore.
 The bush green beans exploded into action this week! I picked 2 and 1/2 pounds of them here and there is a whole other bed that is just ripening and will be ready to pick in a day or so. I ended up giving these away since there'll be more coming in and I've already frozen some thirty bags of beans. The Chinese Red Noodle beans are almost ready to pick too and I've decided to let the Scarlet Runner beans mature into dry beans for seed.
 What I am really excited about are my parsnips. I experimented with interplanting them this year since I had no room in the garden for them this spring. What you see below are a few thinnings and I am so pleased at how good they look, albeit small. But they have another two months of growing ahead, so barring any marauding voles, I may end up with a good crop. Here's hoping. This interplanting seems like the way for me to go with such a slow-growing crop as parsnips are.
 The cucumbers are in high gear now and unlike last summer, I'm overflowing with them enough to make relish, pickles, eat fresh and give away. And my second planting is just setting fruit, so I'd better come up with some more ideas. I found this monster hiding behind a fence post yesterday. It's funny, I've never really had the experience of monster zucchinis hidden away under the foliage, but cucumbers get me every year! I can't figure out how I can carefully check the vines, which by the way are growing up a fence, not on the ground, every day and still miss such a big guy. Notice it weighs 3/4 of a pound!
 Thought I'd show him beside the next biggest cuke I got, by way of contrast. Wow.
 My second planting of yellow summer squash (variety is Saffron) consists of a single plant, but that single plant has already put out three times as much fruit as my two earlier plants. I picked five off the bush yesterday, including this Siamese twin. Garden oddity indeed! I also found a "horned" tomato, but forgot to get a picture before it ended up in the stew pot.
The garden is calling me, so it's time to get to work. It's the time of year when there is low humming going on constantly from all the bees enjoying the flowers down there, not to mention the hummingbirds who have discovered the runner bean blossoms. I love the summery sound of it. We need rain and I am getting tired of watering, but it has to be done for the small fall seedlings to stand any kind of chance out there. Time to pull some old plants and to plant some new ones. Time to consider how I'm going to improve the soil for next season and to clear areas around the garden fence so it doesn't feel so threatened by the jungle out there.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Harvest Monday Mid-August Edition

Happy Monday! Can you believe it's the middle of August already? I feel as if I just finished my spring planting, so it makes for some disoriented thinking! To complicate things around here we've had a few weeks of unusually cool and dry weather, reminiscent of what we normally get at the end of September. It has helped to shift the mind to the renewal of all the yearly activities that begin in fall. For me that includes choir and directing my church's children's program, both of which take a much appreciated break in the summer. But it's still high summer and the garden is busy producing as well as growing the fall crops.
 This week it feels like there's a lot of sameness to what I am harvesting, though strictly speaking that's not true. There are small tomatoes, as the large ones are still far from ripening, beans and more beans. Not complaining though, because it's a harvest! And it's so good to be finally enjoying my own summer tomatoes. But there has been a lot more diversity than it feels like. For instance:
 A few carrots at last! The tail end of the summer lettuce. There's a bit more out there and I have 8 small plants that I hope will grow into production soon. I also picked some more kale, pounds of the Gold Marie Vining beans and the Fresh Pick green beans are starting to really produce now. I have some scallions and herbs like parsley, basil and cilantro. It's my first time growing cilantro. Is there any way to preserve it? Can it be frozen like parsley?
 Still managed to get quite a few broccoli shoots as well as two small heads from a late planting. I harvested four of my late cabbages and another Saffron summer squash. That lone summer squash plant has already outproduced the two early ones I planted as well as those eight miserable zucchini plants. I also picked two more good sized trombocino squashes. Cucumbers are beginning to come in at a nice rate. They are doing so much better than last year's.
I have two semi-successful dill plants, so I picked a bit to pop in the freezer. I love the taste of dill in many dishes. Above you can see some Tango celery, also ready to be chopped and frozen. I planted another variety called Afina Cutting, which is growing well, but the stalks are really just thin stems and it acts more like parsley than the thicker stalked celery I'm used to. The flavor is the same though so it'll be useful in soups and stews. Not sure I would bother growing it again.
That's my mid-August harvest! This week is expected to be more like our typical August, hot and humid, so I'll have to keep a close eye on the small fall seedlings that are struggling to take hold. Now to pop on over to Daphne's Dandelions to see the other Harvest Monday links of the week!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bean-y Tales

If I can count on anything to do well in my garden it's beans. Good thing I like them! D likes them too, but not as much as I do. This year I expanded my bean horizons with more than the usual plantings of Fresh Pick bush beans. Since space in the garden was at a premium I planted the fence with a number of pole varieties and I thought I'd report on how all the beans are doing.
 In the past I haven't had much production from my pole beans and that includes the much vaunted Fortex, whose bean I like but would've like more of. I've written enough about my Gold Marie Vining  bean which is pictured below. It produces like mad and I hope to be able to keep on growing this variety. Above is my planting of Chinese Red Noodle beans. After getting those first two green noodle beans a few weeks ago, I haven't seen anything...until....this week! Hooray! There are baby red noodle beans.
 At the far end of the fence, past the Gold Maries, past the Red Noodles, is the planting of scarlet runner beans. Planted a bit late for runner beans, they set all of two beans before the hot weather closed down production. Our recent run of unusually cool temps has led to renewed profuse blossoming and yes, some beans. Looks like we'll get to try out a meal of runner beans after all.
 Here are a few close-ups of the baby Scarlet Runner beans. They're quite small at the moment and I'm a bit unsure when to harvest them as they are a new variety to me and nobody I know has ever grown them.

 Below are a couple of pictures of the developing Red Noodle Beans. I'm so excited about them and can't wait to see them develop their color and length. Yes, these look like they'll be red! You can especially see the color in the second photo.

 And below are some noodle bean blossoms. They seem to be rather demure and I miss them before they are already gone and showing beans instead.
On the opposite end of the garden the fence has some beans too. The first is called Aunt Jean's pole bean and it is being grown for dried beans. I've never done this before, so hoping those nice plump beans you see below will dry well. I picked this variety because it is a pole bean and I just don't have the space to devote to the bush varieties.
 Last of the pole beans is good old Kentucky Wonder. It is taking forever to produce and I have taken the photo below of the one and only blossom I've seen so far on those vines. Hope there are more!
 It seems just wrong not to include a picture of my workhorse bush beans. They have been the foundation of my bean harvest for years. I have three plantings of Fresh Pick and the bed pictured is the second one, just about ready to produce. This year I had a scare when Johnny's seeds didn't carry them in their catalogue, but thankfully they still had them to order online. If they don't carry them next year I may have to search out another variety. I've tried Provider in the past and liked them, but not as well as these.
Those are my bean tales for 2013! I'll be sure to post pictures of the noodle beans when they look like noodles!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

And The Winner Is.....!

The final poundage count for the onions is in! It destroyed my last record! Oh, alright, I've only been weighing my produce for three years, but what a good year for onions! I posted about them earlier, definitely the star of the 2013 garden. Aren't they gorgeous?? If I do say so myself.
 I plant about the same number of onions every year, starting the seeds in February. Two years ago I got a hefty 40 and 3/4 pounds that saw us comfortably through the year, and we do cook a lot with onions. Last year I got a miserable 13 and 3/4 pounds of mostly small marble sized onions. And you know what a pain in the neck it is to peel multiple little onions when a recipe calls for one large one. But this year! I had them curing outside for a week until the weatherman lied to me and I left them uncovered only to get rained on. So they were trimmed and brought into our very dry basement to complete the process for another week before they were weighed and put in their baskets. The final total: 74 and 1/2 pounds!!! From about the same number of onions, because this year, they grew BIG! Yeah, baby!
 The basket in the forefront is full of Ailsa Craigs. They will be used first, since they usually only store well for about 2 months. They are huge, the two largest weigh 3/4 pound each. The rear baskets contain a variety of storage onions: Redwing, Prince (a favorite), Pontiac and Varsity with a couple of Copra thrown in for good measure. I weighed the shallots too: there are four pounds of nice large ones.
Told my husband to freely use all the onion he wants when he's whipping up a dish. I know I will! Chopping the onions just got a whole lot easier!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Harvest Monday

Here it is Monday again and time to join in the weekly garden show-and-tell hosted at Daphne's Dandelions where gardeners everywhere are sharing what they harvested this past week.
 With all our partial shade here, I do better with greens than many other veggies. Kale is still producing nicely. This batch went into a large kettle of kale and bean soup, made on an unusually damp and chilly day last week, a day that felt more like late September than early August.
 I have finally managed to grow some reasonably heat tolerant lettuce so we are still having salads, with home-grown tomatoes even! The heat tolerant varieties I'm using are Nevada, Pablo, Anuenue, Jericho and Concept. I think I am happiest with the Pablo, but they are all staying relatively sweet (certainly not like the early spring lettuce, but enough to enjoy) and only just beginning to bolt.
And look! A couple of little carrots! Maybe I will get a carrot harvest after all if I can only be a little patient. The broccoli keeps giving many side shoots and I also harvested my remaining early cabbage, which are being turned (I hope) into sauerkraut.
 The picture above and the picture below show the gist of what I've been bringing in this week. The tomatoes are still ripening maddeningly slowly while the plant disease is moving maddeningly fast. Cucumbers are coming in at a good pace and this year we have refrigerator dills again. Yay! And though the photo is a bit unclear, at the top of the basket there are two zucchini! They are from the second planting of zucchini after the failure of the first. Not a lot, but still...
 The yellow Gold Marie Vining beans keep coming in like gangbusters. Pounds of them! This variety is definitely a keeper for me and since my bush green beans have been a bit sluggish this year, they are keeping us in beany goodness. The two light colored trombocino squash are not done justice in the photo. Each one is almost two feet long and they each weigh close to 2 pounds apiece. And there is the first eggplant of what will probably be a very small quantity this year.
Lastly I present a small bunch of basil and a few scallions! The scallions were a part of my interplanting experiment. They'd been planted between early cabbage and I expected the scallions to be ready before the cabbage got large, but it went the opposite way around! The cabbage were all harvested and then the scallions began to get larger.  Still, I'm glad of that outcome because I have some nice scallions to use now for salads and recipes. That's my week here in eastern Connecticut where the weather is getting more like typical August now! Check out all the other great harvests at Daphne's Dandelions!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Trombocino, Trombocino How I love You Trombocino!

Having had a phenomenal summer squash failure in the early summer, it is no wonder I am singing praises to my new favorite squash, the trombocino. No, I haven't gotten tons of them...yet. So far I've harvested two that got very large, yet when they are big they are still tender and not overripe, unlike typical bush zucchinis. But here are the newest:
 These two long fellas should be ready for harvest in two or three days. And hiding there behind that large leaf is another up and comer! To say I'm excited would not be putting a spin on things. There are also several baby ones that I hope will develop. The downside of trombocino is that the vines are huge, so you really need a place for them to sprawl. The upside is that they are really quite resistant to all the nasties that like to attack squash.
 All is not lost on the zucchini front either. My original 8 (yes, 8!) zucchini plants put out all of 3 small harvestable zukes. All the other babies rotted on the vine and then the plants got sick and died. Can anybody have any worse luck with summer squash? In addition I had two yellow squash plants that gave me 2 small squashes before they died. No glut at this place!
My second planting is starting to produce now. The small zuke you see above will be harvested today. It's the only one so far on the four plants I started from direct seeding in late June. The plants don't look super hale and hearty. In addition, I planted one yellow squash plant (the variety I use is called Saffron) and it is very healthy. So far it has surpassed my two earlier plants, having given us three squash. Lest I should get too cocky two days ago a strong gust of wind knocked this healthy plant over and partially split open its stem, but so far it seems to be surviving, although it would be just my luck if it didn't.
But no matter, I have trombocinos coming in so there will be summer squash goodness after all without the burden of having to figure out what to do with a superabundance. Superabundance?? That is the stuff of dreams, lol!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Harvest Monday

It's Harvest Monday again over at Daphne's Dandelions, a great place to go and check out how gardens are doing all over the country and the world!
Although I still don't feel as though I am really bringing in much from the summer garden, I do have some steady harvests, mostly from the beans, good old dependable beans! Good thing I like them as much as I do!
 My photos are not the best! I really need to learn a thing or two about digital photography. Above are the two types of bean currently coming in: Gold Marie Vining, a flat yellow pole bean and my usual bush bean, Fresh Pick. I am really pleased with the Gold Marie's. The vines are extremely prolific and the pods are huge. Some are as much as eight inches long while still remaining flat and they taste good. I'm still picking nice amounts of broccoli shoots and that yellow squash you see is the first from my second planting of summer squash! Very exciting considering the terrible showing of my first planting. I also planted Chinese Red Noodle beans. I have not seen so much as a blossom on them. So imagine my surprise, when I went to pull a strange looking weed and found instead that they were this:
 Yup. Two GREEN noodle beans. Just two. And not red, like they're supposed to be. But there still have been no blossoms or signs of any other beans, red or otherwise. These two tasted good nevertheless and I hope to see some more before the summer is out.
 Slower than molasses in January the tomatoes are ripening. I have disease ramping up quickly in the plants. Every day I feel like a surgeon with a diabetic patient, lopping off diseased limbs (or in this case, leaves and branches) in the hopes of prolonging life, at least until the green tomatoes ripen up. I'd give a lot to find a dependable way to prevent tomato diseases in my garden.
 Here are most of my Lutz Greenleaf beets, which I harvested this week. I left a few smaller ones in the garden to grow a bit more. While there are two more beet beds, they don't look wonderful and odds are these are about the last beets I'll harvest. At least they were big and tasty! And I do mean big:
 I also picked the last of my Kossacks. I planted out a new batch for fall, hoping to get a few more before the frost hits in October. We'll see.
 And we're still getting some lettuce from my small patch of heat-tolerant lettuce. I think this is the latest in summer I've ever had lettuce still going. I need to start some for fall very soon!
 Later in the week there were more green beans, more yellow beans, broccoli shoots, little tomatoes and a second yellow squash from the new plant. Already a better squash harvest than I had from my early plants!
And, finally: the cucumber harvest has begun to kick in. Two years ago I was swimming in cukes. Last year there were hardly any. This year may be right in the middle. The Lemons are scant, but the Double Yields are starting to produce nicely and I do have a second planting that is just beginning to blossom. 
Our August weather has been remarkably temperate so far. Eighties and dry as compared to July's intense heat and humidity. It actually feels more like September and when I went out to walk this morning at 6am, it was only 54F! Certainly makes for easier working in the garden. Happy August harvesting!