Monday, June 30, 2014

Harvest Monday 6/30/14

The theme this week is cucumbers.  They were by far the largest harvest this week at 7.2 lbs.  I had enough to make my first batch of dill pickles.  Next I want to make some sweet gherkins, which means I need to harvest lots of little cucumbers.

Here are some baskets of harvests this week:

The carrots are still not very big, but I keep pulling a couple here and there.

The beets have finally gotten large enough to harvest and here I pulled a fat and short carrot.

This is my first year growing these crazy long green beans.  I haven't actually cooked them yet, but they look nifty.

I went to visit a friend this past weekend and brought her a basket of goodies from the garden: chard, kale, green beans, squash, peppers, cucumbers, onions and pickles.  She sent me a picture of a stir fry she made the next day, so they went to a good home.

I've been cooking stir fries as well along with omelettes with lots of veggies.  I made some stuffed round squash that I thought were quite photogenic.

The other harvest this week did not come from the garden.  We have lots of wild blackberries on our property and around the neighborhood, so we have been picking and picking and eating and eating.  I have made mini pies for the freezer, some jam, and muffins.  Next I want to freeze the whole berries for smoothies.

Harvests this week:
Onions                1 lb
Kale                   3.7 oz
Chard           4.6 oz
Summer squash  4.8 lbs
Beet                   1.2 lbs
Broccoli           9.7 oz
Peppers           6.5 oz
Cucumber        7.2 lbs
Beans           11.3 oz
Carrots           4.2 oz

Weekly total: 16.8 lbs
Yearly total: 56.9 lbs

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week.  To see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Harvest Monday 6/23/14

My garden and I survived an entire week separated.  I'm sure I had much more anxiety about it than the garden.  We went camping in New York and Vermont, which was beautiful and very nice to escape the 90 degree days down south.  When we arrived home the first thing I did was to check on the garden.  My worst fears about deer taking out the fence and having a feast were not materialized.  Everything was fine.  The weeds grew and the squash bugs and vine borers had arrived in my absence, but other than that all was fine.  Here's the veggies that awaited my return:

That over sized zucchini was stuffed with onion, quinoa, cheese and parsley:

I started digging up the potatoes and they are not very big.  I read that some people wait until the entire plant is dead and dried up before harvesting.  I'm going to leave the rest of the potatoes to die back and see if it makes a difference in the size.  I've never had a great potato harvest.  I was excited this year because it was the first time I had a potato plant flower.  I'm not sure what the problem is, perhaps it gets too hot for them.  I may try a fall crop if I have the room and I probably need to get them planted earlier in the spring.

As I harvested these small potatoes, J said that they would be great for salted potatoes.  I thought this was just boiled potatoes with some salt, but it turns out that it is an Upstate New York specialty (where he is from) that involves a ton of salt.  I found that the recipe started in Syracuse in the 1800s by salt mine workers.  Basically you boil small, whole potatoes in a brine with a ton of salt (1 1/2 cups for 4 lbs of potatoes)!  This is the recipe I used and J approved of it: Syracuse Salt Potatoes.  I'm not a huge fan of salty foods, but with the butter I have to say they were pretty tasty.

When I left the garden, the broccoli was forming heads and I was concerned that they would be flowering by the time we got back, but they were fine.  This is the first year I've grown broccoli under a row cover and now I don't have to meticulous clean them searching for cabbage worms, plus the plants did much better not getting munched on.  However, somehow a dove got inside my row cover!  I have no clue how it got in there and it was flapping about trying to get out.  It appears that my row covers have effectively kept out cabbage moths, but not doves!

My kale continues to survive the heat under the shade cloth.  The plants haven't gotten very large, but they have yet to bolt.  I've been getting cucumbers and hope to have enough to make the first batch of pickles this week.  I also harvested the first banana peppers.

Harvests for this week:

Onion 12.1oz
Herbs 1.4 oz
Kale         1.9 oz
Amaranth 0.3 oz
Turnips 5.8 oz
Potatoes 2.8 lbs
Chard 3 oz
Squash 4.9 lbs
Broccoli 1.5 lbs
Peppers 1.8 oz
Cucumber  6.1 lbs
Beans 13 oz
Carrots 0.7 oz (I pulled one carrot to see how big they were.  Definitely need to keep waiting on the carrots.)
Weekly total: 17.8 lbs
Yearly total: 41 lbs

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week.  To see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Harvest Monday 6/16/14

I am far, far away from my garden on this harvest Monday.  We left Thursday to camp in Vermont and now we are headed to Upstate New York for more camping.  I am concerned that by the time we get back (Friday) my garden will be overrun with critters and weeds and there will be no more vegetables!  I wonder if there is an official anxiety disorder for leaving your garden unattended, if so, I definitely have it!

Anyway, here's what I harvested before we left Thursday morning.  I pulled more little onions (6.4 oz).  There was one big fat beet (4.6 oz), so I pulled it, cut off the leaves and put it in the fridge so that hopefully by the time I get back there will be more beets ready.

I also managed to harvest another pound of lettuce that hadn't turned bitter yet.  I planted some Nevada lettuce, which is supposed to be heat resistant.  We will see how it does.

Also before I left, I harvested all the little squash (2.3 lbs) and cucumbers (13.1 oz).  Otherwise they would have gotten huge and not so tasty by the time I got back.  I also picked a couple of little Cubanelle peppers (1.1 oz).

The other thing I'm concerned about in my absence is the broccoli.  I picked one small head (0.8 oz) and I'm hoping I don't come home to a bunch of broccoli flowers.

This week's harvest was 5.3 lbs, making my total for the year 24 lbs.  That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week and here's hoping I can relax and enjoy vacation time and stop worrying about my unattended garden!  To see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cooking Amaranth Leaves

This is my first year attempting to grow amaranth.  My intention was to grow it for it's grain.  If you've never had amaranth grain, it's a very nutritious and high protein grain.  I mix it with my oatmeal along with apples and pecans for a delicious and filling breakfast.  I have also cooked with amaranth flour to make waffles and muffins.

When it came time to plant amaranth, I spaced them a foot apart so that they can grow tall, flower, and produce grains.  I had to thin the seedlings, which is when I learned you can also eat amaranth leaves.  My first thinning were young leaves, which added a colorful addition to my salads.

I wanted to know what cooked amaranth leaves tasted like, so I let some of the seedlings get about two feet tall and then picked some leaves.

As the leaves get larger they are a mix of green and red.  I heated up some oil, chopped the leaves, and minced some garlic.

I sauteed them for about five minutes and here is the finished product:

Well, I don't think any cooked greens are very photogenic.  What is important is how they taste.  To me they tasted like a mix between spinach and collard greens, but you know what I forgot to add... salt!  I don't add salt a lot when I cook, so I completely forgot, but salt seems to make a big difference in cooked greens.  Next time I will definitely add salt.  I would say amaranth leaves aren't as good as spinach, but much better than turnip greens.  The best part about amaranth is that they like the heat, so in the South it is a way I can have some greens long after the spinach and kale have said goodbye to the summer heat and humidity.

This post is shared at Green Thumb Thursday at Grow a Good Life.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Harvest Monday 6/9/14

The theme this week in the garden was lettuce.  I had to harvest the lettuce before it bolted, so it has been a salad marathon in my kitchen while I tried to go through 2.3 lbs.

Also this week there were some new harvests from the garden.  I pulled the first turnips (11.5 oz).

Several of the turnips bolted, but the ones on the east side of the shade cloth seem to be hanging on.  I cooked the leaves and roots.  I braised the leaves, took one bite, and hoped J would eat the rest.  Well, he didn't.  It seems every year I try cooking and eating turnip leaves and the result is always the same.  So turnip leaves will be going to the compost heap.

Also new this week are a few potatoes (5.9 oz).  One of the potato plants was looking like it was reaching the end, so I dug it up and harvested three potatoes.

Those potatoes, onions (6.8 oz) and chard (4.3 oz) went into a delicious lunch.  I love being able to go out to the garden and come back with ingredients for a meal.

The last new harvest this week was zucchini.  It was a bit short, but quite fat.  For me this marks the official beginning of summer.  Hopefully soon the tomatoes and peppers will follow.

I also harvested the last of the peas (11.4 oz) and removed the plants and replaced them with some melon seeds.  The dill is flowering so I cut 1.5 oz and I'm in the process of drying it.

My harvest total this week is 5.5 lbs, making my total for the year 18.7 lbs.  That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week, to see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tomato Weaving

The garden has been pricey this year..a tiller attachment for the tractor (hooray for Craigslist and a used one!), the deer fence and I've lost count of how many bales of straw I've bought.  When it came to supports for my tomatoes I didn't want to spend a fortune.  My plan was to have twenty tomato plants.  Somehow I only started 18 from seed and then one had an unfortunate mishap with the garden hose, so I have 17 tomato plants.  Getting even the cheapest tomato cages was still going to be expensive, plus the frustration of them not working well.

As I contemplated how to hold up my tomatoes, they continued to grow and the beginnings of a tomato formed.  I needed to search for a effective and cheap method.  I thought about making my own cages out of cattle panels.  Here's a great tutorial for how to make these: sturdy tomato cages.  However, making 17 would be a lot of work and then I would have to store 17 cages that don't collapse.

Another option I considered was the Florida weave.  This method involves putting tall stakes in the ground after every two or three tomato plants and then weaving twine between the posts to hold up the tomatoes.  This website has nice illustrations: Florida weave.

I had a couple of fence posts remaining, so I would just need to buy rebar and twine.  I wanted to use rebar instead of wooden stakes because they will not rot or break.  This method was definitely my cheapest option.  I had one concern with the Florida weave technique.  My tomato plants are a mix of determinate and indeterminate varieties.  The indeterminate varieties grow much larger that the determinate ones.  I did not plan ahead and separate the two types in my row of tomatoes, so the variation in height may make it difficult.

J and I took Domino for a walk and I explained my tomato support dilemma (which I'm sure he was completely enthralled by).  He was probably thinking which method was going to be the least amount of work for him!  The cow people (what we call the family that rents the farm at the end of the road for their cows) drove up and coincidentally asked us if we needed some rebar.  Why yes!  He works in construction and had a bunch leftover from a job.  That was how I decided to go with the Florida weave method for my tomatoes!

After our flash flood last week the garden was a soggy mess, which was a perfect time to drive the fence posts and rebar into the ground.  I have to say we did a horrible job making a straight row, so I think I have to call my technique the crooked Florida weave.

Instead of twine, J thought I should use wire because we had a bunch leftover from the fence building.  I have to say that weaving with a heavy spool of wire was not fun.  I may buy twine for future weaving.

Also I'm a bit concerned that if it gets really windy, the tomatoes could get cut by the wire.  The good thing about the wire is that since it is sturdy, I don't have to pull it really tight around the tomatoes.  So far it seems to be working, but of course the tomato plants are not very big yet.  I'll let you know how it is holding up by August.

This post is shared at Green Thumb Thursday at Grow a Good Life.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Harvest Monday 6/2

Lots and lots of peas out of the garden this week, 7.5 lbs to be exact.  The pea plants are starting to turn yellow, so this, sadly, will probably be the last week of peas.

I froze some snow peas, which is really simple.  I blanched them for two minutes.

Followed by an ice bath for another two minutes.

Then into the freezer they went to be added to stir fries later on.

Also in the garden this week was lettuce (10.8 oz), kale (1.8 oz), onions (4.3 oz) and cilantro (0.5 oz).  I didn't take pictures of everything, but here is a day's harvest:

In other garden news, we had a flash flood here on Thursday evening.  We got about two inches of rain, but very fast.  It made a mess of the garden!  I had just planted peanuts the day before and the seeds were everywhere.  Dirt got washed into the paths and straw got washed into the beds.  You can tell there was a river of water running through the garden.

I have been shoveling the dirt out of the paths and putting down new straw.  I'm sure I'm going to have a ton of weeds growing in the paths now because there is no way to get all the dirt out.  I hope the straw keeps them from becoming a problem.  I'm going to wait until the peanuts germinate to see where I need to re-seed them.  I just hope it's not getting to late for planting peanuts since they need a very long growing season.

This week puts my total harvest for 2014 at 13.23 lbs.  That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week, to see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.