Monday, August 29, 2016

Harvest Monday 8/29/16

Today is a double report.  I missed last Monday because the semester started and I went back to work.  Transitioning from the lazy days of summer to the hectic days of the fall semester is jarring.  Add to that fall seeds that needed planting and veggies that needed harvesting and cooking.  Needless to say I've been busy, so you will have to use your imagination this week as I didn't take very many pictures!

The big harvest that I'm excited to share is the biggest pumpkin I've ever grown.  If you live in the land of vine borers, then you will understand my enthusiasm for successfully growing a large pumpkin.

My 20.8 lb Dickinson pumpkin and Domino making sure he still gets all the attention!
This is my first year growing Dickinson pumpkin and I've been very pleased.  From one vine I've gotten two 7 lb pumpkins and now this 20 pounder, plus there's another smaller one on the vine.  This pumpkin vine hasn't been phased by vine borers or squash bugs or the heat and humidity.  I have searched the internet and have assembled 40 different pumpkin recipes to try!

On the topic of winter squash, I also harvested several butternuts.  I think I am going to have plenty of winter squash to make it through the winter this year!
Waltham Butternut
I've also grown to like the edible gourd more than I first reported.  Peeling the skin makes all the difference.  I've been roasting them with other veggies and they are quiet tasty, plus they can come in fun spiral shapes.  They also seem to be picking up production as the last of my summer squash have given up the will to live.

Serpente di Sicilia Edible Gourd
My second round of corn did not fair so well.  The ears and even the stalks didn't get very big and they got devoured by corn earworms.  This year was definitely not the year for corn.  I did manage to salvage some ears for a few dinners.

Honey Select Corn
This is a basket of some of the other regular harvests (tomatoes, cucumbers, a few red noodle beans, eggplant, peppers, yellow squash) along with a couple of unwelcome visitors.

Basket of summer vegetables along with two tomato hormworns!
 It's a good thing I got an abundance of tomatoes a few weeks ago, because now the tomato plants are looking very sad and producing very little.  They have the combination of late blight, hornworms and those annoying tomato sucking bugs.  I've found six hornworms so far.  It's amazing how hard it is to find them on the plants.  I hosed the tomato plants down with neem oil and Bt to help with the bugs, but there's not much that can be done about late blight.  I try to pick varieties that are supposedly resistant to late blight, but that seems to not apply here!  Although some are definitely hit harder than others.  The Sungold, Plum Regal and Mr. Stripey seem to have the least blight damage.  Cherokee Purple, San Marzano and Amish Paste are hit the worst.  I love the taste of Cherokee Purples, but I may have to stop growing them.  I never get very many due to cracking, blight and an assortment of bugs.

Weekly Harvests for Two Weeks (lbs):

Summer squash 3.0
Peppers 4.7
Okra  1.5
Cucumber 8.2
Green beans 3.2
Tomatoes 15.0
Eggplant 2.2
Melon 7.3
Winter squash 31.6
Gourd 0.5
Corn 1.7

Yearly Total:  719.2 lbs

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week.  To see what others are harvesting, check out Harvest Monday on Our Happy Acres.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Harvest Monday 8/15/16

I spent most of this past week visiting family in Tennessee.  This is what it looks like when I pack for a drive in the summer:

Domino and garden veggies are ready for the road.
Luckily Domino did not decide to have a snack while going for a car ride!

The big harvest this week was watermelon.  It was a good thing that I was visiting family because there is no way the two of us could have eaten the watermelon harvests alone with week.

The monster watermelon was a 29.7 lb Moon and Stars:

Me with my 29.7 lb Moon and Stars watermelon
My niece prying open the giant watermelon.
I'm always uncertain about when to pick watermelons, but luckily this monstrocity was ripe and sweet and juicy.  We had plenty to eat and then sent everyone home with chunks of watermelon.

The second watermelon this week was a 13.1 lb Charleston Grey.

Charleston Grey watermelon
It was also good and ripe.  This variety is crispy and sweet and made a good addition to a summer picnic.

The melons definitely got the spotlight this week and the other harvests got neglected and did not get their photos taken.  J got to do the harvesting while I was gone and did a good job.  There were some squash and zucchini, peppers, okra, cucumbers, green beans and eggplant,  I came home to a big pile of tomatoes (38.7 lbs), which I need to work on cooking today.  He wasn't too fond of picking green beans or okra, so I need to get out there and do some more harvesting.  I froze some more soybeans before I left.  I have learned that it is much, much easier to blanch and then shell the soybeans instead of shelling first.

Besides dealing with all the harvests, it is time to get fall seeds planted.  I need to plant onion, pea, radish, lettuce and chard seeds this week, which means I have to make room in the garden for them!  It is going to be a busy and hot week for me!

Weekly Harvests (lbs):

Summer squash  1.3
Peppers  3.7
Okra   0.3
Cucumber  8.9
Green beans  0.75
Tomatoes  38.7
Eggplant 0.3
Melon  42.8
Soybeans 1.86
Gourd  0.35

Yearly Total: 605 lbs

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week.  To see what others are harvesting, check out Harvest Monday on Our Happy Acres.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Magic of Summer Mornings

Summers are a special time for me.  I teach, so I get to spend my summers at my own pace, enjoying the days and doing whatever I please.  The one thing I absolutely love about summers are the mornings.  During the rest of the year I have to move in the mornings to get where I need to be at the time I need to be there, but in the summer I can linger and enjoy the mornings.

What are some ways I savor my summer mornings?

  • I can take a leisure walk with my dog.
  • I can make a delicious breakfast with homegrown veggies.
  • I can linger over tea on while swinging on the back porch.
  • I can get lost in a book.
  • I can make lists of projects I want to do and work on them.
  • I can pour words into a journal.
  • I can take photographs in the perfect morning light.
  • I can peruse the garden, picking vegetables and pulling weeds.  

These are the magically mornings when anything is possible as the day unfolds.  It is filled with bees buzzing and birds chirping and unlimited possibilities.

Sadly, my summer mornings are coming to end for now.  I have lofty goals of getting up early to enjoy some of that magic of mornings even when work begins.  If that doesn't happen, I will always have next summer.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Harvest Monday 8/8/16

The theme of this week is tomatoes and more tomatoes, a total of 48.9 lbs of tomatoes to be exact.  This is a record amount of tomatoes in one week for me.  Besides picking tomatoes this week, I've made batch after batch of my favorite roasted tomato sauce.  I've also been eating tomato sandwiches for lunch everyday- cream cheese, slices of delicious tomatoes on bread.  Very simple, which I desperately need with all the harvests coming in, but tasty.

Mr. Stripey, Jubilee, Beefsteak (unusually small this year) and some Cherokee Purple Tomatoes hidden beneath

Other harvests this week include summer squash (4.3 lbs),  peppers (4.7 lbs), okra (0.7 lbs), cucumber (4.7 lbs), green beans (2.3 lbs) and soybeans (3.2 lbs).  It seems the pickle worms have arrived and despite their namesake are attacking the summer squash more than the cucumbers.  It is looking like the squash and zucchini harvests will be dwindling.  I do have six more seedlings in reserve that I should plant soon, although I'm not sure how well they will fair with the onslaught of late summer bugs.

A typical summer bounty
This year I planned for the loss of zucchini.  As my zucchini alternative, I planted an edible gourd, Serpente di Sicilia, and this past week I ate them for the first time with the conclusion of meh.  I did learn that the skin gets tough, so you do have to pick them when they are small.  Strike one against the gourd is I really don't care for the smell of the plant, so searching the vine for gourds isn't a pleasant smelling activity for me.  For the smallest gourds, I tried them sauteed with egg for breakfast.  They look very similar to zucchini, but the taste and texture is definitely different.  They have a denser texture than zucchini and the taste is hard to describe, but has more of a green grassy taste and not as mild as zucchini.  It wasn't bad tasting and I can certainly get used to it.  For the gourds that I picked larger, I cooked them using a zucchini pie recipe.  I was hoping that the combination of sauteing and baking them would help combat the tough skin, but it didn't.  However, besides the skin, I really wouldn't have noticed a difference in the taste of zucchini pie versus gourd pie with all the cheese and flavors.  I think peeling the gourds would improve the texture.

Serpente di Sicilia Edible Gourd Pie
This week I also shelled and cooked a bunch of soybeans.  Most of them got frozen.  I'm always impressed at how productive soybeans are in comparison to my other bush beans.

Shelled Edamame 

The other big harvest this week was my second Dickinson pumpkin weighing in at 8 lb 8 oz.  One vine has produced 16 lbs of pumpkins so far and there is currently a very large one on the same vine and another smaller one.  I will be waiting until the tomato harvests calm down before cooking up this pumpkin.  I also harvested some small acorn squash this week as well.

Dickinson Pumpkin

My kitchen counter is still buried under a pile of harvests despite my efforts to cook and preserve.  I have the added challenge of being out of town this Wednesday to Sunday.  I don't think J is looking forward to the never ending harvests.  Everyday I tell him that I think the tomatoes are slowing down only to come in with more and more to add to the growing pile.

Weekly Harvest (lbs):

Summer squash  4.3
Peppers 4.7
Okra   0.7
Cucumber  4.7
Green beans  2.3
Tomatoes  48.9
Melon 19.6
Winter squash 11.0
Soybeans 3.2
Gourd 2.0

Yearly Total: 506 lbs

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week.  To see what others are harvesting, check out Harvest Monday on Our Happy Acres.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Roasted Tomato Sauce

The tomato glut is in full force.  That means it is time to make tomato sauce, which is one of my favorite things from the garden.  I love roasted tomato sauce- it is delicious and it is very easy to make.  There is very little chopping or stirring, but you do need a food mill.

A batch of sauce makes about a pint and takes 4 pounds of tomatoes (I used a mix of Roma VF, Plum Regal, San Marzano and Amish Paste), a couple of sweet bell peppers, a small head of garlic, a few small onions, oregano and olive oil.

Everything gets roughly chopped except for the garlic, which is peeled and put in whole.  It all goes into a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Roast at 450°F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring every thirty minutes.  The tomatoes will get blackened and it will not look very pretty when it comes out of the oven.

Let it cool and run through a food mill.  I got my Victorio food strainer last year and it has been a wonderful addition to my kitchen and has made tomato season much easier and quicker to deal with.  The roasted ingredients go into the top, you push it into the mill, crank it and then it separates the thick sauce from the skins and seeds.

You end up with a delicious roasted tomato sauce that is thick and rich.  I have not canned this sauce because I'm not sure how acidic it is.  I'm a paranoid canner and only use recipes for canning that have been tested, so I freeze my tomato sauce in quart size bags.  There's nothing like the taste of roasted, homegrown tomatoes in the middle of winter.

Roasted Tomato Sauce


  • 4 pounds tomatoes, stemmed and quartered 
  • 1 large onion (or 2-3 small), roughly chopped
  • 2 small bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • 8 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano (or a handful of fresh oregano & basil)
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine ingredients in a 9x13 inch pan.
  2. Roast at  for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until juices get thick.  Stir every half hour.  Tomatoes will get a bit blackened.
  3. Let cool, and run through a food mill to remove skins & seeds.  The resulting puree will be thick, so there is no need to reduce.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Harvest Monday 8/1/16

The word to describe my harvests this week is overwhelming!  This has been the week where my baskets and bins just aren't big enough, the kitchen counters can't hold it all and there's not enough time to deal with all the harvests.  Yep, it's late summer around here!

This week brought the biggest tomato harvest so far at 28.6 lbs.  I made a batch of gazpacho and two batches of tomato sauce so far.  J got me a very snazzy new food processor for my birthday this past weekend.  I was thrilled to be able to make an entire batch of gazpacho all at once (it holds 16 cups!).  My previous food processor had developed a crack at the top of the bowl that meant I had to try and cover the opening with my finger to prevent food from flying out, which was never very successful!

The biggest crop this week was melons at 39.7 pounds.  Luckily we had company this weekend and had help eating excessive amounts of melons.  I harvested the first watermelon of the year, a Charleston Grey, which was very delicious.  It didn't get too large (12 lbs), but it was tasty.  Most of  the time my watermelons aren't very sweet, but this was the best tasting watermelon I've ever grown.  I did make a friend select which watermelon to pick.  She is much better at that thumbing and listening to the sounds of watermelons than I am!

I find that knowing when to harvest cantaloupes is so much easier.  They practically pick themselves and almost detach from the vine when they are ready.  This week brought lots and lots of cantaloupes.

Another first this week is a Dickinson pumpkin.  I struggle with growing pumpkins because of the vine borers.  This is a variety of Cucurbita moschata, which is less attractive to the vine borers because of the solid stems.  It is described as very disease and pest resistant- a must in my garden. Varieties of C. moschata also tend to do better in hot and humid climates- hello South Carolina!  A type of Dickinson pumpkin called Libby Select is used to make most of the commercially canned pumpkin in the world.  The company owns that particular variety, so the seeds are not available for purchase.  However, this Dickinson pumpkin is closely related.  I harvested one 7 lb pumpkin and there's another one on the same vine that is the same size, a third one that is huge and now it is producing a fourth pumpkin.  As for taste, the Dickinson pumpkin is dry and sweet.  It is also easy to cut and the fleshy part is very thick. 

I haven't tried making a pie yet, but I did make these pumpkin patties that were delicious.  The Dickinson pumpkin is definitely going to become a regular variety in my garden.

This is how my current veggie pile is looking:

It has been a big week for peppers at over 23 lbs.  The green beans (7.3 lbs), summer squash (3.8 lbs), okra (1.4 lbs) and cucumbers (14.3 lbs) are still being harvested.  Another interesting new harvest for this week is an edible gourd- the long green things in the center of the picture above.  I have yet to try them, so I'll report back next week.  I also harvested and ate sweet potato greens for the first time, but I really need to deal with that giant pile of veggies and will tell you all about it when I can dig myself out of the summer harvests.

Weekly harvests (lbs):

Summer squash  3.9
Peppers  23.3
Okra   1.4
Cucumber  14.3
Green beans  7.4
Tomatoes   28.6
Eggplant 0.45
Melon  39.7
Winter squash 7.3
Sweet potato greens  0.16
Soybeans 1.6
Gourd  1.3

Yearly harvests: 404.8 lbs

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week.  To see what others are harvesting, check out Harvest Monday on Our Happy Acres.