Monday, August 14, 2017

Harvest Monday - August 14, 2017

It's been quite boring when it comes to harvests lately. Nothing new except for a very few Roc D'Or beans.

One wonky Tromba D'Albenga squash.

There was loads more Romanesco zucchini and Tromba squash most of which I didn't bother to photograph. There were a few cucumbers here and there. And that's been it other than cilantro and basil.

Chelsea Prize and Green Fingers Cucumbers


If you have a fear of stinging insects then you can leave right now.


Go ahead go....


This is turning out to be a banner summer for Yellow Jacket wasps.


A couple of months ago I hit a YJ nest when cutting down weeds. Four stings later I thought I had eliminated the nest. I put a few traps up around the area which netted just a few YJs and I thought I had things pretty well under control.

A couple of weeks ago it started to become impossible to enjoy a meal outdoors without YJs zooming in after just a moment.

I noticed that there was activity in the nest again. Then I noticed that there were YJs everywhere. Worker wasps were out foraging for food. That's when I got serious about setting traps.

That's about a 2 day collection of Western Yellow Jackets in the trap above. There's 6 more traps scattered around the property with similar contents. I emptied the traps on Saturday morning and netted about 1/3 of a gallon bag of dead wasps. Strange harvest, I know...

This morning, only 48 hours later, the traps have just about as many wasps in them again.

Western Yellow Jacket wasps forage for live or dead insects, dead animals, and nectar. It's that dead animals and nectar that make them such nuisances around your outdoor meal - they want whatever protein, fat, or sugar you want to enjoy. They seem to be particularly drawn to fresh raw meat so that's what I've been baiting my traps with - plain old raw ground beef. It's a lot cheaper than the chemical baits that the traps come with. The only drawback to using ground beef is that the bait needs to be changed every 2 or 3 days because the YJs aren't attracted to rotting meat. But at the rate that the traps are filling up they need to be emptied about every 3 days anyway.

One thing I learned about placing a trap is that the ones hanging in full sun have been the most attractive to the wasps. Traps that were hanging in the shade had very little activity.

Normally I would just live and let live where YJs are concerned, they aren't usually that bad around here and they are beneficial insects providing pollination and pest control services. I suspect that they may be the reason why the garden is not plagued by too many aphids this year. But when it becomes impossible to enjoy a meal outside and I repeatedly get stung then I sting back.

Hope your summer harvests are more varied and less hazardous than mine!

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, zip on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Harvest Monday - August 7, 2017

There's more of the "usual suspects" in the harvest basket this week, but first a parade of runty onions.

Red River, Bianca di Maggio, Rossa Lunga di Firenze, Australian Brown

Flat of Italy 

Desert Sunrise

Tropeana Lunga

Bronze D'Amposta
Bronze D'Amposta was the worst of the lot, all but one of them bolted. In spite of devoting more space than ever and growing more varieties than in past years I ended up with a much smaller total harvest of onions than in prior years. This year the total harvest, including spring and uncured onions was 51 pounds. 2016 was 86 pounds, 2015 was 141 pounds, 2014 was 93 pounds. Curse that downy mildew!

Enough of the onions and on to the stars of the show for the week.

The first and for a while the only big tomato. This one set while the young plants were enjoying the protection of a mini greenhouse before the plants were set out in the garden. I think it will be a few weeks before I harvest another large tomato. It was absolutely delicious paired up with some burrata and basil.

Green Bee
We sampled the first ripe Green Bee cherry tomatoes. These little beauties are unique because they don't become soft when they ripen. You can tell when they are ripe when the background color develops hints of yellow and/or pink, the unripe fruits are green on green. The first few bites were good!

A few more Purple Bumblebee and Piccolo Dattero cherry tomatoes ripened, along with the first Jaune Flamme and Marzano Fire tomatoes. The Marzano Fire tomatoes are a striped paste tomato but they have a nice balance of sweetness and acidity that makes them a tasty slicing tomato too. We enjoyed one of the Marzano Fires long with most of the cherry tomatoes in a "Zoodle" dish inspired by a Vietnamese rice noodle salad. I used a few big Romanesco zucchinis to make spiralized noodles that I salted, rinsed, and then squeezed in a dish towel to remove excess moisture. Then I piled the uncooked zoodles in individual bowls, topped them with cut up tomatoes, sliced cucumber, thin sliced red onion, chopped cilantro and basil, chopped roasted salted peanuts, cold cooked shrimp, and dressed with a Vietnamese Nuoc Cham sauce (sugar, water, fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, chiles, shallot). Dave declared it a winner and said I should make it again so I guess I'll have to write up the recipe for my recipe blog.

And now for the lineup of the usual suspects.

Batavia Broccoli Side Shoot!

Green Fingers Cucumbers

Batavia Broccoli shoots and Broccolini

Even though my kitchen project is still in process I manage to turn out a few good meals. I found that my 10-inch cast iron skillet fits perfectly in my toaster oven so I made a version of a Broccoli Raab Frittata using broccoli instead of the raab and substituting bacon for spicy Italian sausage and using only only 2 cheeses instead of 4. It came out great.

I've also been relying on my Big Green Egg. The other night I grilled up a few of the Tromba squash, cut into about 8-inch lengths and sliced in half. I topped those with a mixture of sauteed ground lamb, onion, and dried sweet peppers seasoned with cumin, cinnamon, fennel pollen, pomegranate molasses, tomato puree, and cilantro. A cast iron skillet works well in the BGE for sautéing which is how I made the topping.

That's the latest from my garden and kitchen. Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Harvest Monday - July 31, 2017

Harvests haven't changed much in the past couple of weeks except for the first two tiny pickings, I almost said handfuls but they didn't quite amount to that much, of cherry tomatoes.

Piccolo Dattero & Sweet Gold

Piccolo Dattero, Sunrise Bumblebee, & Purple Bumblebee
I used both "handfuls" of tomatoes to garnish some Zucchini Gazpacho.

Caper Berries or "Cucunci"
I didn't harvest any caper buds this year so the plants are producing a lot of caper berries. I've got this lot fermenting in a plain brine at the moment. When they are done I'll drain them and pack them in a good white wine vinegar.

Coriander of Morocco
Coriander of Morocco is grown primarily for its seeds. I was careful to not allow any of the other cilantro/coriander volunteers in my garden to bloom while this variety was blooming. I grew only a small patch so the harvest isn't large and I also left a number of umbels on the plants to allow to dry before I harvest them for seed saving rather than culinary use. I like to harvest culinary coriander seeds when they are ripe but still green because I think they have more flavor.

Fennel Seed Umbels
I also harvest fennel seeds green for their superior flavor. These came from various plants that I allow to volunteer around the garden.

Orion Fennel
The Orion Fennel got to be a bit overgrown but is still tasty. Last night I made a gratin with diced fennel, zucchini, onion, and sheep milk ricotta that was a winner. I'll have to write up the recipe before I forget it.

Rossa Lunga din Firenze Onion
I pulled all the onions a couple of weeks ago and have been letting them sit outside in baskets to cure. There are a number of nice bulbs but none of them compare in size to what I've grown before. I'll enjoy them while they last and then it will be purchased onions for the next few years while the downy mildew spores in the garden hopefully die out.

Chelsea Prize & Green Fingers Cucumbers, Romanesco Zucchini
The cucumbers are coming in in spurts, the plants produce a few and then take a break so the harvests haven't been overwhelming. On the other hand, there's been a parade of squash and zucchini.

Tromba D'Albenga Squash

There has also been plenty of Broccolini and Broccoli.

Aspabroc (aka Broccolini) & Batavia Broccoli
That's the latest harvests from my garden. Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Harvest Monday - July 17, 2017

Zucchini dominated the harvests last week with a total of more than 5 pounds. Well, technically it wasn't all zucchini since Tromba D'Albenga isn't really a zucchini but a zucchetta, but I lump them together since I use them interchangeably. That's most of it below but I skipped photographing the 4 Romanesco zucchinis from yesterday.

Romanesco Zucchini

Romanesco Zucchini
Tromba D'Albenga Squash

Tromba D'Albenga Squash
A few other veggies found their way into the harvest basket on a few occasions.

Romanesco Zucchini, Aspabroc, Green Fingers Cucumbers
Green Fingers popped a few cukes and but now it's taking a break. The other 2 varieties of cucumbers haven't produced anything yet.

Green Fingers Cucumber

The Aspabroc (awful name, Broccolini is much better sounding) keeps putting out a handful of shoots now and then.

Orion Fennel
I remembered to photograph the second fennel bulb but skipped the third, it looked pretty much the same.

The kitchen project is keeping me from doing very much real cooking, but I did get the Big Green Egg fired up to grill a bunch of zucchini and some broccoli. That wasn't so remarkable but the dressing that I put together to accompany the grilled veggies was very interesting, Caper-Raisin Vinaigrette. It's a very bold combination of Capers and raisins, obviously, but there's also a generous amount of anchovies and parsley, plus garlic, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Sweet, salty, savory, rich and delicious. The recipe is not mine so I won't be posting it, you'll have to go find yourself a copy of Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables by Joshua McFadden. Find the book, it's one of the best vegetable cookbooks I've come across in a long time.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Garden on July 14, 2017

It's been a while since I last did a garden tour and things have changed a lot since then.

First I'll show a couple of big picture shots. Note the gray background, that's normal for this time of year. It's the morning version of No Sky July (preceded by June Gloom and May Gray). Most evenings the fog rolls in from the coast and hangs around for a while and then it generally dissipates after it has thoroughly cooled things down and then it's back first thing in the morning and usually disappears by mid morning or noon, usually...

Beds #1 and #4
Bed #1 has only tomatoes and peppers. Bed #4 is primarily curcurbits.
Beds #2 and #3
Bed #2 is mostly corn and beans. Bed #3 is transitioning from onions and winter/spring veggies to summer greens and fall/winter veggies.

Bed #1
The last tour was just after I had planted out the tomatoes and peppers in Bed #1. A couple of warm spells made them really take off. Most of the peppers have started to bloom and I spied the first baby peppers, the largest on a Violet Sparkle plant. The tomatoes have been blooming for a while and there's quite a few small fruited tomatoes hanging on the plants but it will still be at least a few weeks before the first ripe tomato. The larger fruited tomatoes are more fussy about the cold nights and haven't really set anything yet so it will be a couple of months before I might get the first of those.

Bed #2
Bed #2 had just been cleared of favas when I wrote up the last tour for June 8 and the bed was basically empty. Since then I planted out 3 varieties of flour corn, 4 varieties of bush snap beans, and 3 varieties of dried beans. That corner on the right is where some pepper plants from last year are trying to make a comeback accompanied by a patch of Cilician parsley.

2016 Peppers
The Aji Amarillo Grande pepper which dominated this corner last year is the most reluctant to regrow. The Baby Aji Amarillo (on the left) which was crowded by the Aji Amarillo Grande last year is trying to make up for it and is the happiest of the bunch. There's also a Mareko Fana plant coming back and it's blooming already.

I sowed the corn seeds on just about the coldest day we had this spring and I was worried that they wouldn't germinate. But nearly every seed germinated and the plants seem to be quite happy now.

Last year I had a lot of problems with the Damn Rabbit munching on my beans so this year I set up some hardware cloth barriers before I even set out any of the plants which I had started in paper pots. No bunny problems but I have lost a few plants to either damping off or the predations of sowbugs which like to strip the outer layer off of the lower stems.

I've dedicated one section of this bed to an attempt to get a steady supply of cilantro. I thickly sowed some seeds in one row and then as soon as they poked their first little leaves out of the soil I sowed a second row (8 days) and likewise as soon as those popped up (8 days again) I sowed a third row and in a couple of days those should (hopefully) germinate and then I'll sow a fourth row and then I have room for 2 more rows. I figure that by the time the first row is ready to harvest I should be able to start the succession all over again. The cilantro bolts quickly in the summer but I plan on harvesting the plants when they are still quite small which is why I sowed the rows so thickly. I've had a few losses of seedlings and to a surprising culprit. Usually I would blame the birds or the sowbugs but I happened to be watching when I spotted one of my beloved Western Fence Lizards snacking on some of the seedlings! It then scampered down the bed, stopping to take bites of a few weeds that had popped up. I didn't know that lizards ate plants but now I've learned that they do, but they are fairly polite about it, just sampling and not mowing down entire stands of seedlings. I'll share...

Bed #3
Bed #3 is where I had spring lettuces, cabbage, cauliflower, greens, and broccoli. The rest of the bed was dedicated to alliums and parsley.

Pink Plume Celery
The newest addition to this bed is some Pink Plume celery. The plants might look a little better if they hadn't sat in pots for a bit too long. I hope their extended confinement hasn't stunted their growth or made them more likely to bolt.

Batavia and Aspabroc Broccoli

The spring planted Batavia broccolis have surrendered their main heads and seem reluctant to produce side shoots.  There are some Aspabroc (Broccolini) plants beyond that are producing a few side shoots but nothing all that impressive. That is just as well because I can't deal with a glut of veggies at the moment beause my kitchen is, shall I say, "in transition" at the moment.

Batavia Broccoli
That's the winter round of Batavia broccoli which I thought was pretty much done producing a few weeks ago but I keep finding some really nice side shoots. They are doing so well that I have to let them stay. They don't seem to mind the parsley that is filling in around them. I wonder if the parsley is good for the broccoli in some way.

Cauliflower Resprouting
The Fioretto Stick cauliflower is next to the Aspabroc. I was just about to pull it out when I noticed that the plants were sprouting from the base so I decided to wait and see what would happen. Not much yet but I don't really need the space at the moment so I'll continue the experiment.

My attempt at getting a patch of bulbing fennel to get going seemed futile when I got very poor germination so I sowed arugula, mizuna, and Tokyo Bekana cabbage around them. I left the few fennel seedlings just to see what would happen. The greens came and went and the few fennel seedlings hung in there and now they've actually produced some decent bulbs. I think I'll have to try this again next spring.

Zebrune Shallots
The onions were hit hard by downy mildew and what I allowed to stay in the garden produced much smaller than usual bulbs. The Zebrune shallots seem to be a bit more resistant and look like they may produce some pretty good bulbs. I'm glad I didn't yank them out when they looked so miserable earlier this year.

This is the space that was until just the other day occupied by most of the offending alliums. I pulled those and am allowing them to dry and now the space is ready for Brussels sprouts and Kalettes which I started in pots a few weeks ago.

Bed #4
I was in the process of digging out nearly half of Bed #4 back on June 8 to get rid of invading roots, a combination of oak and rosemary roots. I didn't realize that rosemary roots could be so aggressive, but learned that when one of the rosemary bushes along the perimeter of the garden died after I dug out the roots in the corner of the bed nearest that bush. Roots are gone and that end of the bed is lined with a double layer of fabric extended up the sides of the bed so it should be good to grow for at least a couple of years. That end of the bed is now home to some Kurin Kabocha squash which I'll train up the trellis. Beyond the Kurin Kabocha are Terremoto squash seedlings. I'll let the squashes take over that third of the bed and spill over into the pathways. Beyond the squash seedlings are some very small seedlings of Crane melons.

Tromba D'Albenga Squash
Back on June 8 the Tromba D'Albenga vines hadn't even reached the bottom of the trellis yet. Now they have reached the top and beyond and I've just harvested the first young squash this week.

The cucumber vines in early June were still snug in their water bottle sleeves, protected from cold and bugs. They too are clambering up their trellis and the Green Fingers plants have started to produce.

Italian Mountain and Corsican Basils
Oh my, the basil plants. I keep cutting and they keep growing. I can't keep up. And look at that Romanesco zucchini back there.

Romanesco Zucchini
The Romanesco zucchini is going bonkers, again. This and the Tromba squash are the only summer squashes that I grow these days. Both are very suited to my climate and produce abundantly. They both are resistant to powdery mildew which can be a scourge here. And both of them are very good eating. And both of them dehydrate well. Winners all around

That's the latest from my garden. Thanks for stopping by.