Friday, July 4, 2008

Veggie Harvest

It could be said that we are in the midst of reaping what we have sown. The decision to grow more foodstuffs this year has proven to be a good one. Many things have happened since the first seeds were sown back in January, redwing and red marble onions. The price of produce has skyrocketed and the danger of certain edibles has made having that veggie patch out back even more than a whim. The sugar snap peas were beyond successful, giving us many meals and some leftover for freezing. After the peas were pulled, after our beach trip, the pole green beans were sown, Kentucky Blue, a cross between Kentucky Wonder and Blue Lake. We grew this variety last year and had a bountiful harvest even with the drought. It is time to start picking beans.
Seeds were sown in May outside of zuchinni Eight Ball. This is a tasty and fun shaped variety. We have harvested several of these round beauties already.
Another squash, Magda, has been bearing well also. This is a new variety, from Park seed, that was recommended in a talk that
Chuck B. wrote a post about. This inspired our dedication of the loamy space between the arborvitae hedge and the chamaecyparis 'Gold Mop' hedge to food growing. This is a fifty foot by seven foot stretch of land that was the site of an old Japanese privet hedge. We cut down the privet, covered it in heavy black plastic for over a year, dug out the roots and were rewarded with some very fine tilth where the privet had grown. We are in the process of building a stacked block wall to level the space and give a tired gardener a seat while planting and weeding. We have fifteen feet of wall done.
Tomatoes are not a new crop to us. This is one thing we have grown ever since we purchased our first house, back in....well a long time ago. Pennsylvania, California, Tennessee and Texas have given us home grown tomatoes. Some years were better than others. We have planted two red grape tomato plants in the new raised planter. They have done well so far, giving us reds for our salads.
This is Park's Improved Whopper. We had good luck with it last year so are giving it another go. Also planted are Golden Gem, a small yellow, Brandywine, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple and several self sown plants, unknown variety. So far the volunteers have larger tomatoes rather than small patio types, that's all we know for now. Some of the plants have the potato leaf look of Brandywine, that would be great for that is a tasty one. Some are even growing in the compost bin and have set fruit there.
We are growing three pepper types, but the jalapenos are giving us the most peppers, on tiny plants. The others are yellow banana and Aruba, a cuban type that made the most wonderful rellenos last year. So far the Arubas have only now begun to flower, but we started them from seed ourselves rather than buying plants, so that is to be expected. We have Black Pearl also, but just as an ornamental. The descriptions say the little dark marble sized fruit are firey hot. They would be a pain to prepare too. But they come true from seed, so there will be more for next year. Also an ornamental that is too hot to eat is the
perennial pepper. Click
here to read that story. It is back and some of the volunteers have flowers already. The little orange balls look good with the fall foliage.
For the first time ever, we are growing cucumbers, on tomato cages. That really helps with the space issue. This one was left on too long, it was overlooked in the daily perusal. It will be fine in a cucumber onion salad with basalmic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Sometimes simple is best.
We haven't gotten around to harvesting any of the swiss chard yet. It is as ornamental as it is edible, but we will begin soon to pick some and freeze some too. This year we only grew the ruby instead of Bright Lights because we had some leftover seeds. The old seeds had a good germination rate in the greenhouse, good to know.
Besides the onions from seed, which are still fairly small, the onions from sets that were planted to keep the rabbits away from the peas are ready to dig. A few of them went to flower and were pulled and used then, for that spoils the onion formation. The tops are totally dry on these, ready to pull.
Out of the ground, they could be cured and stored, but we need them for the cucumber salad so they will be used today. I don't know if any will get stored, we use a lot of onions.
This is my harvest tote, a straw purse from Pier 1. It is perfect because I can hold it on my arm and have two hands free to pick and cut the day's take. Tomatoes, peppers and a few green beans are out of focus inside, as the camera decided that I was trying to take a photo of the purse's rim, silly camera. Sometimes it thinks of the strangest things to focus on.
Inside the fridge the squash collection is growing frighteningly. We need to get cooking, ratatouille coming up. Please ignore any dirt and that onion skin, housekeeping is not our forte.
This is the view above my kitchen sink. Beyond the ripening tomatoes you can see the side door to the stone facaded garage. We have a circle drive because we bought the house next door to build the garage, giving us two driveways onto the street so we made a semi circle connecting them. I love it. Beyond the driveway is a planting area lined with pink muhly grass along the driveway and beyond that are the large pine trees that mark the property boundary. The grasses are starting to show tiny bits of pink blooms, it seems too early for that now, but they bloomed early last year also. Probably stress from the drought is causing this. But the pink color lasts well into fall, are we already beginning fall at the start of July?
A still life of produce, pretty enough to be considered as a model for a master. Or just a quick pic and food for our tummies. I especially like the bristles of the vegetable brush just showing behind the cutting board. Nice artistic touch. But what is in that basket just to the left? Looks intriguing.
Why it is our pride and joy, the garlic harvest, all braided and cleaned. Last September we planted these two kinds of garlic, ordered from Seed Saver's Exchange, Inchelium Red and Tochliavri. They got mixed up but it doesn't matter, for the Red Toch was sold out for this year already, so we ordered lots of the Inchelium. We have been eating the smaller heads, too tiny to braid and look pretty in the basket and they have been scrumptious. We eat of alot of garlic, so this won't last long. We will try and save some to roast though, a good way to savor fine garlic. We are hoping to be swamped with tomatoes so sauce can be made and frozen, but we still have a few containers from last year so it may be time for some pasta, chili, and pizzas, that will use it up.
Hope you enjoyed seeing the food growing in the garden this year. It is as attractive as the flowers, even more so really. We had lettuce and spinach in addition to the snap peas earlier and a few radishes that bolted way too soon. We hardly got to eat any. There are carrots that are in the new raised bed, but hardly enough to make a meal. Leeks and eggplant are still quite small. The experiment is still playing out, we will see what works best for our climate. In the fall we will plan on more lettuce sowing. And the garlic has already been ordered, so that bed needs to be prepared. We are not very experienced in the planning and growing of the food beyond tomatoes, and even that is a gamble with the weather man rolling the dice. But the advantages are many, and we like knowing how and where the stuff we put into our bodies was grown.
Post Script : Hope everyone enjoys the Independence Day holiday here in the US. We are going to Semi's for a cookout, and even bought a flag cake. We are taking tomatoes and cucumbers from our garden for the salad. Cake and salad, the two healthy food choices!