Sunday, August 30, 2009

Potaotes and beans and one more fair to see.

Beautiful White dinner plate sized dahlia
Veggie Character
Nice medium sized flower
Now those are some potatoes
Just a sample of the fair entries
A purple cauliflower that was a show stopper
A nice plate of onions worthy of a blue ribbion
Sweet Chelsea Hybrid - good salad type
Sweet Olive - does not compare to Sugary
Golden Rave - good flavor
Sugary Hybrid - great sweet fruit
Wapsipinicon Peach

Rainy and cold this week. Yesterday we had rain and weather in the 50's - not something tomatoes like. But today made up for that with sunny skies.
I was in Marinette county judging fair this past week and saw some beautiful veggies and flowers. The pictures help tell the story. That box of potatoes was amazing, with each potato bigger than the next - I am sure that a few in the box came close to 16 oz! One contestant had some of the most beautiful dahlias I have ever seen. They were state fair quality. The pictures don't really show how lovely and gigantic they were. Dinner plate dahlias at least 12 inches across and white ones - always the hardest flower to show because of the tendency to show every little flaw on the stark petals - but these were perfect. The 4H entries were nice too with several kids showing really great quality vegetables. Plus, the little vegetable creature was better in person than the picture shows. You can't see the necklace made of sunflower seeds or the shine that the corn silk hair had- kitchy but a good idea, so it was worth a blue ribbon plus an honorable mention ribbon. This was a two day judging activity so today was harvest and picture day in the garden.
The tomatoes in my garden are ripening. This seems to be different for others who complain that they are still waiting for that first ripe tomato with August at an end. Culture, variety, and the weather may have something to do with this problem. The string method that I use allows for more light and air to pass around my fruit as opposed to say something like cages that get very full of vegetation by this time of the season if you do not prune some of the growth. Caged tomatoes should be de-suckered just like mine on strings. Plus the length to maturity of some varieties makes them later to ripen.
I harvested one of the potato towers and got a fair amount of tubers. The harvest was not as much as I had hoped for but still one variety (Carola) did quite well with 5 to 6 tubers to each plant. The peanut variety did not produce many tubers and their texture is not as nice as the Carola which seem to be creamy and soft. I have already started to re-think this tower method as it is a good use of space but may need more plants to be more productive.
The tomato pictures are a portion of the variety list so a few this week and the rest next week.
Happy Gardening

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jelly Time and French Bread Too

The onion harvest braided on twine
Dutch oven for Susan's No-Knead French Bread
Rose Water Apple Jelly
Nylon drip bag
Cheesecloth drip bag
The finished jelly... and now for some fresh baked bread...

I had some technical difficulties that delayed posting so let's try again...

This was not a real busy week in the garden but more so in the kitchen. The meals this week all had cucumbers and tomatoes as a key part, even breakfast Sunday had tomatoes with the scrambled eggs. Big plates of sliced tomatoes with basil are the best of summer at any meal. As the days begin to get shorter, it's time to plant for fall. This week I seeded kale, napa cabbage, and of course more lettuce. The dill harvest continues as the volunteer plants seed continues to dry. All the garlic is dug and the last batch is drying in the garden shed along with the onions. I braided some of the onions. I use a loop of twine as the base for the onion braid and then weave the stems into the twisted twine. Much more sturdy than just the onion stems and I have something to tie with when they are good and dry and hung in the basement. I have not done the garlic that way. I just cut the stems when they are dry and put the garlic in a mesh bag to hang in the basement. So with dill, garlic, and onions the winter stores begin.

The crab apple trees are loaded with big ripe apples so I made two batches of apple jelly from them. They are a nice red color so the juice makes a great looking jelly as the pictures attest. I made Rose Water Apply Jelly for Susan, and I also experimented with some Ginger Apple Jelly. Here is a quick run through of the process.

I cleaned, stemmed, and cut the ends off the crab apples. I microwaved the fruit in batches and then ran them through a Folley Mill. The pictures show the pulp in both cheesecloth or a new knee high nylon stocking to drip the juice. I decided to use pectin to make sure of a good jelly set. For the Rose Water jelly I followed the pectin package directions for plain apple jelly but added 5 oz. of Rose Water to my sugar. I also put a couple of drops of Rose Water in each jar before filling them with the hot jelly. The jelly has a very nice set, great color, and a hint of roses both to the nose and palate.

For the Apple Ginger jelly I chopped a large piece of raw ginger root and bagged it in cheesecloth. As I cooked my pectin and juice and then sugar I left the ginger in the cooking syrup. The jelly has a pleasant hint of ginger, not hot at all, and great color too. As a bonus I have nice candied ginger root from the cooking process. In a few jars I also placed some chopped candied ginger but not in too many jars because I was not sure of what would be the end result. About half have candied ginger and half do not - time will tell which is the best.

This week would be a good time to include our favorite bread recipe to go with this great jelly. Susan makes a wonderful no knead French bread. We seldom buy bread anymore as this is just so good and easy to make. A Dutch oven that we bought years ago for camping is best for this recipe. Because this is a no knead bread most of the work is done by the yeast and not you.

BASIC NO-KNEAD FRENCH BREAD - Original recipe published NY Times, modified by Susan

3 cups bread flour
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt or sea salt
1 1/2 cups water

In a large ceramic bowl mix the above ingredients until combined.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then cover bowl with large towel or large folded tablecloth. Let rise where there is no draft for 12-18 hours. Any longer and the bread does not have as good a second rise.
After the first rise, use only enough flour to shape the dough into a round, and place it in a lightly oiled ceramic bowl. Cover and let rise for an hour.
At the end of the hour long rise, put a Dutch oven in a cold oven. We use a cast iron Dutch oven; a friend of ours uses an ovenproof ceramic Dutch oven. I put the lid on the top rack and the Dutch oven base on the lower rack. Adjust lower rack so there will be enough room to eventually put the lid on the Dutch oven base, in the hot oven. Turn oven to 450 degrees F. to heat the pan. When the oven is at 450, leaving the pan and lid in oven, remove dough from bowl and place in pan. Immediately set lid on pan, and bake at 450 for 27 minutes. Then uncover the pan (I put the lid bock on the top rack) and bake another 15-20 minutes. Remove bread from pan and cool on a rack. I never take the Dutch oven base out of our lower wall oven. I use a wide wooden spatula to get the bread out and onto the cooling rack. This bread freezes well and can be reheated at 325 degrees for about ten minutes, to make the crust crunchy again.
I add more flour or liquid as needed in mixing the dough. Experiment. I sometimes use a combination of all purpose or bread flour with spelt, whole wheat, or whatever looks interesting. We do like just a plain all purpose flour loaf, but I will often add some black or white sesame seeds, golden flax, sunflower, or millet seed. It varies. Once you start to make this bread, the possibilities are endless.

Friday we had a visit from Kendra Mienert, gardener and reporter, for the Green Bay Press Gazette. With her photographer, Marc Larson, they produced a very nice piece on our vegetable garden and what we are growing and doing this summer. Marc's pictures are really nice, especially one he took of a developing apple in a "footie"; and Kendra's article was complementary and well written. The article appeared in the "TIME OUT" section Saturday, August 22, 2009. Take a look at the Green Bay Press Gazette website and search the subject - BACKYARD BOUNTY.

Happy Gardening

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Apples, Cucumber, and Naked Ladies

Naked Ladies -
This cardoon is on the third growing season
Not one of the bigger cardoons that I have grown but I would call it hardy
Kong Sunflower
St. Edmond's Russett
Sops of Wine
Much More Cucumber
A great little snak
The mystery plant of the week -

Although the weather person hinted that rain and scattered showers were in the area, little rain fell on the garden this week. I was at an art fair three days this week and on Friday we had good rain for over two hours at the fair. But at home, less than 15 miles away, the garden got no rain - now that's scattered.
The tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers are a daily harvest with the Much More variety making a good show of nice salad sized slicers with very tender skin. The Volcano peppers, which were a free trial seed, are really good and hot. We have had them as snacks with pretzels and Trader Joe's Chipolte Pepper Humus ( see the picture). The Kong sunflowers are blooming. I like this sunflower because after the terminal flower forms and blooms, side branches form at leaf nodes and the plant continues to bloom for a long time. The cardoon has many flowers, so I hope the seed crop will be good. Cardoons can get really big. My blog pictures is me with a single huge cardoon, and the blooming plant this year is from last years plant that wintered over. Cardoon's are classified as biennial but I can't explain this years growth and the second flowering of this plant. There is a row of 5 or 6 plants in the garden for eating in the fall after the centers are blanched. Several other peppers are near to harvest. We have had Frank's Pepper a couple of times and found it to be thin skinned and an OK pepper flavor, so it might hold up well in cooking. The apple crop is growing nicely, at last, and we have had the branch of Sops Of Wine present us with two mature apples - great flavor and wonderful aroma. The St Edmond's Russets will be the next apple to ripen and they are one of my russet types that are grafted on one tree. I picked crab apples and made apple juice for rose petal jelly that I hope to make next week.
The Naked Ladies (Lycoris squamigera) are blooming. I have several large clumps that I want to move before the new vegetable garden is made, so I have let them bloom and will try to move the complete clumps after the flowers fade. Massed together they make a great surprise show. The mystery plant this week is one I recently bought that will have to winter in the house but if I lived in Chicago I could have the plant outdoors and still get fruit - or so the name implies.
With three days at an art fair selling my lampwork beads not much was accomplished in the garden and after checking tonight the weeds are really needing attention. This next week we will deal with the onion harvest which is curing in the little house and see about planting fall leaf crops - especially celery cabbage.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Best Veggies in Two Counties

Door County flowers

Great garlic at the Door County Fair

We have a love affair with cardoon here at BreezyAcres

The carpet will return to its original shape and be useable next season
Leaves of three, let it be....

Our mystery seed crop....

Yesterday we had our first summer rain with lightning and thunder and a nice amount of much needed rain. Maybe I will not have to water so much at work this week. The tomatoes responded to the recent rain - yes, they cracked! Oh well, they taste just as good.
Much of this week was spent judging other vegetables. I was the face-to-face Junior Fair judge in Winnebago and Door counties this week. I enjoy talking to the 4Her's about their gardens, crops, and passing along a bit of information when I can. The most telling responses were from the question I asked kids about how their "Round Up Ready" corn and soy beans got that characteristic. Even the older 16-18 year olds really did not know. In two judging seasons I have not seen anything but this genetically engineered crop, and typically, most kids have no idea how the seed their family plants gets the resistant trait for "Round Up".

The vegetables I saw were very good with some exceptional entries. One plate of 20 green beans in Oshkosh was absolutely "Perfect", and a youngster in Sturgeon Bay was very proud of his raspberries and rightly so they were very nice. I was noticeably surprised to find beautiful garlic entries in both fairs. The kids entries in Winnebago were excellent. One was called "Gregorian Crystal". I'll be looking for that one. The Door entry was in the Open Class and was a HUGE garlic that the entrant had grown for many years. The picture tells all - really a nice specimen. With work and two days of judging I did not get much done in my garden. I did get another small amount of lettuce planted and because the broccoli did not send out any real good side shoots I pulled most of those plants. I have include pictures of how the plants deal with the root maggot carpet guard that I put around the transplants. It is really amazing how the stem just pushes the carpet square aside. The nice thing is that when I take the plant out the carpet goes back to its original shape and I can use the carpet again next season. The cardoon has begun to flower and the bees are hard at work collecting pollen. I hope for a good seed crop from this years flowering. The goldfinches will know when the seed is ripe so I will have to bag the flower heads to keep the bird out of the seed. The volunteer dill in the garden is ready to harvest for seed. I like to let the dill sprout wherever it wants to as the end product is excellent for cooking and breads.

Earwigs and snails are real problems again even with the hot dry weather. The lettuce is the most damaged and the peppers are suffering from both pests. Cucumbers need some help to get started climbing the trellis and the second crop of garlic is almost ready to harvest. Onions have fallen over and look like they will need harvest and curing soon. The rain we have gotten has greened up the yard so grass will need to be cut soon but that will give me some much needed mulch.

While in Door County this weekend I spotted a common roadside and forest plant that causes grief - Poison Ivy. This time of the year the dark green leaves are starting to sport their bright red colors - a good indication to stay out of ditches and fields festooned with these red leaves. The mystery flowers at the end of the picture post are the start of the seed crop for our home made breads. I will keep adding pictures of the plant as it develops.

Happy Gardening

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Tomato Harvest Begins

A visitor to our new patio umbrella
The FIRST tomato of the season - already eaten
Lower leaves removed on the whole tomato patch
Fesita Hybrid brocolli
Volcano peppers

July 31st was the first tomato harvest for this season. Sugary was the variety that was ripe and although it was only four fruits its was a great taste of things to come. Most of the tomatoes have nice amounts of fruit set. Some of the plants have reached the top of the stings and later in August those plants will be cut back. The leaves close to the ground were removed today (picture included) for several reason. Even with a heavy straw mulch some leaf spotting will show up on some of the plants so to try to avoid it, I strip the lower leaves off the plants around this time every summer. Any yellowing leaves are always removed and any leaves with blotches or spots are also removed just as a precaution. I will also cull any fruit that has any deformity early in the growing stage so as not to waste plant energy on a fruit that will not be worth eating down the road.
So all the plants were trained up the stings again today and at least the first four to five leaves close to the ground were removed. No tomato plant parts get into the compost they are taken to the city vegetation dump.
Susan cut the grass today, first time in over a month because it has been so dry, so the clippings went to mulch the pole beans which have taken off and are climbing the pole quite nicely now. I like to mulch everything in the garden as this helps with moisture retention. The lettuce bed is producing nice romaine type lettuce and I have another seed flat started with lettuce and mustards for planting out next week. Always try to keep the greens young, tender, and fresh. Corn is available at the farmers markets. In the past I have tried to give space to a corn crop but not only is the plant demanding of my soil, but there is so much vegetation to get rid of after a harvest, that I have decided, like with other crops, to let area farmers grow some of the produce that I like and patronize the markets that have the best produce. I do the same with cabbage, pumpkins, and squash - mostly because of the space they use up in a garden. Maybe when we get the garden enlarged we will have room for some of these but I still think corn is off the list.
Zinnias are blooming and Alpine strawberry's are still to be found. Apples are sizing and later this month the St. Edmond's Russets will be one of the first harvests. One of Susan's favorites. By the way, all the grafts of this spring took. That makes for five kinds of red fleshed apples on the tree. This seasons Pink Pearls are growing nicely.
Last weeks mystery pictures was of potato fruits. Several of the plants have those fruits on them. As they are in the same family as tomatoes the fruits resemble green tomatoes. I will leave a couple to ripen and see what they look like as mature fruits. I harvested a hot pepper called Volcano and the variety is so hot that I could taste it on my hands the next morning! Great name for a hot pepper. The broccoli heads have been cut and so we are hoping for side shoots. We have had steamed onions twice this week and they are really good. Clean the onions, score the ends, microwave with a little water, olive oil, salt and pepper - nice alternative vegetable - try them.

Happy Gardening