Sunday, September 27, 2009

Busy week but not in the garden

Last rose of the season
Cardoon seed is ready for harvest
Internal damage to peppers by earwigs
Most of the bell peppers have been damagaged

Hen of the Forest - Polyporus frondosus Edible and choice
Scramble with eggs it certainly is choice

This was a busy week mostly with education. On Monday I had the privilege to speak to a Beginning Horticulture class at Fox Valley Technical College. This is always a treat. The class was large and along with my standard PowerPoint I brought an example of all the tomatoes from the garden. We discussed vegetable gardening, made a "Rag Doll" for seed germination testing and talked about the growth industry that is possible in horticulture. The students were engaged and I had a good time - Thanks Roxanne.

On Wednesday I co-taught a class on drying fruits and vegetables at UW Brown County Extension. Home economist, Judy Knudsen and I had a packed class. We covered quite a bit of information and gave out some good tips. I even had the chance to show how to make my home remedy "Fruit Fly Trap". Also, in my dehydrator this week, I had a bonus. Someone brought a beautiful mushroom into Extension and I was lucky enough to get part of it. I had wonderful scrambled eggs and mushrooms on Friday and the rest went into the dehydrator for use all winter long - Thanks Tammy for sharing.

In the drying class, I was asked to list a favorite canning book so here it is:

PRESERVING NATURE'S BOUNTY by Frances Bissell. Sterling Publishing Co.
IASB 13:978-1-4027-2731-3
This is a good book for making small batches of jams, jellies, and other seasonal preserves. The Clementine Marmalade is great. The book basically details the long cook method for making these preserves as no commercial pectins are used in the recipes.

The rest of the week was devoted to the work on the brick apron in front of the greenhouse. I got the bricks down and have swept sand over them and hope to finish the sand and fill in the edge around them and plant grass seed this next week.

Happy Gardening

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Construction Time

I was surprised to see this mystery plant in bloom this fall - Know what it is???
My favoirte eye candy for the garden - Zinnias are always planted.
Sedums are fun color.
Our great tasty pole bean even at this size - there is some confusion as to variety
The construction zone
My miniature geranium - I think its called Robin Hood?

Pink Pearl - lovely to look at and good to eat

We are still dry - the last rain was in late August and we could sure use some cool fall rains. Luckily, the hose reaches from the faucet to the garden and I have been getting that inch of water on the garden. Tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, peppers, and the herbs are all still producing. I got the onions cleaned and the garlic into a mesh bag for storage. The dill seed is finally dry and time to sift it and put it into a jar for winter use. We have a Dill Bread recipe that I will post in the future. Drying of veggies and herbs continues, and with some nice apples from a friend I made a batch of Hot Pepper Jelly with the Big Bomb peppers. That variety is REALLY HOT! I tasted one and my lips were on fire for twenty minutes and several large glasses of milk. I used the Big Bomb in the jelly but chickened out in the end and removed most of the pepper pieces before I put the jelly into jars. The extra that I tasted was snappy, so as the jelly matures it should be really hot. I like hot pepper jelly with peanut butter.
The proposed brick apron in front of the greenhouse got closer to completion with our work this week. Check out the "tamping video - there was no way for me to rent and maneuver a mechanical tamper so the hand one will have to do. I have laid down the gravel base and put a layer of paving sand over the gravel in preparation of placing the leveling sand and then the pavers. Susan and I moved the 1500 or so pavers out of the way of the construction and hopefully the last move will be to place them on the apron site. This construction project will allow for a nice level site for the early cold frames in the spring and a good level location for the rain barrels on the east side of the green house. Just a note: the greenhouse is only heated for one germination month in the spring. The cost of fuel is such that I can not run the greenhouse all winter as in the past. This change came about several years ago as fuel cost jumped and heating the greenhouse was doubling our heat bill so something had to go and that was the most efficient. I can winter over a number of plants in the basement under eight fluorescent lights. Keeping them on for about 15-16 hours a day makes the plants under them thrive and the cool basement temperatures seem not to bother them. I have successfully over wintered my favourite miniature geranium, Robin Hood, for over 25 years and in the basement for the last six with little problems. African violets grow their best under fluorescent tubes - try it - and see if they don't bloom beautifully with the artificial light.
The apple harvest continues and I have started to dry some too. The variety "Pink Pearl" is a great one to dry. They keep their beautiful color and we really enjoy them and all the other apples that we dry.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, September 13, 2009

TIme to Freeze the Harvest

Sesame flowers
Sesame seed pods

Pasilia Bajio - but some of these fruits are not HOT!?
Big Bomb - these are HOT
Franks Pepper- note the damaged fruit
Giant Marconi - good sweet variety
Red Beauty - none of these have gotten red
Yummy - good little pepper
Blushing Beauty - good pepper - ? on the name choice

These warm September day are great for adding growing days to our gardens but we could sure use some rain. The precipitation promised this week did not materialize and so the garden needed to be watered again. I planted lettuce, Napa cabbage, and kale this week and gave the seedlings a liberal dose of "SLUGO" to try to protect them. The Napa cabbage is always hit hard by the slugs and because it is planted in a cold frame they seem to especially enjoy that protected environment so I will see how this process works. Slugs and earwigs are a continual problem. I found at least two dozen adult slugs under a trap board the other day and the pepper crop has been the victim of slugs and earwigs most of this summer. One of the pictures above shows the holes they bore in the fruits. Even the mum plants that are in the front of the house got a dose of "SLUGO" to help them with the earwigs that really made a mess of the zinnias in that bed.
Tomatoes and beans were harvested this week and they were the preserving job. We freeze our tomatoes rather than can them. Most frozen tomatoes go into soups and stews and because when a frozen tomato is dipped in water the skins slip off easily. Freezing is the way we preserve this crop. Additionally, I made more juice and froze that in plastic bags also. When I juice tomatoes I do skin them but usually add garlic, onion, peppers, cucumber, and parsley to add a boost to the juice. Frozen juice is cooked to blend the flavors and make a more consistent and, we think, a better product for freezing. The whole tomatoes, however, are washed and placed wet in the freezer bags and with a highly scientific tool, a straw, the air is sucked out of the bag. Watch the video below and you too can save by not buying a seal-a-meal but a box of straws instead. I then usually group bag three or four bags in a larger bag and remove the air from that bag too. The video shows this process.
Beans are blanched and then bagged the same way. Our pole beans are really good and I have had a number of favorable comments about how good they taste from people who I gave seed to last spring. I wish the pole bean crop had been better this year but we will make do with the twelve quart bags of beans I froze today.
I have added some of the pepper variety pictures this week and you will note on one the slug or earwig hole in the fruit. The hot pepper varieties have no fruit damage from these pests.
Also the sesame pictures show the number of seed pods that run up the stem of these plants.

Happy Gardening

Dave's seal a bag machine!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Food Glorious Food - Bruschetta in Particular

Tomatoes, garlic, and basil - bring on the French bread
The sesame pods are growing
Grape jelly, seedless dried grapes, dried tomatoes, and grape jam
These seedless homemade Reliance raisins are really good
Big Beef tomato
Earl of Edgecombe
Grub's Mystery Green - this is an amazingly good tomato
Big Bomb pepper - Hot -much hotter than the Volcano variety.

We are dry again and so some rain would be nice. This is an excellent Labor Day weekend - warm, sunny, and mostly windless. I have used all the rain water again, this time on the beans, and so I sure would like some showers. With this cool dry summer some folks are still waiting on a good tomato crop. We on the other hand have a very nice harvest.
The season for stocking up has arrived and I have made some more jam and jelly, and have started the dehydrator for the season.
I used Reliance grapes, a seedless variety, and made a great batch of grape jam - tangy and to be sure I got a nice blush to the product I added a splash of Merlot wine to the juice - the result was very nice. The jam is tart and is nice and firm ( I have had troubles with grapes in the past so I am used commercial pectin to help the jelly and jam set). The other batch of grapes was a seeded variety called Trolhaugen, small but with good flavor, and this batch was made into jelly. It too had a good set and a great tangy taste.
While I had fresh grapes I also dried some. I cut the Reliance in half to open the flesh to the dehydrator fan and left the Trolhaugen whole. Both dried will and both are sweet. I also had some seedless black grapes that were store bought and so I cut them in half and dried them too.
With the tomatoes ripe I wanted to dry some of them also. I picked Sugary and Sweet Olives, cut them in half and in quarters and dried them. These dried tomaotes have a good flavor and nice bright color. I you have never dried tomatoes try it this season. They are great on salads in the winter or just as a snack to remind you in winter of what summer tasted like.
I have opened up space in the garden for some fall leaf crops, kale, lettuce, celery cabbage and hope to get those seedlings in the ground soon - maybe tomorrow. The beans and cucumbers are really producing and the peppers are ready also. As space allows I will include pictures of the peppers. However, my plant labels for the cucumbers are a mess and so I really can't make any comments on the varieties I planted. I will just have to make a better paper record for the trellis just like I have done for the tomatoes and peppers. I do know that one variety called Paradise is making a nice crop but the Diva is not doing so good- they are swelling rapidly instead of staying small and slender as in the past. The slugs are getting both tomatoes and cucumbers that are close to the ground and when I plant the celery cabbage (Napa) in the cold frames I intend to treat with "Slugo" - its war on slugs.
The St. Edmund's Russet apples are ripe and I harvest a few each day. We have another early apple that is very good but for some reason the tag on the branch does not have a name or number so its another mystery fruit. The Big Bomb peppers are really HOT. They should make excellent hot pepper jelly later when I have more apples for juice.

And now for the Bruschetta Recipe that has been requested. We enjoy this with Susan's bread now that tomatoes and garlic are in good supply.
This is all approximate, so experiment and make to your taste...

2 1/2 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 stalks of parsley
10-12 fresh basil leaves
3-5 Tbsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic pressed
1 small onion diced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar ( optional)
Black pepper, salt to taste

Chop parsley and basil. Mix with other ingredients. Let this sit for an hour or more, even overnight will allow the flavors to meld. Cut some of that French bread that you made from last week's posting and lightly toast it, and then rub with a clove of garlic and dish up a helping of the Bruschetta with juices and enjoy..

Happy Gardening