Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Few Last Garden Harvests

Cardoons are great plants
Cleft grafting on apple - think about this for next spring.
Tomato grafting is an interesting experiment for the home gardener.
Cardoons tied up for blanching in October
Today's harvest for tonight's meal.

Cleaning the cardoons.
Scraped and sliced stems.
Into lemon water they go and then they will be blanched.
The cardoon dish ready for the oven.
Spinach seedlings in the hoop house that will be the 2011 harvest.
Cold frame lettuce
Napa cabbage that the slugs just love - but we harvest the head anyway.

It may say fall on the calendar but the seed catalogs have already started to arrive. This year by November 16th I had two! - Stokes again was here first but PineTree was in the mailbox too. So November catalogs mean the countdown till the 2011 planting season has begun -"Boy Howdy!" I can hardly wait.
I got to teach a class in plant grafting at Fox Valley Technical College last weekend and I was really excited about the enthusiasm of the class I had. We discussed hard wood grafting and did some practice scion cutting and cleft grafting. I brought apple watersprouts for the practice. Now would be a good time to think about grafting some different apple varieties on that apple tree in the back yard. You would have time to research your choices, learn about grafting and maybe find a class to sign up for that would make your spring grafting experiment successful. Grafting is also a way to renew a tree or save an old favorite apple from another tree onto a branch in your back yard. you can go to the May 6th, 2009 blog entries to see the grafts I put on that season. This season I did not graft any new varieties onto the trees but I think next spring I will be back at it.
We also discussed vegetable grafting and tomatoes were part of that the topic. I think that this grafting is a bit more difficult than hardwood work, but still, as a way to experiment, I find tomato grafting a real challenge. This is the activity I would like to find a class in so I will be checking the Extension sites of both Missouri and North Carolina to see what they might have as classwork next season. Both have done such classes in the past and the North Carolina site has good information about the process. This too might be good winter reading and then you can plan to try tomato grafting next season along with your apple grafting.
The garden is still producing fresh produce. Today I harvested Daikon radishes, Napa cabbage, and Cardoons. Cardoons are on the menu tonight - AuGratin style; however, the Internet shows them as a crispy fried treat too. I harvested three heads that had been tied up for blanching for several weeks. I cleaned the stalks, scraped and pulled off the tough parts and thorns, and put them in lemon water and then blanched them. I am cooking them casserole style with onions, garlic, thyme and cheese but there are many good recipes on the net -Google 'cardoon recipes' and look at the images too. This is a great vegetable and a beautiful garden plant. Here in Wisconsin they are usually an annual but with some protection I have had some return to make seed heads the second year. We also ate these immature flower buds just like artichokes which are a close relative of cardoons. Several seed catalogs have the seed - put them on the wish list for next season.
The pictures this week show some of the hoop house and cold frame plants that will hopefully survive the winter for harvest next spring. The Napa cabbage was ravaged again by the slugs but a little salt in the cleaning water and they are done for - no escargot in the salad please. As you note we are back to alternate weeks with posts during this slow growing time but with the seed catalogs arriving the thoughts of next seasons garden slowly takes form and the excitement of another growing season builds.
Happy Gardening

Monday, November 1, 2010

Drying Apples - Good Snacks

Hooray!!! The hoop house is still standing after three very windy days.
The squirrel bungee feeder - this should be fun
The wild arugula blooms late in these short fall days.
Hoop house spinach for spring 2011 harvest.
Some mixed greens sprouted in the hoop house.
The celeriac is still growing nicely in this protected environment.
Diakon radish and Nappa cabbage in a cold frame.
The garden put to winter rest with its drainage ditch down the center.
An experiment next to the house (Caution - windows do not work well for cold frames.)
The apple drying picture - coring the washed fruit.
I slice thick as you can see.
Into the lime or lemon water to prevent browning.
Then they get drained before going onto the trays.
Space the fruit so that its flat on the tray - try of avoid overlapping.
A dusting of cinnamon on some of the trays for an experiment.
The fruit in the foreground is dried red grapes - they are really good - nothing on them at all.

We had a barometric pressure reading last week of 28.88 - some sort of record and the winds that followed that low pressure were intense. Luckily for us the hoop house is somewhat protected by a few trees in the neighbor's yard and I think the large spruce tree helped deflect some of the wind. Anyway we still have a hoop house. I took precautions and unplugged the automatic venting system for the greenhouse so that the winds would not destroy the vent as wind has done in the past.
The spinach and other greens are sprouted in the sheltered environment of the hoop house and so with some luck we will have spinach in March or April of 2011. The celeriac plants have a mulch of straw around them as I want to see if they will keep longer and be useable later in the season as they did not grow real large. I did not plant all the space in the hoop house but left enough room for Arugula and early lettuce plantings in the spring. One needs planning for food.
The garden has been rototilled but this season I do not intend to plant a cover crop of winter wheat for several reasons - the large amount of straw that I used as mulch last season has been tilled into the soil and because of the lateness of the time I am really not sure I can even find seed. So with that in mind the garden will be open this winter. I did ditch to space because I want the rain and snow-melt to drain through and thus I have a ditch running the length of the garden. I put straw at both ends to slow the water down and stop any erosion of my soil. The only things left in the garden are the parsnips for next year, some salsify as a root crop test, the Daikon radishes in a cold frame and the Nappa cabbage in the cold frames. The Daikon radishes are real sweet for this late in the season. One other frame has spinach and lettuce inside hopefully for next spring.
With all the apples harvested I have been drying them. Dried apples are easy and a home dehydrator is the quickest way to get the job done. Ours has 6 trays that I fill and the fruit dries overnight. Our process is to clean the apples and usually not peel them as they have all been in bags for the growing season and have no pesticide residue on the skins. Plus, I can't prove it, but I feel they skins are more tender than on unbagged apples. To keep them from browning, I put the apple pieces in a water bath of lemon or lime juice - usually one lime for a couple of cups of water. The cut up fruit is dipped in the water and then put in a strainer to drain and then put on the dryer trays. This year I tried dusting a few of the trays with cinnamon - we like them. The dehydrator is set for "fruit" and if I fill the trays in the afternoon they are ready to bag up by the next morning. We had someone calculate our electricity cost for this process and it came to something like 25 cents per 6 trays of fruit. When the apple pieces have dried, I put them in baggies and store them in a cabinet over the ovens. Certain people here really love dried apples so they seldom last the whole winter. I have reconstituted them with hot water to use in cooking but mostly they get eaten as dried fruit.
As you see with the season winding down, so have the entries. I looked at the statistics for this blog and was amazed to see the distant places that have located us and the large number of hits the blog has gotten over time. I sure hope we have helped you in some ways and we do enjoy sharing our garden and techniques with everyone.
Happy Gardening