2015 Garlic Harvest Review

Last week I cleaned and weighed the last of the 2015 garlic harvest. I dug the garlic over a period of about a month beginning in mid June. After digging and cleaning off some of the extra soil (it was mud this year), I tied the garlic in bundles of 8 to 12, then hung in our warm basement with the dehumidifier running. That is the best place we have at present to cure the garlic, since it is way too humid to do it in the garage or workshop areas that aren’t climate controlled. I usually let it cure for three to four weeks, until it is thoroughly dried.

2013 garlic harvest hanging to dry

2013 garlic harvest hanging to dry

Now that the numbers are all tallied, I can say this was the best year yet for growing garlic since I began keeping track of the numbers. After curing there was right at 21 pounds of garlic bulbs. And yes, that is a lot of garlic! But then we use a lot of garlic here. Most gets used in our cooking, plus I generally pickle some and also dehydrate it. Earlier in the year I harvested 26 oz of garlic scapes and 37 oz of green garlic, which were all used fresh.

Simonetti garlic

Simonetti garlic

The top performer this year is a softneck Artichoke type called Simonetti. It has been one of the top five producers every year since I first planted it back in the fall of 2011. This year the 12 cloves I planted made bulbs weighing a total of 29.2 oz, which gives it an average weight of 2.43 oz, with the largest bulb weighing 3 oz. The other Artichoke types I grow also did well, which are Lorz Italian, Siciliano and Inchelium Red. I really like to roast these varieties whole, though some also get used in other ways. All of these Artichoke varieties are average keepers for me, usually lasting for six to eight months before starting to sprout or deteriorate.

bulb of Idaho Silver garlic

bulb of Idaho Silver garlic

The second best performer is a newcomer here, a Silverskin variety called Idaho Silver. The 12 cloves I planted of it made bulbs weighing 25.4 oz, for an average weight of 2.11 oz each. Idaho Silver is supposed to be well adapted to areas with cold winters. Our 2014-15 winter was about average for cold temperatures, but we had a bit more snow than usual. Other Silverskin types I grew included Silver White (#3 performer), Nootka Rose (#9) and S&H Silver (next to last). All of the Silverskins are good keepers here, usually lasting for ten months or more. Nootka Rose is one of my favorites, and I think the flavor of it actually improves with storage.

German Red garlic

German Red garlic

The fourth best performer is a hardneck Rocambole variety called German Red, which averaged 1.93 oz per bulb. I first planted it in 2013, and it joined other Rocamboles I grow like Russian Red, Killarney Red and Spanish Roja. None of the four get very much red coloring here, despite their names. The bulb of German Red in the above photo weighed 3.4 oz, and was one of the largest of any garlic this year. The Rocambole group is much loved by garlic connoisseurs for their rich, complex flavors. My tastes aren’t that refined, but I do think the Rocamboles I grow are pretty flavorful as well as productive. Unfortunately they are not good keepers, and are usually sprouting within six months or less of harvest.

Xian garlic

Xian garlic

The best performing of the Turban types I grew was another newcomer called Xian. This one is a favorite of author and garlic expert Chester Aaron, and it averaged 1.83 oz per bulb which made it my #5 performer. Other Turban types I grew this year included Red Janice, Uzbek, Shilla and Maiskij. The Turban garlic varieties are not great keepers, but they tend to be early and usually give us our first taste of garlic scapes and fresh garlic. I also think they tend to have a nice but fiery hot flavor when raw and freshly harvested. I try and use them up first, and when they start to sprout I use them as planting stock for green garlic.

just harvested Red Janice garlic

just harvested Red Janice garlic

After several years of trying quite a few different garlic varieties, I am slowly but surely finding the ones that do best here. I’m also discovering which ones keep well, and which I like best in the kitchen. I still have a lot to learn about growing garlic, but I do know that different varieties vary greatly in the climates and growing conditions they prefer. Some can’t take winter cold, while others require it, and so on. And some handle wet growing conditions better than others, which describes our typical spring weather, especially this year. My goal now will be to pick the best ones I want to grow going forward, and simplify the number of varieties.

To see what other gardeners are harvesting, cooking and tallying up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA, including another featured cooking bean I’ve been taste-testing.

For more information about garlic growing and preservation see:

  1. Growing Green Garlic
  2. Dehydrating Garlic
  3. Easy Refrigerator Pickled Garlic
  4. Homemade Garlic Planting Jig
  5. How To Have Fresh Garlic All Year Long
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Saturday Spotlight: Fairy Tale Eggplant

Today’s spotlight is on a variety I wasn’t that impressed with the first time I saw it in a seed catalog. “Just another novelty vegetable,” I thought. Cute perhaps, but not very useful in the kitchen. Then in 2009 our local Master Gardener group grew it in their AAS Demo Garden. It produced lots of neon purple fruits with white stripes, and volunteers were encouraged to take some of the bountiful crop home and use them. I was happy to oblige, and quickly found out how good they were for grilling. After that first taste, and seeing how well they did in the Demo Garden, I planted them here in 2010 and I’ve been growing them ever since!

Fairy Tale eggplant

Fairy Tale eggplant

Fairy Tale is a 2005 AAS winner, and the first eggplant to win an AAS award since 1939. The compact, well-branched plants are perfect for container plantings, but they also perform quite well when planted in-ground. I’ve grown them both ways, and they have never failed to produce well for me. The plant in the below photo is one I grew in 2011, and it’s about two feet tall at that point. They can get a tad bigger than that, especially when they are planted in the ground.

Fairy Tale eggplant in container

Fairy Tale eggplant in container

This year they are giving us our first taste of homegrown eggplant. The plants are about 16-18 inches tall now and covered in blooms and fruit. Fairy Tale is quick to produce, with most seed catalogs listing it as taking 50 days to maturity. It was even quicker to produce here this year, giving us the first harvest only 40 days after setting out the plants. The fruits are produced in clusters of two to five, and are best picked when no more than about four inches long. Eggplant needs heat to do well, and containers warm up faster in spring than garden soil does. That can give folks in cooler climates a jump on the growing season, and it’s a great way to help give eggplants the conditions they prefer. You can read more about it in my tutorial on Growing Eggplant in Containers.

cluster of Fairy Tale eggplant

cluster of Fairy Tale eggplant

As with other eggplant varieties, flea beetles can be a problem, and so can the Colorado Potato Beetle. I’ve had good luck controlling pests with a weekly spray of neem oil and liquid pyrethin. You can also cover the plants with row cover material, and for flea beetles use yellow sticky traps or plant a trap crop like radishes nearby. In my experience, early control is key, especially during the first month after planting when the tender young plants are most susceptible to damage.

sliced Fairy Tale eggplant

sliced Fairy Tale eggplant

In the kitchen, Fairy Tale has mild tasting white flesh that is sweet, not bitter, and it has very few seeds. The thin skin is quite tender and doesn’t need to be peeled. I already mentioned that I love to grill it, but it’s also tasty when stir-fried or roasted in the oven. Fairy Tale often has a starring role here in my Grilled Eggplant with Tahini Yogurt Sauce. I also like to slice it in half lengthwise, then brush it with a mix of olive oil and minced garlic, which is what I did to the ones in the below photo before they hit the grill.

Fairy Tale eggplant on the grill

Fairy Tale eggplant on the grill

I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a variety of eggplant that won me over and made me a big fan, despite my initial impression of it. Seeds for Fairy Tale are widely available from a number of sources in the U.S. I’ll be back soon with another variety.

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

 

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Monday Recap: Transition Time

As the seasons change, it seems that much of my gardening time goes from planning to planting, then eventually to harvesting and preserving, which is what I find myself doing a lot of lately. I’ve frozen summer squash and raspberries, and I’ve fermented cabbage, kohlrabi, radishes and cucumbers. My wife was in charge of the asparagus and blueberries, and we have lots of them in the freezer for use throughout the year. Now I’m working on tomatoes and drying, processing and freezing them.

Sun Gold and Supersweet 100 tomatoes

Sun Gold and Supersweet 100 tomatoes

Juliet tomatoes are coming on strong, as are the Sun Golds. I added some of the Supersweet 100s and had enough to fill the dehydrator last week. That’s Juliet in the below photo, which I cut into quarters before drying. I cut most of the cherry types in half when drying. Juliet is one my favorite tomatoes, and this 1999 AAS Vegetable Award winner never fails to produce lots of fruit that are perfect for drying, roasting, and turning into sauce, puree and paste.

Juliet tomatoes ready for drying

Juliet tomatoes ready for drying

And speaking of sauce, I harvested more Juliets yesterday and used them to make a batch of Freezer Tomato Sauce. I don’t peel the tomatoes anymore like the recipe says, but instead blend up the raw tomatoes in the Vitamix before cooking them down. Then I use the immersion blender to puree the sauce before I put it in containers and it heads to the freezer.

harvest of Juliet tomatoes

harvest of Juliet tomatoes

In my last post I mentioned I had harvested a couple of the heirloom Tatume squash. I didn’t grow them last year, and I missed them so they are back in the garden this year. They are a good size and shape for grilling, and I imagine they would work well for stuffing too. The ones in the below photo weighed a total of 38 ounces, and got grilled shortly after they posed for the camera. At that size the seeds are still small and tender, and nothing is wasted except the stem.

pair of Tatume squash

pair of Tatume squash

Also starting to make an appearance now is eggplant. The first to come on here were from Fairy Tale, another AAS winner from 2005. The tender white flesh has very few seeds and almost melts after it meets up with a hot grill. In the below photo they are hanging out with a few Trionfo Violetto pole beans.

Fairy Tale eggplant and Trionfo Violetto beans

Fairy Tale eggplant and Trionfo Violetto beans

The first melon came in a few days ago, and it was Diplomat. This is a Galia type melon with green flesh, and it’s usually the first one to ripen of the ones I grow. The melon in the below photo weighed a tad less than three pounds, and as you can see has a fairly small seed cavity. The Sensation melons are also ripening, and I suspect we will have one or two of them in a few days.

sliced Diplomat melon

sliced Diplomat melon

Over the last two weeks I dug all of the potatoes. It wasn’t what I would call a great year for them, but we will have plenty to eat. The best yield came from the German Butterball variety. It also made a heart shaped tuber that would have been perfect for Valentine’s Day!

German Butterball potato

German Butterball potato

It looks to be a terrible year for the pole beans. I’m always amazed at how something can do so well one year, and so badly the next. The same varieties (Fortex, Musica and Gold Marie) that kept us well-supplied last year are shy producers this time. I’m thinking the waterlogged soil followed by early hot weather did not help them any. We are enjoying what we get though, and I am hopeful they will perk up production eventually. I also planted Trionfo Violetto and it is doing no better than the others so far, though it is a colorful addition to the mix.

harvest of pole beans

harvest of pole beans

The greenhouse cucumbers are having a banner year however. Of course they are spared having too much rain, since the only water they get is what I supply them by hand watering. That’s Tasty Jade in the below photo, which I turned into some refrigerator pickles.

Tasty Jade cucumber

Tasty Jade cucumber

I mentioned a while back that I had made a batch of cabbage sauerkraut with some caraway seeds added. We tried it out last week, adding it to some Canadian bacon and Muenster cheese on homemade rye bread. I only added a teaspoon of caraway seeds to a quart of kraut, but it gave the fermented cabbage a lovely flavor and I can see me doing this again. Caraway has carminative properties that aid in the digestion of the cabbage, so it’s got that going for it too. I also made a sandwich the other day with the kohlrabi kraut, and I wonder if the caraway would be good with that too? Perhaps I’ll try that this fall.

Reuben sandwich with caraway sauerkraut

Reuben sandwich with caraway sauerkraut

Speaking of homemade rye bread, I tried a recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. I made a batch of his Soft Rye Sandwich Bread last week, baking some of it into a loaf and some into buns. The bread is tasty but I didn’t think it was really an improvement over the recipe I usually make (Light Rye Sandwich Loaf). It does use a rye sourdough starter, and I may try and incorporate that in the new version of my recipe. My tastes in bread are leaning towards heartier ones with more whole grains, and I have added whole wheat to my recipe for the rye sandwich loaf. Surely I am not the only one who doesn’t follow their own recipes!

Soft Rye Buns

Soft Rye Buns

My new header photo of sunflowers is a result of a trip my wife and I made recently to Bluegrass Fish & Wildlife Area. The Indiana DNR plants acres of sunflowers for the wildlife, and we went to see them and get a few photos. As is our custom, I sat my camera on the trunk of the car and used the timer to get a pic of the two of us. The fields of sunflowers are an amazing sight to see, and the photos don’t really do them justice.

me and Lynda and acres of sunflowers

me and Lynda and acres of sunflowers

I hope you have enjoyed a look at what’s happening here in late July. To see what other gardeners are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

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Cornering the Cucurbits

Last year I planted a lot of vining melons and winter squash in one area of the garden, without any real plan on how I would handle their wandering habits. As it turned out, some of the less vigorous growers got crowded out by their more aggressive neighbors. Hopefully this year I did a better job of planning and planting, and so far the results looks promising.

Seminole squash plant

Seminole squash plant

One strategy I tried this year is planting some of the more robust growers in the corners of the garden. That way they could vine up on the fencing that surrounds the main garden area. In one corner I planted the Seminole winter squash, and I set out two plants back in mid May. This heirloom C. moschata variety was grown in Florida by the Seminole and the Miccosukee people, where it was usually planted at the base of a tree. The plant then grew up the trunk and the pumpkins would mature up in the tree. I figured it was a natural for training on the fence.

young fruit of the Seminole squash

young fruit of the Seminole squash

Every time I’m in the garden I work on training the vines to go where I want them on the fencing. I’m trying to get them to go up the fencing so they are out of the reach of the hungry deer and groundhogs. Of course the plants have their own ideas, and latch on to anything they can for support. The Seminole is starting to set on fruit now. You can see the characteristic teardrop shape in the above photo.

vines of Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

vines of Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

In another corner I planted the Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash. After planting and mulching with straw, the Thai squash looked like this in May. Eight weeks later it is vining in all directions, and some of the vines are at least fifteen feet long. I have not seen any fruit setting on this one yet. Last year was my first time growing this variety, and most of the fruit set on later in the season. Time will tell if that is typical or not, but it is still early in the growing season.

young Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash

young Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash

The other vining squash plants were spread around the garden beds and planted where they could easily reach the fence and grab on for support. The Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash (aka neck pumpkin) is another rambunctious grower. I’ve let it grow up on the fencing for several years now. I did find a young squash on it today. It sort of resembles a young Tromboncino squash at this point, but the neck will fill out as it gets bigger.

Diplomat melon

Diplomat melon

Last year many of the melon plants got overrun by the vining squash, so this year I was more careful about where I put the melons. I’ve also been training them away from the fencing, as most of them tend to slip off the vine when they are ripe. That is not a good thing if they happen to be several feet off the ground! That’s a Diplomat melon in the above photo, and the yellow color indicates it’s ripening. Diplomat is a Galia type melon with sweet, aromatic green flesh. Despite the green flesh, to me the flavor is more like cantaloupe than honeydew. I’m looking forward to the first melon for sure, and it looks like Diplomat might be the one. I also have Ambrosia, Amy, Brilliant and Sensation melons planted.

Honey Boat Delicata squash

Honey Boat Delicata squash

One of the squash that got overrun last year is Honey Boat Delicata. It was my first year growing it, and we managed to get four fruit from it despite its competition with the other squash. This year I planted it well away from other vining plants, and it is doing quite well. I found several fruit that have sized up and were beginning to turn color, plus more that were just setting on. Baker Creek says this variety is “one of the sweetest squash varieties in existence.” My wife and I both like Delicata type squash, and I am also growing my old standby Cornell’s Bush Delicata as well as another newcomer here called Candystick that Southern Exposure Seed Exchange says is “reminiscent of Medjool dates!” I am always skeptical when I read such hyperbole in a seed catalog, but I am looking forward to tasting these squash.

young Honey Boat Delicata squash

young Honey Boat Delicata squash

Another vining type squash I’m growing this year is the dual use Mexican heirloom variety Tatume. I’ve grown this one several times in the past, and it is a Cucurbita pepo type that does quite well here. Though you can let the squash mature and use like a winter squash, I think they are best used when young and treated like zucchini. I harvested the first ones a few days ago. The softball sized fruit are perfect for grilling, and I usually slice them into rounds and brush with a little EVOO then season with salt and pepper. It is usually quite prolific here, and you can see two setting on in the below photo.

Tatume squash

Tatume squash

Hopefully my efforts will pay off with lots of tasty winter squash and melons, and no variety will be left out or crowded out. At least that is my plan! I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA.

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Saturday Spotlight: Lorz Italian Garlic

Today I want to shine the spotlight on a garlic variety I’ve been growing for the last five years. It’s called Lorz Italian, and it’s an artichoke type that has consistently done well for me here since I started growing it. It’s also one of my favorites in the kitchen, which is another reason I keep growing it.

Lorz Italian garlic curing

Lorz Italian garlic curing

Lorz Italian is said to have been brought from Italy to Washington State in the late 1800’s. Even though it hails from the U.S. Pacific Northwest, this softneck variety is well adapted to areas with hot summer weather too. Our garden is located in USDA zone 6b, and we get cold winters with very little snow cover plus hot spring weather and very hot and humid summers. This year has been a wet one, with over eight inches of rain falling in June as the garlic crop was sizing up and beginning to mature. Lorz Italian has handled all that quite well, and the average bulb size is even a tad larger than last year.

Lorz Italian garlic

Lorz Italian garlic

In our garden, Lorz Italian matures in the mid-season, after the early Asiatic/Turban types and before the Silverskin varieties. The above photo was taken in early May of this year, as the bulbs were beginning to size up. You can see the stalk is about as big around as my index finger, which is a good sign there’s a big bulb forming below ground level. In the below photo, you can see one of those big bulbs right after digging in 2013.

tLorz Italian bulb right after digging

Lorz Italian bulb right after digging

Artichoke type garlic bulbs typically have multiple layers of cloves that overlap much like the petals on an artichoke. Lorz Italian generally has around 12-15 cloves per bulb, though it can have up to 20. The outer cloves are of a nice size, and it has fewer of the smaller inner cloves that some artichoke varieties have. Though Lorz Italian is a softneck garlic, under certain growing conditions it can send up a scape. I have not seen that here on any that I have grown. You can see the size of the cloves in the below photo, which shows cloves ready for planting.

garlic cloves ready for planting

garlic cloves ready for planting

Lorz Italian is a good keeping garlic, and typically stays in good shape for six to eight months after harvest. Of course, the keeping quality of any garlic depends a lot on how it is cured and stored.

trio of Lorz Italian garlic

trio of Lorz Italian garlic

In the kitchen, it is more flavorful than most artichoke types, which are the kind you typically find at the grocery. When raw, it has a spicy heat that will get your taste buds tingling. I speak from experience here, since I did a taste testing just recently! As with all garlic, the flavor mellows when cooked. I really like Lorz Italian for roasting whole, where the flavor really shines.

Lorz Italian(L) and Russian Red(R) garlic for roasting

Lorz Italian(L) and Russian Red(R) garlic for roasting

Back in February I roasted one head each of Russian Red and Lorz Italian so I could do some tasting. Despite the fact that Russian Red is a rocambole type that is known for its wonderful flavor, I thought Lorz Italian tasted better after baking. I’m not the only one either who thinks Lorz Italian is a great tasting garlic. Slow Food USA has included it on its Ark of Taste, which is “a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction.”

I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a garlic variety that is well adapted to a wide range of growing conditions, and is great tasting in the kitchen either raw or cooked. Seed garlic for Lorz Italian is available from a number of sources, and I got mine from Filaree Garlic Farm. I’ll be back soon with another variety.

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

 

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Monday Recap: Soaked Again

It has been a wet growing season here this year for sure. The rain started in March, and it hasn’t let up since. Last month we got over eight inches of rain, and this month we have already gotten six inches. I am glad I have almost all of the main garden mulched, because otherwise I would be walking around in mud most of the time! The rain has made a lot of things grow lush, but others have suffered, especially the root crops like onions, carrots and potatoes. The garlic hasn’t seemed to mind the wet conditions, though I’ve had to dig it out of the mud when I harvest. It looks to be a good year for garlic, and I’m happy about that. Most of it is harvested now, and when it has all cured I will do a review on it.

white scalloped squash

white scalloped squash

Some of the squash plants aren’t so happy, and I’ve lost two now to stem rot. The moschatas all seem to be doing well, and perhaps their tougher stems hold up better to wet conditions as well as to squash vine borers. We’re getting plenty of squash though, like the white scalloped in the above photo. And the zucchini and yellow squash in the below photo.

summer squash harvest

summer squash harvest

My wife used one of the zucchini to make Turkey Burgers with Zucchini. We topped them with sauteed mushrooms and served them up on a homemade bun. The squash adds moisture to the lean ground turkey breast, and they were some of the best turkey burgers I’ve ever eaten. Frozen grated squash should work well for this recipe when we don’t have fresh. Another use for zucchini is always welcome here!

Turkey Burger with Zucchini

Turkey Burger with Zucchini

We’re getting a steady trickle of the small fruited hybrid tomatoes now, including Sun Gold, Juliet and Supersweet 100. The vines are loaded with green ones, and most of the tomatoes haven’t seemed to mind all the rain so far, though there has been some splitting on the Sun Gold which is prone to that anyway.

Sun Gold and Supersweet 100 tomatoes

Sun Gold and Supersweet 100 tomatoes

The tomatoes are winding up in a lot of salads. They joined some of our cucumbers and onions in a Quinoa Chickpea and Avocado Salad we had last week. The hot weather has me craving all kinds of cool salads, and this one made for a great meal, along with some crispy homemade bread. More about the bread later.

Quinoa Chickpea and Avocado Salad

Quinoa Chickpea and Avocado Salad

We’ve been enjoying the crisphead lettuces lately too. That’s two heads of Unicum in the below photo. It’s my first time growing this variety and I believe it’s a keeper.

Unicum lettuce

Unicum lettuce

I just finished reading 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander. It details his attempts to bake the perfect loaf of peasant bread (aka Pain de Campagne). He winds up baking one loaf a week for 52 weeks, ultimately growing his own wheat and baking a seed-to-table loaf of bread in a homemade outdoor clay oven. I loved his first book, The $64 Tomato, and I laughed my way through this one as well. His 52 week adventure started after he tasted a wonderful bread at a swanky NYC restaurant and then attempted to recreate it at home. Does that sound familiar? I know it did to me, as I am often trying to duplicate something I had while eating out. It’s not a cookbook, but he does includes a few recipes for the breads mentioned in the book.

Baguettes à l'Ancienne

Baguettes à l’Ancienne

I wound up baking a version of one of them, his Baguettes à l’Ancienne. It’s a great tasting bread that uses a mix of natural leavening and commercial yeast, plus an overnight bulk fermentation that coaxes maximum flavor from the ingredients. I swapped out some of the all-purpose flour for a mix of whole wheat and rye, much like he did in his Peasant Bread. My other recent bread baking involved another batch of the 40 Percent Caraway Rye. The ones in the below photo were proofed in brotforms before I baked them on a hot pizza stone. Though the crust is dark it’s actually a light rye bread. I froze a loaf of each of the two recipes, so we should be stocked with bread for a while.

40 Percent Caraway Rye

40 Percent Caraway Rye

I decided to harvest many of the cabbages before they started splitting and rotting from all the rain. They all are running in the one to two pound range, which is a nice size for us.That’s a head of the flathead KY Cross variety in the below photo. That head weighed just less than two pounds.

KY Cross cabbage

KY Cross cabbage

I had more than enough cabbage to make sauerkraut, so I made two quart jars of it last week. That made about four pounds of cabbage disappear! I made one batch with a teaspoon of caraway seed added. We will see how we like that taste of that. I can’t imagine we won’t. If you want more details about how I make the sauerkraut, I blogged about it a couple of years ago here: Homemade Sauerkraut. We love the homemade sauerkraut, and it keeps for a long time in the refrigerator.

cabbage and kohlrabi kraut

cabbage and kohlrabi kraut

We tried some of the newest batch of kohlrabi kraut yesterday, and it was already tasting good after four days of fermenting. Our kitchen stays about 77-78°F this time of year, and fermenting proceeds at a fairly fast pace. I used some of the above rye bread to make a grilled meatless reuben sandwich. It’s a pretty simple treatment, just sauerkraut and cheese on our homemade rye bread. I put the sandwiches on a hot grill just long enough to char the bread a bit and melt the cheese.

grilled meatless reuben sandwich

grilled meatless reuben sandwich

I hope you have enjoyed a look at what’s happening here in July. To see what other gardeners are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. And thanks to Daphne for hosting this every week!

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Fermented Kohlrabi Two Ways

I’ve harvested all of the spring planted kohlrabi now. It did pretty well, all things considered, and I got a little over 20 pounds of it. Since my wife and I both like it, I generally plant quite a bit in both spring and fall. We love eating it raw and cooked, but one of my new favorite things to do with it involves lacto-fermentation.

recent harvest of Kossak kohlrabi

recent harvest of Kossak kohlrabi

I’ve done it two different ways. One way is to make kohlrabi pickles. You can cut them in any shape you choose, but I usually peel the kohlrabi and then cut into spears or slices. For this treatment you need to make a 5% brine solution. I add 1.5 tbsp/22g of sea salt to 2 cups/450g of water and stir until the salt is dissolved. Next I pack the kohlrabi pieces in a clean wide-mouth glass jar, then pour in the brine solution to cover. I also like to add a few cloves of crushed garlic and maybe a dried hot pepper. But truthfully the fermented kohlrabi is pretty tasty on its own. Pickling spices, dill or mustard seeds would also add a nice flavor.

jar of fermented kohlrabi pickles

jar of fermented kohlrabi pickles

I put a leaf from the kohlrabi (or a piece of cabbage leaf) in the top of the jar to help keep the pieces submerged in the brine. Then I cover loosely with a ring and lid, and place the jar on a saucer or bowl. Once the kohlrabi starts fermenting, the brine tends to bubble out and the saucer will help keep it from running all over the place. And be sure to leave the lid loose so the jar doesn’t explode from the carbon dioxide gas produced by fermentation. I leave the jar sitting at room temperature to ferment, and taste the kohlrabi after a few days to see if it’s ready. Once it’s tangy enough for my tastes, I put the jar in the refrigerator. The kohlrabi pickles make a great snack, and a tasty way to get some probiotics.

pickled kohlrabi

pickled kohlrabi

The other way I do it is to make kohlrabi kraut. I make it much like I would cabbage kraut, except I use kohlrabi. First I peel the kohlrabi, then shred using a grater. I’ve used both a medium and a coarse grater with good results. It takes about two pounds of raw kohlrabi (before peeling) to make enough to fill a quart jar. After peeling and shredding I usually wind up with about 1.75 pounds/8000g of kohlrabi.

grating kohlrabi for kraut

grating kohlrabi for kraut

Next I put the shreds in a mixing bowl and add 1 tbsp/16g of fine sea salt, which is 2% of the weight of the kohlrabi. I work the salt in with my hands, kneading and squeezing until it is well combined and the kohlrabi is starting to release its juices. You can also use a potato masher or a wooden pounder. Then I pack the kohlrabi and all the juice into a clean quart jar, add a leaf and then cover loosely with the ring and lid. I leave it to sit at room temperature too, and I find it is usually tart enough for my tastes in less than a week. Then it’s off to the refrigerator, where it will keep for a long time as it continues to slowly improve in taste.

mixing in the salt for kohlrabi kraut

mixing in the salt for kohlrabi kraut

You can use the kohlrabi kraut the same as you would regular sauerkraut. My favorite use is to make a meatless Reuben sandwich. That combines some of our homemade kraut, sliced cheese and rye bread. Sometimes I fix this in a skillet, other times I put it on the grill and cook just long enough to melt the cheese and char the bread a bit.

Meatless Reuben Sandwich

Meatless Reuben Sandwich

Some fermenting recipes call for adding dairy whey to provide a starter culture of beneficial bacteria, and I’ve done this in the past. However, I’ve found that my kohlrabi  generally ferments just fine without the added whey. You can also add a bit of the juice from a previous batch of sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables and use that as a starter.

If you are new to lacto-fermentation, I can recommend a couple of books I use for reference on the subject. One is The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz. The author is a self-described “fermentation revivalist” and the book is a thorough guide to all kinds of home fermentation. The other book is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods by Wardeh Harmon. This one has a lot of recipes and is a good starting point for those interested in making their own fermented foods. Both address the food safety issues involved in home fermentation, and will help to make sure your homemade fermentation projects are successful.

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