Harvest Monday December 11, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. With a frigid weather forecast last week I decided to harvest as much as I could from the less hardy brassicas. I made a big cutting from the Tronchuda Beira plants, some of which went in a pot of soup last night. The other day I got some great information about this and other Portuguese greens from reader Marisa. I now have some new ideas to try with the remaining leaves that didn’t go in soup. I don’t know if the plants will survive the recent cold snap or not, with temperatures dipping down to 14°F one night, but I plan on growing it again next year. I also want to try the Couve Galega that Marisa mentioned. I believe it is similar to (if not the same as) this one from Seeds From Italy which I actually grew here in 2016.

Tronchuda Beira

Tronchuda Beira

I pulled the kohlrabi from the main garden beds, a mix of Kolibri and Kossak. The Kossak wasn’t full sized by any means, but certainly big enough to eat. There was a bit over five pounds in all, enough to start a jar of fermented pickles and enjoy a bit of oven roasted kohlrabi slices.

Kolibri and Kossak kohlrabi

Kolibri and Kossak kohlrabi

I also cut two more heads of cabbage, one each of Point One and Vantage Point. Like the Kossak they were not full sized but big enough to eat. It’s been a good year overall for cabbage, and I’ve harvested almost 40 pounds this year. I have several plants of savoy types out in the garden that will hopefully size up eventually, giving us a bit more for fresh eating.

Vantage Point and Point One cabbage

Vantage Point and Point One cabbage

And I found a bit more broccoli to cut, some smallish Green Magic heads. It was not the prettiest broccoli I’ve grown for sure, but edible. The spring planted broccoli seemed to do better than the fall plants this year, which is unusual for our area. I was late getting all the brassicas planted this fall and the yields suffered as a result. That is one bonus of keeping a garden log, because I can make a note to plant earlier next year.

last of the broccoli

last of the broccoli

The last bit of brassicas to come in from the main garden was a purplish-pink napa cabbage called Scarlette. It wasn’t full sized either, but there’s enough there to go in a stir fry. The tips of the leaves were already burned from frosts, so I felt sure it wouldn’t survive the cold. I’m guessing the bright color goes away after cooking.

Scarlette cabbage

Scarlette cabbage

I also pulled more radishes from the kitchen garden area. From left to right it’s Alpine, April Cross and Bora King in the below photo. I plan to turn some into kraut and kimchi plus use them in stir fries. They also make a crunchy fermented ‘pickle’, similar to kohlrabi pickles. There’s 4 pounds of them in this batch. I used some of the Sweet Baby daikons from last week and roasted them in the oven. I was amazed they mostly kept their color, and the flavor was mild. I may try roasting the Bora King that way too, and I’ll have to get a pic of how they look after cooking. This week’s harvests brought our yearly total to 1215 pounds, not a record for us but a good deal more than last year’s 804 pounds. We’ve certainly had plenty of homegrown goodness to eat and preserve this year and to share.

Alpine, April Cross and Bora King radishes

Alpine, April Cross and Bora King radishes

Something I did get a pic of was a frittata I cooked up for lunch yesterday. My wife and I joke that we never make the same frittata twice, since it’s a great way to use up whatever veggies we have on hand. This one had frozen tromboncino slices on the bottom and a mix of shallots and mizuna in with the eggs. I added dehydrated sliced paste tomatoes (without rehydrating) on top of the egg mix and topped with sliced cheese before popping in the oven to finish cooking. I added homemade smoked paprika after cooking for a bit of added flavor.

lunch frittata

lunch frittata

We’ve had some pretty sunsets lately so I’ll close with one image I captured of the setting sun lighting up the wispy clouds. It made for a pretty view out our back door.

Happy Acres sunset

Happy Acres sunset

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!




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Harvest Monday December 4, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The harvests are small in number this time of year but much appreciated. We have surely been enjoying the lettuce, and I made several cuttings last week that cleared out the cold frame bed. It’s the dark red mini romaine Rosaine plus the spotted Pele in the below harvest.

Pele and Rosaine lettuce

Pele and Rosaine lettuce

And on Saturday I cut the last of the Simpson Elite and Red Sails for a wilted lettuce salad my wife made yesterday. I have more lettuce growing in the greenhouse but it will not be ready for another couple of weeks.

Simpson Elite and Red Sails lettuce

Simpson Elite and Red Sails lettuce

I’ve all but given up on most of the fall cabbage plants. I cut three of the Tiara that were starting to look bad after all the freezing weather. All three weighed barely two pounds total, enough for a quart of sauerkraut.

Tiara cabbage

Tiara cabbage

The fall planted kale is doing much better though. I made a cutting of Dazzling Blue kale for a batch of Kale and Sweet Potato Hash last week.

Dazzling Blue kale

Dazzling Blue kale

The radishes are still doing well, and more are sizing up. I pulled these Sweet Baby radishes with hopes of starting a batch of radish kimchi (kkakdugi) this week.

Sweet Baby radishes

Sweet Baby radishes

And the mizuna is unfazed by the cold weather too. I made another cutting of it, requested by my wife for a frittata she made for lunch yesterday. I believe some will be going in a pot of soup here soon as well.

green mizuna

green mizuna

We have had quite a few woodpeckers visiting our suet feeders lately. I caught this Red Bellied Woodpecker one day outside my ‘office’ window. We also have quite a few of the smaller Downy Woodpeckers at the feeders. And I saw a Cooper’s Hawk swoop in one day near the feeders and  catch an unidentified small bird for a meal. I chose not to capture any images of that encounter. The feeders were empty for a few hours after that, but eventually the birds came back and I haven’t seen the hawk since.

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!




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2017 Sweet Potato Review

Today I want to share a review of the 2017 sweet potato crop, now that we have had a chance to taste all the varieties I grew. This has been the best year ever for growing sweet potatoes here at Happy Acres. I believe a combination of favorable weather and growing practices helped quite a bit. And I have been working to select varieties that are productive for us as well as useful in the kitchen. This year I harvested 170 pounds of sweet potatoes from 51 plants, for an average of 3.33 pounds per plant.

Purple sweet potatoes

Purple sweet potatoes

I’ve learned the hard way that, unlike many other vegetables, sweet potatoes do not really appreciate a rich soil or a lot of added compost and fertilizer. Last year I supplied too much nitrogen to the beds, and the yields suffered as a result. Combined with the fact that I was trying several new varieties that didn’t do much, the average yield in 2016 was only 1.16 pounds per plant, and many of those roots were too small to be of much use. This year I added no nitrogen to the planting beds and the yields were back to a normal level. From now on I will go back to my tried and true methods, and add no fertilizer at all to the sweet potato bed before planting. Our soil is reasonably fertile to begin with, and it has ample organic material. For more information on growing sweet potatoes you can read my post on Planting Sweet Potatoes, or see the links at the bottom.

Bonita sweet potatoes

Bonita sweet potatoes

The best performing sweet potato in our garden this year was the orange-fleshed Beauregard. It’s a widely adapted variety that is popular with home gardeners and commercial growers alike, and I’ve been growing it for about 10 years now. Beauregard has high yields of large roots, and it is a good keeper. It’s also a good choice for those with cooler and shorter growing seasons than what we have here. The 5 plants yielded over 26 pounds of roots, for an average yield of 5.28 pounds per plant.

just dug Beauregard sweet potato

just dug Beauregard sweet potato

Beauregard has a reddish purple skin and moist, sweet, orange flesh. In the kitchen I use it for all the things we do with sweet potatoes, including baking whole and for Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes. If I have one complaint about Beauregard, it’s that in our garden it makes a lot of huge roots. This year I got quite a few that weighed nearly two pounds each, and in years past I have gotten a few three-pounders.  It’s not a bad problem to have though, and I want to experiment with a different spacing next year. This year I set out the slips about 15 to 16 inches apart, and I think Beauregard would benefit from a closer spacing which might result in a bit smaller roots. Someone also suggested digging them a bit earlier, which may be worth trying. This year they were in the ground for right at 120 days, from early June to early October.

Beauregard sweet potato

Beauregard sweet potato

Another dependable performer for me here is the Purple variety. I’ve been growing it for several years now, after Norma (Garden To Wok) shared some planting stock with me. The 10 plants produced a bit over 35 pounds of roots, for an average yield of 3.52 pounds per plant. Purple has a dark purple skin with deep purple flesh. It has proven to be one of our most-used sweet potatoes in the kitchen, and its fairly dry flesh is great for sweet potato hash, baked fries and for baked sweet potato chips. The roots tend to form mostly right under the vines, which is a plus when it comes to digging.

Purple sweet potatoes

Purple sweet potatoes

As an added bonus, the purple skins and flesh are a good source of anthocyanins. As you can see in the below photo, the color is all purple both inside and out.

Purple sweet potato slice before cooking

Purple sweet potato slice before cooking

I’ve been growing Bonita for three years now, and it is has quickly become one of my favorites. It has a tan skin with a pinkish cast and white flesh that cooks up moist and sweet.

inside of Bonita sweet potato

inside of Bonita sweet potato

It’s one of my favorite choices for baking whole, though it’s also great for hash and fries. The ten plants yielded 25 pounds, for an average yield of 2.54 pounds per plant. I plan on growing it again in 2018 for sure, even though it was less productive than some of the other varieties.

baked Bonita sweet potato

baked Bonita sweet potato

It’s my first time growing Korean Purple, and it made quite a showing. This variety has purple skin and a fairly dry white flesh. The 5 plants made almost 22 pounds of roots, for an average yield of 4.38 pounds per plant. It was the most productive of all the white-fleshed varieties I grew this year. So far we have tried Korean Purple in several dishes. It went well in a batch of kale and sweet potato hash, and it paired up beautifully with Purple for baked sweet potato chips. In the below photo you can see the skin is bright purple just after being dug, but it darkens in storage. The white spots are where the skin rubbed off while I was digging them out. The skinned spots don’t hurt anything, and after curing they toughen up and do just fine in storage.

Korean Purple sweet potatoes

Korean Purple sweet potatoes

It was also my first time growing Grand Asia. The slips came from Duck Creek Farms as a substitute for Red Japanese which was sold out. It has a fairly dry and sweet white flesh which I think compares very favorably to the Red Japanese potatoes I have bought locally. The 6 plants made 14 pounds of sweet potatoes, for an average yield of 2.34 pounds per plant. That’s not bad at all, but it turned out to be the least productive of the ones I grew this year. The jury is still out on whether I will grow it next year.

Grand Asia sweet potatoes

Grand Asia sweet potatoes

It was my second time growing an Indiana heirloom variety called Indiana Gold. Last year they averaged 2.2 pounds per plant, which certainly beat many of the other varieties in yield during an off year. Indiana Gold is an early producer with golden skin and moist orange flesh. This year it averaged 2.6 pounds per plant, and while it is tasty in the kitchen I can’t say it is really an improvement over Beauregard. I don’t plan on growing it next year.

Indiana Gold sweet potatoes

Indiana Gold sweet potatoes

It’s also my second time growing Redmar, which is also known as Maryland Red. It has red skin and a moist orange flesh, and averaged 3.26 pounds per plant. I think the taste compares favorably with Beauregard, and the smaller sized roots suit our needs in the kitchen. I plan on growing it again in 2018.

Redmar sweet potatoes

Redmar sweet potatoes

The last variety of sweet potato I grew this year is called Violetta, and it is very similar to Korean Purple. It is so similar in fact, I’m not sure I could tell the two apart if I didn’t have them labeled! My 4 plants averaged 4.21 pounds per plant, which is in line with the yield I got from Korean Purple. Since they are so similar, I don’t think I will grow Violetta again unless I detect a difference in taste. I’ll cook the two up side by side some day and we’ll do a comparison.

Violetta sweet potatoes

Violetta sweet potatoes

In the below photo you can see the similarity between the two varieties, with Violetta on the left and Korean Purple on the right. You can also see how the skin has darkened in color on both of them.

Violetta and Korean Purple sweet potatoes

Violetta and Korean Purple sweet potatoes

Next year I want to grow the orange fleshed Garnet and perhaps Carolina Ruby, plus I plan on growing the Japanese Murasaki which is similar to Red Japanese. I will be doing more research before planting time next year, and I would love to hear about what others are growing. I hope you have enjoyed this review of our 2017 sweet potatoes, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

For more information about growing sweet potatoes try these sources:

Growing Sweet Potatoes in Missouri

Sweet Potato -University of Illinois

The Sweet Potato – Purdue University

Sweet Potato Growing Guide – Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Grow Sweet Potatoes – Even In The North (Mother Earth News)

 

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Harvest Monday November 27, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The garden is giving us a good variety of greens now as the days get shorter and colder. I made a cutting of Topper turnips last week, which I’ve got growing in one of the cold frame beds. It’s my first time growing this one, and like Nozawana it’s another turnip that is grown for the greens, though it might make edible roots if you let it grow long enough. The tender leaves cooked up in a few minutes. The harvests this week brought us up to 1195 pounds for the year, quite a bit more than last year’s 804 pounds. We’ve had lots of homegrown goodies to share this year, and our freezer and pantry are well stocked too.

Topper turnip greens

Topper turnip greens

Another green coming in from the cold last week was mizuna. I used this bunch in a frittata I made for lunch one day that also featured our dehydrated tomatoes, shallots and the last of the fresh Cornito Giallo peppers. The mizuna is also growing in one of the cold frame beds and has been keeping us supplied for a couple of months now.

mizuna

mizuna

And I cut two main heads of Gypsy broccoli. They were decent sized, and I suspect that main heads will be all we get from the fall broccoli as I doubt it will make side shoots this late in the season.

Gypsy broccoli

Gypsy broccoli

I’m still getting lettuce from one of the cold frame beds. Tango is widely grown by commercial growers but sure does well in our garden too. There’s a bit of the red Spritzer in there with it. I’ve got more lettuce growing in the greenhouse but it will be a couple of weeks before it is ready, since everything is growing in slow motion this time of year.

Tango and Spritzer lettuce

Tango and Spritzer lettuce

For Thanksgiving we enjoyed several veggies from the garden. I made a cutting of White Russian kale for the occasion, which I braised for a side dish. It was especially sweet after several recent frosts. I added a bit of chopped shallots to it for seasoning.

White Russian kale

White Russian kale

I cooked up a batch of Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes along with the kale. I used a couple of the Beauregard sweet potatoes for this, a Candy onion from storage, and some fresh rosemary from the garden. The rosemary goes quite well with the sweet potatoes, and the lack of added sugar allows the natural sweetness of the potatoes to come through. Marshmallows and sweet potatoes never mix at Happy Acres!

Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes

For a sweet treat though, my wife baked a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. The day before, I baked up one each of the Dickinson and Turkeyneck pumpkins and pureed them for a taste testing. Both had a great flavor and deep orange color, and we found the Dickinson had a smoother texture while the Turkeyneck was a bit sweeter. So she used the Turkeyneck for the pie, and we were both pleased with the results. We wound up with ten one pound containers of pumpkin puree in the freezer.

pumkpin pie

pumkpin pie

For another meal earlier in the week I made baked sweet potato chips, loosely following this recipe from Rodale Wellness. I thinly sliced one each of the Purple and Korean Purple sweet potatoes using a mandoline, then tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper before baking until crisp and browned. I skipped the maple syrup and cumin in the recipe mainly because I wanted to get a good taste of the sweet potatoes, plus they were sweet enough already without any added sweetener. They made a tasty side dish for some grilled salmon, which I seasoned with a cocoa powder rub before grilling.

Purple and Korean Purple sweet potato chips

Purple and Korean Purple sweet potato chips

Speaking of shallots, I was sort of disappointed when all the shallots I planted last fall bolted this spring. But as it turned out, they went ahead and made a decent amount of edible shallots anyway. I got about 1.5 pounds of Conservor, and 2 pounds of the Dutch Yellow. I used some of the smaller bulbs to replant both varieties to see how they do next year. It’s Conservor in the below photo, which made the biggest bulbs of the two I grew.

Conservor shallots

Conservor shallots

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!




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