Harvest Monday September 18, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. I finally got around to cleaning up and weighing the shallots I had harvested some time ago. The Conservor shallots bolted and did not make much at all. We’ve used a few for cooking but I won’t plant them again. The Dutch Yellow shallots bolted too, but went ahead and made a lot of nice sized bulbs. I wound up with right at two pounds of them, which for us is a lot of shallots. I’ll hold a few back for planting later this fall. They are supposed to be good keepers so we should have plenty of shallots for some time to come.

Dutch Yellow shallots

Dutch Yellow shallots

Last week I harvested quite a few of a heirloom pole bean called Non Tough Half Runner. This is another variety from the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center where I also got the seed for Bertie Best Greasy Bean I mentioned last week. In his book Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste bean grower Bill Best explains that somewhere along the line the ‘tough’ gene got into the commercial half runner bean supply. He has spent years growing this variety and selecting for tender pods so that once again gardeners can enjoy them the way they are supposed to be. The ones I harvested were indeed tender even when the beans were developed and the pods full. The pods are bigger that BBGB, but just as tender and flavorful.

Non-Tough Half Runner beans

Non-Tough Half Runner beans

A half runner bean is one that tends to have shorter runners than usual for a pole bean, though that is all relative. My plants have climbed to the top of the trellis and have gone over to the fencing to climb some more. That means they are close to eight feet long, not exactly short to me!

Non-Tough Half Runner beans

Non-Tough Half Runner beans

In other news, we have been enjoying a couple of the unreleased Artisan Seeds tomato varieties I am growing. In the below photo, the green/yellow one is visually quite striking but the flavor could be better. The red one is the other way around, with an outstanding flavor but with variable and sometimes faint striping. Of course, I care more about flavor than appearance so my wife and I have really been enjoying the red ones. Other test growers are reporting similar results with the red one, and I hope to be growing it or an improved version of it next year. I also want to grow a new green one they released called Fuego Verde that looks like a paste tomato but tastes like a cherry tomato.

Artisan Seeds test varieties

Artisan Seeds test varieties

I continue to get more of the Patio Baby and Fairy Tale eggplants from my two container plants. We went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday to pick up some apples from a local orchard, and another vendor was selling the Fairy Tale eggplants for $2.50 a pint. I don’t need economic justification to grow a garden, but it never hurts to see how much one’s produce would cost if you had to buy it. There’s about a quart in this batch, so there’s $5 worth at least. These babies wound up on the grill.

Patio Baby and Fairy Tale eggplants

Patio Baby and Fairy Tale eggplants

A while back I speculated that I might find a rogue pepper or two this year, and it looks like I was right. I’m growing one called Dustbowl Paprika Pepper for the first time, and I set out two plants of it, or so I thought. One has fruit ripening that looks like the catalog description, but the other is definitely different. It has corking on it like many jalapenos, which was my first clue it might not be a sweet paprika pepper. I brought it in and tasted it, and while it is hot it isn’t that hot, at least not as jalapenos go. I’m growing several mild jalapenos this year so it could have been my bad instead of a rogue. I will use these for smoked chipotle powder instead of paprika, so all will be good in the end.

mystery pepper

mystery pepper

The other pepper harvests last week were more predictable, and I got some of the red Carmen, Cornito Rosso and Pritavit, plus the yellow Cornito Giallo and the orange Glow. A vendor at the farmer’s market was selling Carmen and other ripe sweet peppers for $1 each, so I posed those valuable peppers of ours in my wife’s handmade blackberry dyed bowl. Nothing but the best for our veggies!

sweet peppers

sweet peppers

In other news, I got the first ripe fruits from the late planted Red Racer cocktail tomatoes. These are a 2018 AAS Winner that compared favorably to Mountain Magic in the trials. They have mid-sized fruits, larger than a cherry but smaller than most slicing types. Harris Seeds and Garden Trends Wholesale are promoting this variety, and made transplants available back in July for garden communicators and the media to try out. The determinate plants are compact in size and mine are loaded with tomatoes. In the below photo the top two weighed a bit over two ounces each while the third one weighed three ounces. I think they are a nice size for salads. We got our first taste of them last night and I think they are winner in the flavor department. I’m hoping for lots more before the first frost comes.

Red Racer tomatoes

Red Racer tomatoes

I made another harvest of paste and processing tomatoes last week, about 11 pounds of them in all. It’s a gallon of Juliet in the below photo along with a strainer full of Stripey Marzano and Rutgers 250. I hit the 200 pound mark in tomatoes this year, with the vines still producing. That’s not a record for me, but better than usual for sure. I turned these into marinara sauce, and we ate some of it and froze the rest. I got another batch of Stripey Marzano on Saturday and cooked it down into unseasoned sauce for the freezer. The Juliet plants have just been crazy productive this year, which is not unusual for it in my garden.

Juliet, Stripey Marzano and Rutgers 250 tomatoes

Juliet, Stripey Marzano and Rutgers 250 tomatoes

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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Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

Variety Spotlight: Midnight Snack Tomato

This is the latest in a series of posts that I’ve done about my favorite varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs we grow at Happy Acres. To see my other Spotlights, and those from other garden bloggers, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

Today’s Spotlight is on a brand new cherry tomato I’m growing called Midnight Snack. It’s a 2017 National AAS Winner that is the best tasting indigo-type tomato I’ve ever grown. The tomatoes develop a stunning black-purple coloration when exposed to sunlight. The coloration come from anthocyanin pigments, which means these tomatoes are loaded with even more antioxidants than usual for a tomato. They’re also loaded with flavor, which is a good thing because my plant is loaded with lots of these delicious tomatoes!

Midnight Snack tomatoes

Midnight Snack tomatoes

Midnight Snack grows on sprawling indeterminate vines, so it needs to be caged or staked in the garden. I used a five foot tall remesh cage and it has grown over the top of the cage and almost back down to the ground. The tomatoes are ready to harvest approximately 65-70 days after setting out the plants.

Midnight Snack tomatoes

Midnight Snack tomatoes

The immature green fruits develop the purplish black color early on if they are in the sunlight. The tomatoes are nice sized too for a cherry type, larger than most, and are borne in clusters of four to as many as eight fruits on my plant. I have not seen any problems with splitting of the fruits either, despite a couple of rainy spells that had other tomatoes cracking and rotting on the vine.

young tomatoes with indigo coloration

young tomatoes with indigo coloration

Tomatoes that ripen without direct sunlight will not develop the indigo blush, but they are just as tasty. In the below photo there are three large ones that set on in the middle of the cage, and are a dark shade of red with no purple coloration.

Midnight Snack tomatoes

Midnight Snack tomatoes

In the kitchen, we have used them in all the ways we use other cherry tomatoes. They are wonderful on and in salads. And we have slow roasted them in the oven and dehydrated them, both of which concentrates the flavor. The taste is hard for me to describe, tart and perhaps a bit savory, and very flavorful. I have snacked on quite a few of them out in the garden, fresh from the vine.

Midnight Snack ready to eat

Midnight Snack ready to eat

I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a new tomato that has quickly become a favorite here at Happy Acres. This year seed for Midnight Snack is available in the U.S. from Park Seed and J.W. Jung Seed companies. Hopefully it will be more widely available next year. I’ll be back soon with another variety to spotlight.

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Posted in Saturday Spotlight | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Harvest Monday September 11, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. We are finally getting some ripe peppers here, after a late and problematical start to my pepper plants. I had issues with aphids that set the plants back considerably, then I wound up having to replant almost half of the plants. Thank goodness we have a long growing season! It’s Cornito Rosso, Cornito Gialla and Carmen hanging out with a Pepitas Pumpkin in the below group photo. We grilled most of these peppers, though one wound up in a bean salad.

Cornito Rossa, Cornito Giallo and Carmen peppers

Pepitas pumpkin with Cornito Rossa, Cornito Giallo and Carmen peppers

As the peppers enter the scene, I made the last harvest of the greenhouse cucumbers before I pulled the vines and prepped the beds for fall and winter plantings. It was a great year for the cukes in there, and I had less problems than usual with spider mites and whiteflies. I got 26 pounds of cucumbers this year, which was up from the 15 pounds I got last year. I had good results with the pickling cucumbers Excelsior, Vertina and Harmonie which I grew for the first time. I made a lot of pickles with them, and we are still eating on those. In the below photo though it’s Socrates, two Corinto and Tasty Jade, which are all slicing types.

Socrates, Corinto and Tasty Jade cucumbers

Socrates, Corinto and Tasty Jade cucumbers

The two container eggplants put on a flush of new growth, and I harvested enough for grilling last week. I have one plant each of Patio Baby and Fairy Tale growing in pots, and they have been pumping out fruit all summer long.

Fairy Tale and Patio Baby eggplants

Fairy Tale and Patio Baby eggplants

I’m not getting many slicing tomatoes now but there’s still lots of the small fruited ones. Midnight Snack is our new favorite, with a taste that’s hard for me to describe, but very likable. I’m getting ones that have been exposed to sunlight and have a good indigo coloring. Plant breeder James Irvine says he bred Midnight Snack because he wanted to have an indigo tomato that he wanted to eat. My wife and I think he succeeded, and it’s definitely one we enjoy eating. This 2017 AAS Winner will be back in my garden next year for sure. I also think it’s pretty, which is always a plus. These went on a salad we had for lunch yesterday.

Midnight Snack tomatoes

Midnight Snack tomatoes

Another taste sensation this year has been an heirloom pole bean called Bertie Best Greasy Bean (BBGB). Bertie Best was the aunt of bean grower and author Bill Best, who founded the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center. I’ve been growing a few of their beans for about three years now, but it’s my first time growing BBGB. Greasy beans are so named because the pods are slick and lack the usual fuzz of other bean pods. They also lack the ‘tough’ gene that is present in most modern bean varieties, and even when the beans have started to swell in the pods they are still tender. They do have strings though, but I find it is fairly easy to string the beans before cooking. When cooked the pods fall apart and the shelly beans inside are tender and flavorful.

Bertie Best Greasy Beans

Bertie Best Greasy Beans

Interestingly, the seeds of BBGB come in three colors – white, tan and black. According to the catalog listing it “has been grown this way for at least 150 years with no attempts to separate the colors.” Who am I to mess with a tradition like that, and I like the idea I am growing a bean that seems to be color blind!

Bertie Best Greasy Bean seeds

Bertie Best Greasy Bean seeds

I harvested another of the Dickinson pumpkins, and this one weighed a bit over 13 pounds. I haven’t cooked any of these moschata type pumpkins yet, since I want them to cure a bit and let the flavor to develop. That gives us over 40 pounds of them so far, plus there’s a couple more smaller ones still on the vines. We may need to find some pumpkin lovers to share the bounty with. There’s also a few more BBGB I found on the vines.

Dickinson pumpkin and greasy beans

Dickinson pumpkin and greasy beans

I decided to pull the kale plants from the cold frame bed and replant with fresh transplants for fall. I cut all the leaves from the five plants, and got just over three pounds. These were all the variety Prizm that did quite well from a spring planting.

Prizm kale

Prizm kale

And my bread of the week was baked about five weeks ago, and has been in the freezer since then. I pop the loaf in a 350°F oven and warm it for 10 minutes in foil, then 10 minutes without foil. The crust gets crisp again and the bread is almost as good as it was before freezing. This is a sourdough loaf I made using a stiff preferment that is refrigerated for a few days before baking the bread. It’s a bit of extra work, but it does give the finished bread a nice tangy taste.

sourdough bread

sourdough bread

In other news, we cooked the first of the Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato squashes. I think this heirloom acorn squash is a keeper for sure, and it had a rich and sweet flavor. Next time I think I will try cutting them into slices and roasting like that. I’ll have to grow this one again in 2018.

cooked Thelma Sanders winter squash

cooked Thelma Sanders winter squash

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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Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Rogues in the Garden

The last few years I have been noticing more and more ‘rogues’ in my garden. By rogue I mean something that doesn’t come true from seed, or something unexpected that comes from a seed. One of my first garden rogues came in 2009, when I planted Yummy orange mini bell pepper and got something completely different that looked like an Anaheim pepper. Initially I figured that was a mistake on my part, a mislabeling, since all young pepper plants pretty much look alike and I was growing Anaheim that year. So one day I harvested a green one from this plant and put it in some salsa. Expecting the mild Anaheim, I used all of the pepper.

unripe rogue pepper

unripe rogue pepper

When I tasted the salsa, my mouth was immediately set on FIRE! The pepper I used must have had the heat of a serrano or something even hotter. I made note of the plant and left the other peppers on it alone. Imagine my surprise when they started ripening and turned orange, instead of the usual red of an Anaheim.

ripe Hot Happy Yummy pepper in 2009

ripe Hot Happy Yummy pepper in 2009

I decided to taste one again, but this time more carefully. It was just as hot as the green one, but had a lot of flavor and a certain sweetness to it. At that point, I had the presence of mind to save some seeds from it. And since it was a rogue Yummy pepper growing at Happy Acres, I called it the Happy Yummy pepper. In 2010 I grew it from seed, and it made a hot pepper similar to the original Happy Yummy – hot and orange when ripe. But in 2011 I set out two plants from the 2009 seed, and one was hot while the other was orange when ripe but sweet. I saved seeds from that one, and now I have two lines going that I call Sweet Happy Yummy and Hot Happy Yummy. The hot one has proven more difficult to stabilize, since it is prone to making sweet peppers as well as ones that turn red when ripe.

rogue Celia Dulce peppers

rogue Celia Dulce peppers

I seem to find a lot of rogue peppers here, perhaps since I usually grow a lot of different peppers. Last year I planted Celia Dulce, which is a sweet bell pepper originating from southern Mexico. The peppers turned out to be quite hot, and looked nothing like the photo at Dust Bowl Seed. They even displayed corking on the skin that is common to jalapenos, but not usually found on a bell pepper. I chose not to save seeds from this one since it wasn’t especially unique or tasty.

rogue Friggitello peppers

rogue Friggitello peppers

And I found another rogue pepper last year that was supposed to be Friggitello. According to the seller’s listing at Fords Fiery Food and Plants, “generations of Italian families have savored this crispy sweet pepper.” Presumably they didn’t wind up with a burning mouth and tongue like I did when I sauteed one up for lunch one day! It was not sweet in the least, and way too hot for my tastes for a frying pepper. I didn’t save seeds from this one either, though I did smoke both the Not Celia Dulce and the Not Friggitello peppers for a hot smoked chile powder. Both were quite prolific, which could be explained if they were accidental F1 hybrids.

rogue peppers(L) with Baby Aji Amarillo(R)

rogue peppers(L) with Baby Aji Amarillo(R)

And rounding out last year’s Rogue Roundup, I planted a couple of Aji Amarillo pepper plants with freebie seed I got from Artisan Seeds. One plant was true to type, but the other one made peppers with a distinctly different shape and taste. I posted pics on the Artisan Seeds FB group I belong to, and the pepper experts there decided it could be a chinense/baccatum accidental hybrid, probably between the Baby Aji’s and some land race Caribbean Seasoning peppers they grow. I did save seeds from those, but I didn’t get around to planting any this year since I was maxed out on peppers already. If you’re keeping score that was three rogues last year, which I think was a record for me.

Marzano Fire tomatoes

Marzano Fire tomatoes

This year, I’ve got at least two rogues so far. First up was a Marzano Fire plant that was not exactly true to type. Marzano Fire is an o/p paste tomato from Artisan Seeds that has a classic San Marzano shape and taste but with the stripes of Speckled Roman (which was very likely used in the breeding). Last year it was a great performer, so this year I planted two of them. One came true to type, while the other plant made bigger, blocky fruit. Both are tasty and make great sauce, and I have saved seeds from the rogue which I have called Stripey Marzano. I will have seeds available later this year for interested gardeners, though who knows what kind of tomatoes they will make! Breeder Fred Hempel at Artisan Seeds thinks it’s an accidental cross made by bees. I sent some seeds off to fellow rogue-lover Day (Homestead Pirate), and with her long growing season she may be able to get them to fruit before the end of the year. Stay tuned here and at her blog for more updates!

Seminole pumpkins

Seminole pumpkins

And also this year I seem to have a rogue winter squash growing from TWO plants. I’ve been growing the Seminole pumpkin for several years now, and this year I planted two plants from new seed I got from Baker Creek. The above photo shows what they are supposed to look like. While they may not always be perfectly round, they are not supposed to have a neck.

rogue Seminole pumpkin

rogue Seminole pumpkin

The pumpkins from these plants start out with a small neck, and almost look like a gourd.

another rogue Seminole

another rogue Seminole

As they get bigger, so does the neck.

rogue squash maturing

rogue squash maturing

The biggest one is now starting to look more like a butternut than a Seminole. The skin is changing color as the fruit matures. I don’t know if it will turn tan like a butternut or stay striped like it is now. The shape sort of resembles the Greek Sweet Red squash, but who knows what the final product will be. The circular patterns on the skin are caused by insect damage while the fruit was small and the skin was tender. I’ve had this on several of my squashes this year and if anyone knows what insect is causing please tell me, not that it appears to hurt the squash any.

Time will tell if these squash were the result of an accidental cross in the growers field, or a mislabeling by someone packaging the seeds. I’ll be sure and share the results when the squashes mature. Meanwhile, many of the 2017 peppers are now starting to ripen, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a rogue or two there as well. Stay tuned for more happenings, rogue or not, from Happy Acres!

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Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments