Winter Squash Update

It looks like it’s going to be a good year for winter squash here. I’ve already started harvesting some of the early maturing types like Honeybaby butternut and Buffy. These are both individual sized ones that weigh around a pound each, and it looks like there might be upwards of 30 or more of them. Both are supposed to be good keepers, so we should be enjoying these well into winter.

Buffy winter squash

Buffy winter squash

Others will be ready soon, like the naked-seeded Pepitas pumpkin. I grew this one last year and the seeds are so tasty and easy to prepare, since they lack the hulls that most pumpkin seeds have. The flesh on this one is edible too, though I find the C. moschata pumpkins a bit more flavorful. One of the Pepitas vines in the below photo grew through the garden fencing and set fruit out there, which is a problem I have with some of the vining types. But I have a solution in mind for next year.

Pepitas pumpkin

Pepitas pumpkin

I’m experimenting with trellising some of the winter squashes this year, using concrete remesh panels tied to metal t-posts. The remesh panels are 4 feet wide by 6.5 feet tall, and I used zip ties to secure them to the t-posts. I got this idea from Michelle (From Seed To Table) who grows her vining squash this way with good results. In the below photo you can see one of the trellises surrounded by the other squashes that are vining all over the ground.

trellised winter squash

trellised winter squash

I setup three trellises this year, and planted Buffy, Tetsukabuto and Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato squash nearby and trained the vines to go up them. I am very pleased with the results, and next year I plan to put even more trellises to work. They are quick and easy to assemble, and really help make good use of vertical space in the garden. Tetsukabuto is a C. maxima X C. moschata hybrid squash that produces round 4 to 5 pound fruits with dark green skin. Some of these should be ready to harvest soon, and I’ve counted at least 6 of them on the vines so far. I guess it is considered a kabocha type squash even though it has a moschata parent.

Tetsukabuto winter squash

Tetsukabuto winter squash

Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato squash is an heirloom acorn type with a creamy white skin. It’s listed on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste, and seeds for it were first offered on the Seed Savers Exchange in 1981. I am looking forward to trying this one, which is supposed to be the sweetest of the acorn squashes according to Amy Goldman in The Compleat Squash.

Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato squash

Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato squash

The Tromba d’Albenga squash would be a good candidate for trellising next year. The tromboncino squashes are vigorous growers, and this year I’ve got it planted near the outside edge of the garden so it can vine along the fencing. One downside is that the long squashes can form outside the fencing, and sometimes get stuck in the fencing as they grow. I think that will be less likely to happen on a trellis, though I’m not sure if I will be able to keep the wandering vines trained to it. If nothing else they should be easier to find!

Tromba d'Albenga squash on the vine

Tromba d’Albenga squash on the vine

A newcomer here this year is the hybrid neck pumpkin called Turkeyneck. I’ve grown a couple of the so-called ‘neck’ pumpkins over the years, including Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck and Canada Crookneck, but this is the first hybrid type I’ve ever seen. So far the immature fruits sort of look like an oversized butternut. The neck pumpkins are actually the forerunners of the butternuts, so I guess that’s not surprising. The skin should turn tan like a butternut when it matures.

Turkeyneck squash

Turkeyneck squash

Another newcomer is the Dickinson pumpkin. This C. moschata squash is the variety used by Libby for their canned pumpkin puree. The vines are taking over one corner of the garden, and so far I have spotted at least 4 pumpkins setting on. If they all mature we should be eating a lot of pie, custard and pumpkin bread in the months to come! This one is probably not a good candidate for trellising considering the size of the pumpkins. I have no idea how big ours will turn out, but they can reach up to 40 pounds. It’s hard to tell in the photo but this one is over a foot long and almost that wide. I’m guessing it is well over 10 pounds, though it will be a few weeks before I harvest any of them.

Dickinson pumpkin

Dickinson pumpkin

I hope you have enjoyed this update on the 2017 winter squashes. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

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Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Harvest Monday August 14, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The past week was a busy one here, with lots of both harvesting and kitchen time. We are at the height of tomato season (or is that the throes?), and I brought in over 60 pounds of them last week in all sizes and colors. I felt like a magician trying to make them all disappear! There’s a big tub of Juliet in the below photo, along with a mix of paste tomatoes in the strainer. We used the processing types to make unseasoned sauce, ketchup, and tomato paste. It was a joint effort between me and my wife that sure involved a lot of stirring on the stove! I also dehydrated more of the small fruited types, and made a batch of marinara sauce for the freezer.

August harvest

August harvest

We’ve been eating a lot of the big slicing tomatoes either on sandwiches or as a side dish. They’re all AAS Winners in the below photo, and from the top it’s Chef’s Choice Orange, Chef’s Choice Pink and Chef’s Choice Yellow. All have been giving us lots to eat lately, and I’m not sure I have a favorite among the three. More tasting is required!

Chef's Choice tomatoes

Chef’s Choice tomatoes

The Chef’s Choice Pink is a lovely pink beefsteak with meaty red flesh. It has a nice sweet taste, with few seeds, and it has starred on several sandwiches so far this year. It met up with grilled eggplant and cheese one day for lunch, stacked on some of my fresh-baked whole wheat bread. That sandwich came back again yesterday for lunch, with the Chef’s Choice Yellow tomato.

Chef's Choice Pink tomato

Chef’s Choice Pink tomato

The summer planting of lettuce is still giving us decent tasting leaves, despite our hot weather. I often pluck off a few leaves as needed for sandwiches. I’m not sure which one is in the below photo, but it made an appearance on a BLT one day. I need to start some seeds for a fall planting too.

summer lettuce

summer lettuce

Another of my favorite slicing tomatoes is Captain Lucky. It is a green when ripe o/p tomato with flesh that is a lovely mix of green/pink/yellow. Pretty only gets you so far though and Captain Lucky has a great taste to match the striking looks. I was forced to eat the first one all by myself one day when Lynda was out for lunch! She got to join in on the second and third ones though.

Captain Lucky tomato

Captain Lucky tomato

sliced Captain Lucky

sliced Captain Lucky

A couple of 2017 AAS Winners showed up in harvests last week too, the Midnight Snack tomato and Mini Love watermelon.

Mini Love watermelon and Midnight Snack tomato

Mini Love watermelon and Midnight Snack tomato

Midnight Snack is a new indigo-type cherry tomato that has the anthocyanin pigment, which gives it a blackish-purple look. The first ones on my vine ripened in the shade so the skin is mostly red. Newer ones setting on have the distinctive dark coloring though. I tried Indigo Rose when it was first released and I was not impressed with the flavor at all, but my wife and I both agree Midnight Snack is very tasty indeed. It’s also a nice size, and should prove very useful for all the things we do with cherry tomatoes.

Midnight Snack tomatoes

Midnight Snack tomatoes

Mini Love is a personal-sized watermelon with red flesh and a minimum of seeds. The vines are compact, and poor placement on my part had them being overrun by more vigorous neighbors. Still, I’ve found couple of fruits and hopefully the vines will give us a few more. Next time I’ll plant them near less rambunctious growers.

Mini Love watermelon

Mini Love watermelon

Other than tomatoes, more of the winter squash are starting to mature. It’s the cream colored Buffy in the below photo, along with Pinata delicata and a big tromboncino. The tromboncino have wound up in a lot of meals, including one where we spiralized and roasted it before covering it with a marinara sauce.

Pinata, Tromba d'Albenga and Buffy squashes

Pinata, Tromba d’Albenga and Buffy squashes

The eggplant are coming on strong now too. In the below photo the Dancer in the middle is sporting a racing stripe, with the purplish-black Nadia on the left and Galine on the right.

Nadia, Dancer and Galine eggplant

Nadia, Dancer and Galine eggplant

That’s a sampling of what I’ve been harvesting. Things have been coming in so fast I’ve had a hard time keeping up with it all , which is not a bad problem to have for sure. I did manage to bake a couple of loaves of bread, one of which was not camera shy. It’s a whole wheat sandwich loaf, made using some freshly ground red and white wheat from Bluebird Farms.

Whole Wheat sandwich loaf

Whole Wheat sandwich loaf

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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Planting For Fall

I’ve been busy the last week or two getting things started and planted for the fall garden. I actually replanted the I’itoi multiplier onions almost a month ago. They had died back so I lifted and divided them up. I’ve been using these mostly as green onions, and it is so handy to have a perennial onion around for that purpose. In addition to ones outside in the ground, I have more planted in a container and a small planting in the greenhouse bed. The ones in the greenhouse kept us supplied through most of last winter.

I'itoi multiplier onions

I’itoi multiplier onions

I started seeds for broccoli, cabbage, kale and kohlrabi four weeks ago, and those plants are ready to start going in the ground. I’ve been hardening them off outside while they wait to be planted. That’s kale in the below photo, mostly open-pollinated types like White Russian, Lacinato, Dazzling Blue, Red Ursa and Improved Siberian plus a few hybrids including Darkibor, and Starbor.

plug flat of kale seedlings

plug flat of kale seedlings

I’ve already  planted a few of the Darkibor amongst the spring planted Prizm kale. Hopefully the new seedlings can find their way up through the much larger neighbors. I really had planned on pulling all the spring planted kale, but these Prizm plants looked pretty healthy after I trimmed them up a bit. I also spread some compost and organic fertilizer before setting the new plants, and gave everyone a drink of Neptune’s Harvest fish and seaweed fertilizer. Everyone seemed to appreciate that and responded with a flush of new growth.

the old and the new kale plants

the old and the new kale plants

A couple of doors down from the kale I set out 30 kohlrabi plants in another coldframe bed. I planted a mix of Kolibri, Konan and Quickstar there. I’ll grow the larger Kossak kohlrabi in the main garden area where I can give them more room. I’ve got another coldframe bed ready for lettuce once I get some seeds started.

kohlrabi in coldframe bed

kohlrabi in coldframe bed

In the main garden, I’ve got a couple of things planted already. I set out two Red Racer cocktail tomato plants back on July 13th. This is a 2018 AAS Winner that was just announced this summer, and Harris Seeds and Garden Trends Wholesale made transplants available for garden communicators and the media to try out. These compact determinate plants get to about three feet tall, and I’ve got them supported by some galvanized wire round cages. I set out two in the main garden and a third in a Smart Pot behind the greenhouse.

Red Racer Cocktail Tomato

Red Racer Cocktail Tomato

They are just now starting to bloom, and I hope to have the first ripe ones in early September. You can read more about them in a post I wrote when they were announced.

blossoms on Red Racer tomato

blossoms on Red Racer tomato

I’ve also set out a few late summer squash plants nearby. The spring planted ones were all done for, so I decided to see if I could get a few from a fall planting. Powdery mildew is sometimes a problem here in fall, and Astia is a zucchini with a compact growing habit that is supposed to have PM resistance. I also set out a plant each of Flaminio and Clarimore. I started the seeds about three weeks ago in 3.5 inch pots, so they have a head start and should take right off.

zucchini plant

zucchini plant

And lastly I pulled the spring planting of Derby bush beans and resowed them in the same spot for fall. These have been doing so well I hated to pull them, but I believe a fresh planting can do even better. Meanwhile we can enjoy the pole beans.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this update, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

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Harvest Monday August 7, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. I have a newcomer in the harvests this week and it’s a squash! A baby butternut squash called Honeybaby, to be exact. Honeybaby is a 2017 AAS Winner and the latest entry in the ‘smaller is better’ squash category. The four in the below photo averaged 19 ounces each, the largest weighing almost 1.5 pounds and the smallest just over a pound. I’ll let them cure for a couple of weeks before we get our first taste. The two plants are still loaded with fruit so I am hopeful for about a dozen or more total. Also hanging out with the squash is a big haul of pole beans.

Honeybaby winter squash with pole beans

Honeybaby winter squash with pole beans

Honeybaby squash

Honeybaby squash

It’s still tomato season here for sure. I collected a nice assortment of small fruited types last week for dehydrating. I see Sunpeach, Sun Sugar, Juliet, Black Cherry and a couple of unnamed Artisan seeds test varieties in there.

small fruited tomatoes for dehydrating

small fruited tomatoes for dehydrating

We were out of dehydrated tomatoes so I will try and dry enough this year to last us for a while. Drying and slow roasting are my two favorite ways to preserve the small fruited tomatoes, and we use a lot of them that way throughout the year.

dehydrating tomatoes

dehydrating tomatoes

I got the first two large eggplants last week. It’s the dark purple Nadia and the pinkish purple Dancer. Nadia is a more typical Italian type, while Dancer has a white and mild-tasting flesh. Both of these wound up sliced and grilled. With more coming on, I can see eggplant and tomato sandwiches in my future!

Nadia and Dancer eggplant

Nadia and Dancer eggplant

And speaking of tomatoes, I got enough paste tomatoes last week to make a batch of Freezer Tomato Sauce. I don’t can tomato sauce anymore, since I like the freezer version better plus it is easier to make. The next flush of tomatoes will probably go into a batch of homemade ketchup, and then I will move on to unseasoned tomato sauce and tomato paste. I’m growing the short-vined determinate Health Kick and Viva Italia this year, two of my old standby hybrid varieties that always do well for me.

paste tomatoes for sauce

paste tomatoes for sauce

The slicers are also coming on strong. One noteworthy newcomer is Cosmonaut Volkov. In the below photo the tomato on top is Chef’s Choice Pink, the two in the middle are Cosmosnaut Volkov, and it’s Dancer eggplant on the bottom. Cosmonaut Volkov was a freebie from Artisan Seeds, and I figured it must be flavorful or they wouldn’t be growing it or perhaps using it for breeding stock. I didn’t know how it would perform here though, and I am glad I gave it a spot in the garden. If I had known how good it was going to taste I would have got a better pic of it too.

Chef's Choice Pink(top), Cosmonaut Volkov (middle) and Dancer eggplant (bottom)

Chef’s Choice Pink(top), Cosmonaut Volkov (middle) and Dancer eggplant (bottom)

My two Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes may not win any awards for looks, but hey – it’s all about taste here for me. And it had a wonderful flavor, a nice mix of sweet and acid. Another plus, it’s meaty with very few seeds. What seeds it did have were scooped out immediately after the photo was taken, and are now fermenting so I can have seeds to grow this one again next year.

sliced Cosmonaut Volkov tomato

sliced Cosmonaut Volkov tomato

The two container eggplants are still giving us lots to eat. I planted Patio Baby and Fairy Tale, and both have been good in stir frys and grilled. The grilled ones are great for a side dish.

Patio Baby and Fairy Tale eggplant

Patio Baby and Fairy Tale eggplant

I got another couple of tromboncino squash last week too. I made a chicken stir fry one night for dinner and served it up over the briefly cooked spiralized tromboncino (aka toodles). I’m going to dehydrate some too, but it’s safe to say it has been a great year for the Tromba d’Albenga vines this year and they are not done for yet by any means! The one in the below photo weighed three pounds, and is hanging out with more of the Honeybaby butternuts. It wound up growing outside the garden fencing, and thankfully the deer haven’t developed a taste for it (yet).

Honeybaby and Tromba d'Albenga squashes

Honeybaby and Tromba d’Albenga squashes

Last, and certainly least, I got the first two Mexican mouse melons last week. I was late getting the seeds planted so the vines are just now starting to bear. Hopefully there will be future and bigger harvests in the days to come. They are supposed to be tasty when fermented, but I don’t think I will be making pickles with them just yet!

mouse melons

mouse melons

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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