Harvest Monday November 6, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. It was a fairly light harvest week here as we still had a lot of veggies left from the previous week. I made a couple of cuttings of lettuce from plants growing in the greenhouse salad boxes. One was labeled as Salad Bowl on the seed packet but looks a lot like Oak Leaf to me. Either way it was tasty even if a bit dubious. I also cut the last bit of Tango and Bambi from a salad box in the greenhouse, and promptly planted more seedlings for replacements including the Salad Bowl wannabe. The salad boxes have given us lots of lettuce over the last month or so as I wait for the outside plantings to size up.

Salad Bowl/Oak Leaf lettuce

Salad Bowl/Oak Leaf lettuce

Tango and Bambi lettuce

Tango and Bambi lettuce

I also harvested all the kohlrabi I had planted in one of the cold frame beds. It’s a mix of the purple Kolibri and the green Konan, and I had a bit over 8 pounds of it total. The slugs have been busy on it but the damage is only skin deep. It’s been a great year here for kohlrabi, and I still have more plants of Kolibri and Kossak growing in the main garden. This bit brings our yearly haul up to 75 pounds of it, which is certainly a new record for me. Much of that has been fermented and turned into kraut, kimchi and kohlrabi ‘pickles.’

Kolibri and Konan kohlrabi

Kolibri and Konan kohlrabi

I used a few of these to make a jar of garlicky kohlrabi kraut. I roasted a head of garlic first, then smashed it up and added the whole head (minus the skins) plus two cloves of minced fresh garlic to the shredded kohlrabi before stuffing it in the quart jar. It smelled heavenly even when raw, assuming you like garlic of course! The garlic mellows during fermenting, and I sometimes roast two whole heads to go in there. I started another jar of plain kohlrabi kraut too, though I think it’s anything but plain after it’s fermented.

salting the shredded kohlrabi

salting the shredded kohlrabi

And I cut enough Wild Garden Mix kale for some braised kale my wife cooked up one night. It was mild and sweet, no doubt helped by a couple of recent frosts and freezes.

Wild Garden Mix kale

Wild Garden Mix kale

I smoked the last of the hot peppers I harvested the previous week. It’s taken a while to process them all because the dehydrator can only hold so many at one time, and they have been taking a couple of days to fully dry. Below it’s Senorita and Farmer’s Market jalapenos, Biggie Chili and Czech Black ready to go on the grill. I smoked another batch later in the week, and other than a couple of plants of Korean hot peppers I have in the greenhouse that should be all of them. Some of the plants left in the garden Aren’t Quite Dead Yet though and they might give us a few more ripe ones.

hot peppers for smoking

hot peppers for smoking

I used some of the fresh baby ginger from last week to make sushi ginger (gari). After blanching the ginger in boiling water for 30 seconds I sliced it super thin on my Benriner mandoline before pickling in a mix of rice vinegar, sugar and salt. I am wearing my cut resistant gloves for the slicing operation. Commercial gari is often artificially colored pink, while my ginger was a pale yellow color before and after pickling.

thin sliced ginger for gari

thin sliced ginger for gari

And I experimented with drying some of the fresh turmeric I grew. I followed the instructions in this video and simmered the fresh turmeric roots in water for about 45 minutes. This serves to gelatinize the starches and makes for a more uniform color. Then I sliced the roots into small pieces and dried them in the dehydrator. You can see the dried slices in the below photo. Next I put them in the spice grinder to turn them into turmeric powder. It made about a heaping tablespoon or so of powder, which will be enough to season a few meals and perhaps a jar of sauerkraut. The powder has a lot of flavor compared to most commercial turmeric I have tasted. I saved about half the roots for using fresh.

dried turmeric slices

dried turmeric slices

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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Paradigm Shifts in the Garden

I’ve been gardening for a long time, almost 40 years now, and I like to think I’ve learned a lot over the years. I’ve certainly tried plenty of new things, some of which worked and some of which didn’t. I always try to learn from my mistakes, which by now are too numerous to count. Along the way I’ve eaten lots of tasty homegrown food, and have usually had extra to share with others. I still have a few of my old garden plans from the early 1980’s, and some of my garden logs from that era. It makes for interesting reading, but right away I can see I do things quite a bit differently now.

my first tiller in 1983

my first tiller in 1983

One big change is the size of the garden. My first garden was in the backyard of a house on a small urban lot. I grew things intensively then, more so than when I moved to my next place which was a 40 acre farm. My garden there was huge, more like a quarter acre in size. I had a tractor mounted tiller to break up the garden plot, in addition to my trusty rear tine Troy Bilt tiller. Gardening there was less intensive, and I could always plant extra if necessary since I had so much room. Now that we have retired, we have ‘downsized’ to a 1.6 acre spot we call Happy Acres. And our tastes continue to change in the things we grow and the way we grow them.

trellised winter squash

trellised winter squash

Just this past year, I learned a new way to trellis vining squash. I put up panels of steel remesh material and secured it to metal t-posts. Then I planted the squash near the trellis and encouraged them to vine up the remesh material. It turned out to be a great success, and as a result I plan to use even more of the remesh trellises in the garden next year. Going vertical is a good strategy to maximize garden space, and it helps keep the squash up off the ground as they are ripening. Last year I lost lots of squash to rot from laying on the wet soil, but this year not a single one of the trellised squashes rotted on me. This may seem like a small thing, but it will surely change the way I grow squash going forward.

roasted Beauregard sweet potatoes with rosemary

roasted Beauregard sweet potatoes with rosemary

A few years back, I had a paradigm shift with sweet potatoes. For many years I had only grown the ones with moist, orange flesh. For that matter, I used to think that was the only kind of sweet potato there was! It was certainly the only kind I had ever eaten. At my old place I grew varieties like Georgia Jet and Centennial, which were reliable producers for me. At Happy Acres I tried Beauregard and Hernandez, and they performed well here and became my new favorites. All four of those fit my earlier paradigm of a sweet potato, and had moist orange flesh.

inside of Bonita sweet potato

inside of Bonita sweet potato

But then I started growing sweet potatoes that had purple flesh. They were drier and less sweet when cooked, and turned out to be wonderful for savory dishes like stir-fries and curries, and for turning into baked sweet potato fries and for sweet potato hash. Next I tried ones with white flesh, like Bonita, Korean Purple and Red Japanese. Some of these have moist flesh, while some are drier, but none of them fit my earlier paradigm on what made a good sweet potato. I continue to experiment and try new varieties, and who knows what I will find in the future, especially now that I have opened up my mind to all the different types, colors and textures.

Captain Lucky tomato

Captain Lucky tomato

My tastes have also changed a bit when it comes to tomatoes. Used to be, my favorites were red fleshed hybrid slicing tomatoes like Better Boy and Big Girl. I always planted a few cherry tomatoes too, and lots of paste types like Roma for canning, but my favorite ones for eating were the red hybrid slicers. Today, I still like red tomatoes, and I still grow Better Boy for that matter, plus newer red cultivars like Celebrity and Garden Treasure. But one of my new favorite slicing tomatoes is an open-pollinated one called Captain Lucky that is hard to categorize.

sliced Captain Lucky tomato

sliced Captain Lucky tomato

Captain Lucky looks nothing like the red slicers I used to grow. Actually, it doesn’t look much like any other tomato I’ve ever grown. It’s a green-when-ripe type tomato, though it’s usually listed as a tricolor type, with green, yellow and pink flesh and a sweet/tart flavor that both my wife and I love. It’s great for sandwiches, or for just eating as a side dish. We’ve also come to enjoy purple/black tomatoes like Cherokee Purple, and the orange fleshed Chef’s Choice Orange. Of course I love to experiment, and there are lots and lots of tomatoes out there to try in the future. Who knows what might be my new favorite a few years from now?

Bertie Best Greasy Beans

Bertie Best Greasy Beans

My latest game-changer in the garden is a bean, specifically a class of snap beans called ‘greasy beans.’ The beans are so named because the pods are smooth-skinned and non fuzzy. They also have strings, and afficionados of these heirloom beans think they taste best when the beans inside have started to swell up. These beans have certainly broken all the rules about beans as far as I am concerned! My favorites so far are two called Bertie Best’s Greasy Bean and Robe Mountain. Both are heirloom beans available from Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center. Another new favorite is called Non-Tough Half Runner bean, which also has strings but has tender pods even when the beans have developed fully inside.

Non-Tough Half Runner beans

Non-Tough Half Runner beans

For years I always thought strings in beans were a bad thing, and a trait that led to time-consuming processing. And the experts always told us to pick our beans before the beans inside started to swell, or else the pods would be tough. Who knew the toughness was bred into the beans at the same time the strings were bred out, in order to make it easier for the pods to be machine harvested and processed for canning! While it does take a bit of time to remove the strings from the pods, for me it is worth the extra effort since the beans themselves are more flavorful. And letting the beans inside the pods get bigger actually results in extra nutrition, since it increases the protein content of the beans. Next year I look forward to growing even more of these beans, and I have a couple of new varieties I want to try.

Bonita, Beauregard and Purple sweet potato fries

Bonita, Beauregard and Purple sweet potato fries

So how about all of you gardeners out there – have your ideas and preferences about gardening and what you grow changed over the years? If so, I’d love to hear about it! I’ll be back soon with more happenings here at Happy Acres.

 

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Harvest Monday October 30, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. It was a busy week for me here as I spent quite a bit of time readying the garden for the first freeze. I harvested all the hot peppers and all the ripe sweet peppers I could find in the main garden. It’s the hot ones in the below photo, including jalapenos, poblano/anchos and guajillos. I dehydrated most of these, and some of them got smoked first and then dried.

assortment of hot peppers

assortment of hot peppers

I got as many of the ripe Malawi Piquante peppers as I could find, plus some of the green ones. The plants were loaded with green fruit so I didn’t begin to get them all. I pickled one quart of them in the usual way, loosely following this recipe. I wanted to try fermenting another batch for a week or so before pickling, so I have a quart jar of them fermenting on the kitchen counter. That should add another layer of flavor to the pickled peppers, though only time will tell if we like the added flavor.

Malawi Piquante peppers

Malawi Piquante peppers

I also brought in about a dozen potted pepper plants for overwintering. I cut these back and harvested any peppers on them too.  The temps got down to the freezing mark, and it was cold enough to zap the warm weather crops. It didn’t hurt the cold hardy plants like the brassicas though. I made a cutting of Dazzling Blue kale to go in a batch of sweet potato and kale hash I cooked up one night. Dazzling Blue is a lacinato type with blue-green leaves on purple stems. I think it has a classic lacinato flavor, and the sturdy leaves hold up well to soups and to dishes like the hash.

Dazzling Blue kale

Dazzling Blue kale

I used one each of Purple and Korean Purple sweet potatoes in the hash. I diced up the sweet potatoes, skin and all, then tossed with olive oil and salt and roasted them in a cast iron skillet until they were tender and starting to brown. While they were cooking I chopped up the kale and steamed it until just tender. It only took five or six minutes for the Dazzling Blue to cook. Then I added the kale to the sweet potatoes in the skillet and returned to the oven for a few minutes before serving. Onions, shallots or even garlic are nice additions to the hash, as is paprika, but for this batch I kept it plain because I wanted to get a good taste of the sweet potatoes. I was impressed with my first taste of Korean Purple, which has a purple skin and fairly dry, sweet white flesh. It browned up nicely for the hash, and it should work well for oven fries too.

kale and sweet potato hash

kale and sweet potato hash

I made a couple of cuttings of lettuce for salads last week. I’ve got it growing in the greenhouse and cold frame beds, and most of it is ready for eating now . It’s 21st Century Fire and Pele in the below photo, which gave color to some of the green lettuces like Tango and Salad Bowl I also cut. I always miss the homegrown lettuce when we don’t have it, so it is nice indeed to have it back.

21st Century Fire and Pele lettuce

21st Century Fire and Pele lettuce

In other news, it appears that my reports of the death of the pole beans were a bit exaggerated, if not greatly so. A couple of the heirloom beans from the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center got their second or third wind and put on a flush of new growth. In the below photo it’s Non-Tough Half Runner on the left and Bertie Best’s Greasy Bean on the right. These two have quickly become the favorites of me and my wife, and their rich flavor is hard to beat. There’s two and a half pounds of them there, and that made for a very good surprise harvest here in late October. It’s been a good year for beans overall, and this batch brought our total for the year to just shy of 40 pounds.

Non-Tough Half Runner and Bertie Best's Greasy Beans

Non-Tough Half Runner and Bertie Best’s Greasy Beans

And in some really exciting news, at least to me, I got my second ever harvest of homegrown ginger and my first ever of turmeric. I’ve had these growing all summer and fall in a partly shaded spot behind the greenhouse. You can see the broad leaves of the turmeric in the below photo, with lemongrass growing next to it. With freezing weather in the forecast it was time to dig them up. The ginger is hidden behind the turmeric.

Turmeric plants

Turmeric plants

The ginger did quite well for me last year, so I was not surprised to see the nice sized roots on it. There was almost a pound of it after I cleaned and trimmed it up. The fresh baby ginger has a thin skin that is pinkish yellow in color. Last year I made pickled sushi ginger (gari) with some of it, and I plan on doing that again this year. I used a recipe from Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu for Shin-shoga Amazu-zuke (Young Ginger in Sweet Vinegar). This online recipe comes pretty close to the one in the book.

freshly dug ginger roots

freshly dug ginger roots

Now it was time to dig the turmeric. I could hardly wait to get my shovel under it and see what was growing below ground. I had two clumps of it growing this year, and both did quite well.

freshly dug turmeric roots

freshly dug turmeric roots

The turmeric root is fairly light in color when freshly dug. I plan to use some of it fresh, and to dry some for making into turmeric powder. This video shows the process to turn fresh turmeric rhizomes into powder. One of my favorite flavorings for homemade kombucha is to add a few pieces each of chopped fresh ginger and turmeric roots. I already have one bottle of this going and I hope to get a taste of it today. In the below photo it’s ginger on the left and turmeric on the right. If anyone has any other ideas for using the fresh turmeric I would love to hear them.

ginger and turmeric roots

ginger and turmeric roots

It’s been soup weather here lately, and for me soup calls for homemade bread or rolls to go with it. My wife requested a batch of Multi-Grain Seeded Dinner Rolls and I was happy to oblige.

Multi-Grain Seeded Dinner Rolls

Multi-Grain Seeded Dinner Rolls

In other non harvest news, we’ve had a hawk hanging around here much of the year. I believe it is a young Red-Shouldered Hawk, and last week I spied it sitting on the utility wires running down the road in front of our house. I’m sure it could see me as I was standing in the doorway trying to get a good pic, but it didn’t seem to mind and stayed on task of looking for a meal. It’s not a great image, but it’s the best one I’ve managed to get so far of this majestic big bird.

hawk on a wire

hawk on a wire

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 October 23, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. I’m getting lots of peppers now from the garden so this will mostly be a Pepper Edition for me. There’s not much to say about some of them so I’ll breeze right through those. Lots of the baccatum peppers are ripening now. It’s the red Aji Angelo and the yellow Criolla Sella below, and I dried them.

Criolla Sella and Aji Angelo peppers

Criolla Sella and Aji Angelo peppers

The Aji Golden plants are really prolific. They have a fruity flavor and very little heat. I pickled these.

Aji Golden peppers

Aji Golden peppers

But the most prolific baccatum I have is the Malawi Piquante, aka the Peppadew peppers. I pickle these in a sweet brine, and we use the pickled peppers on pizza and in salads. They make a killer Aïoli sauce too. There’s a bit over two pounds of them on the pan below, which made two quart jars of pickled peppers.

Malawi Piquante peppers

Malawi Piquante peppers

I also got more of the o/p Guajillo and the hybrid Minero peppers for drying. I’ve really come to enjoy these for chile powder, and I can’t get enough of them. There’s a single brown Aji Panca in there too which I dehydrated.

Aji Panca, Guajillo and Minero peppers

Aji Panca, Guajillo and Minero peppers

I got enough of the NuMex R Naky peppers to roast, along with some Baron poblanos that I forgot to photograph. After roasting I peel off the skins, chop the peppers and freeze for later use. It’s my first time growing NuMex R Naky, and I’m not sure they’re an improvement over Anaheim, at least not in my garden.

NuMex R Naky peppers

NuMex R Naky peppers

I got a nice haul of the Korean type peppers I am dehydrating to make gochugaru flakes for kimchi. It’s the small Korean Hot, the medium Lady Hermit, and the larger Lady Choi below. I have them all growing in containers, and despite the small size the Korean Hot has so far yielded the most by weight. These are all relatively mild on the heat scale, though I will get a better sense of that once they are dried.

Korean Hot, Lady Hermit and Lady Choi peppers

Korean Hot, Lady Hermit and Lady Choi peppers

Sweet peppers are ripening too, including my new favorites Cornito Rosso and Cornito Giallo.

Cornito Giallo and Cornito Rosso peppers

Cornito Giallo and Cornito Rosso peppers

And I got a trio of the Hungarian Cece peppers. These thick-walled peppers start off white and ripen to red. They remind me of Feher Ozon, except they are a bit bigger. I wasn’t too impressed with Cece either raw or cooked, so I am dehydrating them to see if they make a decent paprika.

ripe Cece peppers

ripe Cece peppers

Another pepper I’m drying for paprika is Nora. It has thick walls and I think it looks much like a small pimento pepper. Legend has it this was one of the peppers Columbus brought back from his voyages to the new world. Regardless of its origins, today Nora is grown in Spain where it’s used to impart a deep red color and mildly spicy flavor to many foods. Or so says the listing at Refining Fire Chiles, where I got my seed. The plant is loaded with green peppers and I hope more ripen here soon.

Nora peppers

Nora peppers

I’m also getting lettuce as needed from the greenhouse plantings. It’s the frilly green Tango and the slightly red 21st Century Fire in the photo. Red lettuces don’t usually get very red in our greenhouse, due to lower light levels than they get when grown outside. One upside though to greenhouse lettuce is that the leaves are tender and usually cleaner than those I grow outside.

Tango and 21st Century Fire lettuce

Tango and 21st Century Fire lettuce

Lastly, but not leastly, I got an Astia zucchini from one of the two plants I have growing in 7 gallon Smart Pots. And I found a few tomatoes in the garden too, though they were a motley group that included the last of the Red Racer cocktail tomatoes, a few of the Marzano Fire rogues and a Chef’s Choice Orange. I used the zucchini and some of the tomatoes to make a batch of my Zucchini and Tomato Bake.

zucchini and tomatoes

zucchini and 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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