2014 Garlic Planting

Monday was a warm and sunny day here, and I took advantage of the great weather to get the 2014 garlic planted. The forecast was calling for rain Tuesday, so it was a good time to get it in the ground while I could work the soil. Last year I got it planted on 10/29, so I am not running that far behind this year. And according to a recent article in our local newspaper, garlic grower Wendy Wilson in Mt Vernon, IN says they plant their crop from the third week in October through the second week in November. That means local folks still have time to get theirs planted, though the rain yesterday will complicate that for sure.

planting bed for garlic

planting bed for garlic

This year I’m growing garlic in the bed where sweet potatoes grew earlier, a rotation I used last year which seemed to work out fine.  It’s right next to where the tomatoes grew, and they still need to be cleaned up. Getting the garlic planted was definitely a higher priority for me right now though. I prepped the bed by spreading a good amount of compost first, then adding organic fertilizer (a mix of Espoma Garden-Tone and Tomato-Tone) at a rate of 3 lbs/50 square feet. I will add additional fertilizer to the bed early next spring. I mixed the fertilizer and compost into the soil using my Mantis tiller, then raked it out smooth. I ran a length of twine down the bed to help me keep the bed running straight.

garlic cloves ready for planting

garlic cloves ready for planting

The next chore was to get the planting stock ready. To keep them from drying out, I never ‘crack’ the heads open until right before planting. Since I plant quite a few different varieties, I put the cloves in a bowl with a plastic marker so I can keep them all straight. And I have a map in computer form (a simple Word document) with the planting order listed, since the labels have a tendency to heave up out of the ground over the winter. Let me just say that Dave always tries to have a backup plan! I also like to document what I plant each year for later reference.

garlic planting jig

garlic planting jig

After a few years of experimenting, and after reading The Complete Book of Garlic by Ted Jordan Meredith, I have settled on planting my garlic in a six inch by eight inch grid pattern. This gives each plant 48 square inches of growing space. In researching the book, the author interviewed quite a few garlic farmers to get their ideas on planting density. He found there is no norm at all, and wound up planting his own garlic in a wide row bed that gives them 60 square inches/plant. It is safe to say that he found that closer planting may result in greater overall yields, but at the expense of the size of the individual bulbs. So every gardener has to do their own testing to see what works best for their needs.

soil marked with holes for planting garlic

soil marked with holes for planting garlic

Last year I made a garlic planting jig to speed up the planting process. It has dowels glued into a piece of plywood in the six inch by eight inch pattern. I press it down into the soft soil, and use the holes it leaves behind as a guide to planting the garlic.

trowel for planting garlic

trowel for planting garlic

I plant the individual cloves pointed side up about two to three inches deep. That is deep enough for our typical winters, but those in colder climates may need to plant theirs a little deeper. I use a narrow bladed trowel (one of my trusty Wilcox collection) to dig the planting hole, then I push in the garlic cloves and cover with soil. The process goes pretty quickly using the jig as a planting aid, much quicker than when I had to mark out the spacing by hand. I planted 204 cloves of garlic in a little over an hour. I’ll come back in a month or so and mulch the bed with some straw.

For more information on growing garlic, check out these related posts:

  1. Growing Green Garlic
  2. How To Have Fresh Garlic All Year Long
  3. 2013 Garlic Planting
  4. Homemade Garlic Planting Jig
Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Monday Recap: Frozen and Smoked

Last week brought our first real frost of the fall season, and also a hard freeze. With temperatures expected to fall to near 25°F Sunday morning, that meant it was time for a sweep of the garden to harvest anything that couldn’t handle those temps.

KY Cross cabbage

KY Cross cabbage

I had several heads of cabbage that were pretty much ready to harvest. Cabbage can take some frost, but I didn’t want to lose the heads to a deep freeze so I cut them all on Friday. I wound up with about eight pounds of it all told. That was perfect for making more sauerkraut, plus having a bit for other things too. I love the flathead KY Cross for flavor, and I also had a few small heads of Parel and Farao.

Kossak kohlrabi

Kossak kohlrabi

Right next to the cabbages I had some Kossak kohlrabi that was also ready to harvest. I think kohlrabi does better here in spring, but I still grow it in fall anyway. The Kossak produced six pounds from as many plants, which is certainly enough to make growing it worthwhile in fall. I had plans to make kraut with some of it too. There was a lot of slug damage to the skin, but since I always cut the peel off it really doesn’t hurt anything.

Imperial broccoli

Imperial broccoli

While I was in the Brassica bed I cut several of the last main heads of broccoli. When I started plants for fall I cleaned out some old seed so I could trial several varieties. I wound up with a nice succession of harvests, and I also found out how they all perform in fall. That’s Imperial in the above photo. The largest of the heads weighed right at one pound.

Arcadia broccoli plus some side shoots

Arcadia broccoli plus some side shoots

And I finally cut one head from the two Arcadia plants, which weighed right at eight ounces. The other plant is just now thinking about starting a head. That’s the Arcadia in the above photo, plus some side shoots I cut from other plants. Needless to say, broccoli will be on the menu a lot for a few days, since we have plenty frozen already from the spring planting. Fortunately my wife and I both love it, and for the most part I never get tired of eating it. Of all the varieties I grew this fall, Packman was the first to produce, followed by Diplomat and Green Magic, then Imperial and Arcadia.

Tsugaru Scarlet turnips

Tsugaru Scarlet turnips

Since I was planning to make sauerkraut, I decided to pull a few of the biggest Tsugaru Scarlet turnips. These have a red skin and sweet white flesh. They will make a pretty turnip kraut, and I may make pickle some as well.

grating kohlrabi for kraut

grating kohlrabi for kraut

With all that produce coming in on the same day, the refrigerator was going to be stuffed, so I went ahead and made sauerkraut. I cut the cabbage into fine shreds with a knife, and used a medium grater for the kohlrabi and turnips. You can read about how I make this in-the-jar sauerkraut with: Homemade Sauerkraut. It should be ready to eat in about a week, though we still have a bit left from what I made back in July.

harvest of Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

harvest of Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

I also decided to bring in all of the winter squash left on the vines. The Thai squash Rai Kaw Tok had set quite a few fruit late in the season. I brought in five of them that seemed mature, with a hard rind. The five in the above photo weighed a total of 49 pounds.

a big Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

a big Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

The largest one maxed out our digital scale, so I had to use the old fashioned one instead. I called it 13 lbs, 11 oz, which makes it the largest squash I harvested in 2014. I had to pry this one out of the fencing where it had decided to grow.

Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash

Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash

Not to be outdone, the Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash put on three late fruits itself. Two of them have turned tan, and I am sure they will be usable. The other one has a hard but still somewhat greenish rind. I am not sure if it will be edible or not, but I think we will have plenty of winter squash to eat regardless. The three squash weighed right at 12 pounds, making it a total of 61 pounds of winter squash for the day.

late harvest bell peppers

late harvest bell peppers

A day earlier I cleaned the pepper plants of all of the sweet peppers and all of the hot peppers I wanted to use. The two cayenne plants are so prolific I can’t use them all. Next year I need to plant just one cayenne. I won’t bore you with photos of all the peppers, but the above shot shows some of the bell peppers. I chopped and froze most of the green ones for later use.

Sweet Happy Yummy and Dulce Rojo peppers

Sweet Happy Yummy and Dulce Rojo peppers

I harvested quite a few peppers that I wanted to smoke. In the above photo is the orange Sweet Happy Yummy and the red Dulce Rojo. I know both of these dry well, so I thought I would try smoking them first. I also targeted some of the jalapenos and other hot peppers for smoking. I decided to try smoking the peppers a couple of different ways.

smoking peppers on the grill

smoking peppers on the grill

I used my gas grill for one batch and my Weber charcoal grill for the other. I used dry apple wood chips wrapped in heavy duty foil as a source for the smoke. Using the gas grill proved to be difficult, as it was hard to keep the chips smoking without overheating the grill. The charcoal grill was much easier, and once the chips were smoking I damped down the fire and let it slowly smoke for about two hours. Michelle (From Seed To Table) did such a great job describing the process with her post on Smoking Peppers that I won’t go into any more detail here. Now the peppers are in the dehydrator, where they will stay until they are thoroughly dried. I will be sure and share the results once they are done.

jars of cabbage, kohlrabi and turnip kraut

jars of cabbage, kohlrabi and turnip kraut

Today I hope to get the garlic crop planted, but first I have to finish prepping the bed by adding compost and a few other amendments. Later this week I am hoping my wife and I can have a soap-making session. I am anxious to try a new neem oil soap recipe I’ve come up with, plus a soap using calendula infused oils. I hope you have enjoyed this look at what’s going on here in a frosty November. To see what others are harvesting and cooking from the garden, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Monday Recap: October Treasure

I have to admit I had pretty low expectations when I went out on Saturday morning to dig the Okinawa sweet potatoes. According to the description at Duck Creek Farms where I ordered the slips, it “needs a VERY long hot growing season…preferably 140 days or longer.” Despite the warning, I was anxious to try growing this lovely tan skinned purple fleshed sweet potato I had enjoyed so much while we were vacationing in Hawaii earlier this year. I planted three slips on June 2nd, and according to my calendar they had been growing for around 145 days. The vines had grown long and lush, with lovely and distinctive leaves. Now it was time to dig and see what I could find.

Okinawa sweet potato leaf

Okinawa sweet potato leaf

I also remembered that the catalog said they formed roots away from the center of the plant, so I started digging first with my hands, to make sure I didn’t spear any roots with my shovel. And I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the tan skin of something that sure looked like a sweet potato! Most of the potatoes had formed down deep, and I had to carefully dig them out. When I was done, I had 2.5 pounds of them, with the largest one weighing in at 14 ounces. I let them sit out in the sunshine for most of the day, before bringing them in to finish curing.

harvest of Okinawa sweet potatoes

harvest of Okinawa sweet potatoes

I have even less expectations for the fig plants. I’m just about ready to give up on growing figs here. They froze to the ground last winter, which is not unusual in our area. But they have been shy producers here most years, and this year I have gotten a grand total of one ripe fig! I did decide to document the occasion with a photo before I sliced the fig open and consumed it while still warm from the October sunshine.

Brown Turkey fig

Brown Turkey fig

In a bit more positive news, I harvested the first Tasty Jade cucumber from a greenhouse planting I made back in July. While there are several more cukes setting on the vine, I doubt that they are going to size up and make anything edible. With shortening days and cooling weather, the unheated greenhouse is just not that favorable to cucumbers this late in the season. But I am happy to have even one cucumber in October, since all the vines planted outside have long since died off. I’m going to turn this one into some refrigerator pickles.

Tasty Jade cucumber from greenhouse

Tasty Jade cucumber from greenhouse

It was my wife’s turn to cook last week, and she cooked up a mess of turnip greens. We had the tops leftover from some Hakurei and Oasis turnips I harvested earlier, but these turnips do not usually have a lot of greens on them. So I selectively cut a few of the greens of some other turnips to add to the ones we had already. I know some folks only like the roots, and others only like the greens, but my wife and I are fans of all parts of the humble turnip!

harvest of turnip greens

harvest of turnip greens

The cold frame beds continue to give us some salad greens to eat. In the below photo I have a mix of Slobolt and Red Sails lettuce, plus some spinach and arugula. I pulled one Yaya carrot and one Purple Haze to see how they were sizing up. They were certainly big enough to eat, but I think I will harvest them as needed and give them a bit more time to grow. The cool weather should help improve the taste too. Unfortunately the deer keep grazing on the greens, which doesn’t help with them growing bigger. I need to remember to throw some bird netting over them next year before the deer find them, and not after.

salad ingredients

salad ingredients

Also in the greens department, I harvested some of the Coalition Mix and Lacinato kale. My wife used them to make kale chips. That’s the Coalition Mix in the below photo. It has nice big leaves that were great for making the kale chips. I got the seeds for this o/p mix of kale from Adaptive Seeds.

Coalition Mix kale

Coalition Mix kale

Broccoli was on the menu last week too. That’s Green Magic in the below photo. The heads weren’t perfectly domed like they are in the catalog photos, but it didn’t hurt the taste any.
I’m happy to have fresh homegrown broccoli regardless! We steamed one head and my wife oven-roasted the other one, which is a yummy way to prepare broccoli or cauliflower – not that I can grow cauliflower.

Green Magic broccoli

Green Magic broccoli

And thanks to our mild fall weather we have been having, the peppers keep on ripening out in the pepper patch. I’m anxious to try smoking some this week now that Michelle has shared her technique. She used her Big Green Egg, and I am going to fire up our Weber grill with some good hardwood charcoal and experiment with some of the late season pepper harvest. I’ve got some ripe jalapenos, plus quite a few of the Dulce Rojo paprika peppers that I think would be good candidates for smoking. Last week I harvested a mix of Piccante Calabrese, Aji Angelo, and Numex Suave Red and Orange peppers. I plan on pickling the Piccante Calabrese, like I did earlier in the year. The Numex Sauve are C. chinense types that have a nice fruity flavor but only mild heat.

mix of hot peppers

mix of hot peppers

The Numex Sauve peppers went in a batch of bison chili I made last week. Even though it’s my wife’s turn to cook, she was out for dinner with friends one night and that gave me the opportunity to cook up a big pot of chili. I froze the leftovers, so I can have a ‘bowl of red’ whenever I get hungry for it again. I also used some green and red bell peppers in the chili, plus tomatoes from the freezer, onions and garlic from storage and some Homemade Chile Powder for seasoning. I used my usual recipe for chili and used the ground bison instead of beef.

bowl of Bison Chili

bowl of Bison Chili

I also brought in a late season harvest of ripe Biggie Chili, Anaheim and Ancho 211 peppers for dehydrating. I use these for grinding into chile powder, plus they are nice to throw in a pot of beans for a little flavor and mild heat. Some of the Ancho peppers still had a few green spots that hadn’t turned red yet, but I dried them up anyway and it shouldn’t make a big difference in flavor. I was anxious to get them in and dried while the dehydrator was not being used. It stays busy this time of year for sure! I still have quite a few of the green Anaheim and Biggie Chili on the plants and I might try smoking them too.

Anaheim, Biggie Chili and Ancho 211 peppers for drying

Anaheim, Biggie Chili and Ancho 211 peppers for drying

There’s still some action going on in the winter squash patch. The Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck and the newcomer Thai Rai Kaw Tok both set on several late fruits after the main crop. I am hoping at least some of these mature before frost gets them. So far we have not had any frost, and the weather forecast for the next week looks frost-free. The Rai Kaw Tok is a beautiful squash, with a ribbed dark green rind with blotches of tan and white. It has climbed right up the deer fencing, and most of the late fruits are hanging up off the ground.

Thai Rai Kaw Tok winter squash on the vine

Thai Rai Kaw Tok winter squash on the vine

I did find one Thai squash hiding out on the ground. The rind seemed mature to me, so I brought it inside. It weighed right over eight pounds. I harvested another one of these Thai squash back in September. It weighed a little over seven pounds, and the outside rind has turned a chestnut color in storage. I am looking forward to trying this one soon. They would be great for decorations too, but I have hopes they will be tasty in the kitchen as well as pretty to look at.

Thai Rai Kaw Tok winter squash

Thai Rai Kaw Tok winter squash

There are a couple of the Pennsylvania Dutch Crooknecks still on the vine as well, and one is starting to turn color. The one in the below photo is hanging on the outside of the fencing, and if you look closely there’s another slightly smaller one on the inside. I do believe the bigger one will ripen up in time to beat the frost. We will see.

Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck squash on the vine

Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck squash on the vine

I didn’t bake any loaves of bread this week but I did bake a batch of Moomies Famous Burger Buns. This is without a doubt my favorite bun recipe, and the leftovers freeze beautifully so we always have a few in the freezer. This should keep us supplied for a while. They are good for more than just burgers too!

Moomie's Famous Burger Buns

Moomie’s Famous Burger Buns

Last week I used some of our dried calendula to infuse olive, almond and coconut oils. We’re hoping to make a calendula soap soon, plus a few other things. I’ll share the soap recipe here once we make it. The calendula naturally colors the oils a lovely shade of orange/yellow.

trio of calendula infused oils

trio of calendula infused oils

I hope you have enjoyed this look at what’s going on here in Late October. To see what others are harvesting and cooking from the garden, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Pumpkin Smackdown 2014

I took advantage of somewhat cooler temperatures yesterday to heat up the oven and bake some of the 2014 winter squashes. I call it a Pumpkin Smackdown, and last year the Smackdown turned into an all-day baking marathon that left me tired of the smell of roasting squash! This year I decided to break it up into several smaller sessions. Hopefully this will keep me from getting burned out, figuratively speaking. I started the smackdown with four C. moschata varieties, three that I had never grown before, and my old standby the Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash (aka ‘neck pumpkin’).

collection of winter squashes for puree

collection of winter squashes for puree

In the above photo, from left to right we have Canada Crookneck, Long Island Cheese, and Violina Rugosa. To prepare the squashes, I cut them in half and removed the seeds. Then I cut them in pieces, put them in a baking dish and roasted them uncovered in a 400°F oven until the flesh was tender. This took anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on the size of the squash and the thickness of the flesh. And of course the whole house smelled like pumpkin!

Canada Crookneck Squash cutup and ready for roasting

Canada Crookneck Squash cutup and ready for roasting

After roasting, I let the squash cool a bit, then scooped out the flesh from the skins. I drained off any excess liquid that had come out of the squash, then I pureed the flesh with a immersion blender until smooth.

using the immersion blender to puree squash

using the immersion blender to puree squash

When all of them were pureed my wife and I had a taste testing. It was a blind tasting for her, since she did not know what varieties she was tasting beforehand. Clockwise from the left in the below photo we have Canada Crookneck, Violina Rugosa, Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash and Long Island Cheese Pumpkin. It’s hard to tell in the photo but the Canada Crookneck was very deep orange color, while the L. I. Cheese was more yellowish. Here are my thoughts on the four squashes I baked and tasted yesterday, realizing of course that tastes are subjective and growing conditions can influence taste as well as size.

tasting the pumpkin puree

tasting the pumpkin puree

  1. Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash – the flesh is moist, fine textured, and tastes much like butternut squash. The vines ramble, and the plant is usually quite prolific. The fruits keep for at least 6 months in storage, sometimes longer. I have been growing this one for several years now, and it has been a dependable and tasty performer here. The puree is great for pies, soups, muffins and custard. I did a Spotlight on this variety last year if you want to read more about it.

    Long Island Cheese and Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash

    Long Island Cheese and Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash

  2. Long Island Cheese – so named because the flattened, ribbed fruit resembles a wheel of cheese. This heirloom is a favorite of Long Island residents, popular for making pies. The squash get pretty big, and the one in the below photo weighed in at over nine pounds before baking. Despite its reputation, we found it to be our least favorite of the four. The flesh baked up watery, and without much flavor. I have another one I will bake for the next smackdown, but unless it is considerably more tasty than the one we tried I will not be growing it again.

    Long Island Cheese Pumpkin

    Long Island Cheese Pumpkin

  3. Canada Crookneck – despite the name, this is actually an heirloom New England variety, reportedly originating with the Iroquois tribes. The fruits have a curved neck with solid flesh, and a seed cavity at the rounded end. They are very similar in shape to the Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash, though smaller in size. The ones I harvested this year were in the two to three pound range. The Canada Crookneck was once a favorite in the New England area, and is an ancestor to the butternut squashes that are popular today. I baked up several of these yesterday, and it was by far the sweetest of all we tasted. Even the ‘sap’ that baked out of the squash was as sweet as sugar. I’m not sure why it fell out of favor, except that perhaps the butternut has a thicker, meatier neck. I got my seeds from Baker Creek.

    Canada Crookneck Squash

    Canada Crookneck Squash

  4. Violina Rugosa – this is an heirloom Italian butternut squash. The name loosely translates to “wrinkled violin,” but I think it sort of resembles a peanut. The seed cavity is relatively small, with thick orange flesh. The squash in the below photo weighed about seven pounds before cleaning and cooking. The flesh is sweet and has a rich flavor that I could see would work well in either sweet or savory dishes. I only harvested one squash this year, but I look forward to growing it again. I got my seeds from Adaptive Seeds.

    Violina Rugosa squash

    Violina Rugosa squash

To summarize, my wife and I both agreed that the Canada Crookneck was the sweetest of the four varieties, and our favorite. Violina Rugosa had a richness of flavor and a great texture, and it was our second favorite. The Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash ran a close third, but lacked the richness of flavor or the sweetness of the top two. The Long Island Cheese Pumpkin came in last place, with a watery texture and very little flavor. I have another one of these that I may bake up later, but I can’t see me growing it again. The other three were all keepers, and I can’t wait to try them in recipes.

I wound up with seven pint containers of the pumpkin puree, though I only froze one container of the L. I. Cheese. The rest of it went on the compost pile. I have a few more varieties to try for Smackdown Part 2, once I recover from Part 1. I didn’t bake any butternut this time because I know they are great tasting, and I also want to save some of them for things beside puree.

Posted in Food, Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Monday Recap: Winding Down and Coming In

It’s another one of those transitional times of year, as we go from warm weather to cool, long days to shorter ones, and gardening chores slowly start winding down for the year. Last week I cut a few more herbs to dry for tea. Even though they aren’t hardy here, I planted one lemon verbena in the ground this spring, and it has gotten pretty large by now. I cut quite a few of the stems the other day, and stripped the leaves off before drying in the dehydrator. The dried leaves will be nice for teas this winter.

lemon verbena for drying

lemon verbena for drying

You can see some of the lemon verbena in the above photo. I wound up with enough dried leaves to fill two loosely packed quart jars. While I was at it I cut some mint to dry for tea. I want to harvest what I can of the mints before freezing weather comes. I also have a couple of containers of mint that I started in the greenhouse, plus containers of lemongrass and lemon verbena that I will bring indoors for the winter. It is nice to have a few fresh leaves if possible to add to the dried ones for tea. The mints in the greenhouse will eventually freeze down, but they will also leaf out early next spring and give me a jump on the season before the ones outside get going.

calendula flowers for drying

calendula flowers for drying

I’m also still cutting calendula flowers for drying. The calendula plants seem to have perked up a bit with cooler weather, but they have still bloomed pretty much nonstop all summer and fall. These are calendulas selected for their high resin content, and we use them mainly for infusions. They do attract a few insects too, and there are always a few bees and other pollinators on them when I do the cutting.

Diplomat broccoli

Diplomat broccoli

The fall broccoli is coming on now. That is Diplomat in the above photo. It had a little browning on one of the heads, which I am thinking was caused by the fact it rained ten straight days in a row as it was heading up. It didn’t hurt the broccoli any, and I have surely been enjoying eating fresh broccoli lately. Arcadia should be the last broccoli to head up here. I am not sure if growing a late variety like it makes sense here in the fall, but we will see.

white turnips and Striata d'Italia zucchini

white turnips and Striata d’Italia zucchini

Last year Striata d’Italia was the last squash to produce for me, and it looks like that will be true for 2014 as well. It’s hanging out with some Hakurei and Oasis turnips in the above photo. The turnips have some slug damage, since I neglected to spread Sluggo in that bed. I usually peel them anyway, so I really don’t mind as long as they leave most of the turnip for me!

Kolibri kohlrabi

Kolibri kohlrabi

I harvested a few of the kohlrabi last week. That’s Kolibri in the above photo. I left the rest to size up a bit more. I am looking forward to making some kohlrabi kraut later on. I am almost out of the cabbage and kohlrabi kraut I made from the spring veggies, and I want to make some more to eat on this winter. You can see a bit of slug damage on the kohlrabi too, even though I did spread Sluggo in that bed. Slugs are really a problem here in the garden.

Red Ursa kale

Red Ursa kale

I was hungry for kale last week so I harvested some of the Red Ursa leaves. This is an o/p variety from Wild Garden that I really like. It’s a cross between Red Russian and Siberian kales, with semi curly leaves that have a reddish tinge like its Red Russian parent. It has a great flavor, and I used it to make a kale and cannellini bean dish we had for lunch one day.

cooked Runner Cannellini beans

cooked Runner Cannellini beans

The beans I used were some dried Runner Cannellini beans I got from SSE. This variety is much larger than your usual cannellini bean, and cooked up into huge beans that were smooth in texture and quite tasty. I would love to try growing them but I am not sure they would be worth the effort or the space, since dried beans are always a challenge with our hot and humid weather.

sweet potato vines headed for compost

sweet potato vines headed for compost

The next big gardening event I see coming up is planting garlic. It’s going in where the sweet potatoes grew, so I cleared out the vines left after I dug the sweet potatoes a couple of weeks ago. The vines all went on the compost pile, where hopefully by next spring they will have turned into compost to go back on the garden. In the meantime, I still have two Okinawa plants growing in that bed, and they will have to come out next week. They will have had 140 days to grow, and with cooler weather I doubt they will be doing much more underground growing anyway. Last year I planted the garlic on 10/29, and I will plan on getting it in somewhere around that date this year.

houseplants on front porch

houseplants on front porch

It’s also time to start the annual migration of houseplants. A few of them have been spending the summer out on the front porch, and it is time to bring them back in. Some of them get a little bath in the shower first, to clean them up a bit and to wash off any bugs that might be hiding out on the leaves.

That’s a look at what’s happening here at HA. To see what others are harvesting and doing in the garden, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

 

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Things To Dye For, Indigo Edition

Usually it is my wife who blogs about artistic matters, leaving me to cover the areas of food and gardening along with the occasional side trip into nature or travel. But today I’m going to step ever so slightly outside of my comfort zone and talk about some of the artistic things she made for me. Lynda has been working with indigo lately, as she was getting ready to teach her Indigo Dyeing Class. So I asked her to dye a few things for me, while she had an active indigo pot going. And today I want to share of few of those here.

removing material from the dye pot

removing material from the dye pot

Pretty much all I know about indigo I have learned from my wife. For instance, I know that it is a plant based dye made from plants of the genus Indigofera. And I know it makes some beautiful blue colors on fabrics. Fortunately she knows a whole lot more than I do about the subject! I took some photos of one of her recent dyeing sessions to help document some of the process involved, which I find fascinating. In the above photo, she is removing one of the pieces and cutting the string she used to tie up the material. It was a beautiful sunny day so she is working outside, and I am playing photographer.

shirt after being untied

shirt after being untied

When you remove the material from the dye pot, the color is initially a yellow green. As the dye reacts to the oxygen, it turns blue. It looks like magic, but it’s really science. In the above photo, the shirt has just been untied and fully exposed to the air. You can still see some of the greenish areas at this point. This particular shirt is a spun bamboo t-shirt made of 70% bamboo and 30% cotton.

indigo dyed shirt after being exposed to air

indigo dyed shirt after being exposed to air

The above photo of the same shirt was taken about 15 minutes later. Notice how the areas that were green are now blue, and the blue areas are a deeper shade of blue.

indigo dyed bamboo shirt

indigo dyed bamboo shirt

Next the shirt needs to be washed and dried. That lightens up the color a bit, and the end result shown in the above photo is a one of a kind shirt for me to wear. I’ve already worn the shirt several times, and it is comfortable as well as colorful.

indigo dyed cotton t-shirt

indigo dyed cotton t-shirt

Another shirt she did for me is a bit darker overall. It’s a 100% cotton shirt, with a comfy soft feel and a generous neck opening. I can’t stand a shirt that is too tight at the neck, which is why I was never a fan of turtlenecks.

indigo dyed tank top

indigo dyed tank top

She dyed quite a few things that day, including some napkins for us and some shirts for herself. She dyed a tank top for me that I intend to wear around the house, using a spiral pattern on it. We both loved the look so much, I asked her to do a few more spiral pieces in a later dying session.

indigo bandana with spiral pattern

indigo bandana with spiral pattern

We bought some white cotton bandanas for dyeing, so she dyed one of them in a spiral pattern too. It’s almost too pretty to use, but use it I will!

indigo dyed bandana

indigo dyed bandana

She tied another bandana in a different pattern. I think it sort of resembles snowflakes.

spiral pattern t-shirt

spiral pattern t-shirt

And she dyed another t-shirt for me with the spiral pattern, this time another one made from 100% cotton. And I simply love the wild look. Thanks again to my artistic wife for dyeing all these lovely pieces for me. I think I could go almost anywhere and not have to worry about anyone else wearing similar shirts. I think I will be all set for indigo things for a while. It is a good thing that blue is my favorite color too! I’ll be back soon with more happenings here at HA.

 

Posted in Homemade | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Monday Recap: More Digging, Roasting and Drying

Last week I managed to get most all of the sweet potatoes dug before the rains came. I am so glad I made the effort, because the garden is a soggy mess right about now. It looks like we’ll have plenty of sweet potatoes to eat for the coming year, with 56 pounds of them now safely inside curing. The best producer this year was Norma’s Purple. You can see a few of the biggest ones in the below photo, with a dollar bill to give it some scale. I really look forward to trying them once they have cured.

Norma's Purple sweet potatoes

Norma’s Purple sweet potatoes

The peppers are still ripening even as the weather cools down to more seasonal temperatures. It has been a great year for the peppers here, both the hot and sweet types. That’s a mix of Early Sunsation, Flavorburst, and Red Knight in the below photo. Most of them got dehydrated.

ripe bell peppers

ripe bell peppers

It hasn’t been a great year for eggplant here, so imagine my surprise when I brought in two beauties last week! That’s the hybrid Nadia in the below photo, along with a few of the heirloom red Tolli’s Sweet Italian peppers.

Nadia eggplant and Tolli's Sweet Italian peppers

Nadia eggplant and Tolli’s Sweet Italian peppers

I also harvested some of the Holy Mole and Ancho 211 peppers for dehydrating. I use these to make chile powder and to put in bean dishes and soups. The Anchos are usually somewhat shy producers for me but Holy Mole (a 2007 AAS winner) always does well here.

Holy Mole and Ancho 211 peppers

Holy Mole and Ancho 211 peppers

I got a large number of the ripe Aji Angelo peppers, most of which came from a container grown plant I overwintered inside, then planted outside in the ground once the soil warmed up this spring. These thin walled peppers have a mild fruity flavor and a moderate heat, at least the ones grown here do. There’s about 24 ounces of them in the below photo. I wanted to try oven roasting some of them like Michelle does.

Aji Angelo peppers

Aji Angelo peppers

Wearing gloves, I removed the stems, cut the peppers in half, then scooped out the seeds. Then it was off to a 200°F oven for a pan of them. I roasted them for about three hours to get them crispy dry, stirring them around occasionally.

oven roasting the Aji Angelo peppers

oven roasting the Aji Angelo peppers

The rest went on a dehydrator tray for drying. I wanted to compare the oven roasted ones with the dehydrated ones, and knowing me I will probably like both ways! I saved seeds from some of the nicest looking peppers as I was prepping them, and I plan on sharing seeds of this lovely C. baccatum variety later this year.

Aji Angelo ready for dehydrator

Aji Angelo ready for dehydrator

You can see the results in the bottom photo. The oven roasted ones are on the left, and the dehydrated ones are on the right. The oven roasting definitely adds another layer of flavor to the peppers, and I will store them in a glass jar and crush them up as needed for pepper flakes.

oven roasted(L) and dehydrated(R) Aji Angelo peppers

oven roasted(L) and dehydrated(R) Aji Angelo peppers

The broccoli plants are continuing to head up here. I’ve cut several heads of the Packman variety, and some of them are already developing side shoots, before the others have even produced the main head. The first of the ‘broccolini’ type Apollo was ready last week. It made for a nice side dish, lightly steamed and dressed with a bit of olive oil plus salt. Apollo doesn’t make a real big main head, but has numerous side shoots with long, tender stems.

Apollo broccoli

Apollo broccoli

Summer planted Slobolt lettuce continues to be a star while I wait for the fall planted lettuce to size up.  I also pulled one of the Purple Haze carrots to see how they were sizing up. I think it and the rest of the fall carrots need another couple of weeks before I start harvesting any more of them. I used the carrot, a little arugula and the lettuce to make a lunch salad one day last week.

salad with Slobolt lettuce

salad with Slobolt lettuce

After not baking any bread for a few weeks (other than zucchini bread), I made up for it Saturday. It was a cool, rainy and dreary day and that was a great excuse to put on a pot of soup and bake some crusty sourdough bread to go with it. I baked a loaf  of what I call my 1-2-3 Sourdough Bread. I’m still working out the details on that one before I share the recipe here, but it has become one of my favorite sourdough recipes. This loaf had some issues though, as the dough stuck to the pizza paddle and in my haste to fix that problem I didn’t slash the dough deeply enough and it had a ‘blowout’ in the oven. Oh well, as most bread bakers know, looks don’t usually affect the taste, and this one tasted as good as usual, with a nice sourdough tang to it and a crunchy crust.

loaf of 1-2-3 Sourdough Bread

loaf of 1-2-3 Sourdough Bread

I love roasted garlic, and the bread gave me a good excuse to roast a couple of the bigger bulbs. I cut the tops off, sprinkled on a little olive oil, wrapped them in foil, and then baked in a 400°F oven until they were soft. I squeezed the garlic from the cloves and then spread it on some of the sourdough bread. Paired up with a bowl of vegetable soup, it made for a great meal!

garlic ready for roasting

garlic ready for roasting

To see what other gardeners are harvesting, digging and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays every week.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments