Monday Recap: Getting Saucy

It seems like the last couple of weeks my wife and I have spent a lot of time processing tomatoes. We have made two batches of Homemade Tomato Ketchup, a batch each of Freezer Tomato Sauce and unseasoned Vitamix Tomato Sauce, plus a batch of Freezer Marinara Sauce from a recipe in my well-worn copy of The Victory Garden Cookbook. Actually my wife made one batch of ketchup and I made the rest of the things, and I appreciate her help because making the ketchup is a marathon event. It is made easier by processing the cored tomatoes skin and all in the Vitamix blender, which saves a bit of time up front. But then it still takes several hours to cook it down to the right consistency.

paste tomatoes for sauces

paste tomatoes for sauces

I used a mix of tomatoes for the above processing, including paste tomatoes like Viva Italia, Health Kick, Rio Grande, Big Mama, Golden Rave and Quadro. I also used my favorite Juliet, plus a few of the smaller slicers like Early Girl and Eva’s Purple Ball. For the unseasoned sauce I’ll really use any tomato I have, including cherry, grape and plum types. The smaller ones are nice because you don’t even have to core them, just rinse and throw them in the blender.

Green Tiger and Blush Artisan Tomatoes

Green Tiger and Blush Artisan Tomatoes

We’ve also gotten our first taste of the two Artisan Tomatoes I’m growing this year, Blush and Green Tiger. Both these o/p varieties are from the Tiger line, and they are great tasting as well as colorful. They also have the Bumble Bee series of cherry tomatoes which I have tasted but not grown. The size is hard to judge in the above photo but they are slightly larger than Juliet. I can see me trying more of the Artisan line in the years to come.

Mexico Midget cherry tomatoes

Mexico Midget cherry tomatoes

A newcomer here is the o/p Mexico Midget red cherry tomato. This prolific variety has given us lots of 1/2-3/4″ deep red tomatoes so far, many of which I snack on while outside working in the garden. Some of them do make it in the house, like the ones in the above photo. They have a nice flavor, sweet but not too sweet, and are great for salads.

White Bean Caprese Salad

White Bean Caprese Salad

The Mexico Midget tomatoes joined Sun Sugar and Black Cherry in a White Bean Caprese Salad I made one day for lunch. The tomatoes had the starring role, along with Runner Cannellini beans, fresh Mozzerella cheese and Profuma di Genova basil. Happy Acres doesn’t have quite the ambiance of the Piazza Umberto on Capri, but the salad was tasty anyway.

Tolli's Sweet Italian and Jimmy Nardello peppers

Tolli’s Sweet Italian and Jimmy Nardello peppers

Some of the peppers are starting to ripen here. That’s a trio of Jimmy Nardello in the above photo, joined by a Tolli’s Sweet Italian on the left. I grew Tolli’s for the first time last year, and I liked the peppers well enough to give it another go this year. They have a little thicker wall than the Jimmy Nardello peppers, and are almost as sweet when cooked. So far they look to be productive here as well. The Tolli’s pepper went into a 3 Bean Salad my wife made on Saturday. Actually it wound up being a 2 bean salad, since she used Runner Cannellini and Red Nightfall beans to make it.

Ambrosia melon

Ambrosia melon

Something else that ripened is another of the Ambrosia melons. So far none of the melons this year have been as sweet as usual, which could be due to getting a lot of rain as they were sizing up. At any rate, the Ambrosia is still as sweet as anything we could buy at a farmer’s market, and much sweeter than what we see at the grocery (which usually have very little flavor).

Nadia and Calliope eggplant

Nadia and Calliope eggplant

Once again I am amazed at what a difference a year can make when you are growing your own food. Last year we had lots and lots of pole beans, but very few eggplants. The flea beetles got to the eggplant early on, and they never seemed to get over it. This year I did a better job of spraying for the beetles, and as a result the plants look great and are fruiting nicely. And the pole beans are giving us almost nothing this year! I keep hoping the beans will put out some new blooms when the temps moderate a bit. That’s the dark purple Nadia eggplant and the purple and white Calliope in the above photo.

grilled Reuben on marbled rye

grilled Reuben on marbled rye

We’ve been grilling a lot of the eggplant. I sliced up one the big purple Nadia and grilled it last week, with a little salt and homemade paprika for seasoning. I also grilled a sandwich that day on marbled rye bread topped with kohlrabi kraut, Swiss cheese and prosciutto ham. I believe this is similar to what Michelle is calling a Carmel Valley Reuben, and I have to say it was delicious. The dark coloring in the bread comes from cocoa added to the dough. The marbled bread was pretty but it wasn’t any better tasting than the recipes I usually make. The same dough did make some tasty marbled rye rolls.

trio of Tatume squash

trio of Tatume squash

Most of the summer squash are done for now, giving in to stem rot and the squash bugs. The vining heirloom Tatume gave us three more nice sized fruit last week. Those vines are still going so we might see more before the end of them.

Gold Nugget squash

Gold Nugget squash

I harvested all of the winter squash Gold Nugget. This variety matures early, and is a dependable producer for me year after year. The squash are just the right size for cutting in half and baking. That’s right at 12 pounds of them in the above photo.

mint for drying

mint for drying

I started drying mints and herbs for tea last week. I generally dry spearmint, peppermint, orange mint, chocolate mint and lemon verbena. I’ve tried drying lemongrass, but I think it loses most of its flavor, so I pot up a plant of it to keep us supplied during the winter. The dehydrator stays busy this time of year, as I also dry calendula which pretty much blooms here non-stop all summer long.

calendula

calendula

And speaking of lemongrass, those stalks I rooted and planted behind the greenhouse in May are now four foot tall clumps. It’s such an easy and inexpensive way to grow lemongrass. I spent about $1 for the stalks, and now I have all the lemongrass I want.

lemongrass planted behind greenhouse

lemongrass planted behind greenhouse

Right next to the lemongrass is the Mexico Midget tomato plant. Or the plants, since I set two plants per over-sized cage. There’s no splitting or cracking, and I will be growing this prolific variety again.

Mexico Midget tomatoes on the vine

Mexico Midget tomatoes on the vine

That’s a look at what’s happening here in late July. To see what other gardeners are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

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Featured Cooking Bean: Rio Zape

This year I am on a mission to cook and eat as many different varieties of beans as possible. This is another in a series about my observations about those beans.

The origins of today’s featured cooking bean are a bit murky to say the least. According to Slow Food USA, the Rio Zape bean was found in the ruins of the Anasazi cliff-dwellers in the American Southwest. Better documented sources claim the bean was found in a cave near the Rio Zape in Durango, Mexico. And to add to the confusion, Steve Sando, founder of Rancho Gordo, says that Rio Zape is also known as the Hopi String bean, and was used by the Hopi as both a green bean as well as a dried one.

Rio Zape beans

Rio Zape beans

Regardless of its true origins, the Rio Zape beans I bought from Rancho Gordo are about the size of a pinto bean, but with much more flavor. The dried beans are a lovely dark purple color, with blackish striped markings. After cooking the beans lose some of the vivid purple coloring, and though the stripes are harder to see they do not completely disappear. The cooking liquid (aka pot liquor) is dark with a rich flavor.

cooked Rio Zape beans

cooked Rio Zape beans

Rio Zape is one of those beans I fell in love with at first bite. It’s also one of the few beans I’ve tried that is so flavorful I could sit and eat a bowl of them all by themselves. Sando classifies these as pot beans, ones that are good served simply as a side dish, with perhaps a splash of lime juice or a bit of chopped onion. In the book Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo they are featured in the recipe for Rio Zape Beans and Sweet Potatoes. This recipe is so tasty I’ve made it twice now, and just looking at the below photo makes my mouth water. I’ve made it with both orange and purple sweet potatoes, and that’s the Purple variety in the below photo. It’s topped with toasted pine nuts and some fried sage leaves.

Rio Zape and Sweet Potato Salad

Rio Zape and Sweet Potato Salad

Even though the beans hold their shape well for salads, they also make good refried beans. A couple of weeks ago I refried some and used them to make bean enchiladas. I made a sauce from some of last year’s frozen tomato sauce and some of my Homemade Chile Powder, then topped the Rio Zape enchiladas with some Queso Chihuahua. I made a meal of these one day. The refried beans are also good as a side dish or as taco or burrito filling.

Rio Zape Bean Enchiladas

Rio Zape Bean Enchiladas

So far I have only cooked these beans, and haven’t tried growing them. Rio Zape beans for eating are available online from Rancho Gordo, Purcell Mountain Farms, and Native Seeds/SEARCH. Rio Zape seeds for growing are available from Victory Seeds and Native Seeds/SEARCH (listed as Hopi Purple String bean). I hope you have enjoyed this review of the Rio Zape beans. Our bean tasting continues at HA, and I will be back soon with another bean review.

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2015 Garlic Harvest Review

Last week I cleaned and weighed the last of the 2015 garlic harvest. I dug the garlic over a period of about a month beginning in mid June. After digging and cleaning off some of the extra soil (it was mud this year), I tied the garlic in bundles of 8 to 12, then hung in our warm basement with the dehumidifier running. That is the best place we have at present to cure the garlic, since it is way too humid to do it in the garage or workshop areas that aren’t climate controlled. I usually let it cure for three to four weeks, until it is thoroughly dried.

2013 garlic harvest hanging to dry

2013 garlic harvest hanging to dry

Now that the numbers are all tallied, I can say this was the best year yet for growing garlic since I began keeping track of the numbers. After curing there was right at 21 pounds of garlic bulbs. And yes, that is a lot of garlic! But then we use a lot of garlic here. Most gets used in our cooking, plus I generally pickle some and also dehydrate it. Earlier in the year I harvested 26 oz of garlic scapes and 37 oz of green garlic, which were all used fresh.

Simonetti garlic

Simonetti garlic

The top performer this year is a softneck Artichoke type called Simonetti. It has been one of the top five producers every year since I first planted it back in the fall of 2011. This year the 12 cloves I planted made bulbs weighing a total of 29.2 oz, which gives it an average weight of 2.43 oz, with the largest bulb weighing 3 oz. The other Artichoke types I grow also did well, which are Lorz Italian, Siciliano and Inchelium Red. I really like to roast these varieties whole, though some also get used in other ways. All of these Artichoke varieties are average keepers for me, usually lasting for six to eight months before starting to sprout or deteriorate.

bulb of Idaho Silver garlic

bulb of Idaho Silver garlic

The second best performer is a newcomer here, a Silverskin variety called Idaho Silver. The 12 cloves I planted of it made bulbs weighing 25.4 oz, for an average weight of 2.11 oz each. Idaho Silver is supposed to be well adapted to areas with cold winters. Our 2014-15 winter was about average for cold temperatures, but we had a bit more snow than usual. Other Silverskin types I grew included Silver White (#3 performer), Nootka Rose (#9) and S&H Silver (next to last). All of the Silverskins are good keepers here, usually lasting for ten months or more. Nootka Rose is one of my favorites, and I think the flavor of it actually improves with storage.

German Red garlic

German Red garlic

The fourth best performer is a hardneck Rocambole variety called German Red, which averaged 1.93 oz per bulb. I first planted it in 2013, and it joined other Rocamboles I grow like Russian Red, Killarney Red and Spanish Roja. None of the four get very much red coloring here, despite their names. The bulb of German Red in the above photo weighed 3.4 oz, and was one of the largest of any garlic this year. The Rocambole group is much loved by garlic connoisseurs for their rich, complex flavors. My tastes aren’t that refined, but I do think the Rocamboles I grow are pretty flavorful as well as productive. Unfortunately they are not good keepers, and are usually sprouting within six months or less of harvest.

Xian garlic

Xian garlic

The best performing of the Turban types I grew was another newcomer called Xian. This one is a favorite of author and garlic expert Chester Aaron, and it averaged 1.83 oz per bulb which made it my #5 performer. Other Turban types I grew this year included Red Janice, Uzbek, Shilla and Maiskij. The Turban garlic varieties are not great keepers, but they tend to be early and usually give us our first taste of garlic scapes and fresh garlic. I also think they tend to have a nice but fiery hot flavor when raw and freshly harvested. I try and use them up first, and when they start to sprout I use them as planting stock for green garlic.

just harvested Red Janice garlic

just harvested Red Janice garlic

After several years of trying quite a few different garlic varieties, I am slowly but surely finding the ones that do best here. I’m also discovering which ones keep well, and which I like best in the kitchen. I still have a lot to learn about growing garlic, but I do know that different varieties vary greatly in the climates and growing conditions they prefer. Some can’t take winter cold, while others require it, and so on. And some handle wet growing conditions better than others, which describes our typical spring weather, especially this year. My goal now will be to pick the best ones I want to grow going forward, and simplify the number of varieties.

To see what other gardeners are harvesting, cooking and tallying up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA, including another featured cooking bean I’ve been taste-testing.

For more information about garlic growing and preservation see:

  1. Growing Green Garlic
  2. Dehydrating Garlic
  3. Easy Refrigerator Pickled Garlic
  4. Homemade Garlic Planting Jig
  5. How To Have Fresh Garlic All Year Long
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Saturday Spotlight: Fairy Tale Eggplant

Today’s spotlight is on a variety I wasn’t that impressed with the first time I saw it in a seed catalog. “Just another novelty vegetable,” I thought. Cute perhaps, but not very useful in the kitchen. Then in 2009 our local Master Gardener group grew it in their AAS Demo Garden. It produced lots of neon purple fruits with white stripes, and volunteers were encouraged to take some of the bountiful crop home and use them. I was happy to oblige, and quickly found out how good they were for grilling. After that first taste, and seeing how well they did in the Demo Garden, I planted them here in 2010 and I’ve been growing them ever since!

Fairy Tale eggplant

Fairy Tale eggplant

Fairy Tale is a 2005 AAS winner, and the first eggplant to win an AAS award since 1939. The compact, well-branched plants are perfect for container plantings, but they also perform quite well when planted in-ground. I’ve grown them both ways, and they have never failed to produce well for me. The plant in the below photo is one I grew in 2011, and it’s about two feet tall at that point. They can get a tad bigger than that, especially when they are planted in the ground.

Fairy Tale eggplant in container

Fairy Tale eggplant in container

This year they are giving us our first taste of homegrown eggplant. The plants are about 16-18 inches tall now and covered in blooms and fruit. Fairy Tale is quick to produce, with most seed catalogs listing it as taking 50 days to maturity. It was even quicker to produce here this year, giving us the first harvest only 40 days after setting out the plants. The fruits are produced in clusters of two to five, and are best picked when no more than about four inches long. Eggplant needs heat to do well, and containers warm up faster in spring than garden soil does. That can give folks in cooler climates a jump on the growing season, and it’s a great way to help give eggplants the conditions they prefer. You can read more about it in my tutorial on Growing Eggplant in Containers.

cluster of Fairy Tale eggplant

cluster of Fairy Tale eggplant

As with other eggplant varieties, flea beetles can be a problem, and so can the Colorado Potato Beetle. I’ve had good luck controlling pests with a weekly spray of neem oil and liquid pyrethin. You can also cover the plants with row cover material, and for flea beetles use yellow sticky traps or plant a trap crop like radishes nearby. In my experience, early control is key, especially during the first month after planting when the tender young plants are most susceptible to damage.

sliced Fairy Tale eggplant

sliced Fairy Tale eggplant

In the kitchen, Fairy Tale has mild tasting white flesh that is sweet, not bitter, and it has very few seeds. The thin skin is quite tender and doesn’t need to be peeled. I already mentioned that I love to grill it, but it’s also tasty when stir-fried or roasted in the oven. Fairy Tale often has a starring role here in my Grilled Eggplant with Tahini Yogurt Sauce. I also like to slice it in half lengthwise, then brush it with a mix of olive oil and minced garlic, which is what I did to the ones in the below photo before they hit the grill.

Fairy Tale eggplant on the grill

Fairy Tale eggplant on the grill

I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a variety of eggplant that won me over and made me a big fan, despite my initial impression of it. Seeds for Fairy Tale are widely available from a number of sources in the U.S. I’ll be back soon with another variety.

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

 

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Monday Recap: Transition Time

As the seasons change, it seems that much of my gardening time goes from planning to planting, then eventually to harvesting and preserving, which is what I find myself doing a lot of lately. I’ve frozen summer squash and raspberries, and I’ve fermented cabbage, kohlrabi, radishes and cucumbers. My wife was in charge of the asparagus and blueberries, and we have lots of them in the freezer for use throughout the year. Now I’m working on tomatoes and drying, processing and freezing them.

Sun Gold and Supersweet 100 tomatoes

Sun Gold and Supersweet 100 tomatoes

Juliet tomatoes are coming on strong, as are the Sun Golds. I added some of the Supersweet 100s and had enough to fill the dehydrator last week. That’s Juliet in the below photo, which I cut into quarters before drying. I cut most of the cherry types in half when drying. Juliet is one my favorite tomatoes, and this 1999 AAS Vegetable Award winner never fails to produce lots of fruit that are perfect for drying, roasting, and turning into sauce, puree and paste.

Juliet tomatoes ready for drying

Juliet tomatoes ready for drying

And speaking of sauce, I harvested more Juliets yesterday and used them to make a batch of Freezer Tomato Sauce. I don’t peel the tomatoes anymore like the recipe says, but instead blend up the raw tomatoes in the Vitamix before cooking them down. Then I use the immersion blender to puree the sauce before I put it in containers and it heads to the freezer.

harvest of Juliet tomatoes

harvest of Juliet tomatoes

In my last post I mentioned I had harvested a couple of the heirloom Tatume squash. I didn’t grow them last year, and I missed them so they are back in the garden this year. They are a good size and shape for grilling, and I imagine they would work well for stuffing too. The ones in the below photo weighed a total of 38 ounces, and got grilled shortly after they posed for the camera. At that size the seeds are still small and tender, and nothing is wasted except the stem.

pair of Tatume squash

pair of Tatume squash

Also starting to make an appearance now is eggplant. The first to come on here were from Fairy Tale, another AAS winner from 2005. The tender white flesh has very few seeds and almost melts after it meets up with a hot grill. In the below photo they are hanging out with a few Trionfo Violetto pole beans.

Fairy Tale eggplant and Trionfo Violetto beans

Fairy Tale eggplant and Trionfo Violetto beans

The first melon came in a few days ago, and it was Diplomat. This is a Galia type melon with green flesh, and it’s usually the first one to ripen of the ones I grow. The melon in the below photo weighed a tad less than three pounds, and as you can see has a fairly small seed cavity. The Sensation melons are also ripening, and I suspect we will have one or two of them in a few days.

sliced Diplomat melon

sliced Diplomat melon

Over the last two weeks I dug all of the potatoes. It wasn’t what I would call a great year for them, but we will have plenty to eat. The best yield came from the German Butterball variety. It also made a heart shaped tuber that would have been perfect for Valentine’s Day!

German Butterball potato

German Butterball potato

It looks to be a terrible year for the pole beans. I’m always amazed at how something can do so well one year, and so badly the next. The same varieties (Fortex, Musica and Gold Marie) that kept us well-supplied last year are shy producers this time. I’m thinking the waterlogged soil followed by early hot weather did not help them any. We are enjoying what we get though, and I am hopeful they will perk up production eventually. I also planted Trionfo Violetto and it is doing no better than the others so far, though it is a colorful addition to the mix.

harvest of pole beans

harvest of pole beans

The greenhouse cucumbers are having a banner year however. Of course they are spared having too much rain, since the only water they get is what I supply them by hand watering. That’s Tasty Jade in the below photo, which I turned into some refrigerator pickles.

Tasty Jade cucumber

Tasty Jade cucumber

I mentioned a while back that I had made a batch of cabbage sauerkraut with some caraway seeds added. We tried it out last week, adding it to some Canadian bacon and Muenster cheese on homemade rye bread. I only added a teaspoon of caraway seeds to a quart of kraut, but it gave the fermented cabbage a lovely flavor and I can see me doing this again. Caraway has carminative properties that aid in the digestion of the cabbage, so it’s got that going for it too. I also made a sandwich the other day with the kohlrabi kraut, and I wonder if the caraway would be good with that too? Perhaps I’ll try that this fall.

Reuben sandwich with caraway sauerkraut

Reuben sandwich with caraway sauerkraut

Speaking of homemade rye bread, I tried a recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. I made a batch of his Soft Rye Sandwich Bread last week, baking some of it into a loaf and some into buns. The bread is tasty but I didn’t think it was really an improvement over the recipe I usually make (Light Rye Sandwich Loaf). It does use a rye sourdough starter, and I may try and incorporate that in the new version of my recipe. My tastes in bread are leaning towards heartier ones with more whole grains, and I have added whole wheat to my recipe for the rye sandwich loaf. Surely I am not the only one who doesn’t follow their own recipes!

Soft Rye Buns

Soft Rye Buns

My new header photo of sunflowers is a result of a trip my wife and I made recently to Bluegrass Fish & Wildlife Area. The Indiana DNR plants acres of sunflowers for the wildlife, and we went to see them and get a few photos. As is our custom, I sat my camera on the trunk of the car and used the timer to get a pic of the two of us. The fields of sunflowers are an amazing sight to see, and the photos don’t really do them justice.

me and Lynda and acres of sunflowers

me and Lynda and acres of sunflowers

I hope you have enjoyed a look at what’s happening here in late July. To see what other gardeners are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

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Cornering the Cucurbits

Last year I planted a lot of vining melons and winter squash in one area of the garden, without any real plan on how I would handle their wandering habits. As it turned out, some of the less vigorous growers got crowded out by their more aggressive neighbors. Hopefully this year I did a better job of planning and planting, and so far the results looks promising.

Seminole squash plant

Seminole squash plant

One strategy I tried this year is planting some of the more robust growers in the corners of the garden. That way they could vine up on the fencing that surrounds the main garden area. In one corner I planted the Seminole winter squash, and I set out two plants back in mid May. This heirloom C. moschata variety was grown in Florida by the Seminole and the Miccosukee people, where it was usually planted at the base of a tree. The plant then grew up the trunk and the pumpkins would mature up in the tree. I figured it was a natural for training on the fence.

young fruit of the Seminole squash

young fruit of the Seminole squash

Every time I’m in the garden I work on training the vines to go where I want them on the fencing. I’m trying to get them to go up the fencing so they are out of the reach of the hungry deer and groundhogs. Of course the plants have their own ideas, and latch on to anything they can for support. The Seminole is starting to set on fruit now. You can see the characteristic teardrop shape in the above photo.

vines of Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

vines of Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

In another corner I planted the Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash. After planting and mulching with straw, the Thai squash looked like this in May. Eight weeks later it is vining in all directions, and some of the vines are at least fifteen feet long. I have not seen any fruit setting on this one yet. Last year was my first time growing this variety, and most of the fruit set on later in the season. Time will tell if that is typical or not, but it is still early in the growing season.

young Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash

young Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash

The other vining squash plants were spread around the garden beds and planted where they could easily reach the fence and grab on for support. The Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash (aka neck pumpkin) is another rambunctious grower. I’ve let it grow up on the fencing for several years now. I did find a young squash on it today. It sort of resembles a young Tromboncino squash at this point, but the neck will fill out as it gets bigger.

Diplomat melon

Diplomat melon

Last year many of the melon plants got overrun by the vining squash, so this year I was more careful about where I put the melons. I’ve also been training them away from the fencing, as most of them tend to slip off the vine when they are ripe. That is not a good thing if they happen to be several feet off the ground! That’s a Diplomat melon in the above photo, and the yellow color indicates it’s ripening. Diplomat is a Galia type melon with sweet, aromatic green flesh. Despite the green flesh, to me the flavor is more like cantaloupe than honeydew. I’m looking forward to the first melon for sure, and it looks like Diplomat might be the one. I also have Ambrosia, Amy, Brilliant and Sensation melons planted.

Honey Boat Delicata squash

Honey Boat Delicata squash

One of the squash that got overrun last year is Honey Boat Delicata. It was my first year growing it, and we managed to get four fruit from it despite its competition with the other squash. This year I planted it well away from other vining plants, and it is doing quite well. I found several fruit that have sized up and were beginning to turn color, plus more that were just setting on. Baker Creek says this variety is “one of the sweetest squash varieties in existence.” My wife and I both like Delicata type squash, and I am also growing my old standby Cornell’s Bush Delicata as well as another newcomer here called Candystick that Southern Exposure Seed Exchange says is “reminiscent of Medjool dates!” I am always skeptical when I read such hyperbole in a seed catalog, but I am looking forward to tasting these squash.

young Honey Boat Delicata squash

young Honey Boat Delicata squash

Another vining type squash I’m growing this year is the dual use Mexican heirloom variety Tatume. I’ve grown this one several times in the past, and it is a Cucurbita pepo type that does quite well here. Though you can let the squash mature and use like a winter squash, I think they are best used when young and treated like zucchini. I harvested the first ones a few days ago. The softball sized fruit are perfect for grilling, and I usually slice them into rounds and brush with a little EVOO then season with salt and pepper. It is usually quite prolific here, and you can see two setting on in the below photo.

Tatume squash

Tatume squash

Hopefully my efforts will pay off with lots of tasty winter squash and melons, and no variety will be left out or crowded out. At least that is my plan! I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA.

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Saturday Spotlight: Lorz Italian Garlic

Today I want to shine the spotlight on a garlic variety I’ve been growing for the last five years. It’s called Lorz Italian, and it’s an artichoke type that has consistently done well for me here since I started growing it. It’s also one of my favorites in the kitchen, which is another reason I keep growing it.

Lorz Italian garlic curing

Lorz Italian garlic curing

Lorz Italian is said to have been brought from Italy to Washington State in the late 1800’s. Even though it hails from the U.S. Pacific Northwest, this softneck variety is well adapted to areas with hot summer weather too. Our garden is located in USDA zone 6b, and we get cold winters with very little snow cover plus hot spring weather and very hot and humid summers. This year has been a wet one, with over eight inches of rain falling in June as the garlic crop was sizing up and beginning to mature. Lorz Italian has handled all that quite well, and the average bulb size is even a tad larger than last year.

Lorz Italian garlic

Lorz Italian garlic

In our garden, Lorz Italian matures in the mid-season, after the early Asiatic/Turban types and before the Silverskin varieties. The above photo was taken in early May of this year, as the bulbs were beginning to size up. You can see the stalk is about as big around as my index finger, which is a good sign there’s a big bulb forming below ground level. In the below photo, you can see one of those big bulbs right after digging in 2013.

tLorz Italian bulb right after digging

Lorz Italian bulb right after digging

Artichoke type garlic bulbs typically have multiple layers of cloves that overlap much like the petals on an artichoke. Lorz Italian generally has around 12-15 cloves per bulb, though it can have up to 20. The outer cloves are of a nice size, and it has fewer of the smaller inner cloves that some artichoke varieties have. Though Lorz Italian is a softneck garlic, under certain growing conditions it can send up a scape. I have not seen that here on any that I have grown. You can see the size of the cloves in the below photo, which shows cloves ready for planting.

garlic cloves ready for planting

garlic cloves ready for planting

Lorz Italian is a good keeping garlic, and typically stays in good shape for six to eight months after harvest. Of course, the keeping quality of any garlic depends a lot on how it is cured and stored.

trio of Lorz Italian garlic

trio of Lorz Italian garlic

In the kitchen, it is more flavorful than most artichoke types, which are the kind you typically find at the grocery. When raw, it has a spicy heat that will get your taste buds tingling. I speak from experience here, since I did a taste testing just recently! As with all garlic, the flavor mellows when cooked. I really like Lorz Italian for roasting whole, where the flavor really shines.

Lorz Italian(L) and Russian Red(R) garlic for roasting

Lorz Italian(L) and Russian Red(R) garlic for roasting

Back in February I roasted one head each of Russian Red and Lorz Italian so I could do some tasting. Despite the fact that Russian Red is a rocambole type that is known for its wonderful flavor, I thought Lorz Italian tasted better after baking. I’m not the only one either who thinks Lorz Italian is a great tasting garlic. Slow Food USA has included it on its Ark of Taste, which is “a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction.”

I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a garlic variety that is well adapted to a wide range of growing conditions, and is great tasting in the kitchen either raw or cooked. Seed garlic for Lorz Italian is available from a number of sources, and I got mine from Filaree Garlic Farm. I’ll be back soon with another variety.

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

 

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