Harvest Monday July 15, 2019

It’s time for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The bush beans are setting on here and made several appearances last week. They were a welcome addition to our harvests, with a promise of more to come. I’m growing a short row of Derby beans, my favorite round podded green bush bean. Many of these got tossed with olive oil and roasted in a cast iron skillet. The pole beans are just now starting to bloom and it won’t be long before the early ones are ready. I like to plant a few bush beans to give us early beans, and the last couple of years I’ve been replanting in early August to give us a second crop in the same space. That strategy of planting runner/pole beans plus two crops of bush beans gave us 50 pounds of beans last year, which certainly kept us well supplied!

Derby green beans

Cherry tomatoes are producing well now, and I even oven roasted a few of them last week. I also dehydrate them when we have a lot, but we’re not quite there yet. It’s a mix of Sun Sugar, Sunpeach, Jasper and Fire Fly in this batch, and we enjoyed them on salads and fish tacos last week.

cherry tomatoes

One new cherry tomato I’m growing here this year is called Cherry Bomb. It’s a late blight-resistant hybrid that also has the crimson gene which makes for a deeper red color and a higher lycopene content. All that is great, but what really got me with this one is the flavor. It’s sweet with a rich, full classic tomato flavor. I sampled my first one out in the garden (and my second one), and the ‘wow’ factor reminded me a lot of the first time I tasted a Sun Gold tomato. Unlike Sun Gold though, Cherry Bomb is larger and none of mine are splitting. We ate most of these babies as a snack, and I can’t wait for more to ripen. For more information on this variety, Johnny’s tomato breeder Emily Rose Haga has a Youtube video that serves as a great introduction. I’ll be growing this one again for sure.

Cherry Bomb tomatoes

I also got the first ripe slicing tomatoes last week, a couple each of Perfect Flame and Chef’s Choice Orange. We enjoyed those on sandwiches, and by themselves. I lost a few of the earliest ones to rot, but with drier weather they are looking better now and more should be ripe soon.

Perfect Flame and Chef’s Choice Orange tomatoes

The squashes and cucumber are producing enough for us to eat and some to give away. I gave a couple of the white Itachi cucumbers to our friend Ange, and I didn’t realize one of them was going to be on TV the next day (at 1:26 in video)! Itachi has a mild flavor and tender skin, which makes it useful in the kitchen as well as visually striking. A cucumber with a white skin is somewhat unusual to say the least, though some heirloom varieties have certainly been around for years. The green cucumbers are Corinto, a greenhouse type I’ve been growing for several years. The striped yellow zucchini Sunstripe is also nice to look at and a colorful addition to our meals.

squash and cucumbers

We spiralized some of the green and yellow zucchinis along with a carrot to make a side dish for dinner one night. The veggies are sauteed briefly in olive oil, just long enough to soften a bit and then we added some of our fresh basil. We had more spiralized zucchini on Saturday night as a base for a bolognese red sauce.

spiralized zucchini and carrot cooking

It was a summery harvest in the below photo with blackberries, more Derby beans and two kinds of summer squash. The blackberries and blueberries are slowing down now but we’ve had lots of them to eat and to freeze for later use.

harvest of summer veggies

I finished digging the garlic last week. I won’t know exactly how well it all did until it’s cured and I weigh it, but it appears to have done reasonably well given the wet growing conditions this spring. That said, it will be one crop I’m scaling back on next year. I plan on growing perhaps 40 or 50 bulbs of ones I really like, and buying storage garlic (silverskin types) when that runs out. I need to remind myself I don’t need to grow everything, and garlic is one example of that.

Mild French and Nootka Rose garlic

It was not a great year for cabbage here, with many heads rotting before they got big and the rest never really sizing up like they should. I pulled a few that were usable and the rest went on the compost pile as I prepped that bed for a fall crop of turnips and radishes. All of the napa cabbages rotted, but I’ll try them again this fall when they generally do better anyway.

sad cabbage harvest

I did have enough cabbage to make a few jars of Garlicky Dill Pickle Kraut. To the sliced cabbage I added several chopped pickling cucumbers, a bit of chopped onion, about 8-10 cloves of the fresh minced garlic, dill seeds and 3% salt. I will let it ferment for a couple of weeks before refrigerating.

Garlicky Dill Pickle Kraut

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 July 8, 2019

It’s time for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The weather has been hot, humid and rainy here in July, and we’ve had small amounts of rain every day so far this month. The summer veggies seem to be loving it, even if this gardener isn’t! I’ve harvested quite a bit of summer squash, over 40 pounds so far, and I’ve frozen quite a bit for later use and we’ve given some away to friends. The yellow squash Tempest has been quite productive, and we continue to enjoy eating it every which way we can.

summer squashes

summer squashes

I’m also getting the first of the White Scallop squashes. These are a Native American heirloom, also known as pattypan squash. They were a favorite of my mother, and I learned to like them at an early age. They have a different flavor than other summer squashes, and if I have extras I will freeze them for later use in soups.

White Scallop squashes

Another heirloom squash I harvested last week is the Tatume. This one is popular in Mexico, and does well here in our hot and humid summers. I like to slice these and grill them, and young ones can be prepared much like you would zucchini. I did a Variety Spotlight on it last year if you want more information about it. This one was hiding from me and got a little larger than I like. I usually harvest them a big smaller before the seeds start to get big. It was still quite edible though, and the flesh and skin were still tender even if the seeds had started to develop.

Tatume squash

The cucumbers are producing despite hot conditions inside the greenhouse. I’ve gotten quite a few slicing types lately, including the green Nokya, white Itachi and the Beit Alpha type Socrates. We enjoy these on salads and turned into refrigerator pickles, which makes for a cool side dish on a hot day. I also made a yogurt raita to go with a meal, which was cool and tasty.

slicing cucumbers from the greenhouse

It’s my first time growing the white skinned Itachi. According to Johnny’s Selected Seeds, it’s an Asian type cuke with crispy bitter-free flesh and a small seed cavity. Like all the cucumbers I grow in the greenhouse, it’s parthenocarpic and doesn’t need pollination to set fruit. It’s doing well so far, and we’re enjoying the fruits, so I believe it will make an attractive addition to the lineup in the future.

Itachi cucumber

It’s proving to be a good year for the blackberries. I’ve picked two gallons so far, and the vines are still loaded with berries. The thornless canes make harvesting a joy compared to the thorny types I used to grow years ago.

Natchez and Apache blackberries

We used some of those berries to make a Blackberry Cobbler last week. We don’t do a lot of sweets here, but this made for a sweet treat that I really enjoyed. I used freshly ground whole grain White Sonora flour to make it.

Blackberry Cobbler

My wife has been picking the blueberries, and it looks to be one of our best years in a while. She has brought in over 11 pounds so far, with more to come. Our biggest producer and best tasting berry is Elizabeth, an old variety named after blueberry expert Elizabeth Coleman White, who set out in the early 1900s to create a variety with an authentic blueberry flavor, and I think she succeeded! I love a plant with a good story, and this blueberry has a great story indeed.


The cherries tomatoes are ripening in good numbers now. I planted mix of all colors and shapes, and most are represented in the below photo. The orange one is Sun Sugar, a non-cracking cherry that I think is as tasty as Sun Gold. And the white one is Fire Fly, a 2019 AAS Winner with a great flavor.

cherry tomatoes

One of note is called Amy’s Apricot mix. I got the seeds last year from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and the plant I set out in 2018 made the expected sweet flavored orange fruits. I saved seeds from those orange tomatoes, and the lone plant I set out this year is making red tomatoes! The folks at SESE warn that it’s an unstable mix and that “Many plants bear red fruits, and a wide range of orange types is present as well.” The good news is that the red ones I’m getting this year have an awesome flavor. I gave one to my wife and she said it had “that old fashioned tomato flavor”, which I think sums it up nicely. I’ll save seeds from this one too, and who knows what next year will bring with this unstable but tasty tomato!

Amy’s Apricot tomato

The container planted Patio Baby and Fairy Tale eggplants continue to give us lots of fruits. We roasted this batch in the oven in a cast iron skillet. This gives much the same flavor as grilling, but without slaving over a hot grill out in the heat! I’ve gotten five pounds from three plants so far, and a later planted fourth plant is just now starting to set fruit.

Fairy Tale and Patio Baby eggplant

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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Planning the Fall Garden

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.”
–Henry David Thoreau

It is safe to say I have usually not taken Thoreau’s advice about simplifying when it comes to gardening. In the past, I always figured that if growing 5 tomato plants was good, then growing 25 would be even better! But the last few years, it seems I have been gardening more and more, and enjoying it less and less. So, I finally decided it was time to change all that, since I had no one to blame but myself. I went to work last month on coming up with a scaled back garden plan for next year. I’ve made a good start on that, and then I went to work on cutting back on my fall gardening plans for this year. I want to continue to grow most of the same things I’ve been growing, just less of them. And I want to emphasize things we really enjoy and those things we can’t readily buy.

collard seedlings

For the fall garden, that includes a variety of greens like kale, turnip greens and collards. While you can buy those greens at the grocery, the homegrown ones are typically more tender and flavorful, especially when they mature in colder weather. I also want to sow some daikon radishes for fermenting, and brassicas like sprouting broccoli and kohlrabi. I started seeds for collard greens back in late May, and those seedlings are now in 3.5″ pots and ready to be planted in a week or so.  I need to clear a spot for then and get it amended with compost and fertilizer, which I plan to do in the next few days. And this week I started a scaled back list of seeds for kohlrabi, broccolini, cabbage and kale. Those plants should be ready to set out in early August.

seedlings for fall

One more chore to be done this summer is to replace the greenhouse. I was hoping to get another year or two out of it, but the wood around the bottom of the outside panels is rotting. That has let the panels fall, leaving a gap at the top which lets in cold winter air. I have sealed the gap using metallic tape, but that is only a temporary fix. The door is also in bad shape, and other wooden parts are showing signs of deterioration. And the twin wall polycarbonate panels are clouded up and letting in less light than when it was new. The greenhouse is almost 12 years old now, and I figure if I get 12 years out of the new one, I will be 78 years old myself by that time and quite possibly ready to scale back gardening even more!

greenhouse panels rotting

I assembled and put up the current greenhouse all by myself, but I have decided to get help for the new one. It was quite a chore back then, and I really don’t want to do it all by myself this time. If I can get someone else to do the hard and heavy stuff, I can handle the site prep and the finishing tasks like installing the shelving and benches. Hopefully I can get it all done in time to get things planted for fall and winter inside the new greenhouse. I’ll be sure and share updates on that project as it progresses.

taping over the gaps

I hope you have enjoyed this update on what’s going on here, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

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Harvest Monday July 1, 2019

Once again it’s time for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. Tomatoes have finally started ripening here, and I got a small selection of cherry tomatoes last week. The red Jasper is small but super sweet, while the Sun Sugar is golden and Fire Fly is white. Most of these wound up on salads or got eaten for snacks.

first cherry tomatoes

Jasper tomatoes

Summer squash is still coming on strong, and I’ve been busy freezing a lot of it for later use. The yellow Tempest and the two-toned Zephyr are hanging out with various zucchinis in the below photo.

summer squashes

I’m growing Green Griller for the first time. It’s a green zucchini that makes short, blocky fruit that are ideal for slicing lengthwise and grilling.

Green Griller squash

The broccolini harvest is about over but I did get a decent cutting of it last week. I’ll replant for a fall crop, and it’s almost time to start those seeds here soon. I’ve already got some collard greens seedlings going.

Broccolini side shoots

My wife continues to get good sized harvests of blueberries every few days. We enjoy eating them fresh then freeze the rest. The mosquitoes love her so she has to wear long pants and spray bug repellent every time she harvests.

blueberry harvest

blueberry harvest

Kossak kohlrabi is my favorite for fermenting, since it makes large sized bulbs. These seven weighed seven pounds total, with some weighing more than a pound and the smaller ones a bit less. The larger size makes it easy to grate for kraut or to slice into sticks for fermented kohlrabi pickles, which is exactly what I did with most of these. I did a Variety Spotlight on Kossak a few years back with more info on this great variety. I’ll be growing it again this fall too.

Kossak kohlrabi

And I started digging garlic last week. Red Janice was one of the earliest to start drying down, so I dug it first. I will be digging more this week as the early ones are browning up fast. The fresh garlic is so juicy and a nice change to the stored bulbs we’ve been using all winter.

Red Janice garlic

Last but not least I made a cutting of flat leaf parsley to go in a tabouli salad. Parsley is our most-used herb here, with basil and cilantro coming in second. I have basil growing right now but the cilantro has all bolted long ago.

flat leaf parsley

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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Variety Spotlight: Tempest Squash

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

Today’s Spotlight is on a yellow squash named Tempest, which has quickly become my new favorite summer squash variety. Tempest is without a doubt the best tasting yellow squash I have ever grown and eaten. In my experience, most summer squash aren’t really known for being all that flavorful, but Tempest is an exception.

Tempest squash

It was bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and they worked with growers and culinary experts to create a squash that is dryer than usual and has a firm texture when cooked. It also has a higher starch content than most summer squashes, which contributes to its rich sweet flavor. Tempest has some winter squash in its breeding lines, which no doubt adds to the extra flavor as well as the drier flesh. It was also bred to be visually appealing, with raised ridges and a faint striping that’s visible in the bright yellow skin.

Tempest squash

It grows on bushy, well-behaved plants that have an open habit and soft spines that are easy on the arms and the fruit when harvesting. This is my second year growing it, and my plants are vigorous and loaded with fruit. It’s quick to produce too, and this year my plants set on squash just 25 days after setting out transplants, and only 49 days from sowing the seeds in a Pro-Tray 24 cell flat.

Tempest squash plant

In the kitchen, Tempest excels both cooked and raw. I’ve served it braised in a little butter, grilled it on a gas grill, pickled it in a sweet pickling brine and sliced it thinly to serve in salads. My wife and I have truly enjoyed it every way we have eaten it. I have also frozen it for later use in soup and stews, where it lends color as well as flavor. I haven’t yet tried it roasted in the oven but I imagine it will be tasty when prepared that way too, and I plan on trying it soon.

Tempest squash on the grill

I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a summer squash that is not only easy to grow but great in the kitchen as well. Seeds for Tempest are available in the U.S. from  Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  I’ll be back soon with another variety to spotlight!

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