Harvest Monday July 26, 2021

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The harvests here have been pretty typical for this time of year here. For much of July, eggplant, squashes, cucumbers and berries were plentiful and have kept us well supplied. I generally harvest these every other day, and one morning’s haul is in the below photo. I got the first of the big eggplants, along with a good sized tromboncino we spiralized for a dish we made last week.

squash and eggplant harvest

I mentioned last week we made a Spiralized Zucchini and Summer Squash Casserole that was topped with a ricotta and Parmesan cheese mixture with a little fresh basil added. We made it again, and this time I had the camera ready. It’s really not so much a casserole though, since it is baked on a sheet pan. It is so tasty, and I have added it to my list of “things to make when squash is in season”. I have a couple of more dishes I want to try this week that feature summer squash.

squash casserole

Spiralized Zucchini and Summer Squash Casserole

Our berries are about done for the year. They had a good run, and we got over 20 pounds of blueberries and over 10 pounds of blackberries. The freezer has been restocked, and we will enjoy these throughout the year now. I will miss the fresh ones though!

blackberry and blueberry harvest

Tomatoes from the main garden are finally ripening. It’s one of my favorite times of year! Many of these first ones are splitting due to our recent rains, but not Juliet on the left. It’s always early and prolific, and one of my favorites ever since it was an AAS Winner in 1999. The rest are a mixed bag including Sun Sugar, Cherry Bomb and Amy’s Apricot.

first of main crop tomatoes

The container eggplants are still cranking out the fruit. I got a goodly amount of the white skinned Gretel last week. The yield from these container grown eggplants is always amazing, and this year they seem to be doing even better than usual.

Gretel and Fairy Tale eggplant

The smaller eggplants like Gretel and Fairy Tale are our new favorites for making eggplant sandwiches. They get soft and tender when roasted, and the mild flesh is a nice canvas to add all sort of other savory ingredients. We had them last week on toasted naan bread spread with hummus and topped with cheddar cheese. With a side of my refrigerator pickles, it made for a tasty lunch.

eggplant sandwich with refrigerator pickles

While cleaning up the bed where the spring brassicas had been growing, I found a couple of runty cabbage plants that finally made an edible head. They weighed just over a pound each after cleaning up the outer leaves, which was a pleasant surprise since I had given up on them. They will be good for slaw or general cooking use, and frankly I don’t try and grow giant cabbages anyway since they are more than the two of us can eat or store in the refrigerator.

last of spring cabbages

The Mini Munch cucumbers are truly just the right size for salads and snacking. My greenhouse plant has been quite prolific and has kept up well supplied. These cucumbers are seedless with a thin tender skin, and the plants are parthenocarpic with all-female flowers which makes them heavy yielding.

squash and Mini Munch cucumbers

Another first last week was the Goldilocks golden acorn squash. This squash was a 2021 AAS Winner, and they are pretty enough to be ornamental. I’m really looking forward to eating these. They each weighed in at a bit more than one pound apiece, and were the first of the winter squashes to mature here this year.

Goldilocks squashes

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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Late July Garden Update

Today I want to give a quick virtual tour of our vegetable garden here in late July. The spring crops are all done for, and I am pleased with how the summer vegetables are doing so far. It will be a week or two before I plant any of the fall crops, so I spend my garden time harvesting and weeding these days. Recent rains have everything growing quite lush, and I’ve been trying to keep the weeds pulled as they pop up. The garden is 45 x 45 feet in size, surrounded by fencing to keep the deer and other critters out. I have about 80% of that area planted this year, with the rest idled or planted with cover crops.

the view of the garden from the door

I have vining squash planted in a bed just inside the doorway. All of these are trellised on remesh panels secured to metal t-posts. That helps to conserve space as well as keep the fruit off the ground. I do have to work a bit at keeping the vines on the trellis though, but it is worth it since I can grow a lot of squash in a fairly small amount of space.

vining squashes

Thelma Sanders acorn squash is one of my long-time favorites. They have a rich, sweet and nutty flavor when roasted and don’t need much in the way of seasoning for my tastes. They are setting on now, and should be ready for eating in a few weeks.

Thelma Sanders squash

About half of the vining squashes are harvested when still green, and we have been enjoying them for several weeks now. The trellising also helps the tromboncino squash straight, unless they get hung up on the trellis itself which sometimes happens despite my best efforts. The one in the photo is about ready to be harvested. I’m letting it get big enough to spiralize, which is one of my favorite ways to prepare it.

tromboncino squash

Next to the vining squashes I have a row of black-eyed peas sown as an edible cover crop. After that,  the peppers are next in line. I have one whole row/bed of them planted. These are all mulched with paper covered with straw, and I use folding metal cages to support them.  Since I have quite a few different varieties planted, I’ve put name tags on some of the cages to help me identify them more easily.

pepper plants

I have six C. baccatum plants that I overwintered indoors in containers and set out to grow a second year in-ground. These overwintered plants are usually early to set fruit and ripen, and Aji Rico is the earliest of the ones I have growing that way. It has mildly hot peppers that are good for fresh use and make a very tasty hot sauce.

Aji Rico peppers

Tomatoes are always a big crop for me, and I can’t resist growing many tried-and-true varieties as well as a few new ones every year. I have one full row planted and mulched with paper and straw, and another partial row planted in holes I made in woven weed barrier fabric. Both versions seem to be doing equally well so far. I have been trimming the vines that escape from the cages and trying to keep them from running all over their neighbors. It’s hard to do though when they have set fruit so I have left some escapees.

row of caged tomatoes

I have a few short-vine paste tomatoes growing, and one called Monticello is going to be the first to ripen. We use these for sauce, and I freeze quite a bit of it for use year-round. I also have the determinate Health Kick planted. I use most all of the the indeterminate tomatoes Juliet and Granadero for sauces and such too. We can use up a lot of tomatoes when we start cooking them down for things like tomato sauce and ketchup, so I have quite a few planted for processing as well as fresh use.

Monticello tomatoes

I have eggplant and sweet potatoes growing in the row next to the tomatoes. I use metal folding cages around the eggplant same as I do with the peppers, which helps keep them upright if they are loaded with fruit. They are just now starting to bear but they have quite a few blooms and young eggplant setting on.

eggplants growing

The sweet potatoes occupy most of that row, and I have them mulched with newspaper covered in straw. They are vining all over the place, and I try and keep them in the row or else they will happily vine up nearby cages.

sweet potato vines

The bush squashes are next in the garden, which shared a row with the early brassicas which have now all been pulled up. I start all my squashes inside in plug flats, and this year I set out the young plants in the woven weed barrier fabric, cutting holes to get them in the ground. They have done quite well planted that way, and weeding has been minimal which is a big plus. I am planning to reuse the fabric again next year for the squash and other things. The fruits stay clean when planted this way and so far I have yet to see a squash bug, though that may be coincidental.

bush squash plants

Last in the garden are the pole beans, which occupy one whole 40-plus foot row. These are sown directly in place, and I have mulched with straw on one side and cardboard covered with straw between the bean trellis itself and the outside fencing. They have reached the top of the trellis, and the earliest ones are starting to show blooms.

pole beans

Robe Mountain is an early maturing Appalachian type bean that has strings and a great flavor. Last year I harvested the first one in early August, and they are pretty much on the same pace this year. We freeze a lot of beans for later use, and eat them both as a side dish and in soups.

Robe Mountain beans

The last plants I will mention are a couple of vining squashes I have trained to grow up the garden fencing. Centercut and Turkeyneck are two ‘neck’ type squashes I have grown for several years now. We use most of the Centercut fruits at the green stage, while I let all of the Turkeyneck grow to maturity to use like a winter squash. Both are setting fruit, and we have been eating the green Centercut for a few weeks now. I have been growing the neck pumpkins this way for several years, and even though the mature pumpkins get quite large they get ample support from the garden fencing.

Turkeyneck squash vines

Harvesting is already keeping me busy, and when the tomatoes really start ripening I will be busy for sure. And it won’t be long before I begin planting the fall crops, starting with collard greens and then on to broccoli, cabbage and kohlrabi. I may also sow some turnip seeds since we enjoy both the roots and the greens of those. I hope you have enjoyed this tour of the garden here in July, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

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Harvest Monday July 19, 2021

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. I’m still waiting on main crop tomatoes to ripen, but other than that the harvests here are typical for early summer. We are getting our fill of things like squash, cucumbers, eggplants and bush beans. The first large eggplants made their appearance last week too. Orient Express eggplant is an early-yielder that has done well for me in the past. And Asian Delite has bright purple skin and reminds me of Ping Tung Long.

typical harvest

Orient Express eggplant

The squash and cucumbers continue to roll in too. The freezer is about full of squash, and we are looking for new ways to use the fresh ones. We made one casserole last week using spiralized squash that was topped with a ricotta and Parmesan cheese mixture with a little fresh basil added. I neglected to get a photo of it, but it was a keeper.

squash and cucumber harvests

The baby eggplant is still bearing heavily too. It has been a great year for these container grown plants, and we have gotten right at seven pounds of them so far.

eggplant harvests

One of the things we made with them last week was an open-faced eggplant sandwich. We often make this with the big purple Italian eggplants, but for this version we cut some of the baby ones in half and roasted until tender. Then we spread hummus on mini naans, added the eggplant and topped with a slice of cheddar cheese. A quick trip under the broiler to melt the cheese and they were ready to eat. My wife and I both gave it two thumbs up, and I can see me making this version again soon!

open-faced eggplant sandwich on naan

I got another decent harvest of the Speedy bush beans last week. I have another variety planted (Orient) and they are just now blooming, so the harvest should continue for another couple of weeks at least.

Speedy beans

Another favorite here is tabouli salad. I found enough salad tomatoes to add to a generous bit of flatleaf parsley and I made a batch of it for lunch one day. We served it with my wife’s curried chicken salad and some toasted naan bread. It all made for a cool lunch meal on a hot day.

parsley and tomatoes for tabouli salad

cool lunch salads

In other news, I recently sowed a row of late black-eyed peas in the veggie garden as an edible cover crop. These should begin bearing in September, and give us enough for fresh eating as well as some for the freezer. After the peas began to sprout last week I mulched along the row with straw covered cardboard, which should stay in place all winter and help keep the weeds down early next year before it’s time to plant something in that spot. Spreading straw is one of my least favorite chores, but I reminded myself it was not a bad way to spend my retirement days! And of course I felt good about it once it was done.

mulched black-eyed peas

I’ll save the best news for last. Awhile back I asked my artistically talented wife if she could create a flag for our butterfly and pollinator garden, and she finished the project last week. She used a heavy weight waterproof canvas material in different colors in a design of her own creation. It exceeded my wildest expectations, and I couldn’t be happier with the flag that now hangs in a prominent place. If you are interested, you can read more about how she made the flag on her blog: Finishing the Garden Flag. It certainly brightens up the area, and she is now inspired to make a couple more flags for our gardens.

garden flag

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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Photo Friday: July Blooms

Today I want to give you a sampling of what’s blooming now in our Wild Garden and Sun Garden areas. The Wild Garden is so named because the plants in there are beneficial to butterflies, bee and other pollinators. We also do minimal deadheading of blooms, leaving the seeds for birds which love them in late summer and fall. Many plants are blooming there now, and here are a sampling of them.

Wild Garden

We have several different type of Bee Balm and all are blooming now. The wild one with light purple blossoms  (Monarda fistulosa) is a native plant, and was planted in several places when we bought this place. The bees like the non-native types too, and every morning I can see them making the rounds on the flowers. The bumblebees seem to be especially fond of them.

bee balm

Coreopsis is another native plant we have in the Wild Garden. Some we have planted are cultivars with different colored blooms, and we also have the native lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) with light yellow blossoms.

coreopsis

The Grayhead Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) is another favorite of butterflies, and the birds also love the seed heads when they form. It does self-sow occasionally, though not enough to be a problem. I am guessing the birds eat most of the seeds before they ever fall to the ground.

Grayhead Coneflower

Another native plant that’s blooming now is the Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta). We have it along with other Rudbeckia cultivars planted in several spots in the Wild Garden. Prairee Sun is new to us this year and has large two-tone orange and yellow petals on plants that get up to three feet tall. The smaller flowered native version was planted when we moved in, and we have kept it going.

rudbeckias

Not nearly as showy, the Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is blooming now and is a favorite nectar source for pollinators. The leaves of the plant also serve as a host plant for the swallowtail butterflies.

blooms of Bronze Fennel

Another area with a lot of blooms right now is our Sun Garden. The Sun Garden used to be a shade garden, until our huge elm tree died and we had it cut down. Now it is full of sun-loving perennials and a few annuals in containers.

Sun Garden

The Becky Shasta Daisy puts on a show every year, and it is in full bloom right now. The blooms are visited by butterflies, and it is deer resistant which is a must for our gardens since deer are a real problem for us.

Becky Shasta Daisy

We have several different coneflower cultivars planted in the Sun Garden, along with the native Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). They are truly butterfly magnets, though the bees also visit them.

coneflowers

I’ve mentioned the native buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)  before, and the blooms on it are about done for now. It was really popular with the bees and other smaller insects when it was in full bloom.

Buttonbush blooms

The Stokes Aster (Stokesia laevis) is another native that is in full bloom now. The purple flwoers are a nectar source for butterflies as well as being pretty to look at.

Stokes Aster

We potted up a few annuals to sit on a metal table in the Sun Garden next to the hydrangeas. This year we have coleus, zinnea, portulaca and impatiens along with a couple of the Shock Wave petunias. They give us summer long bloom and help brighten up the area after the shrubs have finished blooming.

annuals in containers

I hope you have enjoyed this peek at some of the things that are blooming now in our gardens. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

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Harvest Monday July 12, 2021

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. It’s summer here for sure, and daily harvests now include things like eggplant, cucumber, squashes and berries. One morning last week found me harvesting squash, eggplant and blackberries. The blackberries are about done for the season but the eggplant and squashes are still going strong. Cherry tomatoes should be ripening soon, and the plants are covered in blossoms.

typical July harvest

It has been a good year for the blueberries and blackberries. My wife has harvested almost 14 pounds of blueberries, while the blackberries have yielded about 7 pounds so far. We eat our fill and then freeze the rest.

blackberries and blueberries

I got the first picking of the bush beans last week. I planted a new (to me) variety this year called Speedy that has lived up to its name and given us beans 48 days after sowing. I also planted Orient and it is just now starting to bloom. The main crop of pole beans will likely not begin bearing until early August. We love these smaller beans roasted, and that is what I did with this batch.

Speedy snap beans

The greenhouse cucumbers are holding up well in the heat. I keep them well watered and they have been supplying us with plenty for fresh eating. Mini Munch is an outstanding “snack” cucumber with a thin, tender skin and crispy sweet flesh. The white one in the photo is Itachi, which is tasty but hasn’t been very prolific for me so far this year.

cucumber harvests

The squashes are plenty prolific though, and it is safe to say I planted too many this year.  I freeze the extras, and we will have plenty for use later on.

squash harvests

Tatume is an heirloom Mexican squash I’ve been growing for a number of years now. It’s a vining type, and does quite well for me here in our hot and humid summers. This year for support I’m letting it grow up the fencing around the outside of the vegetable garden. My favorite way to prepare them is to cut them into 1/4 inch thick slices, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and then grill them. I did just that one night for a side dish, along with some of the Speedy green beans which I roasted in the oven. I did a Variety Spotlight on Tatume back in 2018.

Tatume squash

I made tried a new recipe last week to use up some of our zucchini, and my wife and I decided it is a keeper. Tuna-Zucchini Pasta made for a tasty dinner for us one night and came together in no time. I used whole grain penne pasta made from farro, and while it was cooking I sauteed zucchini in a skillet with a bit of olive oil. When the zucchini started to soften I added minced garlic and fresh basil from the garden. At the last minute I added a few store-bought tomatoes and canned ahi tuna. The drained pasta was the last thing to get added to the skillet, then I grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over the top.

Tuna Zucchini Pasta

Another dish I cooked up last week came from an old recipe. Of all the gifts my mother ever gave me, it’s an intangible one I cherish the most. She taught me to cook when I was a teenager, and passed on her love of cooking to me along the way. With that in mind, I made her Eggplant Casserole for dinner one night. She used to say that even people who didn’t like eggplant loved her casserole, and I saw her prove that on more than one occasion. We love our eggplant here though, and I tweaked the recipe she got from a 1978 Southern Living magazine to suit our tastes and what I had on hand. I used roasted baby eggplant, and instead of just diced tomatoes I used homemade tomato sauce from the freezer along with fresh basil and oregano from the garden. Mozzarella, provolone and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses made it extra cheesy and for me it brought back fond memories.

Hamburger Eggplant Casserole

 

recipe card

On a non-harvest note, I have been seeing a skunk in the early morning hours eating mulberries that have fallen to the ground under our tree. One morning last week, he/she had a smaller companion with it. I don’t know if it was a juvenile, or a male/female pair, but I was able to zoom in a get a photo of them without getting too close. They eat insects,  and grubs, so they are a welcome presence here but I do enjoy them from a distance!

pair of skunks

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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