Harvest Monday August 8, 2022

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. It was another rainy week here, with over two more inches falling on already soaked ground. It has rained 10 of the last 14 days, to help put it in perspective. I have been harvesting between showers, and weeding as best I can. The rains came just as the tomatoes were beginning to ripen, and as a result many of them are splitting and rotting. We are still getting plenty to eat fresh, but I am not sure how many we will have for cooking up and turning into sauce. Thankfully last year was a great year for them, and we have quite a bit of sauce and paste left in the freezer. Other than the tomatoes, all the other crops seem to be holding up well so far. And there has been no need for irrigating lately for sure!

early August harvest

Some of the tomatoes seem to be handling the rain better than others, and I am making note of those for future plantings. Damsel is one of them, and it’s a medium sized pink beefsteak tomato with good resistance to late blight disease. I think it has a great flavor that compares favorably to heirlooms that don’t usually do well for me here. I’ve grown it for several years now, and it has been a dependable performer. I’m growing Chef’s Choice Purple for the first time, and it is also holding up well. It’s in the below photo along with Chef’s Choice Yellow and Chef’s Choice Striped. It’s also my first time growing the 2022 AAS Winner Purple Zebra, and while some of those are splitting they are holding up pretty well too given the wet conditions.

another August harvest

Damsel tomatoes

We did a taste comparison of Damsel and Chef’s Choice Purple one day for lunch. My wife and I enjoyed both of them, and it would be hard for me to pick a favorite!

Damsel and Chef’s Choice Purple tomatoes

On another day, we sampled Damsel along with Purple Zebra and Chef’s Choice Striped. The Purple Zebra and Damsel had a good mix of tangy sweet flavors, while the Chef’s Choice Striped leaned towards the sweet side to my taste buds. They all went well with a ham and kraut sandwich we enjoyed for lunch one day, made using my homemade rye bread and kohlrabi kraut.

Purple Zebra, Damsel and Chef’s Choice Striped tomatoes

tomatoes with kraut sandwich

It’s not all about tomatoes though. We’re still getting a lot of eggplant, even as we wait for the sweet peppers to ripen. I got two of the large Italian eggplants last week, Nadia and Galine.

Nadia and Galine eggplant

Roasting the eggplants is one of our favorite ways to cook them. Sometimes we just brush with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

roasted eggplant

Another way we like to prepare them is to add a little grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on top after the eggplant is roasted.

roasted eggplant with parmesan cheese

In other news, our mowing service got an early start on the front lawn one morning. Too bad we can’t get them to only eat the grass and leave the flowers and veggies alone! I’m not a real fan of the deer ticks they leave for us either since they often carry Lyme disease.

deer in front lawn

Despite all the other breads I bake I hadn’t made pita bread in a couple of years, and last week I cooked up a batch of them. I used half white whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour, using my Whole Wheat Pita Bread recipe. I baked them on a hot pizza stone, and they puffed up nicely. We use them more often as a flatbread, instead of a pocket bread, so the ‘puff’ isn’t really required for that use. They also make a tasty crust for homemade pizza.

whole wheat pita bread

I’m still tweaking my recipe for whole wheat cinnamon swirl bread. Last week I baked it in a 9x4x4 Pullman Pan, and made an effort to roll up the dough a bit more tightly. I am happy with how loaf that turned out, and next time I want to try bumping up the filling a bit. I will share the recipe here on the blog once I get it finalized.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl bread

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 please take a minute and check out what everyone is harvesting!


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Photo Friday: August Flowers

Today I want to show some of the things we have blooming here in early August. The pollinator garden (aka Wild Garden) is loaded with blooms right now. Everything there was planted to provide some sort of appeal to pollinators, butterflies and birds. We don’t deadhead blooms when they set seeds, since those are eaten by finches and other small birds. Recent rains have everything growing lush lately too.

Wild Garden in August

Butterflies are frequent visitors to our garden, and I have seen swallowtails visiting the bee balm and Joe Pye Weed recently. They also like the petunias, which we have blooming in several places.

Swallowtail butterfly

The native Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) is covered in blooms now. It’s a tall plant, with small daisy-like blooms. It also tends to reseed itself, which makes it a good candidate for naturalizing. I try and pluck out seedlings that pop up in unwanted areas to keep it from taking over.

Brown-Eyed Susan

Rudbeckia Henry Eilers has rayed blooms that resemble asterisks! It’s another tall plant, and the flowers are sweetly perfumed with vanilla and anise scents.

Rudbeckia Henry Eilers

Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum) is a tall plant native to North America. It towers up above most of the other perennials, and the purple-pink flowers are absolutely a magnet for butterflies.

Joe Pye Weed

closeup of Joe Pye Weed

Swallowtail butterfly on Joe Pye Weed

The bee balm is about done for here, but the swallowtail butterflies are still visiting it for nectar too.

swallowtail butterfly on bee balm

The Scarlet Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) is another native plant, found in swampy areas of the southern U.S. We got seeds for this back in 2009 from two sisters who were on our Master Gardener Garden Walk, and have been growing it ever since. It’s winter hardy in our area, and can easily be started by seed. It gets up to six feet tall, and it is a hummingbird and butterfly magnet! Like other hardy hibiscus plants, the blooms only last for one day. This plant pretty much goes straight up, so we have several of them planted fairly close together.

Scarlet Hibiscus

Scarlet Hibiscus

We also have several other hardy hibiscus that have been flowering since early summer.

Hibiscus Starry Starry Night

Hibiscus Cranberry Crush

The Sun Garden is home to my wife’s growing collection of iris, plus other perennials and shrubs like oakleaf hydrangea and viburnum. The Shasta daisy Becky is a reliable bloomer, and has long-lasting white blooms. We have a small metal table and chairs with pots of annuals sitting on them to give a little more color to the area.

Sun Garden

We do have shorter perennials planted, especially around the edges of our garden. The Millenium Allium is blooming now, and we have it in several places. The chive-like foliage is topped with rosy-purple flowers. Unlike many of the flowering alliums, this one seldom self-sows. It can easily be propagated by division, and that is one reason we have several of them now! The blooms are popular with our bees.

Allium Millenium

Another shorter plant blooming here now is the Daybreak threadleaf coreopsis. I see smaller pollinators on it sometimes, and the cheerful yellow flowers have orange-red centers that light up the border.

Daybreak Coreopsis

I hope you have enjoyed this look at some of the things we have blooming here in early August. I will be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

 

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Harvest Monday August 1, 2022

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. Last week we got lots of rain- over three inches worth, and it now seems we have gone from too dry to overly wet conditions. The rain came just as tomatoes were ripening, which led to some  many of them splitting. I still managed to bring in quite a few of the smaller fruited kinds though plus a few of the larger slicing tomatoes. The eggplant doesn’t really seem to mind the rain, and those plants continue to keep us well-supplied. I’ve harvested over 20 pounds of it so far, and it has kept my wife and I looking for new ways to use it. Any and all ideas would be welcomed too!

late July harvest

So far the star of the 2022 tomato harvest is Purple Zebra, which is a 2022 AAS Winner. The billiard ball sized fruits are striped on the outside and deep purple on the inside. The flesh is rich and full-flavored, with a good blend of acid and sweet tastes. My wife and I have been enjoying these at every opportunity!

Purple Zebra tomato

sliced Purple Zebra tomato

I also got the first of the Chef’s Choice Purple tomatoes last week. This is one entry of the Chef’s Choice series I hadn’t tried before now. The first one to ripen was a whopper, weighing well over a pound. The flesh was meaty and sweet, and reminiscent of the heirloom Cherokee Purple tomato which is likely somewhere in the parentage. I got two more later in the week that were a bit smaller at 10-11 ounces, which is still a respectable size. We used some of this one to make open-faced eggplant sandwiches one day for lunch, on a base of my homemade sourdough bread.

Chef’s Choice Purple tomato

sliced Chef’s Choice Purple tomato

eggplant and tomato sandwich

The Mellow Star peppers gave us another taste last week. These hybrid shishito peppers have no heat, and are a tasty treat when ‘blistered’ in a skillet of hot oil.

Mellow Star peppers

The container eggplant is slowing down, which is not a bad thing as the in-ground plantings are coming on strong. Icicle, Gretel and Fairy Tale (all AAS Winners) are performing about equally well for me in containers.

Icicle, Gretel and Fairy Tale eggplant

I’m getting Centercut and Korean avocado squashes as well as an occasional Tromboncino now that the true summer squashes are done for. And did I mention lots of eggplant? I have the light purple Asian Delite and Charming planted along with the striped Annina and dark purple Millionaire and Orient Express. The white ones in the below photo are from an in-ground planting of Icicle.

another harvest

One dish we made with the eggplant last week was Parmesan Eggplant Pasta. For that we roasted eggplant, then topped with parmesan cheese. We heated spinach with cooked farro fusilli pasta until the spinach wilted, then added cherry tomatoes and fresh basil from the garden. Served with more parmesan cheese and a few toasted pine nuts on top, it made a filling dinner meal for us one night. We will be making this one again! We decided next time to chop up the roasted eggplant and mix it in with everything else.

Parmesan Eggplant Pasta

In other news, I baked up a loaf of sourdough focaccia bread using a recipe from Elaine Boddy’s Whole Grain Sourdough at Home. It featured a mix of bread flour and whole grain rye flour, and was leavened with my 10+ year old sourdough starter. I sprinkled course salt over the top and a bit of fresh rosemary on one end. It went well with the frittata we had for lunch yesterday.

sourdough focaccia bread

The pollinator garden is full of summer blooms now, and the bees and butterflies are daily visitors. I hope to do an update on our perennial gardens soon, while so many things are flowering.

Wild Garden in late afternoon

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 please take a minute and check out what everyone is harvesting!


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July Garden Update

It’s time for another virtual tour of our vegetable garden here in late July. The early  spring planted crops are gone now, and the summer vegetables are coming in. We had a colder than usual wet spring, followed by a hot dry spell, but lately we have gotten much needed rain and things are growing nicely. Overall the garden is 45 x 45 feet in size, surrounded by fencing to keep the deer and other critters out. This year I am trying several new things in the garden, including one no-dig no-till bed. I’ve also reduced the number of planting beds, and made walkways between the beds. And I’m using weed barrier fabric on several of the beds, something I started testing in last year’s garden.

view of the garden through the door

Early results from the no-dig no-till bed are very encouraging. I planted broccoli, cabbage and kohlrabi at one end of the bed in late April. In May I planted ten bush squashes to fill out the rest of that bed. All of these crops did very well, and I am happy with the results. Of course one year doesn’t make a trend, but I am planning to try another similar bed or two next year.

early brassica plants in May

I plan to set out fall collards and kale in the bed where the spring brassicas were. I usually rotate plant families to different beds, but I have found that greens make a good fall crop planted following other brassicas, as well as after beans and squashes. After pulling all the spring crops, I lifted the weed barrier fabric carefully so I can reuse it next spring. Then I applied a nigh nitrogen organic fertilizer (Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable), scattering it over the bed on top of the soil. Since I plant collards farther apart than broccoli and cabbage, I put down new fabric and I will cut the holes at the wider spacing.

new weed barrier in place

The rest of the garden should be set for a while. In a couple of weeks I will pull the bush beans, and sow turnips and turnip greens in that spot.

vegetable garden in late July

Every year I plant several hot peppers that I started the previous year and overwintered indoors. These baccatum type peppers get quite big in their second year, and are usually quite loaded with peppers. Those plants are now about three feet tall, and beginning to blossom. Other peppers are setting fruit now as well.

baccatum peppers

This year I planted the indeterminate tomatoes in a bed next to the trellised pole beans. Both have grown tall now, and I have a narrow path between the beds to allow me to harvest both.

path between pole beans and tomatoes

The tomatoes are ripening now, and vines are spilling over and sometimes out of the cages. We had a great year for them in 2021 (almost 200 pounds harvested), and this year they are certainly off to a good start. We process a lot of them into sauce and ketchup, and I also dehydrate quite a few.

indeterminate caged tomatoes

I set out 16 eggplants this year, and they have begun fruiting for us. Yes, that is a lot of eggplant, but we love it and eat it often! I have these planted in the weed barrier fabric, and it certainly helps keeps the weeds down. I am using folding cages to support these plants, which I also use to support the peppers.

eggplants

The pole beans have reached the top of the trellis now, and some are vining up the poles as well. They have begun blooming, so it won’t be long before I will be harvesting them. I typically harvest them from early August until the first frost, and they keep us supplied for fresh eating as well as stocking the freezer for later use.

trellised pole beans

One other new thing I tried this year is planting a few flowers in the vegetable garden. My hope was to attract pollinators, as well as add a bit of color. I set out petunias and several different colors of Profusion zinnias, and they are all blooming nicely. I also set out a couple of perennial plants (catmint, bee balm) that should provide blooms in years to come.

profusion zinnias

Harvesting is keeping me fairly busy now, and when more tomatoes start ripening I will be busy processing them. I love this time of year though, and so far I am pleased with the 2022 version of the vegetable garden. 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 25, 2022

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. Harvesting is keeping me busy lately, which is not a bad thing at all. Last week I got more squashes, plus the first harvests of snap beans and tomatoes of the year. The beans are all bush types, and while I only planted a few feet each of three kinds (Provider, Slenderette and Mascotte), they are all loaded with pods! The cherry tomatoes are also ripening, including some of my favorites like Sun Sugar, Sunpeach and Cherry Bomb. Summer squashes are winding down, as are the acorn types, but we’ve had a good amount of those this year. I’ll have more on the squash situation later.

July harvest

Thelma Sanders squash is one of my favorite winter squashes, though it is usually a shy producer for me here. My wife and I enjoy eating every one we get though, and it has a sweet nutty flavor when roasted. I’m looking forward to getting a taste of these soon.

Thelma Sanders squash

Eggplant is not a shy producer for me at all, and we are still getting loads of them to eat. The container grown Fairy Tale, Gretel and Icicle have been producing for over a month now, and aren’t slowing down yet. I have harvested over 16 pounds of it so far this year in total.

Icicle, Fairy Tale and Gretel eggplant

And the in-ground plantings are now producing as well! I got a mix of Asian and Italian types last week, including the purple and white striped Annina which produced three fruits for us. I used those to make eggplant sandwiches. For that I sliced them thin and roasted the slices on a sheet pan. We spread a piece of bread with smashed avocado, layered on the eggplant, then topped with a piece of cheddar cheese. I also plucked one jalapeno pepper to use to make a cherry tomato salsa with some of those first tomatoes. The salsa made with homegrown tomatoes was a real treat.

harvest of eggplant

I’m still baking sourdough bread, though less in summer when it’s hot outside. I baked a loaf last week in a Pullman pan, and I was pleased with how it turned out. It makes for a dense loaf that can be thinly sliced and used for sandwiches or turning into crostini. The no-knead recipe is also easy (King Arthur’s Easy Everyday Sourdough Bread, and even though the bread takes about 18 hours from start to finish there is very little hands-on time required.

sourdough sandwich bread

I’ve also been experimenting with creating my own whole wheat cinnamon swirl bread recipe. So far the taste has met my expectations, but I’m still getting the hang of making a decent swirl that doesn’t have too many gaps in it. Regardless of the visuals, it makes a tasty snack when toasted and satisfies my cravings for cinnamon.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl bread

In other news, we got some much needed rain last week, more than two inches total. That’s the most rain we’ve gotten at one time since April, and the vegetable garden plants are loving it! It’s still been hot and humid, though that is not unusual for us this time of year. I’ve been working in the garden early in the morning, before I eat breakfast, to beat the heat.

CoCoRaHS Rain Gauge

veggie garden after rain

We occasionally have hawks visit us here at our place, and last week I saw one perched on one of the garden fenceposts. A friend believes it is a Red-Shouldered Hawk, though I am leaning towards it being a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. Regardless, it is quite impressive when it takes flight, with a wingspan of almost 3 feet.

hawk visiting garden

In less positive news, we had a new (to us) pest show up this year attacking the squash plants. Usually it is squash bugs, but this pest is a yellow beetle that looks a lot like the beneficial lady beetle. It took me a while to identify it, but it is called the Squash Lady Beetle (Epilachna borealis). It is yellow in color, and a bit larger than the red ladybug.

adult squash lady beetle

According to one source: “Larvae look like small yellow hedgehogs, covered in spiky black hairs.” That is an apt description! I found them everyone on both the summer and winter squash varieties.

squash lady beetle larvae

Some of the leaves have been almost completely skeletonized. The summer squash are nearing the end of their production cycle, so I’m not entirely unhappy about that. But most of the winter squashes are just getting going, so I have been hand picking all the adult beetles and larvae that I see. So far that has been hundreds of them! I’ve also been spraying with a pyrethrin and neem oil mix, and hopefully I can get them under control before the winter squashes are gone. It’s always something that wants to eat our crops, and I’m sure most gardeners can identify with that.

damage to squash plant

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 please take a minute and check out what everyone is harvesting!


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