I have to admit I had pretty low expectations when I went out on Saturday morning to dig the Okinawa sweet potatoes. According to the description at Duck Creek Farms where I ordered the slips, it “needs a VERY long hot growing season…preferably 140 days or longer.” Despite the warning, I was anxious to try growing this lovely tan skinned purple fleshed sweet potato I had enjoyed so much while we were vacationing in Hawaii earlier this year. I planted three slips on June 2nd, and according to my calendar they had been growing for around 145 days. The vines had grown long and lush, with lovely and distinctive leaves. Now it was time to dig and see what I could find.
I also remembered that the catalog said they formed roots away from the center of the plant, so I started digging first with my hands, to make sure I didn’t spear any roots with my shovel. And I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the tan skin of something that sure looked like a sweet potato! Most of the potatoes had formed down deep, and I had to carefully dig them out. When I was done, I had 2.5 pounds of them, with the largest one weighing in at 14 ounces. I let them sit out in the sunshine for most of the day, before bringing them in to finish curing.
I have even less expectations for the fig plants. I’m just about ready to give up on growing figs here. They froze to the ground last winter, which is not unusual in our area. But they have been shy producers here most years, and this year I have gotten a grand total of one ripe fig! I did decide to document the occasion with a photo before I sliced the fig open and consumed it while still warm from the October sunshine.
In a bit more positive news, I harvested the first Tasty Jade cucumber from a greenhouse planting I made back in July. While there are several more cukes setting on the vine, I doubt that they are going to size up and make anything edible. With shortening days and cooling weather, the unheated greenhouse is just not that favorable to cucumbers this late in the season. But I am happy to have even one cucumber in October, since all the vines planted outside have long since died off. I’m going to turn this one into some refrigerator pickles.
It was my wife’s turn to cook last week, and she cooked up a mess of turnip greens. We had the tops leftover from some Hakurei and Oasis turnips I harvested earlier, but these turnips do not usually have a lot of greens on them. So I selectively cut a few of the greens of some other turnips to add to the ones we had already. I know some folks only like the roots, and others only like the greens, but my wife and I are fans of all parts of the humble turnip!
The cold frame beds continue to give us some salad greens to eat. In the below photo I have a mix of Slobolt and Red Sails lettuce, plus some spinach and arugula. I pulled one Yaya carrot and one Purple Haze to see how they were sizing up. They were certainly big enough to eat, but I think I will harvest them as needed and give them a bit more time to grow. The cool weather should help improve the taste too. Unfortunately the deer keep grazing on the greens, which doesn’t help with them growing bigger. I need to remember to throw some bird netting over them next year before the deer find them, and not after.
Also in the greens department, I harvested some of the Coalition Mix and Lacinato kale. My wife used them to make kale chips. That’s the Coalition Mix in the below photo. It has nice big leaves that were great for making the kale chips. I got the seeds for this o/p mix of kale from Adaptive Seeds.
Broccoli was on the menu last week too. That’s Green Magic in the below photo. The heads weren’t perfectly domed like they are in the catalog photos, but it didn’t hurt the taste any.
I’m happy to have fresh homegrown broccoli regardless! We steamed one head and my wife oven-roasted the other one, which is a yummy way to prepare broccoli or cauliflower – not that I can grow cauliflower.
And thanks to our mild fall weather we have been having, the peppers keep on ripening out in the pepper patch. I’m anxious to try smoking some this week now that Michelle has shared her technique. She used her Big Green Egg, and I am going to fire up our Weber grill with some good hardwood charcoal and experiment with some of the late season pepper harvest. I’ve got some ripe jalapenos, plus quite a few of the Dulce Rojo paprika peppers that I think would be good candidates for smoking. Last week I harvested a mix of Piccante Calabrese, Aji Angelo, and Numex Suave Red and Orange peppers. I plan on pickling the Piccante Calabrese, like I did earlier in the year. The Numex Sauve are C. chinense types that have a nice fruity flavor but only mild heat.
The Numex Sauve peppers went in a batch of bison chili I made last week. Even though it’s my wife’s turn to cook, she was out for dinner with friends one night and that gave me the opportunity to cook up a big pot of chili. I froze the leftovers, so I can have a ‘bowl of red’ whenever I get hungry for it again. I also used some green and red bell peppers in the chili, plus tomatoes from the freezer, onions and garlic from storage and some Homemade Chile Powder for seasoning. I used my usual recipe for chili and used the ground bison instead of beef.
I also brought in a late season harvest of ripe Biggie Chili, Anaheim and Ancho 211 peppers for dehydrating. I use these for grinding into chile powder, plus they are nice to throw in a pot of beans for a little flavor and mild heat. Some of the Ancho peppers still had a few green spots that hadn’t turned red yet, but I dried them up anyway and it shouldn’t make a big difference in flavor. I was anxious to get them in and dried while the dehydrator was not being used. It stays busy this time of year for sure! I still have quite a few of the green Anaheim and Biggie Chili on the plants and I might try smoking them too.
There’s still some action going on in the winter squash patch. The Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck and the newcomer Thai Rai Kaw Tok both set on several late fruits after the main crop. I am hoping at least some of these mature before frost gets them. So far we have not had any frost, and the weather forecast for the next week looks frost-free. The Rai Kaw Tok is a beautiful squash, with a ribbed dark green rind with blotches of tan and white. It has climbed right up the deer fencing, and most of the late fruits are hanging up off the ground.
I did find one Thai squash hiding out on the ground. The rind seemed mature to me, so I brought it inside. It weighed right over eight pounds. I harvested another one of these Thai squash back in September. It weighed a little over seven pounds, and the outside rind has turned a chestnut color in storage. I am looking forward to trying this one soon. They would be great for decorations too, but I have hopes they will be tasty in the kitchen as well as pretty to look at.
There are a couple of the Pennsylvania Dutch Crooknecks still on the vine as well, and one is starting to turn color. The one in the below photo is hanging on the outside of the fencing, and if you look closely there’s another slightly smaller one on the inside. I do believe the bigger one will ripen up in time to beat the frost. We will see.
I didn’t bake any loaves of bread this week but I did bake a batch of Moomies Famous Burger Buns. This is without a doubt my favorite bun recipe, and the leftovers freeze beautifully so we always have a few in the freezer. This should keep us supplied for a while. They are good for more than just burgers too!
Last week I used some of our dried calendula to infuse olive, almond and coconut oils. We’re hoping to make a calendula soap soon, plus a few other things. I’ll share the soap recipe here once we make it. The calendula naturally colors the oils a lovely shade of orange/yellow.
I hope you have enjoyed this look at what’s going on here in Late October. To see what others are harvesting and cooking from the garden, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.