Harvest Monday July 18, 2022

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. We got some much needed rain the last few days, and I for one am happy about that. I’ve had to irrigate the vegetable garden lately to keep the plants going, and there’s nothing quite like rain! We’re still getting our fill of eggplant and squash even with the dry weather, and we have a few of the early tomatoes joining in the harvests. I got several more of the Goldilocks acorn squash last week, as well as a couple of the Starry Night squash.

eggplant and tomatoes

winter and summer squash

Starry Night is an acorn squash that supposedly has better keeping qualities than the usual varieties. According to Johnny’s Selected Seeds, the breeder of this variety, it will keep into the new year. It’s my first time growing it, so time will tell. These first two weighed about 1.5 pounds each. We roasted one of these up last week, and it has thick flesh and a hard outer skin. My wife and I both enjoyed the taste, so I am looking forward to more of these. The plants have quite a few fruits maturing, so it should be a good harvest.

Starry Night acorn squash

Most of the eggplant harvested to this point has been from several container grown plants. One morning I got three pounds of them, and that means we have been eating a lot of eggplant lately! These three are the white skinned Gretel and Icicle, and the striped Fairy Tale. All are AAS Winners, and all are doing quite well in pots and grow bags.

eggplant harvest

I also got the first harvests from the in-ground plantings of eggplant. Icicle and Paradise were the first to produce for me. Both of these were bred by Known-You Seeds, and they kindly sent me a sampling of their seeds after I contacted them to inquire about the Icicle eggplant. It was not commercially available at the time I needed to start seeds and I was anxious to grow it this year. They have bred several other AAS Winners (Lambkin and Faerie melons, Green Light cucumber, Candle Fire okra to name a few) and popular varieties like the Mellow Star shishito pepper. They also bred my favorite tomato – the 1999 AAS Winner Juliet.

Icicle and Paradise eggplant

And I got the first of the Italian type eggplants. This one is called Annina, and has purple and white striped skin on fruits that are nearly spineless. I detest getting spiked by my veggies, and some eggplant will do just that if you’re not careful. We used this one to make eggplant sandwiches we ate one day for lunch. I sliced it thinly using the mandoline slicer, and it was just the right amount for the two of us.

Annini eggplant

I used the Paradise and Icicle eggplants later in the week to bake a cheesy eggplant and rice casserole. It’s essentially risotto with tomatoes, layered with roasted eggplant, mozzarella, and romano cheese, then baked until bubbly. I used the rice cooker to cook carnaroli rice, then added chopped tomatoes and a bit of fresh basil when the rice was done. I left that on the ‘keep warm’ cycle while the eggplant roasted in the oven. Then I assembled the casserole, layering the rice mix with roasted eggplant and a combination of mozzarella and pecorino romano cheeses. I baked it until bubbly and hot, and my wife and I enjoyed it and the leftovers for two dinner meals. It was hard not to eat the whole thing in one meal though! I’ll be making this again for sure.

Cheesy Eggplant Rice Casserole

And speaking of Mellow Star shishito peppers, I got the first of them last week. These had no heat at all, and I cooked them in a bit of olive oil until ‘blistered’ for an appetizer.

Mellow Star peppers

In other news. I pulled the last of the spring brassica plants. The spot where they were growing will be home to collards and other greens this fall. I got a small amount of broccoli side shoots and a big head of Early Flat Dutch cabbage that weighed almost four pounds.

broccoli side shoots

cabbage

In other news, my wife and I enjoyed an early morning hike last week at Audubon State Park. It’s about a 20 minute drive from our house, just across the Ohio River. We had the trails pretty much to ourselves, except for a deer that seemed unconcerned about our presence. Lynda has been walking the trails with friends lately, but I wanted to see the park again myself since it had been a few years since I had hiked there. I was surprised to see so many pawpaw trees, along with the pretty ferns we saw alongside the trail around the lake. The trail we took was mostly well-packed dirt, and fairly hilly, so we got a good workout. The park is a real jewel, and popular with campers as well as hikers. I can remember going there for picnics when I was a kid, as well as when I was in college. It was an enjoyable outing, and we both decided we need to hike it together more often.

deer crossing

blue skies and calm water

ferns along path

young pawpaw tree

hiker guy

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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Harvest Monday July 11, 2022

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. We finally got a break from the heat last week, and bit of much needed rain. We are still in a deficit for rainfall, but what we got will certainly help. The berries are winding down now, and the blueberries have been smaller than usual but plentiful. The squashes are planted in weed barrier fabric, and that seems to have helped conserve soil moisture and keep yields at usual levels. I pulled the last of the kohlrabi last week, and I will prep the bed for a fall planting. We got over 27 pounds of it this spring, which compares well with last year’s harvests.

July harvest

another July harvest

It’s been a great year so far for squash, and they are featured in many meals. We have zucchini, yellow squash, Korean avocado and Centercut that we used as summer squash. Goldilocks and Honey Bear are the first of the winter types to mature for us. Since the acorn squash is not a long keeping type, we are eating them now while we have them. I’m not a big fan of stuffing them, so I cut them in half and roast with a little butter and honey or maple syrup for seasoning.

squash harvest

more squash

Eggplant is also doing very well for us so far this year. Icicle is a new AAS Winner that makes large and mild tasting white fruits. These are from container plants, but I have one planted in-ground that is just now blooming. So far the harvests have been from the container plants, but the main crop varieties should be coming on soon.

Icicle eggplant

I used some of the Fairy Tale and Gretel eggplant for a side dish we had for lunch yesterday. I made a spinach/mushroom/egg quesadilla, and sauteed the diced eggplant on the side. I added fresh basil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to the eggplant at the end, and didn’t skimp on the olive oil. It wound up stealing the show!

eggplant and quesadilla

The summer flowers are lighting up our gardens with color. I have a few sunflowers in the vegetable garden, including this Ring of Fire which is one of my favorites.

Ring of Fire sunflower

We have several Hardy Hibiscus that we planted in the last couple of years. They are beginning to bloom now, and though the blooms only last a day they are glorious when they are open. I have Ballet Slippers growing in a container, and it has ruffled white flowers with a deep red center and a pink blush.

Hardy Hibiscus Ballet Slippers

The native Ratibida pinnata (Grayheaded coneflower) has been growing for several years in our Wild Garden, and towers above most of the other flowers. It is popular with bees and butterflies. I leave the spent flowers for the birds, and goldfinches are especially fond of them.

Ratibida Pinnata (Grayhead coneflower)

I continue to ‘play’ with the new trail camera, using it to monitor wildlife at night. I didn’t need it one morning though, when I came upon two skunks while on my way to the vegetable garden. I’m not as close as the photo might suggest, and I kept my distance as they eventually trotted off into the woods behind our house. One seemed to be a juvenile, but it was hard to tell for sure.

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


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Fermenting the Harvests

The last few weeks I have been busy fermenting some of the veggies I have been  harvesting recently. Fermenting is one of my favorite ways to preserve the harvests as well as to add extra flavor to things like cabbage and kohlrabi. And as a big bonus, fermented vegetables are loaded with probiotic bacteria that are beneficial for human health. Later in the year I will be fermenting peppers as well, but for now it is the spring planted brassicas that are getting processed. I will let all these ferments sit on the counter for two to three weeks before refrigerating. Once refrigerated they keep for months, and I think they even improve with age. I do most of my fermenting in wide mouth glass jars, though crocks are also a popular alternative.

jars of fermented vegetables

It’s been a great year for kohlrabi so far, and we have plenty for fresh eating as well as for fermenting. I started several jars of kohlrabi ‘pickles’, which is one of my wife’s favorite ferments. For the pickles I cut them into spears, pack them in a jar and cover with a 2% brine solution. I also add a few cloves of garlic to each jar to give a little extra flavor.

lacto-fermented kohlrabi pickles

Next, I made a couple of jars of kohlrabi kraut using the big Kossak kohlrabis from the garden. This is a simple recipe with two ingredients: kohlrabi and salt. I generally use 2% to 3% salt by weight for this kraut. After peeling the kohlrabi, I grate them using a grater with medium to large holes. I usually use an antique one that belonged to my mother and is likely as old as I am. It gets the job done though, and the kohrabi kraut is delicious.

grating kohlrabi for kraut

grating kohlrabi for kraut

Once grated, I mix with salt and let sit for a few hours before packing into a jar. It takes about two pounds of kohlrabi after peeling to fill a quart jar and leave about an inch of headroom. I do sometimes add a few cloves of raw or roasted garlic to the kohlrabi, but for this round I didn’t. The finished kraut is tasty on its own for a side dish, or added to sandwiches.

kohlrabi kraut

It’s also been a good year for cabbage. With the first couple of heads of cabbage I cut, I made plain sauerkraut and a batch of Garlicky Dill Pickle Kraut. For the Pickle Kraut, I added a diced pickling cucumber to the chopped cabbage, a bit of chopped onion, about 3-4 cloves of fresh minced garlic, dill seeds and 3% salt. I let it ferment for a couple of weeks before refrigerating. When it’s done, it tastes just like a Kosher dill pickle to me! Mixed krauts like this are a good way to use odd lots of veggies, and another one I like to make is called Curtido which has cabbage, onion, carrots and a hot jalapeno or two.

Garlicky Dill Picklekraut

Garlicky Dill Pickle Kraut

Last week I had another head of cabbage that weighed just under two pounds, and I used it to make a batch of the Fermented Curtido, also known as Salvadoran Cabbage Slaw. In addition to the cabbage it has carrot, onion, garlic and hot peppers in it, though this time I made it with sweet peppers since I don’t have any hot ones yet. I add a bit of oregano to it also, either fresh or dried. This was just enough to fill a quart jar.

chopping cabbage for curtido

I also had good luck with napa cabbages this spring, and I turned a couple of those into kimchi. For that recipe, I chop the cabbage into 2″ squares. The size is approximate, and doesn’t have to be exact by any means . The pieces do shrink as the water comes out in brining and fermentation, and I find that size makes for bite sized pieces after fermenting. I let the cabbage soak in a 5% brine for 12 hours or overnight. Then I drain it, reserving some of the brine for later to use in the seasoning paste. It takes about 2 pounds of raw chopped cabbage to fill a quart jar, and I also add about a half cup of grated or julienned daikon radish along with a bit of chopped green onion or flat leaf chives.

kimchi seasoning paste

Next I make a seasoning paste from onion, garlic, ginger and gochugaru flakes, using a bit of the brine to add moisture and get the right consistency. My full recipe for the seasoning paste is here: Homemade Kimchi Two Ways. I mix the drained cabbage with the seasoning paste before packing into jars to ferment for about two weeks. After that it’s on to the refrigerator, where it keeps for up to a year.

kimchi fermenting in the jar

kimchi fermenting in the jar

You might notice I keep mentioning that I store the ferments in a refrigerator. I few years ago we bought a small frig that’s dedicated to fermented foods. We keep it in the basement, and it serves as storage for the many fermented foods I make. You don’t need a dedicated space though, and for a long time we kept ours in our big refrigerator along with other foods.

refrigerator for fermented foods

For more information on lacto-fermentating vegetables, I can recommend a couple of books I use for reference on the subject. One is Ferment Your Vegetables by Amanda Feifer. The other book is Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten K. and Christopher Shockey. Both address the basics of fermenting vegetables at home, and also have a lot of useful recipes, many of which I have tried. Both will help to make sure your fermentation projects are successful, as well as to give you ideas.

I hope you have enjoyed this update about some of the foods I have been fermenting lately. I’ll be back soon with more from Happy Acres!

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Harvest Monday July 4, 2022

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. Summer crops are taking over much of our harvests now. The blueberries and blackberries are still ripening, but the heat and dry weather are making them smaller than usual and a bit less prolific. I like to do my harvesting early in the morning, before it heats up, and my wife picks the blueberries then too. It is safe to say we have plenty of homegrown fresh food to eat right now, and my wife and I are enjoying it.

morning harvest in late June

another June harvest

The container eggplants are doing quite well, and we are getting our fill of the small fruited Fairy Tale and Gretel varieties. Both AAS Winners, they always do well for me in containers. They are also two of my favorite eggplant varieties for eating.

Fairy Tale and Gretel eggplant

Icicle is a new addition to our eggplant lineup, and I’m growing this 2022 AAS Winner both in-ground and in Smart Pots. I got the first two last week, and the plants are loaded with blooms and more fruit setting on.

Icicle eggplant

Greenhouse cucumbers are struggling with the heat, but we’re still getting enough to eat. Mini Munch is very productive, and Corinto is dependable performer in the greenhouse.

Corinto and Mini Munch cucumbers

I got the first Goldilocks acorn squash last week. This 2021 AAS Winner was a star in last year’s garden, and it has set on quite a few more squash already. It has a mild flavor when baked, and I like the smaller size which works well as a side dish.

Goldilocks squash

Spring crops are winding down, but we’re still getting a few harvests. I got side shoots from broccoli, a head of spring cabbage, and another head of the Jacaranda broccoli. Jacaranda has done well for me here in spring, and I want to give it a try this fall as well. The Mexicana zucchini is very prolific, and I am getting more of it this year than the darker green varieties like Dunja and Raven.

Jacaranda broccoli and Quick Start cabbage

broccoli side shoots with Mexicana zucchini

I took advantage of the fresh blackberries to make a cobbler last week. Blackberry Cobbler is one of my favorite desserts, and I used soft white whole wheat flour for the batter.

Natchez blackberries

Blackberry cobbler

For another sweet treat, I made a batch of zucchini brownies. This is my lightened up version, with less oil and sugar but lots of rich cocoa powder. They freeze well, and I may make another batch and freeze all of it for later enjoyment.

Zucchini brownies

I got a new toy last week: a trail camera! We have had problems with critters digging up plants, and I wanted to ID the culprits before trying to find a solution. This one is triggered by motion, and records the images on an SD card in the camera. I set it up under our mulberry tree for testing purposes, and it got 180 images the first night alone! I got one image of a deer feasting on a couple of our blackberry bushes. I’ve seen them dining there in broad daylight, so I wasn’t surprised to see them there at night – repeatedly! I have the rest of them planted inside the fenced vegetable garden, where they are safe from the critters. I’ll be doing more testing with the camera in days to come.

Deer eating blackberries

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: Late June Blooms

I’m taking a break from edibles today to showcase some of the things we have blooming here in late June. Every year I plant petunias all around Happy Acres in various containers and planters, and they are all in full bloom now. Out by our driveway I have a large pot planted with Easy Wave Berry Velour and E3 Easy Wave Coral. They are spilling over the sides of the pot, and brighten up the area. We also have Easy Wave Pink Passion in a pot over in the sun garden, sitting on a metal table and chairs along with a few other annuals.

Wave Petunias

Easy Wave Pink Passion petunias

I have Profusion series zinnias planted in containers around the gardens. Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor is a 2021 AAS Winner, and it was a standout for us in last year’s garden. I started several others from seed this year, including the Profusion Apricot which I have growing in a container on our front porch.

Zinnia Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor

Zinnia Profusion Apricot

Out in the Wild Garden, lots of perennials are blooming, including the 2021 AAS Winner Sweet Daisy Birdy. It lights up the area around the birdbath, which is a popular place in summer.

Wild Garden in late June

Sweet Daisy Birdy

The Sombrero Adobe Orange echinacea is a recent addition to the garden, but it is covered in bright orange flowers in its first year. Other plants around the birdbath include several coreopsis which are blooming now, and a newly planted yarrow called Strawberry Seduction. Small pollinators visit the yarrow blooms on a regular basis.

Echinacea Sombrero Adobe Orange

Strawberry Seduction yarrow

We have lots of coneflowers planted in several beds, and they are always popular with bees and butterflies alike.

Echinacea Rainbow Marcella

white coneflower

Honeybees and bumblebees are loving the native button bush. This was a small plant we brought home from a native plant sale, and it has grown to be taller than me in a few years time.

honeybee on buttonbush

bees on buttonbush

Bee Balm is a magnet for bees and butterflies, and the tall red and purple ones are blooming now.

red bee balm

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

 

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