Harvest Monday July 30, 2018

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. It’s hard to believe July is almost over. After a hotter than normal June, it has actually been a tad cooler than normal here lately. Still hot mind you, just not as hot as normal. The tomatoes are loving it though, and I processed quite a few of the paste types last week, making another batch of ketchup plus a batch of Freezer Tomato Sauce on Friday.

tomatoes for ketchup

tomatoes for ketchup

I’m trialing several new short-vine determinate paste tomatoes this year, including Plum Regal, Monticello, and Scipio Ibrido. All have done quite well, and will likely be back next year. I’m not sure which I am holding in my hand in the below photo, probably Plum Regal and/or Monticello.

paste tomatoes

paste tomatoes

I also picked a gallon bucket from my Juliet plants. Juliet is one of my all-time favorite tomatoes, and never fails to produce loads of fruit for me. This batch went into a pot of marinara sauce I cooked up Sunday for the freezer.

Juliet tomatoes

Juliet tomatoes

For fresh eating, we are getting a steady supply of various slicing type tomatoes. The only ones I photographed last week were this batch of Perfect Flame and Brandymaster Pink. The smallish Perfect Flame is a cross between Jaune Flamme and Peron, and is a bit redder than Flamme which doesn’t usually do well for me here. The flavor has been outstanding, and though I haven’t got a lot of fruit from it I do believe I will grow it again.

Perfect Flame and Brandymaster Pink tomatoes

Perfect Flame and Brandymaster Pink tomatoes

Brandymaster Pink is a hybrid Brandywine type I’m growing that makes large, meaty beefsteak tomatoes. The taste has been variable though, with some great ones and some that are so-so, which could be due to the weather. The jury is still out on whether it will be back next year or not.

slices of Brandymaster Pink tomato

slices of Brandymaster Pink tomato

The eggplant has been loving the weather so far. The white skinned Clara has been the new star here so far. It’s hanging out with long time favorite Fairy Tale and newcomer Nubia in the below photo.

Fairy Tale, Nubia and Clara eggplant

Fairy Tale, Nubia and Clara eggplant

Clara has mild and tender flesh and it’s just the thing for an eggplant and tomato sandwich, which is exactly what we did with these two. We spread mashed avocado on the toasted whole wheat bread, then layered with eggplant, tomato and cheddar cheese. It was yummy, so much so I’m making them again tonight!

eggplant and tomato sandwich

eggplant and tomato sandwich

That called for more eggplant, and the dark purple skinned Nadia delivered. I also got the first harvest of the Appalachian heirloom greasy beans, from the always early variety Robe Mountain. These and other heirloom beans have changed my paradigm about what makes a good bean. They aren’t stringless, but they are easy to string and the outstanding flavor more than makes up for the extra processing. The Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center has a large variety of bean seeds for sale, which is where I got mine. There’s a couple of Gold Marie beans in the basket too.

eggplant and pole beans

eggplant and pole beans

Peppers are ripening too. I got quite a few of the Thai Bird peppers (or Bird’s Eye pepper) from the plant I have growing in a container. I saved seeds from several of these, and I will let the rest dry naturally to use for seasoning later. One pepper adds a little zip to many dishes, including my homemade kombucha.

Thai Bird peppers

Thai Bird peppers

I pulled the bush bean plants to make room for a fall planting of them in the same spot. These are mostly Derby, with a few of the Purple King mixed in. I got just over a pound of them total, which I processed and froze. I’m replanting several varieties for a fall crop, including Derby plus Jade II, Mascotte and Castandel. Hopefully they will give us another taste of beans by late September or early October.

last of the bush beans

last of the bush beans

My bread bake of the week was a loaf of no-knead sourdough bread. I bake it in the clay baker and it gets a crispy, dark crust that my wife and I really like. The bread freezes well, and I usually freeze any leftovers for later use. This bread also makes good crostini, which is one thing we do with it a lot.

Artisan No-Knead Sourdough bread

Artisan No-Knead Sourdough 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 of any size or shape you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And please be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Seed Saving Activities

Today I want to share some of my recent seed saving activities, though this is in no way meant to be a tutorial on seed saving. Some of my saved pepper and tomato seed is getting old, and I need to replenish my supplies while I still have viable seed. Since peppers can easily cross due to insects or even wind activity, I have taken various measures to prevent that from happening. I’m growing many of the peppers in containers, and I have situated them together and covered the plants with a micromesh material to keep out insects. I’m using both the Micromesh and Enviromesh materials for this purpose. I also have a few of the pepper plants for seed growing in ground, and I have covered them with the fabric as well.

using Micromesh material to cover pepper plants

using Micromesh material to cover pepper plants

I kept a couple of the pots inside the closed greenhouse when they started blooming, and I brought another one inside to isolate it. The Thai Bird pepper plant is loaded with little hot peppers. I wear vinyl gloves when processing the hot peppers to avoid burning my hands or other body parts I might touch with my hands. I only harvest ripe, unblemished peppers for seed, and use a knife to open up the pepper and get at the seeds inside. For sweet peppers I don’t wear the gloves, but I do select only the best ripe fruits from healthy plants.

saving hot pepper seeds

saving hot pepper seeds

The seeds need to be dried somewhere out of direct sunlight, until they break when folded instead of bending. Once dry I store the seeds in plastic ziploc bags and keep in a cool dry place. Storing the seeds in airtight glass containers will improve the keeping qualities of the seeds, and refrigerating will help them last even longer. For a good reference book I highly recommend reading Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth. The book contains a wealth of information for saving all kinds of vegetable seeds, plus a few herbs like basil and parsley. I am letting the pepper seeds dry in little plastic containers, and I have labeled them to make sure I know what is inside.

pepper seeds drying in the container

pepper seeds drying in the container

I also saved seeds from an open-pollinated tomato I’m growing this year called Amy’s Apricot. So far it is the best tasting and most productive of several o/p tomatoes I am trialing this year. It’s not entirely necessary, but I take the extra step of fermenting the tomato seed before I dry it and save it. I squeeze the tomato seeds out of the ripe tomatoes, then put in a container and add a bit of water. I leave the dish at room temperature for a few days until the mixture is covered with a layer of mold. The mix is quite stinky at this point, so while it’s fermenting I put it somewhere it won’t be disturbed and where the odor won’t be too obnoxious. The below photo shows seeds of a red tomato I was saving a couple of years ago, and you can see the white blotches of mild forming on the surface. In another day the mold was covering the surface and I proceeded to the next step.

fermenting tomato seeds

fermenting tomato seeds

Once fermented, I dump the seeds into a fine mesh strainer then rinse with cold water to get the mold and debris off. Then I spread out the seeds on a paper coffee filter to let them dry. The coffee filter is the best material I have found for this, as the seeds don’t stick to it like they do on a paper or cloth towel. While the seeds are drying I try and break up the clumps and keep them spread out in a thin layer. I keep them indoors at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. They should be dry in a week or so.

drying tomato seeds

drying tomato seeds

I’m also hoping to save seeds from several other pepper this year, including a couple I use for paprika, a guajillo type, and a couple of the baccatum peppers like Aji Golden and Aji Angelo. With any luck I’ll have seeds from some of my favorite o/p peppers and tomatoes to share later this year. I hope you have enjoyed this update on my seed saving activities, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Harvest Monday July 23, 2018

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. We are mid way through summer now and the garden is holding up fairly well given the heat and rain issues we have had this year. A few of the summer squash plants are still holding on and producing, and some of the slicing tomatoes are giving us fruit. In the below group photo we have Brandymaster Pink, Cherokee Purple and Defiant tomatoes along with Spineless Beauty zucchini, White Scallop squash and Clarimore zucchini. It was the last gasp for Clarimore as the vine gave out after this last squash.

squash and tomatoe

squash and tomatoes

The Tempest yellow crookneck plant is still hanging on too, and I got a couple more squash from it last week. They are both hanging out with a few snap beans plus Cornito Rosso and Cornito Giallo peppers in the below photo.

squash, peppers and beans

squash, peppers and beans

I’m growing several hot peppers this year that are traditionally used for making kimchi. The commercial gochugaru flakes I have bought have a lot of flavor but only mild heat. This year I am trialing a few gochugaru type peppers to see how they perform, hoping to find a milder one. When they are too hot you have to use less of them, which equates to less flavor. From left to right in the below photo I have one from Sherwood Seeds called Kimchi, Lady Choi, a couple of Gochugaru (from Chileplants.com) and two of the Korean Hot  (from Adaptive Seeds). I plan to dry these and then do a taste test, sometime when I don’t mind my mouth being on fire! I have high hopes for the one from Sherwood Seeds since it was mentioned in this 2016 article from Mother Earth News called Growing Your Own Gochugaru Korean Chili Pepper Flakes for Kimchi. I’m growing all these peppers in containers this year.

Korean gochugaru peppers

Korean gochugaru peppers

The pole beans are still shy yielders at this point after getting off to a horrible start. It will likely not be a good year for them, so I am planting another batch of bush beans in hopes of a fall crop. That worked well last year, so this year I will plant a bit more of them. The tomatoes in the below photo are Sun Sugar and Sunpeach, and there’s nothing shy about them at all! Both are sweet, prolific, and not cracking or splitting in our crazy summer weather. This batch and a few more I got on Saturday got slow roasted in the oven.

pole beans with Sun Sugar and Sunpeach tomatoes

pole beans with Sun Sugar and Sunpeach tomatoes

A couple of new tomatoes ripened last week too. Chef’s Choice Red is a 2018 AAS regional Winner and one of four Chef’s Choice tomatoes I am growing this year. It made nice sized beefsteak tomatoes. Along with it is the smaller Perfect Flame, one of the Heirloom Marriage hybrids that is a cross between Jaune Flamme and Peron. I also have one each of Nadia, Clara and Dancer eggplants. Some of the eggplant and tomatoes are going on an  eggplant sandwich for lunch today. We grill slices of eggplant, then stack on the sandwich with slices of tomatoes and cheese.

eggplant and tomatoes

eggplant and tomatoes

I found enough paste tomatoes to cook up a batch of Homemade Tomato Ketchup last  Wednesday. It took 8.5 pounds of tomatoes and 5 hours of stirring and processing, and I wound up with 4 pints of ketchup. I am hoping to get enough tomatoes to make another batch soon, if the plants cooperate. My wife and I both love this ketchup, and I’ve been making it for years.

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

I got another Tatume squash on Saturday, and a Tromba d’Albenga that didn’t get photographed. Both of these are giving us a steady but manageable (so far) supply of squash, and seem unfazed by the weather or by squash bugs. My wife spiralized the tromboncino and then roasted in the oven in a cast iron skillet. The Tatume wound up on the grill, my favorite treatment for it. It weighed in at 1.25 pounds, and all of it is usable except for the stem end.

Tatume squash

Tatume squash

One of the smallest harvests of the week came in the form of a sprig of Thai basil and one tiny but fiery Thai bird pepper. I used them plus a slice of lemon to make a bottle of Spicy Thai Basil kombucha. The combo is surprisingly tasty, and the hot pepper gives just a slight kick to the tart kombucha. More of the Thai basil wound up in a dish my wife made last week, a Thai Beef Bowl featuring ground beef and stir fried veggies. This was the Siam Queen Basil I used, a 1997 AAS Winner that is both ornamental as well as edible.

ingredients for Spicy Thai Basil kombucha

ingredients for Spicy Thai Basil kombucha

Last week Kathy (A Little Bit of Sunshine) asked about the tomatoes I use for drying. I generally don’t use the smaller cherry types. I prefer ones at least an inch in diameter, and I cut those in half. Grape tomatoes also dry well when cut in half. Juliet is one of my favorites for drying, and it is a large plum/small roma type that I cut into fourths lengthwise. Here’s what a sheet of them looked like after I dried them last week. They are great when rehydrated, and we use a lot of them in winter for egg dishes, casseroles, even soups.

Juliet tomatoes drying

Juliet tomatoes drying

Last but not least, here’s an update on the rogue Marzano Fire tomatoes I saved seed from last year. I set out a couple of plants this year from the seed I saved, and the tomatoes are mostly round and striped. They are more juicy than the paste tomatoes I got last year, so it appears they are perhaps reverting to the parent that was NOT Marzano Fire. It’s not been a great year for tomatoes here, so I will reserve judgment on their productivity and flavor, but I will say it’s not the paste tomato that I was hoping for. I guess I’ll try again next year. I shared seed of these with a number of people and I’d love to hear how they are doing for you. This first generation of the saved seed could produce quite a diverse set of tomatoes, so who knows what you might get!

Stripey Marzano

Stripey Marzano

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 of any size or shape you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And please be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Harvest Monday July 16, 2018

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. It’s summer time in the Ohio River valley and that means lots of heat and humidity. Some of the summer veggies are loving it, while others are like me and just hanging in there! There were a few new faces in the harvests last week. The sweet peppers have finally started ripening, and the first to come in was Carmen. More should be ripening soon, though it’s too early to tell if it’s going to be a good year for peppers or another bust like last year.

Carmen pepper

Carmen pepper

I was also excited to see the first slicing tomatoes ripen. These are Chef’s Choice Yellow, and though they were a little rough looking they were still delicious. We enjoyed a couple of these on the first BLT’s of the year. Another one is going on an eggplant and tomato sandwich for lunch today.

Chef

Chef’s Choice Yellow tomatoes

The small fruited tomatoes are ripening as well, and I started dehydrating some of them on Saturday. Another first came from the Musica pole beans. They are hanging out with Sun Sugar and Sunpeach tomatoes in the below photo. I got a few more Musica beans in a couple of days and cooked them up Saturday night. I love this bean, and it is my favorite flat-podded pole bean, always tender and flavorful.

Musica beans, Sun Sugar and Sunpeach tomatoes

Musica beans, Sun Sugar and Sunpeach tomatoes

And speaking of eggplant, we’re getting a steady but manageable supply of it. I’m growing the white skin Clara for the first time, and you can see it and the purple Dancer in the below photo. I’d put eggplant in the ‘loving the heat’ camp.

Dancer and Clara eggplant

Dancer and Clara eggplant

I sliced both of them up, brushed with a little olive oil and  grilled them on the gas grill outside. I sometimes sprinkle a little cumin or ground coriander on them but I kept it simple this time with only salt for seasoning. I do believe Clara is a keeper. It was tender and tasty, with no bitterness and few seeds. I’m looking forward to more of it in the future.

grilled eggplant

grilled eggplant

I pulled the last of the spring planted cabbage on Monday. These last two were Primo Vantage, and I have to say they have held well in the garden under hot, humid and rainy conditions. I turned one of them into a jar of fermented Curtido, and I hope to share that recipe here soon. The other head is in the refrigerator for now. They both weighed right at 2.5 pounds each, which is a great size for us and also for fermenting. I generally make kraut a jar at a time and really don’t need a giant head of cabbage to deal with.

Primo Vantage cabbage

Primo Vantage cabbage

I also pulled all the spring broccoli plants except Apollo and Artwork, two broccolini types that are still producing. I’ve also let the bush beans go for a bit longer, since they have started to bloom again and are still giving us small but tasty amounts of snap beans. Last year I made a fall planting of beans in August and they did quite well, so I plan on doing that again this year. I’ve got seeds for Derby, Mascotte and Castandel to sow.

Artwork and Apollo broccoli with Derby beans

Artwork and Apollo broccoli with Derby beans

Mid-week I got a decent mixed harvest of summer veggies you can see in the below photo. It was the last of the cucumbers I found as I pulled the vines, which had been attacked by spider mites. The next day I replanted a few slicing cucumbers in hopes of getting a fall crop of them. The tomato is Big Brandy, one that did well for me last year. This particular one looked good but lacked much flavor, though it didn’t stop me from eating it!

harvest of summer veggies

harvest of summer veggies

And last but not least, the paste type tomatoes are starting to ripen. I got several pounds of Juliet and a small bucketful of the short vine types like Viva Italia, Health Kick and Plum Regal. I dehydrated the Juliets and I will make sauce with the others. Once we get a bigger batch of tomatoes will will make some homemade ketchup to replenish our dwindling supplies.

Juliet tomatoes

Juliet tomatoes

paste tomatoes

paste tomatoes

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 of any size or shape you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And please be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Variety Spotlight: Tatume 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 Tatume, a Mexican heirloom squash I’ve been growing for several years now. It’s a prolific producer of softball sized fruits that can be used as either a summer or a winter squash, though I usually use them at the immature stage. This round to slightly elongated squash has been a staple of Mexican cuisine for centuries, where it is also known as calabacita (little pumpkin). Its drought and heat tolerance make it a popular choice for growing in Texas and the U.S. Southwest. It definitely does well for me here in our hot and humid summers, and keeps going long after many other squashes have bit the dust.

trio of Tatume squash

trio of Tatume squash

Tatume is an open-pollinated variety of the species Cucurbita pepo, a species which also includes most summer squash plus a few winter types. Tatume plants make vigorous vines and will cover a large area if not contained. I’ve seen reports that they are somewhat resistant to squash vine borers, but since they are not usually a problem here I can’t really vouch for that. Squash bugs are a real problem here though, and Tatume seems to hold up well against them.

Tatume squash

Tatume squash

In years past, I just let the vines sprawl on the ground or climb up the garden fencing. In the photo below from a few years back the plants had been in the ground for about five weeks, and you can see how big they were already. The vines can easily get over ten feet in length, though they can be pruned to encourage branching out.

Tatume vines

Tatume vines

This year I put up a trellis for them using 4×8 foot remesh panels that I secured to metal t-posts using zip ties. I set out the seedlings 6 weeks ago, and when the vines started to run I guided them to the trellis and they quickly began climbing their way to the top. I plan on pruning the tips of the vines to help keep them under control.

Tatume climbing up the trellis

Tatume climbing up the trellis

In the kitchen, the young Tatume can be used much like you would a zucchini. The shape also lends itself to scooping the inside out, stuffing with the filling of your choice, and then roasting. The flesh of the immature Tatume is meaty and a bit drier than most zucchini, with a mild, sweet taste. 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. When mature, the fruits keep for several months and can be roasted or baked like other winter squashes.

grilling slices of Tatume squash

grilling slices of Tatume squash

I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a little known heirloom squash. Seeds for Tatume squash are available from several sources in the U.S. In 2018 there were listings for them at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Victory Seeds and Pinetree Garden Seeds. I’ll be back soon with another variety to spotlight.

Posted in Saturday Spotlight | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments