Category Archives: Harvested

An Important Announcement About Gardening

I was getting all ready to start putting together posts about our recent awesome vacation in Dallas, but then something amazing happened that is putting the organization of our (kick-ass) pictures on hold. Look at this:

Inadvertent Harvest

Dozens of frying peppers, ranging from zesty green to sweet red! Buckets of spicy purple peppers! A surprising handful of basil! And underneath that all, quarts of fresh tomatillos! This was what we shook off the plants in our garden today when we started in on the end-of-season plant removal from the beds. This is a garden that we have literally been neglecting for the last six weeks. Literally. We haven’t watered, or trimmed, or weeded, or pruned, or anything. We walked away, and when we came back, this stuff was waiting for us.

Tomatillos

Perhaps even more significantly, we hadn’t even planted tomatillos this year. Or the year before. Or the year before that. They just sprung up out of the dirt, and because we were neglecting the garden, they were perfectly content just to hum along bearing fruit with nary a care in the world. And this leads me to an important announcement: apparently you can do literally nothing and still successfully grow vegetables. Whenever I hear someone remark that gardening is difficult, or that we have some kind of special skills or wizardry to draw the bounteous bounty from our front yard, my response tends to be “pish posh! I have no idea what I’m doing, and it still works!” But here is proof. If you have dirt and you introduce — in any way at all, even in theoretically inert seeds from years-old compost — vegetable plants to that dirt, you can garden. Nature just wants shit to grow, you know?

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Filed under Bonanza!, Garden, Harvested, Lessons Learned, We Grew This

Peeking Under The Soil

I couldn’t wait another minute — this weekend I simply had to pull up a carrot to see what’s going on under those giant, fluffy fronds.

I knew it was too soon, that they weren’t going to be full-sized, and that they probably were going to be bitter and nasty, but they’re carrots! How could I resist?

These are Red Dragon carrots, from seeds we ordered from Seed Savers Exchange. They were very short, about four inches, and were just amazingly brightly colored. Even more amazing than the colors, though, was the flavor. Where we were expecting bitter under-ripeness, we were stunned by how sweet and a bit spicy they were. Just like they’re described! Sure, they were a bit on the young side, and aren’t ready for a total harvest of the whole crop, but I am so excited for them. I think carrots are my favorite crop of all, if just because when you harvest them, you’re pulling a carrot out of the ground. That’s just wild.

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Filed under 9. September, Garden, Harvested

Today’s Garden

So here’s a look at what was going on in the gardens of Maple Hoo this afternoon.

First up, a view of the raspberry bramble out the mud room window in the “basement”.

We went outside with the camera in the early evening, when the sun’s low enough to make watering worthwhile, and also casting long shadows.

We had some fun taking pictures of the urn at the front door, filled with begonias and some kind of little white flower by Boomer.

Inside the garden walls, there were some calypso bean pods that were well and truly dried — time to harvest them!

In the next bed over, the carrots are coming up like gangbusters.

Next to the carrots, the Nardellos, stripped of their early-growing peppers, are finally thriving.

And in the far corner, the radishes are going crazy to seed; they’ve grown in a wave over the side of the bed, and have these gorgeous, delicate pink flowers.

Looking across the bed, the Black Plums and gherkins are looking like they’re getting a bit tired, and have a kind of “leafy arbor” shape to them, like they’re serving as shady hollows for smurfs or something.

And something we’ve learned about gherkins is that if you leave them on the vine too long, they grow insanely huge, and then turn orange.

It was one of those perfectly gorgeous evenings in the garden — warm, dry, with leaf-rustling breezes, and all our plants were happy to get watered after the heat of the day.

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Filed under 8. August, Garden, Harvested, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

This Is What We’d Been Planning All Along

So, way back on February 18 we could wait no longer to start gardening and dropped some tomato seeds into little seedling trays.

On March 30 it was unseasonably sunny and warm, so we sat out on the deck and moved the seedlings to bigger peat pots.

On May 3 we transplanted the tomatoes into the garden beds.

On May 15 we saw our first tomato flower.

On June 9 we noticed our first Black Plum tomato on the vine.

In mid-July we started harvesting the Black Plums and a few San Marzanos, and a few tomatoes at a time, built up a nice collection of them.

And on July 26 I roasted a bunch of them…

… ran them through my food mill, and ended up with an almost impossibly thick sauce, nearly the color of barbecue sauce. This is how thick it was without cooking down at all:

With a bit of minced garlic sauteed in olive oil and a dash of chiffonaded fresh basil, there was dinner. I tossed the sauce on spaghetti, and then we drank a toast to those moments when life is completely, deliciously perfect.

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Filed under Garden, Harvested, Pommerdoodling, We Grew This, Worth Selling Your Soul For

The Great Garlic Taste Test Of ’08

Now that the entire garlic crop has been picked and cured, it’s time to tackle that most onerous task: figuring out which one tastes best. The three contenders in today’s battle are, in no particular order:

Persian Star

Chesnok Red

German White

The methodology was as follows:

We were going to test the flavors of the three garlics in three settings — rubbed raw on toast, roasted and spread on bread, and raw in a simple bruschetta treatment. Each type was handled with uncontaminated utensils, and they were eaten in a random, blind test.

The Persian Star had a small head with about a dozen teensy cloves. The skins of the cloves were a lovely purply red, but they were a total pain in the ass to handle. I don’t have a lot of patience with wee garlic cloves.

The Chesnok Red was basically exactly like the Persian Star. Again with the wee tiny cloves. Again with the eye-rolling and me grumbling, “This better not taste that good.”

The German White, though, was much more my speed: big cloves (but not very many of them in the head), easy to peel, basically a dream to handle.

The processing was fairly simple for this test. I toasted some slices of bread with a little olive oil for the raw-rubbed test, nestled a few cloves of each in some tin foil and drizzled them with olive oil before roasting for the roasted-and-smeared test, and stirred together some finely diced Black Plum tomatoes (from our garden), the finely minced garlic, a pinch of chiffonaded fresh basil (from our garden), and a healthy drizzle of olive oil for the bruschetta test.

Then we hunkered down for some serious bread consumption.

For the raw-garlic-rubbed-on-olive-oiled-toasts test, we ended up liking the three almost equally. We started with the German White, and felt it had “a mild, not very forward flavor” and was “complimentary”, “a team player”. The Persian Star was “more garlicky”, “sharper and sweeter”, had “a flavor that lingers”, but was “more raw-tasting” and was “asking for something else” to go with it. The Chesnok Red was our winner, by a nose, for being “a garlic-lover’s garlic” and “very strong”. In a very close vote, we decided the German White was the second best, and the Persian Star brought up the rear.

The roasted-and-smeared-on-bread test was next, and the Persian Star led things off by having a flavor “where ‘sweet’ and ‘rich’ meet”; we struggled to verbalize exactly what the flavor reminded us of, ultimately agreeing it tasted like the texture of tomato paste. It had no sharp garlic aftertaste. The Chesnok Red was up next and was “a total loser”. It tasted “like if garlic and tap water were combined”. Third was the German White, “delicious”, “light and airy”, “gardeny”, “full but not heavy — tastes like spring green”, and was fresh-tasting even when roasted. The clear winner was the German White, with the Persian Star a modest second and the Chesnok Red a crushing disappointment.

The bruschetta test was led off by the Chesnok Red, which saw a strong rebound from its failures as a roaster. It “tied the flavors together nicely”, “never tasted like raw garlic”, and was “a good team player’. The Persian Star was next and was “not as peppery as [the Chesnok], more buttery” but also “almost overpowers the tomato flavor”. The German White was the last up, and had a “warm finish” with “no sharpness”, “plays beautifully with the basil” and got the rave “all four flavors [in the tomato mixture] work together the best”. We voted the Chesnok Red our favorite in this round, narrowly edging out the German White, with the Persian Star coming up short.

Overall, even though the Chesnok Red won two of the three tests, we liked the German White best overall. The failure of the Chesnok to roast well was a damaging blow to its overall standings. The Persian Star, while delicious in its own right, wasn’t a winner in any category and had teensy cloves that are impossible to peel. So there you have it: German White it is. In fact, we just placed our order with Seeds of Change for oodles of it for next year.

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Filed under 7. July, Garden, Harvested, Lessons Learned, Taste Test, We Grew This

The Lord Giveth And The Lord Taketh Away

One of the things that I have found most fascinating with our farm share is the different ways that different weather conditions affect different crops. Some years there will be lots of rain in the spring, wiping out, say, the spinach, but leading to happier tomatoes down the line. Or a heat wave will, say, frizzle the snap peas but delight the strawberries.

Farmer Jim and Sherry do such a fantastic job of providing us with a wide array and balance of crops, so it always seems that there’s something thriving in conditions that other things aren’t happy with, and we don’t often consider the way that tumultuous weather can really be devastating to farmers. This week, though, we learned first-hand.

After a smothering, humid heatwave, Wednesday finally saw a front move through New Jersey to break the miserable, sweltering conditions for us. That would be good news, except for the way it broke — it was a giant, slow-moving front, and it crept along over us, giving us a constant string of strobe-light lightning and incessant thunder for almost 10 hours. And in the middle of the afternoon, we had a 20-minute stormburst with an intense brutality the likes of which I’ve never seen before. First there was crackling thunder and blue-green lightning flashing constantly, then sheets of rain whipping around in every direction, and then hail. Lots of hail. Giant hail. The pond below my office window looked like it was being barraged with golf balls, and when I looked out the front of the building, the parking lot looked like it had been covered with white gravel. The hailstones were the size of that huge, industrial gravel, fully an inch long. The skies pelted us with the stuff for about 15 minutes, and then the sun came out (but not for long — the thunder and lightning resumed shortly thereafter). It was the strangest storm I’ve ever seen.

It was also extremely destructive. Just that brief a spurt of violent storming wreaked havoc. On my way home from work that day I stopped for corn at the farm stand and discovered their barn had been struck by lightning (no one was hurt, and the barn is apparently fine) and the farmer was apparently on the phone with the crop insurance people. When I walked past the fields this morning, the plants were in tatters. On Thursday morning I received an email from our membership farm explaining that the summer lettuce and chard crops had been destroyed, and the tomatoes, watermelons, scallions, beets, and summer squash had all suffered severe damage. While I’m feeling very mopey that I won’t get as many wonderful tomatoes as I’d hoped for this summer, and that my produce habit is going to be more expensive than in years without hail-damaged crops, it’s also really humbling to think about people who rely on the land for their livelihood. It’s easy for me just to go to another farmer’s market, or suck it up and buy the shipped-from-who-knows-where produce in the grocery store. I can’t even imagine what it would be like if there wasn’t a fallback. Pookie remarked when we were assessing our own garden damage that it’s amazing to consider that hail doesn’t do anything good. It’s puzzling that Nature destroys things without reason, without some offsetting benefit. Puzzling and, literally, awesome.

Meanwhile, there’s been some clamor that we haven’t been posting enough pictures lately (so we’ve been lazy! Sue us!), so here’s a look at the damage our own modest crops sustained.

First, remember the pumpkin at the front door?

Here’s what a quarter-hour of hail did to it:

Our puny little habaneros, which were finally starting to look like they were bushing out just a bit, took a beating, too:

The peppers on the nardellos plants, some of the gherkins, and some of the tomatoes got pitted by the hailstones and cracked. And even more tomatoes simply gave up the ghost and were buffeted to the ground.

But you know what else is puzzling (in a “mysterious” sense) and awesome? That all was not lost. Here are some ripening Black Plums that were unaffected by the storm…

…and here are some San Marzanos soaking up the post-storm sunshine:

And look at what a week of harvesting has yielded of the Black Plums!

Meanwhile, while we were scoping out the destruction in the garden, we were also seeking signs of new growth from the wave of crops we planted this past weekend. That’s right — we spent a tortuously hot Sunday afternoon filling in the recently emptied beds with carrots, beets, and some impulse-bought beans.

These are Lina Sisco’s Bird’s Egg beans:

These are Hutterite Soup beans:

These are October beans:

And these are Tigers Eye:

So even while we shed some tears for our fallen, tattered plants, we were thrilled to see signs of life all over the bean beds.

And over in the beet bed, an eagle eye can see signs of life, first from the Touchstone Gold and then from the Detroit Dark Red:

And on the fringes of the beleaguered pepper bed? The first wave of carrots are growing like a literal fringe. Even after the hail, their fronds are cool, elegant, and lacy.

But the best lesson of the day for us was this: Sure, Nature can’t help but destroy things for no reason, but Nature also can’t help but make beautiful things, either.

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Filed under 7. July, Bad News, Garden, Harvested

This Week’s Harvest

This week saw some monumental earthworks, harvest-wise. The onions had all finally fallen over, and were heaving out of the ground, and the potatoes were looking raggedy and limp. The time had come to reap those fruits of the earth and ready the beds for planting for Fall harvest. Last Tuesday we dragged our feeling-sorry-for-ourselves asses out into the garden for the only work we’d do all week: digging up the fingerlings and some of the Yellow Finns, and hauling up the first wave of Riverside onions.

We got well over 8 1/2 pounds of potatoes…

…and scads of onions, a welcome change from last year’s crop of zero onions.

I needed the onion goggles to trim the leaves and roots, but once everything was cut away, we had a lovely bowl of onions waiting to be cellared.

That was just the tip of the iceberg, too — today we braved the ruthless, merciless heat, humidity and brutal sun to bring in the rest of the Riversides and all of the Newburghs.

Oh, and it should be noted that in the first harvest picture up there, you can see our whopping haul of four blueberries on the table in front of the baskets. We had a lot of fun getting all artsy-fartsy with the berries:

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Filed under 7. July, Garden, Harvested, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

Midsummer Garden Update

It being 4th of July weekend, it seemed like a good time to take our camera out into the heavy, humid great outdoors and take a look at the progress of Maple Hoo’s bouteous bounty. This is about as lush as the garden’s going to look this year:

The potato thicket is bustin’ out of the back of the fence:

And the volunteer pumpkin at the front door is starting to make plans to eat the house:

The volunteer pumpkin at the other side of the door isn’t quite as impressive yet, but we have high hopes for it still.

Meanwhile, the actual, intentional pumpkin patch out front is… doing only okay. We half-assed the planting this year, and then totally neglected it, so it’s pretty well overrun with weeds.

Almost none of the seedlings we put out there did anything, but we have some robust volunteers growing like gangbusters, and a handful of full-on pumpkins we’re starting to keep our eyes on.

And speaking of volunteers that just won’t quit, two years ago we planted “pocket melons”, little melons that are a hair bigger than golf balls that were grown in Victorian times to carry around in your pocket. They don’t taste like anything, but they are delightfully aromatic, and would be trucked around for their perfume. We grew them for fun, and must have left a few in the patch by accident, because, lo and behold, for the second straight year we’re getting them without trying.

In the orchard, only one of the ten apple trees is growing any apples — here’s one of the Enterprise’s massive bumper crop (read: “six or so little bug-eaten fruits”):

Meanwhile, inside the garden fence, things are looking great for the gherkins we thought were never going to amount to anything. Here’s bed with a calypso bean plant, the three gherkin plants, and our most giant black plum tomato:

The gherkins proper have stopped looking like fingernail-sized, eensy-weensy sweet pickles and now look like finger-sized sweet pickles.

I was having fun trying to take artsy pictures of the plant today…

…and when I focused on one of the flowers…

…look what flitted in long enough to strike a pose then disappear off to more flowery pastures!

The Black Plum there is starting, like all the other tomato plants, to eagerly pump out fruits that can’t wait to be made into delicious sauce.

We left a handful of radishes in the corner of one bed to see what would happen when they went to seed, and they’ve developed these totally wacky seed pods in among their pretty pink flowers.

Elsewhere in that bed, we’re learning why you’re supposed to take the first few flowers off your pepper plants. Our tiny little nardello plants are being weighed down by their ever-huger peppers.

The big news today, though, was the harvesting. We took up the remaining two Desiree potatoes and the three All Blue plants, as well as the rest of the garlic (Chesnok Red and Persian Star).

The yield was just over ten pounds of potatoes:

And a counter covered with garlic:

After we were done digging up the garlic and potato beds, we went around to the side of the house to check on our blueberry haul. One of the bushes was positively groaning under the weight of its scant crop.

But any amount of fresh-picked, ripe blueberries is better than none.

They were sweet, juicy, and outrageously delicious. It was a pretty good day to be gentlewoman farmers, if we do say so ourselves.

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Filed under 7. July, Garden, Harvested