Monday, August 29, 2011

Harvest is a lot of work Monday

The first batch of grapes waiting to become jelly and a couple purple spored puffballs.

The horn of plenty is spilling over with lots of preserving in the works. As I am up to my elbows in plums, grapes, apples, tomatoes and so on, I've decided to pass over the reigns of Harvest Monday to my eldest.

Go on then, what are we harvesting?

Woohoo! Need I say more?

"It's hot but we went outside and harvested tomatoes, grapes, a chum (plum-cherry) from our new baby tree, giant swiss chard that looked like wings, spaceship summer squash, basil which tasted strong, ground cherries which tasted good, corn which tasted sweet and some lettuce seeds."

"They are like tiny pins topped with what looks like dandelion fluff. You have to take a seed head and take off the fluff then you open it and put the seeds in a jar."

"Then we went to the new garden and harvested more tomatoes, some eggplants, peppers and melon and a citron. We weren't sure it was a citron because our puppy dog moved all the plant tags."

There also appears to be a bunch of onions too in our harvest basket.


Brought to you by the kids and this citron: which is indeed a citron.

Eldest with gap toothed smile, youngest and the much loved citron melon which unlike some that are round and stripey, ours are mottled and large.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What to do with my Harvest Monday?

Here is the second picking of apples from one of my six (I think?) apple trees. These seem to be early, thin skinnned, juicy and large apples. They come from an old tree that would be quite large if it hadn't been topped some time back. The apples would be wonderful to eat out of hand if it wasn't for the birds pecking at them and the odd bug damage. As it is, they look fantastic. And these, my friends, are ORGANIC apples. Not a spray has touched their gentle faces or shielding leaves. I have done nothing to this tree so we can thank the previous owners for their fine care, and this tree for its fine apples.

Not sure what is going on in this shot: one kid didn't want to look up because of the glaringly diffuse light of a cloudy sky, the dog was chillin' and the other kid was distracted by something 'over there.' But did you see the apples?

My problem is what to do with them all. They aren't storage apples so please post your favourite freezing/canning recipes. I like baking so go wild.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Mystery Bean and other Seed Stories

I normally plant three types of pole beans (and many other bush beans but we'll leave that exciting tale for another installation): Hunter - a green flat pod with white seeds, Cherokee Trail of Tears - prolific, small black bean with round pods and some sort of 'cranberry' that I originally got at a fruit/veg store. This year I harvested five kinds of beans. I have been saving these seeds for many years and never remember this happening before. I figure that it must be one of two things: 1) I forgot that I planted other varieties, or 2) some pollination shenanigans has been going on.

My mystery bean

This bean turns out to be the most prolific of all my pole beans this year and I have no idea what it is. The pods are flat like the Hunter but purple like the Cherokee and the beans are a pale lavender/tan colour. If you recognize this bean as something you sent me, please jog my memory. In the meantime, here is some possible evidence of crossing. First the beans:

From left to right: Hunt, Mystery Bean and Cherokee Trail of Tears.

You can see that the pale 'lavender' mystery bean has the same markings as the Hunter bean. And now the dry pods:

From top to bottom: Mystery bean, Hunter and Cherokee Trail of Tears

I have to admit that I assumed all the purple pods were Cherokee though there were actually very few round pods. Most of them were flat like the Hunter.

From Left to Right: Hunter, 'Cranberry,' and Mystery Bean

And among the rest of the beans was one other surprise, some of the (not true) 'cranberry' were streaked brown?? I might have planted some variety like that but I've only found two pods so far that contained these nuggets of difference.

From left to right: brown marked bean and 'Cranberry'

Viva la diversidad! Here is a picture of the twining vines of various hues.

A twisting rainbow

Besides puzzling over these beans, I was threshing radish seeds. Here is a my quick step by step.

1. First gather dried pods

A pile of pods

2. Strip the pods from the stems


3. Step on them or rub them between gloved hands or use a masher like my niece. Or some other method to remove the pod from the seed.

You may recall her as a tyke in the Cabbage picture

4. Pour chaff and seeds into a bowl or bucket of water and swirl around. Remove the floating bits of pods and pour off most of the water leaving just a bit of water and seeds on the bottom then pour the rest through a strainer.

Almost all done. These were rattail radish seeds actually and I had a lot fewer pods. With the daikon radish of most of these pictures, I needed a bucket.

5. Dry and label seeds well!

P.S. Nagging Aunt of the Garden - that's NAG to you - doesn't have time to open her twitter account but wants to tell you to go buy garlic at one of the festivals round these parts tomorrow! I'll be in Carp if you want to sign up to be a member of Canadian Organic Gardeners. :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Apples and other dangerous Harvest(s) Monday

I've shared with the bugs. I will share with the critters including deer. And then we will feast on the bits that remain. This tree is close to ripe now.

A hint of autumn was in the air when I made my first batch of apple sauce yesterday but not before braving the bald headed hornet. Actually I didn't come face to face with them but my poor niece did. I just hope that the now eradicated nest build at head level in the apple tree isn't the thing she remembers most about her trip to Canada.

I asked the name of the tree that we got the large, early maturing soft and delicious apples and the previous owner answered: "This is an old tree." So that's their name folks: Old Tree Apples.

We are also dripping with ground cherries. I bought these starts at a local organic nursery and I asked what variety they were and got 'Ground Cherries' as an answer. They are not partial to the searing heat we've been having or the mini-drought which thankfully was broken by a nice soaking yesterday. Other than eating out of hand, anyone have some good recipes?

Some sort of ground cherry that has been getting sunburnt over the last week. Still lots of life left in it though and it's smothered with fruit.

Related to the cherry in the husk is the tomatillo. I suppose these are almost salsa verde ready but not quite ripe enough for me yet -


- and their dangerous cousin, the Litchi tomato or Morelle De Balbis as it is known in French.

It's a pretty plant. In my garden, only reaching about 3-4 feet though I've heard stories of tree like monsters.

Unripe berries equiped with the same spines that cover this plant.

It's a weed in some places but here we 'just' get ripe fruit. Certainly not something I'd like to step on while trapsing around the garden.

I really like the flavour though some are less partial. I also like the fruit Sunberry (another tomato cousin) which is sweet and can be eaten out of hand unlike Garden Huckleberry but I know there are some who aren't fans of this fruit either. Well were on the subject, I like eggplant. Doesn't everyone?*

Todays tomatoes lining up for the cutting board.

That's a small list of the harvests this week which included herbs, summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, greens, and much more. What I'm really looking forward to is the first of the melons! I have hopes for next Monday.

For the interested, the weed perennial Clammy groundcherry. The berries are not ripe yet but this originated from Yuko's Open Pollinated Seed and she tells me they taste yummy. They will cover the ground rather like Chinese Lanterns and also like them, the Colorado Potato Beetle seem to prefer them so might be a useful trap crop.

* Okay so not everyone likes eggplant. I figure it's because they haven't had it lightly battered and fried until it turns creamy inside and crispy outside. So good.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Time to get seedy!!

A bunch of Brassica napa seeds.

I've up to my armpits in Brassicaceae seeds such as rattail and daikon radish, as well as Michihili Chinese Cabbage (or that's what my tattered memory tells me it is), Red Ursa kale and however much mustard seed I'd like to collect which is none unless I get a request. I'm letting this generation create a dense, edible dirt cover for early spring next year, and hopefully a semi-feral population after that.

I've made many a post on collecting seeds of this most delicious family so I won't repeat myself (this time) but here is a pictorial of how we threshed a large amount of Chinese Cabbage Michihili.

Possibly way more than you want to know about brassica seed saving

My eldest demonstrating with very serious face how she walks the chaff off the seed.

To date, I've collected:

Michihili (I think) Chinese Cabbage*
Daikon and Rattail radish (these might have crossed)*
Unnamed Ground Cherry*
Red Streaks Mustard*
Chickpeas, mixed
Beans, many kinds
Peas, many kinds
Buckwheat, scant

The beautiful but leathally spined Milk Thistle's seeds.

Some Dill
Milk Thistle*
Edible Chrysanthemum

Double somniferum poppy*
Asian Poppy
Flander's Poppy
Blanket Flower*

If they have a star, then they will be appearing on the trade list soon.

... TBC ... When I finish cooking a couple lasagnas and make a fesh salad for the visiting Fam.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Harvest Never Stops Monday

About half the onions braided in sister-in-laws hand - Hi!

Summer and vegetable production is in full swing. Alongside visiting with my family who are here for a month, volunteering for Canadian Organic Growers (visit them :) and trying to get the gardens here into shape, I'm also harvesting. It is the time of year that it might be faster to tell you what I'm not harvesting than the reverse but here goes in bad poem format:

Various tomatoes - lots of blossom end rot on some - grrr - with ground cherries and some sunberries.

When summer sun starts to shine
On greens I do dine
Waiting for the first taste
Of fresh tomato paste
Eggplants, peppers and zuchini
Make a lovely sauce for fetuccini
Not outdone by the berries
Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
Did I forget the currants?
Or the beans and peas in torrents?
How about all those crops of cole?
Broccoli and cabbage on a roll
Garlic, onion and carrot
Gosh I have a healthy diet
Squash and cantaloupe are almost done
I know I am forgetting some
Like the weeds that grow just as fast
But soon summer will be past

Did you get all that?

My mouth waters ever time I see this melon.


In other news, per suggestion of a friend, I have been thinking of turning my twitter account into a nagging garden Aunt alert so if you wish me to nag you about what to plant when, let me know.

P.S. Plant some more lettuce would you!

P.S.S. Upcoming blog posts: more weird veggies, my acreage under construction and lots of brassica seed threshing.

Daikon radish, rattail radish and chinese cabbage are among the many brassica seeds that are currently in the drying shed.