Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July In The Garden

This is the time of year where my canner, the dishwasher, the washing machine, and our compost pile are all doing overtime to keep up with the onslaught of produce. I guess that make me a busy woman too! But first, some pretty flowers...

Red gladiolas by the back porch. I love these things and can't get enough!

Black-eyed Susans blooming their little hearts out.

A Tigger Melon blossom. I ran out of steam by the time I planted these and only have 4 plants growing...I'll guess we'll see what happens.

The Tomato Prison...protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of salsa.

We are up to 132-135 lbs of ripe tomatoes picked this season. Hubby and I had a bet. I bet that we would harvest 90 lbs and he bet 120 lbs....looks like we have both lost and we still have MUCH more to go. Basically, we have grown an entire human being in tomato weight!

Cutie patootie Paris Market carrots. These babies are about the size of a ping-pong ball or smaller. Originally, I was going to pickle them, but I couldn't find a recipe that I was interested in, not to mention I didn't think that each one of these tiny things would need to be peeled. They are going to be roasted with my measly beet harvest for dinner tonight!

Happy parsley is happy!

Bush beans are growing. I am going to have A LOT of beans (god willing) this season.

A lovely visitor on some basil flowers. I haven't had to buy any basil this year for pesto!

My languishing Malabar Spinach. I'm not sure why this isn't crawling up that trellis like a wild fire. I've given them a boost of organic fertilizer a few weeks ago and barely anything..oh well, you can't win them all.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tomato Prison

This is what it has come down to in order to keep the friggin' crows out of my tomato patch:

I have cattle panel fencing, tin foil tied to pieces of string, twine strung across any opening, and electrical wire running along the bottom of the boxes.

At first when this all started, I thought we were having mice or rats, so we set out mouse traps. I was losing about 4-5 green tomatoes a day and had to do something. The tomatoes that were damaged didn't actually have gnaw or teeth marks on them, they seemed to be hollowed out completely from a small opening in the fruit. When we didn't catch any mice and the damage continued, I was suspicious. I knew it was something larger than a mouse/rat, as some of the limbs on the tomato vines were broken from something larger trying to get at the higher setting fruit.

I hung sheets of tin foil on string and that worked very well for a while. The occasional crinkling and noise put off from the tin foil rustling in the slightest breeze even spooked me out. It sounded like someone, or something, was sneaking up on you from behind. But still more loss.

So, I ordered this battery operated electrical wire from Amazon. Even though it is operated by D batteries, it still puts out a good zap and it has worked from keeping ground dwellers out. It worked for a while, but we still continued to lose tomatoes. I was setting my sights on the crows more and more until one day I caught one red-handed (winged?). I took a look at a tomato that was damaged and then noticed a definte "V" mark made by a beak.

The little shits land in the yard and walk right up to the beds and help themselves like it is some sort of grocery aisle. The electrical wire stopped them for a time, until they figured they could hop right over it in between the rows and party on, so we had to set up the cattle panels with the twine on top of everything else. The crows won't go into an area where they can't easily have a wing span to get out in case they are caught. They won't go into an area where they can't fly out and escape quickly.

This has worked (for now) and I scare the fcukers away from the property every chance I get. My tomato patch looks like some sort of ghetto, produce prison. Whatever....now if I can keep the bunnies from eating my hollyhocks!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ground Cherries

This past winter, I decided to winter sow some Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherry seeds that I ordered from a seed company. Descriptions for the fruit on these unusual plants include "pineapple in flavor" or "mango-like" and I was curious. They are in the same family as tomatoes and tomatillos, and from what I've read, they are an old garden fruit that were once grown abundantly, but not any more. The fruit makes an excellent jam, so of course that convinced me to give it a try.

More research revealed the seeds needed stratification (cold weather) to sprout and were notorious for taking a long time to do so. Well, during the winter, time is all you have, so I planted them without any expectations. To my surprise, they have done exceptionally well! At first, I wasn't bowled over by their flavor, but then I learned they needed to really ripen to get that pineapple flavor.

They do look like tiny tomatillos in their husks, but when you peel the husks back, they are about the size of a very small grape.

The plants grew to about 4 feet tall! And true to their name, the ground cherries are ready for "picking" when they fall off the plant to the ground. It's like nature's own Easter egg hunt.

I usually make two or three passes around the bed they are growing in and have been picking a bowl-full every 2-3 days. The plants have been super tough and nothing has bothered them, not even the crows! They have been pestered by flea beetles and white flies, but that hasn't slowed them down at all.

More research told me that the cherries freeze wonderfully in order to gather enough for jam, so that is what I have been doing. I let them sit in a bowl for a few days in their husks to fully ripen and dry the husks out before peeling and freezing. I can't wait to see what kind of jam these babies will make!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sixteen Pounds

On Sunday, I harvested 16 pounds of tomatoes from my tomato patch. I picked 13 pounds last week, which were partly devoured on BLTs, with cheese and wine, and in salads before the rest were processed in pints for the most honored sauces.

This brings my season total up to almost 30 pounds, as I didn't weigh the first few I picked earlier. There's probably a good 20-25 more tomatoes ready to be picked even as I type...gotta love it! This batch is destined to be sliced and mixed with some fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. What is left over will be made into salsa. So far, my favorite has been Early Girl in taste. There are two German Johnson's in this batch that are heirlooms and I'm curious to see what they taste like.

Unfortunately, all of my winter sowed tomatoes weren't mature enough to make it into the garden beds and are being grown in pots. I didn't think they would make it, but surprisingly they are doing just fine. They have set fruit, but they won't be ready for a while. Next year, my goal is to only grow tomatoes that I grew from seed. No store bought transplants, even if that means I go without.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why Does My Garlic Turn Blue?

I was getting ready to write a post about the PERFECT dill pickle, when this happened...

Looks scary, huh? Sometimes this happens to me and sometimes it doesn't, so I decided to look into what was going on. From what I found:

"Garlic contains anthocyanins, water-soluble pigments that turn blue, green or purple in an acid solution. While this color transformation tends to occur more often with immature garlic, it can differ among cloves within the same head of garlic. The garlic flavor remains unchanged, and it totally edible without bodily harm."

And since I had just picked up some garlic from the farmer's market last weekend versus buying garlic that had been sitting in a basket in the grocery store for who-knows-how-long, that pretty much sums it up: Younger garlic will most likely turn blue/green when you pickle. 

So, it looks like this first batch of pickles will be destined for only me and my husband, as previous experience has told me that people who don't know this scientific tidbit tend to freak out when they see it. As much as I would love to use local, fresh garlic for my pickles when pickling cukes are in season, it ain't happening and I'll be digging into that basket at the grocery store.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Here It Comes!

Here are the first tomatoes of the season! It won't be long before I'm up to my armpits in produce and canning like crazy.

We've had to start bringing in the tomatoes when they are just starting to ripen as the crows have decided to use my garden as a drive through snack bar. What makes me even more mad is that they like to eat the green tomatoes and have picked all the lower hanging fruit off the vines. I've had to resort to putting up electrical wire and playing Rush Limbaugh on a boom box outside when I am not there.

That will keep them away!

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