Friday, August 9, 2013

Almost half-way with a 6 pound tromboncino

August gardening... plum tomatoes keep on coming ... another 5 pounds this week.  A few large heirlooms enjoyed in thick slabs in  sandwiches.  Something wonderful about the combination of bread and juicy tomatoes.  A little butter, a little salt - nothing else needed.  Not the 2 pound beefsteaks that my dad used to grow, but as tasty as I remember them to be.  He would have enjoyed them.

A vegetable that grows inches in a day:  tromboncino squash - think trombone.  They are very fun to watch grow - this one was 6 pounds - didn't measure it, but I think about 3 feet.  I broiled 1/4 of it in thick slices, brushed with olive oil.  A flavor which is reminiscent of acorn squash, but a texture more similar to zucchini.  The other 1/4 is in the fridge - maybe will get grated and put into muffins. 

Dancing purple long beans and Styrian pumpkins.  More on those in another posting.

Monday, July 29, 2013

First Fruits

The first eggplant
Trombocino is growing.  This is an amazing summer squash.

One day's harvest - tomatoes to freeze


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Turmeric Sprouts + First Fruits + Wet Blankets

July is an exciting time in the garden.  Within a day, the squash vines have crept along by inches, and the bean vines are wrapping around poles at the blink of an eye.  So much growth.  The first of any fruits are a joy to behold, whether it is the first ripe tomato or a squash flower transformed into a tiny fruit.

An additional joy was noticing that the turmeric root I had potted up a few months back finally sprouted, which means I will transplant it and perhaps it will make more tubers.

Hard to be planning for winter when the temperatures are blazing into 3 digits, but I am following the methods of my wise Community Garden neighbor Jim, who has planted winter carrot seeds this week.  The trick is keeping them moist enough to germinate in this heat.  I covered mine with a discarded cotton blanket which I am soaking with water. When the seeds start to sprout, off comes the blanket.  I've also been germinating fava beans (from the grocery store), which I will soon put in the ground for a fall crop.

12 pounds harvested this week - with the first eggplant, trombocino squash, and tomatillos to look forward to.  Happy Summer.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

10 Pounds this Week

Finally!  Something other than lettuce, swiss chard and kale.

Blogging wanes as the garden explodes into production.

Watering... weeding... harvesting... scheming.... 
What will I plant where the garlic was?
A fellow gardener is putting in winter storage carrots.
Maybe a fava bean cover crop... maybe more buckwheat....
....back to weeding... staking... tying... mulching... and more watering.

How fast things grow, with such heat and humidity.
Gotta love the process, including the detective work of examining every stripped down bare leaf of container kale to find the cabbage looper who is eating my breakfast smoothie greens.  Haven't found it - could it be a rabbit?

The 10 pounds were:
The 1st 2 perfect striped zucchini  - 2 pounds
Lots of little plum tomatoes  - 1 pound
Beautiful onions - 1 pound
Rose colored potatoes - 2 pounds
More kale and chard - 1 pound
Garlic - it's gorgeous - 2 pounds
Assorted other things... jalepenyos, amaranth, chamomile, lettuce, basil, shiso- 1 pound

Monday, May 27, 2013

No Slugs in my Lettuce

I became a gardener in the rainy Northwest.  Slugs abound.  Banana slugs, round backed slugs, keel backed slugs, and those tiny little ones that spoil a perfectly good head of lettuce.  Slugs are so ubiquitous in the NW that the UCSanta Cruz mascot is a Banana Slug.  Slugs have been described on the Oregon State slug info site as “basically a stomach on one large foot”.  They are slimy and gross.  It is really hard for me to find anything likeable about them.

Slugs appear during those gray, drizzly days so common in the Northwest spring.  I have spent countless hours building beer traps, placing copper collars, doing death by salt, and hand-picking in the wee hours with a flashlight.  I’ve gone to considerable efforts, just for a head of lettuce without slug damage.  When my son found a tiny baby slug in a salad it put him off garden grown greens for weeks.

Fast forward to life in the Northeast.  With a week of cool, drizzly weather, reminiscent of back home, I noticed a few delicate slugs stretched out on paths as I walked through the arboretum.  Maybe snails venturing from their protective shells?  Suddenly it occurred to me - I’d been harvesting lettuce all week – with NO slugs. This is the Northeast!  My first season here I was so appreciative of those perfect slug free heads of lettuce.  How quickly one forgets and begins to take for granted the simple blessings of daily life.  Another lesson from the garden.

More food for thought – if you had to depend on your garden to put food on the table, how would your gardening change?  Just how much time would you spend on growing food that wasn’t perfectly suited to your climate?  I’m not suggesting monoculture, but the variety would be a little narrower.  No eggplants struggling to ripen in the temperate northwest, spinach bolting in the heat of the south, and artichokes squeaking by in the New England snows.   We’d be planting what grew reliably for our parents, and their parents before them.   But for me, gardening is a hobby. If  my experimental ‘crops’ fail, the market is a quick walk down the road.  So I can experiment, and have the fun of challenges.  For now.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Kaffir Lime Tree

I’ve received some unusual plants through the USPS – onion starts, seed potatoes, garlic bulbs, but never before a tree, and certainly not a tree with a permit.  My tree came in a cardboard box – about 4 feet long. It arrived in perfect health, with a 3 year warranty, a permit, lots of leaves, and even a few limes.  I had ordered it online from, a company with an astonishing assortment of trees, including Minneola Honeybells and Red Naval Oranges.  They even had 4 kinds of limes: Persian Lime, Key Lime, Kaffir Lime, and a Limequat.  No problem choosing though.  For my first mail order tree I knew what I wanted:  Kaffir Lime.

The hunt for a Kaffir Lime started with Renita Mendonca’s Seasoned and Spiced cooking class.  Renita has culinary expertise which goes way beyond her own native Indian cuisine.  She showed us how to use tamarind,  turmeric root, galangal, lemongrass and Kaffir Lime leaves.  The aroma of Kaffir Lime is heavenly.  The gardener in me went home wanting to grow these exotic herbs.  Why drive all the way to the Indian grocery if you could pluck leaves from a front porch Zone 1 tree?  New England is not Florida, but we do have nice warm summers.  So I bought a few turmeric roots at Whole Foods, put them in potting soil, and went online to find a Kaffir Lime tree.

I will mention that I do have another Lime tree, which has its own special history.  Before ordering the Kaffir Lime, I tore up a couple of leaves from the thorny Lime.  These leaves also seemed to have a heavenly aroma – and to my inexperienced Western nose – indistinguishable from Kaffir.  Renita confirmed that these leaves were definitely not Kaffir lime. 

So the Kaffir tree arrived, I unpacked it, read its permit from the commissioner of the Louisiana Dept of Ag and transplanted it with help from my son. I snipped a leaf and sniffed.  Wow – way different from the other lime, I agree.  I couldn’t wait to use the leaves, so I added some along with ginger for flavoring a chicken broth.  Another exotic dish to come: Beef RendangRead more on using Kaffir Lime leaves.

This week’s garden harvest is not abundant, but tasty and fresh.  A pound of mustard, various lettuces, arugula, and other greens.  I’ve been enjoying plenty of smoothies and salads.  I’m learning about seasonal planning.  From my community garden, I see that it is possible to be harvesting plenty of kale, spinach, parsnips, over-wintered lettuce, spring lettuce, and roots.  The trick is to put things in at just the right time in the late summer. There is always more to learn when it comes to growing food.
Oh - and back to that Kaffir Lime tree. I've got plenty of leaves - so if you live in the Boston area, I'm happy to share.