Friday, August 30, 2013

Plum Excited

So yesterday I had a plum delivery. I think I was given about nine pounds of plums. These plums were not just picked, but were picked about a week and a half ago. But they held up really well. I did have to throw a few out and a good handful had parts that needed to be cut out, but by and large they were still very nice. So I did a lot of chopping. I ended up with about 14-15 cups of chopped plums.

Since I already had plum sauce, plum jam, and plum syrup in my pantry, I decided to make some plum chutney. I follow Marisa McClellan's Food In Jars blog. I like that she does a lot of jams without pectin. But I found this recipe by her on another blog. She considers the recipe a small batch recipe, but really, I'm quite capable of doubling a recipe for the large quantities of plums on hand. I always find the concept of specific large or small batch preserving weird. I often double or half recipes. Or even third them depending upon what I have. Small batches are easier since things cook so much faster. Jam can be made quickly.

Large batches require a big pan. I probably should have brought out my biggest. But I used one size down. Someday I swear I'm going to buy a jam pan that has shorter sides and is very wide and has a very thick bottom. I'm thinking the ones they sell for braising would be really nice since they are so large. Anyway I'm off subject. I made chutney as you see above. The recipe gave me 4 1/2 pints. The big pint jar that I did will be for the owner of the plum tree. The rest are for me, though you never know what will end up in my gift baskets this winter. I'm guessing some rhubarb and some plum items. But who knows. I might eat it all by then.

The rest of the plums were made into sorbet. I'm packed them into pint containers for the freezer. My sorbet didn't use a recipe. You really don't need one. Fruit, sugar, maybe a little lemon juice. I used a dash of cinnamon too. Not enough to really taste in the final product, but it does add to the flavor. I would say I used about six to seven cups of plums to 1 1/2 cups of sugar. I haven't a clue how much lemon juice. But not much. Maybe a tablespoon or less. On taste testing the sugar was enough. The plums had sweetened up a lot sitting around for so long. And I did cook this sorbet. Sorbet is usually done with raw fruit. But because of the state of the plums (bird pecks and them sitting around) I figured they ought to be cooked up for safety. And honestly, I like cooked plums as much as raw plums. And the skins get cooked so they puree with the fruit better.

Above are the four canned plum products. From left to right: plum sauce, plum syrup, plum chutney, and plum jam. It is interesting that the jam at the end is the darkest. But the darker it is the more it is set. The most set is the jam, then the chutney, then the sauce, then the syrup. It could just be more liquid boiled off or more maybe plums get darker as you cook them. I guess I'll never know as there are no plums left on my counter.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Two Surprises and Bean Time

Yesterday evening I had a surprise show up on my porch. It was my Bluestone order that I had forgotten about. It was three coreopsis. So today I did have something to do in the garden. I had to plant. Not that it took long. I ripped out the annuals that were holding their place and put them in. The biggest problem with planting is that the ground is bone dry. We ought to be getting into a wetter pattern. At least I hope we do. We really need rain.

I decided since I was outside and we did have wet weather predicted for Saturday thru Monday (though now they are saying Monday-Tuesday), I ought to get the pole dried beans picked. Constant wet weather is bad for them. They will mildew in their pods.

Most of the pinto beans weren't ready but a good handful of them were so I picked them. They dry to a nice beige and are green before they are ripe.

The Trail of Tears beans turn purple as they get older and when they are dry they sometimes turn a bit beige, but often retain their purple color. My Tarbais beans aren't even close to ripe yet. They do take a while. And sadly their production is pretty low this year due to the dry weather. I really needed to water them like the green beans to get them to set pods. At least the Trail of Tears seems to be very productive. Last year I didn't have enough of them, but this year I think I won't be able to eat them all. But we will see.

While I was at the farmers market yesterday I picked up some peaches. I'd been eating melons for dessert, but I broke into the last one today for breakfast. I'm going to make it last by eating just a third of it a day. But for dessert I decided on peach sorbet (1 lb 13 oz peaches and a syrup made from 1 c sugar and 3/4 c water). So I had to peel those peaches. They look neon orange don't they?

And I pureed them to make the sorbet. Yum. The funny thing is that I was going to make some plum sorbet from my friend's plums (they still have tons even after the canning party). But I didn't have a car to pick them up. One of my townhouse mates surprised me with two gallon bags full of plums this afternoon. She had been out for a walk with my plum owning friend, and he sent her back with them so I could make more things. I might just end up with some plum sorbet too. And maybe some plum chutney.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Slow Week in the Garden

Not too much is going on the the garden this week. I did remove the netting from apple tree and picked them all. Above is the melon patch. I picked the last melon from the vine.

Well technically it wasn't the last melon. I had small melons here and there. They hadn't formed well since the place hasn't been watered since out last rainstorm on August 9th. So it hasn't seen rain for almost three weeks and I had been carefully keeping the overhead watering away so the ripening melons wouldn't crack and they would be sweeter. But it did a job on the late forming melons. Not that it is a big issue. Late melons never really ripen correctly here. There just isn't the sun or the heat usually for them to ripen in September. So instead I optimized for the summer ripened melons. Today the vines all got ripped out. Though it kills me to see the little melons go into the compost. I just have to keep telling myself how tasteless they would be.

The melons made way for the spinach. I planted Giant Winter. I often do Space also, but I've decided Space is better for the spring and Giant is better for overwintering. So this year that is what I did. I don't know if I'll get fall spinach or not. Often it doesn't grow well here in the fall. Occasionally I'll get something. We will see. It is early still. And this bed gets better sun than most in the fall.

As I was pulling the melons I noticed my poor thyme plant. Since the melons were in the circle garden, it never got watered. The beans on the other side have been hand watered, but the herbs were ignored. Most can handle the lack of water for a while, but French thyme is rather fickle compared to my English thyme (which is fine). Oh well I hope it lives. I did plant it in another corner of the garden since I know it has this tendency to die. So I might have to replant it next year from my spare plant. But It might make a comeback.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Harvst Monday, August 26th, 2013

My harvest baskets were pretty much the same this week. Beans, cucumbers, and melons. The top basket did have a melon, but it was too big. It was a whopping 7.8 pounds. And sweet as candy. Maybe even bit too sweet. But I ate it anyway. The melons are almost gone. I have one left to pick before the vines are pulled. They are starting to make small melons again, but they probably won't ripen in time. Even if they did they wouldn't taste sweet like a summer melon. So I'll forgo the second round and try to start some spinach there this week.

The melons have also been very productive. Last year I got 28 pounds from the patch. This year I've gotten over 40 and have one more melon to count. I'll be between 45 and 50 pounds when I'm all done. All this out of a 4' x 8' patch. So it was a very good melon year. The melons were fabulous. The yield was good. Last year my melons were fighting wilt. This year the cucumbers and melons were in separate parts of the garden instead of right next to one another. Also I had my cucumbers covered for at least a month of their life. So the cucumber beetles couldn't breed. In the past I've grown them up a trellis. Which technically ought to be more productive. This year they sprawled and I kept them in the bed. But they were growing in the circle garden that is surrounded by bricks, so much warmer. I think I'm going to keep the melons in the circle garden every year. There are two beds in there and I'll switch beds every year. I really do want to repeat this melon year.

And the second patch of corn is starting to produce. Serendipity is good, but is very far from being my favorite corn. I don't like the narrow long ear as it doesn't fit into pots without breaking them in half. I like sweeter corns. And I'm not a fan of grassy corns, and this has a distinct grassy taste.

Next week's crops will probably start getting into a few of the fall crops. Not a lot, but just enough to change the make up of those baskets a bit.

And I'll leave you with my volunteer morning glories. Every year they try to take over the compost piles. Sadly I'll have to cut them back in a month. I've had to trim some back already to open up the second leaf bin as the first is almost done.
  • Beans 1.43 lbs
  • Corn 1.63 lbs
  • Cucumbers 12.06 lbs
  • Melons 17.49 lbs
  • Squash 0.69 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 33.29 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 284.32 lbs, $458.71

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 you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Tour of the Fall Garden

Last year I planted some fall beans and they were very much appreciated. I just put a small batch of Kentucky Wonder pole beans at the end of the bed. I do hope they have time to produce, but unless it gets cold fast in the fall this year they probably will.

Behind the beans are my Asian greens. I have them broken up into four sections. This first section was planted a while ago and is ready to pick.

This second batch was seeded a couple of weeks ago and is doing well. The third batch was seeded yesterday, and the fourth hasn't been seeded yet.

Farther down in the bed is the fall lettuce. It is growing much slower than the Asian greens but in a week or two will be ready to be picked. I'm hoping it will last all fall as I haven't seeded any successions.

This is the kale bed. It has one row of Winterbor and one of Dwarf Curly Kale. In the middle I sowed some cilantro. Usually I just let the cilantro self seed by the foundation of the house. But it is so dry and hot right now I knew it wouldn't germinate there for a while. But here it is in partial shade already so would have an earlier start. And I've been missing my cilantro. Right now it has a netting row cover, but I'm going to take that off very soon. The kale is outgrowing the short cover. I've found as long as the kale isn't a seedling the cabbage butterflies usually leave it alone. But I've had small seedlings be almost wiped out by them. The kale patch will be left up all winter long. It won't grow then, but these two tend to survive our winters without protection. I'll stake them so the stems don't crack, but besides that I'll ignore them all winter long.

In the sunnier part of the same bed are the cabbages and kohlrabis. I've lost three plants. I think because of lack of water, but it could be something else. But after I watered the rest seemed fine. So hopefully that is what it was.

The broccoli and chard were planted in the spring, but they will produce in the fall for me too.

Like the beans, I like to put in a short section of snap peas. I plant them in front of the carrots. The carrots are doing quite well in their row cover. Maybe next year I'll try to grow the carrots under netting instead. I think they would get more sun that way. Sun is an issue in my fall garden as the sun is low enough to go behind some very large trees and my neighbors' houses. Last year the carrots needed a bit more time to produce a large crop. I still got quite enough, but they weren't full size yet.

I've been experimenting with yellow mustard. Last year I grew it as a spring crop as that is what everyone says to do. But it doesn't fit into my rotation all that well. I'd rather grow it as a fall crop, but the above crop is actually a summer crop. Everything that is written says not to do this as it won't produce. The plants will be small and bolt too quickly. Well I'd say it is producing much better than my spring crop did. The pods seem to be fatter than last year. They are producing a lot more pods. This bed was planted at the end of June.

The fall crop on the other hand might not have a chance to produce. The season might be too short. Sadly the only spot I could try it is along the fence area and that is not a very sunny spot. So it might not work. If it ends up being just a cover crop, that is fine.

A lot of "fall" crops are really summer crops. They grew all summer long. My sweet potatoes are in the foreground and won't be picked until September. Behind them are two beds of butternuts. The earlier planted Waltham seems to finally have set a decent amount. There are eight large ones and another small one forming. The other bed is just starting to form squash. I have Waltham on one end and Early Butternut on the other. These were planted later. And the Early Butternut wasn't planted until late June since the earlier sowings died. I wasn't actually going to plant the early variety so I could have seed this year, but with the first sowing a no show I didn't think Waltham had time.

There are other things that will be harvested, like dried beans. And I'll sow some spinach when the melons get pulled. I was going to follow the squash by the spinach, but I think that won't work as squash are still forming. They will need to be in there a while. I do have more small melons forming, but I know they won't have time to ripen. So I'm going to rip the melons out as soon as the two large ones are done. Which should be in a week.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pickling and Planting

The cucumbers were coming on strong this week, so I made the last of the pickles that I needed for the year. Last year I made a full batch of bread and butter pickles, but I only ate half of them. So this year I made half a batch.

Nancy suggested freezer dill pickles, which I had never heard of before. So I looked them up and decided to experiment with them too. My mind won't accept that you can really freeze a dill and it won't be limp and lifeless when unfrozen, but the reviews say they come out crispy. I'll break them open during winter after the refrigerator dills are all gone.

I also froze some beans. Sadly the green beans all have rust, so they won't be long for this world. It seems I won't get sick of green beans this year. Too bad.

Today was the time for another round of planting. I want to succession plant Asian greens (tatsoi, bok choy, and mizuna) every three weeks. I think I planted the last ones about two weeks ago, so I'm ahead of schedule. That is fine. I Have room for one more planting. When that is done the first one planted will be ready to be pulled up.

As you might notice in the above photo, I only had part of the bed with row cover supports. I brought in some more to get the other side of the bed lifted. So far the netting is working out OK. I do have one rip in it. I'm not sure what from. It isn't bad enough yet to fix. We also don't have a swarm of cabbage butterflies this year. Last year there were tons in the garden. But this year I rarely see them. And then when I do they are in singles, not in packs. This year has also seen the number and variety of wasps go up. I wonder if that is the reason for the lack of butterflies. I haven't seen many other kinds of butterflies either except in the spring.

I also wanted to deal with my zucchini bed. It was making the path impassible and was covered in powdery mildew. Also it wasn't producing. The last being the worst part. So I ripped out all the dying leaves. And I cut off all the weak side shoots. The plant above has only produced one single zucchini. Hopefully it will now do more.

This is the second zucchini plant. As you can see the plants have lots of female blossoms, but they all turn yellow and drop before they put anything out. The third zucchini plant does give me zukes. But at one or two a week, I'm hardly drowning in zucchini. I've yet to give any away. I put tomato cages around plants 1 and 2. I'll see if I can contain them in those and let them grow up instead of sprawling. I love the Costata Romanesca zucchinis but they have vines like a winter squash, not like a zucchini so they go everywhere. Maybe next year I'll try another variety. Something that doesn't sprawl as much.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Last Weekened

Saturday was fairly slow. I had tried to water the garden on Friday because it needed it, but when I went out my neighbor's car had the window open. His driveway is right next to the garden. And he loves his car. He is always out washing it and keeping it spotless. He even has a cover for it, but it hasn't been on in a while. Needless to say I wasn't going to water on a windy day with an accident waiting to happen. I did talk to him when he got home to make sure it would be closed for Saturday morning. So early that morning the garden got watered. Luckily the melons were in the circle garden so I could keep the sprinkler from hitting them. I'm not going to water them at all at this point. And the beans in the circle garden are getting hand watered so that garden is taken care of.

The rest of Saturday was spent working in the store. I belong to an artists' co-op and I have to work about three times a month. I've decided to quit after the holiday season this year but it has been good. I've found it very useful to work there and not just to sell my bead work. It is in Porter Square and they are right next to Tags, our hardware store. After work I can just go over and pick up canning supplies. They are extremely well stocked and as cheap as I've found them anywhere.

Sunday was yet another beautiful day. I had thinning to do in the morning. The experimental mustards above were up and getting bigger each day. The Asian greens also needed thinning as they were up. I think at the end of the week I'll have to put in another succession of greens. I'll wait until our heat spell is over though. Asian greens aren't fond of 90F weather.

Doesn't it look peaceful inside the carrot row cover? The monster zucchini is trying to invade, but it keeps them (and the carrot flies) at bay. I swear every plant wants to take over the slow growing carrots. Without help they would be overrun instantly. But the reason I'm showing the carrots is because they were weeded on Sunday. Some of the weeds were bigger than the carrots and that is just not right. The carrots are growing well. I might have to water them again by hand. They are pretty small and the weather is going to be hot and sunny the next several days.

Sunday is a family day for the Goulds. My daughter is in Canada, my son is in Providence, and we are in Boston. So we all get online and play games together for the day. We use Mumble to talk to one another. My daughter always complains when we miss a Sunday (since anyone can cancel if they are busy with something else). We were almost done playing when I got a phone call. I have some friends with some fruit trees and their plum tree fruited for the first time ever.

And boy did it fruit. We estimated that we had about 70lbs. Not all the plums were in the photograph. Plus there were the peaches too, but the peaches were not plentiful, only the plums.

We had six people cutting and peeling at a time. Luckily their kitchen is huge. They have three sinks, two dishwashers, and two ovens, one of which I commandeered for keeping the jars hot. I was the only one canning that night, but one other took a huge pot home with cut plums to can the next day (12 pounds of plums in her jam pot). I wish I had brought some half pint jars, but with so many plums I brought three cases of pint jars.

Personally I made 2 1/4 pints of jam. And 9 pints of syrup. I had no recipes with me so I just tossed them together. No pectin jam works well with 2 cups of fruit to 1 cup of sugar with a little bit of lemon juice. So I went with that. It set up perfectly.

I did a little more sugar for the syrup. A real syrup would be strained through a cheese cloth, but I like the fruit in my syrup. I did strain out the peels with a colander though. My immersion blender will puree the peels, but the one we had was old and not as sharp. If I could have I would have left the peels in too. I figure that has a lot of the plum goodness in them like fiber and minerals. Syrup is bad enough for you with all the sugar, I hate taking out the few good parts.

In addition to what I made, there was some peach ice cream with plum sauce to put over the top. It was divine. And some plum tarts, which I didn't stay for. Some peach Popsicles and some plum sauce that was made to be like apple sauce. We started with seven buckets of fruit. In the end there were two left I think. Jan our hostess was going to make some plum chutney. I left a box of jars and lids with her. I also left my canner and jar lifter. They have always used tongs as a lifter. They loved the jar lifter though and said they needed to get one. And they just use regular pots to can, but my canner is perfect and fits 7 pint jars with no wasted space (or wasted water to heat up). I'm going to go over today to pick up some of my jam and syrup. I didn't want to bring it home in a car while it was cooling. It probably wouldn't stay sealed that way.

I've never been to a canning party before. It is much more fun than doing it alone. I never have the produce myself to invite anyone over though. I think those are my only friends with fruit trees and usually they don't get all that much fruit. They said that happened with their peach trees too. The first year the tree went wild and produced a lot. But since then they don't produce nearly as much. I hope that doesn't hold true for my peach tree. I want lots of peaches every year. I know they don't prune or thin like I do though. Hopefully that will be what keeps them producing.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Harvest Monday, August 19th, 2013

The beans finally started to come in this week. The hand watering really did the trick. So they joined the zucchini and cucumbers in the harvest baskets. And as you can see the melons joined them.

It was definitely the week of the melon. Sadly melons always come ripe at the same time. I need to get two varieties that are ripen at different times. Ambrosia would do that. It is a great melon, but it doesn't always have time to ripen here. The above melons are Halona which is a cantaloupe and the bottom one is Sensation. The biggest of the cantaloupes was over six pounds. So they were good size melons this year

It has been a good melon season. Often we get a big rainstorm in August that cracks my melons before they are truly ripe, but this year the rain has held off at the appropriate time. It also means the melons don't get watery which can be a problem here. OK I say a good melon season, but the reality is that it has been the best melon season in the three years I've been growing in this garden. I've been very happy.

Sadly it was the last of the peaches this week. I'll miss them.

And the first patch of corn was finished up. I'll be picking the next batch this week.

A massive batch of chard was picked - over 17 pounds. I really shouldn't let my chard patch get away from me. It is easier to pick it at least every other week and freeze it in small batches.

A few odds and ends were picked. Some broccoli and some celery.

And last but not least the first of the dried beans was ready to be weighed. These are Tigers Eye beans. Not only are they the prettiest bean I've ever seen, but they are also one of the tastiest. Well really it is the texture. They are the smoothest, creamiest bean that I have ever tasted. Sadly they aren't all that prolific. I have some unshelled still, but I won't get more than a pound of beans in the end. And that was from a 4'x 8' bed. Though to be fair the beans had rust in them very early on so they did struggle to produce.

I'm finally feeling like it is summer and I'm having trouble keeping up with the harvests. Before I was wondering where my harvests were. I'm still about 150 pounds below normal for this time of the year. Mainly that means I'm not sharing as much as usual. I've yet to share any beans, cukes, or zucchini with my townhouse mates. Usually those are the summer staples to share when they come in heavily. I will be giving away some cukes this coming week though. All I need to do is make two jars of bread and butter pickles, then my pickling days are over for the year.

  • Alliums 2.27 lbs
  • Beans 3.23 lbs
  • Corn 8.96 lbs
  • Cucumbers 7.03 lbs
  • Greens 17.88 lbs
  • Melons 24.04 lbs
  • Squash 5.80 lbs
  • Weekly Tally 69.70 lbs
  • Yearly Tally 251.03 lbs, $392.44
  • Fruit
  • Peaches 3.87 lbs
  • Apples 0.28 lbs
  • Rhubarb 2.89 lbs

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 you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.