Weak week

on Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Today was a rough day for my pitchfork... Let's have a moment of peace shall we?

Ok, now another bit of bad news. Unless Mary shows up at work in the morning with some amazing goodies, I'm afraid this is going to be a bit of a "weak week" - there's not much harvestable in the garden right now. The peppers and tomatoes are just starting to form. The eggplants are only just starting to bloom. The okra aren't even close to blooming. Beans are also nowhere near blooming. But alas, there is SOME good news...check this out:

I honestly wasn't sure these guys were even ready to pull. I decided it was their last chance - they were smothering the cucumber plants, many of which were suffocated under the incredibly healthy carrot foliage. Now that most of the carrots are dug up, I'll go back and plant more cucumber seeds to get a second round going. What you see here are a mix of carrot varieties, including Nantes, Nantindo and White Satin. I'll let you guess which variety is White Satin. ;-)

I like this guy here - he's got character. (Carrot-ter?) I'm not sure which of the shares got him...

Now I DO have to warn you - I've found that the home grown carrots aren't as sweet as those little "baby carrots" are you get in bags at the grocery store. So don't expect any of these to be super sugary. There are varieties that are supposed to pack more sugar - so maybe I'll try something like that next year?

Also this week - more salad mix!

I honestly don't know if anyone else gets as big a kick out of the different varieties of lettuce you can grow at home - you just don't see this much versatility in the grocery store!

While the last picture and the next picture might show pieces of lettuce with similar coloring, the two are very different in growth habits and texture.

Unfortunately, there's not as much lettuce ready this week. The weather's been great for the cool-loving greens this week, but they're still recovering from the big hit they took last week. With the forecast hinting we might hit 90 this weekend, I'm not sure how much longer these plants will be producing.

Here's one you guys might be getting a bit bored with - more onions! Sorry - but they're reliable throughout the growing season, plus I really need to start yanking some of them out to make room for other crops, and also because they're getting smothered by other plants they've been interplanted with (such as the squash). On a side note - I've still only seen one pair of squash bugs "co-mingling" in my squash/zucchini plants this year - and there's no signs of eggs on the undersides of the leaves! Could it actually be that the onions and nasturtiums growing in the bed with the squash is confusing them!? Let's hope so! (The same can't be said for the cucumber beetles - they're still all over the place!)

Here's something I'll be offering next week:

I uprooted my entire harvest of garlic! Here's the Chinese Pink garlic:

Annnnd the Spanish Roja (not much "roja" to them apparently).

Check back tomorrow to see what else I "dug up" with the garlic - they were quite a (noisy) surprise!

Anyhow - I've got the garlic drying on racks now, and since I know some of the heads got pierced by the garden tools as I was digging them up, I'll wait till they dry, and I can knock off the dirt, to see which ones didn't get damaged before I pass them along to you.

How Finny Does It...

So my online buddy Finny/Jessica out in sunny California is a member of a local CSA, where her weekly "farmshares" include things you'll never see coming out of what Mary and I are providing you guys. Citrus fruits? I WISH! Apples? Nope - not for many years (IF I'm lucky). Avocados!? HA HA HA! And much more.

However, they do also get a number of things we can grow here, and so I'd suggest checking out Finny's site to see what she's cooking up. I tell ya, she's an amazing cook (and a creative one at that!) Pictured below are just some of the things she's cooked up recently...

Now I'm really pushing her this time because she's recently cooked up one thing that I LOOOOVE (fresh spring rolls) and something that looks really really good (broccoli noodle salad). No, we're not offering up eeevery fresh ingredient that she has in her recipes, but we might have close to all the stuff you'd need in the fresh spring rolls filler at least. Check 'em out!

Oh, and I love that she admits some stuff goes straight into the compost - at least she's honest! ;-)

Future eggplant

on Friday, June 25, 2010

This might not look like much right now, but before too long it should start forming an eggplant. I'm growing a mix of eggplant varieties this year, including long skinny green ones, white ones, violet ones, and dark purple ones.

And to go along with this week's share...

on Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wow, Mary dropped off a ton of stuff in my office - more garlic (including scapes), baby radish greens to add to your salad, edible flowers, peas, and more!

And over at my friends' farm, that's Chicken Thistle Farm, where they're also offering a CSA service for a few friends, Andy's included recipes/links for what to do with the radishes and peas, and even posted a video on how to de-string those sugar snap peas. Btw - it's thanks to Kelli at Chicken Thistle Farm that I was inspired to grow most of my basil in large pots this year, and that's why the plants are so prolific I think!


If these two pots are any sign, it's looking to be a good year for basil! These aren't the only two pots of basil I have going, plus I've got extra plants tucked here and there in the various flower beds.

I need to start pinching out these plants so they bush out more (even if they are overcrowded). I hope you like making pesto!

Included in tomorrow's share...

on Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Quick posting to let you know what I risked life and limb while picking tonite. Well, ok, maybe not "life and limb" - how about "electrocution and malaria". Wow, the mosquitoes were out in FULL force after the storm!

First off, I picked some lettuce. I know I was worried about recent batches of lettuce being a bit bitter from the heat wave....but the good news is after those initial plantings, I started MORE lettuce - some I direct seeded into the raised beds, and some I started in little pots up on the deck, and then later transplanted those out in to plastic deck planters I no longer use. Seems to have paid off!! The ones in the deck planters are sitting down on the ground on the north side of one of the raised beds, so they're even getting a bit of shade - helps protect them from some of the scalding heat rays of the sun! Annnnnyhow - so tonite's pickings include this here big head of a loosely packed iceberg (Winter Density if I remember correctly)...

...but ALSO these mixed varieties of lettuce in a larger colander...

...AND an even BIGGER colander full of mixed salad greens! YOWZA! Seriously - that's a lot of lettuce! And I taste tested here and there - most of it's not even bitter (remember, there's nasty bitterness from plants that are going to seed, and there's a milder bitterness that some folks actually WANT in their salads - think radicchio and arugula).

Now like everything else in the CSA shares, consider the stuff "mildly rinsed" - I ran all the lettuce through a huge, clean plastic tub in the sink to wash most of the soil off the leaves, and only came across two slugs. That doesn't means there's not more dirt or even bugs in the lettuce. Just like with what you buy at the store, you should definitely wash this stuff!

Here's tonite's picking of peas (thin snow peas and plump crunchy sugar snaps). Doesn't look like much? I've been picking 'em every day or two since last week's share - there's enough peas for the next three people on the random list tomorrow!

More dirty stuff - this time in the form of onions...

...and radishes. I gave all these guys a rinsing while I was outside, but between mosquitoes biting, a tick crawling up my leg, and the on and off rain, I didn't want to stay out there too long. Everyone's getting some radishes in their share, and like last week I'm bringing along of underdeveloped radishes that you can pick and choose from for their greens if you like.

Here's some fun stuff in this week's share! If you were to buy this many herbs at the grocery store, you'd pay a FORTUNE! For those who aren't sure what's what, I'll list 'em here, starting from the top left and going clockwise around the tub.

  1. Purple sage
  2. Parsley - both curly- and flat-leaved (or Italian) varieties
  3. Rosemary
  4. Thyme (there's a mix of about 5 varieties here)
  5. Lemon grass
  6. Lemon verbena
Now I'm sure the last two are the ones you're least likely to have heard of. I don't have a ton of either of these yet - but after Mary turned me on to them last year, I wanted to share. In each of your shares there's enough for one or two cups of tea. That's right - hot tea. Nuke a mug of water, stuff the lemon grass and lemon verbena down in it, and let it steep for maybe 4 or 5 minutes - you want it to turn kinda yellow. Drink and enjoy (I am right now!) - it's soooo good!

(Oh, and funny story - my mom took some of lemon verbena and lemon grass back to their house last summer, made up the tea, kept it in the fridge, and friends thought my parents had a urine sample in the fridge. So, uh, that'll let you know what color you're aiming for. ;-) (And no, I've never tried it cold - might be good!)

And finally - check this out! BASIL! LOOOOTS of basil! I cut just the tips off the plants I have growing in pots to encourage them to bush out more, and I got all of this. It's mostly Genovese basil and basil monstrosa (the leaves get much bigger, but to me taste about the same as Genovese), but there's also some lemon basil in the mix. Lemon basil has flatter leaves that are a bit more pointy? In the picture below, the lemon basil's over on the left. You've all got a mix - just brush the leaves and you'll be able to tell which ones are lemon basil.

What are you going to do with all these herbs!?!?

Most of the stuff makes great marinades for meat (or tofu?!) if you're going to grill it - just add olive oil and lemon juice or beer or wine, and maybe some salt and pepper.

I already gave you a suggestion for the lemon grass and lemon verbena.

It's no where near Thanksgiving, but with sage, rosemary, parsley and thyme I get in the mood for roast turkey (or chicken!).

The parsley's good for making tabouleh (especially if you have last week's mint - or let me know if you need more).

Basil - well, hello! - pesto!! Grind it up with olive oil, Parmesan or Romano cheese, and pine nuts or walnuts, and pour it on pasta. There's plenty of recipes out there with additional/alternate ingredients....just google around.

Another idea I love with chicken - get a roasting chicken (with the skin still on) (apologies to the vegetarians), and puree the parsley (and whatever other herbs) up with butter, garlic and lemon zest, and then squish it in the space between the breast meat and the skin before roasting. WOW - sooooo good!

Hope you enjoy this week's fixings! Don't forget - there's squash coming REAL soon!


This has to be the first year that the swiss chard's been a disappointment. Normally you can't STOP the stuff from growing, but for some reason the transplants didn't take when I put them out in the garden, annnnd the stuff I direct seeded later isn't showing much promise. Not sure what's up with that - usually there's so much chard ya get sick of it. HOWEVER - just for fun I tucked some of the spare seedlings into one of my flower beds, and of course they're doing well. What's up with that?!

The first of the peppers are forming - yay! There's actually two peppers visible here - the obvious one in the foreground, and then if you look at the shiny spot just up and to the right of the foreground pepper, you can see a pepper on another plant. These guys are still REAL tiny - about the size of my thumb. So don't plan on getting to eat them anytime soon. Peppers take a long time to develop!

What DOESN'T take a long time to develop are zucchini and other summer squash. This guy here's only about the size of my index finger. By the end of the weekend it could be the size of a small boat! This is the first of the zucchini I've seen forming, but the fun (?) thing about zucchini is that they can be right under your nose and blending in with the foliage. How else do you think people come up with those huge zucchini in their gardens? It's not normally by choice - they're fast growers, and they hide well!

This is a patty pan. Or rather, what you see here is more like "Siamese twin" patty pan squash(es).... You'll have this sometimes, where a flower for some reason forms two co-joined fruits. What's really good news is, if you look at the following picture and the preceding picture, you'll see lots of flower buds. Some are really close to the plant - those are male flowers. And some are sticking out on skinny stems - those are female flowers. Insects take care of getting the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers, and it's the female flowers that will turn into the fruit (which we consider a vegetable).

Now I have to start watching out for pests. I know I've already seen plenty of cucumber beetles. Squash bugs and squash vine borers are two other big pests for these plants. In fact, I saw a could squash bugs "getting it on" the other day. I grabbed them and threw them in the pond for the fishies. I learned last year that squash vine borers, which look like really funky red and black moths, are attracted to yellow. So I submerged a yellow bucket lid in a giant stainless steel mixing bowl full of water after spotting one in the garden, and the very next day the squash vine borer moth was dead in the water. Yay!

There's a lot of stuff going on in this next picture. Starting from the top you'll see a really roughed-up looking cucumber leaf. That's what the insects have done to the plant. I'm worried the cukes I've already started won't make it very long - that the cucumber beetles have been snacking on them and, in doing so, also infecting them with a disease resulting in bacterial wilt. I'll try spraying again with organic pesticides - one derived from chrysanthemum, and the other discovered as a byproduct at a distillery. Oh, plus I have a concoction made of pureed hot peppers and garlic I'll be trying. Another trick is to plant some fresh cucumber seeds NOW, in the hopes that if my current plants die off, another round will start up and maybe the pests will have cycled through and died off.

In the same picture above, beneath the damaged leaf, is one of my worst nightmares - bindweed. This stuff is related to moonflower and morning glories, and is alllll over the not-yet-developed lot next to us, and easily finds it's way into my yard/garden. I'm constantly pulling the stuff up, but it keeps reappearing. My two new raised beds are right over where a lot of weeds grew last year, plus use the space that was my former compost bin (which had weeds growing up the outside of it). So these, unfortunately, aren't a surprise.

And finally in the same picture above - a baby cucumber! With it's bloom still attached. Cute, hunh? Also very prickly looking...these can really make my hands itch!

Here's another cucumber, one that's only just beginning to form at the base of the flower. You can also see lots of other small flower buds - let's hope they all form into fully developed flowers and then get pollinated!

Here's a new trick I'm trying this year - supposedly squash bugs don't like onions, garlic, and other plants in the allium family. So my squash bed has a "wall" of onions around it, as well as some lines of onions running across the bed. So far I've only seen the one pair of squash bugs - so either the trick is working, or it's still too early to tell. Anyhow - that's what about 12 feet of onions looks like.

Peas! They're still growing, and still forming! Yay!

Hunh, I guess this radish really didn't want to stay in the ground...it's eager to get into your share this week!


on Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I know this is cruel, but I was looking at some pics from last summer and, well, I couldn't resist sharing. We're still a little ways of from having tomatoes, but we can always dream, right?

This week's pickings from my garden!

on Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This week's share includes this stuff from my garden (plus Mary's bringing in more!) - including these huge pickings of mint, onions and radishes (the middle bowl is radish greens from radishes that never fully developed. Most folks probably aren't into them, but some folks like to cook them like greens).

And I picked 70 sprigs of lavender to divvy out...doesn't look like much, does it?

Mmmm....with all these onions, you know my car smells good!

Mint - it's great in tabbouleh or tea or yogurt sauces to be served in gyros!

These are radish greens - Julie says they're good cooked down with olive oil and garlic. Too prickly for my taste!

I picked the radishes small this week - many were starting to split from all the rains we've had lately, and I didn't want to lose more, plus they're cute when small.

Each bundle of mint includes a small sprig of pineapple mint. I think it's more decorative than flavorful - if you like it, I can hook you up with more once the plant's better established.

Edible flowers - they're not in this week's share, but Mary's planning to sugar coat them.

Check out the violas! The slugs ate most of them, but these are still looking pretty good!

Beet greens. I figured I'd thin out some of the leaves on the beets since they're tightly packed, and like radishes, SOME folks like to cook them and eat them. This is the leafy-side of the pile...

...and this is the stem side.

The peas are FINALLY starting to take off. I've got enough peas for two people this week. I'm moving my way down the random list - last week Carolyn got them, and this week it's Liz and Emily. It's getting to the point now where I have to pick them every day or two - so that's a good thing!

Doogie wasn't really in the mood to pose with the lavender, but I got him to sit still long enough for some pictures.

In addition to all of this, Mary's including garlic (from cloves to scapes), horseradish, chives, flowers, and sage.

First official week of the CSA!

on Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's finally here - the first official week of the Fresh is Best CSA harvest! Ok, so we sorta cheated because the customers have already been getting freshly picked spinach because the spinach was ready early...but hey, that's hopefully going to stick in their memories when we have some "low harvest" weeks as the season gets started.

Another way of bribing them? Give 'em something nice that they won't actually be eating. In this case, a mix of flowers and foliage. Brett said these needs more color and flash, and I admit maybe this picture doesn't do the bouquets justice - I think they look pretty good in person. It's just a mix of 'El Diablo' Ninebark, mint, hydrangea, variegated dappled willow, and shasta daisies that haven't opened up yet. Eh, I suppose folks could nibble on the mint? ;-)

Don't worry - that's not all the customers will be getting. Here's over three pounds of various lettuce varieties - most of it is the big head you see in the lower left of this picture...

...and the massive head of romaine you see on the flip side of the same bowl. Trust me, this is a huge mixing bowl - and there's a ton of lettuce in there! I cleaned it all this afternoon, finding only two slugs in one head of lettuce, tore it all up, mixed it with the baby beet greens I picked, and divvied it out. Now my big fear is: what if the bags closest to the back of the fridge FREEZE over night!?

This mixing bowl has 30 garlic scapes (an unexpected surprise), 3 oz of sugar snap and snow peas, and a collection of baby beet greens. Now the peas are a problem - I don't know how soon the pea plants are going to start cranking out so many peas that everyone gets some each week - or if they'll ever start producing that much. So for now I'll be using a random generator to put the customers in order, and then each week that there are peas I'll work my way down that list.

Not shown here are the 4 lbs of mixed radishes I dug up (that's including the greens - apparently some folks like to cook with them).

But that's not all! At the time I'm posting this, I've no idea for certain what Mary will be bringing. I know she mentioned walking onions (always impressive) and herbs, plus maybe some additional flowers for the bouquets. I guess I'll need to take my camera to work to get the full effect, and hopefully some pictures of people getting their produce!

Looking forward to seeing if people are excited to get their shares....and I'm even more excited to see how things improve with warmer weather this summer!