Garden Journal

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fall and Winter Garden

FALL and WINTER pics
It is Feb 8th and there is not a lot of gardening to be done. The winter in Kansas can be bitter cold and frustratingly long. The garden is covered in ice and the ground is frozen solid such that I can't even get a shovel into it.
But there is still gardening to be done. The parsnips and the jeruselum artichokes are still underground in the backyard and any time there is a few days above freezing they can be dug up. The parsnips especially get better the longer they stay in the frozen ground. Something about them changes with the freeze so they are sweeter. We probably have over 20 lbs of jeruselum artichokes. I don't know how we would ever eat that much of them. I should remember never to plant too many of them again.
We are also eating a lot of stored garden food still. Most meals we eat have a good percentage of garden food. Canned tomatoes, salsas, pickled beans and beets, applesauce, jams, frozen greens and corn and okra, and beans, and sweet potatoes in the cold cellar with squash.
Anyways, here is some pics
First the depressing snow covered garden from inside our kitchen

Here are some of the delicious parsnips. Best way to cook them is to roast then with dried marjarom and a little salt

Here is the sweet potato harvest. We have eaten about 1/2 of this by now (over 4 months). There was probably about 80 lbs of sweet potatoes in total. I probably will grow less of these next year. They are great and very versatile for cooking but we only have 4 people eating them so we physically can't eat them quick enough. I am afriad some of the crop will rot. They are storing really well this year. I think that the root cellar being extra cold is helping with their shelf life.

Some more butternut squash and spagetti squash. I am going to try some new varietys next year. I still wish I did not have to deal with the squash vine borer. Then I could grow all kinds of table squash and winter melons. As is, I only grow the vareities with natural resistance.

Luffa Gourds! You lets them dry, peel the skin off and you got a Luffa Sponge. You can grow your own natural sponges.

When the first freeze was about to hit in the fall, I harvested all the peppers still left on the plants. Most of them were frozen for long term storage.

Ellen displaying our late fall harvest of brussel sprouts. This was a trail year to see how they grew here with the summer heat and the bugs. They did really well, and I think that I will plant more for 2007. Same variety - Diablo

Brussel sprouts up close. They taste really good with some butter and pepper.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Patrick's Visit and Tomato Abundance

Altogether, we have over 40 tomato plant for 5 people. So we have excessive harvest right now. I can't even keep up with it. In this series of pics you can see the variety of tomatoes we have. We have all kinds of heirloom varieties including green zebra, yellow bannana, german yellow stripe, brandywines, yellow currant, black from tulula, caspian pink, white, etc... and I also grow a bunch of Sauce type tomatoes like Roma. These types seem to be more susceptible to disease.

Our comrade Patrick visited recently. He spent most of his visit working in the garden. He helped clear all the old spring crops and put in a lot of fall starts and seeds. We dropped in a bunch of broccoli plants from the community garden association and we also put in lettuce, beets, carrots, radishes, beans, and turnips. He also helped with the final carrot harvest. Here is some pics of Patrick with Ellen or I next to our dryed corn stalks.

Ryan has been helping with canning. He makes a mean marinara sauce all from garden produce and then we drop the cans in the water bath.

Patrick with some of the carrots havest. We filled up 6 of these bags and it was difficult to find room in the fridge for them all. I think in total we got over 30 lbs of carrots from the garden.

Patrick and I amongst our new broccoli starts. I got a few different varities. To my right is the okra plants. They are getting out of control. I need to be harvesting them all the time.

Okra flower.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Storing the Harvest

Storing the Harvest
Success in the garden has meant that I have had to research some food storage and preservation techniques. The basic goal is to preserve food for as long as possible, as safely as possible, and to maintain as much of the nutrition and taste as possible. Many food store themselves. Garlic stay for about 6-9 months as long as you keep it out of direct sun and in dry air. Onions are the same. Hot peppers dry on the window sill. Parsnips and Jeruselum Artichokes stay in the ground through the winter. Sqaush like "Butternut" and "Spaggetti" can be left out on the shelf for 4-6 months.
But most garden produce will succumb to the natural forces of rot and decay without processing and storage. For this produce I use the preservation techniques of canning / pickling, drying, cold storing in the cellar, and freezing. Each vegetable has its own needs in terms of processing, but some general rules are: High acid food like tomatoes and fruits can be canned (without a pressure cooker), green things that are low acid are best frozen, root veges can be stored in the cellar (sometimes in sand), and almost anything can be dried but it can take a long time and only a few foods seem to taste good dried.

Here is one of the shelves in the root cellar. My neighbor was going to toss these, so I mounted them against the wall in our cellar. Here we have Jams: strawberry, apricot, blueberry, mint; some pickled jalapenos, vege broth, and canned peeled tomatoes. The bottom shelf is the potatoes. They are still firm and good after a month and a half. I think they will last about 3-4 months.

Cabinet #2. Here we have pickled beans or "dilly beans", pickled beets, and a bunch of apple preserves: sweetend apple sauce for eating, unsweetened for baking sweet breads, and apple pie filling

More tomato products. We got canned tomatoes, marinara sauce, and some enchilada sacue that I make with chiles and cloves and cinnamon is a tomatoe base.

Here are the sand boxes. The one of the left has beets in it and the one on the right has carrots. They will store like this for a couple months. You don't want to leave them out in the ground past their prime or they get woody.

Here is the stand up freezer. I got it on craiglist for a great deal. It is working great. Freezing make storage very easy.

It is hard to tell what is what, but so far we have greens (kale, chard, spinach, mustard), okra, corn, hot peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, sliced bell peppers, and lots of bread from my friend Natasha.

Another food that stores itslef is beans. I have just started to get into growing beans for drying this year. I want to do much more of it next year. It is going to be a great source of calories in the winter.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Summer harvest pics

This is the last couple days worth of tomato and pepper harvest. It piles up quick. We have had one serious canning party and I expect we will have to have another one soon. I think the next time we can will will make sauce.

Shucking sweet corn on the stoop. I am really pleaseed with the quality of the corn. No earworms and I have not had any animal problems.

John helping shuck corn. John and Hiya are leaving tommorrow. They found a Kansas Museum of Agriculture and Agriculture Hall of Fame that I did not know exsisted. I am really excited to go.

The sweet corn. You can just eat it raw and it is like candy.

The Dutch Crookneck squash. Same type of orange flesh as butternut but it has this long, somtimes curved neck.

We have a lot of butternut and spaggetti squash to last us into the winter

The "Black Crowder" bean. I let them dry on the vine and we have beans for the winter.

These are red and green "asparagus yard long beans". They are not as good raw as a bush snap bean, but they are productive and they do well in the hot weather. Great in stir fry.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

July pics

More Pics for July. The garden is going strong. I am starting to get ready for the fall planting. We had a strech of super hot weather, but it has cooled off again and the plants are thriving. I am thinking about doing a crop by crop listing of improtant info like planting dates, harvest dates, bug or diseaes problems and solutions, perfered soil conditions, etc... I can't decide if that is just the sort of knowledge you need to build in your head or if writing it out would be helpful. Anyways, here are some more garden pics.

View through the tomato tunnel. Tomato harvest started about 2 weeks ago and was pretty thin the first week. We have started to can some sauces.

View from my neighbors step. You can't make out much detail, b/c the tomato patch and the peppers have got huge and kinda obscure the rest of the garden.

These are the "black eyed peas" and the "black crowders" crawling up the south side of the house.

Some of the tomato bounty. I grew about 40 plant and probably about 20 different varieties. We have white (light yellow), green stripe, purple rose, old german yellow and pinks, bannana, yellow cherry, red cherry, roma, and many more...

Some of the black eyed peas after shelling. Ryan says he will make a minestrone soup.

A few bell peppers. I have left some out there to turn yellow, but they taste great green too.

A close up of my favorites. The green zebra tomato might be my all time favorite. Although the orange bannana tomato is in the competition.

Eggplant of different varieties. The green ones are called "Laotion Green Stripe" and they are great in a curry.

More eggplant... we made a big eggplant parm with these

We have way too much red cabbage. It looks really good in the garden though. Ellen calls them the dinosour plant, b/c they don't feel like they belong in this age. I need to find some more cabbage recipes.

Tomatoes that will ripen on the vine.

The herb garden with some squash plants growing out of it.

Hot hungarian wax peppers. Once again, I grew far too many hot peppers.

Me buried in the corn field. The corn is making me proud. Now corn stem borers, no earworms, not problems with animals. And the corn tastes like candy.

One of our many snakes that patrol the garden. They are a good garden friend. They can't bite me I don't think.

Showing off the snake to John and Hiya. They are visiting from San Fran.

Tossing corn to our dinner guests. It is most sweet for the first hour after you pick it off the stalk.

A veiw from the tomato tunnel into the cabbage and brocolli

Old German yellow stripe. They get huge and they are very very tasty.

A lot of these pics are our friend Amy's. That is her foot.

Ellen and Elena showing off the tomatillos

Elena with the chard up front.

Ellen underneath the sunflowers

Hiya in the tomato tunnel

John playing "boll weevil" and "marxist cowboy".