Friday PhotoEssay – September 23, 2016

It’s been a few weeks since the last Friday PhotoEssay, and the garden has definitely changed.

29876437065_555785450d_zI think the biggest change is simply the fact that while it is still a jungle out there, many of the tomatoes and vines are much more brown than green. The peppers are even starting to show some wear and tear. I think the only thing that is still unabashedly green is the luffa gourd vine…which has still not started blooming!

29793640581_8a5a5ac970On the other hand, we planted the Passionflower vine for the flowers and caterpillars, but we do have some fruit set. I don’t know if it will ripen before it gets cold, but it’s still pretty neat to have fruit.

29762973422_6ea8ea03dbThere was a point where I think we all felt like the Ginger bed wasn’t going to amount to much, but the plants have really done well! Clockwise from the left-most plant: Greater Galangal, Turmeric, Ginger, Cardamom. We are going to try digging the plants, potting them up, and keeping them for next year.

29793648681_c754bb8e69While the Black Scorzonera doesn’t look like much from the top, I’m actually very pleased with how the plants are doing. What remains to be seen is what the roots look like, but it typically isn’t harvested until after a couple frosts, so we have some time yet.

29793656061_e0dc1c5068The flowering purple carrot / false Ammi from the Purple Garden has really started looking good. It took all season, but it has some nice flowers on it now. Because it’s technically a carrot that bolts easily, if we pulled it the roots should look like a poor quality purple carrot.

29841977936_1a3e6da1c9_zOur pollinator / herb garden is looking really good right now, although the milkweeds are getting a bit gangly. The zinnias in particular are very attractive. Now all we need is for the sages to be in full bloom!

Have a great weekend!

Flooded Gardens

If your garden flooded during the rainfall last week, your produce may not be safe to eat!

After flooding has occurred, the best way to ensure that your produce is safe is to not consume any of it. However, it can be very difficult to throw away a lot of produce that still looks okay.

  • If your garden was flooded by rainwater that just didn’t soak in as fast due to the amount of rain, most of the produce is probably safe, if you are sure there were no likely contaminants in the area (fecal matter, industrial chemicals, etc).
  • If your garden was flooded by water coming out of ditches, rivers, ponds, or other sources, you should assume that the produce is contaminated. All ripe produce should be harvested and discarded, especially anything normally consumed raw.
  • For complete details on safety of produce after flooding, please refer to this fact sheet: Safely Using Produce from Flooded Gardens

Sweet Pepper Garden: What Did Well, What Did Not

While it will probably be at least 1 month (hopefully more!) before we get a killing freeze, we have a pretty good idea as to what has done well for most of the spring and summer vegetables in the garden. Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing what varieties I thought did particularly well, which varieties I would give another try, and which varieties I think are duds.

To start off, let’s take a look at the sweet pepper end of the Pepper Garden.

Easy Winner:

‘Goddess’ Sweet Banana Pepper.

28041839650_631a1733b2This variety had early and heavy yields of good quality, sweet banana peppers. All three plants were healthy, prolific, and continue to yield well now. They have slowed down some, but they are still setting more fruit. A great choice for your garden!

Good Performers: 

‘Tangerine Dream’ snack pepper

29347023095_4305709029This variety didn’t impress me early in the season, but it has come on strong late. It is a very compact plant and really is quite prolific. It would be a great choice for a container or small garden without much space. I find that it has a very slight bitter flavor to the skin, making it less tasty than the ‘Lunchbox Orange’ snack pepper. But, with compact plants and higher yields, it seems like a good alternate choice for a home gardener.

‘Escamillo’ yellow bullhorn pepper

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This colored sweet pepper had a very good yield as well, and the flavor was good. The plants were healthy, although weighed down by the fruit and got a bit tipsy in the wind. We harvested a big bunch of ripe peppers a couple weeks ago, but there are more set for later.

‘Great Stuff’ bell pepper

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This sweet pepper managed to avoid two of the biggest pitfalls that I see with bell peppers: fruit size and yield. The fruit size on this pepper was consistently larger to extra large. The yield has also been steady and ranged from acceptable to very good for a bell pepper. That means it wasn’t nearly as prolific as the banana peppers, but was definitely better than most bell peppers. It did have some trouble with falling over and getting sunscald, but we still got lots of good peppers.

Worth Another Try, Sometime: 

‘Red Knight’ bell pepper

I don’t even have a good picture of this one. That would be one sign that it wasn’t particularly spectacular. The plants weren’t as vigorous as some of the others, nor was the fruit very prolific. The fruit has nice thick walls, which is nice. But when there isn’t much of it, it’s a problem. Still, I know that some of the Master Gardeners have had really good results with this one, hence not bumping it further down the list.

‘Purple Star’ bell pepper

28637321782_9f63b3ec8eThis pepper has been a bit confounding. It has yielded relatively well, but the peppers take forever to reach full size, and a number of them stay fairly small. It’s such a neat color – purple first, then streaked with orange, before finally turning a dark orange-red color. Some of the peppers are nicely sized though. The plants again have been a bit leggy and floppy in the wind, but not more than any others. Again, lots of sunscald on this one, but it was probably more a factor of the plants falling over than lack of foliage cover.

Those are my thoughts on this year’s sweet pepper varieties. Have you grown any peppers this year that were really good?

Friday PhotoEssay – September 2, 2016

It’s hard to believe that it is somehow September. I associate September with fall, and the nights are certainly getting cooler, but the garden still looks like a summer jungle.

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I both really enjoy this garden season – when everything is still mostly lush and overgrown – and get really annoyed by it! Primarily I get annoyed when I have to try to get from one end of the garden to the other, as many of the paths are encroached upon by plants that have gotten floppy.

28720451223_1d888b5404Speaking of floppy, lush, and overgrown, the ‘Esterina’ cherry tomato continues to impress. It had a couple weeks of slower production (probably coinciding with earlier hot temps), but has bounced back with a vengeance. The plants themselves are not overly attractive anymore, but who cares when you have this many scrumptious tomatoes to eat?!?

29307916766_ef455eb214In the “overgrown” category, we found this bean hiding amongst all the leaves and vines on the trellises in the Oriental Garden. It is one of our Winged Beans that we gave up on months ago and planted the Chinese Long Beans. Apparently at least one of the plants survived and has finally started producing a few pods. If you think it looks like a green bean or pea pod with green feathers sticking out the corners, you would be right.

29054224990_6bddaa81d9Yet another case of both lush and overgrown, the purple pole beans on the trellis in the purple garden are quite jungle-ish and have finally starting producing in the last week.

29341700315_a71a085517There was a point earlier in the season where I didn’t think the hops were going to reach their full potential this year. Clearly I was wrong on that count! In the past few weeks they went from barely covering the tomato cage to having grown all the way up, and then back down.

29054135690_a42e8f55faWith so many peppers in the garden this year, I sometimes feel like I’m doing Friday Pepper-Essays. Just one pepper picture this week! This is the Tabasco pepper plant. The peppers start green, fade to pale green, then turn orange, then red. I’ve started looking up homemade hot sauce recipes!

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Garden Recipe Roundup

When we have some less common veggies in the garden, I always try to cook something with a few of them to show how they might be used and to give them a fair taste test. Many of you know that I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but I decided that I should give an eggplant dish a try anyway. I also made stewed okra and tomatoes, because I’ve never really cooked with okra before and wanted to try it in a form other than breaded and fried.

First up: Thai Fried Eggplant with Basil

I like Thai food, and we had all the recipe and sauce ingredients on hand, so it worked out well. I used the green Oriental eggplant, the yellow ‘Escamillo’ sweet peppers and one of the purple sweet peppers, one of the Round Purple Asian eggplants, a red onion from my home garden, and a couple ‘Gong Bao’ peppers from my home garden in place of the serranos. I also used Thai basil rather than regular sweet basil.

I found the sauce to be a little heavy, flavor-wise. It probably needed a bit more acid, maybe some lime juice. Overall, it wasn’t bad (for eggplant). The texture still isn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t completely distasteful.

Next up: Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

I used the okra and tomatoes from the garden, including some of the big okra that is larger than would typically be ideal. The ‘Ladyfinger’ okra that we are growing is supposed to be tender and usable even at larger sizes, so I wanted to test that out. I would say that it was nice and tender after the stewing, up to about 10″ long. After that, the pieces were still a bit fibrous and woody. I doubt a longer cook time would have solved the problem.

Both recipes were fairly easy, did a nice job featuring the vegetables, and were tasty. If you are looking for a recipe to use for eggplant or okra, give these a try!