2017 Garden Planning Begins!

We held our first planning meeting for Demo Garden 2017 last week. As always, I’m excited to see what will come from this year’s garden!

2017-demo-garden-overview

This is the overall plan for 2017. In order to fit our rotations in for the tomato plants, they will be in our smaller beds 5 & 6 this year. We are also doing a garden featuring Peruvian vegetables and the vertical garden will feature melons and cucumbers.

The Grocery Garden is a retread of a garden we used to do called the Family of 4 Garden. The Grocery Garden will feature vegetables that are expensive in the grocery store. We will be weighing and calculating value throughout the season.

Bed 1 is split between two garden themes, with Dye Plants in one half and Colonial/Early American Heirlooms in the other half. We will also be demonstrating mixed flower/herb/vegetable plantings in the containers throughout the garden.

Our detailed planning meetings are already underway, so look for more on our 2017 plans soon!

Oriental Garden: What Did Well, What Did Not

I am already starting to switch gears into thinking about ideas for next year’s garden, but I wanted to wrap up a few thoughts on the vegetables we had in our Oriental Garden this year. We had a wide range of things, and some of them (literally) overshadowed the others.

Easy Winners

‘Ladyfinger’ Okra

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The okra started off to an inauspicious start with poorer germination that I would have wished for, but the plants grew so well that we didn’t want more of them. They were relatively naturally bushy and had a good yield. The variety was touted as being non-fibrous at larger sizes and this seemed to be the case.

‘Choryoku’ Eggplant

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Round Purple and Choryoku Eggplants

The long, Asian varieties of eggplant seem to always yield well, and this variety was no exception. The skin was tender and the flavor good.

‘Fushimi’ Pepper

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These plants were productive for the whole summer and into the fall. Once we actually got around to trying out the sauteing recipe that is traditional, we all regretted not using them more all year long!

Good Performers

‘Round Purple’ Eggplant

This eggplant was good and relatively productive, but it got overgrown by the nearby okra, so it wasn’t as productive as it otherwise might have been.

‘Hakurei’ Turnip

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Turnips, gold beets, and flowering Chinese broccoli

This salad turnip was a solid performer in the spring planting.

‘Summer Top’ Cucumber

Oriental cucumbers typically have good flavor and productivity. This variety was good in the early part of the season, but the plants didn’t last very long. It’s hard to say if that was due to competition with the other vines or a varietal characteristic.

‘Dark Purple’ Mizuna

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This new mizuna variety had purple veins and stems. It did what it was supposed to, but what put it above others is how long it lasted into the summer before bolting.

‘Golden & Ruby Streaks’ Mustards

These mustards have been around for awhile and we’ve grown them before. They did what they were expected to do, although they bolted a bit earlier than I would have preferred.

Worth Another Try, Sometime

‘Hybrid Fuji’ Kohlrabi

The seeds failed to germinate, which may be a fault of the seed source, not the variety.

‘Hybrid Golden Honey’ Melon

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As with any other Asian melon we have tried, they are very different from what Americans expect of a melon. The plants were fairly productive, although we did have some cracking of the fruit. The flavor of the melons was not as good as some other Asian melons I’ve tried.

‘Green Lance’ Chinese Broccoli

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The hardest thing with a Chinese broccoli is harvesting it fast enough to have good quality and yield. I would have to try some other varieties side by side with this one to judge well, but it seemed like these bolted very fast.

‘Purple Red Mart’ Long Bean

We’ve grown long beans in the past that have been highly productive, so these were a disappointment. We had hardly any harvest, compared to past experiences.

White Stemmed Chinese Celery

This celery is more of an herb than the big stalks we are used to. It never got very big, but it also didn’t die or bolt like I thought it would. If I’m honest, I kind of ignored it. It would be worth trying again sometime.

Not Worth It

Winged Bean

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We struggled with germination, then the plants just sat there for the longest time. Eventually a couple did grow (after we had given up and planted the long beans in the same spot). We had a handful of beans to pick, but that was it.

‘Dok Hybrid’ Luffa

The luffa vine took over everything, but either it was such long days to maturity or it was day length sensitive, because it didn’t bloom until late September/early October. It did set a few fruit, which would have been fine for fresh eating. (Yes, you can eat fresh luffa gourd like zucchini.) However, it had no chance of reaching sponge stage.

What’s Up with the Gingers?

The raised bed that had the ginger family plants really did pretty well by the end of the season. They typically take longer than one growing season to produce mature rhizomes, so we decided to dig them up and save them for next year.

The plants all grew well this year, once they were established. The cardamom was by far the smallest, shown here in the very front. When the nights started getting down into the 40s, we decided to pot them up. We tried to dig up a large root area to keep them growing well. We moved them into my office under my light stand.

Unfortunately, I had to trim the three larger plants back a bit to fit them under my lights. I don’t think this will be an option next fall.

I did pull off a piece of each of the three edible rhizomes. (The cardamom has small rhizomes. The spice part is the seed pod. This takes about 3 years to develop.) The light pink rhizome on the left is the greater galangal. The center rhizome is turmeric, and the right rhizome is the ginger. Technically, all of the rhizomes could be used at this stage, before they develop the fibrousness and skin typical of the mature root. They are crispy, succulent, and fragrant at this stage. Of course, they wouldn’t last long without the skins.

You could also regenerate the plant from these pieces. Each of the little nodules or pointy nodes you can see on the rhizomes will grow a new shoot.

The plan for now is to keep the plants alive for the winter. Or, at a minimum, keep enough of the rhizomes alive to regrow next year!

Pepper-palooza: More Possibilities for Peppers

I shared a few pepper recipes using our garden peppers the other day, but I wanted to show some other options for using the peppers as well. 

Dehydrating Peppers

A lot of hot peppers are stored or used once they are dried. The most reliable way to dry peppers is using a dehydrator, although I’ve also had good luck (sometimes) using the oven or just letting peppers dry on the counter. The biggest issue with letting peppers dry on the counter is that if there is a chance the fruit have any fungal spores on them (or any blemishes), they can rot before they dry down sufficiently to store. 

On the recommendation of Denise, our Foods & Nutrition Agent, I used the dehydrator outside and set at 135 degrees. It took about 8 hours to dry the smaller, hot peppers. It took about 16-20 hours to dry the larger, thicker-walled peppers, like the paprikas and Aleppos. 

The dehydrator had several racks, so I was able to segregate the different peppers onto different racks. 

I dried some of the cayenne peppers, lemon drop peppers, hot paprika peppers, and Aleppo peppers. 

I don’t have specific plans for any of these at the moment, other than possibly grinding them into either pepper flakes or powder. 

Well…the Lemon Drop peppers I have a hot sauce recipe to try. Sometime. 

I did try to spread out the peppers to start, but they ended up towards the center anyway. These are the cayenne peppers. You can still see a little of the purple coloration despite the fact that they wee mostly red. 

Frying Peppers

The Espelette (Basque region) and Fushimi (Japan)  peppers, I tried with simple sautéing. The Espelette peppers probably should have been dried and ground instead…like a paprika pepper. Oh well. 

These are the Espelette peppers. I sautéed them in a little hot oil, then sprinkled them with salt. They were too spicy for me to enjoy in that way. Definitely would have been better as a spice.

I followed with a pan of the Fushimi peppers. Hot pan, hot oil, fresh peppers. 

After cooking, I sprinkled them with salt and let them cool enough to eat. This is one of the traditional ways to prepare these Fushimi peppers and the similar Shishito peppers. YUM! I am definitely regretting the bags of these peppers that I harvested and intended to sauté earlier in the season, but never got around to. 

These peppers were not all that exciting otherwise. The walls are thin, the flavor was a little “green” and the seeds were too prevalent. But you sauté them in hot oil, sprinkle with salt, and they are transformed into a delicious appetizer. 

Pepper-palooza: Pepper Recipes to Try

I finally had time to try a few recipes using some of our less common peppers in the Demo Garden. I still have a few other recipes I want to try as well.

Red Paprika Pepper Cream Sauce

I may have to plant hot paprika peppers myself, just so I can make this recipe every week. I adapted a straight red pepper cream sauce to the paprika sauce. A lot of sauces call for powdered paprika, but I wanted to try using the peppers fresh. 

  I ended up using one red bell pepper, two white sweet paprika peppers (Feher Ozon), and two red hot paprikas (Leutschauer). 

This was pretty much the easiest recipe that I never knew I was missing out on. You put two cups of cream and the chopped peppers in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the cream is reduced by half and the peppers are soft (about 30 minutes). If you want something that is lower fat, you can use fat free half and half. (I checked with our foods agent. She also said you could use cream and just use it sparingly to accent your food, rather than drowning your food in the cream sauce.) 

Then I took a stick blender and blended it until smooth. Then I added a little salt and pepper. I served it with pasta and chicken. The hot paprikas added just the right hint of flavor and spiciness. I also tried this recipe at home with plain colored, sweet peppers. It was also tasty, but not with the same depth of flavor. 

Aji Limon Salsa

I had been looking for some good recipes to try with the Aji Limon (Lemon Drop) hot pepper all summer. A Peruvian friend said that for a true Peruvian experience, I needed to use these peppers to make ceviche. While I like fish, I’m not confident in my ability to purchase good enough quality fish in a landlocked state to make fresh ceviche. So I settled for this salsa recipe. (I also have a hot sauce recipe to try out another time.) 

This recipe called for 8 oz. of the fresh Aji Limon peppers, 8 oz. of yellow bell pepper, 2 mangoes, brown sugar, and a bunch of vinegar and lime juice. I’ll be honest…I was afraid of how hot it might be. 

The recipe didn’t say, so I decided to seed all the peppers. I chopped everything up, mixed it together, and tossed it into a saucepan. I let it cook until everything seemed soft and blendable. 

At that point, I brought back the stick blender to smooth out the lumps. 

After tasting, I would characterize this as a “hot” salsa. In other words, comparable to the heat level you might find if you buy a salsa labeled “hot.” If you regularly eat or enjoy spicy foods, this will be a nice salsa for you. If you are not into spicy foods, you will probably want to steer clear. That said, as with any salsa that contains a lot of brown sugar and mango, it is very tasty. 


Pepper Sauce

To use some of the Tabasco peppers, I was tempted to try making homemade tabasco sauce, but I decided to be kinder than that to my office mates. I settled for making a southern-style vinegar sauce.

I started with the Tabasco peppers. The fully ripe ones popped off the plant without the stems, which was handy. I washed them, and then slit them along the side.

 When working with hot peppers, I strongly recommend wearing gloves! As much of a pain as it is, it isn’t as painful as getting capsaicin everywhere I don’t want it. 

Then all I did was heat a cup and a half of white wine vinegar and pour it over the peppers in a jar. You could add garlic or peppercorns, but I decided to stay simple. I’ll give it a couple weeks to “steep” before trying the flavored vinegar.

Still to come in another post: the Espelette peppers, the Fushimi peppers, and dehydrating peppers.