Monthly Archives: May 2014

Friday PhotoEssay – May 30th

We have a big change to show off in the garden this week!

Yes, we have mulch! Doesn’t it look great? It always gives the garden an entirely different look and feel once we get everything mulched. We mulched everything except the areas where there are still seeds working on germinating. We even mulched between the rows of beans, chickpeas, and carrots. Any bare soil we covered with straw, as much as possible.

Many of our tomato plants are starting to bloom, and it seems like the weather (so far) is working in our favor to have great fruit set. It could be a bumper tomato crop at the rate we’re going! This is one of the ‘Opalka’ plants, and it doesn’t show up very well in this picture, but I’m pretty sure that this is one of the varieties that typically exhibits the “wilty” gene. I have an ‘Opalka’ plant at home that shows it a little bit better. The “wilty” gene is found in some varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and it causes the plants to have slightly wilted appearance to the leaves. I think it is typically most visible at about this stage of growth. There isn’t anything to be concerned about or do differently. The most important part is to not just assume that the plant needs more water! On these wilty plants, you want to be sure to check the soil moisture level rather than watering indiscriminately when the plant looks wilted.

The kale we have planted in the Italian garden is looking really good. It is ‘Nero de Toscano’ or Black Tuscan kale. You might also see it called Lacinato kale or Dinosaur kale. Some kale connoisseurs will say that this type of kale has the best flavor, sweetest, mildest, whatever of any type of kale. I don’t know about that, but to be totally fair to it, I would imagine those descriptors are best applied in the spring or fall when the weather is nice and cool. Kale in Kansas at this time of year is going to be pretty strongly flavored! I still really like this African Sweet Potato & Kale Stirfry (on the second page).

All of the vine crop seedlings are doing well, including our Indian gourds. This is one of the Bittermelon/Bitter gourd seedlings. The leaves look a tiny bit exotic – if by exotic I mean slightly different from other vining vegetables.

 The potatoes are flowering! They sure took their time coming up this year, but they have grown so fast since then. Potato flowers don’t necessarily mean a whole lot, although growing up we always figured that we could start “stealing” a few potatoes from under the plant once they started flowering.

Have a great weekend!

Endive, Escarole, and Mustard Recipes

Since this is the fourth week that we have been harvesting the endive/escarole mesclun, I thought it was high time that I shared a couple of recipes and a little more information about this vegetable.

Endive and escarole are both in the chicory family (think radicchio, etc). You may have seen the little heads of blanched Belgian endive at the grocery store. Both endive and escarole have the ability to form heads, although depending on the variety the heads may be more like you would expect of a leaf lettuce or a Bibb lettuce than a cabbage or radicchio.

The mesclun mix is designed to be harvested as small leaf salad greens rather than grown for full-sized heads. The catch is that the leaves are a little more on the bitter side than lettuce, which most of us prefer to be on the sweeter side. While there is a bitter tinge to the leaves, I don’t find it to be the same unpleasant bitterness that lettuce can develop as it gets older.

One thing I found as I was looking for recipes is that it is a little tricky to find recipes that use the leaves rather than the Belgian endive heads or another head-type chicory. I did find a really simple Endive & Apple salad that I liked and a couple other recipes that looked tempting.

I know, I said apples, but I made it with strawberries & walnuts the first time because that’s what I had. The dressing was just a very simple oil, vinegar, mustard, and seasonings for a viniagrette. It was good! The flavor of the greens did make it a little more robust than just a lettuce salad.

Other recipes I found that I thought sounded good:

Escarole & Edamame Salad

Warm Shrimp & Escarole Salad

I also wanted to try a recipe with cooked greens. This was a very simple Escarole & Beans recipe. It was very simple – cook the escarole in oil and seasonings, simmer the beans, the mix together and simmer. It was okay, but I didn’t love it. There are some more complex recipes that would probably be better, but as a quick, simple dish, this is a good place to start.

Then there were the mustard greens. They are traditionally used in an Indian dish called Saag, so I wanted to try that.

It certainly looks exotic, doesn’t it? Again, a very simple recipe if you have the spices. Unfortunately, the recipe called for a LOT of spices to the point where it was gritty with spices. It was inedible. Really really inedible.

I wished that I had decided to tweak this recipe for Chickpeas with Yogurt and Fresh Mustard Greens instead. It calls for some exotic ingredients, so I wanted to avoid it, but I guess I should have tried it anyway. One of the exotics is Curry Leaves, which we are growing in the garden this year! I’m excited! But it’s not big enough to harvest yet. It also calls for asafetida – another common spice in India, but rarely seen here. It would probably be safe to just leave it out.

There will probably be plenty of opportunity to try the recipe yet this year, because the mustard greens are growing like crazy.

Harvest? What harvest? We harvested 3 bags full of mustard greens last week and again this week. And I’m sure it will just keep growing. Yikes!

Friday PhotoEssay – May 23rd

Rain! Our rain gauge here measured about 3/4″ even though supposedly the airport (just a couple miles south) measured 1 3/4.” I’m not going to complain!

Here’s a look at the garden this morning after our bit of rain. The potatoes have really come on strong, and we removed some of the spinach this week. I know things are going to change rapidly from here on out.

Speaking of changes, several of the tomato plants are starting to bloom. Even the some of the later heirlooms have one or two flowers on them. Fun fact – Tomato Day is 81 days after we transplanted, which means that we would expect the earliest tomatoes to have fruit by then and the mid-season tomatoes should be at their first harvest.

When we were harvesting the spinach this week, we found this mass of eggs on the underside of one of the leaves. We put our Master Gardener hotline crew to work trying to identify what the insect might be, and they came up with Mexican Bean Beetle. I’m not quite sure if that is right, since these are very round rather than slightly oblong. Anyway, we erred on the side of getting rid of the eggs. In hindsight, I could have put them in my insect cage to hatch out.

The second time is the charm on the Quinoa seeds. The ‘Brightest Brilliant’ variety is looking pretty good. The ‘Colorado’ quinoa is still pretty sparse.

Bah. Some of our beans are starting to show herbicide injury, like they did in 2012 after we renovated the garden. I think that it is probably residual in the soil from the manure-based compost we added. If our experience from before holds true, everything should be fine by next year. But I’m about done adding compost to our beds if we can help it!

On the plus side, we are having much better luck getting our vining vegetables to germinate this year. We’re still waiting on the gourds and cucumbers in the Taste of India garden, but the pumpkins and melons in the vertical garden are looking good.

Have a great (long) weekend!

Not a Fan of Crazy Weather

That would be the spinach that isn’t a fan of the crazy weather!

This is the ‘Bloomsdale’ spinach that was supposed to be more bolt tolerant…or not. To be fair though, when the temperatures bounce around like they have been this spring, it does tend to initiate blooming/bolting in leafy greens more often than not. When we harvested last week, I saw that some of the leaves were starting to get more pointy, which is often an early sign of bolting. This week there were a couple of the plants in full flower, like shown here.

The ‘Sagar’ Spinach in the Taste of India garden wasn’t quite as far gone, but you can see here the initiation of the flower bud.

We harvested the good leaves off of both patches of spinach this week and then removed the plants. We also harvested the rest of the romaine lettuce and a good bunch of the mustard greens!

Friday PhotoEssay – Garden Tour Edition

I haven’t been doing a very good job this year of keeping you up to date on all our upcoming events. This weekend is our annual Garden Tour, and I was able to check out several of the gardens this morning and earlier in the week. I was hoping to have one picture of each garden, but I realized that I don’t quite have them all.

Anyway, the tour is going on today, tomorrow (Saturday), and Sunday. For more details, go here. I did want to give you a little bit of a sneak peak to encourage you to go. If you are really into food gardening, a lot of times the Garden Tour may not have lots to offer you. This year, there are 3 gardens that have significant fruit and vegetable gardens! The others are gorgeous, but not quite as edible.

To get started, here’s a look at the Demo Garden this afternoon. Nothing too major this week, since things are growing pretty slowly with the cool weather. We aren’t on the Garden Tour this year, but you can always come take a peek!

This is one of the West Wichita gardens that has lots of great shade plantings and neat little garden areas.

This Haysville garden has some awesome blackberries, a large vegetable garden area, and then more vegetables and herbs in other parts of the yard.

This area has peppers and garlic growing, as well as some cannas and other ornamentals.

This Derby garden has a variety of different beds with perennials and some cool stonework.

This sprawling, Haysville country garden has something for almost everyone. There are some pretty neat raised beds that you’ll have to go see for yourself.

This Derby garden has fruits, vegetables, herbs, and a whole lot more! And almost nothing is in a square or rectangular garden!

I have to say that this little border area was one of my favorites. There are annuals along the front edge, but do you recognize the plants in the second row? I’ll give you a minute.

Yes, they are potatoes. I honestly don’t think about potatoes as a potential border plant! But once they start dying back, how hard is it to just dig them all at once and let everything else grow up around them?

I hope this little taste inspired you to check out the Garden Tour.

Have a great weekend!