What we’re harvesting

“The fruit derived from labor is the sweetest of pleasures.”

This quote from Luc de Clapiers perfectly sums up harvest in the Demo Garden! Our wonderful team of Extension Master Gardener volunteers has figured out how to navigate the difficult circumstances due to COVID and still have a very beautiful, productive garden. The fruits of our labor are gratifying to see and it is rewarding to pass on the fresh produce to those in need – more on this later!

So, what’s being harvested right now? Cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers galore and more! This past week in the garden, I picked a small sample to bring home and taste test.

The peppers in the garden are starting to produce exceedingly well. There are many varieties being grown in the Demo Garden, but I tried just four. Since I’m not personally a hot pepper fan, I left those varieties alone and focused on some of the sweet pepper varieties: ‘Cornito Giallo,’ ‘Ajvarski,’ ‘Mad Hatter,’ and ‘Eros.’

Varieties from left to right, top to bottom: ‘Cornito Gaillo,’ ‘Ajvarski,’ ‘Dragon grilling,’ (mildly hot) ‘Eros’ both red and orange varieties, ‘Habanada’ (shown white here, will turn red; a no-heat habanero variety)
Varieties from left to right, top to bottom: ‘Ajvarski,’ ‘Mad hatter,’ ‘Eros’ orange, ‘Cornito Gaillo’

‘Cornito Gaillo’ is a 5” yellow orange pepper that is outstanding raw, but roasting especially brings out the sweetness of this pepper. ‘Eros,’ a mini bell pepper, was remarkably tasty. The 2” orange fruit was distinctly sweet when roasted, and had an enjoyable taste uncooked. ‘Ajvarski’ is a sweet red 5” pepper. While this traditional Macedonian roasting pepper was quite tasty when roasted, it was also particularly delicious eaten fresh. ‘Mad Hatter’ – such a fun name – is so charming to look at that it could even be grown as an ornamental plant! Who can resist its 2” uniquely shaped pepper, best picked when red. (Picked green, it was slightly disappointing in flavor.)

‘Mad hatter’ plant; soon more will turn red and will look even more adorable!

Horticulturally speaking, our peppers have not yet endured any pests or diseases in the garden. They have tolerated the heat well, have set an impressive amount of fruit, and are all together going strong! Not every pepper variety grows easily in Kansas, but in general, they do very well here, as evidenced by the plants in the Demo garden, and the plethora of peppers you can find at the farmers markets right now. There are SO many varieties, we could probably fill the whole Demo garden trying different kinds!

Cucumbers as seen from inside their trellis

Cucumbers have produced marvelously in the garden this season. ‘Sweet Success’ is a 12” cucumber that has a nice crunch and mild taste. The seeds are so small, they are hardly detectable. ‘Summer Dance’ is a 9” variety of cucumber. The seeds are extremely small and not obvious when eating, and it also has a pleasing crunch. ‘Salt and Pepper’ is a unique white variety that turns slightly yellow the longer it is left on the vine. Normally, cucumbers that turn yellow have passed their prime and can be quite bitter and off-putting, but that’s not the case with ‘Salt and Pepper!’ Even though the seeds are noticeable in more mature, yellow fruits, the flavor remains phenomenal despite the color.

Varieties from left to right: ‘Summer dance’ (2), ‘Sweet success,’ ‘Salt and pepper’
‘Summer dance’ have been prolific!
‘Salt and pepper’ is a new favorite!

‘Salt and Pepper’ fruits are not only very tasty, but their vines have been very healthy and prolific producers this season. ‘Summer dance’ has also grown well, but I think ‘Salt and Pepper’ takes the cake. We have not had many issues growing cucumbers in the Demo garden this season; they get ample water through our irrigation system, which can sometimes be a hindrance for other growers – cucumbers are thirsty plants!

Healthy cucumber vines growing up their trellis; most of the vines in the middle are ‘Salt and pepper,’ the right-most vine growing a bit taller is ‘Sweet success’

I’m not usually a big fan of eggplants, mostly because I don’t care for the soft texture, but I might change my mind after sampling ‘Orient Charm,’ an oblong purple eggplant about 5” long. There were no detectable seeds; when roasted, it had an enjoyable flavor and remained a slightly more firm than most eggplants do. ‘Annina’ is another unique eggplant currently producing very well. The variegation on the skin makes it a delight to the eyes, rivaling some flowers in its beauty! When roasted, it was soft like most eggplants are but did have a pleasing flavor. If you like the soft texture of eggplant then this variety will not fail to please.

‘Orient charm’

‘Annina’

Overall, our eggplant plants have grown very well. We had a stint of eggplant lace bugs earlier in the season, but a few rounds of forceful water sprays on the under sides of the leaves has kept the population in check. This pest usually only causes significant damage in very large numbers; the population is low enough now that there is some of the characteristic stippling on the leaves, but not enough to hamper eggplant production.

On the upper leaf, you can see the residual damage from the eggplant lace bugs

We will have an in-depth post about the tomatoes we trialed this year in the coming weeks, but I sampled a couple varieties and will share briefly about them here. ‘Chef’s Choice’ is an AAS (All-America Selections) winner that comes in a variety of colors. ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ had great flavor with pleasant tomato tang.  ‘Chef’s Choice Red’ had a bit more sweetness to it that was pure delight to the taste buds. ‘San Marzano II,’ an Italian heirloom variety, is great for canning because it doesn’t have quite the water content of the other two varieties, which is typical of a good paste tomato. I found that ‘San Marzano II’ raw was rather bland; paste tomatoes are not usually eaten raw since their flavor is enhanced with cooking.

Varieties, clockwise from top: ‘San Marzano II,’ ‘Chef’s choice’ red, ‘Chef’s choice’ orange

So, what do we do with all this wonderful produce we harvest? Besides some samples that the Master Gardeners occasionally take home, the majority of our harvest is donated to a wonderful organization and community partner of the Extension Office, Common Ground Mobile Market.

An abundant harvest donation from a couple weeks ago! Some of this additional produce was donated from the personal gardens of other Master Gardeners. Donna Pearson McClish, founder of Common Ground Mobile Market is pictured on the right; one of her staff, Sharon, is in the middle; and Sedgwick County Extension staff, Lyndsay, is on the left.
The van is loaded up with Demo garden produce as well as fruits and vegetables from other local growers. The produce will be divided up into mixed boxes and delivered to senior centers across greater Wichita.

The Mobile Market delivers fresh, locally grown produce to seniors in the greater Wichita area. They make eating healthy accessible to folks who otherwise might find it difficult to get to the store or afford high quality produce. We are so grateful to be able to add our harvest to their wonderful work in the community, as they are providing an incredible service during this especially difficult time. You can learn more about the work they do here: https://www.commongroundpg.com/

Author: Maureen Wilbeck

Posted on August 18, 2020, in Around the Garden, Harvesting & Eating, Plant & Garden Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thank you and how beautiful!!!

    On Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 6:12 PM The Demo Garden Blog wrote:

    > Lyndsay posted: ” “The fruit derived from labor is the sweetest of > pleasures.” This quote from Luc de Clapiers perfectly sums up harvest in > the Demo Garden! Our wonderful team of Extension Master Gardener volunteers > has figured out how to navigate the difficult cir” >

  2. Hi it was a beautiful fall day to work in the demo garden. Tom and I harvested fertilize the pots out front and watered. The squash bugs continue to do quite well. Looks like we’ll get a full harvest despite them. Majella

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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