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Going (Pea)Nuts!

We harvested our peanuts a couple of weeks ago, even though we hadn’t yet had a freeze. The tops were definitely getting yellow and looking like they were almost done. I posted about it in one of the Friday PhotoEssays, but I thought I would pull that information out for you in a separate blog post.

We grew two different varieties of peanuts, ‘Tennessee Red Valencia‘ and ‘Schronce’s Deep Black.’ We got these heirloom varieties from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

In case you didn’t realize it, peanuts are a legume, just like beans and peas. They also grow in pods below ground, but they aren’t tubers or roots like potatoes and carrots.

The plants flower and are pollinated. Then the ovary in the flower initiates this long tube, called a “peg.” The peg begins to grow down toward the soil. This is called “pegging.”

One of the reasons that our yield this year wasn’t what we might have wished is that our heirloom peanut varieties were a lot taller and lankier than we had expected. This meant that when the flowers bloomed and produced the “pegs,” the pegs couldn’t reach the soil and produce peanuts. We could have had dozens more peanuts!

So, the moral of the story is that we should either have chosen a modern variety with shorter plants where the flowers occur closer to the base OR we should have planted the heirloom varieties in a spot with more space to flop over and reach the soil. Another option would have been to hill them up, if we’d had space. Now we know!

This is the ‘Schronce’s Deep Black’ peanut. In the raw, undried form it has deep purple skins.

This is the ‘Tennessee Red Valencia’ that is a more traditional color. Bright pink when raw that will darken to brick red when dry.

Since harvest, the peanuts have been drying. (This isn’t all of them. Our yield wasn’t quite that bad!)

As you can see, the colors have darkened quite a bit. The next step will be roasting…or boiling! What do you think? Roasted peanuts or boiled?

Friday PhotoEssay – October 23, 2015

We decided to put an end to the misery of the tomato plants this week. We felt that given the weather, there were not all that many tomatoes that would actually reach the point of maturity where they could even ripen off the vine. We ended up with one large bag of ripe tomatoes, 2 large bags of green tomatoes that were unlikely to ripen, and 3 trays of tomatoes that I thought would ripen.

The garden is clearly different with the tomatoes gone! We also snipped the remaining squash plants off at the ground so that we could more easily take them off the trellises next week.

We also harvested about 2/3 of the peanuts this week. We have set them to dry for roasting later on. The yield wasn’t as high as we had hoped, although many of the pods were nice sized.

One of the reasons that the yield wasn’t what we might have wished is that our heirloom peanut varieties were a lot taller and lankier than we had expected. This meant that when the flowers bloomed and produced the “pegs” (the ovary bud, which are the purplish stem-looking things in the picture), the pegs couldn’t reach the soil and produce peanuts. We could have had dozens more peanuts!

So, the moral of the story is that we should either have chosen a modern variety with shorter plants where the flowers occur closer to the base OR we should have planted the heirloom varieties in a spot with more space to flop over and reach the soil. Now we know!

The ‘Schronce’s Deep Black’ peanut has rich purple colored skins on the peanuts before drying. I washed the pods and have layed them out to dry for the time being.

No, this isn’t the entire harvest! One of the Master Gardeners took the rest home to wash, dry, and roast for us to try later. I wanted to keep a handful to show on the blog.

I also have our ripening tomatoes in a couple trays in my office. The warmth will ripen them faster than if they were in a slightly cooler (55 degree) setting. Some of them have ripening quite a bit just this week.

The way you can determine if a green tomato will ripen is to look at the blossom end. A “mature green” tomato will have a white star at the blossom end, as you can see on the tomato above. A tomato will also typically start ripening from the blossom end, so if there is even a tinge of color there, it will ripen. It is important to make sure that you cull out any damaged fruit and set the fruit so they aren’t touching to prevent any rotting. The cooler the temperature of the place you put the tomatoes, the longer they will take to ripen. If you want garden tomatoes for Thanksgiving, you should be able to stretch the ripening out!

Have a great weekend!

2015 Garden Plans: The Random Garden

Long time no blog! We have finally completed most of our planning for our 2015 gardens, and I have some exciting things to share with you. We’re going to start out today by looking at Bed 1, which is quickly gaining the reputation of being the mish-mash garden, the random garden, or the variety garden. I don’t remember what name we finally decided on for last year, but it was rather a conglomeration of different things last year, including the quinoa and the Italian vegetables.

Let’s take a look at this year’s plans for The Random Garden.

Bed 1

As you can see, this bed has a lot going on! We also have plans for each season. The first part of the bed is planted to 2 different varieties of Summer Squash: ‘Segev’ and ‘Partenon.’ These squash varieties are parthenocarpic. Yes, I know that’s a big scary word. Basically, it means that unlike other squashes, these varieties do not need pollination in order to set fruit. Why choose one of those varieties? Because we can cover them with row cover for the entire season in hopes to protect them from squash vine borers! We’ll have to see how that turns out!

In the center two sections of the garden we are trying two different peanut varieties. ‘Schronce’s Deep Black’ has black skins inside the peanut shells. ‘Tennessee Red’ is a Virginia type that is supposed to be earlier maturing.

The other end of the bed is a lettuce/salad green garden. We have selected several varieties of lettuce that feature different colors, leaf shapes, and types. We also have ‘Maribor’ Kale and ‘Electric Neon Blend’ Swiss Chard that we hope will grow through the summer and into the fall.

Once the spring lettuce is done, we are following that with a planting of Edamame (soybeans that are eaten at the green stage, like in Japanese cuisine). The variety we chose ‘Butterbeans’ is supposed to be high yielding and flavorful. After the edamame, we will plant spinach for the fall.

Following the squash, we will plant some more lettuce for the fall, some repeated varieties and others just for fall, including a dark red romaine, ‘Thurinus.’

Monday PhotoEssay – September 15th

Long time, no blogging! I spent 10 days visiting family at the beginning of September, and then last week was busy with catching up. I really intended to get a blog post up last week, but…well, good intentions were only that!

Anyway, a lot has happened in the garden since then! Let’s take a look!

Clearly the biggest change is the removal of the trellis at the end of the close bed. The pumpkins and melons were done and have been replaced with some fall greens. There are lots of other places where we had open spots that have been planted to fall vegetables as well.

We needed to put a couple more clamps on the drip lines in the strawberry and peanut bed last week, which meant disturbing some of the plants. Do you see the peanut that got pulled up in the process? It is right in the middle of the drip line. It is good to know that there actually are peanuts growing under there!

The African Blue Basil is just swarming with bees, so a picture doesn’t really do it justice. I did catch this semi-closeup of a bigger bumblebee. Can you see any other bees in this picture? I think I might see three, but it is hard to tell.

The Mexican Blue Sage has started blooming in the last few weeks. It is also difficult to do justice in a picture. The plant is huge, and the flower spikes are a great shade of purple. You should come see it in real life!

Our Fall Italian garden looks pretty sad at the moment. There really are quite a few things growing, but they are still really small. We have onions, fennel, kale, and chicory growing. We ended up putting a little straw over the soil where we planted the fennel, and that seems to have helped bolster germination quite a bit.

In contrast, the radicchio that we started indoors and transplanted in early August is looking pretty good! It hasn’t started turning red yet, since we’ve only had one night of colder temperatures, but the plants are looking great otherwise. This is a good example of the benefit of starting some things inside even during the summer, because it is so hard to get seeds going when it is still hot outside during the day. If we had started lettuce seedlings in July, we could be starting to harvest lettuce right now!

Have a great week! If all goes well, I’ll see you again on Friday if not sooner!

Friday PhotoEssay – August 22nd

Whew! It’s hot and steamy out there! I’m regretting not going out to take pictures first thing this morning.

As a result, you get the shadowy version of the whole garden today. Shadowy and slightly wilty, especially if you are talking about the pumpkins. It’s a good thing they’re almost ripe, because the plants are almost done for.

Also in the not so spectacular category are the zinnias. They usually look great, until all of a sudden they have powdery mildew. Then they look awful until we decide to take them out. And that is really the best option. I think we’re getting near that point here.

Apparently the peanuts are thoroughly enjoying the weather, because they are growing like crazy. I know they don’t look like much from the top, but I’m hopeful that  they will be pretty spectacular when we harvest later this fall!

Have I give you the spiel on how peanuts grow already? I can’t remember. Anyway, what you are looking at in the very center of the picture are the ovary tubes growing down into the soil that will grow the peanuts. Those reddish-brown sticks coming off the stem are what I’m talking about. The plants are still blooming too, which means even more peanuts!

Ironically, the trellis over the walkway has been rather pathetic this year, with both varieties not doing a lot of climbing. But who needs a trellis arch when the okra and the tomatoes can grow together over the path all by themselves? It’s starting to feel a bit like a jungle out here.

Denise made some yummy Indian dishes for our Saturday Sampler last Saturday. This is the Quinoa Chickpea Curry. The recipes should be up on the website soon, but in the meantime you can revisit other recipes here: Saturday Sampler Recipes.

Have a great weekend!