Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

It’s been two weeks since I’ve posted, but the vegetable beds haven’t provided many reasons to post.  It’s the time of the year to remove spent plants and their supports (trellises, cages) from the beds.  The recent rains have made it easier, but not easy, to pull up the 6’ fence posts that supports the cages and trellises.   Only the trellis that supports a small planting of sugar snap peas remains. 

Last week the total harvest was 4 oz of green beans.  I was hoping to get one more picking, but the sunny weather was cut short by several overcast days.  The beans have been in a race against the bean beetles, and as long as the sun was shining they were producing fast enough to stay ahead of the beetles.  Once the sun was blocked the beetles took the lead.  It was time to take out the beans. 

I was hoping the beds would produce a pound per square foot this year – 250 pounds – but it doesn’t look like I’ll reach that number.  Still, there’s a 4x8 bed of leeks and parsnips that hasn’t been disturbed so I expect to add to the 205 pounds that I’ve picked to this point.   I’ll start pulling parsnips in a month or so.  Not making excuses, but the bacterial wilt killed the cucumbers and all the squash except the butternut this year, a major setback, but something always happens every year.   These are the parsnips, the foliage still green:
This week I picked a batch of peppers – Hungarian wax, red hot cherry, giant marconi and pimento – and made more salsa using the same routine that I posted earlier.  The marconi’s don’t peel as easily as the Cubanelles after roasting but the flavor is mighty fine.  For the salsa I added about 10 more cherry peppers that were in the refrigerator.  The heat level is about right.
The potatoes were an experiment this year.  I planted Red Pontiac in three cages this year, and planted Yukon Gold in front of the cages on the south side of the bed.  Nearly all the potatoes were done by midsummer, succumbing to the fungi and pathogens that attack them.  One cage of potatoes showed a lot of new growth at the base of the stems, so I let the potatoes in that cage set out new foliage in the hopes that they would produce more spuds. 
The first light frost on Sunday morning left the potato foliage looking worse for the wear.  I got the pitchfork and dug up spuds - a little over 7 pounds of potatoes.  The reddish potatoes are likely the newer ones that resulted from the second growth of foliage, while most of the potato harvest is the older potatoes.  The previous cages produced about 4 ½ pounds per cage, so this cage produced more taters.  The bigger potatoes showed some pest damage but it doesn’t look systemic.  The new small potatoes should make some nice redskins with butter and parsley. 
Next year I plan to space the cages to allow for better airflow, maybe plant onions between the cages.    They sure are good, much better than store bought.  I’d like to get 10 pounds per cage next year.
I got one last eggplant then pulled the plant.  This was a large plant, about 5’ tall, and it had an impressive root system, much deeper than a tomato plant, and not easy to pull up.   The peppers are hanging on but the frost withered the leaves somewhat.   Too bad, they have a lot of peppers that will never mature.  There’s still some Chinese cabbage, lettuce and spinach growing in the beds.  Not done yet. 
Yields (two weeks):  Green beans 4 oz;  Eggplant 4 oz;  Sweet peppers 17 oz;  Hot peppers 11 oz;  Potatoes 7 lb 1 oz.  And a catfish, 9 oz of fillets.  Totals for the year are under the Results tab. 

Monday, October 17, 2011


Hope the eggplant doesn’t find out that summer is over.  The eggplants have some surface blemish but are sound.   Same with peppers and beans.  This month has had a lot of sunny warm weather and even though the days are short the warm weather plants are producing more now than they were a month ago.  Not at summer levels to be sure but any production is a bonus at this point.

The last patch of Provider beans produced almost two pounds this week.  Many of the beans had to be tossed because of beetle damage.  About 10 days ago I picked any beans of size then sprayed with pyrethrins to control the bean beetle.  Since then I’ve given up on spraying.  I’ll probably get a few more pickings before the cold weather and the beetle combine to put an end to it.
I’ve wanted to make salsa with the bumper crop of red hot cherry peppers.  The Brandywine tomatoes are no more, except for some orange split tomatoes on the picnic table which may or may not mature, so I used a can of plum tomatoes, or plum-shaped tomatoes as it says on the can (????). 

While grilling chicken this weekend I put two whole Cubanelle peppers at the edge of the grill and let them cook with the chicken, turning them several times.  By the time the chicken was done the Cubanelles were lightly charred all around.  I put them in a plastic tub and sealed it.    After an hour the skins slipped easily off the peppers.  A small kitchen triumph for a novice, this is the first time I’ve successfully deskinned a grilled pepper.  And the flavor,  sweet and smoky, perfect for salsa.  Here’s how it was made:
Plum tomatoes from 28 oz can or better yet fresh tomatoes
2 Cubanelle peppers, grilled and deskinned, deseeded
6 Red hot cherry peppers, seeds removed
2 Hungarian wax peppers, seeds removed
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of ½ lime
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
            Parsley and greek oregano, fresh

Put tomatoes in a blender and break up briefly.  Stir onion in a little olive oil at low/medium heat until translucent to remove pungency.  Add garlic to onion, stir briefly then add to blender.  Dice peppers, parsley (use a lot) and oregano (not too much), add to mix.   Add lime and vinegar (I added vinegar later to give the salsa more bite, more lime juice would probably work as well).  Add tomato liquid to desired consistency.  Salt to taste.  Blend to desired texture.  Let sit overnight. 

How’d it turn out?  Darned good.  It wasn’t hot enough for my taste, which was surprising, since the red hot cherry peppers have been comparable to jalapenos in heat.  Maybe the autumn hot peppers don’t have the heat of the summer peppers.  Next time I’ll throw a Serrano into the mix.  The flavor was excellent, slightly smoky but fresh.  It wasn’t a good sauce for eggs, but as a fresh dip for tortilla chips it was nearly impossible to stop dipping.
Yields for the week:  Beans 31 oz;  Eggplant 10 oz;  Sweet pepper 10 oz;  Hot pepper 13 oz.  Closing in on 200 pounds for the year.     

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sweedey Hollow revisit

The excellent fall weather prompted me to do another hike at Morgan-Monroe State Forest.   I got to the Low Gap trailhead on Sunday afternoon at about 4 PM, too late to go very far with the shorter days.  I hiked to the top of the ridge and down the other side to a bottoms area where some creeks intersect.  This is where most of the backpackers put up for the night.  This area is isolated from the roads and usually has reliable water from the creeks until July.  I’ve walked the dry creek beds and found a few geodes in the past.

 A few of the trees are changing, but peak color is another week away.

On Tuesday I went back and hiked the section of trail to Sweedy Hollow.  About a month ago I hiked the hollow and wrote a post about it.  The camera batteries were low and I only got a few pictures before they went dead.  This time the batteries were fresh but the shadows were long.  I reached the hollow about 4:30 PM and found sunlight in short supply.  Most of the pics were blurry from poor exposure with my basic point and shoot camera, but a few shots were OK.  The weird rock formations in the hollow make it an intriguing place to visit.

This picture was taken standing underneath the largest overhang.  It’s a very dark and damp place.  I always think about all that mass of rock overhead.

I didn’t stay long.  The sun was getting low and the trail was sometimes hard to see beneath the leaves. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 10, 2011

For the last week and a half the weather has been warm with ample sunshine.  Not only is the grass a verdant green, the garden has been producing some vegetables lately.  It’s nothing compared to summer production but I’ll take whatever it will give me.  The last patch of Provider beans are still hanging on.  The beans look different this time of year, and many have some insect damage, but they are still beans, and still mighty tasty.  I also got two eggplant, a Marconi pepper and a Cubanelle pepper.  Enough to roast beans and grill eggplant for company this weekend. 

This is what the garden is up against now.  This picture was taken at 10:30 AM looking south.  The peppers are just  getting the first direct sun of the day.

And here’s a picture taken at 3:30 PM the same day, facing WNW.  The peppers have been in the shade about 20 minutes or so.  There’s a large red oak tree that casts a lot of afternoon shade in the fall.  The beds get about 4 ½ hours of direct sun right now, and less everyday. 

I don’t know if the Chinese cabbage will get to a head before it just stops growing.  I’m still hoping for some lettuce.   It’s just about over, and I’m already planning out next years beds.  

Yields for the week:  Snap beans: 21 oz;  Eggplant 12 oz;  Sweet peppers 12 oz.     

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Short post October 4, 2011

September was a crummy month weather-wise.  Lots of overcast, cool days – November weather.  This week is supposed to be sunny and warm, no rain, highs in the high 70’s.  I hope so, the beds should produce some more with some sunlight, even this late in the year. 

I picked the rest of the Butternut squash (Metro from Johnny’s) on Sunday.  The overnight temperature was supposed to drop into the 30’s and I did not want to chance a frost.  I got 9 squash from one vine this year.    Two of the butternuts set in midsummer and the color of the skin is paler than the others.  Don't know if they will taste as good as the ripe ones.

With a few sunny days last week some more eggplant matured.  Also snap beans, a pound.  Not great but it’s something. 

Well I forgot the notes with the actual weights, but it was something like 9 pounds squash, one pound beans, 12 oz eggplant and a few peppers.   About 190 pounds for the year now – I’ll update the figures later.   Cheers
Correction it was 8 oz eggplant, 2 oz hot peppers.  Totals are updated on the Results page.