Bean arbor

May. 12th, 2008 10:44 pm
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Today I planted beans on the magnificent bean arbor [profile] magscanner created, many of them in pairs for comparison:

Kwintus and Smeraldo, flat Italian style beans
Blue Lake (round green, from 2 different sources)
King of the Garden and Dreer's Improved limas
Golden lima (not a true lima)
BB Wax (round yellow)
Big Mama (green frosted with lavender, our favorite for grilling [yes, grilled!])
Marvel of Venice (yellow flat Italian)

Plus on the tallest of the painted ladders I planted Dutch White Runner.

Next to go out are a few more peppers (most are already out), winter squash, cucumbers, melons, and more dry bean varieties (haven't decided which ones yet, but Ethiopian Yellow Lentils for sure -- they look like hominy when cooked). Oh yeah, and flowers in between things.

The raspberry crop is looking impressively heavy this year, and I spotted the first hint of color on one today! Salivates in eager anticipation. The variety is Tulameen, sweet & delicious. According to one chart, it's a late summer variety. Guess my plants didn't read the manual.
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It's official -- I have planted too many beans. I harvested 11 1/2 lbs today. Yes, eleven. We had deliciously sweet & tender Blue Lakes for dinner tonight, Neckargold & red pepper salad for lunch today (head's up, [ profile] alces2, coming your way Monday), full & beany flavored Kwintus for dinner last night, and meltingly tender, pale yellow Marvel of Venice for dinner the night before. But there's a limit! I wonder if the InnVision shelter accepts produce donations on Sundays....

While I was harvesting, I noticed that some of the leaves were drying up. Seems the irrigation isn't working as well as it ought. So I spent a while cultivating the soil and watering, all the while wondering, "What am I doing?!? I want these beans to produce even more?!?" But, but, they're so pretty. So lush and green. And harvesting beans is such a fun treasure hunt. And I've waited so long for them. I'm not actually tired of beans yet, just a little, um, shell-shocked. (hah hah)

If you're in the area and want fresh, delicious, home-grown organic beans, speak up NOW.

Varieties, for anyone who cares: Blue Lake, Kwintus, SuperMarconi, Neckargold, Marvel of Venice, Scarlet Emperor, Big Mama (not producing yet, thank god), Brittle Wax, and Beurre de Roquencourt.

Have I mentioned that the limas have started setting already? All three varieties? No pole limas this year, at least!


Jun. 22nd, 2005 02:34 pm
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Remember my cherry geekery discussion about the two types of cherries, bigarreau and gean? I assumed since the first term was French, the second was also, probably pronounced like the French man's name Jean. But no. I just learned that it's an anglicization of the French word guines and is pronounced like the English woman's name Jean. Amusant, non? But see correction below

Also, gean is supposedly the common name for the British wild sweet cherry (Prunus avium), one of the parents of modern sweet cherries -- confirmation from any UK readers? Is gean in common usage there?

Correction: gean is pronounced with a hard 'g' as in guy. This makes sense because the French word has a hard 'g' also. I should have read my dictionary more carefully.
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Dinner tonight: grilled shrimp in garlic Meyer lemon marinade, grilled onions, grilled squash, grilled figs (first of the season!), butter lettuce salad (with toasted walnuts, walnut oil, and fleur de sel) and black rice. Onions, squash, figs, and lettuce all home grown.

I can definitely say that Patty Pan Wood's Prolific beats out my old fave Patty Pan Custard White (they just call it Patty Pan on the web page, but in the printed catalog and on the packet it says Custard White). Wood's Prolific is whiter, denser, sweeter, and simply tastier. Not that Custard White is any slacker, but Wood's is even better.

Now I need to wait a few weeks until my French white patty pan Polo produces some fruit to do the next comparison. They claim it tastes like artichoke hearts.

Yes, I am a sad bunny. Not only do I grow eight varieties of summer squash, not only are four of them patty pans, but three of those are white patty pans that I'm growing to compare with each other. Can we say obsessive? Still, they're tastier than the French White and Egyptian White zucchinis I grew last year for comparison. Mild flavor is faint praise with summer squash.

Btw, have I mentioned the beans? The bean harvest has started. Kwintus is absolutely astonishing. Great flavor, huge beans (8-10 inches, really!), and prolific. I've already frozen some, given some away to two neighbors and another friend, and eaten some ourselves. And I've only been picking them since Friday!!! Could be scary, folks.

The pepper harvest is looking promising, some of the okra is living, the cukes are climbing, and the lettuce is heading. Life is good.
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It rained last night! This is an extraordinary event here in the Bay Area where it generally doesn't rain from April to October. The garden loved it. I am pleased I remembered to bring the seat cushions in so they didn't get soggy.

First bean harvest today! I admit, they could have benefited from another couple days growth, but I couldn't wait. Filet beans, I said to myself. Blue Lake, Kwintus, Beurre de Roquencourt, and Brittle Wax all had some ready. They were lovely. I started my beans indoors and transplanted them out which most gardening books tell you not to do. But it works great! Beans need warmth to germinate and will rot in cold soil, but once they've germinated, they grow quite happily in cool soil. It's a great trick that almost every gardener could benefit from. I'm thrilled, I tell you, thrilled, though I'm beginning to doubt my wisdom in planting seven varieties of pole beans. *gulp*
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Just to let anyone interested know: we won't be at Wiscon this year. It's intentional this time, not because we missed our plane like last time (ahem). I have regrets, but in theory we're going use the money to go to Italy in the fall instead -- stay tuned.

On brighter topics, summer is finally here! Flip-flops! Barefeet even! Sitting outside in the shade and not shivering in the cold breeze! Zucchini! (No, wait....)

Actually, we love summer squash, especially grilled. It's just about the only way we eat them. The dry heat intensifies their almost non-existent delicate flavor. This year I'm growing:

Horn of Plenty -- a yellow crookneck

Black -- a very dark green zucchini

Custard White -- a tasty white patty pan

Wood's Prolific -- another white patty pan, to see how it compares

Polo -- a third white patty pan which claims to taste like artichoke heart!

Jaune Panaché -- a yellow patty pan with green stripes

Paydon Family -- an acorn type eaten as a summer squash

Zapallo del Tronco -- another winter squash that is very tasty eaten as a summer squash (not particularly tasty as a winter squash). I grew it once before and we liked it a lot, but it was TOO PRODUCTIVE. I will only allow 1 vine to grow this time.

Yeah, it's a lot, but they're all going to die of powdery mildew in August or so anyhow. We'll have had our fill by then.

More garden news )
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I went to Annie's Annuals yesterday "just to look." Hah! Okay, I admit, I sort of had in mind that if I found an auricula, it would follow me home. Considering what she has on offer, I think I'm lucky to have escaped with only 9 others. (Btw, she sells many perennials as well, despite the name.)

Click here for plant geek list )

Afterwards I picked M up at the Richmond library facility where he was researching magazine cover art. We went to Solano Cellars to get more of an absolutely delicious madiran. Tasted some of the wines they had on offer while indulging in a yummy mushroom, pancetta, and gorgonzola pizzetta appetizer (with springs of marjoram, fantastic). Tore ourselves away to get real dinner at Kirin (excellent northern Chinese cuisine). Then off to Freight & Salvage to see Old Blind Dogs. A fine time was had by all.

For your amusement, an article on choosing tomatoes to plant based on your astrological sign.
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What we fondly refer to as our meadow, M's particular pride and joy:

What you can't really see in this picture are the topiary-esque structures he created for the convolvulus to climb. Though they don't so much climb as engulf.
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The gophers have taken out five tomatoes so far. Five! None of the traps we set Friday had been tripped.

Today I learned how to smoke bomb gophers. Die, die, die. (Fingers crossed.)

Die, die!

May. 13th, 2005 09:08 pm
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An evil gopher ate one of my Master Gardener trial tomatoes! Every last bit of the 30" tall plant was gone, pulled down into the tunnel and consumed, except for the last 4" which was all that was sticking out of the ground this morning. Yes, it really is like Chip and Dale, entire plants pulled underground. I didn't believe it until I saw it.

I hope it gets a terrible stomach ache! Or better yet, runs into the traps we set, though I am doubtful that we set them in the right places.

I do have back up plants. But it bodes ill for the growing season.
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Monday I moved all the files relating to my now defunct boutique jelly business out of the file cabinet and into long-term storage. I then moved a bunch of Master Gardener material into the now vacated file cabinet. Woo hoo! All winter long I kept intending to do it some rainy day, but did I? No. So I figured It Was A Sign when we got rain on Monday (awfully late in California for a rainy day, usually no rain from April - October).

Yesterday I organized the planting of 60 tomato plants for the Master Gardeners tomato trials. I think we even got the right ones into the right holes. Later I shelled a million fava beans while watching Alton Brown and Jaques Pepin. Ate half for dinner, made the rest into a garlicky salad for later.

Today I listed 2 items on Craig's List. I've been vaguely thinking of doing this for the past year. First time listing, we'll see what happens. Also made rose petal jelly (for friends & family only, no more selling). Made socca for dinner, as best I can considering I don't have a copper 'plaque' or a hot wood-fired oven. Went great with the fava bean salad and roasted artichokes with garlic & lemon. Mmm.

Socca de Nice

Beet blood

Apr. 12th, 2005 09:40 pm
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Many beets have given their lives for tonight's borscht feast. Actually, they were on their last legs anyhow, bolting due to the onset of warm weather. I roasted them yesterday while cooking and freezing several packages of beet greens (yum!), then made borscht with the roasted beets today, tasting each one to make sure it hadn't gone bitter. Most of them were still good, much to my surprise and pleasure.

I feel more secure knowing there are 4 quart containers of borscht in the deep freeze.

The varieties I grew this year were: Cylindra, Detroit Dark Red, Feuer Kugel, Golden, and Dewing's Early Blood Turnip. Love the name of that last one.
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My tree peony is blooming! Prolifically too, 5 buds, the most it's ever had.

My lilac is done blooming. Alas. At least it had a long run this year, having started just after the spring heat wave instead of just before as is its wont. I have the last blooms in a vase on the table.

Said vase also holds several daffodils, including the ones that I planted on January 30 after keeping the poor things on the back porch since November. They bloom! What forgiving creatures.

The aforementioned heat wave, glorious though it was, triggered bolting in several of my plants including all of my frisées and escaroles (weep, we hardly had a chance to enjoy them), some of the lettuces, all of the mustards (though they're still quite edible, so no problem), and the spinach. The peas succumbed to powdery mildew as usual, but we had a good run of them. The chard is perfectly happy still.

I finally made a chard stem gratin which I've been wanting to do for ages (blanched chard stems, salt, white pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 c cream, fresh breadcrumbs on top) and it was divine! I'm still amazed at how something that simple can taste so great. Of course, having a delicious French chard (with huge, 2-3 inch wide stems) was a contributing factor.

We prepared a new flower bed last weekend and I populated it with lilies, cannas, and gladiolas, most of which hadn't been held too horribly long. Well, okay, a little long, but I think they'll make it. After they come up, I'll interplant with sundry annuals & perennials. Perhaps some new pelargoniums, which I've recently been learning a lot about thanks to [ profile] brisingamen and especially [ profile] idahoswede.

I started moving seedlings outside to harden off today. I need room in the sunroom to pot up more! I have some of the healthiest peppers and eggplants this year that I've ever grown. Now I need to decide if I'm going to plant them out or (what I ought to do) pot them up into gallons and hold them for a month. Though last year we had a warm April and a cold May, so the 'hold it for a month' strategy totally backfired. Seedlings that got established in April did great, while seedlings that went out in May failed to thrive. Where's my crystal ball?
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Mackerel is good! Fresh from 99 Ranch (on sale for $1.19/lb -- normally an exhorbinant $1.69/lb), stuffed with fennel greens and lemon zest, slashed and sprinkled with salt, grilled until crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Yum! Must grill mackerel more often.

Terry G. is visiting, so we indulgently had fresh Dungeness crab last night and fresh mackerel tonight. We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium today, so we knew what we'd be in the mood for. I gotta say, it's a toss up which one I liked best. I mean, crab is great, but that mackerel, mmmm. I swear, if it cost as much as salmon, it would be just as revered. But the status quo is fine with me -- I'll eat all the cheap mackerel I can manage.

We checked out the Forest of Nicene Marks on the way back. Must go back and hike when drier. Then we took the very scenic Soquel-San Jose road home. Tomorrow: Copia.

Garden note: Purple Cape cauliflower (OP, from Seed Savers) is very late and not purple throughout like Graffiti (F1) is. It was nicely late, whereas Graffiti was all done in January (from a September planting). But it's oddly greeny-white with just a coating of purple over the tops of the florets. I think I'll stick with Graffiti.

And yes, I've ordered Cheddar, the new orange cauliflower.
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Yesterday I cut into one of the weird Australian squashes that I grew. It's called Triamble. (Friends from down under, are you familiar with it or is it unusual there too? If you do know it, tell me how to pronounce it, like triangle or like triage?) It really did have a roughly triangular shape, with three large lobes.

It wasn't that large but weighed 13 lbs. Cutting it open, you can see why. It's incredibly dense, with hardly any seed cavity. It was challenging! It was also absolutely delicious. Not the most productive squash I have grown (4 squashes, but one is probably immature and a second may be also), but tasty and amusing. I'll probably grow it again.

See pix. )

I'm mildly bummed that no one commented on the lovely purple cauliflower featured in my last post. Is purple cauliflower so passé already? I'm always the last to know.

I will end this post with a quote from Moby Dick, my favorite from the entire book:

"The skeleton dimensions I shall now proceed to set down are copied verbatim from my right arm, where I had them tattooed; as in my wild wanderings at that period, there was no other secure way of preserving such valuable statistics. But as I was crowded for space, and wished the other parts of my body to remain a blank page for a poem I was then composing--at least, what untattooed parts might remain--I did not trouble myself with the odd inches; nor, indeed, should inches at all enter into a congenial admeasurement of the whale."
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I pruned roses today. I pruned roses yesterday. I will prune roses tomorrow.

This is what comes of having 70+ rose bushes, despite giving away/shovel pruning a dozen last winter. There may be even more shovel pruning in the near future. Poor Charles de Milles had been entirely supplanted by Dr. Huey (an extremely vigorous Dr. Huey, I might add) and was removed today.

In other garden news, I am thrilled with my fennel bulbs which I am growing for the first time this year. Our winter growing season is kind of like a really, really extended spring, except that instead of gradually growing warmer and the days getting longer, it gets cooler and the days get shorter. Some veggies are quite happy with this, while others sulk, get sickly, or out and out die. Fennel, I'm delighted to report, are apparently quite happy being transplanted out in September here.

Brassicas (the cabbage family) are also generally happy with this regimen. But I planted them too close together at my community garden and am paying the price now -- stressed plants attract aphids. The cauliflowers are one-shots anyhow, so they're coming out as they mature, which will give the broccoli some elbow room. Here's a picture of my fabulous purple cauliflower, 2 1/2 lbs.Picture )

The results are in on my personal spinach trial -- no savoyed spinaches ever, ever again! I spent ages cleaning a mere 9 oz for dinner tonight. It's Oriental Giant from now on. Lovely, smooth, arrowhead-shaped leaves on long stems held high about the dirt, slugs, and snails. Yes!

Still, the Spinach with Lemon and Raisins was worth the hassle in the end. It's a recipe I adore -- quick (except if you're painstakingly washing your own spinach), delicious, and unusual. Recipe, for anyone interested. )

Lastly, I planted my bulbs today. Finally. Yes, well, I know it's late, quite late. Probably too late. Poor things were sprouting in their little net bags. But they arrived in November, and December was so busy, and it's been raining so much in January, and I couldn't remember where I thought I was going to put the silly things anyhow. But M had taken advantage of the sunny day and moist ground to weed the fruit hedge (more on that later). Since there are already some daffodils residing there, I decided the new bulbs could join their siblings. Done! 2 1/2 months of guilt finally laid to rest. I swear, I'll never again order bulbs until I know exactly where I'm going to put them and have prepared it in advance.

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The Santa Clara Master Gardener Spring Garden Market is this coming Saturday, so we're all in full prep for it. I just spent many, many hours getting the tomato seedling lists (111 varieties!) ready for copying. And I'm locating many objects in the house destined for the Green Elephant Table (no, [ profile] spikeiowa, no tins. But many baskets!).

Yesterday I potted up seedlings -- tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. My own, that is, not MG. Although I do still have custody of the several dozen Ferris Wheel tomatoes that we hope to deploy about the Santa Clara Valley. This tomato was superb last year, both in my garden and in our research facility. I got the seeds (10 only!) from someone who got them from the USDA seed base. They've been out of circulation for decades now, but it's time to reintroduce them. Whee!

Tonight we had a belated corned beef and cabbage dinner. Heavenly. My own cabbage even, an Early Jersey Wakefield. Plus Lutz beets, although I roasted them rather than boiling them.

Tomorrow: red flannel hash.
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