Archive for the ‘veggies’ Category
Last summer and this fall, I missed having my blog to refer to regarding which varieties of flowers, herbs and vegetables I planted last spring, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to keep a record here of my activities.
About a month ago, my friend Pam gave me three different types of garlic to try out and today, I finally got them in the ground. The larger vegetable garden we have is mostly in shade until the sun comes back around next spring, so I planted them in the new raised bed Dan built last spring. It gets lots of sun and the soil temperature today is 68°F, while the air temperature is 50.
The three types are (in order of planting – left, center, right, in the front of the bed):
- German Extra Hardy – unique and strong taste that lingers for a while after eating. Winter-friendly and produces very large bulbs each with 4-5 cloves. Long roots give it the ability to winter over without heaving out of the ground. Strong raw flavor and a high sugar content making it one on the best for roasting.
- Viola Francese – softneck variety grown all over SW France and NW Italy. Large purple and white cloves and excellent flavor. The bulbs are huge — 4-5 bulbs per pound. About 15 cloves per bulb.
- Transylvanian – the famed artichoke garlic of the Dracula legends. Harvests in late spring/early summer – stores into winter. Can get quite large.
Clove of German Extra Hardy Garlic
In southeastern Virginia, we’re lucky to have a long growing season, and we actually have two cool growing seasons: in the spring and again in the fall. Since the average date of the first frost is November 21 (my honey’s birthday – easy to remember!), we can plant from seed now and harvest into November. We will actually harvest some hardy greens and root vegetables next spring.
Last week, I went to a lecture by Portsmouth Master Gardener Fred Hersey at the Churchland Library in Portsmouth. Here are my notes from that lecture, embellished with a few tips of my own; we don’t eat cooking greens like collards and mustard greens, so I didn’t take notes on those.
Again, we have two goals for the fall garden:
- Eat during the fall – carrots, parsnips, green beans, peas, salad and other greens
- Grow through the winter – greens, spinach, arugula, garlic, onions
Check seed packages for for their maturity date and count backwards from first frost. There are now about 60 days left, so bush snap beans, peas, etc., that will mature in less than 60 days can be planted now.
If we don’t get several days in a row of hard frost, we can plant these crops and they will thrive through the winter: greens like Swiss chard, lettuce and arugula and root crops like carrots, parsnips, garlic and onions.
Root crops need loose, well-drained soil so they can grow, and you can leave them in the ground until you want to use them. If you need to get them out of the ground, you can put them in a container of sand, root end down, for storage.
Once you decide what to grow, the next step is to prepare the soil for planting and add nutrients. It’s ideal to have a soil test done by Virginia Tech that will tell you what the pH is and the levels of particular nutrients in your soil, like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus; you can get a quick test done at some garden centers which will only tell you the pH. If you can’t do that in time, it’s okay; just make sure you fertilize properly. The Virginia Tech test costs $10 for in-state testing; you can get a test kit and instructions at any Virginia Cooperative Extension office.
Moisten soil the day before planting and rake or till it up, depending on how large your space is. Mushroom compost is a good choice for fertilizer. You can buy it from Norfolk County Feed & Seed and probably other garden centers. If you use something other than compost for fertilizing, look for something with a low first number (nitrogen) for fruiting plants like beans and peas, since nitrogen increases foliage growth and can inhibit fruiting. Use a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content for leafy vegetables like salad greens, collards, etc.
Fertilize when planting, then side-dress about three weeks later, and then once a month. Root crops in particular are heavy feeders, so they will need nutrients during the growing season. Plant seeds deeper than you would in the spring; the soil is already warm. You can also get a head start by buying transplants from a garden center.
If you have insect problems, try an organic insect control like hot pepper spray or insecticidal soap. Using a general insecticide like Sevin will harm pollinators like bees and butterflies and other beneficial insects like ladybugs.
A few notes specific to garlic:
- Don’t fertilizer after May 15, because you will harvest them in June
- Can cut scapes (flower stalks) off when they’re 10 inches long or have a loop in them; cut up and add to skillet dishes or soups/stews
- Don’t pull – you don’t want the cloves to come apart. Dig them out.
- Don’t wash garlic heads (or onions); skins will pull off easily once they’re cured/dried. Set on a basket, for air circulation, out of the sun for a month to cure
So let’s get gardening! It’s easier than you think.
This is one of my favorite summer dishes – maque choux. It’s a little bit sweet, from the corn, and a little bit spicy, from jalapeno, and crunchy, from lightly sauteed fresh vegetables. So yummy and so pretty with all the colors of summer.
We came back from vacation to find the garden thriving, for the most part. The only plants we lost were the pickling cucumbers – but we still have full-size cucumbers. I plan to pickle some of those; I’ll just cut them into halves and then slices.
But everything else is doing well, particularly the Roma tomatoes and jalapeno and pepperoncini peppers. But we have some new babies out there that I’m really excited about. I thought they had died while we were on vacation, but the summer squash are flowering again, and there are a few babies, so soon we will have more of those.
Baby summer squash
We also have three tomatillo plants. We really love these. Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes, hence the name, but they’re actually a relative of the gooseberry plant. They have a mildly tart flavor similar to a less pungent mix of lemon and lime. I have several recipes in mind for these:
- Bobby Flay’s Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa for a fresh dip or sauce
- Rick Bayless’s Roasted Tomatillo Salsa for taco and enchilada sauces; I’m planning to can and freeze this for use later.
- I’ll also freeze some whole for Pork & Tomatillo Posole this winter.
And we have canteloupe again! Last year, we only got two or three fruits out of the vine, but they were juicy and sweet. I can only find one baby right now, but there are a lot of flowers.
I made a really delicious fruity salad with mint and vanilla-fig balsamic vinegar a few years ago, so that may be on the menu.
There was a time, as an inexperienced cook, when I rarely used fresh garlic. It was annoying to have to buy an entire head of garlic when I only needed a clove or two for a recipe, and more annoying when the rest of them dried up or sprouted before I used them. I’m still not fond of the bite of raw garlic, but it seems like almost every recipe I cook now begins with sauteeing chopped onions and minced garlic.
Dan sometimes comes sniffing into the kitchen, asking what smells so good – often, it’s just onions and garlic so far. When that combination hits a pan of hot olive oil, the savory aroma sizzles throughout the room and you know something delicious is on the way.
Last November, some of the garlic in my kitchen began to sprout. We separated the cloves and planted them in the garden, hoping the critters wouldn’t find them tasty. A couple of weeks ago, Dan and I debated whether they were ready to harvest. That’s the somewhat difficult aspect of growing bulbs and root vegetables – it’s hard to tell what they’re going to look like before you pull them.
We looked up tips on gardening websites and decided to go with the advice that, when about half the leaves have turned brown, they’re ready to pull. So we let them go a little longer. Last weekend, the leaves were browned and the plants were beginning to tip over. It seemed to be time to harvest our garlic.
We were rewarded with four beautiful, home-grown heads of garlic and now we know how to tell when the cloves are nice and plump. These will go into something very tasty very soon.
The vegetable garden is coming along beautifully – we got lots of gentle rain last weekend, which gave them just what they needed at just the right time. We’ve been harvesting some of the cool-weather crops for a few weeks now.
When garlic sprouts in the kitchen, I’m tempted to put it right into the garden. But if I do that now, when it gets hot for real, it will just fade and dry out. So we have to wait for fall. But here’s one we planted last fall that’s ready to pick. And lots of yummy Swiss chard is out there, too, for adding to salads or sauteeing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
The chives have lovely lavender blooms right now – perfect for topping a salad. A little sprinkle of chives on top of almost any savory dish gives a mild oniony flavor without the bite of raw onion.
And here’s the most recent resident of our urban farm – Tiger Gnome, a gift from my mother-in-law to the evergreen Detroit Tigers fan in our house. Peeping out from the green-bean plants, he keeps a very close eye on the goings-on out there. Hopefully he can keep Pippen from lying on the newly planted tomatoes.
So the 2012 garden is well on its way.