Tucking in the Garden

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 8.36.00 PM.pngFrost is expected again tonight.  Jim M. and I covered as much as we could with the sheets and row cover we had but not all beds are covered.

If it matters to you, go to the garden and throw a sheet over your tender plants tonight.

BTW – Covering the beds with fabric and an upholster is good fun. He was pulling the cover, draping it like a pro, securing it here and there with an exaggerated care.

“Upholsterers don’t like wrinkles,” he said with a smile.

Made my day. I’m still chuckling. Thanks twice, Jim. Once for coming out to help and agains for the good humor.

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Black Beauty Tomato, Worth the Wait

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.22.31 PMThe color alone is a good reason to grow this tomato. The skin is a solid blue black that is a stunning contrast in a salad of yellow and red tomatoes.

What makes it black?

This tomato has a very high anthocyanin content. This is the same antioxidant found in blueberries and blackberries.

All tomatoes were slow to ripen this year, but Black Beauty was very slow. I kept testing to see if the skin gave a little to indicate it was time to pick and finally, yesterday, it was.

When I cut into the it, the meat was green, blushed red.  The taste was rich, savory, slightly acidic and complex. I liked it.

At the National Heirloom Exposition, Baker Creek’s Dave Kaiser, a tomato connoisseur, called Black Beauty the best tomato he had ever eaten. It’s good all right. And I love the wildly different color for adding pizazz to a plate.  

But I’m not calling it the best. I’m holding out for a truly great tomato.

Any  recommendations?

Beautiful Blue Borage Flowers

Next time, you’re in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens, look at the community herb plot for an arresting display of blue flowers on the borage plants. Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.32.19 PM.png

The flowers are star-shaped and can be added to salads, frozen in water in ice cube trays for fancy ice cubes when serving drinks, or sugared, like violets, to garnish cupcakes for a garden party.

Borage is an ancient herb and has other uses, too. For one thing, it is an excellent soil enhancer as it contains calcium and potassium. It also attracts beneficial insects especially bees, and is said to repel tomato hornworms when planted alongside tomato plants.

But my favorite use is to make crystallized flowers. And, it’s easy.

Recipe for Crystalized Flowers

Pick the flowers when they are dry and fully open. You can also do this with violets, rose petals, nasturtiums, and pansies.

Lightly beat an egg white. In a separate shallow bowl, have a 1/4 cup of superfine granulated sugar. With a paintbrush, paint the egg white onto the flower getting into all the nooks and crannies. Then dip it into the sugar. You may want to use a second paintbrush to get the sugar well distributed. Shake off the excess sugar and place the flowers on parchment paper to dry. Once dry, use them to decorate your cakes, desserts, pancakes. They even look pretty on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The community herb bed is grown for the use of all the Pitney Meadows Community Garden gardeners. If you would like to join us next season and have access to the plants, let me know.

 

 

When Should You Harvest and How?

 

Does how you harvest make a difference? Yes.

If done right, the plant will continue to produce. Done incorrectly, and you can do damage that will limit how much your plants produce and how long the vegetables you pick will last.

Here are some tips on harvesting some of the vegetables we have growing in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens.  If you have a particular question, email me. I’m here to help.

Tomatoes

Harvest when they give a little when squeezed.  To those who are growing Black Beauty tomatoes this is how we will be able to judge when this heirloom tomato is ripe. The usual visual clue of waiting for the red color of a fully ripened tomato just won’t work with this tomato. As the name implies, the skin here is nearly black. See image.Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 8.51.46 AM.png

If you have Green Zebra tomatoes in your plot, look for yellow stripes that are starting to blush.

Kale and Chard

Keep removing the outer leaves. Don’t cut off the growing crown.

You can also just harvest the young leaves when they are about four inches tall by cutting them about an inch above the soil.

Beans

You want to pinch the beans from the stem with your fingernail. If need be, use a small pruning shears.  Don’t yank the beans off as you might break the stem. Harvest while the beans are young, between four to seven inches long. and plump.

Cucumbers 

Resist the temptation to twist the cucumber off the plant. It is better to use a clippers. And don’t wait too long.  If it is starting to yellow, it is past prime. Pick it quickly.

Eggplant

Look for a glossy sheen. This indicates it is ready for picking.

For those growing white eggplants you want to pick them before the skin starts to turn yellow. Use a pruning shears and cut keeping a stub of the stem attached. The eggplant will last longer.

Squash

Pick zucchini and summer squash when they are about 5 to 7 inches long. Patty Pan is best at 3 inches.

When winter squash is ready to be harvested it will have a hard skin and be difficult to puncture with a fingernail. Cut the squash leaving a three inch stub of a stem.

 

 

 

 

 

Have Questions About How to Use What You Have Grown?

Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 11.07.38 AMTwo programs on using all the delicious produce you have grown in the garden are planned in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens.

The first is Thursday, August 31 at 7 p.m. when Pattie Garrett, R.D. and Nicole Cunningham R.D. will discuss familiar and some unfamiliar ways to prepare and preserve your bounty.  There will be taste testing to enjoy.

And on Sept. 14,  Barbara Biagioli, health and nutrition counselor, will discuss building a healthy lunch box.  Barbara will share quick, healthy and  kid-friendly recipes inspired by the fresh foods grown in the gardens.

Come join us. All lectures are free and start at 7 p.m.

From the Garden’s Bounty

salsa.jpg

Cathy A. , one of our Pitney Meadows Community Gardens gardeners emailed me this photo of salsa verde she made from the tomatillos and peppers growing in her plot and two jars of pickles from the pickling cucumbers she grew.

She reported the salsa was delicious.

What have you made from your harvest?

I know some delicious pesto has been made by Martel C. as I was a grateful recipient of a jar. Thank you. It was so good.

If you have a recipe you particularly like, send it along. I’ll publish it here.

And if you need a snippet of an herb or two, remember we have the community herb beds that any community gardener can harvest from. These are the two raised beds with the colorful rocks the girl scouts made as markers for the herbs and it is located near the shed.

Enjoy. I hope to see you in the garden.

 

Do You Know When to Harvest Onions?

I was recently asked this question in the garden.

If you know the clues,  onions tell you.

When onions are mature, the tops yellow and naturally fall over.

When most of the onion planting has flopsy tops, harvest. To harvest dig around the bulbs, pull them up and cure them by spreading them on a surface where there is good ventilation. I have found using an old window screen as a shelf in the corner of the garage works well.

Let them dry for two to three weeks. You know they are ready when the tops are dry and the outer skin is paper dry, crisp to the touch.  Trim off the roots and tops.

If your harvest was abundant and you want to store some for winter, place them in a container with good air flow. Some people use mesh bags but a cardboard box with some holes cut through works too.

If the onions are kept cool, around 40 degrees, and away from sunlight they can last for months.

Gardener’s Tip: While you are harvesting onions, try not to bruise them. They will last longer.