September Garden Tally

Ok, it turns out I lied last month. SEPTEMBER is the month of tomatoes.

I just tallied up what we harvested from the garden last month and it’s INSANE.

Tomatoes

Amish Paste: 16lbs, 11 1/8oz.

Fox Cherry: 15lbs, 3 3/4oz.

Cherokee Purple: 4lbs, 9 5/8oz.

Matt’s Wild Cherry: 2lbs, 1 5/8oz.

German Striped:  2lbs, 2/8oz.

Isis Candy: 1lb, 5/8oz.

Gilbertie: 8oz.

Other things:

Tomatillos: 4lbs, 9 1/2oz.

Green Beans: 2lbs, 4 3/4oz.

Moon and Stars Watermelon: 17lbs

Zucchini: 4lbs, 5 5/8oz.

Dry Beans: 11 1/8oz

I looked up the cost of organic tomatoes at Hannaford in this week’s flyer, and it’s $3.99/lb.

We harvested over 42 POUNDS of tomatoes in September ALONE.  At that price, we grew more than $167 worth last month. Considering we put in about $15-20 in seeds, seedlings, potting soil, mulch, fertilizer, etc. we got a great return on our investment!!

Many of those tomatoes were canned, to be used this winter in lots of tomato sauce, soups, ketchup or bbq sauce and other things.  We also froze a lot, out of pure laziness.  Canning tomatoes gets old fast, I admit.  Luckily our new chest freezer is up to the task. 🙂

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Moon and Stars Melon

This weekend we “harvested” the first of our Moon and Stars watermelon!

This is an old-fashioned variety, an heirloom that is known for it’s juiciness and tons o’ spitting seeds. Here’s the background on the watermelon from the Slow Food website:

In the mid 1970s, Kent Whealy began to hear from his Seed Savers Exchange members of a remarkable watermelon introduced to American gardeners sometime before 1900. This Moon and Stars watermelon persisted in seed catalogs through the 1920s, but many feared it had been lost forever. So Kent began a search for this melon, and in 1980 he mentioned the sought after melon on a television show out of Kirksville, Missouri. Fortunately, Merle Van Doren, a farmer near Macon, Missouri was watching and decided to track down Kent. Merle picked up the phone and surprised Kent with news that the melon was not extinct at all; he was cultivating this unusual watermelon— speckled leaves and all—in Missouri. Most importantly, he would save Kent some seed.

Kent went to pick up the seed, bringing a Mother Earth News photographer with him, and although Mr. Van Doren refused to be photographed, Kent posed next to a stunning pile of yellow-starred melons. Featured in the January 1982 edition of Mother Earth News, the back from extinction melon became an instant rage. Since the resurrection of the Van Doren variant, other yellow speckled heirlooms have resurfaced from Cherokee and Amish traditions and all have surged in popularity. Twenty years later, they remain among the bestselling heirlooms offered by the Seed Savers Exchange, and have been picked up and promoted by at least two-dozen other seed outlets. Moon and Stars is truly a stellar success among heirlooms, proving that what was once thought to be obsolete can be revived to the status of a national treasure.

The moon and stars name comes from the little yellow dots all around a bigger yellow dot, which show up on each and every melon.  We’ve got 6 other buggers of close to equal size right now.  Whatever are we going to do with all of them?  I’ve heard of watermelon rind preserves, but what do you do with those?

I wasn’t sure when the melon was ripe or not, but we figured with 6, if it wasn’t we’d still have plenty to choose from.  We split it open and found a pinkish-red coloring that was different enough from conventional watermelon that it made me wonder if we’d cut in too early.

It was probably a little underripe, but even so, absolutely delicious.  Water running down my chin as I spit out the multitude of seeds – and I give it a two thumbs up!

We tried to grow this variety last year and failed miserably, but this year was a great year for melons and I think it shows. This will be a staple in our garden for years to come!

August Garden Tally

August is the month of tomatoes and green beans! Look at these numbers!

Onions: 10 lbs, 12 1/8 oz.

Isis Candy tomatoes: 6 5/8 oz.

Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes: 5lbs, 5 5/8 oz.

Cherokee Purple tomatoes: 9lbs, 12 1/4 oz.

German Striped tomatoes: 6lbs, 1 3/4oz.

Gilbertie tomatoes: 5lbs, 13 1/8oz.

Amish Paste tomatoes: 1 lb., 1/8 oz.

Fox Cherry tomatoes: 3lbs,  1/4 oz.

Tomatillos: 3 lbs

Cucumbers: 2lb., 15 1/2oz

Green Beans: 5lbs, 8 6/8oz.

Cayenne peppers: 4 2/8 oz.

Zucchini: 2lbs, 10 1/8 oz

Carrots: 3 oz.

Swiss Chard: 6 3/8 oz.

Broccoli: 1lb, 3 5/8oz.

Eggplant: 1lb, 4 oz.

Dry beans: 4 1/8 oz.

We’ve put up much of our harvest, making lots of sauce and canning crushed tomatoes, blanching and freezing green beans and broccoli.  We’ve ordered a chest freezer to help us keep our garden surplus frozen until we need it, as we’re quickly running out of space in our small refrigerator freezer.

Bring on September!

Ground Cherries

Great article on ground cherries today, which you can find here.  We got our seeds for the ground cherries in our garden from Hudson Valley Seed Library as well.  It’s said they’re super easy to grow but we had a hard time just getting ours to germinate.

Ground cherries look like miniature tomatillos, with a similar papery husk and plants that grow quite bushy and wild if left unstaked.  However, unlike tomatillos, they are very sweet, hence their name.  I think they’d be great in a jam if you had enough of them.

Although ours took awhile to get started, they hung in there once we transplanted them into the garden.  We gave some to our garden neighbors Anne and Sebastian, and once in their plot, they took off and are HUGE now.  Ours are not so large, probably as a result of a failure to weed properly early on.  Still, we should definitely get enough to assuage our appetites for this delicious fruit.

Ground cherries are ripe when they fall to the ground (hence the name GROUND cherries).  You can allow the fruit to ripen in the husk after they’ve been harvested to make them sweeter. They’ll last up to 3 months if you store them in the husk.

Make sure you don’t eat unripe ground cherries! (I unfortunately am guilty of this.) That’s because they contain solanine, which is what makes potatoes toxic when they turn green.

And finally…what to do with all those ground cherries?  There are lots of recipes out there for jams and chutneys and even ground cherry pie, but we have enough already stocked for the coming year.  This recipe looks fantastic.

Fresh Ground Cherry Salsa
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (America’s Test Kitchen Magazine)

1 lbs of ripe ground cherries, halved (about 2 cups)
½ lb of ripe Roma or cherry tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
1 large jalapeno chili, seeded, with the flesh finely minced
½ cup minced red onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
½ tsp salt
pinch ground pepper
2-6 tsp lime juice (1-2 limes)
Sugar to taste (up to 1 tsp)

Place tomatoes in colander and let drain 30 minutes. As they drain, layer ground cherries, jalapeno, onion, garlic and cilantro on top. Shake colander to drain off excess juice. Discard. Transfer to large bowl and add salt, pepper and 2 tsp lime juice. Toss to combine. Taste and add minced jalapeno seeds, sugar and lime juice to taste.

Note: This salsa can be made 2-3 hours in advance, but hold off adding the salt, lime juice and sugar until just before serving.

(makes 4 cups)

New Harvest

First zucchini of the season!  Very late in the season.  We nearly lost all our zucchini plants, but after we figured out how to combat the powdery mildew problem, was able to save some of them.

Zucchini as big as my arm!

Still, between last year’s squash bugs disaster and this year’s powdery mildew, I’m looking forward to having some sauteed zucchini with dinner this week, and making zucchini bread this weekend!

The dry beans have been growing well all summer, and are finally starting to dry, allowing me to pick them.  More beans for the wintertime!

And finally, the tomatillos are starting to come in, in pounds!

A pound of tomatillos getting ready for preservation

In the meantime, we’re still drowning in tomatoes. Soon there’ll be a post on canning crushed tomatoes. I just need to give them a vinegar rinse and take pics. This time of the year is busy busy!

Sprays for the Garden

It’s a little late in the summer for this, but it’s getting posted for future reference. I often use the search tool on my blog to look up things I’ve previously written about. 🙂

This is our second year using the easiest yet very effective homemade insecticide for our garden.  We had a big issues with our green beans last year, due to the Mexican bean beetle, an ugly little beast that destroyed our plants before we’d gotten more than a large handful of green beans from them.

Photo Credit: Jason Riedy/Flickr CC

Ugh, I hate these guys.  I can sit in the dirt with the best of them, but picking the larvae off the leaves and squishing them between two rocks, the yellow guts shining brightly, icks me out to no end.  This year, we realized what they were early, and started spraying.  They’ve eaten some of the plants quite a bit, but we’ve managed to harvest pounds of green beans by now, thanks to this spray.

Here are the ingredients:

General Insecticide Spray

  • An old Windex bottle, left over from our previous non-green cleaning life.
  • 1-2 tbsps of Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile soap (though I’ve used unscented before)
  • 1 quart water (or as much that will fit in the bottle)

That’s it.  There’s all sorts of more complicated recipes on the web, but these not only have sufficiently dealt with our Mexican bean beetle problem, but the flea beetle problem on our eggplants as well.

Another problem we countered for the first time this year was powdery mildew. Again, since it was our first time seeing it, we didn’t realize the issue until much much later. I’m surprised we got as many cucumbers as we did since we didn’t spray the plants until very late in the season. We also lost most of our zucchini to this.

Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina/Flickr CC

Another super quick and efficient fix here though as well!

Powdery Mildew Spray

  • 1 quart water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Few drops of liquid soap

And voila! Spray once a week (I usually spray after a rain, which is more than once a week here) and it will clear up almost overnight.  Amazing.

I’m sure as we go on gardening year after year, we will encounter more and more plant issues to deal with.  But each year we figure it out eventually!

Garden in August

The tides have definitely turned, and we are into “late summer” in the garden, with the heat taking over and beginning to turn our tomatoes into ripe, red, juiciness.

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The onion stalks have mostly fallen over, resulting in the harvest of over 10lbs the other day.  There’s still a few left, but we’ll soon turn over the vacant land of the peas and onions and cucumbers to plant more greenbeans, peas, garlic and spinach.

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Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes are still producing bucketloads.  These are the best tomato plants ever and I would recommend them to anyone!

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The green beans are finally ready for harvesting but are already suffering from Mexican Bean Beatle infestation. We had this problem last year, but didn’t realize it early enough. I’ve already sprayed this year (homemade insecticidal spray – ORGANIC) but I still found eggs and larvae on the plants the other day.  Ugh…I don’t want to lose my green beans AGAIN!

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The celery is getting close to being ready to pick!  It’s at about 8 inches, and we’ll harvest when it’s a foot tall.

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The dry beans are also producing well, and the melon plants have taken over the garden. They finally JUST started producing baby melons.  I don’t know why it takes so long for them to start. At this rate, I hope we have something by the time frost starts.