June 27, 2013

Garden Aerial...One Month Later

 The vegetable garden on May 31, 2013:
At this point, I didn't even have all the rows planted, and the tomatoes, peppers, and squashy things were still newly transplanted seedlings.

The garden on June 26, 2013:

In the last few days, many of my pathways have become completely overrun with pumpkins, gourds, and watermelons. I knew I was tempting fate by planting all my vining crops in the middle of the garden, but since many of those things won't ripen until the end of the season, I don't need to get in there very often anyway.

The tomatoes are already waist-high and heavy with fruit. The corn is knee-high (and it isn't even Fourth of July). My snow peas are in full production. My salad crops are bolting really fast, so I'm probably going to yank most of them out and plant something else (maybe more soybeans and flowers). We've yet to hit that mid-summer oppressive heat, so everything is still really lush and green, but that will change.

June 20, 2013

Dirty Rice Stuffed Swiss Chard

I had a fantastic version of this dish at a friend's house last fall. I was invited to a dinner party where nearly all the guest were somehow involved in urban agriculture...needless to say, it was an amazing meal. One of the best dishes consisted of stuffed swiss chard leaves with a filling of rice, cheese, raisins, and who knows what else. I don't really follow recipes, or measure, so here's the general gist of what I did.

First I picked the largest leaves I could find. Then I blanched them for about 30 seconds in boiling water, just to soften them up. I removed the stem from each leaf.

Meanwhile, I cooked some ground turkey and white rice and combine those with some parsley, garlic, and golden raisins.

Each leaf was stuffed with maybe a quarter cup of the rice mixture and they were wrapped egg-roll-style.

I layered the stuffed leaves in a casserole dish on top of a thin layer of tomato sauce.

I covered the rolls with more tomato sauce and parmesan cheese and baked for maybe 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.

I don't have any photos of the final product (they didn't last long). Overall, they reminded me of stuffed peppers. Next time I might omit the raisins. They were good, but just kind of weird.

June 18, 2013

Exploding Kohlrabi!

I was picking through the garden choosing some items for Father's Day and noticed that a couple of my kohlrabis had exploded. We have had quite a bit of rain lately, including an overnight storm that accumulated 5 inches of rain, so I think they literally just burst from absorbing water too fast. This happens pretty often with tomatoes, but I'd never seen it in kohlrabi.

This particular fruit (head?, root?, tuber?) wasn't even salvageable since it was infested with slugs throughout.

Luckily, I caught this one in time.

I wasn't expecting there to be much difference, but my white vienna kohlrabi is sizing up much faster than my purple kohlrabi.

June 17, 2013

Breeding My Own Heirloom

Two summers ago I started breeding my own heirloom tomato with the help of my friend Joseph Tychonievich. Joseph just released his first book (there will be more, I hope) this spring called Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener. It's a really fun read and it actually inspired me to teach my spring biology class a little bit about plant breeding (incorporated into our genetics unit, of course).

Anyway, two years ago I crossed Martino's Roma with Black Krim. Martino's Roma is a very productive paste tomato that seems resistant to blossom-end rot (at least in my garden). Black Krim is my #2 favorite tasting tomato (behind Pruden's Purple). Last year I grew out the F1 generation of plants. They all looked exactly the same, as expected (a somewhat flattened spherical red tomato with paste-tomato-esque flesh. This year I planted out 16 plants of the F2 generation. Although 16 plants probably isn't enough to see the entire compliment of genetic variation, I had to limit myself due to space.

My plants started flowering in very early June and I'm already starting to see some baby tomatoes. I was able to find fruit on about 6 out of the 16 plants so far, and it looks like there are two main fruit shapes:

A ribbed, flattened beefsteak shape, similar to Black Krim.

And a roma-shaped tomato, somewhat similar to Martino's Roma.

I can't wait to see what colors they turn as they ripen. I'm hoping for a paste tomato that has the coloration and flavor of Black Krim, but they paste-consistency and disease resistance of Martino's Roma. I'll just have to wait and see!

June 16, 2013

Father's Day Chimichurri

My Father's Day plans involves kebabs, so I thought I'd try making chimichurri. My herbs are out of control, so this was a good way to make a small dent in my supply. From my recipe search, it appears that most chimichurris include parsley and oregano as the main ingredients. I decided to add a couple extra herbs since I had them.

Here's what I started with: approximately 2 cups of parsley, 3 tablespoons of marjoram (similar to oregano), maybe another 3 tablespoons of cilantro, a small handful of garlic chives, nearly an entire head of garlic (but my garlic from last year is pretty small).

I whizzed these ingredients up in the food processor, then added 1 cup of olive oil, about 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar (what I had on hand), and salt and pepper. Normally chimichurri calls for red pepper flakes, but I left them out since my dad can't handle spicy food.

Since I strayed from the recipe, I'm not sure how legit my chimichurri is, but since it's basically herb pesto (without the nuts and cheese) I think you can play around with it a lot.

I think I better supply some breath mints...

June 10, 2013

Garden Aerial

I thought I'd share this overhead shot of my garden I took on May 31. I'll have to try to do this periodically...the garden already looks a lot different and it has only been 10 days!

June 7, 2013

Earliest Zucchini Ever!

I may have grown the earliest zucchini ever this year! I noticed a couple days ago that one of my Costata Romanesco plants was already producing female flowers. Several of the fruits are already fairly large and would be completely acceptable as baby zukes. Most years, I'm just now getting my squashes planted, so I can't believe I already have fruit. It must be the black plastic that's helping heat the soil.

I still haven't staked any of my tomatoes (I'm not sure what I'm waiting for), but I did finally built a little trellis for my mexican sour gherkins. It looks really cute, but I'm hoping I don't poke my eye out on it at some point.

My beans and soybeans are up and growing already. Every year I'm astonished by how fast beans germinate. You'd think I would get used to it after a while.

My corn is up a running too. This is the first time I've ever grown corn, so hopefully it will be successful. I planted two different types of sweet corn and two types of popcorn. I saw a baby rabbit investigating this corner of the garden the other day, so I might have to put up more rabbit fencing.

My salad greens and brassicas are getting out of control! We've finally had spring-like weather the last couple weeks, so the leafy greens are pretty happy. We've been eating salad with nearly every meal, and I haven't even made a dent into our supplies.

This was the first year I intentionally grew mesclun. I usually just pick different greens and mix them together, but I thought I'd try some pre-mixed mesclun this time around. 

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