Container Garden Update — July 28, 2019

It’s been a very mild summer. The Tromboncino zucchini aren’t doing much of anything but the beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are doing well.

Oregon Spring tomatoes are always our earliest producers. By the end of the season we should have harvested around 40 pounds total from the two plants in the box:

190728 oregon spring

The first Romas:

190728 roma

The Taxi is “sharing” a box with a less-than-stellar Oregon Cherry. The Taxi plant starts on the left…:

Continue reading “Container Garden Update — July 28, 2019”

The First Sun Golds — Is The Garden Late This Year?

We harvested the first two Sun Gold tomatoes on Thursday the 18th. Is that “late” or “early” or “neither”?

180719 sun gold

Fortunately we have a non-memory dependent answer. We’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of the harvests since we started gardening in 2013. Here’s what it says:

Year First Sun Gold Date
2013 July 7
2014 August 3
2015 July 17
2016 August 3
2017 July 20
2018 July 28
2019 July 18
Average July 22

As it turns out July 18 is almost right on the average first date for Sun Golds.

What is late is the Tromboncino. Most years we would have already harvested a few. As of right now there is one fruit of any size on the vines and none have been harvested.

The Fortex beans are rocking though — over three days and two harvests we pulled almost a pound off of the plants:

July 18:

180719 fortex beans

July 20:

200719 fortex beans

Today will be a day to start “cleaning up” the bottoms of the tomato plants. At least that way we’ll be able to see new fruit easily.

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Boy Cat In Repose With Raspberries

We harvested just over 1/2 pound of raspberries today. The boy cat was mostly sleeping in a chair on the back deck:

190707 boy cat with raspberries

The raspberries started as a gift from friends in 2013 — three short stalks total on two rhizomes:

070713 raspberries

I don’t know how I thought that “cage” was going to do anything.

The current setup, pictured in May 2017:

170529 raspberry

1/2 pound is a pretty good harvest for us. There are still a few handfuls of berries left on the plant. They’re terrific with ice cream.

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres (Happy Acres Blog), host of Harvest Monday.

 

Instant Pot Egg Bites (Starbucks Knock-Offs)

Instant Pot Egg Bites (Starbucks Knock-Offs)

190704 Egg Bites

  1. Blend 3 large eggs with up to 1/2-3/4 cup soft cheese for 30 seconds or until smooth.
  2. Into the egg mix add up to 1/4 cup hard shredded cheese and up to 1/2 cup of other diced/minced add-ins (meats, veggies, whatever). Add salt if needed. (I did all of the final combining directly in the blender jar then poured from the blender carafe to fill the molds. The heavier add-ins had settled to the bottom of the blender, be aware that might happen. You may want to save a little extra room in each egg cup for the heavy stuff just in case.)
  3. Lightly oil or spray the egg mold, place on a trivet with handles, and fill to within 1/4″-1/2″ of the tops of the cups.
  4. Add 1 cup water to the Instant Pot. Place the egg mold and trivet into the Instant Pot. Cover the egg mold with parchment, foil, or the egg mold cover.
  5. Cook 8 minutes at low pressure. Manual release pressure after 5 additional minutes. (I used the Soup setting on our 6 quart Instant Pot and set the pressure to low.)
  6. Invert onto a plate.

The basis of the recipe is here at Simply Recipes.

The egg bites in picture above have smoked ham and fresh chives. They also contain 1/2 cup cream cheese, 1/4 cup cheddar that I chunked up and blended briefly, and a couple of tablespoons of sour cream. The bites didn’t need additional salt. I’ve read that cottage cheese is often used, but we didn’t have that in the house.

The egg bites were very tasty and pretty easy. We’ll definitely be making these again.

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I encourage everyone to boycott Starbucks. The Seattle-area community gave Howard Schultz boatloads of money and he rewarded us by selling the Sonics to outside interests that moved the team to Oklahoma City. Schultz is not an admirable person.

Container Garden Update — June 23, 2019

Do you remember the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk? Thinking about it, I remember the beans, and I remember that they got so tall that they reached the clouds, and that was about it.

From Wikipedia:

Jack is a young, poor boy living with his widowed mother and a dairy cow on a farm cottage. The cow’s milk was their only source of income. When the cow stops giving milk, Jack’s mother tells him to take her to the market to be sold. On the way, Jack meets a bean dealer who offers magic beans in exchange for the cow, and Jack makes the trade. When he arrives home without any money, his mother becomes angry, throws the beans on the ground, and sends Jack to bed without dinner.

During the night, the magic beans cause a gigantic beanstalk to grow outside Jack’s window. The next morning, Jack climbs the beanstalk to a land high in the sky. He finds an enormous castle and sneaks in. Soon after, the castle’s owner, a giant, returns home. He smells that Jack is nearby, and speaks a rhyme:

Fee-fi-fo-fum!
I smell the blood of an Englishman:
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.

 

In the versions in which the giant’s wife (the giantess) features, she persuades him that he is mistaken and helps Jack hide because the woman knows that he is poor. When the giant falls asleep, Jack steals a bag of gold coins and makes his escape down the beanstalk.

Jack climbs the beanstalk twice more. He learns of other treasures and steals them when the giant sleeps: first a goose that lays golden eggs, then a magic harp that plays by itself. The giant wakes when Jack leaves the house with the harp (who calls out to the giant) and chases Jack down the beanstalk. Jack calls to his mother for an axe and before the giant reaches the ground, cuts down the beanstalk, causing the giant to fall to his death.

Jack and his mother live happily ever after with the riches that Jack acquired.

That’s really something, isn’t it?

What brought that to mind is that the Fortex beans are much taller than everything in our garden, and that’s been the case since about two weeks after we planted them:

190622 beans

If you’re going to author a fairy tale about garden plants that get really tall really fast, beans are the obvious choice. The story practically writes itself, except for the castle, the giant, the singing harp, and the golden goose. And the poor cow that drives the plot.

Continue reading “Container Garden Update — June 23, 2019”

Container Garden Update — June 9, 2019

An overview picture of the garden. In the foreground are the peppers. Tomatoes are on the left. Fortex beans are in the back right, with tomatillos in the middle-back. The Tromboncino trellis is in the far back left. (For reference, the garden is in the back yard on the west side of the house. The patio is the sunniest location we have available to garden. We now use a dozen EarthBoxes after having had good success years ago with herbs and other little edibles in our “starter” EarthBox.)

190609 overview 2

A picture from next to the Tromboncino, near the garage door:

190609 overview1

We try to harvest the Fortex beans when they’re smallish and can be cooked as haricot verts. They’re going nuts even though they’re in the worst location on the patio — they get shaded by the back deck and don’t get sun until around 1-2pm. There are two City Picker boxes end to end under the trellis, allowing for 40 plants total. We gave the beans their own trellis this year so they’d keep to themselves:

190609 fortex beans

The tomatillos. Every year it seems that there’s a stronger and a weaker plant. That’s true again this year:

Continue reading “Container Garden Update — June 9, 2019”

Ciabatta With Spelt

A Ciabatta. I substituted out 20% of the bread flour and replaced it with Spelt. For reference, the finished bread is about 12″ across:

190527 spelt ciabatta

I started baking with Spelt in 2018. Those blog posts are now gone as part of the move to the new site. For background, Spelt breads will hold air bubbles but the structure Spelt provides is very fragile and it requires gentle working and handling to avoid degassing.

The Recipe and Process: 

400 grams KA bread flour, 100 grams Spelt flour (Bob’s Red Mill), 360 grams water (72% hydration), 15 grams olive oil (3%), 10 grams kosher salt (2%), 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast. That’s less than half the yeast that I’d use if I planned to bake the bread a couple of hours after mixing, but I had other ideas.

The dough was mixed for eight minutes, covered, and allowed to proof for around 4 hours. I then did a two “stretch and folds”, shaped the dough into a ball, and allowed the dough to proof  on a parchment covered pizza peel for another two hours. (I covered the dough with an inverted large bowl during the 2nd rise.)

For baking: The oven and baking stone were preheated to 425F for 30 minutes. I added 1 cup of water to a sheet tray and placed it on the bottom shelf. When the water in the sheet tray was steaming I slid the parchment and dough from the peel onto the baking stone. Total bake time was 35 minutes. (At 30 minutes the internal temperature was only 192F, so I gave it another 5 minutes.)

Postmortem Thoughts:

From Bakerpedia:

Baked goods made with spelt flour will be more dense and heavy than those from wheat flour.

Spelt flour has a much higher water absorption capacity, giving a somewhat smaller loaf volume than common wheat flour.

Which is basically describes the finished loaf. While proofing the dough spread more “out” than “up”, and there wasn’t much oven spring, even though I’d slashed the loaf prior to baking and provided steam in the oven. The crumb wasn’t “tight” but it wasn’t “holey and rustic” either.

Spelt provides a nice nutty taste, and some je ne sais quoi, which is part of the reason I chose to include it in a same-day preparation. I also like Spelt because it tastes less refined and sugary than regular bread flour.

Overall it was a pleasant loaf. I sliced it thinly so that each piece wasn’t heavy and we served it with good butter. It didn’t last even half-way through dinner.

Two Very Different Arugula Flatbreads

We love arugula on pizza and flatbreads. Last night it was time to harvest the arugula from the salad table. (The link shows the salad table one month after the initial planting in 2015, with yet another arugula pizza. I sense a theme. Here’s a link to the Making The Salad Table post.)

The first picture is last night’s arugula pizza with a garden tomato sauce from the freezer, goat cheese, and red pepper flakes. The arugula was strewn on top after baking:

190519 argula pizza2

The sauce was rich and on the sweet side. The frozen tomatoes that we used were labeled “2018 Tomato”, so the base was likely a combination of Oregon Spring and whatever else the garden provided that day. The dough itself was a little on the sweet side too — I substituted out 10% of the water and replaced it with a Riesling.

Another picture. I stretched the pizza by hand rather than rolling it out, making a point to leave it thicker at the edges. The pizza was a little more 3-dimensional than the picture might show:

190519 arugula pizza

This flatbread is topped with pancetta, red onion, and an arugula pesto made with arugula, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and brie. The arugula pesto was the sauce, so it was added at the beginning:

190519 arugula flatbread2

Using arugula pesto meant that the end result was light and savory at the same time. The flatbread itself was somewhat crackery which complimented the zip of the arugula and red onion.

The 2019 Vegetable List

We’ve been doing most of our veggie shopping at the Seattle Tilth plant sale. Descriptions are condensed from their PDF. My notes are in italics.

The List:

Tomato (2 per box):

Black Krim (2 plants) – 75 days. Indeterminate. Open pollinated heirloom. From the Black Sea region of Russia, these 10-12oz beefsteak type tomatoes have a strong, rich flavor that is common with black tomatoes. (Ed: By far our favorite tomato.)

Old German (1 plant) – 75-85 days. Indeterminate. Fruits are golden with reddish streaks. Produces large, rich and full bodied tomatoes. Great for fresh eating tomato, salads, and salsa.

Sun Gold (1 plant) – 65 days. Indeterminate. Wow! Sungold’s fruity or tropical flavor is a big hit with everyone who tastes it. Apricot-orange round 1 1/4 in. fruit. 10-20 fruits on grape-like trusses. (Ed: While the description is a little over the top they are a universal hit.)

Roma (2 plants) – 75 days. Determinant. Premium canning tomato, ideal for sauce and paste. Pear-shaped scarlet fruits are thick and meaty with few seeds. (Ed:  Interestingly, the plant tags say “Roma’s Best”. Hopefully they’re the same thing we’ve been growing for years.)

Taxi (1 plant) – 65 days. Determinate, early, prolific production. The best yellow tomato for short season gardeners. Open pollinated. Expect heavy yields of mild, non-acid tomatoes for 3-4 weeks. Grows well in a container. (Ed: They do grow well in containers. In a typical year we’ll get somewhere upwards of 20 pounds per plant.)

Oregon Cherry (1 plant) – 60 days. Determinate. An early cherry tomato released from Oregon State University. The small-fruited red tomatoes are 1 1/2 inches long by 1 inch wide, and load up heavy on 1 1/2 feet tall by 2 feet wide determinate plants. These thin skinned tomatoes have a sweet flavor and are a reliable PNW treat

180812 harvest3

 

Zucchini (2 plants in one box):

Tromboncino – 60-80 days. Open pollinated heirloom. A Tilth favorite, the flesh of this variety has a smooth buttery texture and a mild flavor—the taste of summer! The 12 to 18” long fruits are “trombone”- shaped and can grow in curly cues or hang like
bells on a trellised vine. (Ed: Tromboncino work well for us because we garden on a concrete patio and normal zucchini would likely burn on the cement. Tromboncino grow vertically, so we save space. They’re also relatively more powdery mildew resistant. Each square on the trellis below is 8″. The fruits themselves are around 2′ long.)

160814 tromboncino

 

Cucumber (4 plants in one box):

Marketmore 76 – 63 days. Open pollinated. In the Marketmore series, ‘Marketmore 76’ is very popular with organic growers due to its high level of disease resistance. This dark green slicing variety produces abundant, high quality, uniform fruits about 8 inches long with a wonderful cucumber flavor.

160724 cucumber

 

Tomatillo (2 plants in one box):

Verde – 70 days. Open pollinated. A classic deep green tomatillo with high yields, ‘Verde’ is ready when the husks have split andare drying. Very intense rich flavor which pairs well with sweet summer tomatoes and makes a fantastic salsa.

180701 tomatillo

 

Peppers (6 per box. This year it is two boxes of Carmen and 3 plants each of Jimmy Nardello and Anaheim.):

Carmen – 60 – 80 days. Lusciously sweet when left to fully ripen to a deep red, this pepper is perfect for chopping and tossing straight into a salad. A great container plant and a good addition to a sunny veggie bed. 6 inch fruits on an upright plant.

Jimmy Nardello – 76 days. Open pollinated heirloom. Thin-walled 8″ long curved tapering pointed fruits turn deep red when ripe with shiny wrinkled skin. Great eaten raw and super tasty when fried–very prolific! This seed variety is considered by Slow Food USA to be an endangered member of their “Ark of Taste.”

Anaheim College 64 – 74 days. Open pollinated. Medium hot flavor make these short season peppers a hit for dips, sauces, stuffing with cheese
or roasting.

150829 peppers

 

For a little background — when shopping for vegetable plants we’re looking for certain things:

  • We want relatively short season plants because the growing season in the Pacific Northwest can be unpredictable. (Note that nothing is much over 80 days to maturity in the list above.)
  • We typically don’t grow miniature versions of anything because it can get very fiddly to clean and process little fruits. And there tends to be more waste as a percentage of the yield.
  • We’ll often select tomatoes that do well in Russia or Oregon. That’s broadly true of all the plants we grow — ideally wherever the plant is popular shares a latitude and climate similar to the Pacific Northwest.
  • We generally focus on high value – high yield plants. We have limited growing space and we can buy something like corn for next to free at the height of summer.

Finally:

  • It’s been my experience that people tend to grow what their parents grew. And most gardening advice is based on experience gained from small sample sizes. My sample size is small too.
  • When we were starting out I hit as many “vegetable gardening” message boards as I could find, searching for people growing food near us. I tallied up what people said grew well (literally, tally sheets for recommended tomatoes, etc). We used that information as a base and we’re learning more every year.
  • The nice thing about gardening is most mistakes are still edible.

2018 Garden Recap (Redo)

We lost every blog post after mid-September 2017 in the move to the new host and address. Public Service Message: Back Up Your Files Frequently!

The final 2018 Garden Yields And Notes:

195.5 pounds total.  That does not include the basil, beans, or anything from the salad table. A bit of a down year probably caused at least in part by extremes in the weather.

Tomatoes:

Black Krim — 19.5 pounds

Cherry Bomb — 5.9 pounds.

Hungarian Heart — 5.1 pounds. These were mislabeled at the plant sale. They don’t really have anything going for them and we won’t do them again.

Oregon Spring — 28.4 pounds — A good indicator of just how “down” the garden was this year. Last year was 48.0 pounds.

Roma — 2 plants — 23.9 pounds — Down from 31.6 pounds last year.

Paisano — 16.8 pounds. An experiment looking for a sauce tomato other than Roma.

Taxi — 5.2 pounds.  Down from 22.7 pounds in 2016.

Continue reading “2018 Garden Recap (Redo)”