2021 Container Garden Recap

Our yield for the year was 112.6 pounds from 10 EarthBoxes. This is a lower amount than when we started gardening, but higher than the last couple of years. I think the factors that have led to the lower yield include:

  • Aging potting soil. We’ve replaced a good portion of it over time but salts may be building up and/or the soil may be getting denser. How much this negatively impacts growth I’m not sure.
  • In 2019 and 2020 the weather included lots of wildfire smoke during the peak growing season.
  • We’ve been sourcing the plants from different places since the pandemic started. Historically it’s been the annual Seattle Tilth Plant Sale, but that hasn’t been a real option the last couple of years for us. We’ve been buying the plants from “reputable nurseries” instead, so I’d like to think the sourcing isn’t that big of a deal.
  • We might be cramping the plants on the patio. The right answer might be to grow more shorter plant varieties. It feels like the patio might be getting less sun than in 2013, due to trees growing bigger all around the property.
  • I think the early enthusiasm for gardening has worn off, and we’ve been relatively shorter on free time the last couple of years, so I’m not doting over the plants like I had been. I’ve sort of pivoted to “maximum output relative to work input.”

Overall it felt like everything “popped” sort of late but in any event we still got a decent yield by year end. The “pounds” amounts below are for the full box or boxes

Marketmore Cucumbers – 1 box, 4 plants, 21.1 pounds. This is lower than some years, though the fruits themselves kept good shape and taste all season. The quality was better but it felt like the plants were shorter than usual.

Black Beauty Eggplant – 1 box, 2 plants, 1.4 pounds. The first year we’ve grown eggplant of any type. My feeling is that the eggplant box could have been in a sunnier spot though at the height of summer it may have gotten to hot on the patio for the plants to be happy. They set fruit really late, so the fact that we got any at all was a pleasant surprise. If we do eggplant again we’ll move them to a different location on the patio and *possibly* try hand pollinating to help things along. Additionally: I think the plants themselves were mislabeled and they were actually Chinese or Zebra eggplants – they were relatively spherical and had stripes.

Carmen Peppers – 1 box, 6 plants, 8.8 pounds. This is right in line with the 1.5 pounds per plant we’ve seen from Carmen Peppers historically. They ripened well overall and we lost very few to critters. Our favorite peppers to grow come though again.

King of The North Peppers – 1 box, 6 plants, 3.8 pounts. These kind of got out-competed by the Carmens. They were adjacent to the Carmens but the Carmens flopped on top of them to some degree. Not a great yield but again we lost very few to critters — 3.8 pounds is “fine”.

Black Krim Tomato – 1 box, 2 plants, 12.5 pounds. This represents a below average yield for this variety. On the bright side almost all of the tomato plants either ripened on the vine or ripened after harvest. We grow these every year for the terrific earthy flavor and this year lived up to expectations.

Green Zebra and Tigerella Tomatoes – 1 box, 2 plants, 11.5 pounds. Planting to tomatoes that look that much the same next to each other wasn’t the best idea. The Green Zebra was the weaker of the two plants, so I’d guess the total yield is more Tigerallas.

Oregon Spring Tomato – 1 box, 2 plants, 20.2 pounds This represents a below average yield for what is always a top performer. They still ripened first, though I think we lost a few pounds to critters taking a chunk out of semi-mature fruit.

Roma Tomato – 2 boxes, 4 plants, 26.8 pounds. Below average yield again, but literally everything ripened. We ripened all of the unripe and semi-ripe tomatoes on cooling racks on the floor of the kitchen near a heater vent. I think the air flow and warmth helped ensure ripening rather than rotting. We grew plants from two different farms and they seemed to produce equally well.

Tromboncino Zucchini – 1 box, 2 plants, 4.3 pounds. Another downer year for a plant that is relatively more labor intensive than some other possible choices. It may be that we need to hand pollinate these for a better yield, or put them in a location where they get more sun.

We also got more basil than we could possibly use from the EarthBoxes, as well as a good amount of beans and scallions. The raised beds provided a nice amount of asparagus, rosemary, thyme, chives, and garlic chives.

Overall that’s 73 pounds of tomatoes and the freezer is full of tomato sauce. We enjoyed fresh cucumbers and tomatoes over the summer. If we’re going to spend “extra” time in the yard then producing our own food feels like a rewarding time-sink.

Container Garden Update — July 10, 2021

The weather has been cooperative North of Seattle so far this year. No overcast and rainy May. No smoke filled skies from wildfires. We’ll start seeing Harvests Of Things in the next 10-14 days, which is right on pace with when it’s been nice outside for most of the summer.

An overview pic from the “front”. The camera is pointed mostly East, slightly North:

That’s tomatoes on the left, peppers in the center, and basil on the right. On the back left are the Tromboncino zucchini, on the right are cucumbers, and behind the cucumbers are pole beans.

The first cucumbers are nearly ready:

We had a day in the 100’s recently. The basil absolutely loves that, though I’m guessing concrete and the garden area must have been over 110 degrees:

Last year we made a big bag of “Italian Seasoning” with oregano from our raised beds and the basil. I see another big bag or two in our future.

Continue reading “Container Garden Update — July 10, 2021”

Rick Bayless’ Tomato Carpaccio Salad And A Pulled Pork Cuban Sandwich “Stromboli”

Setting the site record for longest post title by far..

The tomato and tomatillo plants are heavy with fruit right now so it’s time for Rick Bayless’ Tomato Carpaccio Salad:

190908 tomato carpaccio salad

We last posted the salad recipe in 2014.  The 2019 version featured Black Krim and Taxi tomatoes as the base. The pictured tomatillo salad topping included Oregon Cherry and Sun Gold tomatoes as well as avacado and red onion.

The salad was fairly filling for three adults, but we had some frozen pulled pork to use up as well as some “empty” jars of mustard. I really dislike that bit of waste, so I rinsed out the mustard jars in a little bit of water and used that as a base to reheat the pulled pork. We then moved the thawed pork to a mixing bowl and added shredded cheese and mustard-pickle relish.

The pork mixture was originally intended to become Cuban Sandwich Style Pulled Pork Pigs In A Blanket, but there was too much filling for that so it became a Cuban Sandwich Style Pulled Pork Stromboli:

190908 cuban pulled pork stromboli

Served with more of the mustard-pickle relish on the side. Super tasty.

The dough was basically a simple pizza dough — 400g AP flour, 240g water (60%), 10g salt (2.5%), 1 tsp yeast. Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 10″ x 8″. Arrange the filling in a row down the center of the long axis and fold the dough over the filling, overlapping slightly. Press to seal the seam. Place the stromboli on a parchment or Silpat-lined sheet tray seam side down. Slice a few cuts into the top so that steam can escape — I placed cuts about every 2 inches which then became the portion sizes after it came out of the oven. Bake at 425F for 30 minutes.

If there’s extra dough it can become bread sticks.

Next time I’ll cut the salt back to 2%, I think the extra salt may have toughened the finished product a little bit. The extra bite would have been fine with pigs in a blanket but the stromboli form was already enough work to get through without the added salt.

Still, a very nice dinner all around. Thanks to SeattleAuthor for his help in the kitchen.

Container Garden Update — August 11, 2019

The few days that we had in the 80’s didn’t last. Here in the north Seattle area it’s back to 70’s, overcast, and spotted showers.

190811 harvest 1

(Clockwise from top left — Roma tomatoes, Taxi, Oregon Cherry, Tromboncino zucchini, Carmen peppers, Oregon Spring tomatoes, Sun Gold.)

We harvested the Tromboncino at a relatively small size because there are two other fruits on the plant in the same place — the harvested fruit was directly between the two pictured here:

190811 tromboncino

We’ve found that three fruits that close together rarely ends well, so we pulled the one that was in the center.

On the other sheet tray is 2.5 pounds of Marketmore 76 cucumbers and 2.5 pounds of Fortex beans:

190811 harvest 2

We found three of those cucumbers after we thought we’d already found them all.

Continue reading “Container Garden Update — August 11, 2019”

Container Garden Update — August 4, 2019

We’re finally stringing together a few days around 80 degrees, which gives us The First Real Harvest Of The Year!

190804 tomatoes

Tomatoes — Front L-R:  Roma, Taxi, Sun Gold, Oregon Cherry.  Back:  Oregon Spring

190804 cucumbers

Marketmore cucumbers, basil, and (I think) Guardsman bunch onions.

190804 fortex beans

No Fortex bean harvests since Thursday means 2.5 pounds on Sunday.

Hopefully more warm weather means that the nice harvests are just beginning.

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

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.

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”

Tomato Focaccia

by A.J. Coltrane

I’ve read about a Roman bread that has tomato “painted” into the surface. (Thanks for the perfect word to describe it, Kurt.) I spent a little time looking for a picture of what I’m visualizing… I don’t know that I’ve found a “right” picture. Most of the recipes seem to include a tomato puree and/or paste within the dough. Some rub a finished bread with a cut tomato after it comes out of the oven, which I’m thinking is what I had in mind when starting this bread:

tomato focaccia 141101

The bloody end result was based around what’s become my default focaccia recipe:  300g AP Flour, 300g Bread Flour, 420g water, 36g olive oil, 14g kosher salt.  (That’s 70% hydration, 6% oil, and 2.33% salt by weight.) This time I omitted the honey, reduced the instant yeast to 3/8 teaspoon, and allowed for a 18 hour rise.

Note that it’s the same rise time, and ratio of yeast as goes into the No Knead Bread — the No Knead Bread uses 400g flour and 1/4 teaspoon of yeast.

The Tigerella tomato sauce was simmered with three smashed cloves of garlic and two thai bird chilis until fairly thick but still “drizzleable”. (We’d recently been to a cooking class where the chef used a little bit of heat to “focus” things. I think that it worked — there was just a faint hint of heat at the finish.)

The Rest Of The Recipe:

1.  Combine dough ingredients, mix on low speed for 10 minutes, and let rise 18 hours.

2.  Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled baking sheet let rise one hour. (I went with a one hour rise instead of two or three because I was looking for a denser finished product, and so that the dough would support the weight of the sauce.)

3.  Preheat oven to 425F.

4.  Drizzle on the cooled sauce. Note that a focaccia typically has olive oil on the surface. I didn’t use any oil this time.

5.  Bake for 15 minutes, turn the tray, and bake for another 12-15 minutes.

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I think the Reinhart book American Pie has the application I’m looking for. Maybe I’ll dig through it for the recipe. Maybe.

Quick Tomato Salad

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Since I now need to harvest all of my tomatoes before the cool nights cause them to split (not to mention the basil, tarragon and Vietnamese coriander), dinner pretty much every night in the Iron Chef household is going to consist of something tomatoish. A nice, quick and easy recipe is a tomato salad. It is cool and refreshing for those remaining few warm evenings and it is quick and simple if you don’t want to think about putting together something elaborate.

The Software
½ cucumber, seeds removed, cut into ¼ inch pieces
¼ cup onion, sliced thin or cut into ¼ inch pieces
¾ lb. tomatoes, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tbsp. basil, minced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp. red wine vinegar
Salt
Pepper

 

The finished product in all its tomato happiness.

The Salad
Combine cucumbers, onion, tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar into a bowl. Toss to combine and let stand for 7 minutes on the counter. Add basil and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a crusty piece of bread to soak up the juices.

Notes
That is it, quick and easy. You can skip the sitting for 7 minutes piece and serve right away, but that will mean your onions will be stronger in flavor and you won’t get the really tasty juice to soak up. You can really add anything you want to this, but in season tomatoes bring much more flavor to the party. If you are using out of season tomatoes, use balsamic vinegar instead of red wine to account for the lack of sweetness in the tomatoes. If you tomatoes are like mine, super sweet, don’t use balsamic – it will be too sweet. The recipe feeds two easily and can be scaled as much as you want.