The Fall Garden: The finishers and the slow growers

22 09 2008

Well, in the ongoing Battle: Dirt Sack Vs. The Evil Blight, I may have to give The Dirt Sack some credit.  I’d say it is putting out as many tomatoes and takes up hardly any ground space.   I’ve pulled several romas off of it and dozens of the Chocolate Cherry tomatoes.  Was it worth the added expense and extra watering?  I don’t think so.   As soon as I take it down, I will respond to the recall.  It really was a terribly made piece of equipment.  That said, I do think that there is a lot of potential for upside down tomatoes.

Meanwhile The Evil Blight does seem to finally be striking at least one of the plants on the ground. I have found a few romas that were squishy without ever ripening, and many of the leaves are starting to turn yellow as seen below. I’ve cut the what-appears-to-be-blighted parts back and thrown them away.  I’m giving the tomatoes another week and a half.  Then I think their numbers will be up.

I keep wondering when the green beans will be done.  I am letting a couple of the plants go to seed in hopes of not having to buy seed next year.  The rest of the plants are still putting out plenty of beans for a side dish every few days, so we’ll just keep eating them until they are done.

Meanwhile, the leeks keep on growing extremely slowly. The biggest are about thumbs-width, depending on the size of the thumb.  They still have another month and a half before I was planning on eating them, but man do they crawl along.  Someday I would like to have an entire bed of just leeks, though.  Whether they will justify taking up a row in such a small garden is yet to be determined.

The brussels sprouts are absolutely fascinating.  The one big one has gotten HUGE while the smaller ones have stayed, well, small.  I’m not expectings many spouts from the three smallest ones; they simply have not grown that many axial leaves.  I think that despite being spaced fairly far apart, the two largest ones got such a leap on the smaller ones that the smaller ones just got crowded out.

What I find SO fascinating, though, is WHERE the sprouts come from!  Why they appear at the base of the leaves is a total mystery to me.

Wrapping it up, the purple sprouting broccoli is trucking along slowly in the front yard.  While I think they could do with more direct sunlight, this is actually about the size that I was hoping the cabbage would be.   Provided they don’t get frozen out, we’ll have fresh broccoli come March.


I’ve figured out the secret…

21 09 2008

I’ve figured out the secret to eating seasonally.  Lore has it that the food tastes so good, it’ll spoil you for everything less.  I’d say that’s at least 75% of it.  Since either buying produce at the farmer’s market or growing it, the bar has definitely been raised.  I do think there is another factor at work:

If you eat what you grow and you have a lot of it, you may end up so tired of a particular vegetable that the next thing in line tastes even better for it.   If you’re not the type of person who escapes the kitchen for a local restaurant, I imagine this is magnified 10-fold.

(I am getting tired of tomatoes.  I don’t think it is PC to actually say that you are tired of eating tomatoes off the vine, but I am getting there.  I was doing OK keeping up with the tomatoes up until a couple of weeks ago, but having had to take time away from the garden, I am way, way, way behind.  The chard has been tackled.  The pak choi has been partially tackled.  It was time to deal with the tomatoes. Next, while I am letting some of the green beans go to seed, I really should continue picking the rest.  I keep thinking they are done, but no.)

One of the things I have learned from this year’s tomato growing experiences is that, in the future, if I have sufficient space, I really could grow enough romas to put up to get through the rest of the year.  The bad news is, doubting whether my romas would ever turn red, I put up 30 lbs of tomatoes from the farmer’s market.  I don’t want to put up any more!  So, I have to find things to do with them.

I pulled out nearly 3 1/2 lbs of romas today, and I haven’t even dared think about the dozens upon dozens of cherry tomatoes waiting impatiently for me.  I eat as many as I can while standing in my garden plot, but there’s only so many of these things you can eat at a time!

I am trying out a new recipe for a fresh tomato soup.  It’s from the newly-published Cooks’ Country cookbook.  That said, I’m adapting both the proportions and some of the instructions.  This may be problematic for reasons mentioned below.  If it’s a success, I give total credit to the Cooks’ Country folk.  If it’s a failure, it’s really not their fault; I’m ignoring one rather crucial instruction.  It’s a little different than my other tomato soup recipes I’ve made, but I was pretty much able to make it with stuff straight out of the garden.

I cored and quartered the tomatoes and chopped up the three remaining small onions.  I threw in a few peeled cloves of garlic, and drizzled the entire thing with three tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of sugar.

Now, the recipe both called for more tomatoes and instructed the cook to spread them on a large roasting pan.  I don’t have a large roasting pan at the moment, so I’m using my buffet casserole.  The mixture is supposed to be roasted at 450 degree for 1 1/2 hours.  The potential problem is that, with the veggies so close together, they seem to simmer and steam rather than roast, per se.  BUT, this is supposed to end up as soup, so I’m hoping that I’ll hit close enough to the mark for it to still taste good.  We’re about 45 minutes into it, and it smells pretty amazing.

The roasted tomatoes and onions are incredible.  The problem is that when I pureed them, per the recipe, they make a VERY thick puree.  This is supposed to be the basis for the rest of the soup.   The recipe called for either slicing OR plum tomatoes, and I had plum tomatoes.   Well, plum tomatoes have much less liquid to spare than slicing tomatoes, so while I was worried about there being too much liquid, the opposite has happened.

Then, realizing that I needed another pound of fresh tomatoes to mix with the basil that goes into the soup, I went down and picked a bunch of cherry tomatoes.  Now, whether it is the cherry tomatoes or the puree, the soup is too sweet.  I added very little sugar, so it’s not that; it is the tomatoes.  Too thick. Too sweet.  What to do.

(—– Half Hour Time out—–)

OK, despite everything I said above, I think there was an error in the recipe, which is so uncharacteristic of those folks, but this was so far from the mark for them, I think they forgot to write something down.  The recipe didn’t call for ANY additional water or broth.  This might have been OK with slicing tomatoes, but definitely not with my tomatoes.  Considering I had downsized the proportions pretty evenly, I don’t think that was the problem either.

I tried adding water at first.  That thinned it out, but the soup was still thick and sweet.  I went out and grabbed a goodish sprig of oregano, chopped it up, and threw it in.  That rounded out the flavors somewhat, but we still couldn’t imagine sitting down to a bowl of this.   I threw in quite a bit of chicken broth and some more salt, and A LOT of freshly ground pepper.  That did the trick.   It was no longer too sweet or too thick and actually tasted like a pretty great tomato soup.   We mopped it up with grilled cheese sandwiches made with homemade bread and handmade Beecher’s Flagship cheese.

Too much food.

17 09 2008

Due to two trips and a recent family crisis, I have been largely away from the garden and away from the blog.  Now, once again, I find myself with TOO much fresh food.    I had given the chard a serious trim two weeks ago, pulling out what amounted to 1 1/2 lbs of JUST leaves…no stems, but due to various life events, it ended up going to waste.  Today, I gave it another “trim”, and this is what I pulled out:

That ended up being two pounds of leaves after all the stems were removed.  That will make A LOT of ravioli.  I have started the process, and I will write about it tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I have had more tomatoes than I could have imagined, even from the now-recalled Dirt Sack.  The fall garden, which I haven’t really written about, also is growing MUCH faster than anticipated, so I have an unexpected bounty of pak choi that must be eaten soon.

All this from such a small space.  It kinda blows my mind.

Really ridiculously easy pasta.

3 09 2008

This is my new favorite easy-as-pie pasta recipe…at least as long as the cherry tomatoes keep coming.  When the cherry tomatoes started turning red, I turned to The Herbfarm Cookbook for ideas.  This recipe is so simple, it’s hardly a recipe.  This is cooking at its easiest.

This feeds two:

Heat oven to 450.  Start a large pot of water to boil.  Add salt to the water when boils.

Halve about a cup of cherry tomatoes.  Toss with a little olive oil, a pinch of salt, and about a tablespoon of fresh thyme.  Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet or enameled cast iron skillet.

Add 8 oz of dried spaghetti to the water.  While spaghetti cooks, place tomatoes in oven and cook for 6-8 minutes, depending on the size of the cherry tomatoes.  The tomatoes will shrivel up a bit.  Remove from oven.

When spaghetti is cooked, drain and toss with tomatoes.  Divide onto two warmed bowls.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and a bit of parsley, if available.

It doesn’t get any easier.

This was unfortunate

22 08 2008

Just as my tomatoes were really starting to turn red,  we had a major downpour.  Despite watering the tomatoes regularly, the difference in the water levels in the soil was so drastic that these guys just couldn’t handle it and split apart.   That was really too bad.


19 08 2008

As I plucked these from the vine, I couldn’t help but think that, in a world in which there weren’t cardboard-tasting tomatoes available in the grocery store, this would be widespread cause for celebration.  Provided the weather keeps it up and The Evil Blight doesn’t show itself, there are literally hundreds more to come.   The darker ones are particularly tasty.  The plant is a  Chocolate  Cherry tomato from Territorial Seed Co.  I could have probably let them ripen a bit more, but the temptation was just beyond me.

Bad Decisions = Bad Days

10 08 2008

Being a novice is a double-edged sword.  On one hand, everything is new and exciting.  On the other hand, your best judgment is really your best guess, and sometimes it is downright wrong.

I made the mistake of leaving the garden to fend for itself for three days.

We have had a couple of very mild days here, and it rained quite a bit yesterday.  I thought that was going to be enough water for the tomatoes in The Dirt Sack.  I was wrong.  Despite constant rain yesterday, the tomatoes were completely wilted today.  They were too depressing to photograph.  I’ll be sick if they don’t spring back to life.  Everything else had done just fine without needing more water.  In fact, everything else is thriving to the point of being downright out of control.

The calendula  and the tomatoes on the ground seem to have taken over the garden.  I have to trim them all back in order to give some herbs room to grow.  I had spaced the both the calendula and the tomatoes based on the growers’ recommendations, but they seem to have turned into mutants determined to smother all other life.   Meanwhile, something is eating the leaves of two out of my three cabbage plants.  While the basil is coming back from last weeks’ trim, it looks depressed.

Maybe I’m just depressed about the sudden turn of events. I’m to the point that anything that isn’t behaving itself within about the next week and a half is going to get pulled out and replaced with fall spinach.