Monday, January 23, 2017

Harvest Monday - January 23, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday. I'm stepping in for Dave of Our Happy Acres as the temporary host of Harvest Monday for the month of January while he takes a much deserved holiday from the task of hosting every week. Harvest Monday is where we celebrate all things harvest related. This is the place to share your latest harvests and what you've been doing with them. If you would like to link up you will find Mr. Linky at the end of this post.

It was a big week for Brussels sprouts. The plants seem to be thriving on the rain and chilly weather. I can hardly keep up with the harvests and the sprouts are getting to be quite large. Fortunately the quality of the sprouts doesn't seem to be impaired by their jumbo size. And the chilly weather also seems to be keeping pests at a minimum.

Gustus Brussels Sprouts
Last week I started to get caught up on harvesting the Gustus sprouts.

Gustus Brussels Sprouts
Of course that means that I have to do something with them. I did go back to one of my favorite methods of preparing them, oven roasted in a cast iron skillet with some of one my last sweet red onions. And I made another "bowl meal" for Dave that featured Brussels sprouts. He loves a meal that he can eat from a bowl with just a spoon or fork. He's a lazy though enthusiastic and appreciative eater! Anyway, I had a pound of bulk Polish Sausage that I needed to use so I sauteed that along with onions and I don't remember what other seasonings, but it also included a pound of shredded Brussels sprouts. I called it Brussels Sprout Hash and it got Two Forks Up from Dave. And then I had to try something entirely new - the Brussels Sprouts Challenge continues. I adapted a classic Italian soup to make Stracciatella Soup with Brussels Sprouts. It was a nice quick, delicious, and warming dish to have on another cold and rainy evening. (OK, it's official, I'm tiring of the rain.)

Dazzling Blue Kale
I cut more kale to saute to accompany some winter squash as I describe below. You can see the difference between the two plants that are growing. One has big purple veined blue leaves and the other has smaller less colorful veins with greener leaves. Both are delicious.

Purple Sun and Pusa Rudhira Red Carrots
The carrots are holding well in the garden and I'm still pulling just a few at a time. The purple and red ones are looking particularly lovely now and they are sweeter than ever. I thought they looked very pretty together.

Bolero, Purple Sun, Pusa Rudhira Red
That's the last of the Bolero carrots. It's a very good carrot, quick to size up and sweet.

Cresses, Arugulas, and Mizuna
The greens that I tried to grow for winter salads were progressing soooo sloooowly that I gave up and cut them all down to make way for some lettuce seedlings that have been sitting in 4-inch post awaiting transplant into the garden. That's all of them in the basket above. Of course it's been so wet that I still haven't had a chance to get the lettuce into the garden. It might be better at this point to start more seeds.

That's all the harvests for the week but I also had to contend with a couple of big Discus Buttercup squashes that were starting to spoil. One of them I peeled and sliced into about 1/2-inch thick slices, generously brushed with olive oil and roasted in a hot oven until tender and browned. Those I served topped with sauteed Dazzling Blue kale and seared sweet red onion all with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds. Dave loved it. I used part of the other squash in a new way, at least for me, I used raw coarsely grated squash to make individual Winter Squash Flans which are basically fraternal twins of the crustless quiches that I also like to make. Using raw grated squash saved a lot of time compared to first roasting and pureeing the squash and the texture of the flan was more rustic as well.

To end I thought I would share a collage photo of the Carmel River, one view from the height of the drought in September 2015 and another that I took Saturday when the rain stopped long enough for me to get out for a hike.

 Carmel River January 21, 2017 and September 22, 2015
I was standing on pretty much the same spot when I took either photo. Back in September 2015 there wasn't any need for a bridge to cross the "river" and now that bridge would have been under a few feet of water.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past week:

Apollo arugula - 1.7 oz.
Speedy arugula - .5 oz.
Gustus Brussels sprouts - 3.3 lb.
Bolero carrots - 8.1 oz.
Purple Sun carrots - 6 oz.
Pusa Rudhira Red carrots - 4 oz.
Greek cress - .8 oz.
Persian Broadleaf cress - .6 oz.
Dazzling Blue kale - 8.7 oz.
Ruby Streaks mizuna - .2 oz.

Total harvests for the week - 5.2 lb. (2.4 kg.)
YTD 2017 - 18.5 lb. (8.4 kg.)

If you have a harvest you would like to share or share how you are using your harvests then add your link to Mr. Linky below. Then go check out what other bloggers have to share.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Onions For 2017

Seed Grown Onions Ready For The Garden

I do believe I've really gone nuts this year so far as onions go.

Carried away hardly describes what happened.

Somehow or another I've got 20, yes TWENTY varieties to squeeze into the garden. Make that 19 varieties, one failed to germinate. Whew! Oh but wait, I noticed one seed had popped up this morning...

And the long keeping Zebrune shallots are returning too.

And then there's the I'itoi onions that are already in the garden.

So I guess that's actually 22... errr, 21

So, here we go.

The Onion Patch So Far...
I almost got most of the babies into the garden until the rain came in for good yesterday morning. So far I've got 15 varieties squeezed into the garden. There's up to 18 plants of each squeezed in 2 inches apart to be thinned to 4 inches apart. The rain has come just in time to get all those nicely settled in.

I'm growing most of the varieties from seed. There's 10 new varieties in the seed started lineup, although 1 of those is one I grew last year but from a different source. I'm also bringing back 3 of the best performers from last year but I've started 2 of those later. Those 2 I sowed just recently when I saw how well they've kept sitting in a basket on my living room floor (not ideal) and a little research about growing onions in this area indicates that it's not too late to start bulbing onions from seed.   And I'm trying a cipollini onion from last year that grew to be too large and split like crazy before it formed bulbs so I'm starting it later this year to see if it will form proper small bulbs. And I'm also trying 2 other cipollini types that I sowed just recently also.

There's 5 new varieties and one returning variety from Dixondale. A friend purchased a number of varieties from Dixondale and is swapping a few of each with me for some of my seed started varieties.

A few of the new onions are supposed to be good overwintering types and others are supposed to be good storage onions. I would really like to find a good storage onion that will store into and perhaps through winter. By this time of year my stock of onions is pretty much gone because I've had to do something with most of them because they either sprout or spoil in storage.

More Onions Getting Started

So, in alphabetical order, here's all of the varieties that I intend to grow. The description of each variety comes from the source. Notes are mine.

* New for 2017
** Same varieties from 2 different sources, one is described as long day and the other is described a short to intermediate day. One has the original Italian name and the other is in English. I'm growing both to see if they are the same or not.
*** These are returning from 2016 or before as noted.

Australian Brown (Baker Creek) *
Intermediate type - Introduced in 1897 by W. Atlee Burpee. This variety produces extra fine large bulbs that have superb flavor! The yellow-brown roots are a standard on our farm for their sureness to produce quality.

Bianco di Maggio cipollini (Gourmet Seed) ***
Excellent Italian cipollini with solid white flesh and sweet, mild flavor. Classic white cipollini, can also be grown out to a small early season onion. Short to Intermediate day. A bit later and larger than the Pompei. Untreated seed. 80 days
Note: this variety got to be too large to be a good cipollini onion last year so I want to try a later start so that they will be smaller when they start to form bulbs.

Bronze D’Amposta (Baker Creek) *
Attractive reddish-bronze onions are good-sized and sweet; an intermediate day type. A great variety for fresh eating, as it is not too hot tasting. A decent keeper in storage and a good overall red type. Named for the small city of Amposta, Spain.

Copra (Dixondale) *
Yellow, globe shaped, slightly pungent, hybrid
Size Potential: 3-4"
Storage Potential: 10-12 months
Days to Harvest: 110
Sweetest storage onion available. Best storage onion for Northeast and Northwest. Last year with the cooler and wetter weather in the Northeast they got much larger than usual. Normally it will make a nice round, hard 3" onion. Ideal for cooking since it maintains a nice flavor
Note: One reviewer successfully grows this variety in Santa Cruz which is only 40 miles away with a similar climate so that bodes well for growing them here.

Desert Sunrise (Territorial) *
100 days. A gorgeous, glossy crimson-skinned overwintering onion with flattened globe shaped, cippolini-type bulbs and crisp, white flesh. We love Desert Sunrise's sweet, yet mild flavor whether raw or cooked. Sturdy, productive plants.
Note: I started some of these in November but I'm thinking that I should start another later sowing in case they get to be too large.

Flat of Italy (Baker Creek) *
Intermediate type - Beautiful, red "cipollini" type, flat gourmet onions from Italy. They are bright red in color and very flat, perfect for fresh eating or cooking. This is a very old Italian variety that was mentioned by Vilmorin in 1885. A good choice for fresh market. Early
(I’m starting this one later so they don’t get to be too large)

Gate Keeper (Territorial) *
250 days. Intermediate-day variety. A very nice addition to the winter garden is the high yielding and easy-to-grow overwintering onion, Gate Keeper. The attractive brown-yellow, globe shaped onions reliably come through winter and are a welcome addition to your kitchen in the spring. The jumbo-sized onions have medium storage ability.

Highlander (Dixondale) *
Yellow, slightly flat globe shaped, sweet, hybrid
Size Potential: 3-4"
Storage Potential: 4-5 months
Days to Harvest: 85-90
We had great reviews of this variety we introduced in 2014! Slightly flat, globe-shaped bulbs are lighter in color than most long day varieties, but the bulbs are very firm with thin necks. This is the main variety planted by large onion farmers in the northeastern United States for early marketing. Since it is an extra-early maturing variety, it can be planted in all the intermediate day areas, as well as the long day areas. It will store up to four months. With its tight, thin neck it is easy to cure. Highlander is tolerant to botrytis and downy mildew, the two most common diseases in onions.

Keepsake (Territorial) *
280 days. Intermediate-day variety. Combining jumbo-sized bulbs with a very long storage ability certainly makes Keepsake a keeper. Bronze skins tightly wrap the vibrant white flesh of the globe shaped, 3-4 inch bulbs.

Red Candy Apple
Red Candy Apple (Dixondale) ***
Red Candy Apple is absolutely the most beautiful red onion on the market. When planted in short and intermediate day areas it produces larger bulbs. It will not size to jumbo onions in long day areas. However, it will make a great red bulb to be sold early at the farmers' market in all areas. To produce larger bulbs in long day areas, push this onion along with additional nitrogen applications. Dixondale Farms' exclusive since we are the only ones with the rights to the seed. Stanley Farms in Vidalia, Ga is using this variety for their red Vidalia type onions. It is the sweetest variety available.
Deep red, flattened globe shape, sweet, hybrid
Size Potential: 3"
Storage Potential: 2-3 months
Days to Harvest: 85-95
Note: I've grown these in 3 previous years, although not in 2016 and had great success with it. It doesn't bolt and it keeps relatively well. The only reason I didn't grow it last year was because I didn't want to grow out the minimum order from Dixondale and there are no seeds available to home growers.

Red of Florence (Baker Creek, new seeds) **
(Long-day) Oblong shaped, bright red onions; great for planting spring or fall; seems to do well in many areas. They are very mild and sweet, great for salads and pickling! A delicious Italian heirloom. Very rare.
Note: this could be the same as Rossa Lunga di Firenze except for the day length?

Red River (Dixondale)*
Dark red, globe shaped, sweet, hybrid
Size Potential: 3-4"
Storage Potential: 3-5 months
Days to Harvest: 95-105
We had great reviews of this new variety in 2014! Red River is a highly adaptable onion variety that can be planted in both intermediate day and long day regions since it is considered a long "intermediate day" or a short "long day." For customers that remember our very popular variety called Mars, this is the red variety that we feel comes closest to that maturity slot, flavor, and size. This variety boasts a strong root system and a nice dark red color. High yield potential and good storage potential. Resistant to pink root, fusarium, and bolting.

Rossa Lunga di Firenze
Rossa Lunga di Firenze **
A Florentine onion with excellent flavor. Distinctive long red Italian onion well-known as the 'Italian Torpedo', not to be confused with the top-shaped tropeana. Mild sweet taste and beautiful. Short to Intermediate Day. Untreated seed
Note: This is back for the third time in my garden. It is productive and resists bolting and is very tasty.

Rossa Piatta d’Italia (Gourmet Seed) **
Large flat-bulb variety of Italian onion, tender flesh, red-violet color. If you're looking for classic red Italian onion flavor, this is it. Not a great 'keeper', but fabulous for fresh use on salads, sandwiches, and more. (Red Flat Italian Onion). Intermediate day-length. Untreated seed. 105 days. 
Note: This variety kept fairly well. It had a tendency to split which is detrimental to its keeping qualities, but none of them bolted last year and I love it’s intense red color so I’m giving it a try again.
Note 2: this is the one that failed to germinate, the seeds were from last year so I'm not surprised. I'll put it on my list for 2018.

Texas Legend (Dixondale) *
Yellow, globe shaped, sweet, open pollinated
Size Potential: Up to 6"
Storage Potential: 3 to 4 months
Days to Harvest: 105 (matures 10-14 days earlier than the 1015Y Texas Supersweet)
Specifically bred for more healthful benefits than its parent variety, the original 1015Y Texas Supersweet, Texas Legerd is still as mild and sweet! The Texas Legend actually contains 25 active compounds that inhibit the growth of cancerous cells, help combat heart disease, and stimulate the immune system. It is also antibacterial and antifungal, to help ward off colds and relieve stomach upset and other gastrointestinal disorders. The Texas Legend matures 10 to 14 days earlier than the 1015Y Texas Supersweet and it is ideally suited for growing in the short day region.This one gives you a nice, globe-shaped, sweet, yellow onion that is open pollinated (meaning they are pollinated by wind, insects, or animals). This onion also has antifungal and antibacterial properties to help combat colds and relieve tummy aches, and other disorders of the gastrointestinal type. In the correct growing conditions, you should expect yields of 6″ onions, around 105 days after planting from transplants.

Top Keeper (Territorial) *
275 days. Intermediate-day variety. A top-notch onion whose name speaks for itself! Top Keeper is an overwintering onion that can store through November of the year that it is harvested. Top Keeper is less susceptible to bolting and splitting than other overwintering varieties. The flattened, globe-shaped, brownish yellow bulbs weigh approximately 3/4 pound.

Tropea Rossa Tonda
Tropea Rossa Tonda (Seeds From Italy) ***
This is one of the most famous onions in Italy and is the central point of a food festival, the Onion Festival of Tropea in July. Medium long day type, mid season. Round, red/pink on outside, becomes white in the center. If picked as baby, it is all white. Very sweet. 
Note: This was the best keeping onion of all the varieties that I grew in 2016. A few of them bolted in 2016 but they resisted splitting. Its good keeping quality is enough to make me try them again.

Tropeana Lunga (Baker Creek) *
Intermediate type - Long, tall bulbs are unique and popular with Mediterranean chefs. Harvest this gorgeous onion in mid-summer for your own delight or sell this winner for top prices at market. They are a lovely shade of red. This heirloom from Tropea is rare in America.

Yellow Granex (Dixondale) *
Yellow, semi-flat, sweet, hybrid
Size Potential: Up to 5"
Storage Potential: Approximately 1 month
Days to Harvest: 100
This variety was developed right here in Carrizo Springs, Texas by basically crossing the 1015 and the Bermuda to make a deep, flat onion. You may not get them as sweet as the famous Vidalia, Georgia onion, but they will be the sweetest variety in your garden. This variety was approved through vigorous testing to be allowed to be called a Vidalia onion. Each variety has to be submitted every two years and approved by their committee. Only approved yellow granex strains are permitted in the 17 county region. This is also the variety grown in Maui, Hawaii and around Tyler, Texas, where it is called the "Noonday Onion." It stores fairly well for this type of onion at approximately 1-2 months.
We planted the first crop of yellow granex back in the 1960s and were the first to ship any plants to Vidalia. Now we grow over 100 million of these just to be transplanted in Vidalia. They will probably never admit they had their start in Texas, but we know the truth!

Zoey (Territorial) *
105-110 days. Intermediate-day variety. Zoey offers the best of the best in onions. These big, solid bulbs have a delectably sweet flavor and will keep up to an amazing 4 months! Protected by sleek, copper skins, the firm, white onions easily attain 3 1/2-4 inches across. The robust plants are very uniform and reliable in a wide range of growing conditions, but we recommend planting early for best yield.

Zebrune shallots (Baker Creek)
Long-day Type--(Cuisse de Poulet du Poitou) Gorgeous heirloom French eschalion or “banana” type shallot yields plump, long, torpedo-shaped bulbs. Bulbs are brown tinged with pink. The flesh is very mild and sweet, and large yields may be had starting the first year from an early planting. Excellent keeping quality makes these gourmet shallots useful over a very long season!
Note: These are the best keeping alliums I have ever grown. They will store in my cool dark storage closet with very little spoilage, although they do continue to dry down and shrink with time, but in general they keep well into summer and some even into fall.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Harvest Monday - January 16, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday. I'm stepping in for Dave of Our Happy Acres as the temporary host of Harvest Monday for the month of January while he takes a much deserved holiday from the task of hosting every week. Harvest Monday is where we celebrate all things harvest related. This is the place to share your latest harvests and what you've been doing with them. If you would like to link up you will find Mr. Linky at the end of this post.

It was a few more of the usual suspects last week.
Calabrese Broccoli Shoots
Broccoli was on the menu again. The Calabrese broccoli plants are slow to produce shoots now and one of my three plants has been struggling in the shadow of the towering Brussels sprouts plants so it hardly produces anything and then I pretty much ignored the shoots that were growing so this is the first broccoli I've harvested since December 6. 

Dave enthusiastically plowed through a bowl of brothy broccoli piled on toast. It's a nice simple dish that's so nice to have on a cold winter night. I blanched the broccoli first because it had a few to many aphids to simply wash away, then I chopped it and added it to a seasoning mixture of sauteed apple cider bacon, chopped I'itoi onions, and Aji pepper flakes. Then I let the mixture braise briefly in some poultry stock and piled it all on top of some toasted rustic bread that I smeared with some green garlic cream and then topped it all of with some grated pecorino romano cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. 

Pink Plume Celery
More celery came in from the garden for salads and soup.

Syrian Medieval Chard
A nice big bunch of Syrian Medieval chard found it's way into some cornmeal creamed chard.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad
Not photographed was a basketful of big Hestia Brussels sprouts. I made another version of the Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad that I mentioned last week. This time I used pecorino romano cheese instead of parmesan, and I have to say that it was good but the version with the parmesan is better. But this time I did try to take a photo. Just this Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle published another version of a shredded Brussels sprouts salad, but that one has the addition of wheat berries, roasted mushrooms, and hard boiled eggs to make it a hearty main dish salad. I'm going to have to give that version a try soon.

Savory Brussels Sprouts Galette
And the Brussels Sprouts Challenge continues! I came up with two new ways to consume some of the glut of sprouts. One way is to use them as a filling for a Savory Brussels Sprouts Galette. And the other dish, which I did not photograph, is a Brussels Sprouts Skillet Souffle, which might also be described as a fluffy frittata. Both of them got two-forks-up from my Eater-In-Chief (aka my husband Dave). Click on the links to find my recipes.

The only other thing to hit the tally last week was one more tomato that ripened on the counter, still surprisingly good.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past week:

Calabrese broccoli - 13.5 oz.
Hestia Brussels sprouts - 2.1 lb.
Pink Plume celery - 9.3 oz.
Syrian Medieval chard - 2.1 lb.
Chianti Rose tomato - 3.8 oz.

Total harvests for the week - 5.9 lb. (2.7 kg.)
2017 YTD - 13.2 lb. (6 kg.)

If you have a harvest you would like to share then enter a link in Mr. Linky below, then go and see what everyone else has to share. Thanks for joining in the fun!

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Harvest Monday - January 9, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday. I'm stepping in for Dave of Our Happy Acres as the temporary host of Harvest Monday for the month of January while he takes a much deserved holiday from the task of hosting every week. Harvest Monday is where we celebrate all things harvest related. This is the place to share your latest harvests and what you've been doing with them. If you would like to link up you will find Mr. Linky at the end of this post.

All week long I've been hearing warnings about the Atmospheric River that is zeroing in on California's central coast. It's supposed to inundate us with rain like we haven't seen in 10 years but so far it been less than overwhelming in my neck of the woods, the bulk of the rain seems to be falling to the north of here. Although, as I sit here on Sunday afternoon working on this post it seems like the river has finally wended its way here, it's pouring. What we have been experiencing here for the last couple of days is high winds. The wind had me out in the garden on more than one occasion to secure plants and covers that were being tossed about. Still, the weather has not stopped me from harvesting what the garden has to offer and there is actually something new in the harvest basket!

Gangbusters Spinach

Merlo Nero Spinach
The spinach that I sowed back on November 10 and put into the garden on November 22 is big enough to start harvesting. I'm growing 2 varieties and both are new for me. I combined both of them in a Greek Cornmeal Pie From Epirus, my version of the recipe at least, I made a number of ingredient substitutions but the form of the dish was the same. Basically you mix some cornmeal with olive oil, yogurt, and water and spread half of that in the bottom of a baking dish, top it with a mixture of wilted greens, onion, herbs, and feta, then spread the remaining cornmeal mixture on top and bake it. I ground some of the Puhwem corn from this year's corn harvest for the cornmeal. And I also used some I'itoi onion greens and some fennel tops from a volunteer red fennel plant. Dave loved it even though I overbaked it a bit.

I'itoi Onion Greens and Red Fennel Tops

Gustus Brussels Sprouts
The Brussels sprouts harvests continue. About half of that bunch above got roasted in a cast iron skillet and then combined with some leftover cubes of roasted Buttercup squash. Dave challenged me to find something NEW to do with the sprouts, not that he hasn't been enjoying what I've been doing with them, but I have pretty much stuck with variations on either iron skillet roasting or shredding and sauteeing. So I went to my Eat Your Books recipe index and browsed through the recipes that featured Brussels Sprouts and found inspiration from a couple of recipes for shredded Brussels sprouts salads. I made a rather simple salad with raw shredded sprouts, grated Parmesan, toasted slivered almonds, extra virgin olive oil, Meyer lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper. It was a hit and I will definitely be making it or a variation again. You can find my recipe for the salad on my recipe blog HERE.

Pink Plume Celery
The celery plants are producing big main stalks very slowly in the short cold days of winter, but the plants have made a lot of side shoots with thin stalks. Those thin stalks are just as tasty as the fat stalks so I've started to cut those. Perhaps the plants will put more energy into producing the fat main stalks if I trim the skinny ones away? I've been using the celery in soups and salads on a regular basis.

Purple Sun and Rotild Carrots
More carrots. Also for salad and soups and some snacking with hummus.

Tronchuda Beira Cabbage, Gladiator Parsnips, Rotild Carrots

And the last 2 Rotild carrots, a few Gladiator parsnips, and Tronchuda Beira cabbage leaves for a Sunday Evening Soup for which I also cooked up some Black Coco beans from last year.

There's still tomatoes that are ripening on the kitchen counter but more are going into the compost now than into the harvest basket, but those that were fit to eat last week were pretty tasty.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past week:

Gustus Brussels sprouts - 1.7 lb.
Tronchuda Beira cabbage/kale - 14.8 oz.
Bolero carrots - 4.2 oz.
Purple Sun carrots - 3.1 oz.
Rotild carrots - 9.5 oz.
Pink Plume celery - 11.6 oz.
Dazzling Blue kale - 8.7 oz.
Gladiator parsnip - 7.1 oz.
Gangbusters spinach - 8.5 oz.
Merlo Nero spinach - 7.8 oz.
Chianti Rose tomatoes - 7.7 oz.
Pantano tomatoes - 3.8 oz.
Piccolo Dattero tomatoes - 4.2 oz.

Total harvests for the past week - 7.4 lb.
YTD 2017 - 7.4 lb.

Update Monday morning. About that Atmospheric River I mentioned above.

The screen shot below shows a composite radar image for the precipitation over the weekend. The scale on the map shows precipitation going from a trace represented by light blue progressing through the color range through white at 10 inches, the red blobs on the map show where the rain was most concentrated. That red blob at the bottom is Big Sur, the red blob in the center is the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the red blobs on the right are the Sierra foothills. I happen to live to the north of (above) the Big Sur blob in that area that goes to green which is why the rain seemed less than overwhelming to me, we're in the rain shadow of the Santa Lucia range. The AR dumped big time around here but not on me! I haven't learned much yet about local consequences, but so far I know that local rivers did have some minor flooding but nothing devastating. We're getting something of a break in the rain today, just showers are predicted, but more rain is due tomorrow. And King Tides...

If you have a harvest you want to show off then enter a link to your post in Mr. Linky below.

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Variety Spotlight - Zebrune Shallot

Every once in a while I write a spotlight post about a variety of vegetable that I grow and that I particularly like. I started this series when Liz at Suburban Tomato started the meme as Saturday Spotlight. Liz hasn't been blogging for quite some time but her page with links to Spotlight posts written by herself and other bloggers is still standing. I've dropped the Saturday aspect of the series since I only occasionally get around to writing up a post and they rarely get published on Saturday, but I do keep a list of my posts on my Variety Spotlights page. Dave at Our Happy Acres also maintains a list of Variety Spotlights so you should go check his favorites also.

Zebrune shallots have proven their worth in my garden for 2 years and I'm growing them again for 2017 so I think it's time to do a Spotlight post about them since it seems that they've become a fixture in my garden and kitchen.

This type of shallot is often called a banana shallot because of its shape. In France it is called Cuisse de Poulet which translates as chicken thigh or it may be called Oignons Piriformes meaning pear-shaped or spindle-shaped onion. Botanically shallots and onions are both Allium cepa so technically it's not incorrect to call a shallot an onion. Most shallots are Allium cepa var. aggregatum and are generally grown from sets planted in the late fall. They sprout in the spring and divide to form clumps of bulbs. Banana shallots are different in that they are not aggregating onions, they generally produce a single bulb, and they are grown from seed. They also differ from aggregating shallots because of their large size and elongated shape. Their size and shape came from having been originally bred by crossing a typical shallot with a long onion, an onion which would have been similar to the Rossa Lunga di Firenze onion that I've also been growing for the last couple of years.

In my mild zone 9b climate I can sow my seeds as early as November and as late as January along with the onion varieties that I grow from seeds. I sow all the seeds into a 4-inch pot and allow them to grow for 8 to 10 weeks before separating the seedlings and setting them out in the garden. The earlier the start the larger the bulbs. Like any other onion they are day length sensitive so they start to form bulbs when the days are long enough regardless of how large they are. Some of the earliest started plants form bulbs that are as large as the smaller Rossa Lunga di Firenze onions.

The way my drip irrigation system is set up dictates how far apart the rows are - mostly about 9 inches. I've been setting the shallots out 4 inches apart along the rows. In the winter I have to cover up the little seedlings because the birds like to pluck at them, not because they like to eat them but I suppose because they think they might be tasty.

Later in the season I can uncover all the onions and allow them to grow on. When the greens start to fall over it indicates that it is time to lift them. Once a few of them start to topple over I'll go through the patch and bend over all the stalks.

In 2016 I lifted all the shallots on July 29 when the tops started to die down, they were the last of the alliums to come out of the garden. In 2015 I didn't note the date that I lifted the shallots but it was also at the end of July. You can see in the photo above that some of the tops were still quite green but I needed to make room in the bed where they were growing so they all had to come out.

As with any onion they can be harvested before they need to be lifted and cured. In particular I will cull the few that may bolt and the ones that split. The youngest ones are also good used when they are in the scallion stage but I tend to not harvest them that young because I always set out extra onions to be used as spring onions.

One of the things that I most like about these shallots is that they keep extremely well. Back in November I was using the last of the shallots at the same time that I was sowing the seeds for this year's crop. It is the longest keeping allium that I've grown. I keep them in a cool dark closet in a basket. I do have to keep an eye on them for sprouting and spoilage, some of them split into 2 or 3 bulbs within the outer wrapper and that makes them more prone to spoiling in storage so I try to use those first. After that I try to use the smallest ones because they shrink over time as the out layers dry out and the smallest ones eventually shrink down to almost nothing. I tend to use the bulk of the crop after I've run out of onions, they make a good stand in for regular onions in many dishes.

Zebrune is one variety of banana shallot and the easiest to find seeds for, I've purchased seed from both Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek. It's been easy to grow, reliable, delicious, and a good keeper. So it is a keeper indeed.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Harvest Monday - January 2, 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday. I'm stepping in for Dave of Our Happy Acres as the temporary host of Harvest Monday for the month of January while he takes a much deserved holiday from the task of hosting every week. Harvest Monday is where we celebrate all things harvest related. This is the place to share your latest harvests and what you've been doing with them. If you would like to link up you will find Mr. Linky at the end of this post.

Aji Amarillo Grande
Well, the season ended with a bit of a spicy bang, the last gasp of summer, with the bulk of the production of the Aji Amarillo Grande peppers. This baccatum pepper is more cold tolerant than the more common annuum peppers so it held up well through a couple of freezing nights with the aid of some protection. The plants are looking a bit tired but most of the peppers are just fine.

Syrian Medieval Chard
This bunch of chard was just enough to make a galette inspired by this recipe from Food52. I made a few modifications to the recipe, such as using a whole wheat crust instead of a cornmeal flavored crust. I also made it smaller, round instead of a big rectangle. One other change is that I blanched the chard and squeezed out the excess moisture rather than cooking it down with the onions. I'll have to write up my version of the recipe one of these days because this galette is a keeper, it was absolutely delicious.

Gustus Brussels Sprouts

The bounty of Brussels sprouts continues to roll in. This time I halved them and roasted them with part of the carrot shown below, along with a parsnip that I harvested last week, and part of one of the last of the Rosso Lunga di Firenze onions from my stash.

Spanish Black Carrot
A few years ago I grew some Spanish Black carrots that I allowed to go to seed. Since then I've been finding the occasional volunteer coming around the garden. Most of the time I don't allow them to grow because they get to be huge, especially the tops. But this one volunteered where it wouldn't get in the way so I allowed to grow. I finally had to pull it when I cleaned out one of the beds to get it ready to sow a cover crop. It turned out to be a particularly huge specimen. Compare it to the 3 carrots below which weighed 5.2 ounces in total without their tops. The biggie above weighed 12.6 ounces after trimming off the top.  I used only half of it with the roasted Brussels sprouts that I mentioned above. The Spanish Black carrots aren't as sweet as most other carrots, but it's flavor is good when it's cooked and I love the colors, most of them have a yellow core and the contrast with the dark purple is very striking.

Rotild and Pusa Rudhira Red Carrots and Pink Plume celery
I continue to harvest the other carrots from the garden as I want them. Lately I've been using them shredded in salads with sliced celery, tomato, pomegranate, avocado and sunflower seeds sometimes with the addition of smoked salmon or shredded duck confit. It makes a nice refreshing but hearty winter salad. The tomatoes in the salads are still from the ones that I harvested as they started to color up a few weeks ago. Most of them have been keeping well and ripening on the kitchen counter. I'm weighing them as I use them so you'll see some in the latest tally. Some of the last ones that I plucked from the vines aren't keeping well, they're spoiling before they ripen, but that's why I wait until I use them to put them in the tally. The vast majority of the peppers that I harvested late and had successfully ripen on the counter were the variety Pantano, a good basic red beefsteak type from Italy. I've had good success with this variety, it performs well in my cool coastal climate, tastes great, and now it has another plus in its column, a good late producer/keeper. It will be back next year.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past week:

Gustus Brussels sprouts - 1.3 lb.
Pusa Rudhira Red carrot - 2.2 oz.
Rotild carrots - 5.2 oz.
Spanish Black carrot - 12.6 oz.
Pink Plume celery - 8.4 oz.
Syrian Medieval chard - 2 lb.
Aji Amarillo Grande peppers - 1.1 lb.
Pantano tomatoes - 14.5 oz.

Total harvests for the week - 7.1 lb. (3.2 kg.)
2016 YTD - 968.2 lb. (439.2 kg.)

This is the first time in a couple of years that the final tally didn't break the 1,000 pound mark. It's actually down quite a bit from the past two years. The final tally for 2015 was 1,226.2 pounds and for 2014 it was 1,207.4 pounds. But going all the way back to 2013 the total was a bit less at 948.1 pounds.  One of the glaring differences this year was the pepper harvests. The rats and powdery mildew decimated the pepper plants and harvests so I only tallied 49.8 pounds of peppers this year versus 171.2 pounds last year and 107.9 pounds in 2014. I'll be looking into the differences in more detail later.

If you have a harvest you want to show off then enter a link to your post below. Happy New Year everyone!

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

End of Year Garden Update - December 31, 2016

I've been getting through a bunch of clean-up tasks in the garden in the last few days. Out with the old to make way for the new!

Bed #1
Bed #1, which was where I grew mostly curcurbits through the summer and into the fall, is now pretty much cleared out. I'll be sowing a mustard based cover crop there in the next few days, weather allowing. That will grow through the end of March when I'll cut it down, dig it in, and let it rot for a few weeks before prepping the bed for tomatoes and peppers.

Bed #2
I cut down all the frost bitten tomato vines from the trellis in Bed #2 and I've sown three varieties of fava beans along the trellis. My long time favorite Extra Precoce Violetto is back, along with Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto which is probably the same variety but it's from a different source. The third variety is Aguadulce. I sowed those in a single row along the trellis. Last year I sowed a row of beans along either side of the trellis, but I think it will be easier to keep them under control by tying them to the trellis from just the one side. I did sow them closer together than last year since they won't have any competition from the other side of the trellis. The mustard that is growing along either side of the single row of the lower growing Robin Hood Fava beans was starting to compete with the favas so I cut down one row of it, cut it up, and dug it into the part of bed #3 where the onions will be growing.

Aji Amarillo Grande
The only thing left in Bed #2 from the summer are the amazing Aji Amarillo plants. The Aji Amarillo Grande plant finally produced the bulk of the ripe peppers today, I harvested them this afternoon.

Bed #3
Bed #3 has been cleared of all the summer and fall vegetables other than the I'itoi onions. The right side of this bed will be home to mostly onions and shallots well into summer. I've got tiny little seedlings already growing for a number of varieties of onions that I'm trying this year plus more of the Zebrune shallots that have done so well for me. I plan to get those into the garden in the next couple of weeks.

Batavia Broccoli
Bed #3 will be where I grow greens, salad greens, brassicas, roots, and other miscellaneous veggies in 2017. I've already started the transition with an early planting of broccoli set out under the protection of water bottle cloches.

Spinach In A Cage
And spinach is getting a head start (late start?) also. They were starting to outgrow their cloches and I needed the cloches for the definitely late sown favas so I set up a cage to protect the young plants from critters. The last two cloches are providing added protection for directly sown seedlings that replaced a couple of plants that didn't survive being planted out in paper pots.

Baby Spinach plants
It looks like I'll be harvesting spinach quite soon!

Bed #4
Bed #4 is where almost all the current harvests are coming from. I don't have as many overwintering fall sown vegetables this year but I'm not lacking for fresh veggies from the garden. The broccoli is still putting out a few shoots, there's all the kale that I need from the two plants that look like palm trees, there's plenty of chard, celery, Tronchuda Beira cabbage, carrots, and now parsnips. The Brussels sprouts have exceeded my expectations and I'm actually faced with a glut! (Hmm, I guess the Brussels sprouts look a bit like palm trees these days too...)

I had to cut the Peppermint Stick chard back extremely hard because of aphids and it's slow to make a comeback, it's hiding in the back corner. The Golden chard is slow to grow also but looking better because it didn't get such a severe trim the last time I harvested from it. Both of these varieties of chard usually go into hyper growth when the days get longer and warmer but they don't bolt right away. They should produce all the chard I want through the spring. The Syrian Medieval chard on the left is a more modest grower but seems to be really enjoying the cooler weather. This variety is more prone to bolting than the other two so I expect it to be the first to go when the weather warms up. I took this photo just before I harvested about a dozen good sized leaves from the plants.

Pink Plume Celery
I'm still getting really good stalks of Pink Plume celery. These are the last 3 plants of an original patch of 8 plants. They've been producing on a cut-and-come-again basis since June. Most of the plants bolted at some time during the season but fortunately 2 of the last 3 plants that I left at the end of the bed have not tried to bloom yet. I cut one of the three remaining plants down to a nub because it was bolting but it's putting out a lot of new side shoots now.

Brussels Sprouts
Look closely at the top of the Brussels sprouts leaves and you'll see that the birds have developed a taste for them. After the photo shoot I covered the tops of all the plants with a length of tulle fabric to try to deter the munchers.

Up and comers in this bed include the Kolibri/Kongo kohlrabi mix that did so well for me this fall. I need to cut back the cilantro that is encroaching on their space.

Kohlrabi and Radicchio
And I'm experimenting with very late sown radicchio under the cloches. They are growing relatively quickly so perhaps I'll get at least some leafy greens from the plants.

And finally there's some Mizunarubasoi getting started under cloches. I grew it this spring, direct seeded in a couple of rows thinking that I could harvest it by trimming it as it grew, but it grow so fast and so large that I had to give up on that and harvest entire plants. So this time I started them in a pot and then chose the biggest seedlings to set out individually. They are coming along quickly and I should be able to do a bit of trimming soon. The clumps between the bottles are the extra seedlings that I just plopped in in a couple of bunches with the plan of cutting them early. Well, the birds decided to do some trimming for me so they are a bit runty. I've got this section of the enclosure adequately covered now so they should have a chance to size up a bit before I have to harvest them when I free their mates from the cloches.

That's the latest in my garden. Happy New Year!