Archive for the ‘harvest snapshot’ Category

This is the time of year when we take apart the garden and put it back together for winter gardening. We were so busy doing that, and getting sticky and dirty with sap, compost, mud, etc, that we forgot to take pictures! So I did catch-up pictures of the items left over, minus a couple of big stir-frys. This is the time of year when we have the funkiest-looking veggies, as we clear everything off the plant when we take it out of the garden.

As usual, we got a lovely return on our beans. I think beans are one of the great gifts to gardeners. I plant a couple of dozen beans of various types and harvest a quart of dried beans, plus eating several meals of fresh young whole beans. The plants themselves are great nitrogen fixers, and can be shredded and mulched in place on the garden beds at the end of the season, or composted.

This year we added Painted Lady to the runner bean collection, growing it separately on a carport support. The plants quickly climbed up to the roof, and were claimed delightedly by a couple of the local hummingbirds. The Painted Lady beans are white with black squiggles, in contrast to the pink and black Scarlet Runner beans. I’ve picked out a batch for next year’s planting (and for sharing!), from the longest and best-formed pods. Here the harvested beans are drying a bit more on the shelf, along with previously harvested peppers.

Our melon experiments were much more successful this year than last. We also discovered that a local squirrel or rat likes melons (grr!). Despite losing a couple of melons, our mini-melons did very well in the self-watering planters. We got a couple of tiny yellow watermelons, some mini-charentais, and a couple of a variety I’ve forgotten. I think all of these were supposed to be larger. I don’t know if our soil wasn’t amended richly enough, or if the cold snaps in the summer did it. I skipped the usual midsummer composting, being away, and I feel that was a big mistake.

Yes, we’re being cute here. Still, we find cardboard egg cartons to be a good place to store veggies that we don’t like to refrigerate. They allow good air circulation and are handy. I’m thinking of finding some small wire baskets on drawer gliders and hanging them under my kitchen cabinets over the countertop, which would be less cluttery than the egg cartons, and would be safe from countertop spills. There were several Ichiban long purple eggplants in this carton, too, but they went into the frypan before the picture was taken. Really like the Ichiban and the Fairy Tale (shown here) for tenderness and no trace of bitterness.

I’ve left our big Early Girl tomato plant alone, but the Green Zebra is history, as is the Pineapple Beefsteak and the Persimmon, so we have plenty of green tomatoes ripening up. The startlingly dark one is the Purple Russian; they never got more than a pale pink outside before something four-footed harvested them, or we did in self-defense. I had great hopes for a complex, smoky flavor in this, as is supposed to be true of many black or dark tomatoes, but I found it actually rather bland. Purple Russian tomato won’t be returning to my garden next year. I’ll try Black Krim or Black Prince, and rig netting so that I’ll have a chance of ripening them on the vine.

When you’re picking green tomatoes for later ripening, especially if you’re pulling out the plant, take a good chunk of stem along with them. The ripening tomatoes will pull sugars from the stem, which slowly withers and hardens. The resulting tomatoes are almost as sweet as vine-ripened, certainly far and away better than supermarket tomatoes, even hothouse ones.

Our plans for a bountiful potato harvest were dashed by the construction of new fence between our property and the neighbors’ in the back, as we didn’t find out it was coming in until the workmen were already there. They dug out my potato patch to put in a posthole, and I was only able to salvage the area where I’d laid down the standing plants straight out from the fence and covered them with dirt for an extended harvest. That led to a nice batch of small new potatoes, about half of which are pictured here. They were delicious! They are mostly Russian Banana, with a few Russets here and there.

A few larger potatoes survived the shovels of the fence-builders. They’ll be chowder someday soon!


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Summer is clearly coming to a close here in Silicon Valley. Breezy days in the high 70’s wind down to chilly evenings and cool nights. I’ve got floating row cover over our peppers already and one of the eggplant beds.

Our roses are blooming again after a severe pruning in early August. The ultra-hot weather didn’t do them any favors, even though I cut back on watering them to try to stave off any mildew or fungus problems. I’m participating in the Apartment Therapy 8-Week Cure, and one of the first things that comes up is to bring in fresh flowers. OK, they say ‘buy’, but I can just go out front right now, so I did.

Normally I’d have cut dahlias, but mine, alas, were just destroyed this past weekend by workers putting in a fence replacement. They might come back for the season or they might not– they were completely uprooted. I reburied them and watered; worst case, they die back for this season. I’m planning on moving them this winter anyway. Still, there were a LOT of blooms left, and I’m sad about that.

What I think will be the last of my squashes are in now; I planted the ebicata kabocha too late, and it got hit with powdery mildew during our hot spell and hasn’t set fruit yet. Too bad! But the red kuri / kabocha cross came through very well, and I may get another straggler from my Waltham butternut.

When the nights get cold, the squashes toughen up and get ready to pick. If you still have some ripening, be sure to gently lift them off the ground and make sure they’re clear of little pillbugs or other critters trying to eat into the rind. Use a piece of old potshard or a tile to get them off the ground, or even rest them on the vine itself. There are two primary signs to look for in squashes. The first is that the stems will start to get hard, and may turn tan or shrivel up. Butternuts typically need a pair of bolt cutters to snip off the vine! The other sign is that the skin hardens to the point where it is difficult to mark it with a fingernail. Store fresh-picked squashes on a screened porch or on an open, well-ventilated shelf for at least a week or two to let them shed excess moisture. I keep mine on an open shelf as decoration, and gradually use them up in winter.

If you haven’t grown your own squash, don’t worry– the ones at the Farmer’s Market are perfectly lovely. Buy them now, when the markets are fairly swimming in them, and store them yourself at home for later. Don’t wash them, but if they’re dirty or mucky, you can polish them off with a barely damp cloth. Treat as you would your own fresh-picked, and let them cure a while before putting in a cupboard.

The rest of the garden is still busy turning out, as Mike’s late grandmother would say, “a bissel of this, and a bissel of that”. A friend of ours came over and we responded to the plethora of ingredients by making ratatouille, a perfect solution to lots of ingredients in quantities too small to make any one of them the centerpiece. OK, there are always huge quantities of zucchini; we balance them off against the rest of the ingredients that way!

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September harvests usually end up to be something of a mish-mash, and this one is no exception. Fortunately, the best veggie stir-fry has lots of different kinds of veggies, and we’re definitely getting good material for that!

Time to round up the winter squashes and bring them inside. Make sure there’s plenty of airflow where you store them, and let them ‘cure’ for a bit in the open air before putting them into a cupboard. Butternut squashes may drip slightly from the stem for a day before settling in, so make sure they won’t drip on another squash.

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Garden volunteers make up a nice part of this harvest. The colander of yellow cherry tomatoes comes from self-seeded plants along our side yard. We moved some dirt around last fall, and apparently it had some tomato seeds in it. The pak choi was a straggler from a planter that had been harvested previously and was dumped in the side yard to help build up the soil layer there. I was very surprised to see it during the hot-weather season, but suspect its location in the fence shade is why it survived so well.

Zucchini and beans continue in mass quantities, often going straight into the freezer or the saute pan from the garden.

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The usual beans and zucchini, and the beginnings of pepper season. Our particular picoclimate gets pretty chilly at night, so our peppers take longer to mature. Near the top left you’ll see some tiny purple bell peppers, and in there’s a long very dark green pasillo baijia chili at the very front of the tray. That’s a mild to medium chili used in making mole; it dries to a rich chocolate brown, and is supposed to have a complex flavor of which ‘hot’ is only a part. This is the first year I’ve grown them.

Another pepper experiment is in the lower left, the small round ‘Alma’ variety paprika pepper. Supposedly both spicy and fruity, Alma is a very pretty plant, with creamy white peppers that ripen to yellow and then to a deep orange-red. I have this one drying on the bookcase right now, along with the pasillo. It’s turned a deep wrinkly red.

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Today’s garden desktop celebrates some of the finer things in garden life– delicate strawberries, a baby fancy bi-color squash, and the aptly-named “Fairy Tale” eggplant. Enjoy!

Higher-resolution versions available by request, leave a comment here if the one at FlickR isn’t large enough for your desktop. I’ve stopped posting the 1080 versions by default.

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Dry bean season is here, partly from the time of year and partly because I stopped picking young beans a week or so ago, to let pods mature for dry ones. These are the heirloom I call “Monte’s Italian”, given to me in 2003 by a friend from the photo club. He got them from his family in Italy. This year they returned true to type, as my back-fence neighbor Jack didn’t plant beans, so no cross-pollination occurred.

The larger harvest is, of course, dominated by zucchini. Good thing we pick them small… when they don’t get away from us. Just a single day can make a (literally) huge difference in the life of a zucchini. I grow the “Mediterranean” zucchini from Renee’s seeds. I believe it’s a French or Italian courgette variety, as it is ridged rather than smooth. The best thing about this variety is that it has a wonderful flavor when small AND still has a very good flavor and texture when large. Even very, very, VERY large. The generic dark green or black zukes one finds in the seedling section of the hardware store have very little flavor, even when tiny, and become appallingly bland and watery when they get huge.

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There’s nothing like dahlias for summer bouquets. Long-lasting, intensely colorful, and in a variety of shapes and sizes. Best of all, they’re easy-care perennials that will come back for you year after year!

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