Category Archives: vegetable evaluation

A Black Beauty by any other name

Sweet Bell Pepper Finale

The name of this pepper is Purple Beauty. But I think it should be named Black Beauty. They are so pretty, I’ve left them on the plant until the last-minute. Growing profusely, bell peppers love the cooler days at the end of summer,

The sturdy stemmed plant grew to about 2 1/2′ tall with plenty of leaves to shade the peppers from the sun.

This bell pepper grows on compact plants producing blocky, deep-purple peppers. The mild, sweet flavored peppers are loaded with vitamins C, A and beta carotene.

Purple beauty matures to bright red.

I grew one plant of several varieties this year, including red,  yellow and chocolate-colored bell peppers. The purple beauty was the most prolific. Plant production really picked up after the temperatures cooled.

Bell peppers don’t have to be staked. The stakes are just a precaution because a sudden wind storm can snap a loaded pepper plant.

Purple BeautyCapsicum annuum is thick-walled, mild flavored and juicy like all bell peppers. These shiny dark peppers turn green when cooked. Close your eyes and you can’t taste the difference between green, purple or red peppers.

The purple pepper is so dark it looks black.

All the peppers, large and small must be picked before the first fall frost.

If there are more peppers than can be used fresh, chop and freeze them for winter use. I chop or cut the bells into strips and freeze.

This assortment of frozen chopped peppers are perfect to add to soup, stew, chili and casseroles. Bell pepper strips are perfect to use in fajitas and stir-fry.

I grew these black bells from Peaceful Valley organic seed.

Heaps of peppers, a rainbow of colorful bells and every Anaheim and Poblano had to brought in before the first freeze. There are several ways to quickly preserve those peppers while they are still crisp and fresh.

I canned a couple of half pint jars of roasted red peppers. Most bell peppers are chopped and frozen. Chilies are roasted, peeled, chopped and frozen into ice-cube trays.

Yellow peppers will make a tasty golden salsa.

Roasted red peppers are perfect for pasta dishes and antipasto trays. Chopped frozen peppers, can be dropped directly into pots of chili, vegetable soups and baked dishes. Roasted chili peppers will brighten winter casseroles, enchiladas, stews.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 8/28

Wrapping up summer

Summer wraps up with rich, ripe vegetables; golden carrots, red okra, bell peppers, green beans.

yellow carrots, red okra, sweet peppers, green beans.

Carrots

Jaune Obtuse du Doubs Carrot is a French heirloom. These tender carrots are yellow and about 8″ long. The key to long straight carrots is preparing the soil before planting.

Well worked soil with plenty of compost or organic matter, is the secret. Keep carrots thinned and weeded. Carrots store well in the refrigerator, or can be canned or frozen.

We can usually grow two crops of carrots each year. Spring carrots and then the seeds started in late summer that will thrive in the fall garden. Once the seeds are started and spaced, carrots only need regular water.

Grated carrot salad of yellow and orange carrots, a sprinkle of parsley in a vinaigrette dressing.

Peppers, carrots, okra and beans are some very good reason to grow your own vegetables. Diversity. These are not varieties that you usually find in the grocery store.

Grocery store vegetables are grown for transport not taste. Taste and nutrients are never the point in mass market. The goal of a grocery store vegetable is durability and longevity.

Lots of carrot and root vegetable recipes are on the Pintrest Carrots, Potatoes, Root Vegetables.

 

Second season green beans

It’s not too late to grow another batch of green beans. The soil is warm and will quickly germinate. Keep the plants watered and you may have your biggest crop ever.

French Green Beans Almondine

Plant seeds one inch deep and water well. If your hanging baskets or  container gardens are exhausted, replant them with beans or greens. Space pole beans about 2 inches apart and bush beans 4 to 6 inches apart.

Keep your beans picked for steady production until frost. Plants are dependent on you for food and fertilizer.

Other crops you may plant at the end of the summer are, lettuce, leafy greens, radishes, turnips.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 8/26

Today’s Harvest Basket is the little red wagon. A couple of these big butternut squash would fill the usual harvest basket.

Yellow Finn potatoes and butternut squash.

Potatoes

It’s fun to dig up potatoes and see what’s there. Grown in a are specialized fabric “pots,” Grow Bags that make it possible to grow potatoes anywhere there is sun and water access. This year, I harvested a whopping 20 pounds of potatoes.

The potato harvest will become a potato salad made with the littlest whole roasted potatoes. Some spuds will be cooked with green beans and caramelized onions.

Potatoes have pretty lavender flowers. Choose a variety that you don’t find at the local grocery store. Try some fingerlings next year.

 

The endless stuffed yellow squash blossoms of spring did not deter an abundant fall harvest of butternut squash.

Winter Squash

Butternut squash soup.

Beautiful butternut squash  appeared in the garden, I did not plant it, the seed must have been in the compost. The plant took over a 4’x4′ raised bed and then tumbled out to cover about a third of the garden! The rambling plant kept down weeds, plus I got all this free squash with only an occasional watering.

This sudden abundance of squash sent me to Pintrest to collect recipes. Here are a few alternatives to my usual brown sugar and butter topping: Butternut Squash. Checkout my choices. Butternut Squash chili, ravioli, enchiladas and stuffed will be on the menu this winter.

 

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Today’s Harvest Basket 8/27

Summer color explodes

Peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, onions

I grow just a few eggplant because I believe it’s best fresh. Canned or frozen eggplant is always disappointing. Ratatouille and baked Eggplant Parmesan are my favorites.

Charred Anaheim peppers.

Anaheim peppers and poblanos are beautiful and plentiful this year, especially now that the weather has cooled a bit. These mildly hot peppers get charred on the grill and then chopped and frozen.

As the peppers are needed, I pop a cube of frozen peppers into whatever I’m cooking. Fresh roasted poblanoes go into my salsa. That’s the heat level perfect for my salsa.

 

Peppers are growing well in the raised bed garden and in 5-gallon buckets on the deck. Sweet bell peppers are red, black, chocolate, golden and green. The long Anaheim peppers are mildly hot and juicy green and continue to ripen to a bright red.

Charred, peeled, and chopped Anaheim peppers are easy to freeze in cubes.

When peppers are charred and peeled, remove the seeds and stem. Chop peppers and pack in cubes, freeze. Once frozen, store cubes in heavy-duty ziplock bags.

I’m getting a few tomatoes – if I pick them early. Before the squirrels get them.

Tomato Tarte Tatin with caramelized onion on puff pastry.

Tomatoes for salsa and marinara, soup are purchased at the Farmers Market. We pick enough home-grown tomatoes for fresh eating. I’m buying tomatoes, “canners,” for making winter time tomato dishes because I do not buy tomatoes in the winter.

Cherry and pear tomatoes seem like the perfect choice for Tomato Tarte Tatin. I’ve made a fast and easy version using puff pastry. Choose a recipe to fit your tastes, there are several versions on my Pinterest tomato page.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 8/20

A rainbow of peppers both sweet, mild bells and mildly hot Anaheim and poblanos.

Yellow eggplants, chocolate, red and black bell peppers, butternut squash and Anaheim peppers

Today’s harvest basket is full of colorful peppers and eggplant. That means it’s time for ratatouille, a French vegetable dish  hardy enough to serve as an entrée.

I now have all the herbs and vegetables for ratatouille. There are faster but not better ways to make this French peasant stew, but Julia Child’s recipe is simply the best. Find the Ratatouille recipe in her cookbook Mastering The Art of French Cooking.

Try this vegetable dish that has summer squash, eggplant, and bell pepper tied together by a fresh tomato sauce. I add a few more herbs than Julia does but her classic recipe can be a springboard for your own version.

Green, red and black peppers all on the same plant.

All the pretty bell peppers are meant to be eaten fresh or chopped and frozen for winter cooking. I make lots of stuffed peppers and freeze some for quick comfort food this fall. Depending on the degree of ripeness, bell three peppers start out green and color as they ripen.

We always grow more than we can eat fresh so there will be plenty for freezing. Most peppers are chopped and can be added frozen to any cooked recipe. Also, some are cut in strips to use in fajitas and wraps.

Roasted peppers are quickly blistered on the grill, outside.

I’m roasting and peeling the hot peppers, Anaheim and poblanos. What we don’t use fresh, will be frozen in cubes for winter use. Many are going into pint jars of salsa.

Each ice-cube square in the plastic tray holds about the equivalent  of 1 or 2 roasted and chopped chili peppers. The frozen pepper cubes can be added to soups, chili, casseroles.

If you are growing heirloom peppers, it’s easy to save seed. Be sure to let one stay on the plant until big and fully ripe.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 7/30

July 30, Harvest Basket

Eggplants, sweet peppers, Anaheim and poblano green chile peppers, giant heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet onions.

Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onion

Eggplant at last!

Finally, the eggplants are plentiful. That completes the ingredient list for ratatouille. Ratatouille is a showcase of summer garden in one main dish. By the time all the ingredients are assembled, the dish is big enough to ensure leftovers. I believe the dish is better the next day.

This vegetable casserole is great served with rice. I make a slightly under cooked version of this and freeze it. One snowy winter day, I’ll enjoy my homegrown taste of summer.

Julia Child’s Ratatouille

Eggplants* grown in a container on the deck.

Tomato Tarte Tatin

Cherry tomato pie

I love cherry tomatoes, they start producing early and just keep on growing till first frost. With the full size tomatoes coming on strong, cherry tomatoes are good for dehydrating.

Mix colors and shapes of cherry tomatoes for a mix of sweet and tart tomato flavors.

Easy, fast, tomato tart suitable for serving at any meal. The tart is a lighter version of tomato pie. Tomato Tarte Tatin is a simple summer-only treat.

This is a great way to use up a lot of cherry tomatoes. I used a mix of red and yellow cherry and pear tomatoes. Caramelize a small onion, and fill the skillet of onions with a single layer of little tomatoes. Cover with a layer of puff pastry. Bake tart until crust is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes.

Cool tart in skillet 10 minutes. Loosen pastry around the outside of the skillet. Place large platter over skillet. Hold skillet and platter firmly together and invert, allowing tart to settle onto platter. Garnish with fresh chopped basil and Parmesan.

*   Container Eggplant Little Prince grown from Renee’s Garden Seed.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 7/9

Green beans, cucumbers and, kale.

July 9, 2017. Plenty of heat, rain, weeds and green vegetables.

A couple of days of rain and the garden exploded into high production. The garden, patio and deck are thriving, herbs, veggies, weeds and all. The basket has cucumbers, green beans and kale.

Green Beans

Green beans (snap beans) are classed as being pole beans, growing 5′ or 6′ tall, or bush beans which only grow a foot or two. The bush beans do well as container plants and you can see the continuous blooms. I grow beans in the raised bed gardens and in planters on the deck.

Tonight’s dinner included those green beans with ham, onions and new potatoes.Snap beans are more productive for a longer time with regular picking. Use mulch to suppress weeds, preserve soil moisture and keep the beans cleaner.

As you harvest garden produce, immediately plant beans in empty rows to improve the soil.

Because beans fix nitrogen in the soil, they are great companion plants for kale, potatoes, carrots and, chard. Bush beans in my garden are growing  side by side with chard and carrots. As  I harvest the chard and carrots,  I’ll plant more green beans.

Cucumbers

After waiting  and waiting for homegrown cucumbers, I discovered four on the vine. Because the vines grow on a trellis, these vertical climbers don’t take up much space. When we’ve had our fill of fresh cucumbers, I’ll make a few jars of Bread and Butter Pickles.

Find recipes for pickles on my Pinterest page: Canning, preserving, pickling, smoking . Refrigerator pickles, canning recipes for Bread & Butter Pickles, and dill pickles are on the page.

Kale

Purple tinged kale is growing from self-sown seed. The leaves are mild and excellent in fresh salads. This is Red Russian, an heirloom kale.

Leaves are frilled, purple-veined and, deeply lobed like oak leaves. Tender, mild and sweet even in summer, but more colorful and sweeter after frost. Gives repeated harvests through a long season.  Ready in 55 days.

We are eating the kale fresh in a salad. My favorite way to use kale as a cooked vegetable is in green rice. Use kale and chard interchangeably in any spinach recipe.

I pulled a few Cipollini onions this morning. (Pronounced chip-oh-LEE-nee) They are curing with the other onions and garlic on the covered porch. As the stems fall over, I pull the onions and let them dry in the shade.

Our garden is mainly for fresh eating. But if we suddenly have too many green beans and kale to eat fresh, it’s easy to blanch and freeze a package or two.

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Today’s Double Harvest Basket 6/20 & 6/26

2017  Garlic Harvest in a zone 6, southeast Missouri garden. The bulbs are ready to lift mid to late June every year.  A week later, the garlic harvest has doubled.

Garlic 6/20

Freshly dug garlic needs to dry and cure before storage. The scapes go into white wine vinegar.

Perhaps the smallest garlic harvest I’ve had in years. There is one more little late patch to harvest, but this is the bulk of the 2017 garlic crop.

Pickled garlic mellows to a very mild flavor with time.

The garlic heads are smaller this year. After the garlic cries on the covered porch for a couple of days, I braid the bigger heads. The rest is roasted or pickled.

While cloves of garlic are bound for jars of kosher dills, Small cloves of pickled garlic are ideal for antipasta plates and veggie/pickles dishes.

More Garlic 6/26

Late harvest garlic was much bigger. This harvest weighed about 50% more

There are now 50 to 60 good-sized heads, That’s about a years worth because we use about a head every week of the year. Sometimes less, sometimes more, plus a lot goes into sauces, pickles, and roasted then frozen.

1 week later we’ve doubled the garlic harvest.

Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the spring bonus for growing your own garlic.

The first garlic related harvest of the season is clipping the scapes, or flower heads, from the plants.

Garlic scapes were plentiful because I planted mostly hard neck garlic. One week, I found garlic scapes at the farmers market for $2 a bunch. One of my favorite seasonal meals garlic scape pesto.

I add a few scapes into a bottle of good white wine vinegar. By this winter, it will become a premium herb vinegar. It’s mellowed garlic vinegar is almost sweet.

Sexy Food

Make pesto using garlic scapes instead of, or in addition to, basil. Serve with Pappardelle, broad, flat pasta noodles, similar to wide fettuccine. (The name derives from the verb “pappare”, to gobble up.) This really is OMG food.

If I was served a dish like fresh garlic scape pesto over homemade Pappardelle, it would be unforgettable gold star dish. It’s adult rated food. Once you put it in your mouth, you will know how an Italian dish can be 4 Star And x rated at the same time.

To Make Pesto: Puree the garlic scapes, sunflower seeds, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a food processor until finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil through the opening.

How to Grow and Harvest Organic Garlic

Gently lift garlic and move to the shade.

Growing your own garlic is easy and takes very little space.

Your also get to select the type of garlic you grow, very mild or hot and pungent.

Save your biggest and best garlic head to replant in the fall. Never buy garlic again.

These smaller heads of garlic are roasted. Then, the softened bulbs squeezed into teaspoonful portions and frozen for later use.

Mild, roasted garlic is not over powering or hot to the taste. It easily blends into any recipe. Perfect for pasta sauces or garlic toast. Try it. You will never be with out fresh, local garlic.

I purchased my garlic from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They have a variety of hard and soft neck garlic. While I keep the best variety that I grow, It’s fun to try other types of garlic. I tend select the milder varieties and long keepers.

This fall, plant a variety of garlic. That imported no-name variety purchased at the grocery store will be your last choice.

 

 

 

 

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6 /12, 6/16

Squash blossoms and herbs

No more complaining about too many zucchini. Pick the flowers to prevent zucchini squash overload.

Pick zucchini blossoms in the morning.

Today’s harvest basket is loaded with big yellow flowers, blooms from the zucchini plant.

Fragile and short-lived squash blossoms are pricey, if you can find them at the farmers market. Any kind of squash can be used in this gourmet dish.

Add the flowers to pasta primavera, salads or omelets. Fried squash blossoms are a big restaurant hit. My favorite is baked, stuffed squash blossoms.

There is a monster squash plant in my garden.

By monster I mean, it has completely taken over the 4 ft. x 4 ft. raised bed and is creeping out several feet on all sides of the bed. It is a squash blossom factory.

The monster sized squash plant is a volunteer plant that I don’t recognize from any seed catalog. The new 4×4 raised bed is filled with lots of compost, garden waste and kitchen scraps that I’ve added since last fall. This spring, the monster squash plant appeared.

I have well-behaved zucchini plants growing in containers on the deck. The monster squash plant’s only purpose is to produce flowers. I don’t want more zucchini squash, for heaven’s sake.

Pick flowers in the morning. Rinse and hold in cool water until time to prepare. Freshly picked flowers will stay fresh for a couple of days when wrapped in damp paper towels stored in the refrigerator.

The only purpose of this squash plant is to produce blossoms. I did not grow this zucchini for squash. Collect blooms every day or two.

Oven Roasted Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Remove the stamen from the flower.

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 12 zucchini blossoms, center pistil or stamens removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil, thyme, mint)
  • 2 tablespoons pepitas and/or sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper (optional)
  • olive oil, for drizzling

 

Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of cheese mixture.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Gently remove the stamen from the center of the flowers.
  3. Combine the ricotta, herbs, pepitas, sunflower seeds and egg together. Season with salt and pepper (optional).
  4. Carefully open the blossoms and stuff with the 1-2 teaspoons of ricotta mixture per flower depending on the size of the flower. Gently twist the flower at the end to enclose the filling.Lay stuffed zucchini flowers on prepared sheet pan or baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Bake for 25 or 30 minutes, or until the baby squash is tender-crisp and blossom starts to brown on bottom.

Suggestions. Add 1 Tablespoon garlic pesto or any pesto to ricotta mixture instead of chopped herbs. Serve warm squash blossoms with pasta sauce on the side for dipping.

I grow zucchini from seed in containers. Container Zucchini Astia  from Renee’s Garden. Serve roasted, sautéed, grilled or baked.

Pick squash when about 5″ or 6″long.

 

Too many zucchini? Go To: my Pinterest board Zucchini Everything

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6/12

It’s all green

All three of these vegetables were started from Renee’s Garden Seed.

Pak Choi, Green Beans, Chinese cabbage.

We are mostly eating out of the garden this month, because I set my own personal challenge. I’m cooking everything we eat this month, no eating out. It’s my choice because we have some amazing fresh, organic food.

This week we also have chard, onions, kale, squash blossoms and baby zucchini. I have all these good foods growing just a few feet away from the kitchen door. It tastes like every meal is a special occasion.

Tonight’s dinner includes Glazed Shiitakes With Bok Choy. The recipe is from the NYTimes Cooking section. From my Pinterest page, Zucchinni Everything you will find squash blossom recipes that are baked, not fried.

Trying to keep a head of the zucchini tsunami, we are picking plenty of squash blossoms for stuffing.

Rabbits love these long, thin green beans, so pole beans are ideal. The rabbits can’t get to the beans! As the bush beans come on, I’ll surround them with chicken wire.

One of my favorite green bean recipes is the dry stir fry method in Chinese restaurants. These are Pole Filet Beans, French Emerite. If I keep these very productive vines picked every day or two, it will be an extended season.

Beside the kitchen door are pots of herbs. You will be surprised how often you add fresh herbs if they are handy.

There are four kinds of mint near the patio. I keep them under control by cutting a generous spring from one plant every day for my tea.

You can still find herb starter plants at most garden centers. Buy a few herbs. It will turn an everyday meal into gourmet fare.

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