Category Archives: sungolds

Now we’re cooking

I can stop complaining about the lack of vegetables now:

Harvest on 8-14
Harvest on 8-14
Harvest on 8-17
Harvest on 8-17

This was a lot of stuff to come in all at once.  It looks very impressive, posted on Facebook.  I had several offers to, “….take some of that off your hands.”  So kind of those folks!  Where were they when I was on my hands & knees for four hours, weeding?

In the end, we put up 5 jars of pepperoncini peppers:

PepperoncinisI found a great recipe for pickling them on Our first batch tasted a little mushy, probably from the length of time they sat in the canner until I was able to finish stuffing all the jars and bring it to a boil.  This time we stuffed the jars, filled the brine, removed the air and then put them all into the canner at once.  We’re hoping this makes them crisper.  The ones available commercially taste too bitter to me, so if they are just a little crunchier, they will be perfect.

We’ve got some beans coming, too:

Anellino di Trento and Royalty Purple bush beans
Anellino di Trento and Royalty Purple bush beans

We grilled these with a little bit of olive oil, lemon juice and dill and they were fantastic.  We’re enjoying the beans more than normal, given that just three weeks ago we thought they were a total loss.  Something was getting over our fence and eating the bushes.  We suspect a woodchuck, and so we set up the electric fence around the wire one.  Problem solved.

After picking all those tomatoes, we parboiled, peeled, seeded and diced them into 2-cup quantities and froze them.  We ended up with 2 bags of Krim, 3 bags of Kellogg, and a bag each of Brandywine and Roma.  But we didn’t freeze all of them:

2014-08-17 19.22.33That is a Tomato Stack Salad with Corn & Avocado.  It is delicious.  We used Krim, Kellogg and Brandywine, plus corn, fresh chive and basil from the garden in the dressing.  We have been waiting all season to make that stack of deliciousness.  It was worth the wait.

In a fit of optimism, I planted 191 Knight peas in the back 40 yesterday.  Average time to harvest?  56 days.  That puts us somewhere around October 12, give or take depending on how warm fall is.  I may have wasted $1.50 in seeds if we have an early frost.  This is my idea of living dangerously.

First harvests

I have been spending my spare time weeding, rather than posting on this blog, for which I apologize.  I find this the longest time of the year, when everything is growing merrily (especially the weeds) but there is nothing to pick and enjoy.  But that is starting to change.  First up:

Turnips and lettuce
Turnips and lettuce

This year we are growing the same lettuce mix we purchased from Pinetree last year, and it is doing equally well.  We have a new type of turnip, an Asian-style that you pick while they are still fairly small.  I have been trying to correct my less-than-stellar thinning efforts from earlier in the season by picking ones that are too close to other ones.  We only have a small row of them – about five feet across – so I am picking them for meals as we need them.

Yesterday was very exciting, because this is what was harvested:

Summer squash, banana peppers, sungold tomato
Summer squash, banana peppers, sungold tomato

Oh yes, your eyes do not deceive you – that is the first sungold tomato of the season.  J picked it and brought it in for me to enjoy – what a generous guy.  I think I surprised him when I cut it in half to share.  That’s very unlike me, where sungolds are concerned.

The precioussssssss
The precioussssssss

Meanwhile, our search for a substitute pet continues:

Not as cute as a cat
Not as cute as a cat

I really couldn’t tell if the toad was closing his eyes because he was relaxed, or he expected imminent death and didn’t want to see it coming.

We maybe need something with fur.

The bounty continues

Today’s haul:


This is on top of an additional 25 Roma tomatoes, 2 Kellogg, 2 Brandywine & half pint of Sungolds that are up on the counter.  And I’m not seeing Stella Caroline this week.  I wonder how much it would cost me to FedEx….?

The green beans in the photo are Kentucky Wonder pole beans.  I have been calling them Kentucky runner beans, which is only half true (they are running away from us, so that part is true.)  Kentucky Wonder is a very old heirloom that has been known by many other names over the years, including  American Sickle Pole, Eastern Wonder, Egg Harbor, Georgia Monstrous Pole, Improved Southern Prolific, Missouri Prolific, Old Homestead Pole and Texas Pole.  An online catalog describes them as, “…..very reliable, early maturing, and productive.”  They should really use the word “prolific” in the bean name, because that might give me pause when calculating how many to plant.  I would also rewrite the description to say, “Very reliable, early maturing, and will bury you and everyone you know in beans.”  But this is mostly my fault – I put in 6 hills of the beans, with 8 bean plants per hill.  And I’m pretty sure every one of those suckers came up.  So, 48 plants.  Next year, for the love of Pete, someone please remind me that this is too many when I’m all excited in the middle of May to plant the beans.  I need someone to come stand in the field and shout at me when I start trying to rationalize and say things like, “But they might not all come up!” or “What if some of the plants don’t produce?”  They will all produce, apparently.

Underneath our Kentucky beans are our usual purple bush beans, and to the right are Roma tomatoes (totally out of control this year, the plants are tipping over from the weight of the tomatoes) and the left is a bowl of Sungolds with a Brandywine for a little change of color.  There are too many Sungolds to fit in the ceramic pint container I usually keep them in.

So this batch of beans will be the first batch that I freeze.  The best way to preserve beans through freezing is to blanch them first, to kill off any bacteria or enzymes that might cause them to become discolored during the freezing process.  I usually submerge them for 3 – 4 minutes, then plunge them into ice water and dump them into a strainer before laying them out on towels to fully dry before freezing them in freezer bags.  My online research tells me that they are best used within a 10-month period, but I have found that they are fine up to and past a year later.  Why yes, we do have beans frozen from last year in our freezer, however did you guess?

A banner year

So while we’ve had a few problems this year (see also: rabbit in fenced garden, bugs) it’s turning out to be an amazing year:







We’ve lost a couple of squash plants – due to powdery mold, bugs or both, it’s not clear, but we’ve successfully harvested zucchini pretty consistently since the middle of July.  Of our 6 plants, 3 are producing – all zucchini – and we’re keeping up with consuming what we’re picking.  We’ll stick with the 6 plant plan for next year, because if everything does well we’ll have to give stuff away even at that low number.  We’ve come quite a way from the days of 6 of both types of plants.  Those were some dark times – for us, and the neighbors.

The tomatoes this year are amazing.  Our sungold plants are over 6 feet tall, and so heavy we’ve taken to leaning the cages against the fence and lashing them in place:


Our peas this year have been somewhat anemic – Mr. Big Pea produced enough peas for a sandwich bag, and the sugar snap lagged further behind that.  Which is interesting, given that we rotated them to a different part of the garden and we used a soil inoculant to help the plants live longer.  Currently they start to die off just as the pods begin to form, so instead of being indeterminant, we get one harvest.  J yanked out all the Mr. Big Pea plants earlier this week and planted a second crop, something we’ve never done before.  We estimate about 7 to 8 weeks before we’re at a huge risk for frost, although the last 2 years we’ve had snow near Halloween, which is about twelve weeks away.  We had the seeds for planting, so we figured we’d give it a shot.  Also planted this weekend – the third crop of lettuce, and more parsley, cilantro and basil. I’ve picked pretty much what we have, so if I want stuff for the fall, I had to replant.  I’m also hoping for enough basil to do a little pesto this year, and freeze it.

We’ve had a lot of rain this summer, punctuated but spells of hot, sunny weather, which has been enormously helpful to the garden, and to our non-farmed yard.  It has never looked this nice this late in the summer since we moved in.  And as I write this, it’s raining again, after a week of sunny 80-something days:



I’m sure in years to come we will look back on this season fondly.  Except for the peas.  And that rabbit.

How does your garden grow?

Well, a lot has changed in the garden in the last few weeks.  Back on May 31, I posted this picture:

Looked pretty sad, didn’t it?

This was last night’s photo:

We’ve had a string of hot days lately, so that’s helped enormously.  (Also enormously helpful?  The Cocktail Farmers were in the Caribbean for my cousin’s wedding, partaking of tropical frozen drinks at the 2-for-1 Happy Hour.  One of the best was called a Tropical Breeze featuring mango puree, strawberry puree, and Midori.  When we figure out how to duplicate it, expect to see it here.)

There have been some casualties along the way:

Just before we left I noticed several of the Brandywine tomato plants had some sort of yellowing blight near the stems.  Because they came from a nursery and previous tomato blight infestations have been linked to nursery plants, I ruthlessly ripped them out before we left.  Nothing, NOTHING must interfere with the Sungold tomatoes, further down the row.   I’ll sacrifice everything else in the garden for those.  The bonus in ripping out the plants was that I discovered the subterranean watering system J put in the garden is working, and the roots are reaching down into the soil rather than spreading out along the surface.  So that was a decent consolation prize.

So far everything else is hanging in there.  We have lots of zucchini coming in – in fact, we harvested the first one before we left and gave it to our neighbor, and picked three more on Wednesday.  But they keep coming:

As do the summer squash:

                                         This one has my dad’s name written all over it

And we’re starting to see tomatoes, too:

                                          Early Girl

                                         Sungold flower buds, soon to be crack…I mean, tomatoes.

And beans!  Last year we put in about a half dozen plants, transplanted from the seed starting trays, and got enough for one meal for the two of us.  This year?  Directly into the ground, 1 inch apart and I planted 40 of them.  36 came up:

We’re going to have bushels of beans this year, if things continue as they have been.  I can’t wait.  Last year nobody else got any, because there simply weren’t enough to share.  I’m sure my friend Stella Caroline will come up with some fantastic side dish for them.  (She is both a fabulous cook and a tremendous baker.  Seriously – when she brings me something there is the internal struggle to listen to the angels of my better nature and share with J.  I do, but boy, I really, really don’t want to share her yummy treats.  I didn’t know her when I married J, because if I did the marriage vows probably would have included a line about sharing pastry.  Instead we recited a Navajo Wedding Blessing, which does not include a reference to caramel chocolate matzo.  That alone entitles her to one of my kidneys.  And one of J’s.)

Our experiment with peas is so-so.  They look a little feeble, and we put them in kind of late:

We do have one ENORMOUS pea pod, however.

We’re just not sure there are any peas in it.  There are buds on the plants, though, so hope springs eternal….like death, taxes, and the neighbor’s cat needing to nap right in the way: