Friday, September 26, 2008

Skywatch Friday: in northern Italy

I'm being very specific with this first entry in Sky Watch Friday because next week I'll actually be up high in the sky on my way to Hawaii. I hope British Airlines will not let me down on the food and drink service!

The photo was taken a little after 10 this morning, just outside our home in the italian mountains. Those branches in the shadows belong to chestnut trees and we are practically surrounded by them in these woods. The spiny, encased nutshells are already beginning to turn brown, and when they drop to the ground, there'll be a lot of chestnut gatherers scooping them up for themselves or for the local castagnata (chestnut roast). These events are really a lot of fun to attend, where the villagers all come together to eat, socialize and feast on piping hot chestnuts!

Of course I couldn't leave out the dogs who also get their midmorning snack at around 10 o'clock. If the weatherman read his charts right, it looks like clear skies for the weekend! For more heavenly images, check out the Sky Watch Friday blog.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Furry Yellow Hog

Seeds for this tomato were sent gratis from Baker Creek as a *new test variety* and with a name like that...well hello, you can imagine how eager I was to grow this. They are of the 'peach type' due to the faint, fuzzy feel to the skin, even if this factor is hardly discernible on the tongue. From what information I could find, this is an experimental variety from Wild Boar Farms, and if the website weren't so bothersome, I'd have included a direct link. [Clicking on the links under the main header or clicking to enlarge images enables a pop-up ad that reappears even when you hit the 'BACK' button. Grrrr....]

At first I was under the impression that this was a cherry tomato, but Wild Boar's website points to a german page where the detail for this tomato translates loosely as such:

Yellow and greenish-white striped peach tomato; approx. 100 grams; mild, tangy flavor; very juicy; middle-maturing.

The first thing that I want to note about this variety is that it isn't middle-maturing, at least not in the prealpine mountains where we live. Of the Rouge d'Iraks, the Brandywines, the Cherokee Purples and Thessalonikis, this tomato is late, having given us less than a half dozen vine-ripened fruit. There is still a modest yield on the plants but they're still at the green furry stage, and I'm a little concerned since September has brought cooler temps. Even if it might seem otherwise from the macro shot, this is not a cherry-type, and the fruits on my plants range from 3-5 ounces. I still think the name is appropriate but maybe another adjective won't hurt - I'd call this one Furry Lazy Yellow Hog!

area (A) mixed earth/potting soil in a large 5 gallon container
area (B) mixed clay/heavy soil situated on a medium slope with good drainage
Growing conditions/light: in full sun for most of the day (at least 8 hours)
Yield: modest, with 3-4 tomatoes in each cluster
Weight: 3-5 ounces with an almost apple-like shape to the larger fruit
Flavor/texture: light, citrusy flavor (even if my husband claims that it doesn't taste like a pomodoro as he knows it). Thick walls, meaty with not too much water in the gel.
A keeper or no?: at this early stage of my involvement with l'orto, I'm sticking with pinks, reds and blacks for now. Aside from the colors, I prefer deeper, more complex flavors. I love experimenting with the unique and unusual though, and am planting striped Black Pineapple tomatoes next year!
Extra notes:
No problems with pests or diseases other than slugs. I did a scratch-n-sniff test when they were partially yellow/half ripe (on the vine) and the smell reminded me of passionfruit! Some did sport a light showing of "freckles" but no other blemishes due to change in weather conditions (and again, we had a very mild summer this year). I just wish they would ripen.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Your seed order has been shipped!

Winter vegetable seedlings: cauliflower, broccoli, some
kind of hardy lettuce, red cabbage and green cabbage.
(And I managed to keep it all within a $100 budget!)

It started with garden bloggers who have written posts on their seed and bulb purchases (thereby planting the idea in my head). I tend to procrastinate on such things, so if it weren't for them, I'd have put off the task until it was too late...and end up waiting out the seed order rush later on. Vegetables will always come first in the orto of course, but as tulips are my favorite blooms, 7 dozen assorted varieties should be making their debut in the yard come spring.

In other news... The situation went from bad to worse for the japanese red maple. Wilting and dried out leaves earlier in the year alerted us to the presence of Verticillium wilt which gradually engulfed and destroyed the 8-foot tree by the end of July. Such a loss, as we've had it for only a year and it was the first tree to be planted when we bought our home. My husband is not looking forward to digging it out!

Now as to the list — I go insane for the unusual, and wrestled ongoing debates between me...and myself. Bet I'm not the only one. You got a spot for that in the garden? I'll find one. Will a cute name alone justify the effort to grow it? Oh c'mon...what's in a name anyway? The weirder, the better, but in the end Prickly Caterpillar got the axe (and no, not because it's a caterpillar per se). Oh yes I'd toss it in a salad for interest and crunch, it's just that I'm not so sure my husband would find anything that resembles a bug equally as thrilling.

  • Dragon Tongue beans
  • Tiger's eye bush bean
  • Bull's Blood beets
  • Rat tail radish
  • Dwarf gray sugar peas
  • Quadrato d'Asti Rosso (italian red bell pepper)
  • Listada de Gandia eggplant
  • Kamo eggplant
  • Lau's Pointed Leaf lettuce
  • Merveille des quatre saisons lettuce
  • Tigger sweet melon
  • Collective Farm Woman sweet melon
  • Yellow Scallop summer squash
  • Red Kuri winter squash
  • Shishigatani or Toonas Makino winter squash
  • Waltham Butternut Squash
  • Tomatillos (both green and purple types)
  • Tomatoes: Marmande, Japanese Black Trifele, Omar's Lebanese, Black Krim, Rose De Berne, Ananas Noire/Black Pineapple
  • Kyoto Kujo Negi bunching onion
  • Red Beard bunching onion
  • Stella Alpina (Edelweiss)
  • Teddy Bear sunflower
  • Herbs: Pyrethrum, Basil Nufar, Epazote, Feverfew
  • Add to that seeds from this past season that I neglected to plant at all. Sis, if you read this, remember it's free for the taking! But if your garden gnome meets the gnome girl of his dreams, can I adopt one of the kids?

  • Borage
  • Chinese Long White bittermelon
  • Salsify
  • Rampion
  • Wapsipinicon Peach tomato
  • Keckley's Sweet watermelon
  • Carosello Tondo di Manduria (a small oval-shape cucumber)
  • Ronde de Nice round zucchini
  • Edible Chrysanthemum
  • Sorrel
  • Purple Beauty bell peppers
  • Black Aztec sweet corn
  • Ping Tung eggplant
  • Thursday, September 4, 2008

    Rouge d'Iraq

    Quite an intriguing name for a tomato, and I'll admit that these made the purchase list because of the controversial nature in which the description was written. Read for yourself at [Honestly Rowena, can't you just pick a plain ol' regular tom and leave politics alone?!] Now I don't care to further investigate what the fuss is all about, not to mention the validity of it, but suffice to say that Rouge d'Iraqs are the undisputed tomato producers of the garden this year — and that, fellow tomato enthusiasts, is all that matters right now. What it started me thinking though, is that I should at least leave some notes of my own, especially after what Hanna's Tomato Tastings suggested in reply to a comment of mine. She said, “The best thing to do is run your own test. Sometimes tomatoes grow and taste different depending on where they are grown. A so-so tomato for me may rock where you live. Take a chance and you may be surprised.

    So, from now on I will state a few facts on growing conditions, plant observations, flavor and of course, if I will grow a particular tomato again. Please bear with me as I'm a fledgling giardiniera (gardener). Any extra tips would be greatly appreciated.

    area (A) mixed earth/potting soil in a 6-foot corner of the lawn with excellent drainage
    area (B) mixed clay/heavy soil situated on a medium slope with good drainage
    Growing conditions/light: in full sun for most of the day (at least 8 hours)
    Yield: unbelievably prolific, with up to 6 tomatoes in each cluster
    Weight: 4-8 ounces, although I did get a couple of 12 oz. monsters!
    Flavor/texture: ok taste, with a hint of sweetness and low acidity. Thick-skinned (noticeable when you bite into a fresh one) and a tad mealy but overall, firm enough to slice cleanly.
    A keeper or flash-in-the-pan: a keeper if only for the sake of the yield. I use it in asian stirfries and also chopped fresh with cooked pasta, fresh basil, mozzarella and anchovies.
    Extra notes:
    Absolutely no problems with pests or diseases. For the plants grown in area (B), after 1 week of coddling I just let them be and they survived, although visually stunted compared to the ones grown in area (A). I was trying to mimic the growing conditions that you would expect of Iraq, and apparently the clay undersoil was damp enough for them to keep going. All I did was the occasional weeding and staking of the plants.

    This indeterminate is determined to grow forever given prime conditions so I ended up cutting the tops in area (A) to ensure that the tomatoes already developing would stand a chance of making it off the vine. I used 4-foot bamboo poles to hold up the plant but next year I'm getting sticks twice the length.

    I'd also like to note that this year we had a mild summer. I live in the upper part of a mountain valley where the temps are moderate, with digits reaching the low to mid-80's. We also had occasional rain showers which kept everything green.