Sunday, August 30, 2009

Collective Farm Woman and Black Aztec trials

Stunted collective farm woman

I feel like I'm sounding like a broken record with yet another reference to spring's less than ideal weather conditions, but the outcome on Collective Farm Woman melons and Black Aztec corn ends on a positive note! This 4-ounce melon decided to turn color and fell off the vine all by itself while we were away on vacation - it was like the Easter bunny come to visit! Smooth, blemish-free skin with a sweet fragrance, it may have been a good thing that we were absent while it matured because now I know that I should just let them slip off the plant by themselves. The pale flesh was very sweet, with the texture of a properly ripened cantaloupe. Sizes of 7-10 inches in diameter are the norm (this one here was about 3), so hopefully if next year brings a better primavera... could also mean a much better crop of Black Aztec, a blue corn that caught my eye because of its heirloom status. I have only known yellow corn in my entire life, but the idea of making my own blue tortilla chips was a tempting experiment. I have the corncobs drying outdoors and when the kernels are ready to be shucked, I'll grind them to make this Golden Sweet Cornbread recipe, substituting yellow cornmeal with my homegrown blue.

Black Aztec Corn

Average daytime temperature: 21°C / 70°F

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tigger melon trials

Stunted tigger melons

Given the wet, cool weather earlier on, I wasn't expecting much success with these tigger melons. I had read that they are particularly susceptible to powdery mildew, and that the best conditions for growing them was sun and heat. Tiggers are said to reach about a pound in weight but the one on the right was barely 4 ounces!

Tastewise...oh brother. I snipped these off the vine because their perfume fragrance was so sweet! Unfortunately, that did not extend to its flavor - bland as bland can be - but then again, they weren't matured to an ideal size/weight. Next year I'm growing these in the ground instead of containers. And I'll pray for reliable spring weather...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tomato roulette: I'm placing my bets on Black Krim

Black Krims and Brandywine

In a perfect world there would only be 3 types of tomatoes: the canning kind, the slicing kind, and the kind you pop into your mouth while working in the garden. Naturally, they would only be in a single color - red - so figuring out when to snip them off the vine would never pose a problem. Tomato sauce, BLT's and stolen bites of cherry-sized orbs would continue to live happily ever after, that is, until word got out that not all tomatoes are created equal. Boy am I ever glad that the world isn't perfect.

The Black Krim tomatoes (first two in the photo) measured up to everything that I had seen written in tasting reviews. Smoky, intense, exotic tomato flavor, with a coloring so sexy that I had to strip one naked just for you to see. Certainly they aren't black in the truest sense of the word, but more of a dark, burnt, orangish-red color that I tried to capture best in natural light. The shoulders are greenish and typically cracked, a minor "blemish" that is easily dispensed of with the swipe of a sharp knife. While the harvest from two plants was very small this year, I expect to grow at least 5 or more the next. The third tomato in the image is a Pink Brandywine, and while I am not totally sold on the flavor, I love the funky, weird shapes that they develop into.

The tomatoes were quickly blanched and skins slipped off to recreate a dish seen on KennyT's Chic Eats. While his was a greenhouse tomato in wasabi-sesame sauce, the idea of blanched tomatoes with an asian-influenced cream sauce was too good to put on hold. The one that I put together was basically sautéing minced shallots, deglazing with white wine, then adding heavy cream and cooking on low until heated through. Sesame seeds (toasted) were quickly spun in a spice mill before adding, along with wasabi paste, at the very end. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and for a really special touch, shiso flower makes a delicious garnish. Black Krim is the one to the right in the image below. Check that gorgeous color!

Black and pink tomato tasting>

Average daytime temperature: 25°C / 77°F

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Black Trifele Harvest

One hundred seventy-five days from seed (sown February 10th). Even if this won't be a banner year like 2008, I'm satisfied with the outcome of our new tomato trials. The flavor of these japanese black trifeles weren't anything spectacular like how I'd seen in product/grower descriptions, but I'm more than willing to bet that this spring's abundant rain had a hand at turning Trifele into a bland gal. The only "black" that seems to have beaten the odds is Black Krim, and there are two left on the vine.

Today's average daytime temperature: 23°C / 73°F