Friday, September 19, 2014

Welcome to Chez Maddie

After a little work here and there for the duration of summer, the dogs now have new digs to hang out in. The wood used is a slatted bed base (from our old IKEA bed) that we just couldn't see going to the dump. When one of us gets around to it, there'll be a sign to hang next to the entrance that says "Chez Maddie".

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Munching on lots and lots of greens

Weather-wise, where August (and summer in general) has failed, September is succeeding. Cooler temperatures, mild sunny days and just the occasional light shower have set the ball in motion for all of my garden greens. I lost interest in the rucola/rocket bed after it was decimated by hail in the earlier part of the summer season, but within the last month both varieties came back to life on their own. I snip leaves once a week to add to salads, and they keep coming back.

Rucola coltivata
Common rocket / rucola coltivata

Rucola selvatica
Wild rocket /rucola selvatica

2 types of rocket greens

Top: common rocket, bottom: wild rocket. They both have that peppery bite, but wild rocket is much stronger, almost to the point of being too bitter if you just eat it by itself. It also took forever for the seeds to germinate. The common variety has less of a bite, germinated quickly from seed, and grows like a weed. The fuller leaves also contribute more bulk to salads. I add both types to mixed greens (butter lettuce, romaine, chicory, etc) for huge salad dinners, but rocket makes a great pesto, and is a must with beef carpaccio and parmigiano flakes. It's also good as a pizza topping, scattered directly onto pizza right out of the oven.

Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch kale

Dwarf blue curled scotch kale grown in a container. Even with a tunnel cover, white cabbage moths managed to get in and do damage. I used a homemade spray of habanero pepper water and misted the plants heavily, even the undersides of the leaves, which helped to keep the pests under control. Blanched and briefly sauted with minced garlic, calamari rings and chile pepper, the leaves make a simple yet tasty spaghetti pasta dish.

Pasti with blue curled scotch kale and calamari

Green and red shiso
Again, the red and green shiso come up like weeds, and I have more than what I can use.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Game over: Paul Robesons, blue tomatoes, and summer

Taken on August 27th

Well that was...quick. June, July and August slipped in and out the door unnoticed in 2014's unseasonably cool and wet summer, and now we are in fall mode. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. Firstly, the Cherokee Purple and Thessaloniki vines succumbed to early blight. Not One Single Salvageable fruit. Then, adding insult to injury, the Paul Robesons were hit with late blight. I refuse to yank the plants out of the ground, choosing to snip off the diseased fruit and leaves instead. If the half dozen on the vine pull through without the dreaded brown patches, it'll be a miracle.

Blue tomatoe cluster

Initially, my opinion on the blue tomato trials was unsatisfactory. The first crop was medium-sized and the blue was more on the top - not on the bottom (which turned from green to red when ripe). Successive fruits were smaller and round, like in this double image above. Maybe it was due to the size and shape, but note how the inky blue-purple dominates the skin surface. These make an interesting and colorful addition to a salad when cut into wedges, but the flavor is nothing remarkable.

Paul Robeson tomatoes

The Paul Robesons that didn't get hit with blight ripened beautifully on the vine. They have really great flavor and a firm, meaty texture that makes them wonderful for sandwiches and also in a caprese salad. Look forward to growing these again next year!