More Tomatoes, Of Course

July 27, 2011

 

I wanted to make sure I posted photos of the three other types of tomatoes I’m growing. The big red one (it’s actually very pink in real life) is a Missouri Pink Love Apple. I haven’t tasted it yet.

The small red one (also really pink) is the Pearly Pink.

And the big-ass yellow one is a Jubilee. That’s what we’re having in the McCord household, a tomato jubilee!

 

 

 

 


Cantaloupe!

July 26, 2011

Look, Mom, look at my cantaloupe! I grew it all by myself! Aren’t you proud?

Yes, I do feel like a little kid with this garden, showing it off to the handful of readers who’ve stuck with this blog. I get giddy, but darn it, this has been fun.  And I now frequently get asked, “How’s your garden?” And, of course, I smile and begin to tell them how great it is.

This cantaloupe is very tasty. Have I had better cantaloupe? Honestly, yes. Have I had fresher cantaloupe? Never. Have I had more satisfying cantaloupe? Not on your life.

The recent rains did a number on one of my watermelons, causing it to burst open while still on the vine. The ants have enjoyed it immensely, however.


Garden Update — Tomato Season

July 22, 2011

I’ve got tomatoes. A buttload of tomatoes. Every day that I walk behind the house to the garden, I discover at least a dozen tomatoes ready for picking. After popping a couple of cherry tomatoes in my mouth, straight off the vine, I take the rest inside and wonder how lucky I am. My friend who gave me these plants suffered some sort of blight, and he ended up with nearly no tomatoes.  I’m not really doing much at all, and I’m eating the best tasting tomatoes I’ve ever had.

All seven of the plants are producing fruit, but two of them have not yet had the tomatoes ripen sufficiently. This is what I’ve eaten so far:

Bloody Butchers. These are bright red tomatoes that are fairly small, about the size of a billiard ball. That might be because I allowed the plant to branch off in so many directions that the fruit won’t grow very large, but these are great tomatoes. They were the first to ripen, and I usually have 2-5 tomatoes to harvest each day.  And how can you not love a tomato with that name??

Green Doctors. These greenish-yellow cherry tomatoes might be my favorite. They’re loaded with sweet flavor and have a fairly high level of acid. I’m getting about 5-10 of these each day, and a fair number of them get eaten immediately after picking.

Black Cherry. This is another extremely flavorful cherry tomato that I also love. They are ripening just a bit more slowly than the Green Doctors, but I also find myself eating these suckers in the garden.  I love mixing these with the Green Doctors, as the colors are fantastic.

Purple Cherokee. I’ve had this tomato variety many times, and it’s always been a favorite. What I didn’t realize was how big these suckers get. I actually made a pasta sauce for 4 people with a single Purple Cherokee tomato. I am looking forward to this weekend, when I will have two of these tomatoes for BLT sandwiches.

The other tomato variety we’ve eaten (but no photos) is the Pearly Pink, which is a milder-flavored, smallish, pear-shaped tomato. We’ll have lots of these shortly, but so far, these appear to be the tomato that isn’t packed with flavor. I need to try a few more.

I also know we have Missouri Pink Love Apples, which are larger, pink slicing tomatoes. I’m really looking forward to trying this variety. My seventh plant remains a mystery — we have no idea what it is.

Last night I had to cook for the family, and we were getting just a bit tired of raw tomatoes, so I used everything in the picture above to make a sauce with boneless chicken thighs, one of my family’s favorites. I don’t have a picture of the finished dish, but get a load of the colors!

Finally, news on the rest of the garden: the cucumbers are starting to fade. The leaves are turning yellow, and the fruit just doesn’t have enough time to mature before the heat gets to them.  The zucchini continues to surprise me. Just when I think it’s produced all it will, I find two or three more zucchini out there. My pepper plant is just doing so-so, but it does have a pepper on it now!  The cantaloupe is doing very well. I should have one melon ready to pick this weekend, and there are at least 5 others growing. The watermelon needs a bit more time. We harvested one of the melons after it had stopped growing, and it still wasn’t ready. The flesh was very pale and although there was some sugar, I think that it had suffered from overwatering.  I’m still trying to figure out this whole gardening thing!


Garden Update — July 2, 2011

July 3, 2011

My last garden update was three weeks ago, and a fair amount has happened. My tomatoes are about to explode. I’ve got dozens, if not hundreds, of tomatoes on the vines. I suspect I should have thinned out the suckers a bit more than I did, but I’ll be fine. I’ve eaten three relatively small tomatoes, and they were absolutely delicious — an extremely gratifying snack.  But I’ve got some softball sized behemoths that should start to ripen shortly, a bunch of cherry tomatoes that keep multiplying, and plenty of sizes in between.

I’ve already started giving away zucchini. I have been told how it can take over a garden, and now I know. But I’m not complaining. It’s so good and so fresh. A friend delivered a loaf of zucchini bread the other day, and I’ll finish it off for breakfast today. I also know that a 6 inch zucchini can triple in size in just a couple of days.

The cucumbers are wildly successful. I’ve taken to eating a cucumber a day, with some sea salt and a splash of vinegar or lemon. Or sometimes, with some Hendrick’s gin! It’s the cucumbers that have made me appreciate bees, which are attracted to this fruit’s flowers more than anything else in the garden. Bees are so incredibly important to gardens, and I love to see them flying through the flowers, gathering nectar, spreading pollen.

I’m quite excited about the watermelon and cantaloupe. I have one watermelon that’s bigger than a softball, and another that is baseball-sized. I’ve got one maturing cantaloupe that is still green, and a lot of little baby cantaloupe that looked like they’ve just been pollinated.

I visit my garden at least twice a day, and when I do, a complete calm falls over me. This is a calm that is different than the peace I experience when cooking, but no less rewarding. I’m lost in that garden, pulling up a weed, checking the cucumber trellis, seeing the damage the rabbits did (rabbits like cantaloupe leaves; watermelon, not so much). It might be 95 degrees out there, but I don’t care. Not only do I not mind being alone, I cherish the solitude. I’m happy. This is my garden. My space. My time. But at the same time, I want to share it. I want to give away my cucumbers. I want to tell friends about it. I want to show my daughter the watermelon she named after herself (yes, the bigger watermelon is named Clara). My garden gives me serenity. My garden gives me pride. My garden gives me nourishment. My garden gives me excitement.

Who knew?


Zucchini Alert

June 16, 2011

I picked my first zucchini on Tuesday, and when I got home at 9:30 last night, after a long day at work, I was just a little bit hungry. Just enough to cut up the zucchini, sauté it in some olive oil, add some fresh basil, a splash of lemon and sea salt.

It was perfect.

I really have come to love my garden and the serenity it provides. But the bottom line is that I really love eating what comes out of it.


Garden Update — Mid-June Edition

June 10, 2011

Before 3 hours of weeding

Boy, have I ever learned about gardening in the past few weeks. I’ve learned that you can leave your garden for a holiday weekend and come home to a prairie. The lesson from that is one should put down weed barriers wherever the crops are not planted. It took me over three hours (and several beers) to get rid of the weeds in the area between the rows.

I’ve learned a great way to “stake” the tomatoes, using string rather than wooden stakes or cages. I loosely tie  the string around  the base of the stem, wrap it around the stem, and tie it onto a cross rope that I’ve strung across several 5 foot tall stakes. As the plant grows, I have to add another rotation of string wrapping.  I’ve also put in a couple of horizontal “cross strings” to help support the plants. So far, so good.

I’ve learned about plant sex. I know my cucumbers are having manic cucumber sex, whereas the zucchini may need to visit Dr. Ruth. I know the difference between male and female flowers, and how to force the issue with zucchini, so to speak.  They’re propagating much better now, thanks to my handiwork.

I’ve learned that you really do need to thin your crop, particularly for the plants that produce in the dirt (carrots, turnips, beets).

I’ve learned that I planted my cauliflower, beets, turnips and carrots too late in the season. I was a little late with the lettuce, but it’s done just fine.

I’ve learned that even home-grown turnips still taste just like turnips. Sorry, just not all that exciting. And so far, I can’t say my lettuce or those baby beets taste that much better than what I can get at the farmers market, but I appreciate them a lot more.

I’ve learned that Pabst Blue Ribbon is mighty refreshing when weeding a garden. I haven’t worked outside while drinking beer in a LONG time, and that’s a nice benefit of gardening.

Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that I like gardening. It’s a calming endeavor, and I’ve really needed that of late. I like watering the garden, and even though it’s a pain in the ass, the weeding can be pretty cathartic, too. I want to learn more, and to do a better job next time around. I want to trim trees so I will get more sun (not gonna happen).

And now that I’ve harvested the beets and turnips, I’m looking for something new to plant. Any suggestions?


A Garden Update

May 26, 2011

Well, the garden is still coming along.  The zucchini plants are above my knees, the tomatoes are flowering, and I’ve eaten three things from it, all salads: baby beet greens, young Parris Island Cos lettuce, and last night, a shaved turnip salad.  Yup, I pulled a young turnip out of the ground, and it was beautiful.  I broke out the mandoline and shaved that sucker into wafer-thin slices. I dressed the turnips with lime zest, lime juice, shallot, extra-virgin olive oil (pressed by our friends in Tuscany!), and some sea salt. Wow! The citrus was a nice contrast to the somewhat peppery turnip.

The cucumbers struggled at first, but they’re starting to take off.  The carrots are a big question mark, but I”m not too worried about them. I suspect the watermelon and cantaloupe aren’t get enough sun where I planted them, so they may not work. My biggest unknown is the cauliflower.  I planted two different types, and one of them started to flower a couple of weeks ago.  I was initially excited about that until I read that this means the plant is “going to seed” and will likely not produce cauliflower.  The other type of cauliflower is growing, but I just don’t think it will produce, now that it’s so damn hot. I’ll keep hoping, but I believe I planted too late in the season.  I should have switched the location of the melons with the cauliflower.

The weeds are a royal pain in the ass. I now know why people put down plastic for weed control. Live and learn, I guess.

I forgot to take decent photos, so you’ll have to live with the iPhone versions.

This is actually from 10 days ago. It's grown a LOT since then


Help Me Grow a Garden

March 10, 2009

gardenI want to grow a garden.

I have never grown anything edible in my life.

I need your help.

Here’s the deal.  I am looking for volunteers to help me grow some vegetables and maybe some fruit.  I don’t have great land next to my house, and I’m not sure it gets enough sun.  The soil might be complete crap.  But I want to grow something.  Anything.  I’ve got 4 workers who happen to be my children, and they can help with the weeding and watering duties.

I need your help because I’m a complete ignoramus when it comes to growing things.  I don’t know how to fertilize or till or plant.  I don’t know what should be started as seeds in the house versus in the ground.  I don’t know what items require lots of sun and what can tolerate shade.  I’m clueless about watering.  And I won’t even begin to pretend that I have any idea about organic methods.  Be serious, people.

We can come up with a weekend day that we can commit to the Varmint Garden.  So, anyone willing to help me out???


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