Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bleg: Rattlesnake Beans?

I'm out of Rattlesnake pole beans. Don't feel like spending the money for a packet with shipping and handling... I just forgot to save back some seed last year. I'll trade anyone out there some great Florida-friendly seeds (tomatoes? cukes? chard? kale? You name it!) for a couple handfuls of Rattlesnakes... Just drop me a note at centralfloridagardener@gmail.com!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fortex beans... a great bean for Central Florida

First beans of the season. These are Fortex, a hybrid I think. Anyway HUGE beans (8" isn't uncommon) that stay tender. Very prolific and great tolerant of heat and drought.

From Johnnys...


Product ID: 34
Early, dependable pole bean with an extended harvest period.
Growing to over 11", Fortex produces extra long, round pods. Early and very productive, the beans may be picked at 7" in length for extra slender, "filet" beans. Dark green, firm-textured pods are completely stringless and delicious at all lengths, even after the seeds enlarge. Walnut brown seeds. Avg. 1,250 seeds/lb. Packet: 50 seeds.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Beets & Potatoes...

I really love Chioggia beets in the Florida garden... I've grown several kinds, including the standard Detroit. In the end, Chioggia do the best for me. My Slavic nature makes me wary of any beet that doesn't stain your hands red, but Chioggia are so pretty I can forgive them. Anyway, my potato culture is pretty simple: All winter long, anytime a potato looks hinky, I plug it into the row of leaf must and compost along one edge of my garden. I know it's time to scrabble when the potato leaves start to decline... Very productive crop, of course, even here in Florida...

Monday, March 31, 2014


Winterbore Kale

If I had to choose one winter crop to plant, it would be kale. Prolific, tough, cheap seeds, grows fast, repeat harvest, tasty, adaptable to many cuisines, and tolerant of heat (until May, at least...). I grow Tuscan (Lacinato) Kale and Winterbor Kale (from Johnnys). The Winterbor is probably a bit tenderer and a bit more prolific.  We love kale in any recipe that calls for spinach or chard--yeah, different flavor, different texture, but no big difference really. Since it's a fairly substantial green, it can be used in any recipe that calls for collards, too, with some slight adjustments for its faster cooking.

Finally, a real favorite in my household is any raw kale salad recipe. I like this one from Food & Wine... and the one below, which comes from (I think I'm getting this right) a Lebanese friend of a friend... It's so easy and really tasty.

Kale Salad - the King of Greens


1 large bunch black kale, torn into bite size pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 -2 lemon
1/3 cup currants or 1/3 cup other dried fruit
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup pecorino cheese, grated
1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
salt and pepper


Tear kale pieces off the main fibrous center stem. Add the kale to a large mixing bowl, season with salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Massage with your hands making sure to coat the kalewith oil and begin to break down the cell structure.

Grate the zest and squeeze the juice of the lemons over the massaged kale. Add the currants, toasted pine nuts, pecorino and toss to combine. Serve with a pinch of red chili flakes, if desired.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 (34 g)
Servings Per Recipe: 6
Amount Per Serving: 6 servings Calories 156.6 Calories

Loquats... Recipes, processing.

Well, it's that time of year. A friend dropped off four gallons of loquats, just a small part of the harvest from one tree... Loquats are delicious, I think: A sort of citrusy apricot with mango. The flesh is very tender and dense, like the best apricot flesh.

They're very perishable. I suggest immersing them in a lot of water immediately after harvesting, and letting them sit in that water for a few hours, adding ice if the water doesn't feel cold to the touch. This cold water bath stops them from perishing and cleans them. (One reason I suspect they are so perishable: The stem wound tends to ooze when they're picked, and the sugary juice hastens spoilage. So, the water bath solves that problem. It also seems to plump them up a bit... Makes them easier to handle.)

The work is processing them: They are small and have large seeds and a seedcoat that need to be removed. Some people skin them, too: I don't think it's necessary, but it's not difficult to do. With a little practice, you can process--skin seed, and clean--a gallon of loquats in around twenty minutes. Slice the stem and blossom ends off, cut the fruit open from pole to pole, shift the knife back into your palm, and use your finger to remove the seeds and the seedcoat in one motion. Drop the seeds and ends into one bowl, and the fruit in another. It's nice to have a sliced lemon in the fruit bowl---from time to time, toss the fruit with the lemon juice and reduce the browning.

You can make whatever you'd make with apricots, more or less following the recipe. Personally, I don't like my fruit over-sweetened, and I find loquats to be rather mild and sweet. They lack much acid for balance. So, I add less sugar than most recipes call for (recipes that call for loquats or for apricots), and I like to add some lemon juice and zest for balance. Taste and adjust the jam, jelly, filling, etc., starting with a lot less sugar. (A rough guide: Half the weight of the processed loquat seems like just the right balance for me.)

Anyway, I discovered the wonders of a pressure cooker when dealing with lots of fruit: Just a splash of water in the pot, fill it to the "fill" line, and 5 minutes on high pressure got the seeded loquats cooked perfectly. The skins fall off the cooked loquats, so if you want to seed them, and are going to cook them anyway, then wait until after you cook them. In the (fuzzy!) picture below, you see some loquat puree I'm going to dry.

Two jars of "varenie"--a Polish/Russian way of preserving fruit that's not quite a jam: Think whole fruit in a sugar syrup. I used half the weight of the fruit in sugar, let the processed fruits sit for a couple hours, drained off the (copious) liquid, and boiled it to just at the soft-ball stage (134° on the candy thermometer). The syrup caramelized a bit, but the resulting product was really tasty. Oh, I threw in a few pieces of dried Meyer lemon zest and half a vanilla bean. Tasty! Like apricot jam, only better.

The seeds can be made into a nut liqueur (haven't tried that yet, but will!). The seeds are very flavorful, but, like apricot seeds, contain a bit of cyanide-producing compounds... Like bitter apricot pits, they have a culinary use in moderation.

I'll make a small batch of jelly from the juice. (The juice you see in the pics came from the skins and trimmings. IT's very sweet and very tasty.)

I'll probably use the remaining cooked fruit in a pie...

Adding: A friend tells me that in southern Italy, where these fruits are considered a regional delicacy (nespoli), that they're commonly served, pitted and halved, in a bowl of ice water... so maybe I'm onto something here with the water bath.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rat snake...

I found this snake entangled in a castnet that i keep in a lidded bucket... it had gotten in the bucket somehow, tangled with the net, crawled out of the bucket and under the shed dragging bucket and net with it. i was, to say the least, surprised to find it while cleaning up my fishing equipment. who knows how long it was there? but the snake was alive and ANGRY. it took me the better part of half an hour to slowly and carefully snip it out of the net--the nylon strands had buried themselves in the snake, but not cut its skin that i could tell. the last part, the head, was the hardest. i couldn't use gloves because the operation was too delicate, so i held the head with one hand and the scissors with the other... it lay there for awhile before slithering off into the burn barrel...

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Gardeners! Lowe's has onion sets in right now... For their ease, and given how expensive sweet onions are, onions are among the best things to grow in the Florida garden. Plus you can eat the onions at any stage, from just swollen to huge.

I often come across old onions in the fall during my cleanup. They last,what, a week in the pantry? Or six months in the garden....

Just be sure that you buy southern onions, those that are marked "day neutral." Otherwise, you'll end up growing scallions... In the past, I've grown onions from seeds. This year, I got a batch of bad seeds (need to figure this out) that never germinated, so I don't have the long row of red onions I have had in the past...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Never tried this in Florida, but seems appropriate: A way to avoid our poor soils & nematodes.

(HOO-gul-culture) meaning hill culture or hill mound. Instead of putting those branches, leaves and grass clippings in bags by the curbside...build a hugel bed. Simply mound logs, branches, leaves, grass clippings, straw, cardboard, petroleum-free newspaper, manure, compost or whatever other biomass you have available, top with soil and plant your veggies.

Much more here...

Monday, February 03, 2014

An incomplete list of open-pollinated seed sources in Florida...

Mary's Heirloom Seeds http://marysheirloomseeds.com
They offer all organic, open-pollinated, non-gmo and non-hybrid seeds. All the seeds that you order will be "Free shipping" and will be delivered within 24 hours except for holiday. You can contact them thru the online form in their website.

They sell homegrown meat, dairy produce, pantry items and non-GMO plants and seeds. Contact them thru the online form in their website or Email: crispyfarms@earthlink.net

Eden Organic Nursery Service Inc. http://www.eonseed.com
They offer organic and hybrid seeds for vegetables, tobacco seeds, medical and healing plants and many more. Contact:(954) 382-8281

Grower Jim's Plants and Produce http://growerjim.blogspot.com/p/buy-seeds.html
They are a small sustainable farm selling fresh produce, plants and seeds. Their seeds are hand-picked, open-pollinated, non-hybrid, non-GM, and heirloom types grown chemical-free in a natural environment. Their selection includes both edible and ornamental varieties of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Contact them through their website or Facebook page.

Florida Backyard Vegetable Gardener http://www.growincrazyacres.com
All of their seeds and plants are non-GMO and open-pollinated. Contact:352-650-7343 and Email: desiree@growincrazyacres.com

Healthy Harvest Seed Company, LLC http://www.healthyharvestseedcompany.com
Healthy Harvest Seed Company is a small, family owned and operated, seed company located in Central Florida. They sell different kinds of vegetable, herbs and many more. Contact: 855-340-3451 and Email:customerservice@healthyharvestseedcompany.com

Organic Sanctuary seeds are Non-GMO, Non-Hybrid, and grown in a Honey Bee friendly Open-Pollinated environment. You can contact them in their online form.

QR Seeds Inc. http://qrseeds.com
They offer non-GMO vegetable garden seeds. They have signed "The Safe Seed Pledge of The Council for Responsible Genetics" Contact:352-345-7387

The Pepper Gal http://www.peppergal.com
The Pepper Gal sells many kinds of non-GMO pepper seeds including hot pepper seed, sweet pepper seed, ornamental pepper seed and many more. Contact: 954-537-5540 and Email: peppergal@bellsouth.net

Self Reliance Strategies, LLC http://selfreliancestrategies.com/hub/
They are selling 100% non-GMO and non-hybrid of a large varieties of seeds. Contact: (321) 348 - 4113 and Email:info@selfreliancestrategies.com

Two Seeds in a Pod http://www.twoseedsinapod.com
They have a large varieties of non-GMO and heirloom vegetable seeds. They have signed "The Safe Seed Pledge of The Council for Responsible Genetics" Contact: contact@twoseedsinapod.com

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Spring cleaning...

Yeah, I  know... I need to get back to the garden blogging. I pulled a banana clump out (never easy), and cleaned out from beneath it, and found these humdingers. Also: SPRING! Tomato & pepper seedlings... A week or so behind, but, hey, they're up.