Saturday, May 30, 2009

A quick update in words...

Back from a week on the road. The garden is holding up pretty well. Lots of split tomatoes, but that's to be expected. Pleasing and surprising--the tomatoes have also set a bunch of new fruit, hopefully making a miserable tomato season a little less miserable. The peaches are ripening--so many of them that the branches are bent low to the ground. Cuccuzi continue to produce nicely with no sign of mildew/anthracnose. Cukes, surprisingly, are also holding up well, recovering from ten days of rain. The leaves were in pretty bad shape (anthracnose), but they've put off plenty of new growth and set a lot of fruit... Let's see. Peppers are producing, but this hasn't been a good year for me so far. I picked a couple beautiful eggplants today. Broccoli rabe is holding up well. Last of the onions got pulled today. Green beans have been disappointing this year so far, but a bunch are on their way.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A quick update in pictures

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First peach of the season!

I planted this FlordaPrince peach (from Just Fruits) on December 10, 2006. So, this is the third spring it's in the ground. It's about ten feet tall, and loaded with forty or fifty peaches. I picked the first one a couple days ago after the birds took a peck of it (I figured they knew when it was ripe!). It smelled terrific, and finished ripening on my counter. It ried it today and it wasn't at all as I had expected--I'd expected a tropical peach, which I like (sweet, low acidity, more peach fragrance than taste). Instead, I was surprised to find it was a classic southern peach--lots of peach flavor, nice balance of sweet and acidic, strong fragrance and perfect texture. It wasn't as sweet as it should have been, but that's because I picked it a little early and ate it too soon, I think.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Alison's questions...

Looks like the rain's finally ended... We got something like fourteen inches. Ech. I ventured out this morning, thinking the rain had ended. Everything looks OK, but in serious need of sun. (Really--since MOnday, we've had nary an hour of sun!!!)

I noticed my cukes were succumbing to some mildew or fungus, sprayed them thoroughly with neem... and then, five minutes later, it poured. Sigh.

Picked my first peach today! It smelled heavenly. I'll let it sit ont he counter a day or two to finish ripening, then post tasting notes! I have about forty more on the tree.

Alison asked me some questions... I'll share answers.

1) Are your rattlesnake beans the same as rattlesnake pole beans?

[mad :-] yes

I tried the rattlesnake pole beans with moderate success, but I wouldn't say they were anything spectacular. I noticed in the seed catalog that they had both with the pole and without. And how did they end up doing with the dry winters?

[mad :-] I only grow beans during the spring/summer. I wouldn’t try them in the winter. They need a fair amount of heat and a longish season. I guess if you put them in at the end of August, you might get a decent harvest.

2) How about that Okinawan spinach? Good summer green?

[mad :-] Very good, prolific, easy. Want some? Perennial.

And were you able to keep the malabar spinach through the winter?

[mad :-] Blech. Mucous.

Does it get bitter in the summer? If you have the malabar, is there any point in the okinawan too?

3) How did your strawberries do for the summer?

We'd like to start a strawberry patch this fall, but I really don't like the idea of replanting every year. Our chosen spot is against the east side of the house so it gets good morning sun, but is shaded from the afternoon sun. Would that get enough sun in the winter to bring a decent spring harvest I wonder though. I had 2 plants there doing very well, but planning to do more, I didn't have it fenced off. Some escaped chickens, after 3 tries, have finally killed them both. :-<

[mad :-] [mad :-] Forget ‘em. Not worth the space. I planted FIFTY one year and still only produced a handful per day. There are much better uses for the space/water/fertilizer—persimmons, figs, citrus.

4) So your Mississippi cowpeas... are you serious about growing them right in sand and not needing water?

[mad :-] Totally.

We planted some cowpeas in our pasture last summer, but if I didn't water them a few times a week, they quickly dried up.

[mad :-] Were the MS cowpeas? If not, you should try them…

5) What variety of collard greens do you prefer? Not a huge fan myself, but Randy loves them so I'm willing to give them a try. Just not year after year of attempting failed varieties!

[mad :-] Champion. You should try Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale and chard. They’re prolific, too, and milder in taste.

6) We've tried bulb onions with no success. Same with beets and carrots. The carrots I think are mostly stumped by nematode problems. Beets and onions never bulb. Don't know why. Any suggestions? Just not going to do carrots and beets this year, but I hear about so many people doing onions that I would think I should be able to get them to work too.

[mad :-] Work PLENTY of organic junk into the soil, at least the top four inches should be straight-up compost. Beets are a PAIN in the ass, but tasty, nutritious and bountiful. I discovered that they can be transplanted, even quite large, and still produce. (This flies in the face of all advice I’ve read.) So, try to start the beets in cups in August, and plant them out when they’re growing well. Carrots do well for me, but they take a long time (couple of months at least). Make sure that the soil is very loose—dig down at least 6 inches. I really like Sweet Treat:

Onions—you gotta make sure they’re granex. Then, give them a LONG time. I planted them Nov 15 and just harvested them a couple weeks ago. They need a fair amount of water, lots of sun, and lots of compost.

7) Is de Cicco your favorite broccoli variety?

[mad :-] Sure. They’re all similar. I noticed that the ones from seed produced better and longer than the ones from seedlings (Lowes).

How about for lettuce?

[mad :-] JERICHO!!!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Now that, my friends, is rain we can believe in... My guess is that since Sunday here in DeLand we've had in excess of ten inches of rain... about what we get in a typical May and June combined... in three days.

Rainfall at area airports from Sunday the 17th to 11 am this morning:

Daytona Beach 12.45
Orlando Intl 5.11
Melbourne 6.12
Vero Beach 3.61
Leesburg 6.55
Sanford/Orlando 10.40
ft. Pierce 3.28

Cooperative station totals from 7 am Sunday to 7 am wednesday:
Clermont 6.66
Deland 10.60
Kenansville 3.67
melbbourne NWS 8.44
Ponce Inlet 7.05
Plymouth 8.55
Sanford wp 10.46
Windermere 9.24

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fastbreak Cantaloupe

About the size of a softball. Sweet and firm. Nice fragrance.
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Very end of the spring garden...

I pulled almost all the onions left in the row, keeping a few red ones in there to finish bulbing up. The white Granex were by far the best--they're about the size of tennis balls and sweet enough to eat out of hand, but with just enough heat to use for cooking, too. The reds ended up smallish. Yellows were good producers, too, but not really any different from the yellow onions in the grocer's case. I was pretty pleased with these carrots--I thinned the patch twice before harvesting these. Sweet and straight and practically no woody core.

Picked my first full-sized tomatoes of the season. For whatever reason my indeterminate tomatoes still haven't set much fruit. I guess they have six or seven weeks left, but I think it will be a disappointing season, though I set out plenty of plants. Peppers are doing well--I should give up on all of them except Sweet Spot and maybe Cubanelle. Perhaps the others will start producing better later in the season, but those two are both early and vigorous.

Let's see... planted a bunch of sweet potato slips. I held back a few small potatoes from my November harvest and left them overwinter in a shady spot, in a wicker basket, on the gazebo. Stuck them in a pot and they're happily producing scores of slips.

Pole beans are behind schedule, but starting to produce. Eggplants have set fruit and should be producing steadily more eggplants than I could ever eat. I have some salad greens going, lots of basil and parsley, okra and cranberry hibiscus. Peaches are blushing so I guess they should be ready to pick in a couple weeks. I have at least one banana ready to send out fruit. A few mangoes and I need to repot my papaya...

Friday, May 15, 2009

The real reason to eat locally...

I don't eat processed foods for the exact same reason that I don't watch television: I just don't want to participate in that economy--an economy driven by greed and based on gulling people.

Food Companies Are Placing the Onus for Safety on Consumers
May 15, 2009

Increasingly, the corporations that supply Americans with processd foods are unable to guarantee the safety of their ingredients. In this case, ConAgra could not pinpoint which of the more than 25 ingredients in its pies was carrying salmonella. Other companies do not even know who is supplying their ingredients, let alone if those suppliers are screening the items for microbes and other potential dangers, interviews and documents show.

Yet the supply chain for ingredients in processed foods — from flavorings to flour to fruits and vegetables — is becoming more complex and global as the drive to keep food costs down intensifies. As a result, almost every element, not just red meat and poultry, is now a potential carrier of pathogens, government and industry officials concede.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I'm working on my local eating guide for Central Florida. Anyone have input?

Hawk in the garden

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No comment...

In today's Times.

When ‘Local’ Makes It Big

WHEN Jessica Prentice, a food writer in the San Francisco Bay area, invented the term “locavore,” she didn’t have Lay’s potato chips in mind.

But never mind. On Tuesday, five potato farmers rang the bell of the New York Stock Exchange, kicking off a marketing campaign that is trying to position the nation’s best-selling brand of potato chips as local food.

Five different ads will highlight farmers who grow some of the two billion pounds of starchy chipping potatoes the Frito-Lay company uses each year. One is Steve Singleton, who tends 800 acres in Hastings, Fla.

“We grow potatoes in Florida, and Lays makes potato chips in Florida,” he says in the ad. “It’s a pretty good fit.”

Mr. Singleton’s ad and the other four will be shown only in the farmer’s home state. A national spot featuring all five potato farmers begins next week.

Frito-Lay is one of several big companies that, along with some large-scale farming concerns, are embracing a broad interpretation of what eating locally means. This mission creep has the original locavores choking on their yerba mate. But food executives who measure marketing budgets in the millions say they are mining the concept because consumers care more than ever about where their food comes from.

“Local for us has two appeals,” said Aurora Gonzalez, director of public relations for Frito-Lay North America, which is owned by PepsiCo. “We are interested in quality and quickness because we want consumers to get the freshest product possible, but we have a fairly significant sustainability program, and local is part of that. We want to do business more efficiently, but do it in a more environmentally conscious way.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Vin de pamplemousse...

Started a batch today from Christine's beautiful grapefruit and some frozen Meyer lemon juice that Barbara donated to the cause... Should be ripe just in time for my trip to the Keys for non stop fishing.

Vin de pamplemousse.

So very dry...

Man, it's dry out there. I spend half an hour every morning and another thirty minutes every evening watering. I prefer to do it old-school: fill a bucket, water carefully while the next bucket fills. I've gotten good at it, so that I know when the next bucket's full and can time my watering perfectly. A bit of healthy exercise, running from garden to bib in the morning cool.

Tomatoes are still somewhat behind, but I noticed my 'Bella Rosa' is starting to ripen. First full-sized tomato of the season. The cukes and melons continue to produce.