Thursday, June 28, 2007

While I'm away...

My friend and gardening conspirator has been stopping by my garden while I'm away. Here are a couple of his updates:

Garden update 1 (6.23.2007)
Stopped by your garden today. Everything's looking great. Your irrigation system must work extremely well. It hasn't been raining much but I didn't see a single plant wilting (except for one of the brugs and they always wilt a little at the hottest part of the day). Roses blooming everywwhere. One of the blue berries looked a little sad--Gulf Coast I think--but I felt the soil and it was moist, so I think it's probably still just adjusting. I picked some tomatoes and a big bag full of those rattlesnake beans. We just ate them and they were AWESOME. I've been trying to find a really good green bean for years, and I'm always disappointed in the ones I try. Lately I've been going with Romas but we like your rattlesnakes much better. Where did you hear about them? Isn't it an heirloom? The plants are very healthy still despite the heat.
Hope your trip's going well. I'll stop by and check again soon.
Garden update 2 (6.27.2007)
Stopped by again to today. Everything's still looking good. The sweet potatoes are sprawling out everywhere. That jatropha (?) fell over (we've been having some wind) and I set it back up but other than that everything looks fine. You have some kind of big squash developing over in the flower bed by the fence.
Your amaranth is about to go to seed. I remember your post about how Nicole uses the seeds to bake, so I left it. But I have heard that if you let the seed fall you'll have amaranth everywhere. Maybe with your mulch there will be no problem. Anyway, if you want me to pull it, let me know.
I picked a big bag full of tomatoes, eggplant, and more rattlesnake beans. Just had some for dinner and it was delicious. Believe it or not the rattlesnake seems to be blooming and even producing new beans despite this heat.
Still no rain (though there was a fifty percent chance in the forecast today).
About the roses, I feel that way everytime I go up to Georgia, where just about everything seems to grow better. I'm sure the difference is even more dramatic up where you are. It's enough to make me want to go tropical, but then I would be running around every winter covering things up and worrying about freezes.
Hope everything's going well. I'll stop by again in a few days.
Garden update 2 (7.2.2007)
Just stopped by again, and everything is fine. I'm glad you're coming back soon though because those sweet potatoes and yard long beans are going to take over in a matter of days.
I haven't pulled up a single tomato plant. They still have green fruits on them so you should be harvesting for a while longer. I picked another bag full of tomatoes today. We're eating gazpacho every day. Ana loves it.
We have been getting some rain over the last couple of days, not much though, just an afternoon shower or two.

Compromise, Hell! | Wendell Berry | Orion magazine

This is why I love Wendell Berry...
"We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all—by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians—be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Garden hiatus...

I'm off for three weeks to The Great North. My garden will have to struggle on without me. Bill (aka castorp) will look in on it from time to time. Maybe he'll send me updates.

It's a good time to be gone from Central FLA.

The next blog post won't be until mid-July.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Recommended Tomato

This cultivar was recommended on GardenWeb for Central FLA...
Tomato Growers Supply - huge selections of both hybrid tomato seeds and heirloom tomato seeds, hot chiles, sweet peppers, tomatillos and eggplants, plus garden supplies, garden books, and : "First Prize VFFNT Hybrid #3300 (30 seeds) $2.85
Exclusive release of Tomato Growers Supply Company. The kind of tomato home gardeners would love to grow for a county fair entry. Vigorous plants produce loads of delicious 10 to 12 oz. fruit, even when conditions are not ideal. This one was a winner in our trials for its high yields, good disease resistance, mid-early maturity, and great flavor. First fruit mature early and low on the plant, which continues to bear tomatoes over a long season. Indeterminate. 75 days"

Cool idea for hanging plants

Hangy things

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Amaranth Grain

I planted amaranth this spring to use as a green, but my chard has survived much longer than I expected, so I let the amaranth go to seed. Poking about the ever useful ECHO site, I found how to harvest the grain, namely, just like any other grain:
Basically, you must thrash it like mankind has always done until the invention of the thrashing machine. The three stages include let the heads dry out, knock the grain from the heads, and winnow the grain. Many of you live where local folks know far more than I about such techniques. For others, here is what we do with small quantities of seed (which must be kept separate from other varieties).

Cut the heads when the grain appears to be mature, and put them somewhere to dry. If left too long much of the grain may shatter (fall to the ground).

Grain easily shatters from the dried heads. Put a few heads in a burlap bag and beat it against the cement floor a few times to knock it loose, or strike the bags with a stick. Then place the grain in a 5-gallon bucket (many other containers would be suitable). You will notice that a lot of chaff comes along with the grain. This is where winnowing comes in.

Place an empty 5-gallon bucket in front of a fan and, cautiously at first, pour some grain and chaff into the empty bucket. A steady wind will accomplish the same thing as the fan, but a gusty wind will cause problems. The grain is denser and will fall closer to the fan than the chaff. Quickly one begins to get a feel for how far the buckets should be from the fan, and at what height to hold the one bucket in order for the grain to land in the empty bucket and the chaff to blow far enough to miss it. Pour the grain back and forth until it appears to be clean.
Final cleanup can be done by swirling and shaking the grain around gently. Remaining chaff will "float" to the top like ice in water, and can be removed by hand.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pole Bean

I got this cultivar from Southern Exposure:
RATTLESNAKE: 73 days. Especially good for sandysoil. Rattlesnake is a heavy producer in the hot, humid areas ofthe coastal Mid-Atlantic and South coastal areas where sandysoil prevails. Steamed snaps are sweet, rich, and full flavored. Stringless when pods are small to medium size. Vines are vigorous climbers which bear 7” round pods containing buff-coloredseeds splashed with brown. #13508 Pkt. $2.50
These beans are growing up ten-gauge wire that I ran from stakes to the top of a twelve-foot piece of conduit. (I bent a coat hanger into a question-mark with a long tail, and fed the tail into the top of the conduit, giving me a loop anchored deep into the conduit.) Not only is it really beautiful and takes up next to no room in the garden, the setup makes harvesting easy. I've been harvesting a big handful of beans every day, and it looks ready to produce a lot more in the near term. I don't think they took 72 days. I'm pretty sure I planted them mid-May, so more like thirty days to begin bearing.

I'm going to let them fill out while I'm out of town and pick them for as canellini beans (which are nothing but green beans harvested for the bean, rather than the pod.)
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Strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, beans, eggplants, figs...

Quite the booty today. I picked a handful of rattlesnake beans, some pimientos de padron and banana peppers, two deliciously ripe figs, a couple of strawberries (waaaaay out of season), an eggplant (one of many needing to be picked), a half-dozen tomatoes and more cherry tomatoes than I know what to do with.
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Monday, June 11, 2007

Eggplant feast

We had some good friends over this weekend to help out with our eggplant overproduction problems... Both my 'Black Beauty' and 'Little Fingers' plants are producing loads of eggplants, which might be my favorite veg. I put together a sort of south-eastern Mediterranean feast, with Macedonian, Greek, and Turkish and Georgian foods. (Yes, I know Georgia isn't geographically linked to the Mediterranean, but culinarily and culturally there is a great deal of affinity, as Paula Wolfert argues in her book, The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.) The premise was that the veg all be from the garden and that everything was to be served room temperature -- perfect for a hot Florida evening. I used my leaf celery for the first time. Delish. The plant seems to really appreciate a lot of shade, and doesn't grow very quickly. But the leaves have a very potent and clean celery flavor.

From Wolfert's Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, an excellent cookbook that explores a totally and unjustly disregarded region of the world.


Not many vegetables taste better than eggplant tried in olive oil. The Georgians have a special frying method that eliminates greasiness without sacrificing taste. They split baby eggplants down the middle, then slip them, flesh side down, into a well-seasoned skillet (I use a non—stick skillet) with a small amount of oil. The skillet is covered so that the eggplants fry and steam at the same time.

Serves 6

  • 12 baby eggplants or 6 Japanese eggplants (about 2 pounds total weight), halved lengthwise
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons fine sea salt


  • 2 cups (7 ounces) walnuts
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika or more to taste ¼ teaspoon
  • ground marigold petals or ground turmeric
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery leaves
  • 1/4 cup shredded basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
  • ¼ minced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons mild vinegar, preferably rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Flat-leaf parsley for garnish

1. Sprinkle the cut sides of the eggplants with 1 teaspoon of the salt and place cut side down, on paper toweling. Weigh down with plates 20 minutes. Rinse the eggplants under running water and then gently squeeze out the moisture; pal dry with paper towels.
2. Meanwhile, in a processor, combine the walnuts with the garlic, paprika. marigold petals, and the remaining teaspoon of the salt. Puree until an oily paste forms. Add cup water and process to blend. Transfer the paste to a medium bowl and stir in the celery, basil, coriander, onion, and vinegar. Fold in he pomegranate seeds. Cover and set aside.
3. In a the non—stick skillet, heat the olive oil over moderately low heat. Add all the eggplants cut side down. Cover tightly and cook until the flesh is golden brown and the eggplants are very tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. (If the skillet is not large enough, you will have to cook the eggplants in batches.
4. With your fingers, press open the middle of the cut side of each eggplant. Mound the walnut ffilling into each eggplant half and serve warm or at room temperature. Gardnish with parsley and pomegranate seeds.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Queensland Lettuce

VEGETABLES AND SMALL FRUITS IN THE TROPICS: "Queensland. Pat and Connie Lahr gave us a packet of seed for this lettuce after a visit to Australia. Pat believes it is grown primarily by an association of organic market gardeners. As far as he knows seed is not sold commercially. It is a big leaf lettuce that appears to be exceptionally resistant to bolting. Leaves are large, somewhat resembling a cos-type lettuce, with an attractive yellowish hue. In Australia they say it produces 8 weeks in summer, up to 14 weeks in winter and that it is best to use lower leaves.

My main interest is their apparent resistance to heat. We have not done carefully controlled experiments, but 'Queensland' appears to outlast most of our lettuce varieties when the warm season arrives. Each time we grow it I wonder, 'Is this ever going to bolt so we can save seed?' (A key to preventing bolting is to make sure the plants are never water stressed. It might well be that they would bolt quickly if we did not have irrigation.) ECHO produces a small quantity of seed for our network. Be sure to save your own seed if it does well.

Several people wrote concerning their results with 'Queensland' lettuce. Ken Turner in the Philippines says 'it was the best of 10 leaf lettuces tested, for ease of growing, durability and taste. I'm impressed. If leaf lettuce could just become an alternative here to"

Friday, June 01, 2007


Neem: Mode of Action: "Neem: Mode of Action of Compounds Present in Extracts and Formulations of Azadirachta indica Seeds and Their Efficacy to Pests of Ornamental Plants and to Non-Target Species"