Monday, June 29, 2009


Thirty cubic yards. That's how much mulch my tree guy dropped onto my driveway. Now, I need to move said cubits into the garden. I'm using a forty-gallon trashcan to move it. Thirty cubic yards is (according to Google, to which I've outsourced my brain) a mite bit over six-thousand gallons. Forty into six thousand is... a lot. I hope to finish sometime in August.


My recently transplanted malanga.
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A quick update in pictures...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Florida Chill Hours...

Another map of chill hours. I love how every one is different...

Map shows hours below 45 degrees received to February 10th in 75% of winters.

I guess this puts DeLand firmly in the 350-hour range.

From IFAS:
The model most used in the SE United States is the total number of hours below 45°F and above 32°F. Temperatures from 40 to 50°F are most effective, with higher or lower temperatures being less effective. Unseasonal high temperatures greater than 60°F during November - February cancel or negate some of the accumulated chilling. The effect of higher temperatures on previously accumulated chilling has not been clearly defined and higher temperatures are thought to affect only recently acquired chilling.

I thought this table was very useful:



Tallahassee (Monticello)**

Jacksonville (Macclenny) **


Orlando (Avalon) **

Tampa (Dover) **

Ft. Pierce


1999 - 2000
































































NA: Not Available.

**(Closest Weather Station)

Summer vegetables for Central Florida

A common question--what can grow in our hot and humid summers? One way I've learned to deal with the problem of the months-long hot and humid season is to turn over a sizable area of my garden to fruit trees . They all love the heat and rains, and many of them ripen during or at the end of the hot season (bananas, grapes, apples, starfruit, papayas, mangoes, figs, citrus).

Here are a baker's dozen of crops that I've had some success with for the months of June through September...
  1. Cassava. You'll need to find someone with cuttings. The cuttings root without a problem. I have started with pieces no larger than my thumb and, by the end of the season (Thanksgiving), they produced nice tubers. They are an easy, undemanding crop. The more care you take of them, the better they'll produce, but even without additional water or fertilizer, they'll still look good and produce something edible. Delicious boiled and mashed, or boiled and fried.
  2. Malanga. You can get tubers for these Elephant-ear lookalikes from Publix or any market that caters to folks rom the Caribbean. Look for smallish ones that are heavy for their size. Stick 'em in the ground and wait. Like cassava, these plants are pretty indifferent to conditions--they are, for instance, the only tropical staple that can be grown in shade. Mine last year produced poorly--bugs got them. I think that if I had planted them somewhere with more sun, added some compost, and fertilized them, they would have produced well. This year I was pleased to see half a dozen little plants appear where I'd pulled the original plants. Much like other alocasias, they must produce lots of little corm-lettes. We'll see if they produce better this year with all the rain.
  3. Okra. It does very well in large pots--better even than in the ground. Productive and tasty. I grow the burgundy available from Southern Exposure. The pods are edible even when they get large (six inches or longer). Not at all a fussy vegetable to cook--I slice it and fry it in olive oil and it's delicious. Deep-fried ain't half bad...
  4. Hot peppers. I've always had great luck with Tabascos, jalapenos, and habaneros. They do best in pots for me, and require daily watering and a bit of shade in the afternoon. When grown in pots, they're perennial--my Tabasco is four or five years old and produces better with every year.
  5. Caribbean seasoning peppers. There are several, and all look just like habaneros but are very mild. I grow a St. Lucia Yellow Seasoning pepper that's sweet and fruity and tasty. Prolific, too. Perennial in pots.
  6. Sweet potatoes. Couldn't be an easier, tastier, more prolific crop. I save back small potatoes from the winter garden, leaving them all winter on the back gazebo, then plant them in some well-drained compost in spring and cut the slips as they form. You can stick the slips directly in the ground and cover with compost, but it's a better bet to pot them up in the shade for a week. Give them room and a bit of water now and again.
  7. Roselle. I'm growing this mallow for the first time, in the same bed as the okra--they look great. Very pretty. Tasty drink made from its calyxes. I guess not technically a vegetable, but grown like one.
  8. Peanuts. Go buy some raw green peanuts from Publix, stick them in the ground anytime during the summer. Forget about them. Dig them out in November or December. Enjoy. Really, that easy. They need nothing.
  9. Okinawan spinach. Tasty, perennial, incredibly prolific, totally care-free. You'll need to find someone with cuttings... Good cooked or raw. High ornamental value.
  10. Small (100s or smaller) cherry tomatoes. These can be started anytime. I grow Matt's Wild, which are very motile and something of a pest... But tasty enough and low-maintenance. Just make sure to keep it in bounds.
  11. Cowpeas. I love my Mississippi Silver (from Southern Exposure). Totally undemanding, prolific and pretty. Very tasty. Belong in every garden.
  12. Limas. This year I'm growing Willow Leaf Lima (from Southern Exposure). Planted in the spring sometime, it's just now coming into production, but it's a great plant--vigorous, twining, pretty, drought-tolerant and prolific. The beans are smallish but tasty.
  13. Eggplants. They're perennial if you nurse them through the winter. I grow the "Little Fingers" which can be used small or left to grow large. (Interestingly, the "Little Fingers" have the largest leaf of any eggplant I've seen.) I love eggplant in Pasta Nora and as baba ganoush.
On the herb front: Basil (especially Thai), scallions (which I start from roots bought at the grocer), Mexican tarragon (pretty, too!), wild arugula, fennel (currently under serious attack by the swallowtail cats), epazote, pápalo (not for the faint of heart!), leaf celery (which I use as a replacement for parsley). Rosemary, mint, and thyme struggle, but generally survive the summer. Summer savory and certain oreganos (large leafed) thrive. I also grow chaya, which is OK but more of an ornamental than a food plant. The butterflies love it.

I'm sure there are other tropical crops to grow, but all of these crops are pretty easy. Many are perennial, and those that aren't can be started from saved seeds.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A cuke to try...

From Southern Exposure.

Poinsett 76 CUCUMBER
{als, an, dm, pm, spm} 67 days. [Developed cooperatively by Clemson and Cornell.] An improved version of 'Poinsett' having multiple disease tolerance. Produces dark green cukes about 7 to 8 in. long and 2-l/2 in. in diameter. The best open-pollinated variety for the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic coastal areas as a disease-resistant main crop garden variety. Pkt.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Vin de peche...

Oh, I forgot to add: I started another vin de maison: a batch of vin de pêche (from the excellent book aperitif by Georgeanne Brennan), using new growth from my two peach trees. I mostly used just the tips of the new growth. Six cups of leaves, five bottles of cheapo white wine, a pint of vodka and a pound of sugar. We'll see how it turns out in forty-five days.

Added: Here's a quick recipe for vin de pêche, based roughly on the one in Brennan's aperitif. Use the cheapest UN-OAKED white wine you can find (I used magnums of Sauvignon Blanc from the grocer): For every bottle of white, one cup of packed peach leaves, a half-cup of cheap vodka, a heaping third-cup of sugar (you can add more later when you're bottling). Mix them together in a well-washed crock or large jar. Shake or stir daily. Leave in the fridge for forty-five days. Bottle and enjoy immediately or store for several months in a cool, dry area.

I changed the recipe slightly by adding a few grains (less than a teaspoon) of mahleb, a spice made from the pits of a Prunus fruit, the St Lucie Cherry. (Mahleb is used in place of bitter almonds in baking. I love the flavor.) I added them because the leaves of a peach tree smell EXACTLY like mahleb, and I wanted to increase the presence of that flavor in my wine. (Peach leaves smell like fresh almonds, which makes sense, I guess, since almonds and peaches are fairly closely related.)

I tasted this for the first time yesterday-YUM! Slightly sweet, with a pleasant bitterness and very redolent of almonds, peaches and some exotic spice notes. Mmmm. Still green and a bit raw tasting, but I can imagine how it will taste in a month. My wife preferred it to the vin de pamplemousse, but she doesn't care for bitter things.

Quick garden update...

Well, it's surely summer here. I know that because I yanked out my last remaining collards last week (whiteflies!) and my sweet potatoes are running rampant. Let's see... 'Cucino' cukes are (surprisingly) still producing, though they're suffering greatly from some fungal issue, probably anthracnose. I'm getting only one or two a day, but enough to keep the girl-child happy and to make a batch of gazpacho from time to time. My cuccuzi is still growing wildly, but it's taken a breather from producing fruits. 'Fastbreak' cantaloupe is still consistently setting a fruit every time I pick one--it's in a pot, on a trellis, and seems capable of supporting only one fruit at a time. That said, it's very healthy with almost no trace of disease, so maybe it will produce all summer. Beans (Macaslan and Rattlesnake) are producing fitfully, which is pretty typical for this time of the year. Sometimes I'll go and pick a half-gallon of beans, sometimes just a handful. Willow-leaf limas from Southern Exposure are putting out a tremendous amount of pods--I'm looking forwrd to harvesting them all summer. Pretty plant, no signs of disease. Emerald blueberry has put out tons of growth--the others a bit less. Citrus crop looks to be excellent. I'll get two mangoes from my tiny Cogshill. Grapes look great--tons of fruit, and the promise of even more next year. Peppers are healthy and happy, just not setting that much fruit. Cassava is growing like a weed (and it looks like weed!). Eggplants are kicking into production, as are my okra. Aside from a disappointing tomato season (still no idea why), the garden is growing well...

Saturday, June 13, 2009


It's a start...
Wildflowers: Safety, savings bloom on Florida's roadways -- "Contract manager Chris Grossenbacher, a consultant to the DOT, said that not mowing during spring and fall blooms and especially not during the seeding phase has resulted in an explosion of naturally occurring wildflowers."
I think sometimes that people believe that what looks normal is some sort of universal, eternal state. But what looks normal is culturally defined. We've gotten used to, say, St Augustine lawns as what looks "normal" and people are afraid to upset that norm. However, given time we can reset what counts as normal and, if we're careful, that new normal can be much more interesting...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Vin de pamplemousse...

I made this a few weeks ago, and it's slowly clarifying in the fridge now. Wow, is it ever tasty. Just the right balance of bitter and sweet. The French know how to make cheap wine taste good...

Pickling peaches...

I love all pickles... Too many peaches, and they have such a short shelf-life.

I never can my pickles--refrigerator pickles, if you have the space, are way tastier and easier.

My morning project.

Quick Pickled Peaches

by Chef Michel Nischan

Makes 1 quart


  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 6 peaches
  • 1 vanilla bean (split and seeded)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon


  1. Blanch the peaches for about 10 seconds. Peel and cut in half.
  2. Place wine, vinegar, honey, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon sticks, and lemon juice in a large saucepot. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 5 minutes. Add peaches and cook until heated through, about 6 minutes after returning to a boil.
  3. Using a slotted spoon transfer the peaches to a canning jar with vanilla and cinnamon sticks evenly disbursed. Pour the boiling syrup over the peaches and fill to 1/4 inch below the rim of the jar and seal. Peaches will last in the refrigerator for up to a month. Serve over a roasted chicken, in a salad, or with goat cheese.
Update: OK--very simple recipe. I didn't peel the peaches, I used Trader Joe's vanilla paste (very good quality product), I reduced the honey to one-quarter cup, increased the sugar to a three-quarters and added a quarter cup of light-brown sugar (for a net decrease in the sugar--my peaches are quite sweet without the added sugar). Oh, and I left out cinnamon (can't stand it!) and added a few whole cardamon pods, instead.

Warnings for Inland Volusia County, Florida : Weather Underground

Warnings for Inland Volusia County, Florida : Weather Underground: "... Several rainfall records set at Daytona Beach during may...

A record monthly rainfall of 22.33 inches was set at Daytona Beach
during the month of may. This breaks the previous monthly record of
12.33 inches set in 1976. An all time daily rainfall record for may
of 6.37 inches was also set on may 20. This breaks the previous may
all time daily record of 4.22 inches set on may 26 1947. The may
rainfall of 22.33 inches also breaks the mark by itself for the
wettest Spring on record of 20.47 inches set in 1991. For Spring
2009 the rainfall total was 25.19 inches at Daytona Beach."

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Broccoli rabe

I have a nice stand of broccoli rabe (aka rapini), left over from spring plantings. I tend to forget, every year, how tasty the stuff is. I expect it (this late in the season) to be bitter, but if cooked right and matched with pasta, it's sweet enough that even my kids (who have very low tolerance for bitter things, unlike me) like it. We made this recipe tonight, with pesto and rabe from the garden. Very tasty, very quick.