Thursday, May 31, 2012

Back home!

Friends kept the garden pretty well picked and tame. I spent an hour this morning weeding and picking... just a few cukes (three or four) and I noticed the #%8*#% PICKLEWORM has already arrived. Squash is done. Beans are mostly done. Eggplants are just now setting fruit; hot peppers are on their way... Lots of persimmons and grapes this year. Plums are done. Figs are still setting fruit, but I hardly think it will ripen. So many red onions! And they look to be very healthy and capable of another few weeks of growth. I left a few broccoli plants in the ground, and, improbably, they are still producing, if fitfully.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


Great fig harvest. They're not as sweet and juicy as I'd like them, but I'm picking them too early... First time I've been able to harvest more than a handful. The tree is, like, five years old or older. I don't know that I'd recommend figs in the Florida landscape until you've got citrus, plums, and peaches. If you've got enough of those, then, sure, figs and persimmons. But the peaches and plums produce so much, so early, so heavily that it's hard to argue against them. And citrus is just so easy and so prolific that, even in a household where I'm the only one who eats oranges, I'm going to plant a couple more trees.

I'm pulling out my blueberries and plant a Florda Prince peach. Blueberries aren't worth the space, not worth the effort for the meager harvest. (The birds take their share.) The shortcomings of blueberries really hit home recently when we went to a you-pick blueberry patch. It took the four of us an hour to pick three pounds; enough berries for two large pies and plenty of snacking. But we picked HUNDREDS of bushes to get that amount. In the same space as, say, ten bushes, you could plant three or four peach trees. No contest.

I guess bananas should fit in somewhere after peaches but before figs. I yanked out my bananas last year after two years of heavy frost. But if I had the room and protected area (or lived nearer to Orlando), then I'd definitely consider bananas. They produce so heavily and the fruit lasts so long is SO delicious, it's hard to beat them.

Adding... I pulled out all my broccoli plants today. They were still very healthy, still producing, but I'm traveling so much in the next few weeks that I decided they weren't worth it any longer. Interestingly, though they'd been in the ground for several months, I didn't not any nematode damage to the roots. No idea why, but that likely explains their continued health and productivity. I've never left broccoli in the ground so late in the season... I had to pick a few times a week, otherwise the florets would toughen and flower. I wonder how long they would have continued to send up florets?

Oh, and, first red onion of the season! I started the seeds way back in August or September, so, long time in coming. In some respects, they're my best crop, considering how many I can grow in a relatively small space, how inexpensive the seeds were, and how much a red onion sells for in the store. I thinned them throughout the winter for scallions... If you're interested in growing them from seed, just make CERTAIN they're day-length neutral (Southern onions). The only source I'd trust for these seeds is Johnnys.

adding... From the comments. I'm still considering...
You have to consider that most U-picks they have professionals pick over the berries first, then allow the public to pick the "hard to pick" berries leftover. Blue Bayou has an arrangement with Whole foods for a majority of their berries. While it took us over an hour to pick(ten pounds/three), they were outstanding berries. The hard part about u-picks is when you go dramatically impacts your results.
Normally each mature plant produces about four to five pounds. Half of it tends to mature at one time with the rest over the remainder of the month. It will be much easier to pick your own plants. 
It is hard to argue against peach trees, as they are my favorite fruit, but I would reconsider removing blueberries. Especially if they plant is 1-2 years old as you are most of the way there.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Best and easiest peach preserves

Riffing off of a recipe from Cooks Illustrated... The key is to cook small batches of fruit preserves. Small batches allow you to use high heat and carefully control the jelling process. I made two batches of the following...

Peel, pit, and slice or chunk a pound of peaches. Sprinkle the peaches with a scant cup of sugar. Split open half a vanilla bean and scoop the seeds into the peach/sugar mix. Break a small cinnamon stick into three or four pieces. A tiny pinch of salt.

Mix it all together, then go do something else for half an hour.

Pour your mix into a wide skillet (I used a 14" copper skillet with high sides). Turn your heat on medium high, bring to a boil, and stir vigorously and continuously for five or ten minutes until you see traces in the preserves. (Your spoon will leave visible streaks in the jelling fruit syrup.) If you're a nervous sort, test the preserves on a cold plate--it should more or less immediately thicken into a bead that doesn't run. Off the heat, add a couple tablespoons of bourbon. Makes about a pint, store it in the fridge. Eat it.

My preserves rock. Everyone says they've never tasted a fresher preserve. Very redolent of peaches. I love, in particular, to take a couple of tablespoons of preserves and mix them with fresh peaches for a pie.

May in the Central Florida Garden

Still harvesting some winter crops like broccoli, chard, kale, potatoes. But they're burning out during our 90° afternoons. Harvesting the spring/early summer crops right now: green beans, squash, lots of great cukes, figs, so many plums, first full-sized tomatoes of the season, lots of Juliet tomatoes... By the end of June, I'll transition to summer crops like cherry tomatoes, eggplants, hot peppers, peanuts, sweet potatoes...