Friday, August 26, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Wizard’s Harvest to Table. Earlier this week, my friend Mary recommended a website by a California master gardener who has parlayed his gardening into useful tips and even a book. She thought of me because he had recently blogged about how a hot summer (like the one we just had) would delay the ripening of tomatoes (and even delay the setting of fruit) because tomatoes won’t ripen at temperatures above 85 degrees or below 55 degrees. My harvest is at least three weeks behind because of our July heat wave (on top of BER and cracked tomatoes). His website has lots of useful tips and is particularly well organized. So, check out Wizard’s Harvest to Table. Unfortunately, he does not include pictures with his posts, but that probably makes it easier to read from your cell phone.
The BBC. The British pretty much mastered all things gardening ages and ages ago. The BBC website understandably has a load of information. It was fascinating to read about “allotments.” This is basically the British version of community gardening. It has been legally required for each community to “allot” land for cultivation by the masses since 1908. Nonetheless, two-thirds of communities had a waiting list of 57 people for every 100 plots, although there was some concern that some people remained on a waiting list after getting a plot somewhere else or had their names on multiple lists.
Another fascinating article had to do with essentially creating an underground pond beneath your vegetable garden or hoop house that will collect rain water from your property so that you never have to water again. It was called a self-watering polytunnel. It reminded me of moats and tunnels I’ve seen. My brother-in-law was born and raised in Cameroon and surrounded his plot in Dublin with a moat which he dug himself. It looked like a lot of work to me, but he said his father always did it and he believed that it prevented flooding and helped conserve water. Last year, Jeff dug deep trenches between his rows of tomatoes and his tomatoes were large and beautiful. Again, it looked like a lot of work to me. I plant on flat earth and spread straw everywhere in between my rows to keep the weeds at bay.
Wilmington College’s Grow Food Grow Hope. I went home to God’s Country a few weeks ago for a family reunion to celebrate my grandfather’s 96th birthday. My Uncle Marshall is a serious gardener, my Aunt Brenda puts up a serious amount of food each summer and their grandson, Tyler (making him my second cousin or first cousin once removed), will be graduating in December from nearby Wilmington College with an agriculture degree. (I should mention that he is also a rodeo champion and has competed in national high school events. His aunt (my cousin) Rhonda is also a champion barrel rider). This summer he is interning on the college farm and I was fascinated. He says they harvest 300 pounds of produce each day. Half goes to the college cafeterias and the other half is donated to area food pantries. That’s a lot of food. We commiserated about tomato horn worms and he looked at me like I was from outer space when I suggested planting basil between each tomato plant (because they have over 300 plants). He recently helped to build a hoop house and was telling me how financially lucrative it is to grow winter tomatoes. He observed a farm where easily half of their income comes from growing cherry tomatoes in a hoop house. The plant is still planted in the ground, but the vines are trained up twine, which is suspended from the ceiling. As the tomatoes are harvested, the spent part of the vine is coiled on the ground and the newly grown vine continues to grow up the twine. This way, they can grow the same tomato plant for six months or more. Isn’t that riveting?
Anyway, Wilmington College also has a community garden program which provides plots to members of the community to grow their own food. Clinton County has been particularly economically distressed since the closing of the Airborne facility and this is one way that the college is helping out. I think it’s sweet and I’m proud to be from the area. (For that matter, a church is my hometown is cultivating eight acres for the to grow fresh food for area food pantries. Be sure to check out the video. They don't measure their harvest in pounds, but in bushels). My only complaint is that WC does not sell their nifty GFGH t-shirts online.
These are presented for your reading pleasure and edification.
Friday, August 19, 2011
We know that the thieves at the SACG know this already. Most of them come at night. Because the SACG is surrounded by a fence and has locks on the gates (only once we start noticing the disappearance of produce), people come in with bags by knocking down the fence or jumping the gates. We do not have a problem with trespassing where the fence has strong metal stakes or is covered with raspberry bushes. Our fence is not strong enough for people to climb, although people have clearly tried (as evidenced by the broken prongs on brand new fence).
All this being said, some of my suburbanite friends think I am being stingy by begruding the theft of food in this anemic economy. (A certain General Counsel joked earlier this week that vegetarians are a pretty shady crew:) However, the problem is that we have plots outside the fence along the alley where anyone can help themselves to tomatoes, peppers, brocoli, colored greens, turnips, cucumbers, etc. We also always give food upon request to anyone who asks (rather than simply takes). We also donate over 200 pounds each year to food pantries. Finally, these people are not taking just a few tomatoes. Most of them bring bags in order to take a week's worth of food (or more) at a time. You cannot imagine the disappointment to the gardener who has been tending the plot carefully each week -- in the extreme heat and mud -- only to find that the peppers and tomatoes were taken the day before s/he was planning to harvest.
We have been resigned to a certain level of shrinkage and I always encourage gardeners to grow a little extra every year to make up for some losses. However, we already work so hard when it is hot or extra rainy (and, thus, extra weedy) that several of my gardeners have already told me that they want smaller plots next year, not more work . . . . .
Anyway, here is the Dispatch article:
Val White of the East Side weeds her plot in the community garden at the Franklin Park Conservatory, accompanied by her dog Mo. Thefts of crops at another local community garden got so bad that gardeners now plant extra vegetables, anticipating such losses.
Dawson parked his car and walked up to the woman who was wandering through the 40 garden beds, filling a trash bag with plump green tomatoes.
“I had to explain the system and that these vegetables were not hers to take,” said Dawson, community-garden coordinator for the conservatory.
While most gardeners expect rabbits, birds and squirrels to feed on their fruits and vegetables, many are learning that human bandits are lurking among the carrots, peppers and squash.
"’Tis the season,” Dawson said. “It’s harvest time — everyone wants to come home with a bright red tomato.”
The American Addition Garden on Joyce Avenue, one of about 250 community gardens in the Columbus area, is experiencing the same. “We put up signs telling them not to take the vegetables, but no one listens,” said Marie Mooreland, a garden volunteer. “We started planting extra (vegetables) to make up for the difference.”
Mooreland said that so much is taken from the 10 plots there that the gardeners looked into installing a security camera.
“It’s such a problem because the plot is on the main thoroughfare,” she said. “We have to educate them.”
Lori Kingston, spokeswoman for the Franklin Park Conservatory, said people misunderstand the word community. “They don’t understand it means people gardening together in a community,” Kingston said.
The conservatory asks all plot owners to donate a portion of their harvest to a food pantry of their choice.
Beth Urban, executive director of the American Community Gardening Association, which is based in Columbus, said people can take precautions.
“Some people put raspberry or blackberry bushes in front of their gardens because they are thorny and deter people from entering,” Urban said.
She added that others put up fences or hang signs asking visitors not to sample the fruits of their labors.
Although these vegetable bandits can be a nuisance, Dawson said he tries to convert them to the craft.
“I tell them, ‘Weed a little, take a little,’” Dawson said. “We want to educate them and encourage them to take part.”
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Fortunately, cracking is not caused by bugs or viruses and is not contagious, but there is very little you can do to prevent Mother Nature from releasing a gusher. Keeping tomatoes too damp can inhibit the uptake of calcium (leading to blossom end rot). There are some tomato varieties that are more resistant to cracking than others, but popular beefstake tomatoes are notorious crackers.
Of course, not every agrees on the causes of cracking. The University of Illinois Extension Office blames severe pruning: “Cracking varies with the variety. Many of the newer varieties are resistant to cracking. Severe pruning increases cracking. Keep soil moisture uniform as the tomatoes develop and plant resistant varieties to minimize this problem.”
But I like the explanation of Texas A&M:
Cracking is a physiological disorder caused by soil moisture fluctuations. When the tomato reaches the mature green stage and the water supply to the plant is reduced or cut off, the tomato will begin to ripen. At this time a cellophane-like wrapper round the outer surface of the tomato becomes thicker and more rigid to protect the tomato during and after harvest. If the water supply is restored after ripening begins, the plant will resume translocation of nutrients and moisture into the fruit. This will cause the fruit to enlarge; which in turn splits the wrapper around the fruit and results in cracking. The single best control for cracking is a constant and regular water supply. Apply a layer of organic mulch to the base of the plant. This serves as a buffer and prevents soil moisture fluctuation. Water plants thoroughly every week. This is especially important when the fruits are maturing. Some varieties are resistant to cracking, but their skin is tougher.
Iowa State agrees:
Fruit cracking is a common problem on tomatoes. Cracks usually appear at the top or stem end of the fruit. Cracks radiate out from the stem (radial cracks) or circle the fruit in concentric rings (concentric cracks). Fruit cracking is associated with wide fluctuations in soil moisture levels. A heavy rain or deep watering after a long, dry period results in rapid water uptake by the plant. The sudden uptake of water results in cracking of ripening fruit. Generally, fruit cracking is most common on the large, beefsteak-type tomatoes.
Fruit cracking can be prevented by supplying the tomato plants with a consistent supply of moisture during the summer months. During dry periods, a thorough soaking once every seven days should be adequate for most tomato plants. Conserve soil moisture by mulching the area around tomato plants with dried grass clippings, straw, shredded leaves or other materials. Also, plant tomato varieties that possess good crack resistance. Tomato varieties that possess good to excellent crack resistance include Jetstar, Mountain Spring and Mountain Fresh.
Montana State University takes a hybrid approach:
Tomato harvest is a highly anticipated event in our gardens. But after tending to these plants for an entire season, it's sure disappointing to find the fruit cracked and rotted. Or fruit that doesn't ripen at all. There are two kinds of fruit cracking in tomato - radial and concentric.
Radial cracks are the more common, start near the fruit stem, and develop down the sides of the fruit wall. Concentric cracking appears as several circular cracks around the stem end of the fruit. So is there anything you can do to prevent tomato fruit cracking?
Cracking of tomatoes is most common during hot, rainy periods when temperatures are in the 90s, and particularly following long dry spells. It is most severe on fruit that is ripening in full sun. The high light intensity and warm summer temperatures in our area make the situation worse. Here's what you can do:
Mulch the soil around your plants to keep it consistently moist. Use drip irrigation instead of overhead impact sprinklers. Fertilize your plants judiciously and encourage good foliage cover. Plants that have been heavily pruned, or those that have lost their foliage to insects, disease or weather issues will have their fruit exposed to the bright sunlight. These ripening fruits will heat up and most likely crack. If this has been a problem for you, next year, keep in mind that there are tomato cultivars that are resistant to cracking. "Beafsteak-type" tomatoes are known for cracking. Cultivars like 'Early Girl', 'Daybreak' and 'Valley Girl' resist cracking. And just as there are some cultivars resistant to cracking, there are others that have the tendency to crack, like 'Sungold' and 'Sun cherry' cherry tomatoes.
In any event, generously water your tomatoes at least once a week when it is hot and dry or you risk a gusher rain storm blowing up your tomatoes when you least expect it.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Tsatsiki (one serving)
• 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt (preferably plain, but honey or vanilla will do)
• 1 chopped garlic clove
• 1/8 cup EVOO (but you can decrease this a bit if you are not a fan like I am).
• 1/2 tsp chopped dill weed
• 3/4 cup chopped cucumber
1. Mix the garlic, yogurt, oil and dill together well.
2. Add the cucumbers and stir.
3. Serve and enjoy.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Are yellow cucumbers edible?
Monday, August 1, 2011
• 3 tbsp lemon juice
• 4-8 anchovy fillets, packed in oil and drained
• 1 garlic clove chopped
• 1 tsp Dijon mustard
• ¼ cup EVOO
• 1/8 cup finely grated Parmesan
• Dashes of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
• 2 cups Tuscan (or black) kale, thinly sliced and large stalks removed. (Yes, you can serve and eat it raw).
• In a blender, combine lemon juice, anchovies, garlic, mustard and EVOO. Pour into a bowl and add half of the parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. Can be made two days ahead.
• Chop the egg into tiny, tiny pieces. Chill. Can be made 6 hours ahead.
• Wash and cut the kale. Put it into a large bowl. Toss it with the dressing. Then top with the chopped egg and remaining parmesan.
• 1/3 cup sliced mushrooms
• ¼ cup sliced onions
• 1 slice bacon, sliced longways and then chopped into quarter inch pieces. I cheated and had two slices
• Two cups of kale (including stalks) sliced into inch-wide strips.
• 1-2 tsp of red wine vinegar
• Cook bacon in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until it shrivels up to the shape of bacon bits (but before it turns black). Cover it with a splatter guard (to protect the rest of your kitchen).
• Tilt the skillet to distribute the bacon grease evenly. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook for five minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and replace the splatter guard.
• Add the kale (and keep the splatter guard over the skillet). Cook until the kale wilts, but before it is soggy. About 3 minutes.
• Splash the vinegar over the kale. Stir.