Monday, September 17, 2012

Oh, Purple Majesty!

I don't want anyone to think that All Blue isn't my favorite potato, but coming in a close second is Purple Majesty, the one I bought this winter when I wasn't sure I would be able to get any All Blue sets this year. The other day I dug up my second Purple Majesty plant, and got these beauties:
Basketful of Purple Majesty
My soil sifter works great for collecting them, and for hosing the dirt off them, too. They looked so cute, each one a different size, like The Potato Family, I cleaned them up for an official portrait:

Lucky thirteen
They're very like All Blue in yummy flavor and texture; the only way I can tell them apart is the white layer of flesh just under the skin on the All Blues.

My artichokes were something of a disappointment. First, once the buds got over a couple inches I had to go down every day and hose the aphids off them, and I still ended up with several ants nestled in the one I cooked. At one point I gave up and started using an organic soap to try to keep them off, but when I found out I had to apply that every day, too, I went back to just plain water. Then I noticed how angular and thin the buds were compared to the photos of really round Green Globes. I eventually found a post that explained that a consistent percentage of Green Globe seedlings make this shape artichoke—it must be a recessive form that no one's bothered to clean out of the strain. Since you can't tell until they do make buds, which plants have this trait, it probably isn't worth the trouble to try to do that. When I read that, I gave up on them entirely for this year, and maybe forever. I did find another blog that talked about the ant problem and said that in the second and subsequent years, in an organic garden, predators for the aphids at that particular time will be abundant enough to control them. In any case, I really dislike having aphids and ants in the food on my plate, so I'm not sure whether I'll try again. So I've just been enjoying the flowers I'm getting now:

The bees love artichoke flowers

Remember the giant purple broccoli that took 3 seasons to flower? Well, look what its two little sprouts did this year:

Son of a broccoli
I think it got big enough this year to give me flowers again next spring! I think I'll give it a good dose of chicken poop over the winter, and maybe I'll get more than teeny ones. It also got severely attacked by aphids at the same late-summer time that its parent did, and I'm hosing them off. No ants on the broccoli. Maybe if I could cross a broccoli with an artichoke...hmmm...that flavor could be pretty horrible. Never mind.

I'm impatiently waiting for the fruit in my orchard to get ripe. The three asian pears on my Shinseiki have turned yellow, but so far refuse to let go of their branches. One has a blemish, but the other two are perfectly round and larger than I expected. I don't think they're going to get much yellower, but I do hope they let me pull them off the branches at some point. Unlike European pears, they don't ripen any further once they come off the tree, so I don't want to jump the gun.

After the first hot spell we had I found bruise-like places on almost half of the Liberty apples, just as big as their red-pigmented areas. Web research pointed to sunscald as the problem, due to tissue damage in dark-pigmented areas at a time when the concentration of ascorbic acid is relatively low in the fruit. Ascorbic acid levels are high in early summer, but decline in late summer until they rise again when the fruit starts getting ripe. I was hoping a bit of shade might prevent any further damage so I clipped a piece of row cover fabric so it protected the apples from direct sunlight.

Shade tent
I don't expect these apples to ripen until late october. After I read about sunscald, I remembered how many dozens of times I bit into a store-bought red delicious apple only to find a big brown mushy spot that I thought was a bruise.

I also hung a fruit fly trap in the tree after I saw a couple fruit flies hanging around it in late July. I'm happy to say that it only caught a few flies. I don't know if they're a real problem in apples, but I'm no fan of fly larvae in my food, either.

 I'm really happy with how all the orchard trees came through the dryness and heat this summer. While last year I had to water once or twice a week to keep most of them from wilting, I've only watered them three or four times all year. They're still pretty well mulched with horse poop and the hay from last year, and I bet that helped.

Summer yellows