Sunday, June 30, 2013

Berries, berries, and cherries

Seascape strawberries and Montmorency cherries
Harvest is starting! I've been eating fresh strawberries every morning for two and a half weeks now, and really enjoying them. The first flush of Seascapes is coming to an end now, but I'm still getting some every couple days. I'm expecting a 2nd crop in a month or two, but I'm not sure when.

And I have cherries! The 162 I counted two months ago are almost all still there--except for this pint I picked a few days ago. I'm heading down this afternoon to get the next bunch. I'm going to try cooking the ones I have so far, later today. Don't want them to sit too long. I'm very happy to see that the fruit fly trap worked really well, so far at least. I haven't found a single inhabited cherry yet, and only a few have been attacked by the birds. I have a net ready to put over the tree, but I really don't mind if the birds get a few. The first ones mostly came off the stones when I pulled on them, and only a couple trios came off with the stems. I decided to give them a few more days before I harvest again. This morning I peeked at them when I went down to hay the potatoes, and I see darker red than I've seen before. I'm still new at this, and definitely learning.

"Fall-bearing" raspberries—in June.
The raspberries started ripening in a really phased manner this year, way different from the last two years. I got about half a bag full over a week, just a few at a time, then suddenly a couple days ago I got a full pint. Now they're coming slowly again, and I've got one plant that is covered with green ones and only had 2 ripe ones when I picked the others. These are all basically the same plant, all located within a six foot circle, so I'm at a loss to explain the different timing this year. It did seem that they started early this year, but my schedule's so screwed up this year—with the month of June gone for jury duty—it's hard to say for sure.

Nice hay--lots of flowers this year!
Sometimes I'm learning the hard way: June is awfully late to be putting hay around my potatoes, but I have at least one excuse. I was waylaid with a sprained ankle and couldn't even make it down there for a couple weeks, and then it started raining again, so I waited. Well, today I got out at 5am, before the sun came up over the ridge, and put out my bale of hay. I had to push the plants back into their rows so I could get the hay around them on both sides, but it went pretty well. I really like the way it looks with the hay. The reason I'm in such a hurry to get it done down is, while I was pulling a few weeds two days ago, I came across a 2" purple majesty potato pretty much right at the surface, and I really don't want the sun to be hitting them. I won't start harvesting them for another two or three weeks.

Basket o' kale
Yesterday I harvested the broccoli yesterday, half-cooked it and froze it all. I probably should have just blanched it, but I wasn't sure how successful that would be with the big heads. This morning after haying, I cut down the four stalks of kale that hadn't fully bolted yet—it really happens fast when the temperature goes up—and brought them into the kitchen. Then I spotted a spider on one and took them back outside and sprayed them off. I set up my stockpot and a bowl of ice water and blanched 4 leaves at a time, and after I got them all done I figured out how to bag them for the freezer. I was going to leave the midribs in, but they were still so stiff and took up so much room, that I cut them all out, folded up the leaves in little bundles, and fit them all into one and a half quart bags. So we'll see how that works. I've never blanched anything before, so it was a bit of an adventure, too. It's nice to have that all done, now I just have the stuff I've done before. Should give me several weeks of greens to go with my taters. I did notice that the sweet, mild taste of the tuscan kale did actually get a lot stronger in the last week. I wasn't sure before how long it would last, so now I know: until the weather warms up.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer, Saturday, and Strawberries!

What an incredible day! I spent the morning in a garden workshop at Gracewood Studio (see my other garden blog for today) and came home to a wonderful quiet afternoon, 75º outside, no wind, and a dozen and a half of fresh-pickable strawberries, not to mention a couple snap peas and the first raspberries of the year.

I rinsed these off and have eaten half of them already, with my supper. For the last few I mixed up an easy instant chocolate sauce (1 Tbsp. nonfat Nancy's yogurt, 1 tsp. cocoa powder, 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar. Adjust quantities for sweetness and thickness), and oh my goodness, what incredible, astonishing flavor. I feel that I am now in a position to HIGHLY recommend Seascape strawberries! They are growing and producing great guns, and throwing runners like it's going out of style, and the berries are so sweet and bright-tasting they practically effervesce. They have exactly the same sprightly bubbliness on your tongue that a perky flute of champagne does. I have no idea how that happens, but it does.

The Liberty apples are growing faster than any of the other apples and pears, about 1.5" in diameter now. The pears have grown, as have the other apples, but they're way behind the Liberties. So far the footies seem to be stretching easily to fit the fruit. I'm wondering if I'll need to go around and partially untwist the footies so they'll stretch more easily. I'm just keeping them under observation for now.

My tuscan kale is so beautifully lumpy! It's also more tender, quicker to cook, and milder than any of the kales I've grown so far. I need to start blanching it because I can't eat it fast enough to keep it under control. It's great with potatoes and vinaigrette.

My bergarten sage in the veggie patch is looking beautiful and blooming more than last year. The other little ones I put out other places are still getting established, but I'm hoping they start looking like this next year. I love the big light blue flowers.

I've learned a bunch about basil this year, trying to grow it for the first time. In mid-may I bought 7 little pots of it and planted them in with my blueberries, and one green one and two purple ones in a pot on the patio. The slugs promptly ate every one I put in the ground, and within a couple weeks the ones in the pot were rotting at the base of their stems and falling over. I told a friend and found that she keeps hers in her greenhouse till June. Two weeks ago, I happened on an herb man at the Oregon City Farmers' Market who told me that basil plants do just fine outside down to 40º, but only after they've been hardened off. My big mistake was buying plants from greenhouses and then setting them out immediately, and not to mention, putting them in the ground without a moat of slug bait around each one. I bought two new green ones from him, and put them outside in the pot with the one living remnant of the purple ones that's still hanging on. I did put a plastic cloche over them when the rain was coming down hard, just to keep them from getting too wet and beat down. July 4th and the dry weather are both coming. The fragrance is fantastic. I pruned the sprout tips tonight and put them in with the potatoes I cooked. Mmmmm. This is turning into a wonderful year.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My apples have footies!

It's been a busy spring, but the veggies and fruits have been doing great without much help from me. But I finally got in with them today, weeded the orchard, put footies on all my apples and pears, and made a first pass on a bird-proof cover for the strawberry bed.

I also took a bunch of pictures. My tuscan kale is really looking great! It definitely is tuscan kale, lumps and all! I took a nibble out of one leaf today, just to see what it tasted like. It was very mild, thick and chewy. It's probably going to take a lot of cooking. I'll be trying some soon.

The broccolis are 18" tall! The potatoes are a foot tall and a couple are starting to bloom. I don't know what happened to the potatoes, but they practically leaped out of the ground. Maybe the soil was warmer? I still haven't put hay on them but I will soon. June is usually the last month of rain, but it's so weird this year, who knows what will happen?

I counted 172 cherries on my Montmorency tree today. Time to get a fruit fly trap on there.

The Seascape strawberry plants are looking really great, and I can't believe the berries!

And here are the footies! Between the Gala, Honeycrisp, and Liberty apples, the Bartlett pear, and the Shinseiki and Chojuro asian pears, I put footies on 53 pieces of fruit today. If they all make it to maturity—which they won't—that will be a lot of fruit! Here's a nicely-twisted footie on a Chojuro baby. I'm prepared for the eventuality that some of them will fall off or blow off. I'll go down with some wire and tie them back on when (if) that happens.

And here's what one of the better-laden branches of the Shinseiki looks like.

Here are two little Honeycrisp babies before I put the footies on. So cute! I'm really hoping some of them make it to harvest because they are sooooooo delicious! There are eleven now so there is a chance.

Whatever happens this year, it's going to be interesting again.