Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: Garden Update #15

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Garden Update #15

Warning: Large amounts of pepper porn ahead. :-)

Over the past couple of weeks, as the weather has turned more seasonable, the gardens have really taken off. Almost all of our plants, both in the container and community garden have fruit on them. Some of the peppers and tomatoes are even starting to ripen. As I noted early, I made the "rookie" gardening mistake of labeling our plants with paper labels, which of course, fell off. I have finally been able to identify all but one of our plants in the garden, and I think the one I can't identify might be a sad cucumber plant - it's not doing all that well.

Not a whole lot to report work wise this week. It's been a lot hotter and sunnier here lately, so we've had to water the peppers in containers more. We've been trying to utilize "waste" water that we would have normally dumped down the drain. We're not talking greywater or anything here, just glasses of water that went "stale", leftover water from adding water to the pot while cooking beans, that kind of thing. But surprisingly, it has reduced the amount of "freshwater" we've had to use for the plants a little bit. We also fed the plants on the porch. We use organic "worm castings", which is just a fancy term for worm poo, but it really works well on the plants and doesn't burn them either. Vermicomposting, or composting using worms, is a great way to reduce your garbage, even if you live in a small space - by turning your "food waste" into healthy plant food. I will discuss this further in the next post in the Sustainable Local Diet Series (which I hope to post sometime this week). Sadly, we have to buy our worm castings, our apartment complex considers composting "trash", though we might be sneaky about it and he it here. Brett just lightly tilled up the soil, added a thick layer of the poo, and created some "aeration holes", using the high tech method of piercing deep into the soil with a chop stick to allow water and (hopefully) food to reach the plant roots quickly.

I really think gardening, the fresh fruits and veggies, and all the critters are what make me look forward to the stiflingly hot summer months, 'cause otherwise, it's just uncomfortable. :-)

Here's the container garden:

Chocolate bell pepper.

"Better Bell".

Our jalapeno plant. This plant is gorgeous, it really is, it could stand as a houseplant in my opinion, it's very balanced, it's healthy, and the peppers are beautiful.

We finally have some poblanos! We had one early in the season and it fell off in one of the windy bouts we experienced, and then just really didn't do anything until now. Now there are about 6 or so little peppers starting.

Petite orange bell peppers. There are so many peppers on this plant. I can't wait to eat 'em, I bet they'll be sweet.

The Hungarian Wax plant is has a lot of peppers on it as well. I am hoping to pickle these as you would banana peppers, only difference is they'll be spicier. Wahoo!

The "Super Chile". This plant isn't actually doing all that great, it's got peppers on it, but the leaves are dropping off and the color is getting lighter. Not sure what's wrong with it, I thought it might be getting too much water, so we'll see.

We have a serrano pepper ripening. I love red serrano peppers, oh my!

The apartments we live in are kind of old and the decks have seen better days, so they make prime nesting spaces for the little sparrows, finches, and starlings in the area. This little guy has a nest in the top of the porch and we see him regularly. He's gotten used to us and will get quite close. I was able to get to within about 3-4 feet of him with the camera (I zoomed in on him)!

Cayenne peppers are really cool when they ripen. They start out green, turn almost black, then to a neon red, and then the red will soften and they are ready to pick. It looks like these will all be ready at roughly the same time. A co-worker of mine got a dehydrator at an auction and gave it to Brett and I. We're not sure if it works or not yet, but if it does it will make drying peppers a much quicker process. Otherwise, we may be the "interesting" people in the neighborhood with peppers strung across their porch. ;-)

Onto the community garden plot:

Since we stripped that unhealthy looking peppers off the banana pepper plants they have been doing a lot better. They've gotten denser, grown more, and their leaves look a lot better. There are a couple of blooms on them, so hopefully these peppers will have a better chance. Go figure that our six banana pepper plants can't keep pace with the production of, say, one jalapeno plant on our porch.

This is the one I'm not sure what it is. It's not doing very well, but it looks similar to the cucumber plants in other peoples gardens (OPG).

Both of the large squash plants are butternut squash (!!!), this is a good thing, as their shelf life is long and, well, we love them! This is the "small" one.

This is the big one. I actually had to step out of the garden plot to be able to get the whole thing in the picture. It is wound around to the front of the garden already.

A little butternut squash!

This one was little the other day when we spotted it, now it has doubled in size.

One of our new tomato plants, we're not sure what kind it is. Just a standard tomato plant I guess. I think over time, we are going to get into varieties more suited to our climate, you know, when we have a better idea of what the hell we are doing in the garden. :-)

The other new tomato plant.

This roma tomato plant seriously has a lot of tomatoes on it.

Some of them are starting to ripen!

We found out that we have two zucchini plants. I understand these to be very productive plants, so I'm a little nervous, but I have people to seek advice from as to how to preserve things now, so I should be alright...I hope...

The other zucchini plant.

A zucchini! When we spotted this the other day, I believe it was Thursday, it was about an inch long.

Yellow straightneck squash plant (also called "summer squash" I think).

There are two squash really going on here, and a couple "new arrivals" since the last time we were at the garden. It's amazing how quickly things move!

Onto this weeks CSA. I have to say, I will definitely be getting a CSA share again next year. Yes there is some risk involved (which I will discuss in the next Sustainable Diet post), but even with the slow start to the season, the CSA has saved us money, given us local, healthy, organic produce, and it has gotten better with each passing week. We figured it out, and the pile of food you see works about to be somewhere between $5-6. To me, that's a really good deal.

We've got: fresh oregano, red potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, a large onion, 3 small onion, green beans, a very large tomato, collard greens, and beets with gorgeous looking beet greens still attached.

Onto the farmer's market booty. We got all this for $22 and it's almost all organic. Wanna know why I'm telling you how much this cost? I'm trying to illustrate the eating with the seasons can be one of the most cost effective ways to eat. This is a lot of food. Had I taken $28 to the grocery store (the total amount spent on this produce) would I have gotten this much organic produce? Of course not!

We've got a bunch of carrots, 3 small tomatoes, 5 small apples, 4 ears of sweet corn, a yellow bell pepper, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, jalapenos, purple bell pepper, black Hungarian peppers, and Yukon gold potatoes.

The black Hungarian peppers taste very similar to Hungarian Wax Peppers except without as much fire and with more sweetness, this according to the woman who grew them. They also happen to be beautiful, so I snapped a few pictures of them.

I'm going to be a rogue "guerilla gardener" and save the seeds from this and the purple bell pepper so I can grow some next year.

Check out the color on this purple bell pepper:

'Til next time.


Heather @ SGF said...

It all looks so good and it must be wonderfully exciting to watch your own plants grow and blossom (I have my fingers crossed that I'll be sharing the same experience next summer). Summer is sweltering here too but you're right - those summer fruits and veggies make it all worthwhile. Enjoy all those yummies this week!

selina said...

im amazed at how quickly squash grows. and it is very prolific.

you can always freeze shredded zucchini or make zucchini bread & freeze that. those are the only 2 ways i have froze zucchini.

im so jealous that your plants are ripening. i'm so anxious to eat things it's driving me CRAZY!

Heather @ SGF said...

I forgot to mention what to do with that zucchini and squash - roast them for a lasagna or for roasted veggie sandwiches; or if you like soup, they are both great in a veggie soup. The soup is easily frozen and saved for another day or if you have a pressure canner, the extra soup can sit on a shelf instead of taking up precious space in your freezer.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Heather - Thank you. It has been. We started a lot of them from seed, some of them didn't work out so well so we had to get starts, but we've learned a lot, and you do get a little attached to the plants, at least I do. I hope you are too! You'll have to start a garden update. Living in Texas you should have no problem growing things like peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes, and such, oh man, I am a little jealous. ;-)

It helps doesn't it? Hehe. I will, I hope to get some fresh local peaches at the mid-week market, that make this week especially yummy.

Selina - I know, it's almost as if you could watch it grow if you just sat there. I've seen what happens to unpicked zucchini, a lot of people planted their plots and never came back, and they have HUGE squash on there, seriously, it's out of hand.

Thanks! I didn't know that you could freeze shredded zucchini. And zucchini bread is definitely on my list, I just don't have a recipe for it.

Aw, doesn't it seem like it's never going to happen? Brett and I feel that way with the peppers on the porch. Can't you just ripen already?!?!

Heather - I LOVE roasted squash. And soup is a great idea. I always forget about soup and it's such an easy meal, especially when I can't think of what to take to work for lunch. I am working on getting a boiling water bath canner, maybe I could figure out something with that.

Thanks for the soup tip, I think that'll come in real handy if those things really start to go crazy.

Heather @ SGF said...

One of these days I'm going to post about all my recipe sources, but here's one for zucchini muffins. I've never tried it, but I thought it looked really good...

Be careful with the soup in the hot water bath. Low acid veggies seem to need the pressure canner.

For most of the year, I took soup to work and it was perfect. I saved all my glass peanut butter and mayo jars as they were the perfect size for a lunch size portion of soup. And of course, the jars are glass so when you reheat in the office microwave, there are no plastic toxins to invade your lunch.

I'm sure you'll find lots of ways to use all those veggies. You could always do a post with all the recipes you try. I'm not good at following recipes, but I find lots of inspiration in them for my own concoctions!

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy for you! Your garden is flourishing beautifully!

It is quite interesting that you could use worm castings to pot plants with. You and Brett have obviously done your research and learned quite a bit of info through gardening.. I'M even learning a bit more each time you post! :-)

P.S. My mouth is watering looking at all those peppers. haha!

selina said...

go to:

i believe most berries are in season until the end of july. i know peach season starts at the end of july & i think i'l be picking some & maybe freezing them in jam form.

also i know here in indiana blueberry season just started. unfortunately i think the strawberries are done for the year. :(

jessy said...

yay for pepper porn! your plants are going crazy. it's so awesome. and the little zucchinis & butternut squashes are so cute! looks like you got some more awesome CSA + farmer's market loot! hoooooooooray! enjoy all of your yummies!

Rural Vegan said...

Your tomatoes are a good 3 weeks ahead of mine, and your peppers are doing wonderfully! Man are you going to have peppers - lots and lots of peppers!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how much produce you got for that amount. What a steal! It's great the hear that your garden is doing so well.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Heather - Thanks for the recipe, I'll have to check it out.

Also, thank you very much for the tip about canning. I got the Ball Blue Book for canning, as it's apparently the "one" to use, I should probably really read that. I have never done it before and wasn't aware of all the thought that went into it until now.

That is an excellent idea about the peanut butter and mayo jars! Thank you! I never thought that I could take the soup in and just heat it (safely) in the jar. I usually bring my soup in a container, and transfer it to a bowl I've brought from home, and this seems like far less hassle.

I will likely post about anything tasty I come up with. And I'm with you, I get a lot of inspiration from others, but like to go my own way with things. Call it my inner rebel if you will. :-)

Leng - Thank you, I'm really proud of it too, it's starting to look so nice. I am a little concerned about the butternut squash plant though, it is seriously huge, how big is this thing going to get?!

We don't use just the castings to pot the plants. We will mix 1 part of worm casting per 4 parts of organic potting mix. We'll go back a couple of times during the season and add some more worm castings as fertilizer, and Brett pierces some holes in the soil to allow the food to reach the roots faster.

I know, everytime I go out there I can't help but get down there and look at all of them, and now that they are ripening, now I am anticipating peppers.

Selina - Thanks for the link! We got our first peaches last week at the market, but I know they are really going to be coming in soon. I was thinking about getting a lot to dehydrate for trail mix over the winter too, perhaps also apricots and apples. Not sure berries would dehydrate too well.

I really want to go to a You Pick orchard. This IS one of the pitfalls to now owning a car, but perhaps, eventually, I can convince one of my friends that this would be "fun" and we can go together.

Jessy - Haha. I actually end up with a lot more pictures than what I post, but I feel that I am already pushing the limit before people will start to wonder about me... :-)

If all the little butternuts turn into big butternuts, we are going to have a couple of laundry baskets full of butternut squash. I won't complain, as they have a long shelf life, but it IS still a little intimidating.

Thank you we will, the farmer's market is really starting to get a plentiful and each week there is more variety.

Rural Vegan - It has helped that we've finally had some sunshine. I sure hope we have a lot of peppers, I want to dry peppers, pickle peppers, make salsa, freeze peppers. I really have a pepper addiction and I am looking for sustainable ways to feed that over winter. It's amazing what you can do on one small porch too. :-)

Mad About Udon - We thought so too, retail prices on organic food from the "regular" grocery store is quite high. But that has a lot to do with the fact that you are getting food that is out of season that has to be shipped refrigerated to get to you without spoiling.


Heather @ SGF said...

Another tip if you're eating out of those mayo and pb jars? I bring along an ice cream spoon with me to eat. It makes it a lot easier to get in that jar without making a mess out of your hand :)

Also as far as drying berries. I haven't done it, but my dad has bought me dried blueberries and strawberries from the store before. The dried strawberries were to die for and the dried blueberries are good in pancakes. I know, I'm totally obsessed with the panckes...

The Vegan Snorkeler said...

I'm so jealous of your balcony garden! My balcony is north-facing, so I don't think I'd be able to get a lot of veggies to grow there. Your peppers look amazing!

Bianca said...

I bet you're going to make some bad-ass Mexican sauces with all those peppers!

And how freakin' cute is that little butternut squash?!

Calimaryn said...

Beautiful garden!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You are going to be in pepper heaven :o) I hope that your dehydrator works so that you can play around with it--they are fun.

And your farmers market and CSA haul both look very very good! I am missing my CSA this year, and will definitely be signing up for one again next year...


Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Heather - Great tip, otherwise you might lose your spoon! :-) I probably would have made that mistake a few times before I figured out I needed to approach the situation differently.

Dried strawberries, oh my goodness, I bet those are good.

And you DO seem to like pancakes, but they ARE good, so I think we can all forgive this obession.

Vegan Snorkeler - Thank you. Oh no! Our old apartment faced north and NOTHING would grow there, it was so upsetting. On a positive note, it didn't get as hot in there during the summer. Will herbs or greens grow?

Thank you! I'm proud of how well they are doing this year.

Bianca - I may have a few recipes waiting for the harvest..... ;-)

I know, I squealed a little bit when I saw the first one, I might not be "girlie" in the traditional sense, but baby fruit and veg is too cute.

Calimaryn - Thank you!

Courtney - I know, we've started getting some off of the plants, and it's been so nice, nothing like fresh peppers, and I love to let them ripen on the vine, they have such full flavor that way.

If it doesn't work, I will likely end up getting one anyway, it is going to be necessary if I want to make my own chili powder and ground cayenne, and it would also open up more preservation options for me in terms of fruit and veg.

Thank you. I bet you are! :-(

Lizzy said...

So true about the price difference... I really should start buying my fresh produce at a market!

And as for your little veggie babies I can still only say: I'm a little jealous and wish I could come over for some fresh salsa of yours with your selfgrown chillies =D

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Lizzy - I would have never thought organic, local produce could be so affordable, especially when you get used to the prices at the supermarket. But when a certain veggie or fruit is abundant, you can get a ton of it, locally for such a small amount of money, eat what you can, and preserve the rest for when the only thing on the ground is snow!

Haha. Well, if you were here I would happily make you some salsa with my homegrown chiles. In fact, if I get a boiling water bath canner and a decent yield, I might just have to send you a jar of home canned "J-style" salsa! You'll have to let me know your spice preference though, or you might end up thinking that Missouri soil tastes like fire. ;-)

John said...

Wow, you're plants and veggies look wonderful. Pictures like that make me wish that I didn't live in the desert.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

John - Thank you! Haha! Just think though, you could grow agave, prickly pear cactus, and olives, I cannot, so I am also jealous!

Lizzy said...

you have no idea how excited i got when i read this =D
are these things expensive? otherwise i'd sponsor one ;)

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