Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: August 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Garden Update #22

We had a spate of warm, sunny weather this week - oddly rare this very mild summer, and it really seemed to help the container garden. Our peppers have been incredibly productive this year, I think they are enjoying the conditions.

The community garden is another story, it doesn't look good, but there has been some progress as well, so all in all, I am pleased with how the gardens have done this week.

Let's start with the community garden.

It looks bad, actually horrible. The grass and weeds have taken over with a vengeance, and the squash bugs are doing a number on the squash plants. The zucchini and yellow squash plants have now been attacked, and I'm not sure how much longer they are going to last. I was able to pull a yellow straightneck squash off the plant today, and there is a zucchini waiting to be picked (I don't think the squash bugs have taken to eating it yet - hopefully), but the squash bugs are infesting the plants new growth. Some portions of both the plants are yellowing.

A positive result of this is that they seem to be leaving our butternuts alone now, though they have wreaked a lot of damage - a good portion of the leaves are yellowing. But there are tons of new little butternuts, and they look really healthy. I am hoping they will continue to grow and mature.

The Better Boy is also moving along very nicely, it is looking quite robust. The few tomatoes that are on it at this point are getting really large, and they look fantastic. There are some new blooms, so hopefully it will start producing more soon. I can't wait for them to ripen!

The Roma seems like it has about finished producing - though it has produced far more than I ever imagined. The remaining tomatoes are ripening nicely on the plant, but I haven't seen any new blooms, or even any new growth. Parts of the plant are starting to dry up, even though the soil is quite moist. I am thinking about taking down some worm poo and seeing if that won't coax it to produce a little more.

The banana peppers have really taken off, now that they can get some sun with the butternuts dying off. All four of the plants are either blooming or have peppers growing on them.

Now onto the good stuff, the pictures:

My shadow makes me look all tall and big!

A couple of notable pictures of the banana peppers.

Check out those Better Boys!

A gnarly little guy, eh?

A couple pictures of an elusive butternut, barely visible through all the damn grass.

This one looks a lot better than it did last week.

Some Roma's through a spider web.

The yellow straightneck squash plant.

The zucchini plant.

A look at all the squash bugs on the new growth of the yellow straightneck squash plant.

Now to the container garden.

Things are going really well on this front. However, with our fly gone and the wasps slacking off on their job, we've had a slight aphid resurgence. Nothing major though, a little "thumb and forefinger" action seems to have done the trick. ;-)

We pulled all the ripe cayennes off the plant, and the others started to ripen right away. Now, we just picked them yesterday, and this crazy plant has already started a new pepper. I will not complain, I love cayenne peppers, so I am stoked!

The rest of the peppers, including the dud poblano, and the seemingly defunct chocolate bell pepper have made progress. The poblano has a couple of blooms on it, and the chocolate bell actually has a pepper. The jalapeno is continuing to produce, and the serrano has a ton of blooms and a small pepper going. All in all, the container garden is looking mighty nice.

I think what has been greatest about our container garden - beyond the fairly steady supply of delicious peppers, of course - is that it has required very little effort on our part. We lightly water them daily (when it isn't or hasn't been raining - which hasn't been too often lately), feed them every once in awhile, and help 'em out by picking off any yellow leaves or dried up pepper starts.

A word of warning before I go on with the pictures. I took the "group pictures" this week, which is something Brett normally does. He has a method for getting consistent pictures each week, which is great for our gardening journal, however, I am not Brett, nor am I nearly as good with the camera. So they are a little "off" and blurry, but I did my best. I do fine with the "pepper porn", and even got some better than usual pictures this week, but the group ones just never turn out when I take them.


Here are a couple of pictures of the banana peppers.

They even look neat when they are just starting to ripen.

A new little cayenne already!

A chocolate bell pepper.

A new Hungarian Wax pepper and a picture of just a few of the little peppers that are getting started.

A "photo shoot" of the jalapeno.

Check out that funky little jalapeno!

A New Mexican Chile!

A few pictures of the ever-productive petite bell peppers.

An oddly shaped regular bell pepper.

A "newbie" regular bell pepper.

Some serranos on the plant we started from seed earlier in the season.

Lots of blooms on the second year serrano plant.

The indoor container garden is progressing fairly nicely as well. The two containers of One Ball Squash I started finally germinated this week. They move fast from that point, so they have already been moved to the windowsill and have gotten quite large. I am reducing the temptation to transplant them until they are much larger.

Still no "word" on the cucumbers, Anaheims, and "Fish" pepper starts. I am fairly certain, with how long it has been since I started the cuke and Anaheim pepper seeds that they aren't going to germinate. Too bad though! If, as it appears will be the case, those cukes don't start soon, we are going to use the container "earmarked" for them for growing some garlic indoors.

The peppers and tomatillos are going strong. I've started "thinning out their numbers" - clipping off the weak or "gnarly" looking ones. I don't necessarily go for the tallest or largest, which ever ones look healthiest. The cayennes and jalapenos have been thinned down to 2 or 3 starts in each container, and will continue to get thinned until we only have one plant in each container. We clipped a few of the tomatillo, mini bell, and cherry bomb pepper starts, and are going to wait until they get a little bigger to clip any more.

We ordered our greens, herbs, and "cat fodder" seeds this week, and have made a few trips to the store for organic soil, so we'll get a few pots of greens and herbs going as soon as they arrive. We'll also be "stockpiling" worm castings (enough to feed our winter crops - hopefully the crops make it that far!) and picking up a few more pots before too long, then, we'll be pretty well set on supplies for the indoor winter garden.

Check 'em out:

Here's everybody chilling out in the window.

I took some individual pictures this week too. I meant to take pictures of all the little containers of starts, but my camera batteries died before I could get pictures of the second container of jalapeno starts, the mini bells, and the cherry bomb peppers. I was too lazy to go back later and get pictures, so hopefully the camera batteries will cooperate next weekend.

Cayenne pepper starts.

One of the containers of jalapeno starts.

A couple of pictures of the tomatillo starts. I hope these do alright, I love tomatillos and have never grown them, so I am quite curious.

Well anyways, that's all the news for this week. I'm pretty tired, and also very happy for the three day weekend we get - wahoo for having Monday off!

We should be posting about the new "initiative" (I don't like the word "challenge") tomorrow at some point. We hope you guys will consider participating!

'Til next time.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Weekly Local Booty 8/24-8/30-2008

We ended up getting quite a load of peppers from our container garden this week, and the Roma tomato plant produced like crazy. We think it's probably getting really close to the end of our "community garden season", the Roma doesn't appear to be starting any more tomatoes and the squash, well, they don't look that great and they just aren't producing much of anything. The Better Boy might surprise us with a few more tomatoes, but we aren't expecting many more large loads in our back packs from there this year.

The farmer's market is overflowing with goodies it being "bounty season" around here - granted, the weather this summer has done a lot for the variety and abundance of some of the crops, but there are still tons of yummy delights waiting to be found.

Here is what we got from our container and community gardens this week:

A couple of small bell peppers.

A petite bell pepper and a jalapeno.

Another small bell pepper. I apologize for the errant pictures of just one and two peppers, but the plants don't produce all at once (thankfully!).

Sorry for the poor quality picture here, the camera was being funky. We've got lots of Roma tomatoes that are continuing to ripen in our windowsill, some banana peppers from the community garden, and a small yellow straightneck squash. Brett went ahead and picked this little guy since he was "technically" large enough to be worth taking, but with the squash bugs being so prevalent, we didn't want to take the chance that they would get it while we waited for it to get larger.

Lots of ripe cayennes (!!!!) and a petite bell pepper.

Hot Hungarian Wax peppers.

Here is the CSA for this week (can you believe we have been getting our CSA for 16 weeks?!):

We've got: 2 long yellow hot peppers of some sort (I didn't know there were peppers in the bag until I got home or else I would have asked them what kind they were, if I can remember, I'll ask him next Saturday), 2 cucumbers, 2 zucchini, one (odd, eh?) green onion, some basil, and lots of Roma tomatoes.

This week's farmers market booty - this haul cost $27:

Starting from the right we have: 2 Herbal Oats granola bars (we got the "energy" kind this week), 2 red onions, a ripe Black Hungarian Pepper (for it's seeds, the purveyor gave it to us for free since we only wanted one and planned on saving the seeds!), 6 small tomatoes, lots of jalapenos, lots of poblano peppers, an eggplant, eggs, basil, a cantaloupe, and a small bag of "ciabattini" (mini loaves of ciabatta) from the local bakery Uprise, and 4 bulbs of garlic.

This week's food preservation activities included:
  • My first attempt at canning salsa.
  • Freezing hot Hungarian and hot banana peppers.
  • Freezing jalapenos.
  • Re-making the ristra.
For my first attempt at canning salsa I decided to make a half batch (supposedly 3 pints) of the Spicy Tomato Salsa recipe from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. This was the first time that I peeled and de-seeded tomatoes, and let me tell you, there has to be an easier way of doing it than I did. Not only was it a pain in the ass, it took forever! But once I got done with that, the rest of the task was a breeze. I halved this recipe, which originally yielded 6 pints, so a half batch should yield 3 right? That's what I thought. I used a food scale, I measure all my ingredients, and I ended up with 2 1/2 pints. That's right, 2 1/2. What the hell?!?! Is it possible that my tomatoes were "seedier" than the ones the Ball Book was accounting for?

At any rate, we processed the two full pints and stuck that half pint in the fridge to eat.

Check out my first canned salsa!

I was really excited when, after a few minutes of being finished "processing", the lids popped! Wahoo!

We tried the salsa out a couple hours after I made it, and it was really good. Really good, Brett said it was the closest thing to a "restaurant style" salsa he had ever had, well, outside of a restaurant.

I don't think I would agree with their terminology of "spicy", this is an incredibly mild salsa, but it's really good. Next time though, I am going to substitute a hotter pepper for the jalapenos. If you are gonna call something spicy, it should be spicy.

Freezing the peppers, was, as always, really easy. I just washed 'em, cut the stems off, packed 'em in freezer bags, and had Brett use a straw to suck all the air out of 'em. He has "iron lungs".

Since we got all those ripe cayennes off the plant, I decided to remake our "ristra", which was more like small clumps of peppers drying in various places around our apartment because I never got around to tying them all together. So I just made a new one today, and here is a picture of it hanging from a hook on our ceiling. The picture isn't all that great (all my excuses for always taking bad pictures!), but it was blowing around and hard to photograph.

Pretty neat.

Needless to say, I'm a bit worn out now. This doesn't look like much, but after lugging home a huge load of food from the market and grocery store (we always run across the street to the grocery store after we go to the market to pick up anything we couldn't find at market), preparing all this food (and I'm slow with these things), and doing the dishes, my day was filled.

Well, I'm off to make a simple (and hopefully good) new meal Brett came up with and to find out how Mizzou did in their first football game against Illinois. Let the border wars begin! I missed football...

'Til next time.