Garden by Gardenfreude

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the garden of new friends in the neighborhood, WT and Erich; I met them at our last WHA blogger social. They are the forces behind Gardenfreude, a terrific Astoria blog about food, health, gardening, design, and knitting. I hear they are excellent knitters and make some amazing sweaters and things over the winters (I, on the other hand, can make a scarf and a hat, but that’s about it). They are also passionate gardeners, and we three connected over gardening and food especially.

Their garden is quite large, especially for NYC standards. They have an arrangement with their neighbors to use their yard, which gives them a lot of land to work with. In face, they currently only use half the yard, but have gotten the green light to use the rest of the space, so they have plans to expand next spring.

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Tomato Harvest

tomato harvest mid-august

Now that it’s August, the tomato plants have really started producing. This is what I collected over a few days. There are Stupice, Blondköpfchen, Tommy Toe, Silver Fir, and Mexican Midget tomatoes in this bowl. Everything has been delicious. I’ll likely make some of this into jam. Lacto fermented salsa is on the schedule once more of the larger tomatoes ripen (or I purchase a tomato share from my CSA).

Some of My Harvest

I’ve been writing a lot about my garden, but not much about the harvest. Well, it’s been kind of small so far… I expect that will change as we get into August. However, I have gotten to eat a few homegrown tomatoes, and some ground cherries, as well as plenty of apricots.

The first tomato I harvested was a Tommy Toe, which is a large cherry tomato.

tommy toe collage
Tommy Toe tomatoes

These tomatoes are a large cherry tomato with firm flesh, balanced tomato flavor, and there is a creaminess to them that is just delightful. They are super delicious. I’ve harvested a half dozen of these tomatoes.

I’ve also harvested a half dozen or so of the Mexican Midget tomato. This was one of two plants given to me by my friend Alex.

mexican midget tomato
Mexican Midget tomato

This is a small cherry tomato, almost what I’d consider to be a currant tomato as far as its size goes. It’s small but packs a big flavor punch. So delicious. Their size is perfect for snacking, and when I see ripe ones out on in the garden, I usually just pop them in my mouth and eat them right there. Super tasty.

Apart from the tomatoes, ground cherries have just started to become available for harvest. They are ripe when their husk dries out (the texture reminds me a little bit of onion skin paper) and they drop onto the ground.

ground cherry collage
Ground cherries

I think of ground cherries to be an old fashioned sort of fruit. It has an unusual flavor, kind of a combination between a tomato and a pineapple. The fruit are about 1/3 inches in diameter and they’re full of seeds, sort of like tomatillos (which they also look like, and are related to). Some people consider ground cherries to be much like the cape gooseberry.

They are delicious to snack on and also make good jam, so I’m told. I have a lot of them out there, so jam may be in my future.

The apricot tree also produced enough apricots for jam.

apricots on the three
Apricots on the tree

More on the jam later, which is quite delicious. I picked about 4 pounds of fruit, one pound of which was not usable (blemishes, mostly), but 3 pounds was just enough to make 4.5 pints of delicious apricot jam! It will be nice to have that taste of summer in the winter.

My Early July Garden

early july garden
The garden in early July

The garden is green and plump and everything is working toward blossoming and fruiting. I’ve got plenty of tomatoes showing up, though most are green. However there are a couple of plants – the Mexican Midget and the Tommy Toe – that have reddening fruit. It’s very exciting to see them progress.

tomato collage
Various stages of the tomatoes in the garden

You can see the Tommy Toe in the upper right hand corner and the Mexican Midget in the bottom left hand corner. The plant with the overabundance of blossoms is the Blondköpfchen – I am so looking forward to seeing the tomatoes that come off this plant. The bottom two images in the collage are the Stupice on the left and the Silver Fir on the right. I’m so pleased to see so many tomatoes growing. I really don’t think I can have too many tomatoes.

My squash plant – which threatens to take over the garden with its crazy vines – is starting to produce!

female squash flower
Female squash flower with fruit

As you can see, there is a small fruit at the bottom. This is a volunteer, so I do not know which exact variety it is, but I suspect it is a tromboncino. We’ll see. They get huge.

The male flower has a thin stem and dies off after its usefulness (pollinating the female) is used up. Kind of brutal, but that’s nature.

male squash flower
Male squash flower

It’s hard to see the stem, but the flower is gorgeous. When the plant first started to flower, I thought the blossoms were so gorgeous. Then the next day, I’d go out and find them on the ground, seemingly cut off by some nasty. Turns out it was just the dropping off I mentioned above. Such a relief.

There’s some nice herb action going on at our place, too.

summer herbs collage
Many herbs grace our home

Friends of ours moved away (boo hoo) and offloaded their container herbs on me. They seem pretty happy on the back deck. There’s tarragon, thyme, rosemary, and basil. I’ve also got borage growing in the garden and they are flowering like crazy! I love their blue flowers.

Other stuff in the garden are melons, sour gherkins, peppers and ground cherries, which are coming along nicely. You can see more pictures in my Garden 2011 photoset on Flickr.

This post is participating in the inaugural Astoria Blog Carnival hosted by We Heart Astoria.

My Garden Volunteers

the garden in late june 2011
The garden in late June 2011

There’s a lot going on in my garden right now and the growth is impressive – it seems like there is recognizable growth every day. I love this time in the garden, as it is full of hope and promise. And the green colors are just amazing.

This year I have a good number of volunteers. Volunteers are those plants that just grow on their own out in the dirt, without any planning on my part. In my garden the source is usually something in the compost that I add to the dirt. Or seeds from last season that drop into the dirt, and then sprout the following season.

There are four volunteers in my garden – a cucumber, some kind of summer squash, ground cherries, and a tomatillo plant. I think this is a cucumber:

cucumber flowers
Cucumber flower from volunteer

And this is some sort of summer squash – could be zucchini, could be yellow crookneck, could be some other kind. I hope it’s crookneck.

summer squash volunteer
Summer squash volunteer

If it is indeed a kind of summer squash, I hope to make something tasty with the squash blossoms.

A lone tomatillo plant grows in the back of the garden, and it’s flowering!

tomatillo flowering
Tomatillo flowering

I’ve been told that you need at least two tomatillo plants in order to get fruit, but last year I had two plants and nothing happened. Both plants flowered but no fruit resulted. So frustrating! Maybe it will work out differently for me this year. I sure hope so, as I love tomatillos!

Finally, my ground cherries. So many of these little plants popped up this spring – probably close to 3 dozen, no doubt from dropped seeds in the ground from last year.

ground cherries growth
Ground cherries

They are even starting to fruit! I hope to make some ground cherry jam this year.

Let’s hear it for volunteers!

Extending the Life of Green Onions

I was really happy to read this post about extending the life of green onions by my friend AJ, who writes the terrific blog Handjobs (For the Home). What a great idea – I’ve already taken some of the green onions we got in our CSA share last week, and planted them in a pot with soil.

regrowing scallions
Green onion bulbs in soil

I’ll keep an eye on them to make sure nothing goes awry. I may have to push them down a little bit more, but maybe not. There were little rootlets growing out of the bottom of the green onions when I put them in there, which I think is a good thing.

Exciting learning new stuff!


Progress of My Garden

garden plot beginning of june
My garden at the beginning of June

I’m happy to say that my garden is planted and on its way to providing me with a harvest. Most of it will likely come at the end of summer, but some things are happening right now. I was especially pleased to spy some tomatoes on my Tommy Toe plant!

first tommy toe tomates
The first of the Tommy Toe tomatoes

As you can see in the picture, there are some creepy crawlies on the tomato plant.  I’ve been having to deal with aphids and such this year – they were not an issue last year, so I find this bizarro. I guess it’s just nature, though – unpredictable.

So far, they haven’t wrecked havoc on my plants, and I hope it stays that way. Ladybugs and garlic spray are certainly options. I do check the plants each morning and shake off the bugs, which has seemed to work fine so far.

I’m actually growing a variety of tomatoes: Tommy Toe, Mexican Midget, Blondköpfchen, Silver Fir, and Stupice. The Blondköpfchen, Silver Fir, and Stupice are small but chugging along.

june 2011 tomato collage
June tomatoes

I’m also growing peppers! Tolli, a sweet italian pepper; Jalepeño, which is of course hot; and Bull Nose, a sweet bell type pepper. Thanks to my friend Alex for gifting me these peppers. I was also given a bunch of bean starts from my neighbor Nick. I asked him what kind of beans they are and he said “long”. So, we’ll see how they end up.

peppers and beans june 2011 collage
Peppers and beans

My boarge is doing well. Since I planted it, I’ve learned about all sorts of things to do with this plant. I originally planted it for the beautiful blue flowers – I thought I’d put them in iced tea or lemonade, and also use them as bee attractors.  But I’ve learned that you can also use the leaves, too. Apparently they have a taste reminiscent of cucumbers. I would consider using the flowers also in fresh goat cheese and in salads.

Borage is an herbalist’s favorite, so it seems. Lots of information can be found here.


I’m also pleased that some volunteers have made themselves known:

a volunteer
A volunteer - maybe a cucumber?
volunteer ground cherries
Ground cherries from last year

As far as volunteers go in the garden, there’s another cucumbery looking plant, and a tomatillo, of all things (none of my tomatillos fruited last year). I’ve also planted a Mexican Sour Gherkin, Edens Gem melon, and a Charentais melon. They are a bit thin, thanks to the leggyness from the spring, but I expect they’ll grow and get stronger. I’ll post photos of them soon.

Summer gardens are always very exciting! More images of my garden can be found in my Garden 2011 photoset on Flickr.