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).

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!

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.

borage
Borage

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.

Seed Sowing 2011

Sunday afternoon I started my garden!

I’ve been thinking about it for a while now (ever since my seeds arrived), and finally found some time to devote to beginning the garden for this year. I chose to go with seeds from Seed Savers Exchange this season; last year I went with seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library.  I loved my seeds last year, but wanted to try out another vendor.  I also love what Seed Savers is all about.  Their work is very important.

This early in the season it’s still pretty cold in the Northeast – in fact, it’s been downright frigid here. 20-something degrees in the mornings, highs only in the low 40s. I wore a hat, scarf, and gloves all weekend!  I checked my plot downstairs in the yard, and that dirt is frozen solid right now. So, my solution to getting the garden going while it’s like this is to start my seeds inside, where it’s warm and comfy.

Sprouting Containers and Potting Soil

This year I decided to start all my seeds in cardboard egg cartons.  I considered buying a seed starting system, but the containers are plastic and the little seed starting environment is often made of peat, which is not sustainable. The egg cartons – which I saved up over several months – are biodegradable and compostable, so I can chop them up and dump them in the composter in the yard when I’m through with them. For ease of use, I cut off the egg carton top and security flap in the front of the carton. I’ll compost them this week.

Later on I’ll “pot up” to newspaper pots, which are also compostable.  I found a method that creates a paper pot without a seam (origami!), meaning I won’t have to use tape (two page sheets from the Daily News are a perfect size).  I found tape to be problematic last year – when the paper pots got wet, and the tape just fell of, risking the pot coming apart. Not fun and kind of stressful.

I also chose to use the potting soil from the Lower East Side Ecology Center. “New York Pay Dirt”, as it’s called, is what I used last year to start my seeds in.  It’s well aerated – light and fluffy. It contains coconut coir as an alternative to peat and also contains worm casings made from NYC kitchen scraps. I love working with this product.

I chose to split up the distribution of seeds by giving full cartons to melons and tomatoes, and split cartons for tomatillos, gherkin, and carrots.

What I Planted

This year I’m really excited to try out growing melons, and the Mexican Sour Gherkins are really intriguing. Apparently they taste sour right off, so I think they’d be fantastic fermented.  I’m also determined to have tomatillos fruit this year (it was an epic fail last year – not one fruit from a gazillion blossoms). Here’s a list of what I planted:

  • Charentais melon
  • Eden’s Gem melon
  • Blondköpfchen tomato
  • Silver Fir tomato
  • Stupice tomato
  • Green Husk tomatillo
  • Purple de Milpa tomatillo
  • Mexican Sour gherkin
  • Danvers carrot

These seeds take anywhere between 9 and 12 weeks to fruit post-transplant, so I’ve got a lot of waiting around time ahead of me. However, I’ll also be planting herbs, arugula, lacinato kale, thyme, and some wildflowers, but those are faster growing, so I’ll be able to enjoy the garden bounty in the late spring/early summer. I’m especially excited about the lacinato kale, which I’ll use to make delicious kale chips.  Borage is in the plans, too, which will go great in homemade limeade, or perhaps even in homemade fermented gingerale!

I’ll house my sprouting system to the side and behind the sink, where I can give the plants some light (artificial and natural).

It is exciting to start the process! Stay tuned…

Seed Sowing 2011 on Punk Domestics

Kitchen and Garden Update

This weekend was hot – like summery hot, in the upper 80s.  I was totally loving it, but it was a little bit of a shock to have to all of the sudden adjust to hot weather practices, like not exerting too much in the middle of the day.  I’m used to more freedom of movement in the spring months, to be honest.  Everything worked out, though, and I got a lot accomplished.

My week of meal planning and being on a running schedule last week was a rousing success!  I have planned out this week, too, so we’ll see how it goes.  I expect I’ll learn new things, and that it will be a success, too.  I have planned to make one of my old standards for dinner one day this week, which is wonderfully flexible and open to improvisation, and I look forward to sharing about it here.

It’s a crazy week for me in the evenings, which means not much time to cook.  So, we made 2 pans of lasagna today for ready-to-eat meals, which came out fantastic – these lasagnas are some of the best we’ve ever made.

two lasagnas

meat cooked

veggie cooked

This was the first time I’d used fresh pasta sheets, and I’ll have a hard time ever going back to dried.  The sheets were made up the street by local pasta maker Cassinelli, the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses made just around the corner at a local salumeria.  In one of the lasagnas I used pesto, which I made last summer from CSA basil, that was frozen until today.  Overall the lasagna is almost creamy in texture, yet has substance.  I will enjoy eating this lasagna throughout the week.

I was also able to make my soaked granola this weekend, which I’ll have with raw yogurt and milk this week for some breakfasts.  This time I’m using cranberries and pepitas, along with apricots and hazelnuts, which should make for some interesting tastes.  This is my favorite cold cereal ever and will be a great option for this coming week of warm/hot weather when I don’t want to heat anything up.

oven granola

nuts and seeds

fruit

Over the past couple of weekends, I’ve been digging in the dirt.  I’ve added compost twice now to the garden plot, and really turned up the ground.  My friend Charlene came over to help out, too, which was a lot of fun.

compost

I am so fortunate to have this space in which to garden and grow my own food.   I also have a good sized planter on my deck, which originally was going to live elsewhere, but has found a home with me, which is filled with dirt and compost.  There is a volunteer cilantro plant growing in it, and the french tarragon that was in there last year has new growth.  I’ll sow some thyme seeds probably, or perhaps even some parsley.   Photos to come.

I’m also surrounded by lots of sort of ambient greenery, which makes a huge difference living in a big city like NYC.

greenery

That’s the view from my back deck.  So, so nice.