Monday, September 29, 2014

Baby Veggies

I just picked a handful of "baby veggies" reminiscent of spring veggies. They are small but since it's officially fall fall (hello, rain!), calling them "spring veggies" is totally wrong and "fall veggies" conjures up visions of kale and acorn squash; so "baby veggies" will have to do.

I was lucky my 'Spineless Beauty' zucchini crop didn't get out of hand--yay me for my laziness and procrastination! I had a manageable amount with my five plants that went into the ground in early July. The vines are done, but I wouldn't say I'm cutting my loses. I had the perfect amount of snappy, crisp young zukes to go along side with my pesto the other night. "Spineless" refers to the lack of hairs on the zucchini, not a reference to it lacking a backbone or being like jello (gross).

Sautéed with garlic--YUM!
'Tromboncino' was the other summer squash I tried this season. They germinated quickly but then sat around for awhile until a few weeks ago with the last blasts of summer heat. It climbed up the spent cardoon flower stalks. Had I known it was going to take off, I would have trellised them earlier. According to Fedco Seeds, they are great as both a summer and winter squash. I harvested them at 4-6" rather than the 8-10" they recommend. They also can be left to grow longer and change color to greenish-tan as a winter squash. 60 days to maturity for summer harvest and 90 days for winter harvest.
I'm leaving my vines in for a bit longer (can we say "seasonal denial"?) to see if I can get anything else out of them. Regardless, they were great combined with the Spineless Beauty zukes with my pasta. But next year, I will plant them in as starts in June rather than sowing directly in July. In the meantime, I'll be dreaming of the wonderful dishes I'll use them in next year: gnocchi, ravioli, sliced fresh in salads...Mangia! Mangia!

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Garden is a Mess

I could feel my garden getting away from me in August. I blame the "summer crush" where we Seattle-ites double and triple booked ourselves with end-of-summer activities. All I could manage was collect zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, Shishitos, and Asian pears. Not exactly a bad problem to have, but really I needed to at least pull a few weeds once in awhile. And not neglect the beans which seems to happen every year as well.

My vines were taking over. I had grown Delicata winter squash before, but not Jack-be-Little pumpkins. I was skeptical if I'd even get one single jack-o-lantern out of the 8 or so starts I planted. They were super stressed so I more or less wrote them off. Boy did they take off! They climbed over everything and anything--my roses, the fence, the echinacea.

A crazy mess
I evaluate everything I grow as to whether it's worth growing again. Sometimes I'm willing to wait a year or two before repeating a variety like with tomatoes since there are so many out there to try. With other varieties that fail, I feel the challenge to try again. And for those that do really well and need some refining, like with these oh-so-cute little pumpkins. I'm going to try half the number of starts and a more extensive trellis that keep them from running away from me.
I'm a sucker for these little pumpkins
Finally, this last weekend I decided to pull the plug on the vines. Real estate is scarce in my garden and I needed room for my winter veggie starts. I'm hoping I'm on time getting them into the ground! More on those later...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tomatoes: 2 out of 3

Out of the three varieties of tomatoes I grew this season, two will make a return appearance next summer: Sungold and Odoriko.

I don't have to say much for those who have grown Sungolds before. After several years' resistance for not growing them--in general I avoid jumping on the bandwagon-- I caved last year and will never look back. Sungolds will always have a spot in my garden. They easily ripen and continue ripening even while temperatures drop as fall approaches.

Tasty Sungold!

I generally stick with varieties with 65 days to maturity. I was skeptical of the Odoriko since they were quite large and very green. But then they turned a slight red-orange color and quickly ripened with a pink tinge. They are super flavorful and great for slicing on burgers or tossing into pasta dishes. I just made a eggplant dip that called for diced tomatoes and used the Odorikos. Their sweet yet tangy flavor were a great balance to the garlic and eggplant's earthiness.

Odoriko: technically a "pink-fleshed tomato"
The one tomato that I was super excited to grow and was such a bust was the Indigo Blueberry. I had the regular Indigo Blue which are deep purple to almost black with a true red underside that carries over inside the fruit. First disappointment was they take forever to ripen. The Sungolds were in full swing as the Indigos were just starting to redden. Second disappointment, it lacked the concentrated flavor that cherry tomatoes should have. Overall the flavor was "meh." The third disappointment was their texture. The fruits were watery and combined with a watered-down flavor; leaving a lot to be desired. I removed a robust plant, full of fruit, from my backyard because it just wasn't worth the space it was taking.
 Bummer...those fruits should be red!
Next season, I'm going to stick with the "tried-and-true-two": Sungold and Odoriko. And I'll add one more variety to mix it up and try something new.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Persimmon update

My mom texted me a couple weeks ago asking me how my persimmon tree was doing.

After a month of trying to revive my persimmon tree, I faced the reality it wasn't going to make it. Disappointed, I gave it a proper burial in the yard waste bin.

I learned two lessons. One is to re-evaluate where I plant larger specimen trees. While I like the look of espalier, against the house isn't ideal. I still want to try growing persimmons. I think they have great looking foliage. And their orange fruit would brighten up the garden in the fall as it enters winter dormancy.

The second lesson is more of humbling truth. I have been able to salvage many plants over the years; rehabilitating them back to life. It's moments like this that show me I can't save everything, especially when I'm deliberately taking a chance moving it under the worst conditions: actively growing and on the first hottest day of the season.

When I told my mom the tree died. She said "Oh, too bad," but I admitted it was to be expected.

So I start again. Looking for a new persimmon this winter and scoping out the best place for it in my garden.


And so it begins...the great zucchini harvest!

Zucchini #1
Zucchini #2...and more on the way!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Cilantro is such an easy herb to grow. Within days of sowing it in a shallow pot in my garden, I had tiny little seedlings ready for thinning out.

Instead of tossing the seedlings into the compost heap, I used them--this time in my guacamole. I took about 10 seedlings, cut off the roots, and finely chopped the sprouts. They are super flavorful and the perfect size since I'm only using leaves The little stems at this point are so small it doesn't effect the texture of the guacamole. The seedlings should have one to two feathery-looking leaves.

Super cute seedlings ready to be chopped!
There's nothing like freshly made guacamole in the summer. Now if I could only grow avocadoes...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Persimmon mishap

When I decided to acquire my persimmon tree, I had a grand vision of an espaliered specimen against by backyard cottage. I ignored the fact that eventually, the cottage would need to be painted.

I have no one to blame but myself for choosing a) the worst place to plant a tree and b) the time for transplanting my persimmon tree. I knew I had to move it to another place in the garden or at least temporarily pot it up while my house was being painted. So why did I decide this weekend to move it? I know better to take on such a task when the tree is dormant; not when it's fully leafed out in sunny weather.

Part of me didn't give the persimmon a chance. I bought it as a whip from Swason's on clearance towards the end of fruit-tree-planting season. It's been in the ground for 5 years; the first of which I didn't think it survived the winter. It's faithfully leafed out yearly since, but fruiting was another issue. I started to doubt it would ever happen. Even though I know it takes most fruit trees 7 years to reach maturity and produce fruit. So I put off the transplanting project until now--a week out from said painting project.

As I start to dig out the root ball, I notice these little things along the branches. I can't believe it, or actually, I can. Of course, this is the year it fruits...when it's slated to be moved.

You can see four small fruits just starting to grow: two towards the lower right of the photo and two on the upper left.

I did manage to dig it out and pot it up, but it's understandably going through transplant shock. I'm hoping it will be ok and currently scoping out a new location for it in the garden altogether. I still like the idea of an espalier and probably am committed to it since it's been trained as such early on.

I'm doing all I can now to save this tree. I've certainly learned my lesson...


Monday, May 12, 2014

Bay Laurel

I was surprised to see my bay laurel in flower a few weeks ago. I've actually never seen the culinary laurel, Laurus nobilis, flowering.


This plant is "dioecious," meaning "two houses," where there are separate plants with either male or female flowers. This plant in my garden is female.

Enough with the botany lesson...

I love this slow growing shrub in my garden. It's right next to my front steps and easily accessible for a few leaves when I'm making marinara sauce or I need a sachet. Such sachets of a couple bay leaves, smashed garlic cloves, and whole peppercorns wrapped in cheesecloth are popular in Thomas Keller's stock recipes.

Even if you don't use the leaves in your kitchen, it's still a handsome must-have plant for your garden or in a container on your patio.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Seed Sowing

Where does the time go!? I can't believe my last post was in January.  And with the summer-like weather yesterday, I'm already thinking ahead to tomatoes.

All my seeds arrived from Kitazawa, Territorial, and Fedco. And my bareroot plants from Raintree are in the ground: purple asparagus, Jewel Black raspberry, and a hedge form of serviceberry.

Out of the many seeds I ordered this season, I am most looking forward to growing the Indigo Blue Berries tomato. I've been buying these at farmers' market for a couple of years now and decided grow them myself this year. They are a small cherry type with deep bluish purple skin with hints of red, and super flavorful. The need 75 days until maturity and I've successfully grown other cherry tomatoes with similar timing so I'm hoping they'll do well.

Other veggies I'm looking forward to growing are purple pac choi, painted serpent cucumbers, and zucchini. I'm surprised that this will be my first time growing zucchini given how successful else is at growing it. This is your warning: lock your car doors!
Repeats of previous years that will be grown again this year are eggplant, shishito, escarole and tomato 'Odoriko.' This tomato is pink fleshed, a little larger than a roma and very flavorful. It also has a short requirement for maturity making it ideal for Seattle summers.
That's only about half of the seeds I ordered, and I'm already feeling a space crunch. My eyes are definitely bigger than my garden!


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Catalog Time!

I can't believe it's been since October that I last posted something. Yikes! Where did the time go?

It's that time of year where my mailbox (and I'm sure yours) is filled with catalogs. I look forward to perusing what's being offered every year at this time and yet I'm overwhelmed.

It's possible to have too many choices. How did I narrow it down? I started with the smallest catalog which is also the most specific: Kitazawa Seed Company. Their emphasis is Asian vegetable seeds. Since I live where the growing season is short, this is a great source for tomatoes and eggplant geared for our climate. I've also had great success with their seeds in the past. I plan on ordering the Odoriko pink tomato, which matures in 75 days. It's easy and tasty as are Sungolds. With eggplant I plan on growing Money Maker #2 (which I find the name hilarious). It sets fruit early, maturing in 60 days. Kitazawa is a big hit in my book for carrying specialty veggies like gailaan (Chinese broccoli), cutting celery and shishito peppers. If my husband had his way, our entire garden would be solely shishitos. They are easy to grow and a fantastic summertime snack flash fried in olive oil and kosher salt.

I'm also partial to Fedco. Who could pass up a catalog cover featuring a comic strip with a sunflower spitting seeds into the ground?! Even though they're in Maine, they understand a short growing season. Their seed prices are super reasonable and promise no GMO material. They also are the only ones who carry Rainbow kale. I grew this a few years ago and feel like it's time to grow it again. Rainbow kale is a cross between Lacinato and Red Bor. It is gorgeous as it is yummy. I'm going to also try carrots again this year as they are bringing back the Tonda di Parigi which grow well in heavy soil. My other favorite I grew last year are the Masai haricots verts bush beans; the perfect type for lazy pickers like me. I had pods in mid-October that were still good.

I'm going to order a few items from Territorial. I was wooed by their Royal Burgundy bush bean which has a lovely purple color. And they are the only ones carrying seeds for the Indigo tomato series. I had these for the first time a couple of years ago from Let Us Farm (they specialize in lettuce...get it?) and are super delicious. They have a purple black skin and are deep red inside. I may go with a variety closer to the 75 day maturity versus 80 to ensure I get enough ripening time. Possibly Indigo Kumquat since they are a grape type which would be a great pair with Sungold.

I'm tempted to try something new this year. Maybe a few new flowers like Territorial's Babino marigold which has golden flowers brushed with orange streaks on a compact plant, or a new compact sweet pea like Cupid Black. I've never grown zucchini before. Lock your car doors and guard your porches friends!