Thursday, December 14, 2017

Taste testing my zucchinis

With my zucchinis bearing heavily I decided to bring some inside and do a taste test.
I am growing three zucchini varieties this year as well as Zucca di Albenga (Tromboncino) which are not ready yet but I will add what I remember from last time I ate them.

I have rated them from 1 to 5 with 3 being average, basically similar to most other zucchini. I rated them on taste and texture, both raw and cooked (fried in butter till golden and tender with no other flavourings). They were all at the stage where the flower was just falling off.

 Yellow ball (one ball)

This is the second year I have grown these from my own seed.
Flavour raw: very bland  2
Flavour fried: sweet 4
Texture raw: Butter firm 3
Texture fried: watery soft 2

Over all: I prefer these picked a bit bigger when the skin is firmer, stuffed and baked. I didn't like them when young like this.

This is my own variety that I will be releasing next year.

Flavour raw: Sweet 4
Flavour fried: medium 3
Texture raw: buttery firm 3
Texture fried: buttery soft 3

Over all: Overall I liked this one, especially raw where it would be good cubed in a garden salad.

This is also my own variety which should be ready for release in a couple of years.

Flavour raw: bland, slightly nutty 3
Flavour fried: med 3
Texture raw: med firm 3
Texture fried: med firm 3

Over all: Not much different than any other zucchini you would buy in the supermarket. Eyecatching colour though.

Zucca di Albenga
This is a butternut relative that is used as a zucchini when immature. Other butternuts can also be used like this.

Flavour raw: nutty, mild 3
Flavour fried: nutty 4
Texture raw: firm 4
Texture fried: firm 4

Over all: Always my favourite as zucchini.

Although I liked Caesar, my favourite is Zucca because it is less watery than 'normal' zucchini, and it has a better flavour. I am not keen on the blandness of zucchinis in general.
The Rascal was average and ok but I didn't like yellow ball at all, though I liked it stuffed and baked last year..

Sunday, December 10, 2017

It's all happening now. Summer is here.

Although some plants are not growing as quickly as I would like due to the continuing cool nights, there is still a lot happening. Nearly all my beds are planted and I am busy trying to clear another bit of room from running grass for the Autumn broad beans and garlic.
From tomorrow summer hits with hot weather which will finally get my poor okra plants growing properly. The ground is still damp enough that I won't have to irrigate till after Christmas.

 I am really low on seeds for my monthly market stall in Ballarat so I have had to do one last raid on my seed stores. Been busy putting a heap of seeds in packets just to make my stall look just a bit better.
At least now I will have some fresh veg to make a display on the tables for interest. I doubt I will get many sales now though as most people have put all their veg in. I just have to show my face.

With all the new veggies I have put in this season I will have plenty of new stuff for my stall from Autumn on, and my sales there helps me to judge what my commercial seed buyers may want later. I get to see trends develop and some of the market gardeners who attend the market can see if I have anything they might want to try later.

It has been four years since I last planted 'Zucca di Albenga' pumpkin (or Tromboncino) but many people at the market have asked for seed so I thought I should put some in this year. I love this pumpkin both for its flavour and its versatility but the down side is that the female flowers all face downward so they don't open freely and bees can't get in them - this means that every flower has to be hand pollinated.
Luckily this year I don't have as many melons for hand pollinating so I have time for this one in the morning.

This is my mother holding a fruit from last time I grew them. They are very ornamental as well as good to eat.

The good things about this pumpkin are:
1, you can eat them immature as a zucchini. They are even better than a zucchini as they are firm and taste better.
2, You can wait till they mature and use them like butternut pumpkin, of which they are a type.
3, After cutting they can be left out on the kitchen counter and stay good without rotting for a long time. This is handy as they are too big to put in the fridge.
4, Female flowers that are not pollinated still grow, though they don't produce a seed filled bump, and can be used as zucchini. This is great for flowers that missed being hand pollinated.

The rabbits haven't found my peanuts yet. They are starting to flower - well the red skinned variety is, the black skins are a bit smaller and slower to mature.
I really hope I get a good crop this year and the rabbits stay away.
I really enjoyed growing them last year, and I think I will put in a heap of rows next year.

My favourite cucumber, the 'mini White' are starting to set fruit. The cold nights mean that the plants are still very small but they produce right through the season so they will get a lot bigger.

These cucumbers are so sweet that you would think they had sugar added, but they still have a full cucumber flavour. It is my mums favourite and she is fussy about cucumbers.
I don't like cucumber but I have to admit that I do like this one.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Corn and other stuff

The weather continues to be perfect, well, almost. Most of the nights are still well below the temps that many of the veggies like and they are not growing as fast as they should be. I am a bit worried about the few okra plants that survived as they really prefer much warmer weather.

 I have finished harvesting the 'Bear Necessities' kale seed so I have mowed the beds down which mulches up the old plants and adds the organic matter back to the soil. This way of treating the old plants is really paying off as my soil on this block is getting better and better. It is hard to think that only three years ago it was pure sand.

I have enough time to rotary hoe these couple of beds and plant something else there before Christmas. Might go for melons.

The 'Painted Mountain' flour corn is starting to flower now, it is always the first.
I love this corn, not only because the cobs are so pretty, but because the plants are so tough and quick growing. It also copes with germinating in cooler temps than other corn so you can get it in earlier.

Just finished harvesting the 'Senoritas Hat' broad beans. I didn't plant much broad beans this year because I had a few small amounts of seed of some varieties that I had to grow out and didn't want them crossing.
Next year I will do some big plantings as I have a company want to buy some seed of interesting broad bean varieties.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pea beans and dwarf choi

I am listening to the rain on the roof again. We are having some weird weather, and I hope it keeps up although the rain mixed with heat is making it very muggy. I am reminded of the weird summer we had about six years ago where we had tropical weather all summer with afternoon rain and storms.

 These are pea beans, the plants look EXACTLY like peas, with the same foliage, growth habit and pods, but the seeds are bi-coloured beans. it is very unusual. I am tempted to think that it is in a separate family like some botanists still do, though it was put into the P. vulgaris some time ago.

The purple flowers are quite pretty and this is the first year growing some so I am eager to see how they produce.

They are supposed to have a very unusual and pleasant flavour so that is another thing to look forward to.

It is hard to see in this pic but this is my short row of cotton plants. I put these in just for a bit of fun and it will be interesting to see how they go.

I will be giving up on growing most brassicas now as they don't survive the wet in winter, but there are some fast growing ones like this extra dwarf choi that I will still be able to grow.

It is very fast growing and tender to eat. Great for stir fries and salads. The whole plant is only half as big as your hand at eating size.

Just a quick pic of part of my seed block. The weeds are growing fast but with a lot of work I am nearly keeping on top of them.

With this rain I won't have to start irrigating till Christmas which will keep some costs down and the soil is keeping nice and moist.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

zucchinis and nasturtium

I am loving the weather at the moment - well... apart from not being able to harvest my garlic. We are having some nice rain every week which, combined with the hot temps is keeping everything humid and the plants are loving it.
With the huge amount of weeds in the garlic I figured that the only way to harvest it is to mow it all down then fork up the beds. It would be a hundred times easier if the soil was dry.

I wrote about the 'Phoenix' naturtium that I am growing this yer, well, the other one I got in was 'Black Velvet', shown here.

It is a smaller and bushier plant with very dark red flowers. They are very pretty. I am not sure whether the plants are supposed to be small, or the growing conditions are not to their liking but they need to put on a lot more growth if they will get big enough to collect a decent amount of seed.

One of the plants of my new zucchini variety 'Caesar' has gigantic flowers. I think I will keep the seeds separate to see if people would be interested in a larger flowered variety for eating the flowers. I will see if I have enough room next year to do some experimenting with it.

I am a bit disappointed in my 'Rascal' variety this year. I was hoping they would be stable enough to offer seeds from it after this season but, unfortunately, I am only getting 60% correct type of fruit this year. I understand that the genetics of the bicolour are difficult but I was hoping for better.

If they are no better next year I might have to offer them just as a backyarder vegetable as there is only so many years I can spend on them before they have to pay for themselves.

My zucchinis are loving the weather but I am worried about the risk of powdery mildew. At least I will find out if they have any resistance to it at all.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

First broad bean harvest, more Phoenix nasturtiums, and tomatillos

With a week of temps in the thirties after last weeks rain everything is popping. Of course so are the weeds but I will plug along and get them under some sort of control as time goes on.
I lost two of my melon beds to snails in the last couple of days so I will replant them tomorrow and put out some bait.

 I thought I would put up a couple more pics of the 'Phoenix' nasturtiums as they are so pretty.

I have been pulling out the ones with 'normal' flowers as I see them so I can have a clean line. It annoys me when people sell a variety without knowing if it has been crossed. I will have to grow them out an extra year to see if there are any 'normal' ones in my seed from these so I can consider selling them in packets.

So far it looks like I only have two colours, orange and yellow. I hope the two plants that are yet to flower have another colour.

Finally the broad beans are ripening. I have harvested my 'Early White' but I only had a few plants of those. Now it the 'Stone Ear' turn.
These are very pretty with their markings that make them look like pebbles

My tomatillos are just starting to flower now. This one is 'Amarilla Yellow' but the others are not far behind.
I have three varieties in this year.
I will have to work out a better way of harvesting the seed from them as doing it by hand last year was a royal pain, and I have a lot more in this year.

I am going to try the blender, and the paint stirrer methods of extracting the seed this year. One of those should make it a lot easier.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

MIni choi and nasturtiums

We have just had two days of beautiful rain so I won't have to start irrigating till December, YAY.

After a few days with temps in the low thirties (C) followed by this three inches of rain the seedlings are jumping. Everything is going great. Of course, the weeds will be loving this too but I will deal with them.

 One of my favourite veggies to grow is dwarf choi. It is so fast that you can almost see it growing, and good and mild to eat. Just chuck some in a star fry, or even in a salad - too easy, lol.

This year I was going to grow a few varieties of nasturtium but I forgot to sow one type, and another really isn't doing well right now.

This one is called 'Phoenix' and you can see that the petals are separated and look novel. A couple of the plants are the 'usual' type so they may have been crossed but I am culling those as they flower. I just hope I get a few different colours.

Another couple of weeks and I will be able to take some great pics of the veggies so come back soon.