Friday, February 5, 2016

Pollination problems, and a variety name rant

Well... all my cucurbits are getting ready to harvest now and I have been eagerly awaiting putting away the seed I am contracted to provide, but apart from the watermelons nearly all the other pumpkins, melons, squash and cucumbers have not a single viable seed in them. The heat has affected the pollination so badly that I am not getting a single viable seed in any fruits in the rows. I am so disappointed.
What a waste of water and time. You would think that in a 40m row you would get a few seeds.

There were plenty of bees working the flowers and I hand pollinated a lot as I have been walking around but the seeds all aborted with the heat. I have never had this so bad before.

I am hoping that with the two weeks of cooler weather we have just had the female flowers that bloomed during that time will have held onto their seeds so if I wait a bit longer the plants will put out another lot of fruits that might be better.

This is a Cox's Golden Pippin, typical of the fruits containing all empty seeds.

On a positive though, they do taste great. Even my father who hates pumpkin mentioned that he enjoyed eating this one.
I just served them up boiled with a knob of butter but I expect they would be even better baked. They are just the right size for one or two people.

Now to the rant.

I am heartily sick of supermarkets and other vegetable and seed seller deliberately putting their own names on varieties for their own marketing purposes.

It has been happening in the seed industry for a while but I have noticed supermarkets doing it more lately, and yesterday when I was in a vegetable shop I saw a box of Royal Blue potatoes labelled as a different name with the words 'known elsewhere as Royal Blue potatoes' in small writing.

It is not only confusing for customers who want to know a variety name as they are familiar with it, but also disrespectful to plant breeders who have lovingly bred and named something only to have their rights usurped. People who grow heritage varieties often are interested in the history of that variety so when it is given another name the history is gone.

This problem of naming leads to the issue like has happened to Purple Congo potatoes where the variety has a dozen or more names so it is very confusing to anyone who wants to grow them.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Cooler days and relieved veggies

With about ten days of cooler weather all the veggies are looking a lot happier. I know there is at least 6 weeks of summer weather to go but it is almost feeling like autumn, I even went out early this morning and dug over all the empty beds in one of my blocks. I am itching to get my autumn veggies in.

My mouse melons are starting to get to picking stage. These are the cutest little cucumbers. Very slow to get going but when they do they grow like crazy.

I don't have a lot of plants in but I will collect the seeds of all of them.

You know I have been complaining a bit about my lotus, well, I tried growing some from seed with no success last year and threw a few left over seed into one of my water chestnut baths.
I notice that one of them is growing so maybe this one will be a large type.

I hope it survived the water chestnut harvesting.

I have been harvesting my Zatta melons. These are a true cantaloupe from Italy and it is really delicious.
My plants aren't bearing well because of the heat but I am so glad to have a heap in the fridge to eat. I think my mother is getting sick of the fridge being filled with pieces of melon - it happens every year.

These are an ugly meon ( the Italian name translates into English as 'Ugly but good') but I think they are beautiful in their wartiness.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Growing mini popcorn

If you have been reading this blog often you will have read about the trouble I have been having with my mini popcorn. It was suffering badly in the heat and I wasn't sure I would have any harvest from it at all. The good news is that we have had a week of lower temperatures and it has gone mad.

It has suddenly started to green up and putting out flowers everywhere. It is fun to see how 'furry' the plants look with all the female flowers out at once.

Each stem of the mini blue popcorn has 4 female flowers on it and a couple of tillers with a flower or two themselves. With the cooler weather I expect that they will all be pollinated well.

Here is a pic of the mini blue popcorn, with a couple of popped kernels. The kernels are tiny but cute.

 I planted a couple of beds with a mix of three mini popcorns: ivory (pictured), strawberry, and blue in the hope that I would get some multi coloured ears.
Unfortunately the ivory popcorn flowered way before the others so it will be pure. I have picked a couple of its ears but it will not really be ready for a couple more weeks.

Last post I showed a picture of Green Bosnian melon. It is my favourite melon of all time. Unfortunately I have since picked a few more of the melons and found that they have been cross pollinated along the way, probably when I almost run out of seed a couple of years ago and had to save seeds from a non hand pollinated plant.
All the fruits so far have had the proper green skin but only the first one had the typical green flesh. All the others had white or orange flesh. I don't know what they were crossed with but it looks like I will be spending the next few years breeding back to true.

Luckily I have another 10 or so plants to pick fruit from so I should get some more good fruit to save seeds from. I am really disappointed but at least I have seeds to go on with as I seem to be the only person growing it now.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Quick update and wax melons

After an inch of rain a couple of days ago and a predicted week with only one day over 30 degrees things are looking a lot perkier. It came just in time for the mini popcorn which has suddenly started to put up a lot of flowers so I am hopeful for good pollination at long last.

It was not enough to soak in, but boy is feels good.

Another new vegetable for this year is wax melon, also known as winter melon or wax gourd (Benincasa hispida). Luckily these plants are loving the heat and have a few fruits on them.

It is a savoury cucurbit that can be stored up to a year. It is used in Asia in stir fries, soups and curries. Apparantly is is mild flavoured like zucchini with the texture of watermelon.

I would be surprised if it couldn't be a substitute for citron (jam melon) and if it can I might grow it for that instead of citron which would cross with my watermelons.

I have finally picked my first Green Bosnian for this season. This is one of my favourite melons and I almost ran out of seed as I had no luck with melons last year. I am glad they are bearing well this year now as I love this melon.

The only downside to this melon is that it is very difficult to tell when it is ripe. The melon pictured here is over-ripe as you can see by the darker patched in the flesh.
Unfortunately all the indicators for other melons don't work for this one so it takes practice to know when to pick them. Luckily they are still good to eat when a little over ripe.

I ahould be starting to pick the earliest mini popcorn and anasazi corn in the next week or so. I will post pics of them then, I am always excited by coloured corn.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

More goings on in the blocks

I have been putting off posting as I am sick of having so few good things to talk about. I decided that even though it is hard this summer it does no good trying to ignore it, and next year when things are better I can look back over these posts and see that no matter how hard it gets it will get better.

 I am concentrating my efforts on the most necessary plants to get through the drought so some just have to do it on their own or die. Unfortunately it means watching trees die and having the strength to let it happen so I don't burn out.

Even some of the toughest, heat tolerant trees are dying like this feijoa. Luckily I have a few young feijoas on the seed block under irrigation so they are fine and I can replace the three in the garden at another time.
 I am just going to let the raspberries go. They are not taking the summers well, even when I cover them. I don't think I have been able to get any fruit for the past three years.

One surprising plant has been the Italian root cabbage. They love the heat. I sowed the seed a month or so ago and planted out the seedlings even though I was worried about the heat. They just say "give me more", even the ones that are not covered in the 40 degree heat. These are turning out to be my favourite vegetable. Not only are they delicious and tough enough to grow all year round in any conditions but when I pulled up the old plants that I had harvested seeds of, the ones that still had unrotten bulbs/roots were still good to eat - no sign of woodiness or fibre.

In the spring I bought 5 seeds of Chinese space chilli. Apparently a few years ago the Chinese sent a heap of seeds from various vegetables into space and the natural radiation of space caused a number of mutations in the seeds. After selection they chose the best mutated plants for commercial growing. This space chilli has very long fruits.

I managed to grow one plant and it has a few fruits on it (poking out the top in the pic), even though it has been very stressed with the heat. I can't wait for the fruits to ripen.

My Anasazi corn is starting to ripen. This is my favourite sweet corn.
With most sweet corn you would pick it at the stage I am showing in the picture - silks dead and the colours barely starting to show in the seeds. I have found that this stage is far too early for Anasazi, you need to wait till the kernels have matured but are not dry yet and the colours are fully out. This is when they are at their sweetest and best flavoured.
When you pic it too early it has no taste and is not enjoyable to eat. Luckily with this corn it never goes starchy even days after picking, and it is so sweet and flavourful that you would never grow another sweet after growing this one.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tomatoes and heat tolerance

Today I will list some of the tomatoes I am growing this year, what I think of them and how they are doing in the heat.
I am surprised that, even though they are not bearing well, the tomatoes are standing up to the hear fairly well and I am not having much trouble with blossom end rot this year.

When I describe taste, bear in mind that my nose doesn't work well and since I can't smell well, I also can't taste well. All the ones I am growing have very good reviews for taste from other people.

This is Brads Black Heart.
It is a meaty, brown  red oxheart that has a delicious and hard to describe taste. It is quite soft for such a meaty tomato.
The plant is big and spreading but is not bearing well in the heat. I thought I was only going to get this single fruit but I see that the plant now has a couple more small fruits on it.

Fahrenheit Blues
This cherry tomato has the blackest fruit I have ever seen. The leaves are naturally curled so it looks permanently sick even though it is well.

 My one plant is bearing ferociously and doesn't mind the heat at all.

The fruit are ripe when they go purple red, especially around the stem end.

Green Zebra

These plants are not coping with the heat very well at all.
They are at least bearing though which is better than some others.

Helsing Junction Blues

These plants are bearing well in the heat but the fruits are nowhere near as dark as other pictures on the web show.
This plant is very sprawled and the leaves are a little curled.

Japanese Black Trifele

Doing ok in the heat as long as I cover them with shadecloth on the hottest days. These plants took their time but are starting to set a few fruit now.
The fruit are pear shaped and dark orange with green shoulders. The taste is superb and low acid but with an unusual mild spiciness.

 Speckled Roman

Only a few fruit on the plants at the moment but the fruit look pretty special.
I have just picked the first ripe one so I haven't tasted it yet.
The bushes are neat and not too big.
Verde Claro

This little grape sized tomato tastes soooo good with a very unusual flavour. This is one to plant even if you don't like other cherry tomatoes.
The two plants I have are not bearing well but that might change if we get a few days of cooler weather.

Vintage Wine

This is the best producing tomato of all the ones I am growing this year and the fruits look magnificent with their gold stripes. The plants suffer a bit when the temps reach close to 40C but still keep setting fruit.
The fruits are a med size beefsteak with dense, meaty flesh and few seeds. The taste is a strong, real tomato flavour.

Other tomatoes I have in but are not bearing are: Pineapple and German Johnston, and one or two other that I can't remember the names of at the moment.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Corn and oca heat tolerance

Well, this is certainly turning out to be a trying summer as you all know, lol. I suppose it is good for testing out heat tolerance in my vegetables, which, to be honest, is something I am aiming for.

The oca seedlings from the past couple of years were grown in field conditions this year with less care than found in my home garden. This has really tried them and most are dead now. It is sad to see but my main interest in growing oca was to select them to be able to grow well in hot summers.

I will have a few that will come through which is great but I have also been interested to notice that the plants that have severe weed competition are doing better than those that were well weeded. They are actually growing quite well among the thick running grass.

 I have six corn varieties in and heat hardiness from most hardy to least is: Painted Mountain, Anasazi, Black waxy, Mini blue popcorn, Glass Gem, and the least hardy has been the Peruvian giant white which are all dead now.

This pic is of the Glass Gem. I put a couple of hundred seeds in but they are doing so poorly that I am not sure I will get anu cobs at all off them. The tassles can't even make it out of the curled leaves and the silks die as soon as they emerge.

My Sword beans have been sitting, doing nothing with their two seed leaves/cotyledons for months but now they have suddenly decided to put out some new leaves. I am not sure they will grow enough to mature beans before frost now.

I nearly didn't see these ripe 'Verde Claro' tomatoes but I am glad I picked them this morning. They are absolutely delicious, the taste is unusual and very sweet. It is definitely a grape tomato that I will plant again.