Friday, February 28, 2014

Fantastic corn and Peruvian Traveler tomato

I have been a bit slack today, I only dug a couple of beds and gathered some veg to sell at Merino tomorrow morning. Everything it starting to show autumn growth now so I expect my seeds in the new beds to be germinating any day now. I already have heaps and heaps of coloured silverbeet seedlings popping up from the beds where I let them go to seed. This is handy as I can check on the colours and health of the seedlings before I sell the seeds, and I will be able to sell small handfuls of seedlings at the markets. Every bit helps.

I picked my first Reisetomate tomato today (to make it easier I will refer to one of its other names 'Peruvian Traveler' from now on as that is so much easier to spell and pronounce, lol.)

I know, it is a bit puny but there are bigger ones on the plants. After reading the poor review in Amy Goldmans tomato book I was pleasantly surprised to actually like it. It is a bit sour and strongly flavoured as suggested but not unpleasantly so. Just goes to show that everybodys tastes differ.

These unusual tomatoes grow in seperate sections and the theory goes that they are great when travelling as you can just pull off a section at a time and it won't drip juice everywhere. It works and is fun to eat.

 I have been pleasantly surprised by my black waxy (glutinous) corn that I have been experimenting with for a few years.
Corn generally suffers from inbreeding depression so you have to save seeds from a couple of hundred plants to get enough genetic diversity to stop them from getting stunted and lowering production.
I have been inbreeding this corn for a number of years now and it has never shown any sign of inbreeding depression. I started off with 5 seeds/plants about 5 years ago and every year I save one cob off one plant and plant about 20 seeds from it.

This year it is doing just as good as it was 5 years ago, even better for some reason. As you can see from these couple of pictures each plant is producing 4-5 cobs plus the cobs on the many tillers - maybe I will end up with up to 10 cobs per plant.

Of course these are pictures of plants grown on their own so you would expect more cobs but the ones I planted in a block are doing almost as well. It is just easier to photograph single ones away from the rest and I happened to plant a few away from the main block.

I am going to keep on going with this experiment to see how far I can push it, until I get real signs of depression.

I swing between liking and not having a taste for glutinous corn. It is great for BBQing and grilling but a bit chewy for fresh eating though I like the taste, not as sweet as 'usual' sweetcorn but better flavoured.

Apparently the flour made from it is fabulous for thickening soups and stews.
I had a terrible season for corn and the only two varieties that have done any good have been the black waxy and the Peruvian giant white.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oh, my gourd - Check them out

I took advantage of the cooler weather before it heats up again to get a couple of metres of compost delivered and dig it into the sandy beds of the Back Block. I put out half the load and will try to get the rest out tomorrow. I did heaps of work today digging for the winter vegetables.

I have planted quite a few beds but I still have many more to go - snow peas, beetroot, and in the next few months, shallots and other dividing onions.

 I only got four gourd plants to grow this year with the poor spring. Unfortunately the miniature gourds didn't come up at all and the only plants I have are two varieties of large ones.

This is one of the bushel gourds from my three plants. They are bigger than they look in this picture. Each plant has 3 fruits on it.

Only one of my giant bottle gourds grew and since the fruits are so big they only grow one fruit each. This one is the biggest gourd I have ever grown, it is currently 105cm around the waist. I don't think it has much more growing to go now though as the autumn is nearly upon us.

There is one bigger variety of gourd you can grow but the season is not long enough to get it to ripen here, I had doubts that I could even get one of these to ripen.

The biggest problem I am going to have when it is ripe and dry is that I won't want to cut it to get seeds. I think I will have to use the next 6 months till it is ready thinking what I am going to make with it when I do open it up. I love growing gourds but I really shouldn't grow these giant ones as I could never sell them for enough money to cover the cost of the space, water and time to get one fruit per huge plant. It takes nearly a year to grow a gourd and dry it. Who would pay $50 for a singe dried gourd no matter how rare it is?

My Zucca Di Albenga pumpkins have done well this year even if they are not as big as I would like.
Each plant has a huge number of fruits on them. They are great immature as zucchini and you can also let them ripen as a winter pumpkin.

They are related to butternut pumpkins so they taste good and are great in pumpkin and bacon soup, my favourite.

The great thing about these pumpkins is that the seeds are concentrated in the bulb at one end so they are easy to cut and use and have little waste.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Finger limes

Today while I was doing my daily poking at my finger limes (an Australian native type of citrus) one fell off at last, boy these take a long time to ripen. I immediately took it inside to have a taste.

 They are just as good as I thought. As soon as you cut a ripe one the 'caviar' oozes out. They are not juicy like other citrus but the juice is held in tiny globules which make them great for garnishing.

I placed the caviar on some biscuits. The one below was just plain on a biscuit with butter which was good but it was even better on a piece of cheese or ham.

The taste is definitely limey but not as strong as I expected. YUM.

One curious thing is that being an understory subtropical shrub I was surprised that they were the only tree in my orchard that loved the heat and dryness of this summer. I lost so many trees but all the finger limes, even the little seedlings, lapped up the full sun and are now shooting out with new leaves as well. The other surprise was the way the avocados also survived well with little burning. 

The other fruit on the plant will be ready too so I will have something to impress at the next meeting that I have to bring a plate to.

I also have a desert lime tree and I went to check the fruit but I was a bit too late as it had already dropped during the week. Oh well, next year.

 I picked the first melon of the season this morning, only two months late. I am just about to eat it as soon as I get off the computer.
This is a 'Farthest North'. These are small melons that usually grow and ripen very quickly.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Finely - tomatoes!

I put Jack, my newest helper on the bus yesterday. He just wasn't working out and it was better to have him go than end up with bad feelings on both sides. He was only here for a few days but although most helpers are great to have, sometimes your helper just doesn't fit in.
At this time of year it is great to have helpers to do some of the watering as it takes hours but we are having some cooler weather at the moment and even got a half inch of rain which was very welcome, and it is great that I don't have to water for a few days. I know that March can get hot but I am really enjoying this week of lower temps.

At long last I am starting to pick a few tomatoes. There isn't a lot but I have been able to gather a few to sell at the Hamilton market tomorrow.

This is a new one for this year. Oddly named 'Big white pink stripe' it is more yellow with a bit of a pink blush. I sometimes wonder at the people who name vegetables.
The good points are that it is large and solidly meaty. It has a rather acid taste that my mother loves.
The bad points are - it contains hardly any seeds and the plants are very low producing. Maybe that is caused by the hot wether so I hope they produce better in the Autumn.

I have already talked about Mr Stripy. It is a golf-ball sized tomato which tastes better than supermarket tomatoes but is not my favourite as the taste is too uncomplicated. It is bearing profusely though which is a bonus.

I don't have a picture of them but I am also picking current tomatoes which I love. They are tiny and suited to salads or just eating out of hand, and are very sweet.

I haven't got much to take to the market tomorrow but I am even more worried that I won't have enough to take to sales for the next two weekends after that. I have some melons coming on but they may not be ready. At least with this cooler weather I am able to plant all my empty beds with seed with a good chance of it germinating before we get any more hot weather.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Funny snake melons/cucumbers and other melon news

Wow, I'm so sorry, 5 days - I am so lazy. Anyway, here is my post for today.

Look at the difference between melons in the open and those grown under shadecloth in these frying summers. It looks like I will be spending up big this year and covering all my beds before next summer gets here. This experiment worked like a charm.

My melons are starting to fruit well now and I still have enough time to get them ripe before frosts. I put in a few more plants on the first of Jan because most of the others I put in November died.

They are powering away now so I should have fruit for the March Hamilton market. I just hope I have enough for the market this coming Saturday, then Merino the next week.
I am going to put in a lot more melons again next season.

If you have been reading this blog you will know that I got some 'melon' seeds from my neighbour (from Afghanistan). I thought they would be sweet melons but they have turned out to be a kind of serpent melon, which are used and taste like cucumber. These are a bit useless though as they are so skinny, and the skin is a bit tough but there is not much flesh left if they are peeled.

I think they would make interesting pickled cucumbers, just one curled up in a jar.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pepinos and rain

I have to admit that I am feeling a bit envious as I sit here this afternoon. Most of Australia is getting rain and we have missed out entirely. My sister says it is raining hard there and they are expecting at least a couple of inches. Greedy buggers, lol.

Luckily today was very humid with the heat so I haven't had to water this afternoon. I picked a few red snake beans instead. All except 4 plants died and the ones that survived were runty little things so I have ended up with as much seed as I originally started with. I hope I do much better with them next year.

I have picked the first of my pepinos today. I will have to grow some every year in the poly house as they are doing so well and are so early - and the fruits are so huge...

The plants that I have grown outside have still not set any fruit and I am used to picking them close to winter but it is amazing to see them ripe under plastic.

I have learned over the years to pick them slightly under-ripe, when the fruits have purple stripes but are just between the green and yellow stage. I leave them inside for a couple of weeks and they go yellow but don't lose any quality or flavour as they ripen inside.

If you leave them to ripen on the bush they tend to be too ripe when you pick them and they taste awful when over-ripe. When you ripen them inside they ripen more evenly and taste just like juicy rock/musk melon. This ripening indoors stops the problem of uneveness of quality. A good pepino is delicious but a bad one, even if it looks the same, is dreadful.

I like them fresh but I prefer them freshly stewed with ice-cream.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

At last, my Bambara Beans are flowering

After a lot of worry that they were not going to flower and I wouldn't get any beans for growing next year my bambara beans have finely started putting out some surprisingly tiny flowers.

I just hope that they turn into pods as I don't think I will be able to get any again. The plants are stunted so I doubt that I will get many seeds but any will be a bonus.

I expected the flowers to be on stalks but they are just popping up at the base of the plants. Tiny but cute.

A couple of my other trial plants are also flowering. This is skirret. These plants are also tiny, I think because they cannot stand the heat. I have never been able to get them through the summer before but I have 3 plants just starting to flower at the moment.

Skirret is a old, 'lost' vegetable grown for its sweet, edible roots. The plants are supposed to grow around a metre tall but mine are barely 20cm.

Lastly, I put in some Jockeys cap lily (Tigridia pavonia) seeds last autumn. I only got a few seeds up but they have started to flower this past week.
These are a popular garden flower but most people don't know that they are are a traditional native food in Mexico.
The tubers are cooked before eating and are reputed to be delicious.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Finely, some pumpkins and tomatoes

After a terribly late start I am finely ripening a few pumpkins and tomatoes. I suppose the lateness has been a blessing in a way as I haven't had to waste any during january when the markets have a holiday.

Here is Alex holding a couple of Zohra and a Luxury Winter Pie pumpkin.The plants are suffering in the heat but I hope they stay alive long enough for the cooler weather to arrive and I should get another flush of fruit before the frosts.

With the heat they have stopped flowering and one pumpkin, Silver Edge, grown for its edible seeds, has not put out a single female flower for the second year that I have been growing it. I don't think I will bother with it again.

Some of the first tomatoes to ripen have been Mr Stripey. I am quite disappointed in the taste and even though they look nice with their greenish stripes, I will not be growing it again.

Some of the other tomatoes have been setting some fruit at last but they have been cooking on the plants so I will try to grow all the tomatoes under shadecloth next year.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I have been enjoying today. It is a mild 24C and a great break from the heat, well, until tomorrow when a new heat wave begins. Oh well, every day is a day closer to autumn :)

 As with the melons, I only managed to get a few gourds growing this season, four to be exact. They are starting to set fruit now (sorry about the blurry picture). I wish I had more plants as I love gourds but I will try and get a lot more growing next year.

Everyone is always amazed at what you can do with them and my sales are starting to rise, too bad I don't have any dried gourds left and I won't have much from only 4 plants for the next year.

My water chestnuts are really not liking the heat. Look how small and sick they are. I have 7 tubs of them and they are all just as bad.
Even if I get some chestnuts from them I fear they will be small and useless for eating. I will experiment with having them under shade next summer as there is every possibility that every summer is going to get hotter and dryer.

It looks like I will have to put shadecloth over every be next summer after the success I have had with it this year. At least I should then have a good amount of veg all year round and be able to get seeds germinated in the warmer months.

In other news, I am getting worried about my Bambara beans. They are still not flowering and if they don't start soon it may be too late. After the trouble I had getting them into the country last year I fear that I will not be able to get them again. I really want to grow them as they are drought tolerant and very nutritious.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hot weather and Merino sales

Sorry I have been so lax with posting lately. Since the weather has been so hot I go out and water before dark so by the time I get back in I am too tired or just forget to come on here.

Yesterday I went down to the nearby small town on Merino to sell some veg from the back of my van. I was happy to sell all of what I took so I might take a bit more next month. The people there are very friendly and happy to have me come with fresh food every month as they only have one shop in the town, a milk bar. Well... it is only a teeny town though.

The heat stress is starting to build up in the veggies now and they are not coping as well as they were so I think I may have a couple of months in autumn with very little to sell. I should have learnt from that last year but I will definately plan for it next year. I was hoping to have heaps of oca to sell in the winter but these scorching days are slowly killing it so that plan is a gonner. I think I will try covering it with 75% shadecloth next year instead of 50%. I hope I don't lose all the bed of cream oca as that is all I have.

That is all the news I have today as I have been stuck in side lately and not able to do any work.