Friday, January 30, 2015

Amazing pink fir apple potatoes

I have been busy today harvesting stuff for the new Portland farmers market. It is a long way to travel so I have filled my van up to the brim with stuff, I only hope now that I don't come home with it all. My sister says that it is time for another 'selfie' so I will get someone to take a pic of me at my tables tomorrow, hmmm, must remember to pack my camera.

 I dug my 'sales' bed of Pink Fir Apple potatoes for the market. I was really surprised to see that they have grown bigger than they have ever been for me. It was a better quality soil in that bed so that could be the reason.

These are one of my favourite potatoes, they are VERY productive, taste superb and are so easy to grow anywhere. They are best, in my opinion, used as salad spuds but are also good roasted. Usually you would serve them whole but at this size they would be a bit big to do that.

It is a very old French variety with pink skin and waxy, yellow flesh. I like to dig them when small and use them as new potatoes in salads or just with our other veg. One reason I like to use them when small is that they get a bit knobbly as they grow and harder to peel so are best as unpeeled new spuds.

 I was mentioning the fact that my Tromboncino pumpkins (also known as 'Zucca di albenga' among a dozen other names) always produce flowers that point down to the ground so they have to be hand pollinated as they don't open properly and insects can't get in them. It was suggested by others that theirs don't have flowers that do this so I wonder where this trait started.

I have to admit that it is a very annoying thing as I have to go out every morning to pollinate them. It would be a good trait to keep rain and dew out of them, but the male flowers stand upright as they should so that doesn't help as they are often full of water themselves.

Maybe I will buy another packet of seed so I can get plants that don't do this.

This is a great plant as you can eat the fruit immature as zucchini, or wait till they are ripe and they are similar to butternut pumpkin in taste and texture. And, of course, they have the most amazing shape. They can get long and twisted with the seeds in the bulb at the end which makes them easy to cut and use.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blue tepary beans, and Rays Purple potato

Another lovely cool day today. The cool weather lately has finally encouraged the melons and pumpkins to put out some female flowers so they might not be such a loss after all. Give it a couple more days and I will be busy hand pollinating.
I had given up on producing any pure, hand pollinated seed this year and was resigned to planting the bee pollinated seed next year and having to do a lot of careful selecting to get them true to type, or buy more seed of course.

 I have been busy collecting my Blue Speckled Tepary beans. Here is a picture of the size difference between dry and fresh beans. The fresh beans are triple the size.
I cooked up a few beans for tasting, leaving the dried beans overnight to let them swell to fresh size, then microwaving them for a few minutes.

They are very mild, too mild for bean lovers but just right for me. Yam.

Today I dug up one plant of my Rays Purple potato, bred by a backyard breeder in NSW.

These plants are amazing, they grew to 5 feet tall and still haven't stopped. When they flowered some time ago I expected them to die down so I could harvest but they just kept on going, they are starting to flower for a second time right now.

I will put some back in the ground tomorrow and see how they grow through the Autumn growing period.

With their vigour and long stolons I think these will be perfect for growing in tubs where you keep adding straw.
I was surprised buy their russetted skin and the fact that every potato has a different ratio of purple to white. They are square shaped and a bit bigger than fist sized.

I will cook some up tonight to see what they taste like and whether they are better for baking, mashing, or all purpose use.

















Sunday, January 25, 2015

Zucchini again, and melons ripening

What a lovely cool day. After dire predictions of a scorching summer I have been very happy with the fairly mild summer we have been having so far. There is still a lot of summer to go but I am thankful for every day under 30 degrees that we get.

 You will recall that I was talking about all the different zucchini plants and fruit I am getting this year from an odd fruiting plant last year.
Here are just three different ones that I picked today. There are still many other shapes and colours on other plants.
I am going to have fun with these in the years to come.






A few melons are starting to ripen. This is a Madhu Ras (honey melon) from India. I was expecting more but although it looks nice with the green stripes it tastes just like a supermarket rockmelon.

With the very poor melon season, I am going to have very few fruits to show you this year. I will have to put all my melons under shadecloth next year as the few that are doing ok at the moment are those under shade.





Friday, January 23, 2015

Fun with kohlrabi, and my plans for this year

By now all you know how much I like kohlrabi. I put in a bed of giant kohlrabi during the winter in the hope that it would bolt to seed in spring as I needed more seed quickly.

Well, it must have just been the time of year because most of the plants have been very reluctant to go to seed and instead have decided to just grow more stems from the original stem swellings.
Yesterday I had a closer look at the plants and found that many of them are growing baby kohlrabi stem tubers(?) on these new stems. it looks amazing and they might sell well as 'baby' kohlrabi.










I will be leaving them to grow a bit more to see what happens, or to sell them, who knows, I may leave them for seed, or leave some plants in one of the other beds to bolt to top off my seed stores.

My plans for this year

Up till now I have been very haphazzard with my projects, trying more than I can cope with and abandoning those projects I get tired of. This year I will try (note - TRY) to do only a few projects and do them properly.

Oca
I will be trialling more oca seedlings and keeping better records so I can select more carefully those I want to go on with. One of the reasons I have to stop being so lazy with my oca seedling growing is that a forum friend maybe sending me some see to trial for him, and I will be forced to keep better records.
I will be selecting hopefully one or two of last years seedlings to go on with - selecting for heat tolerance and size as well as production. Colour comes after those characteristics.

Zucchini
Although all zucchini tastes the same to me, I have a heap of plants from a weird one I grew last year that are producing fruit in all colours, shapes and sizes right now. Next spring I will plant a heap of seed from these and keep better records to select a couple of unusual and firm fleshed ones to go on with and hopefully stabilise within the next few years.

Potatoes
I am going to try and get some true seed from some coloured varieties to select for kinds with interesting internal colours, and those that will seed well here so I can grow more from my own seed the next season.

Carrots
After this seasons really bad growing I will start again on my 'Saturn' project and trying to make a round purple 'Parisian' style carrot.

Rhubarb
The Plants I grew from seed last year have shown some good variability adn I might try growing a heap more from seed to see what I can find.

The projects above will be what I am concentrating on and I will only start any new projects if I honestly have the time and space.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pigface and currant tomatoes

Everything is still looking fresh after the rain we had last week and little weeds are jumping out of the ground. Too bad for them the weather will turn hot and dry again and frizzle them to death.

Sorry, I don't have much to talk about today.

My current tomatoes (Solanum pimpinellifolium) are fruiting like crazy. These are tiny tomatoes but have the best flavour. I would love to sell them in punnets but they are such a hassle to pick because they are so small. Oh well, I munch on them while and watering and enjoy them very much.

These are a great kids fruit as they are sweet and keep kids entertained for a long time as they pick them.




The pigface fruits are finally ripening. These native fruits may not look like much but are delicious when the insides are squeezed into your mouth.

This groundcover plant is found on sand dunes at the beach and also in dry inland places. They are ripe when they turn red and soft. When they are warm from the sun they taste so sweet and delicious that I can't stop at one or two.
















Saturday, January 17, 2015

Eating rhubarb flowers

I am really loving this weather, it is mostly cool most days at the moment with the occasional hot day. It will really help get the corn flowers fertilised.

I have read in a couple of places that rhubarb flowers are edible so I thought I would test this out while I had nothing to do.
It is said that they have even less oxalic acid in them than the leaf stems.

They have to be picked while they are still tightly bunched. I nibbled on some raw and they were a bit sour and not too bad so I picked some and took them inside.

Apparently they are usually battered and deep fried but I don't like the oil wastage of deep frying so I shallow fried them instead. I just made a light, plain batter and coated the flowers, then shallow fried them till golden all over.

They were actually quite nice. They look like fried cauliflower and had an unusual, tangy taste that was pleasant. Unfortunately I think they should be deep fried because they soaked up a lot of the oil so were very oily but a good, hot oil would fix that.

Yes, I would recommend them to eat.

While I was picking the rhubarb flowers I came across a tree frog enjoying the shade of the leaves. These frogs pop up everywhere and I have to be careful not to hurt them especially when I am picking silverbeet.






My Blue Speckled Tepary Beans are ripening now. They are only a small bean, and they are even smaller when dried, but the plants are small too and produce well so it is not too much of a hassle to put a bed of them in. They are usually eaten as a dried bean.
I will have plenty of seed to sell this year.




Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bambara beans and oca seedlings

Before I get on to the vegetable stuff I have to show my little niece a picture of the cake I made yesterday.

On the phone she announced to me that she had dubbed the day 'Lion Day' and since her mum had made her a lion cake I had to do the same, a chocolate lion cake.
Of course I took the lazy way out so instead of icing the whole cake I just drew an icing lion face on it but it was delicious.

I promised that I would take a picture of it so here it is.



I am having another go at growing bambara beans from Africa this year. Last year they were a disaster but I hope that I can at least get a few seeds off them this time.
The plants are still not much bigger than last year, around 15cm tall and even though I read that they do best in poor, infertile soil the ones I am growing in the better soil are doing better than the ones in nearly pure sand.
I was only able to procure a few seeds so I have only 8 plants but they are just starting to flower now (see the little yellow flowers at the base of the plant) so I hope that I will get plenty of pods. The pods grow like peanuts, after flowering the flower stems grow down into the soil where the pods develop.
These beans are reputed to be so nutritious that you can live on them so I hope I can get them growing well with some more practice.


 To make room in my little propagating shadehouse I have placed all my seedling oca pots out in a empty covered bed. I have dug in the pots to protect them from heat and drying out.
I have a lot better germination this year from the seed that I got, a lot of crosses of the growers varieties. I should get a good mix of interesting plants to choose from.

When I plant the mini tubers from these seedlings out in beds next spring they will self select for heat tolerance and I will also be able to select the best growers for my climate.

The plants from last years seedlings are doing very well. I lost two types from the heat but the rest are coping with the heat even better than the original varieties that are normally available in Australia. I am very pleased with that.

I still have a heap of tiny seedlings that will go into individual pots when they are big enough to prick out.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Moringa and those pesky tamarillos

Today was hot again but it is starting to cloud over and the forecast tells us that we should get some rain tonight and tomorrow. I would like to believe them but until I see it I think I will keep on being sceptical, lol.

Sorry for the fuzzy, hurried pics today. I was going to mention it a couple of posts ago but forgot. You know how I have been excited to finally get fruit setting on my tamarillos? well, the frying hot week we had caused all the trees to drop their fruits.

I think I will pull them out as it is not worth all the watering each summer just in the hope of getting an occasional summer mild enough for them to ripen their fruits.

It is a shame as the fruits we sometimes get in the supermarkets imported from New Zealand are pretty poor and I was hoping to be able to sell a few better ones to my customers. I think they would probably do better closer to the coast where they don't get days as hot.

I was looking at my poor little moringa (Moringa olefira) seedlings (they are not coping with the heat well either) and noticed that one of the seedlings has flowers on it. It is only three months old!

It could be the heat stress but if that was the case you would think some of the others would be flowering also.

This is also called the Miracle tree because all parts from the roots, leaves, pods and the flowers are all edible and nutritious.

I tried growing them once before but I put them in too late and they didn't get big enough to survive after the frost cut them down to their tuberous root. I am hoping that I can get them big enough in the next few months to be able to keep them alive over winter.







Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pretty corn and bush snake beans

I am still waiting for the buckets of rain that has been forecast but I think it has missed us because everywhere else has had rain except us. The forecast is still giving us rain for Monday though. At least today was cool so I didn't have to go out and water.

My little bush snake beans are bearing magnificently and are covered in beans. I should have plenty of seed to sell later as well as a few to eat.

I love snake beans as they have no strings and are mild tasting and this bush variety is small and very compact, perfect for small gardens.
The beans are a bit smaller that the 'regular' climbing snake beans, they are 20-25cm long, whereas the climbing ones get to around 40cm.




I love growing coloured corn. I have coloured sweetcorn in and coloured flour corn. As well as the multicoloured seeds, they have coloured flowers too, and sometimes coloured leaves.

This is a red coloured female flower and below is a red male flower but the colour on that one is harder to see.

Unfortunately I didn't get any red leaved plants and only one variegated plant. It is the luck of the draw really.

I hope with this cooler week that it will give some of the flowers a chance at getting pollinated as hot and windy weather causes the flowers, both male and female, to dry out and be unable to be pollinated.



I have been busy planting a heap of my empty beds to garlic and potato onions.
Unlike most people I always plant my garlic soon after I harvest it for a number of reasons.
1, I hate having the storage space filled up
2, I don't like the risk of losing bulbs in storage
3, After planting I know how much I have left to sell
4, I know I have enough beds for them. I don't want to go out in Autumn and think "where the hell am I going to find room for them?"

Anyway, it always works well and I get large bulbs, well, most years as this year was an exception. I just leave them in the beds and ignore them until they decide it is time to start shooting when the Autumn rains come.















Thursday, January 8, 2015

Sunflowers and heat defying avocados

I am loving this bit of rain today, and we are expecting more in the next couple of days. It helped get all the bushfires under control and I hate to think what would have happened if it didn't rain.

It isn't a lot but at least it will give the plants a rest.

Strangely, my two young avocados have been fine with the heat and hot winds yet the fig that is only three metres away looks like someone has been at it with a flame thrower.

 It is really weird how you expect, and read, that some plants tolerate or don't tolerate certain conditions but when you experiment it doesn't work out how you think it will. I goes to show the value of checking things out for yourself.


This is my poor Preston prolific fig. Its leaves nearly all burnt in the hot winds and fell off.

Talking of figs, when I was in a nearby town on Saturday I came across a fig in a backyard. It had the hugest, oval-shaped white fruit on it that I have ever seen. I picked one to eat and it was sweet, but not too sweet and cloying. Absolutely delicious as a fresh eating fruit.
Anyway, I picked a couple of cuttings to grow and I will have to do some research now to find out the cultivar.
At least the sunflowers are enjoying the heat. They are looking very sunny and always make me feel happy when I look at them. I really should have planted more.
















Monday, January 5, 2015

The three Cs- corn, kohlrabi and cabbage

Well I cheated a bit on the kohlrabi, but at least k sounds like c, lol.

With the weather staying hot I have decided to stop watering the potatoes. They will die down and shoot again when (and if) the Autumn rains come. It is just not worth watering them in summer as they don't do well in the heat anyway.

Here are a couple of pictures of my poor, burnt corn. The lower leaves have sprung back but many of the male and female flowers are ruined and I will have to see if I can get the flowers on the tillers fertilised in some cooler weather if we get any.












At least I am getting some fabulous kohlrabi at the moment. As long as I can keep the water up they just keep growing. I am glad I put in some extra beds of them.

I have started to train my customers to eat it so at least I will have something to sell over the next couple of months.
I love it as it is such a versatile vegetable. I made some kohlslaw last week with grated kohlrabi instead of cabbage but I wasn't really keen on the texture, but I love it cooked in other ways - boiled, steamed, baked etc.


I am really please with the Portuguese cabbage. This is a cabbage that doesn't produce a tight head although some of the plants are making a loose head as you can see in the second picture.










It tastes just like 'normal' cabbage but the big, loose leaves are great for wrapping, like as in cabbage rolls, and it is tender and juicy. It is not selling well at the markets but it will when people get to know it better.
I think I will keep growing it as it seems like it will be easier to keep slugs out of.




Saturday, January 3, 2015

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Well after only two days of over 40c and still months of summer to go everything is looking burnt and sad already. The hot winds didn't help but I thought everything would stand up to it better than it did.

The corn, which I thought would come through the best is withered and shrivelled, and it was watered just like everything. The heat if it keeps up like this will dry out the corn flowers so they won't pollinate so I think that is going to be a right off this year. Only the Portuguese cabbage is not looking too bad. I am not sure how I am going to cope with the rest of summer, another three months or scorching hot weather.

I have decided that with the summers getting longer and hotter it will be a waste of resources to continue trying to grow the variety of veg that I do so, no matter how hard and sorrowful it is, I will cut down to my few favourites in summer and grow garlic, rhubarb and a few other things during the rest of the year. I am still not quite convinced that I will be able to sell all the garlic I grow but I can't think of anything else.

I will grow what is cost effective and try to make more money of other things, like going back to washing windows and repairing fly screens with the veg as a sideline.

Maybe I will feel more upbeat tomorrrow.

And the good... well my first sunflowers are out. They always look sunny and fun. I will take a picture tomorrow.