Saturday, February 27, 2016

Visit to Alkira Organics, Glass gem corn, Ulluco and lots more - Wow

I'm back again - sorry for the delay in posting.

Well, I am tired from driving a long way to Lake Boga for a farm visit to Alkira Organics which is a large organic property near the Murray River - five hours drive up there on Friday and back again. I got back this morning after spending the night at a town called Donald.

The people at the farm were very friendly and willing to discuss some sort of future seed business arrangement and I took a few vegetable samples up there to show them. Some they seemed impressed with and some they didn't. I was embarrassed when I showed them a melon that I thought was the bees knees after it was cut open and the flesh was terrible in taste as well as broken down. I was impressed with this melon as it tasted so good and this particular fruit had been left in the fridge for over two weeks without any marks or soft spots. I thought that with some tweaking on selection it might make a good commercial true cantaloupe as most cantaloupes are bad at storage and shipping.
Unfortunately the rind might store well but the flesh doesn't, oops.

There was also a hiccup with the Italian root cabbage when I tasted the leaf and instead of tasting like cabbage, it was a strong mustard flavour. I thought that I had accidentily picked the only mustard tasting vegetable in the bed but on the drive home I realised that they were being attacked my white butterflies right now and it might well have a response to attack by releasing mustard oils in the leaves. it has not happened before as I have always tasted the leaves when they were healthy. That is my hypothesis anyway.

Ok, well I learned a heap and even if nothing else comes of the visit I am very pleased I went.

Well my Ulluco plants finally started sprouting last month and they are looking very healthy. I hope they make a lot of tubers this autumn so I can put them in field testing next season.
I have three or four varieties ( a couple of tubers looked the same) and a number of plants of two of the varieties. The heat is not affecting them surprisingly but we will see how they go with less care next spring.

A new cabbage for me this year is Kalibos. It is a small one or two person cabbage that comes in at about 800g to one kg.
I will be eating this one tomorrow night and I hope it is more tender than most reds.

Unlike most red cabbages I have grown this one gets seriously attacked by white cabbage butterflies so maybe that shows that it is sweet and tender :) I hope they are nice as I have two double rows of them in and will be collecting a good amount of seed for my first trial of them.

My only other complaint is that mine really don't look as cone shaped and dainty as other pictures I have seen.

Some of you might remember that I tried growing bearded iris from seeds last year and had a heap of fun with them, so I have put in a handful more seed from those seedlings into this pot to see what they turn out like.
They are coming up like hairs on a dogs back. I can't wait to see what colours I get in a couple of years.

Work has begun on mulching the small beds on my experimental block. This block is where I try out new and experimental varieties before they go into field trials.
The beds are only 1m x 4m but that is usually enough to grow to see what they are like.

I have finally moved all the shallot varieties out of this block so I will have more room for some more new stuff - and boy I will have some good stuff to trial and offer next year. I returned home this morning to find a parcel of seeds that I have been waiting on for a while - they are amazing but I won't tell you about them right now.

My two experimental beds of true seed grown potatoes are starting to flower now. they are all from the same variety but I can already see differences in stem and leaf colours.
I will do a lot more seed grow potatoes next spring as I want to see what can be done with the small tubered diploides as novelty coloured boiling potatoes. They might be good for the restaurant trade.

And lastly - I have been picking the cobs of my Glass Gem corn. I have to tell you that the more I pick the less impressed I am. They are really not as impressive in real life as the pictures all over the internet show. I suppose that outside in sunlight they do look glassy and colourful but who is going to look at them that way.

I am not sure if I will grow them again.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Market, podcasts, and Glass Gem corn

I have started a very busy week with the sustainability festival in Warrnambool. On Thursday I am expecting a farm visit and then on Friday I have to travel all the way up to Swan Hill to meet with a business who might want to buy seeds.
With the weather being kind lately I am also busy digging beds for the Autumn seeding - whew where will I find the time? Seriously, I am glad to get busy again.

 My stall in Warrnambool was very popular and I made almost as much money as I thought I would which will come in very handy when the water bills come in a couple of weeks.

I took a variety of fresh produce to interest people and it worked well to bring them into the stall to check out the seeds.
The Paypal reader also came in very handy. After a bit of a problem with the first card transaction it was very easy from then on. It is a very easy way for customers to pay, especially for larger payments.

 Now I will have to do a stock take of my seeds and make up a heap more packets.
I think I will look out for more bigger markets and festivals to have stalls at as I really enjoyed it, even though I was on my own so I wasn't able to get away and check out any of the other stalls or get lunch.

Regular readers may remember my complaints about the Glass Gem corn having trouble dealing with the heat. Well, the first few ears were ready to pick yesterday and some were not filled at all but some had a reasonable amount of kernels in them.

It is pretty but the ears are much smaller than I expected. I really don't know why I missed any reference to them being a 'mini' corn. Now that I have done some more 'Googling' I see many sites saying they are small.
I really should take more notice, lol. Anyway, I will probably grow them again.

My mother spent some time today being helpful and taking the seeds out of my Orangeglo watermelons. I have only picked two so far but the rest are nearly ripe.
She is taking quite an interest in my seeds this year and it is very welcome.

One more thing - I have discovered podcasts. I was sick of the one CD I have been playing over and over in the van so I bought a little gadget so I can play downloaded music through my vans radio.
Since the drive to Warrnambool is two hours I decided to download some small farming podcasts to listen to on the way. It was amazing and when I got home I downloaded some more to listen to on the five hour drive up to Swan Hill. They are so interesting.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Wax gourds and more

Today I have been busy cleaning out my van and readying it for the big 'Backyard Feast' market in Warrnambool on Saturday. The weather looks like it will be fins and I am really looking forward to it. I have bought a Paypal reader to be able to take cards and paypal so it might be a bit more convenient for my customers.

Since it is a long drive I will go over tomorrow afternoon and stay in Warrnambool overnight.

A new crop for this year is Wax Gourd (wax melon, winter melon and a heap of other names). This variety is 'Canton Giant'.
I picked the first three today, two for seed and one as to go in my vegetable display for the market. The ones I have are pretty big as you can see by my boot in the picture. They are mostly hollow though so not as heavy as they look.

They are very popular in Asia for various dishes immature and ripe but I didn't have enough fruits to taste an immature one though.

Here is one I cut open. It is nice that it is easy to take out the seeds, and then cut up the flesh. It tastes like sweet, chewy cucumber, although it is supposed to be much sweeter when immature. I actually liked it though the texture is interesting. I would think that it would go quite well sliced thin on 'cucumber' sandwiches, as well as the traditional uses in soups and stews.

I will try to get seeds of a smaller variety for growing next year as I would guess that smaller ones would be preferable to most people.

I have almost finished harvesting the Painted Mountain corn and have just started on the 'Anasazi'. I should leave the cobs on the plants until they are thoroughly dry but I pick them with just a touch of green on the husk because I am a bit paranoid that the cockies will find them - it is better to have a bit of corn that come over one morning and find the whole lot wiped out.

I am not going to get anywhere near the harvest I wanted and if it is too bad it will not be worth the freight up to the buyer so I am wondering what I am going to do with it if I am stuck - maybe offer it to a closer seed seller perhaps. Or maybe I could just go to more markets and try to sell more of it that way.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Bushfoods course and Toga eggplant

Over the weekend I took a group of people on a bushfoods camping course. We went down to the coast to identify and taste various native plant foods, then made our way up the Glenelg river to spot some more waterside plants.

We stopped off for lunch at Dartmoor and took our food down to the river to put in yabby traps.

Of course, a couple of the guys decided that waiting on the bank wasn't exciting enough so skinny dipping and climbing on trees seemed a better idea, lol.

Of course, all the splashing didn't encourage the yabbies to come out so we went on our way without catching any.

We made camp and cooked macaroni cheese and the bananas with marshmallows and choc bits roasted in the campfire went down well.

The next day we spent time wading in the river which is nearly dry here, and finding edible water plants. We even tried our hands at working grasstree resin which the Aborigines used to glue their spearheads to the shafts. That was a bit of a let down - I think we needed a lot more practice.

Anyway, I have started harvesting my Orangeglo watermelons. This first one which I showed you a post or two ago turned out a bit over ripe but that is better for the seeds anyway.

I have a heap more plants with fruit ripening though.

I put in some Toga eggplant seeds this year as the blurb on the seed site said they are edible as well as ornamental.
After reading about someones experience with cooking them I think they are really just ornamental as they are too seedy and small for eating. Apparently the fruits hang on the branches for a long time so are great for vase and flower displays.

I will collect seeds but I doubt that I will grow them again.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Autumn is on its way already

Even though the weather has turned hot again after our little rest many of the deciduous trees around town are now showing a noticeable colour change. It is easier to count down the days and know that it is only a few weeks till the heat will be over.
Many of the veggies that came through the summer are showing a lot of stress with the build up of heat over a long period of time.

I picked my first Orangeglo watermelon this morning - over 15 kg. This is my favourite watermelon but I have to admit that the new one for this year 'Japanese Cream Fleshed Suika is a close second.

I am struggling to save the seeds of three other types of watermelons without mixing them up and this makes it harder. They all ripen together :)

I have nearly finished picking the Painted Mountain flour corn and as the beds empty I am digging them to get ready for Autumn planting.
I didn't plant a lot of Painted Mountain but with the neighbours sheep getting in and eating three beds that I really needed I have learnt that I have to put in at least twice as much of everything, just in case.

I will only end up with a quarter of what I need. Oh well, this is a learning year for larger quantities, it will take time to learn how much to put in now that I am not only planting for my own seed.

My Strawberry Crown pumpkins are also ripening now. The sizes of the fruit are all over the place though, not even at all.

The first fruit to set is huge but the rest are only about 3-5kg each. I hope it is as good as I have heard.

I let a few of my Luxury Winter Pie pumpkins grow under the fence of the blocks neighbour - it helps with neighbour relations :)
They really loved this pumpkin and asked me to grow it next to the fence again next year.

I can understand that as it is one of my favourites too, one of the only pumpkins I enjoy eating. I must grow a heap more next year.

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.