Monday, March 28, 2016

Hopniss, Pumpkin pie and corn colouring

Whew, I am so busy digging beds for my winter vegetables that I don't have time to scratch my nose. My hands and back are sore and I have blisters but the new beds look nice and neat. With all this new land I think I am going to have to invest in one of those little rotary hoes.

My Hopniss (Apios americana) are starting to flower. I don't have any hope of getting seeds though as they are either sterile or have to be hand pollinated and the flowers are so fiddly that I am going to have no hope of doing that.

I love these tubers, they taste nice and are easy to grow. I have my first small commercial order for them for this winter, yay.

I have pumpkin coming out my ears so I made a couple of easy pumpkin pies a couple of days ago, one for us and one for the neighbours. Here is the recipe, it is not as sweet as American recipes so if you have an extra sweet tooth you might have to add some extra sugar:

Easy Pumpkin Pie
425g mashed pumpkin
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 9 inch premade pie crust, or home-made biscuit crumb base

Preheat oven to 220C
Whisk all ingredients until smooth and pour into crust
Bake 15 mins
Reduce temp to 180C and continue to bake for 35 mins or until knife inserted comes out clean.
Serve cold with whipped cream

I always get a lot of chinmarking (a sort of cloud burst stripe pattern) on my corn which I am selecting away from as it covers up all the other colours but it is usually only in orange (in the middle), but this year I have come across a few cobs with bright pink chinmarking. I will keep a few of those as it is quite pretty.

I have one bed of orange mini capsicums which are bearing so well that I can hardly keep up wth them. I love mini capsicums as they are so sweet and pretty.
My other colour ones didn't do well due to being on the poor soil in the new seed block and getting eaten by rabbits but next year they will be a lot better.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Multi corn and potato seedlings

With the weather cooling down now I am busy digging beds and sowing seeds. The days have been lovely to work in and I will now cut my watering to twice a week rather than every two days.
I got my water bills over the last few days and they were around what I was expecting so there were no surprises. The bill for the seed block was $1400 and I am glad I have already put that away. At least that gives me a good point to save for next summer.

The corn is nearly in. Most is dry but the sweet corn takes soooo long to dry down. I have the cobs drying on the slatted floor of the shearing shed on the property and I have been very worried about mice getting into it. I have noticed a little mouse activity but not much. Hopefully it will be all dry before the mice breed up.

I have noticed a few double cobs this year but when I saw this cob (on the left) I was amazed at the size. It revealed itself to be a record breaking (for me) five cob ear in a single husk.

Nearly all of my seedling grown potatoes from 'Toolangi Delight' have died down and here are some of the tubers from them. There are a mix of purple and white skinned tubers and most are yellow fleshed.
I have chosen three of the best producers to regrow and see what they do as full sized plants.
There are still three plants that have not died down yet so I don't know how well they have produced.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Digging new beds and passionfruit melon

I am so happy with our 25mm of rain yesterday - I had almost forgotten what rain looked like - that I stays in all day and listened to the showers on the roof while I filled seed packets. That is a couple of days that I don't have to irrigate, especially since most of the crops are finished and I am just waiting a little longer before planting for winter.

 I have started digging some beds on the sed block ready to plant shortly. The beds are mostly 20 m long and 1m wide with some of them 35m long because of the shape of the block.

All the garlic and shallots are already planted on this block and in the next two months I will be planting broad beans, root crops and brassicas.

I try not to use Roundup more than necessary but on the seed block I have found that it is a good too to add organic matter into the soil quickly. This block was covered in kikuyu and buffalo grass which have a large underground root system. Using herbicide to kill it meant that there was a lot of root mass rotting in the ground and it has certainly made a difference to the soil already - I even found a couple of worms, which would not be a great deal except for the sterility of this soil before. The rotting roots and raising the PH seems to be helping a lot. It can only get better.

I was so excited to try this new cucurbit Cionosicyos macranthus (passionfruit melon) but so far it has refused to show any sign of flowering. I fear now that it will be too late to fruit even if it starts flowering tomorrow.

I still have a couple of seeds and might start them during the winter in my hothouse to try and get them going sooner next season. I really want to get these growing as they are so rare and unusual.

This plant is a melon relative that has passionfruit looking leaves and a shiny yellow fruit with flesh that melts when cut open. You use the flesh as a drink.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

More on melons

Still a few hot days to go but it is getting easier with the days shortening so there are less hot hours in the day. I haven't done much the last few days that is worth writing about, just trying to deal with mice getting into the drying corn in the shed and picking pumpkins.

I have started giving away pumpkin pieces to people who will let me know what they think of them. It is a good way to get a heap of opinions on some of the different varieties I grew this year. it will be an interesting experiment. I am giving people pieces of - Violina, Winter Luxury Pie, Oregon Homestead Sweetmeat, and Strawberry crown.

 My pumpkins and melons are putting on a last effort and are producing a heap of new fruits. I love this time of year when they do that. Our season is long enough that I can get two harvests out of most cucurbits.

Many of my melons and pumpkins are getting powdery mildew which is surprising as it is so early this year, and our weather has not been particularly humid.

This is 'Apple' melon which is one of my favourites. It has white flesh that has the taste and texture exactly like nashi pear.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Getting ready for autumn

Things are starting to get busy now. With most of the corn picked I am cutting it down and laying it in the rows for the broad beans to grow up through. I will start planting the broad beans next month.

The water meters were read yesterday so the bills should come Monday or Tuesday - they are very quick to ask for their money, lol. I will be glad to pay them and get that out of the way. I just hope that this hot, dry weather doesn't keep up much longer so I can stop watering.

 I have been very pleased with the waxy (also known as glutinous or sticky) corn. With it coping so badly with the heat I wasn't expecting much but I did read that it is particularly resistant to the silks drying out and this summer certainly put that to the test. Every cob is filled so it is certainly true.

I grew both black and dark purple varieties this year in adjoining beds but there does not seem to have been any crossing as all the cobs so far have been either fully black or fully purple.

I was complaining that the hot weather has decimated my oca this year but I have learned that a thick layer of weeds in the beds has saved some plants by acting like a living mulch. At least I have managed to save a few of this years seedlings.
It will be interesting to see how much struggling with weeds will affect their production.

 With the very early start to the hot weather my tamarillos are fruiting better than they have before as there have been flowers opening all the time so whenever there was a break in the heat at least a few flowers got pollinated and didn't abort.

The first ones are starting to show a little purple splotching so it won't be too long till they are ripe. The plants are still flowering and setting fruit even now.

I have started sowing some seed in trays ready to plant out early next month and they are starting to germinate now.
I have a heap of beds ready for them but still a LOT more to go. It will be full on work getting things ready for winter veggies from now on.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Pumpkins, garlic and family get-togethers

Well, I am all recovered from our family get-together for our parents 50th wedding anniversary. We had a great time and it was fantastic to see all my sisters together now that we are spread over three states. It was a great day.

One of my sisters and her children stayed here for two nights so I set them to work harvesting the mini pop corn. They loved getting out in the garden to work.

The ears might be small but since each plant produces so many ears the total weight of seeds of each bed is the same as my other corn types.

My sister stayed picked a bed of capsicums and stayed indoors later to de-seed them all - thank you :)  she loves doing the seeds, and of course, going through my seed cupboard to flog seeds, lol.

Here is Abbey with a Rugos Violina 'Gioia' pumpkin. It is a large, warty butternut from Italy.
I will be cutting one up today to see how it tastes but it is reputed to be even better than 'normal' butternuts.

I have been very pleased with these plants, they are large and very healthy even on the very poor soil of my seed block, and they are producing very well. The fruits look amazing also.

Here is Cael with a couple of 'Strawberry Crown' pumpkins. These will have to be stored till I get around to cutting them up. I have heaps of fruit so they will be shared around my block owners. It is a maxima so they will be fine till that happens.

Hmmm, for some reason I don't have a pic of my other nephew - sorry Hayden :(  I will have to take some pics when I get up to see you in a few months.

My garlic is sprouting a few weeks early after a few spots of rain last week. I hope that does not matter but I can't really do anything about it anyway.
Looks like I will have to turn on the dripper lines for them now.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Broad beans, tomatillos and new boots.

So far this week has been very busy with the Painted Mountain corn finishing so I am cutting off the stalks at ground level (to allow the roots to rot in the soil) and digging the beds ready for autumn planting. I was going to start sowing brassica seed in trays this week but the weather has turned hot again and with the temps predicted to be in the high 30s (Celcius) for at least the next week I have put it off a little. At least the hot weather can't last much longer.

 I went to town yesterday to buy myself some new work boots. I love Steel Blue boots and I don't think I would bother going with any other brand as these fit very well and are very comfortable.
I also bought myself another cheap cupboard for my small seed jars. I am impatiently waiting for the water bills due any day now so I can pay them and start saving up for my seed drying room. This will cost about $4000 to build but will be worth it as doing seed in my home is just getting too much with the amounts I am working with now.

The bit of rain last week caused the ripening fruits of my giant tomatillo to split so I had to pick them. I was surprised that I like the taste as much as I do as I expected them to be too sour for me.
Anyway, the seeds from them are drying but there was hardly any seeds in them so I will have to be careful with them next year as I want to grow out a heap.

We cooked up the cabbage I showed you in my last post in four ways - boiled, sauteed, steamed and coleslaw.
It was a bit strong tasting raw (probably to be expected when grown through summer) but became a lot milder with cooking. When boiled it became a real girly lilac colour but my parents didn't bat an eyelid when it was served up to them, they are used to veggies in all colours appearing on their plates and don't even say anything nowdays.
To stop red cabbage losing its colour when cooked you need to acidify the recipe with vinegar or lemon juice, which I forgot to do.
Anyway, my mother who loves cabbage says it passed her taste test :)

I got a surprise in the mail today, a heap of varieties of broad beans, many of which are quite rare and unknown.
I can't wait to grow them as many have extraordinary taste or colour.

I don't think I will have enough room to plant them all this year without risk of cross pollination but I will get at least half in the ground.