Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mini capsicums and finger eggplants

Time has really got away from me lately, sorry.

I have been really busy weeding as well as bring in capsicums and corn for seed processing. The weather has cooled down now which is lovely so I have also been getting out some more brassica seeds to fill up some spare beds and it won't be too long now till I will start on planting poppies and broad beans - so busy.
I am looking forward to having lower water bills. With the temps now down to less than 20 degrees I will be irrigating only once a week instead of twice until the winter rains come.

 I have been processing mini capsicums by the bucketload. I grow three colours of mini capsicum - red, orange and chocolate. My few yellow seeds didn't germinate this year and since they can't be imported and I don't know of anyone in Australia who grows them I think I am now just stuck with the three.
I have found this year that an apple corer is just the right size for coring them which makes the process much faster than cutting off the tops with a knife and scooping out the seeds. Next year I must invest in a suitable food processor to make it faster but for now it isn't too hard to do them in the evening when I have nothing else to do.

I love these little capsicums, they are so prolific and cute, as well as being sweet and easy to cook with. You don't have to core and seed them, I just cut the tops off, chop in half and add to dishes, but if you want to, as I have said, an apple corer makes the prep quick and easy.

Although I had trouble germinating them this spring because it was so cold I am happy with the amount of seed I will have from the plants I have.

This year I am growing three colours of 'Fingers' eggplant. These are cute little eggplants that are great for 'gourmet' cooking, or just cut in half and throw on a grill.
I have purple, white and green types. They are all fruiting now so it will not be long till I will be harvesting those.

The plants are tough and only about 90cm tall so I guess they would go well in pots. The seeds are really popular at my market stall so I think many people just want smaller plants for their tiny gardens, As well as the cuteness factor, lol.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Broom sorghum, and my top five tomatoes

After the bit of rain we had a few days ago the busiest time of the year is about to start - weeding. The capeweed and clover are starting to show themselves and I have to spend a fair bit of time each day on my knees weeding.
If you let these weeds go for even a few days they can just get out of control and overwhelming. When I can afford it I will be covering as many beds as I can with geofabric to keep the weed loads down and save the extra work.

 The broom sorghum (or broomcorn) is just starting to ripen and I am harvesting the heads as they do just in case they are found by birds. I do have a net over them but it is not wide enough and on windy days the movement of the plants tends to throw it off.

I love broom sorghum, not only is it handy for making brooms and brushes, it doesn't shed the seeds easily so it makes great features in dried plant arrangements.

Another job I am busy doing is harvesting the seeds from the Winter Luxury Pie pumpkins. These are great tasting and they are also productive.

I have already made pies and soups with them and put mash in the freezer, and given away a heap. Now most of the left overs will be wasted as no-one wants to come and pick up freeby vegetables in this town, especially a pumpkin they are not familiar with. This is a very conservative, retirement town and no-one likes new things.

Here is a list of my five best tasting tomatoes, in no particular order.

Brads Black Heart

This is a large heart shaped, dark tomato which is so delicious that I have to pick them slightly under-ripe and the mice eat them as soon as they are fully ripe. They are sweet but still with a lot of umami flavour.
They are fairly good producers also.

 Chocolate Pear

Sorry about the strange colours, my camera flash went off.
This little, dark, pear tomato has a most unusual, savoury flavour that is hard to describe. It is from japan as far as I have read.
 Wild Currant tomato

This is the most tasty and sweet tomato you will ever eat. I have often mentioned it in my posts so you should know about it now, lol

This is a perfect tomato for kids to forage but I have rarely met an adult who didn't like it either.
Speckled Roman

I love the colour of this tomato just as much as the flavour.
It is meaty and great for sauces as well as fresh eating. Sweet and with a true tomato taste.


For some reason I don't have a picture of this wonderful, large, bi-coloured tomato. It is absolutely delicious and soft with a nice mix of yellow and orange/red marbled skin and flesh and a very sweet and fruity flavour.
I haven't grown it for a few years now so I might have to put it in next year.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Shishigatami pumpkin, Madagascar beans and more.

Today I took advantage of the cool, showery day to plant all the trays of poor seedlings that should have gone out a while ago but it was too hot and dry - alpine strawberries, kale, asparagus and Tronchuda cabbage. I have a heap of empty beds waiting, and more when the corn comes off.
We had half an inch of rain overnight so the ground was damp enough to give them a start and recover before the weather heats up again in a few days.

My garlic is shooting early. I was hoping to get some rain to bring up the weeds while the garlic was still dormant so I could deal with them before the garlic came up but it looks like I will be doing a lot of hand weeding now.

 It is quite a bit earlier than I expected and I am not sure what that will mean for the quality of the bulbs but I guess I will find out in November.
I just noticed that some of the pods on my Madagascar beans are starting to ripen now. These plants don't produce near enough seed to sell to a seed company so I usually just grow a small bed just for my own seed packets.

It produces a lima type bean that produces a dark red and white speckled seed. Unfortunately each pod only has one or two seeds in it so it is not very productive.
They are usually eaten as a dry bean.

 I picked my first Shishigatami pumpkin. It is related to Butternuts, and looks like it.
It is a rare, Japanese variety.

The skin is pretty firm and I would guess that it would keep fairly well, and the flesh is a buttery yellow colour.

Taste: it is very mild in flavour but the texture is very nice, thick and smooth. I liked it but my mother thought it needed a stronger flavour.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Currant tomatoes and raised beds

I have noticed that I am starting to power down now. There is still a bit of seed to harvest - corn, capsicums and zucchini, but most of the work is over for the summer. It feels good that I don't have to rush out as soon as I can see in the morning and I now have a bit more time to do a bit of planning.

Although the business is paying for itself except for some much needed additions that have to get done at some time like finishing my seed drying facility, it is not yet making a wage. I have been thinking about how I am going to get more production going and have come to the conclusion that one person can make the business pay for itself but it needs more people to start making extra. So I have started seriously looking for a partner. I know the farm has heaps of potential and I can't fill the orders I have so I just need more help with the workload. I have an ad coming in a magazine soon and I will see if I get any interest.

 My bed of currant tomatoes are getting huge, even taking over the nearby beds. They are growing so well that they are bigger than they have ever go and bearing superbly.
The fruits are bigger than you see in the pictures from seed companies and that is normal. They seem to only choose the smallest fruit to take photos of. I could do do that myself but I don't like to lie to my customers.

These are the most delicious and sweet tomatoes you will ever taste.

The corn is starting to dry down. Since the weather is still dry I am going to try and dry it as much as I can on the plants this year as I don't have much room where there is no mice to dry it anywhere else. When my seed drying room is finished this will not be a problem.

Raised Beds

A couple of people have asked me lately why I don't use raised beds.
I realise that raised beds would have saved me from losing so many plants last winter but for me they would not work for two reasons.

1, Because most of the year is so dry I don't need to shed water. Raised beds tend to dry out more than in ground and that is opposite to what I need for most of the year. It is rare to get a winter as wet as the last so I don't really need to have better drainage.

2, Because my soil is so sandy and loose raised beds collapse quickly when the soil is worked. I have tried doing a few on one of my other blocks and found that even without working the soil it is hard to keep them intact. If my soil was heavier I would get my neighbour (an agricultural contractor)to do raised beds over the whole place but it just won't work on this property.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Seedling potatoes, apple melons and Round of Hungary capsicums.

Whew, a couple of cool days is giving me a great break. It is predicted that summer is going to hang on a bit longer this year so any cooler break is so welcome.
I got some giant Chinese spring onion seedlings planted out but wasn't game enough to plant out any of the other seedlings in trays just yet and the temps are supposed to rise into the 30s for the next week after tomorrow. At least these couple of cooler days has seen them looking fine and if I keep up the irrigation on them for the next week to get their roots down they will make it through.

 Most of the melons have now been picked but the 'Apple' melons are a bit later this year.
I love these little melons. They have the flavour and texture of nashi pear.

I have a commercial grower wanting to trial them next spring so I had to hurry up and put a few more plants in so that is why they are a bit later.

I am really loving these 'Round of Hungary' capsicums. They not only look spectacular but they are sweet and fruity to taste. It makes you realise just how harsh the flavour of supermarket capsicums are.
These are great to stuff as they sit flat on a baking tray and they are not too big to put with a meal.

My little diploid potato seedlings are flowering profusely. I am excited to see what the tubers look like later. Many of them died when I got an influx of crickets who lived under the straw mulch and ate the stems. I had to push all the straw away from the stems to save the ones that survived but they are doing well now. I will have to watch that in the future.

It is a bit hard to see in this pic but I love the range of pink and purple shades in the flowers, each one is different.

I think I have about 40 plants still alive from about 200 and I hope to get about 5 that will be good enough to go on with.

These potatoes have to be hand pollinated as unlike 'common' potatoes they are not self fertile. I didn't bother pollinating them this year because I want to see what the tubers turn out like first. Next year I will do some pollinating to see what I can come up with.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Melons and heat tolerant beans

I love melons but the time of the year has come, like every year, when I am totally meloned out. Although I couldn't get many varieties going due to the cold and wet spring the ones I did manage to grow have all come ripe at once.
I have had to go out every morning to check and taste all the ones from my breeding lines for selection. Unfortunately I couldn't get many to take with hand pollinating but at least I will have an idea of what to expect next year when I plant a greater number for selection.

 I have a couple of my own melons that are only a couple of years off being right. This is one I call 'Casanova'. It looks a little similar to Emerald Gem but a bit bigger and the flesh is not as soft so it should keep better.
Unfortunately it doesn't have a ripening indicator so it is difficult to tell when it is ripe. I will have to do something about that.
It is pretty stable so I can work on finding a good, dominant ripeness sign to breed in and it will be finished.

I have had the seeds to two large melons for a heap of years but have never grown them so I put some in this year to renew the seeds.
The two are 'Escondido Gold' (pictured) and 'Canoe Creek Colossal'. I really wasn't fond of Canoe Creek Colossal as the flesh was very stringy/fibrous, though it tasted ok.
Escondido Gold has the most soft and melting flesh that you have to wear a bib to eat it, or scoop the flesh with a spoon. It is delicious.

Both these have fruits that are big enough to feed a large family.

My few 'fingers' eggplants are finally fruiting. I had trouble germinating them but I think I have three colours setting. This is the white one.
The purple ones are fruiting well and are more vigorous than the green and white.

 Heat tolerant bean trial

I have finally pulled out all the bush and climbing green beans. Here is the results of my trial to find out which ones will tolerate and set pods in the heat. A couple of beans like 'Hidatsa' stood up to the heat ok but did not set pods, and I lost a heap of varieties to rabbits so this trial did not go well.

All these tolerated heat well and produced.

Tasmanian French - climbing green bean. Green pods. Good producer.
Yellow butter bean - Climbing bean that is totally stringless. Yellow pods.
African Premier - Bush dry bean. Green coloured beans with pink splashes. Red and pink spotted seeds. Good producer.
Red Swan - Bush green bean. Heat tolerant small bush. Red pods. Tastes good raw or cooked.
Crow river - Bush dry bean. This is the best producing bean I have ever seen. It literally bears itself to death. Speckled small seeds.
Devil Fin Precoce - Bush green bean. It is a bit stringy for me as a green bean but makes a very tasty shelling bean. Not as productive as I would like.

Of course the two heat tolerant beans I grow every year was not part of this trial as they are not P. vulgaris. They are bush red snake bean and blue speckled tepary bean.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Trying out my new camera, Shishigatani pumpkin and Don Quixote eggplant

I decided to get a new camera since my favourite Fuji is getting so old and I don't know how much longer it will last. I got this little Nikon Coolpix on Ebay. It is an old model but never used. I am pretty happy with the pictures though they are a little glarey. It is nice to have a littler camera that will sit in my pocket though.
I thought I would test it out today.

 I have a few plants of Shishigatani pumpkin growing this year. It is an old and rare Japanese pumpkin that is related to butternut.
The fruits are a bit smaller than I expected and lovely dark green. They will turn tan and warty when fully ripe.

The vines are quite vigorous and long but not as many fruits on them as I would expect for largish vines.

Another new one I am trying is 'Don Quixote' eggplant. This is a smallish plant that has no spines and scimitar shaped small fruits.
The almost black fruits should be picked small like in the first pic. The second pic shows an over ripe fruit.
I have noticed that these plants don't like as much heat as other eggplants. The plants are also on the small side but still quite productive for their size.

I don't have sensitive enough taste buds to pick the eating quality compared to other eggplants.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Mini gourds and capsicums

With the hot days continuing I am doing my work early in the morning. After inspecting all the beds I put on the irrigation (on the days that it is needed) and get stuck into picking the snake beans - they dry out properly during the day and in the evening I can thresh them and clean the seed. I am getting a great bush snake bean harvest this year. I then go around and pick anything else that is ready for seed like melons and tomatoes.

I got notice today that my business name trademark has been accepted - it has been 6 months but we can't hurry these things, lol.  Garden Larder ™  ( I am allowed to use the ® symbol in two months when I get the paperwork in the mail). Now I am protected against anyone else in Australia using my business name to trade in plants and seeds.

 I usually only grow mini capsicums but this year I planted a new one (for me) called 'Round of Hungary'.
They are just starting to colour up now. I don't know anything about them but they look interesting, flattened and fluted.
They seem to be pretty heat tolerant and productive though the plants would be better if I had some afternoon shade over them I think. They are pretty small.

I love growing gourds but with the very late start to spring I could not plant the 'normal' sized ones with a surety that they would ripen before frost as they have a very long growing season. I did plant a few mini gourds though.
This mini spoon (top pic) and the mini bottle.
The mini bottles are great painted and used as Christmas tree decorations.

They are really late setting fruit but at least I will have fresh seed for growing more next year. I will try to get a few of all my gourd varieties going next year, as well as some loofah which I always have trouble growing for some reason.

I am busy picking all the Luxury Winter Pie pumpkins which were about the only ones which grew well this year. I already have a buyer for the seed from a market gardener who was impressed with the taste last year.

This one came equal first in my pumpkin tasting tests and I will be growing it every year.