Saturday, January 17, 2009


It's demoralizing, y'all.

I was making a ham sandwich to take for lunch the other day and had layered on my meat and cheese and went to the crisper for something green only to find it empty. Any other year since we've lived in this house, I would just march out to the garden and trim some lettuce or spinach and be done, but not this year.

I've come close to declaring a total loss on the winter garden this year thanks to those fluffy-tailed rat bastards. Spinach -- gone. Lettuce -- gone. Chard -- gone. Beets -- a handful of survivors. And all this is despite my heroic security efforts.

On the bright side, the carrots have remained relatively untouched (except by drought, which is another story). But the primary saving grace has been the greens -- specifically the side bed patch of Chinese kale (aka Chinese broccoli, kai-lan, or gai-lan) and broccoli rabe.

We actually had enough that we didn't quite keep up and some went to seed.

Most of the time, it got a quick trip through a skillet with some hot bacon drippings.

That's the Chinese kale. It has a good broccoli flavor and even the stems are pretty sweet, they just need a little longer on the heat.

The rabe is a little tougher, but it found its way into several pasta dishes.

The ultimate winner, however, had to be kale with bacon and oven-dried tomatoes. It was a fine partner to the mac and cheese on the other side of the plate, although next time, we may just put them all together into one dish.

Sadly though even the greens have now come to an end, but I'm not mourning them too much -- I've got seed packets strewn around the kitchen and will be off to Callahan's shortly for supplies to get the spring crops started. That big wheel keeps on turning.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008


Talk about a late bloomer. To be fair, these Persimmons have probably been ripe for a few days, but I just realized they weren't going to turn red. So I pulled one yesterday and sliced it up for turkey burgers.

They're pretty large and have an amazing creamy color. They're also probably the meatiest tomato I've ever seen.

The flesh is very firm and kind of tart -- actually almost salty.

A very interesting tomato, but I don't think I'll grow them again. This plant only ended up with 4 fruits, and honestly, I'm in it for sweet and tomato-y, not tart and salty.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Brandywine, all the guys would say she's mighty fine.

Last year, I was just about convinced that I wouldn't grow Brandywines again. They're kind of the Platonic ideal of an heirloom tomato -- good size, sweet tomato flavor, meaty and tender -- but last summer they didn't bother to put on any fruit until about July, by which time I was only able to get about 2 or 3 of them. I figured they were just too big and thirsty for Texas, despite it being the year of the monsoon.

So fast forward to this year and my one Brandywine (I let it back into the garden on probation this time) has just given up a flush of nearly-perfect hefty pink fruits with 3 or 4 more coming soon and a couple of late setters on the vine.

It's good to see they can do so well. Probably all the rain last year caused a lot of the blossom drop, and possibly my new zeal for kelp and bonemeal helped with the fruit set, but it's safe to say that Brandywine will be getting renewed for the 2009 season.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008


Cantaloupe, Ambrosia, June 22, 2008 (seedlings planted March 26th) 89 days, >5 lbs.

Actually the second cantaloupe, the first one having been picked by John and Becky while they were garden-sitting. I've been waiting for the official tell-tale signs -- cantaloupe smell, softness around the stem, easy separation from the vine -- but it still wasn't showing any. It was, however, cracked on the blossom end and ants were starting to explore, so it had to be done, but it's plenty ready. It's not the sweetest one I've ever had, but it's mighty good.

As I was bringing it inside, I was reminded of what was probably a seminal experience for my organic gardening hobby. It was our family vacation to the mid-Atlantic when I was in the 4th grade (generally I date all childhood memories to the 4th grade, but I think it really was in this case) and we were doing some touring of Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Driving past Amish farms, the air was heavy with the smell of cow manure. At a restaurant or farm stand, we had a cantaloupe that we generally agreed was the best any of us had tasted and we attributed it to the Amish farmers' use of manure fertilizer. In hindsight, I think it was a basic realization for me that cow shit could grow tastier fruit than the granulated stuff in our shed at home.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008


Back from vacation. It was a relaxing week of sleeping, reading, swimming and visiting a most-curious village.

I ate my first tomato sandwich of the year -- Oatnut bread, Hellman's mayo, and a Black Krim, which I can recommend highly. My first BLT was quite acceptable, what with the home-cured bacon. I used a Mortgage Lifter for that, which was good, but I can't say it lived up to the hype.

The garden weathered a nine-day period of 98+ high temps and no rain pretty well, thanks to my gardensitters, one of whom won the raffle prize of the first cantaloupe of the year -- I can't wait to hear how it was. When I got back this afternoon, I picked 7 pounds of tomatoes. Most of those were Principe Borghese, which will get dried in the oven in the next couple of days.

I also picked a Brandywine, a Persimmon (I think) and about 10 of our mystery black tomatoes. Oh, also three skinny white Asian eggplants and a late-breaking artichoke from the second plant that got a late start in the Fall.

And I just finished a dinner of penne with the aforementioned eggplant, a Costoluto Genovese, spinach, and homemade pancetta.

And this concludes my entry for the most-riveting-blog-post-of-the-year award.

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Monday, June 9, 2008


Eggplant, Black Beauty -- first picked 6/2/2008

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Here come the toms!

So these are the for-real first tomatoes of the summer.* The little ones are Principe Borghese, which are much smaller than I expected -- could be I need to water more. And the crazy-wrinkly ones are the Costoluto Genovese. 

Chump that I am, I took this photo on the patio, then stepped over to the garden to take some other photos. When I looked back over, she was at it again and had devoured both PBs and the multi-colored CG. I blame myself.

Principe Borghese -- first picked 5/29/2008

Costoluto Genovese -- first picked 5/31/2008

Both seedlings were planted out March 15, so that makes 75 and 77 days. Interestingly, these are rated at 75 and 78 days, respectively, but I think time to maturity is supposed to measure from seed under optimal conditions. I plant out relatively early, and these seedlings had some other circumstances to overcome.

*Here I have to admit to having picked a prematurely-ripened-by-BER Black Krim on 5/31 and, after slicing off the damaged portion, eaten it with a little salt. It was good. 

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

First tomato!

No surprise, it was a Sungold.

I didn't get a chance to take a picture, but here's where it was ...

Sadly, I didn't get to pick it or eat it either. That honor went to junior gardener Bink ...

I've already threatened to send her to the pound if she does it again. I don't think that will stop her though. During the summer, she frequently comes inside smelling like tomato leaves with yellow streaks of pollen on her head. My wife built a fence around the East bed this year to keep the dogs out, but I think she was able to reach over for this particular low-hanging fruit.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

It starts ...

We got our first summer harvest last night -- these three Sunburst squash. They got sliced, soaked in orange juice and soy sauce, and seared on the grill. Tasty.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008


Leeks and an artichoke. April 27.