Monday, December 26, 2011

Harvest Monday for December 26th, 2011.

First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Christmas. Ours was very nice with having all four grandkids in the house at once. It was really a lot of fun!

Anyway here we are, poised at the end of another gardening year. It seems that it sure went by fast in that this Harvest Monday is the last one for 2011.

So here's the latest info:

The marconi peppers are finally finished producing for the year with these little ones weighing a total of just three and a half ounces.

We picked one and one-quarter pounds of buttercrunch lettuce from a few of the plants in the two rows we have.

We picked eight and one-quarter pounds of collards for taking to our family Christmas dinner. The whole family is looking forward to them.

Two Inspectors from the Bureau of Broccoli came by to inspect the crop and said that it was ready for a small harvest.

We ended up harvesting our first pound of broccoli this week. It's delicious!

If you recall that celery root that I planted in a container, this pic shows the harvest from it. No, not the big stalks. The little sprigs at the bottom left. I couldn't resist using them as part of the Christmas stuffing/dressing that I make. They weighed a whopping one ounce.

Well, that concludes a year of Harvest Mondays. I have sure enjoyed reading all the blogs that were part of the Harvest Mondays hosted by DaphnesDandelions. I want to say thanks to all the people that have visited my blog in the past year and those that shared their comments with me.

Best wishes to everyone for the new year, and have a great vegetable gardening day.
Veggie PAK

Monday, December 12, 2011

Harvest Monday for December 12th, 2011.

As we approach mid-December, the garden still produces its bounty for our family. Anything that is still growing is doing it slowly, but at least it's still growing for us.

This week I harvested some of my buttercrunch lettuce for the first time and got one and one-quarter pounds of it. Salads and sandwiches are on the lunch menus for this week!

The Marconi peppers are on the wane now with somewhat wilted-looking leaves on all the plants, but I still picked 34 small peppers weighing a total of one and three-quarter pounds. The largest was just over four inches long.

I've been saving the crowns of the Marconi peppers when I processed them so they would dry and I could save the seeds. I ended up with several tablespoonfuls of the seed for my family to use next year.

We started using more orange bell peppers from the store since we learned that they are supposed to be really good for the health of your eyes. These seeds were from just two peppers after I dried the crowns, just like with the Marconi's. We'll see how well they grow next spring.

This week I completed the planting of the three remaining rows of collard plants. Between the last row of collards and the closest row of lettuce, I managed to fit in the Swiss chard that I had been growing in a container.

Here is a view of the 18 inch spacing of my plants (not the lettuce) so I can mini-till between them going straight across my garden. The rows actually run from left to right.

This was a short post, but things are slow growing during this time of year. The collards will provide a very nice picking for Christmas dinner in just a couple of weeks from now. Christmas is almost here! Can you believe it?

Everyone stay warm and good luck with your winter crops. I hope they all do very well for everyone!

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 6, 2011 Garden Status.

There's no harvest to speak of this week, but the green tomatoes that I picked last week have surprised me and by today, most of them have turned red and have been used in salads and sandwiches! There are still a few green ones left, but I'm really hoping they turn red as well. Tomatoes from the garden in December is a real treat! I still haven't picked the buttercrunch lettuce, but I have been busy. I pulled the remaining tomato plants then cleaned and stored the homemade cages, and then I tilled the area thoroughly to prepare it for my next planting.

This is where I am going to plant three rows of collards that I just bought, and one row of Swiss chard that I currently have growing in a container. Squirrels keep digging in the container and I'm sure that's affecting the growth of the plants. If there isn't enough Swiss chard to fill a row, I'll finish it up with some additional buttercrunch lettuce plants that I bought.

The broccoli is growing very well. The plants are very healthy but I don't see any broccoli florets yet. With plants looking as good as these appear to be, I wouldn't think it would be too long before the florets begin showing up. You can see by the weeds growing up that it's time to run my Mantis mini-tiller through the garden again. The great thing about that is that I planted both plots in a checkerboard pattern, so I can go criss-cross down the rows and between the plants. Everything except my lettuce is planted 18 inches apart so I can "weed" with the Mantis. If it wasn't for my brother Joe, I'd probably still be in the thinking stage about buying the Mantis. Thanks Joe!

That concludes the garden status for this week's post. I sincerely thank each visitor and also comments that are shared with me. I appreciate all of you for taking your valuable time to see how my garden is progressing during this time of year.

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Monday, November 28, 2011

Harvest Monday for November 28th, 2011.

The harvests continue to dwindle down as the weather gets cooler, but we still have a few things going on in the garden.

On Thanksgiving morning, I went out and picked three and a half pounds of collards to cook up to go with our family dinner. I was working quickly and I completely forgot to take a picture of them. They were delicious!

We were fortunate to have some other things to harvest as well.

This represents the last harvest of our heritage raspberries for this year. Six of them weighed 1/2 ounce. As you can tell, if I pick it, I weigh it.

Our three jalapeno pepper plants only produced four peppers this year. These two weighed one ounce. If the plants winter over in the container I think I'll plant them in the ground next spring. Although they're still healthy, maybe they don't like being in a container.

I picked three-quarters of a pound of sorrel this week for some nice soup. It did well this year.

We picked twenty-nine more marconi peppers this week. They weighed in at two and a half pounds.

The Park's Whopper tomatoes are now finished for the year. I picked all the remaining tomatoes and got 53 of them that weighed a total of eleven and one half pounds. The pinkish ones will go in a window to ripen up, and the green ones will be made into green tomato relish.

That completes the harvest report for this week. It's been a relatively good gardening year even though mine got a late start due to some unexpected surgery I had. Next year will be a better one, but I'm still thankful for all we've been able to harvest this year. I'm especially thankful for being able to teach the grandkids where their food comes from. You know you're doing something right when a two year old asks Poppa to see the compost without being prompted to ask.

Happy gardening to all the gardeners out there, and I hope it is a mild winter for all of us!

Visit DaphnesDandelions for beautiful pictures of delicious food from her garden and a great source of gardening information.

Have a great vegetable gardening day.
Veggie PAK

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Acorn Bread for Thanksgiving!

Besides being known as "Veggie PAK", I am also known to a few people as "The Suburban Forager" because I like to see what is available around me naturally that could be used as a food source. I had watched the TV show called "Man Woman Wild" and I saw that the woman made acorn bread from acorns gathered off the forest floor. I knew at that moment that I had to try using acorns for flour and see how the bread tasted.

I had it easier than she did though, because I have a large oak tree in my front yard that is loaded with acorns. I normally park my pickup truck under the branches of the tree, and the squirrels that are trying to get the acorns knock them off and they fall into the bed of my truck. Fortunately, the squirrels will not venture onto my truck so I have a nice accumulation of acorns there in the bed.

I picked up a nice pile of acorns in a grocery bag and took them into the house to shell. After shelling they amounted to a little over a cup of acorns. Then I looked up directions for preparing the acorns for use as a food source and found the recipe for acorn bread. Here they are in a pot on the stove getting ready to boil for the first time. It is recommended that they be boiled many times to remove the tannin so they are not bitter. I tasted one raw and I now know why they recommend doing that procedure.


Now they were boiling vigorously for the first time. I kept stirring them to possibly help some of the tannin leach out more quickly. I boiled them seven times alternating between two pots of boiling water. I would pour one pot into the large sieve I had over the kitchen sink and then take the acorns and dump them into the second pot of boiling water. Using two boiling pots of water kept me from having to wait for the water in each pot to come to a boil.

After all the boiling was completed, I spread out the acorns to cool off and dry for awhile. After the acorns had cooled off, it was time for a decision on how to use them. They could be used for snacks, or for making bread. I chose using them for the acorn bread.

I didn't want to use a blender or food processor for grinding the acorns into flour because it appeared that there was a strong possibility that they would just gum up on the blades. I decided to use my Pampered Chef food chopper with the rubber bottom. That was an excellent choice because it worked just great! You can see the consistency of the chopped acorns and they have been chopped pretty fine.

I poured the chopped acorns, whole wheat flour, and other dry ingredients into a bowl and mixed them together to blend them thoroughly before I put any liquid in with them. After I put all the ingredients in there and began mixing them together, the picture shows that it didn't quite have the consistency I was looking for. To remedy that, I added a few (maybe 4 or 5) tablespoons of milk and that did the trick. It was a nice, smooth and stiff mixture.

Next I sprayed Pam into a Pyrex bowl and poured/scooped out the acorn and flour mixture into it. I took the spoon and patted it down so it was pretty level across the entire top. I was surprised that it worked so well because it didn't stick to the spoon in clumps like I thought it might.

I baked it for 25 minutes and checked the center with a toothpick and it came out completely clean. It was done!

I took it out and flipped it onto a cooling rack. As you can see, the bottom came out as a perfect light brown bread.

And here is the final product! A beautiful round loaf of acorn bread!

After it cooled for awhile, I cut it and tried a piece with some soft margarine spread on it. Oh my gosh! It was so good! It was remarkably close in flavor to regular nut bread.

Would I go through the trouble of making this again?  Absolutely!

If you're interested, here is the recipe:

1 cup acorn flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup maple syrup or sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Bake in pan for 30 minutes or until done at 400 degrees

That's it!

I would like to also wish everyone a wonderful and safe Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for visiting and taking the time to read about the results of my foraging.
Veggie PAK

Monday, November 21, 2011

Harvest Monday for November 21st, 2011.

We've had three hard frosts this past week and they really burned the tops of the tomato vines. There's no hope for them to survive much longer. There are still tomatoes on them that are that light green color they get just before they begin to turn pink. The weather this week is supposed to be in the low to mid sixties, so I'm taking a chance and leaving them on the vines to see it they will ripen more. I even used the organic tomato fertilizer on them yesterday and watered it in thoroughly.

Here are nine tomatoes that weighed three and one-quarter pounds for this week's harvest. Four of them are a great size for tomato sandwiches.

The giant marconi peppers came through with a beautiful harvest of 60 peppers that weighed in at five pounds fourteen ounces! With the pending warm weather for this week, I left the little ones on the plants to hopefully get some additional growth for next week's harvest.

I had about two ounces of raspberries on the canes, but they didn't make it to the kitchen. I was outside with my two year old granddaughter Celie and her mom Liz, and I held up a cane and showed Celie the raspberries and asked her if she wanted to pick one. She did. She picked them one by one by one and ate them all right there! Watching her pick them with her little fingers and put them in her mouth was a sweet thing to watch. There's something special about seeing your grandchildren picking and eating food from your garden. They'll never forget where their food comes from and they'll never forget their experience in your garden.

This completes another harvest monday for Back Yard Organic Vegetables.

Visit DaphnesDandelions for beautiful pictures of delicious food from her garden and a great source of gardening information.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit and have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Monday, November 14, 2011

Harvest Monday for November 14th, 2011.

Perhaps I should say Garden Status Monday instead of Harvest Monday since the only thing I harvested this week was four brown turkey figs! There isn't much gardening news here this week because my wife and I just returned from enjoying a wonderful visit with my mom and my sisters in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York.

These four fig beauties tipped the scales at two ounces.

The Park's Whopper tomatoes are still trying to ripen on the vines. Since the next three days will be in the mid-seventies, maybe they will make it!

In the next few days I will be picking the last of the heritage red raspberries. Since they are right next to the house, that mini-frost we had on October 31st didn't bother them.

The buttercrunch lettuce is doing nicely. I'm actually thinking about harvesting some of it next week.

The broccoli and collards in my east plot are doing well. I thoroughly watered the entire garden today since it hasn't rained in a while.

There are also two rows of broccoli and two rows of collards on the other side of the giant marconi pepper plants. All are doing well and showing good signs of growth.

On the main side of the pepper plants in the west plot are four additional rows of collards. I guess it's pretty obvious that collards are one of our cool weather favorites.

That's all the news this week from my back yard organic vegetable garden.

Visit daphnesdandelions for wonderful pictures of delicious food from her garden and a great source of gardening information.

Thanks for visiting and for sharing your comments with me.

Have a wonderful vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Monday, November 7, 2011

Harvest Monday for November 7th, 2011.

When the harvest gets small, we find other things to fill our gardening appetites. Like canning applesauce!

Here are 15 quarts of applesauce I made from 52 pounds of Stayman apples! A lot of work, but it's sure worth it. Pure applesauce with nothing else added, not even sugar. It tastes wonderful!

Slim pickin's on the okra this week. We only got four pieces that weighed a total of two and a half ounces. I don't think any more will develop this year as the weather has turned too chilly in the evenings. I notice the stalks are starting to turn a rusty brown color. They must be getting ready to go dormant.

My wife and I picked 4 ounces of raspberries by flashlight as we ran out of daylight while taking care of garden chores this late into the year.

A couple teaspoons of sugar helped turn those raspberries into a great topping for some vanilla ice cream!

Early in the week, these two Park's Whopper tomatoes weighed in at eleven ounces. That's small, but I'll take them and be very happy about it!

From the previous picture, this was the one on the right transformed into how we like them best.  Look at how meaty they are!

We finished up the week picking these additional six tomatoes that weighed a total of one and three-quarter pounds. These are some of the ones that were hiding under the vines shown in a previous post. There aren't many of those left now.

Notice that I don't have any marconi peppers in my harvest this week? They're still a little small for picking.

Here's a video showing what they look like this week. I'm surprised at how many there are on the bushes. Next week's harvest should be a nice one!

The buttercrunch lettuce is growing slowly but nicely. It all looks very healthy.

This is the East Plot with collards and broccoli as the main fall/winter crops.

This is the West Plot with additional rows of collards and there are two rows of broccoli on the other side of the marconi green pepper bushes.

That's all for this week.  I hope everyone has good luck with the weather and growing their cool weather crops. If it's too cool in your area for growing them, I wish you good luck with your planning for next year's garden. I know you're thinking about it. We just can't help doing it!

Thanks to each one of you for stopping by and visiting my blog. When you do, I feel like you're visiting with me in my garden.

Have a warm gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Saturday, October 29, 2011

This Week's Garden Status.

Although the temperatures have been lower this week, I was still able to harvest some nice vegetables from the garden.

Here are 8 Park's Whopper tomatoes that will go onto the kitchen window sill for a day or two to finish ripening. This group weighed one and three quarter pounds.

Here are a couple of nice ones still hiding under the vines.

As you can see there are still some green ones on the vines. The surprising thing was the number of new blooms that have grown out this week. There's easily thirty of them! I'm contemplating installing a plastic enclosure to see if I can promote the development of these new tomatoes. The plastic will raise the daytime temps inside, but the night air would cool off the enclosure to about equal to the outside air temperature, so I'm not sure it will pay off. It sure is tempting though. More fresh organic tomatoes at this time of year would be great!

I picked two and one quarter pounds of collards this week. We'll cook them up with a nice country ham bone for seasoning and add them to one of our weekend meals.

We are still getting raspberries and picked two and one half ounces of them this week. Several of the canes are browning out so they're about finished for this year I believe.

We got two figs that weighed one and one half ounces total from our brown turkey fig tree this week. There are many more on the tree, but they are not ripe and I don't know what the falling temps will do to them. I suspect we won't be harvesting them because they won't ripen.

My grandkids were helping me pick more giant marconi green peppers. This is Noah and he has been helping me in the garden the longest since he is the oldest. He also helps me turn the compost. He thinks the steam pouring out is really neat! It is!

This is Keira who also loves to go out in the garden with me. You know that when your grandkids come through the front door and ask to go straight out the back door to pick things from the garden, that you have made an impact on their thinking.

Here we are with some of our garden bounty. They picked 49 marconi peppers that weighed a total of three pounds. They were so proud of themselves! I was proud of them too for wanting to be involved in vegetable gardening.

I don't have a picture of them, but I picked four pieces of okra that weighed two and a half ounces. I rinsed them off and put them into the freezer until I accumulate enough to cook.

Now for some items that will hopefully provide future harvests.

I've hilled up the marconi peppers in a beginning attempt to prepare them to try to winter over. When the leaves all have fallen off, I'll clip off all the branches and cut the stalks/trunks all to the same height, then slide a piece of two inch diameter pipe insulation over each of them to protect them from the freezing winds. I'll cover the soil with a heavy layer of compost for added protection for the roots. We'll see how that worked when next spring rolls around.

This is my two rows of buttercrunch lettuce that I just planted last week. So far, so good. I'm planning to put a wide row cover over them for some protection from the weather. I'm also going to take the Swiss chard I have growing in a container and transplant it down the center between the rows of lettuce. I'm going to transplant the celery plants in the same row since I don't have enough Swiss chard to finish a row. I think they'll both do better planted in the soil rather than in a container during the winter. With the cold air all around the container, the roots would probably freeze, so I think this is a better way to try to keep them growing. There's more protection for the roots.

I had to fertilize all the plants and didn't want the fertilizer to get on the leaves and possibly burn them since I was waiting for the next day's rain to water it in, so I created this dispenser. Pretty simple, but it eliminated all that bending over and the flying fertilizer dust. I just contacted the pipe with the ground, put a tablespoon of fertilizer into the yellow funnel, it piled up inside the base, and when I lifted up the entire device the fertilizer was in a pile on the ground with none on the leaves. It was pretty handy to me.

As you can see, the okra is still growing towards the sky. When I put it in the shop for the winter I'll have to lean the plants over to get them through the doorway.

The horseradish is very happy growing in the half-barrel. I won't be harvesting it until next year.

My jalapeno pepper plants are trying to produce a few peppers. This is my first year growing them so I'm not sure what I should have expected, but they only produced two little peppers earlier this summer. Maybe next year they will do better.

The sorrel is also growing well in the half-barrel it is planted in. I can pick these next week for some nice soup.

This is my "East Plot", which has two rows of buttercrunch lettuce, three rows of Vates collards, six rows of premium crop broccoli, and one row of Park's Whopper tomatoes. Each row is twenty feet long.

In my "West Plot", I have six rows of Vates collards, one row of giant marconi green peppers, two rows of premium crop broccoli and one el roma tomato plant with three tomatoes still trying to ripen. Each row is twenty-eight feet long.

Even if these crops don't produce during the winter, in the spring they will be very productive because they will already have established root systems. I have been overwintering these cool weather crops for a few years now and they haven't let me down yet.

That completes the status report for this week. I hope you found it interesting as well as informative.

Thanks to each of you for visiting my blog.  I enjoy when you share your comments with me and I look forward to them.

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK