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Posts Tagged ‘squash’

Taking Down the Vegetable Garden

Potato harvest from my community garden plot

In mid-October, I harvested about two-and-a-half gallons of fingerling and red-skinned potatoes. I’d left the potatoes in the ground way too long; rodents had tunneled under the tubers and had eaten many of them—perhaps almost as many as I harvested.

October 23 was the community garden’s “drop dead” date. I received an email at the beginning of October telling me I had to be done with my plots by the 24th; management would mow the plots and plant barley on that date.

I couldn’t get motivated to take things down in the weeks leading up to the 24th. The average first frost date in this area is October 21, but forecasts were for warm days into November.

Unfortunately, I had a chemotherapy session scheduled for Monday, October 17th. The Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after chemo are particularly brutal: my muscles feel as though I’ve been marching for a week without rest, I feel as though I should be sleeping, and my digestive tract is making me guess whether and when access to plumbing might be necessary.

My own squash variety destroyed by black rot

I’ve been trying to establish a new variety of winter squash using seeds I harvested from a hybrid that happened accidentally in my small kitchen garden several years ago. These are the fruits from this year’s effort. Sadly, I believe the discoloration on the skin is black rot. The flesh is still edible, but black rot is systemic meaning it can live in the cells of the plants. Seeds from these fruits are likely to carry the disease, so it would be wrong to share them with other gardeners. I’m afraid disease has made my new squash variety a dead-end.

Nope. I didn’t let chemo dictate my behavior. I’m deadline-oriented, so naturally I waited until the weekend to finish taking down my community garden plots. It was a forced march.

Back on October 10th, I had dug potatoes and harvested squash and sorghum seed heads. Much remained. Tomatoes and peppers were at various stages of ripe, sorghum stalks still stood, canna lily roots still supported leaf and flower stalks, and tomato trellises needed to come down.

My Small Kitchen Garden Falls

On Sunday morning (probably more like early afternoon), I drove to the community garden and dragged myself, painfully slowly, through the remaining tasks. The worst of it was removing tomato trellises.

With hanging string trellises, some 68 7-foot lengths of binder twine hung from a wooden support structure. At home, I’d simply cut the strings off the trellises and let them drop to the ground along with the tomato plants they supported. They’d winter under leaves and rot into the soil through the 2017 growing season (I don’t till the soil).

Sweet peppers from my small kitchen garden

I harvested about 2 gallons of sweet peppers on October 23rd. I’m afraid they’ve remained in the bag you see in this photo and have experienced many too warm days and several too cold days. I hope to feel well enough this week to work through stuff I harvested on October 23. With luck, I’ll find a few still-usable peppers to put up in the freezer.

At the community garden, it seemed risky to leave the binder’s twine wrapped around the tomato plants. A mower blade would most certainly catch the twine and wrap it around the mower’s drive shaft. I didn’t want to create extra work for someone else, so I untwisted the binder’s twine from the tomato plants… this took more than an hour.

I disassembled the wooden support structure for the hanging string trellises and loaded the wooden stakes into the bed of my pickup truck. Then I harvested the sorghum stalks and loaded them into the truck. Finally, I dug the canna lilies. It felt as though I’d worked for twentyten hours, though it was closer to three.

Tomatoes and peppers would have continued to ripen for another three weeks. It made me sad to have given up on them so early, but rules are rules, and the community garden is an awesome resource—particularly for a gardener challenged by illness. Photos tell the story of my last day of the season when I took down my vegetable garden.

Purple cayenne peppers in my community garden plot

From a package of “Festival Mix” cayenne pepper seeds, a plant produced purple peppers that turned red when fully ripe. Sadly, the plant was laden with under ripe fruits when I had to shut down my community garden plots.

Mystery paste tomatoes in my community garden plot

Some of the last tomatoes on my vines this October were the mystery paste tomatoes I acquired years ago from a local gardener. I harvested these along with Roma, Stupice, and a few varieties I couldn’t identify, and left them for three weeks in a bucket on an end table in the living room. Finally, a few days ago, I sorted the rotten tomatoes from the healthy ones. If all goes well, I’ll process the ripe ones this week and serve up the green ones as fried green tomatoes.

Stupice tomatoes produced earliest and latest in 2016

The first variety of tomato to ripen in my small kitchen garden was also one of the last to produce viable fruits. I harvested these Stupice tomatoes on October 23 just before I tore down my hanging string tomato trellises.

Sorghum still going to seed in late October

A theme of this article is that my community garden plots didn’t agree with the mid-October cease-and-desist order. This sorghum seed head makes the point: the seeds aren’t ready! I had already harvested any ripe seeds, but there were many young stalks at various stages of the reproductive cycle.

Sorghum sprouts emerge from roots of mature plants

When I cut the mature sorghum stalks, I discovered emergent shoots; more shoots from each plant than had grown to harvest. This leads me to think that in the tropics, sorghum may be a perennial. Perhaps you can harvest the seeds to make flour or porridge, cut mature stalks to extract sugar, and then wait four months and do the whole thing again.

Late season squash blossom in my kitchen garden

Another holdout against the cease and desist order: a squash blossom. I believe this flower was on one of my hybrid-derived squash plants, but there were also flowers on the zucchini I had planted back in May! In fact, on October 23, I harvested two beautiful zucchini squashes from six-month-old plants. In past years, I’d started a second planting of zucchini mid-summer after the spring-planted vines had withered.

Tomato blossom in my small kitchen garden

Despite bacterial disease, aggressive hornworms, and disgusting tomato fruit worms, many of my tomato plants were trying to remain relevant on October 23rd. There were at least a dozen blossoms through the tomato patch, and many buds about to open. Sadly, it all had to make way for the mower and seed-planter. I hope to garden the same two plots next season. I may be grumbling for having been forced off of my normal gardening methods, but it’s all for the good of the soil. I truly appreciate the quality effort with which the county manages its community garden.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Taking Down the Vegetable Garden

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As Gardening Season Ends

Tomatillo from my community garden plot

I started six tomatillo plants from seed and they were very happy in the community garden. I’d never grown them, and was impressed at how prolific the plants were. I harvested mid-summer and canned many pints of salsa verde which, by my estimation, is more about the onions and peppers than about the tomatillos. Unfortunately, chemo has suppressed my sense of taste, so I’ve no idea whether the salsa verde tastes good. The tomatillo plants continue to grow and produce, and I may have left more than 100 fruits to rot in the garden. It seems unlikely I’ll plant tomatillos in next year’s garden.

It has been a hard season. I’ve faced two huge challenges to maintaining my kitchen garden:

1. It has been unusually dry this year. What little rain we’ve had came over a two-week period in August and did more damage than it did good.

2. I had major surgery before the season started to remove a tumor from my pancreas. Subsequent chemotherapy failed, and an alternative chemotherapy regimen has kept me weak and nearly constantly uncomfortable with gastric distress.

I had some help from my wife and some friends. My wife prepared one end of the main vegetable bed where I planted peas and carrots. She erected trellises for the peas, and we both harvested when peas were ready.

When my wife was away, a group of friends visited one weekend and removed an enormous amount of weeds from the main vegetable bed.

Conjoined paste tomatoes

All 68 tomato plants are still growing well, but late summer brought quite the onslaught of tomato fruit worms. Most tomatoes remaining on the plants are getting devoured, but I’m still harvesting about a half gallon of decent ones every four or five days. This is a single, unusual tomato on a plant that usually produces pepper-shaped fruits. It looks as though two tomatoes merged at birth.

What truly kept me in the game was signing up at a community garden. There I got two 10’ x 20’ plots where the garden’s management applies composted manure, plows it in, and plows again a week or so later to stop the first growth of weeds—all before gardeners have access to plant.

It was crazy easy for me to plant my prepared community garden plots. The soil was loose and raked smooth; I had only to press seeds into the soil or set seedlings in holes I could dig with my fingers.

The community garden helped me manage the dryness challenge as well: There are faucets and hoses that reach every plot and I was able to water my plants every 2nd or 3rd day.

I’ve gone rather light on blogging about the garden. The cancer has diminished many activities that used to be easy or even fun. Rather than catch up on all the most interesting moments of the season, this post is about where the season’s ending. Photos tell the story.

Three gallon tomato harvest

This was a typical harvest—three gallons of tomatoes and a few sweet peppers—about every three days until august. I’ve canned gallons of tomato pieces, whole tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Oh, and chili sauce and salsa in which tomatoes are a major ingredient.

Pruned tomato plants

Happily, the dry season discouraged common tomato plant diseases. I saw no early or late blight on my plants, though late summer rain fired up some bacterial disease that worked its way up the plants from the ground. I pruned affected leaves for several weeks, turning the tomato patch into a rather weird landscape.

Ten-foot tomato plants

My tomato trellises top out close to seven feet. The plants have grown three feet above the trellises… though this photo shows them a bit shorter. Tomatoes in the highest growth won’t ripen before frost, but there are a few just below the seven foot level that have a chance.

Small neck pumpkin

By early July I had grown squash seedlings under lights indoors and I planted them out at the community garden. One hill of neck pumpkins has barely performed; I must have set it on a bad patch of soil. Still, there are two rather tiny neck pumpkins maturing on the vines.

Small Kitchen Garden squash

Three years ago, without asking permission, my garden cross-bred a neck pumpkin with a fairytale squash. Unknowingly, I harvested seeds from a hybridized neck pumpkin and planted them in the next season’s garden. They produced gorgeous squash that I hoped I could stabilize through two seasons. Last season, they seemed to breed true. However, seeds I planted this year have produced three distinct varieties of fruits. The variety in the photo is the most prolific. The skin becomes creamy brown when ripe, a bit lighter than a butternut squash. Perhaps this version will breed true for next season’s garden.

Supposed purple cayenne peppers

I don’t recall where I got it, but last winter I picked up a packet of cayenne pepper seeds. It was a mix of seeds that would produce peppers in a variety of colors. Purple cayenne peppers, I think, are cheaters. The fruits start out purple but ripen to a bright red. Other colors in the packet were red, yellow, and orange. Sadly, I failed with cayenne. The plants were prolific early when I was dealing with a bumper crop of tomatoes and sweet peppers. Most of the cayenne peppers ended up in the crisper drawer and became anything but crisp.

Sorghum approaching harvest

A first for me, and still in progress: sorghum. I bought a packet of one hundred and fifty seeds and planted them in a tight square at one end of the bed. The plants have flourished. The seed heads are full and, I’m sure, ripe. Everything I’ve read suggests harvesting the seeds as close to first frost as possible and leaving the stalks to get some frost bite. Then harvest the stalks and squeeze the sap out of them to boil into syrup. Frost may be two weeks away, so I won’t be messing with the sorghum right away. In fact, my next big harvest needs to be potatoes. The above-ground parts of my potato plants never stopped growing until they were overrun by squash plants.

Cannas in the community garden

On a whim, I reserved several canna lily roots that we didn’t need to complete our “Hawaiian corner” behind the rock garden this year. I stuck the spare roots in my community garden plot among squashes, onions, and potatoes where the cannas wouldn’t interfere with other plants. It was quite late in the season, so the cannas are late bloomers, but there have been several flower spikes so far. In a few weeks, I’ll pull the roots and save them for next year. Knowing how many we need behind the rock garden, I’ll set aside a few extra to add flare in next year’s community garden plots.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – As Gardening Season Ends

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The Bigsby Market for Produce in Ithaca

Crysanthemums at The Bigsby Market

If you’re a farm stand, produce market, or garden center in the northeast, you sell chrysanthemums in autumn… which begins, apparently, during the last month of summer.

On my many forays to Ithaca over the past three years, I noticed and grew fond of a farm market just northeast of the city. The Bigsby Market is on route 13 and 366 just beyond where the two converge on the way to Dryden.

When I’m in Ithaca, I’m not about to invest in large amounts of produce, but I still stop to enjoy the displays and I try to buy something I can use. I’ve chatted with various employees there, and learned that some of the produce they sell comes from central Pennsylvania. In fact, they often have produce purchased from the Buffalo Valley Produce Auction which is about eight miles from my house.

Canarie melons at The Bigsby Market

The bin of canary melons was quite a mix of sunny orange and deep shadows.

I was in Ithaca two weeks ago, and I stopped at Bigsby Market late in the day. The market was decked out for autumn, and the late-day/late-summer sunlight provided the kind of illumination that excites all photographers.

I bought one delicious, perfectly ripe Bartlett pear, and I captured a whole bunch of photos from which I chose a handful of favorites to include in this post. It seriously looked like autumn at Ithaca’s Bigsby Market. Please have a look.

Canary melons at The Bigsby Market

Cantaloupe snuggled against watermelons in one of the produce bins at The Bigsby Market.

Pumpkins and winter squash at The Bigsby Market

Employees at the Bigsby Market stack pumpkins and winter squashes to make small towers. Some of the squashes avoid the fate and end up in heaps or bins.

Farm stand in Autumn

Sometimes things just fall into line. The Bigsby Market had an astonishing amount of produce; this is a modest sampling.

Sweet peppers at the Bigsby Market in Ithaca

Sweet peppers at The Bigsby Market shown in the evening sunlight. It won’t be long before local growers no longer have fresh produce to offer. At least for a little while, we can enjoy the colors and textures of autumn’s harvest.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Ithaca’s Bigsby Market

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More Squash! February 2013 Post Produce

one neck pumpkin goes a long way

One of four 12-pound or larger neck pumpkins I harvested last autumn, this winter squash dwarfs my largest chef’s knife and hangs off both sides of a very large cutting board.

This month’s Post Produce is only barely about winter squash. You see, my dad moved out of our family home. He decided to take an apartment in a progressive care facility, and I’ve been spending a whole lot of time in Ithaca helping him get settled, making repairs in the house, and staging removal of everything. We hope to have the house ready to rent by June.

During my last stint in Lewisburg (where I live), I made a small vat of curried squash soup. To do that, I cut up a 12 pound neck pumpkin and cooked some of it, leaving a big chunk in the refrigerator. When I packed up to return to Ithaca this week, I brought the leftover (uncooked) neck pumpkin along. Tonight, I cooked it.

Seed Giveaway

A complete seed set for the giveaway described in this post includes the following:

This is a Post Produce post, but it falls just three days before I close my seed giveway. I’m giving away seeds from the squash in the photos as well as from two types of tomato plants and a variety of sweet Italian peppers. If you’re reading this before February 25, 2013, click this link to enter the giveaway.

When I Cook Alone

I tend not to be super-motivated when I cook for myself. I usually cook a meal for six, expecting to eat it over the course of three or four days. I’ll have it for dinner one day, lunch and dinner the next, and so on until it’s gone. The neck pumpkin plays into this scheme for my current stint in Ithaca: I’ll have it and mashed potatoes with the boneless pork ribs I cooked tonight. That ought to get me through the weekend and partway through next week.

The photos show what I did with the squash. This is a super-de-duper-de basic preparation that results in a classic side dish. What makes it special is that the neck pumpkin I used came from my garden in October, and it’s still in great shape in February! Two more neck pumpkins sit in a rocking chair in my dining room and will likely become curried soup, gilled squash, or more mashed squash… it’s hard to predict.

Now You Post!

To participate in this month’s Post Produce, scroll to the bottom of this page. There, use the Linky widget to link to your blog post. Simple; quick. After you link, please visit other bloggers’ Post Produce posts and see what your fellow gardeners are eating.

cutting a neck pumpkin

The neck of a neck pumpkin is solid squash meat. I used about two-thirds of the neck for one batch of soup, one-third of the neck and some slices of the bulb for a second batch of soup, and what was left of the bulb became mashed squash that I’ll eat over the next four or five days.

pieces of neck pumpkin

These are the pieces of neck pumpkin I brought with me to Ithaca: they still need to be peeled and scraped before going into the cook pot. I work on my mom’s in-counter cutting board after clearing off such things as hose washers, giant tweezers, and tungsten microelectrodes. Since my mom died, my dad has reinterpreted the use of the kitchen.

peeling a neck pumpkin

The old vegetable peeler I remember from my earliest days is incredibly dull but still able to cut the skin off a winter squash. My mom left a new, sharper peeler, but that has moved with my dad to his apartment. In case you’re preparing winter squash for your first time, please pare deeply. The flesh directly beneath the skin is firm and bitter, and your squash will taste better if you remove the skin and one or two more layers of flesh.

cutting chunks of neck pumpkin

After peeling the sections, and scraping the stringy stuff from the insides, I cut the squash into fairly large chunks and add them to a pot of water.

neck pumpkin on the stove

The Pyrex pitcher on the right dates back to, perhaps, the 1970s. I heat water in it daily for hot chocolate mixed with instant coffee—that’s my main source of caffeine. Note that I haven’t covered the squash chunks with water; I’ll add a lid to the pot and anything above water will cook in steam. I start the burner on high, but turn it down to medium when the water boils. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for the squash to soften.

seasoning cooked neck pumpkin

When the tip of a knife easily slips through the skin side of the squash chunks, I pour off the water. Then I add two tablespoons of butter and three tablespoons of brown sugar – please add more or less of either to suite your own tastes. I stir with a spoon, superficially mashing individual chunks of squash as I go. I prefer a chunky mixture over a smooth one, but were I cooking this for others I’d use a potato masher.

Here’s the Linky widget. Go ahead: add a link to your Post Produce post. I look forward to seeing what you’re eating from your own garden:

 

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Thanksgiving 2012 Post Produce

Green beans for casserole

Every bean in the casserole came from my small kitchen garden! I harvested and froze several gallons of beans in 2012. Most were yellow wax beans, but I had enough green beans to make a double-sized casserole following the French’s Fried Onion recipe that my mom used when I was a kid (except I use cream of chicken soup instead of cream of mushroom soup).

Post Produce landed a few days late this month. People trying to manage link parties do well to anticipate holidays so they don’t leave participants hanging. I’m not well enough organized for that. I’d have broken several natural laws if I’d written my article early and set it to post automatically while I was baking pies.

It occurred to me: Why not make Post Produce about Thanksgiving? I hope at least some of you used homegrown produce in your Thanksgiving meals. Even more, I hope you’ll  share your stories about it! Thanksgiving gives me extra thrills when I can serve goodies that I grew myself.

Photos tell the story. I hope you’ll have a look and then write your own Thanksgiving post. Once your post is up, return here, scroll to the bottom, and add a link back to your article. What did you eat from your garden this Thanksgiving?

homegrown sweet potatoes

My homegrown sweet potatoes looked reasonable, though they hadn’t filled out completely. Sadly, many had started to rot—which you couldn’t see until you peeled and cut into them. So, we (my son, actually), cut out large sections. By the time the pot was full, it contained seven or eight commercial sweet potatoes and as many of my crummy homegrown ones. I hope next year to plant sweet potatoes early and harvest them before frost; two things I failed to do this year.

neck pumpkins in rocking chair

Not surprisingly, neck pumpkins played a role in my Thanksgiving dinner. These three grew in my garden, and I used the largest—a 17 pounder—to make pumpkin pies. I cut up the squash on Tuesday and baked it for about 90 minutes. Then I pureed the flesh in a blender, and packaged the very smooth pumpkin mash in two-cup portions, most of which I froze. I saved seeds from neck pumpkin and will include them in a giveaway on my blog(s) in January or February.

pureed neck pumpkin for pie filling

I was a machine filling sandwich bags with pureed neck pumpkin before I realized I’d filled too many. I managed to put the last portion in a reusable container which I stored with one bag of puree overnight in the refrigerator. On Wednesday, I used these four cups of neck pumpkin puree to make pies. Sandwich bags, by the way, aren’t impermeable enough to preserve food in a freezer. Each holds enough puree for one pie, and I put four or five bags in a single gallon-sized freezer bag.

pies on the day after Thanksgiving

Didn’t think to snap photos before the gang had dessert. After lunch on the day after Thanksgiving, I photographed what remained of five pies I’d baked on Wednesday. We had already finished off a sour cherry pie (frozen during cherry season), and a pumpkin pie. What remained was part of an apple pie, most of a second pumpkin pie, and about half of an apple/pear/raisin spice pie I improvised from stuff in the fridge. To be clear, only the pumpkin pie contained homegrown produce, though I made from grapes the raisins I used in the apple/pear/raisin spice pie.

Post Produce on your blog, then return here and add a link back to your post. Because Post Produce is late this month, think of it as Post Produce weekend rather than Post Produce day! Share the produce you served at Thanksgiving from your own garden:

 

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Neck Pumpkin! (Pennsylvania Crookneck Squash)

17 pound neck pumpkin from my small kitchen garden

Central Pennsylvanians call these winter squashes Neck Pumpkins. The squash also goes by the name of Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash.

Grow winter squash in your kitchen garden! These plants always delight me with their aggressive growth which leads them to overwhelm tens of square feet of garden space. These are not plants for a small garden, though you might accommodate them by providing trellises and training the vines away from your other vegetable plants.

I’ve reported on neck pumpkins several times over the years. This one grew on a vine I set in the garden in mid-July. So, in just two months the plant went from seedling to harvestable 17 pound squash. There are more in the garden.

Neck Pumpkin Characteristics

Neck Pumpkin is a distinctively central Pennsylvania winter squash. The fruit is like a giant butternut squash though lighter in color and milder in flavor. Still, the squash is nearly all meat. This fruit is enough to make, perhaps, 14 pumpkin pies—or to serve squash side dishes at dinner for more than two weeks.

I plan to do a seed giveaway this winter and seeds from this neck pumpkin will be among the offerings. Check back in January or early February for details. Here’s video I recorded when I harvested the neck pumpkin in this post:

 

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, Aug 2012!

Bean blossoms look far too complicated; I’m glad bees can figure them out. The green bush beans I planted this year have pink blossoms; a nice change from the white bean blossoms of past years. In the bottom-right of the photo, you can see a bean starting to develop.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day originates from Carol Michel’s blog, May Dreams Gardens. She wants to see blossoms all year long, and the garden blogging community rallies: post blossoms on your blog, then link to it from her blog. It’s simple, and it helps other people find your blog!

Please enjoy my Bloom Day post. Then, come back on the 22nd and participate in Post Produce. Just as Carol does, I’ll write my Post Produce post and include a Linky widget before I go to bed on the 21st. On the 22nd, you write your own post about what you’re eating from your garden, then link to your post from Your Small Kitchen Garden. I hope you’ll join me on August 22nd and Post Produce.

Here’s what’s abloom in my garden today:

If it’s Bloom Day and tomatoes are in bloom, you’re going to find at least one tomato blossom in my post! This photo is more about hairy stems than it is about blossoms. I’ve harvested about a bushel of tomatoes so far. Barring a late blight incident, I may see three or four bushels from my plants this year.

My thyme plants are struggling a bit this year. One has some seriously involved fungus that I’ve treated a few times with the copper-based fungicide I use on my tomato plants. Amazingly, the stems of that plant touch the stems of a perfectly healthy-looking thyme plant. Too much information? This flower stalk is from the healthy thyme plant.

The mint has been in bloom for weeks. It has overwhelmed the planter holding it, and blossoms hang over the sides. I fear an impending mint invasion and will be vigilant for plants that decide to germinate next to the planter.

Bush cucumber plants I set in a deck planter have grown vines as long and tendrilly as the non-bush cucumbers I planted in my garden. Cucumber blossoms look happy against the deck flooring.

Pepper flowers are among my favorites.

For flower drama in a vegetable garden, you can always count on squashes! This is a butternut blossom, and it clearly understands flower sex. For this photo, it attracted four pollinators, though the reliable pollinator was holding the camera. Despite all the bee activity among my summer and winter squash blossoms, I hand-pollinate every female flower. The bees didn’t budge when I brushed this female flower’s “parts” with a male flower’s “part.”

 

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Small Kitchen Garden Bloom Day, August 2011

There are three pots of basil on the handrail of my deck. I put far too many seeds in the pots, and the poor plants grew up stunted. Still, the flowers are delicate and beautiful.

My small kitchen garden, like so many gardens in the US, has struggled through the season. Happily, things are finally moving along, though I’m afraid there is a fungus trying to kill my tomato plants.

But today isn’t about the problems, it’s about the bling! The 15th of every month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. You can learn more about it over at May Dreams Gardens. I failed to capture decent shots of the flowering mint and cilantro. Also, I neglected to photograph corn silk. Still, there were a lot of blossoms today. Please enjoy the photos of what’s abloom in my kitchen garden.

There are two windowsill planters of cucumber plants under the handrail on my deck. This flower snuggles beneath the handrail, and it is one of dozens that have popped in the last week or so.

A bell pepper flower appears healthy and robust. Oddly, my bell pepper plants are thriving while my jalapeno, banana, and poblano pepper plants are struggling.

Despite the appearance of something blighty on some of my tomato plants, they continue produce flowers. I don’t suspect late blight because all the lesions are on lower stems and some lower leaves. I’ve seen no signs of sporulation, so it doesn’t seem likely to move from plant-to-plant. Still, I fear for my tomato crop: it may be quite limited this season.

How’s this? I understand it’s the male flower on a corn plant. My sweet corn is growing ears, and the silk on those is, technically, the female flower. This corn tassel is red and the corn lower down on the plant is also supposed to be red. I’ve never tried red sweet corn, but I suspect it will taste a lot like yellow sweet corn.

That’s a cosmos trying to hide behind a corn leaf. I planted cosmos with my corn because I heard from an online acquaintance that this would keep away corn ear worms. The first ears are nearly ready to harvest. I don’t see evidence of worms, but they can be pretty sneaky, so I won’t know for sure if the cosmos helped until I start shucking.

As long as I’m confessing about planting flowers, here’s an even bigger sin: My wife ceded an ornamental bed to me so I could grow more climbing beans. I set about ten beans across the back of the bed, and then planted five or six types of flower seeds through the rest of the bed. From the looks of things, only two types of flower plants survived, and the first to bloom is a zinnia. The leaves way back against the wall of the house on the left are Kentucky Wonder bean leaves.

On the subject of beans, here’s a flower on one of my bush wax bean plants. The plants suffered heavy chewing by insects until I treated them with insecticidal soap. With new leaves, the plants show more vigor toward reproduction. I’ve harvested a serving of wax beans and anticipate being able to preserve about a gallon of them before the season is over.

Weed. There’s quite a bit of it near my small kitchen garden, and just a few stems actually in the garden. The flowers are pretty so it’s hard to go all anti-weed on them.

I had to finish with a winter squash blossom because it’s all that! This is the biggest squash blossom in my small kitchen garden. It belongs to a neck pumpkin plant and was one of about a dozen gorgeous blossoms peaking out from rain-soaked leaves this morning. Oddly, my blue Hubbard plants have produced about 8 female flowers and only one male flower. I’ve pollinated the blue Hubbards using male flowers from the neck pumpkin plants. So far, they seem to accept this hybrid pollination, but I can’t predict whether the seeds will be viable next year (and if they are, what the squashes might be like). Perhaps I’ll find out next summer?

 

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Your Small Kitchen Garden Seed Giveaway 2011

This is a paste tomato from which I harvested seeds for the giveaway. Yes, I fermented the seeds to kill bacteria and fungus, so they’re not likely to introduce disease to your garden. I believe this is an Andes tomato. It contains very little moisture and few seeds… it’s mostly meat. It tastes terrific raw, in salads, dehydrated, canned, and sauced. The plants are indeterminate, and I pluck suckers. In a bad growing season a plant yields 15 or more 8- to 12-oz tomatoes; in a good growing season, about 30.

THE FREE SEED OFFER CLOSED ON FEBRUARY 13, 2011 as stated originally at the end of this post. Chances are that I’ll have more seeds to give away for the 2012 growing season. Please check back in January or February of 2012.

FREE SEEDS! Your Small Kitchen Garden blog is celebrating its second annual seed giveaway. You might guess from the blog that I love to grow vegetables and fruit, and that I love to share my love for kitchen gardening with others. By giving away seeds, I hope to encourage other people to grow food and maybe share the wonder of it.

Last year, I gave away packets that contained seeds to grow Neck Pumpkins, Blue Hubbard squash, and Paste Tomatoes (probably of the Andes variety). I’m doing it again! Here are the details:

Small Kitchen Garden Free Seed Sets

The offer I’m about to describe ends on Sunday, February 13, 2011. A “set” of seeds contains three packets—enough to grow one hill of neck pumpkins, one hill of blue hubbard squash, and at least 20 paste tomato plants.

I’m not sure how many sets of seeds there will be as I haven’t yet butchered the blue hubbard squash. I anticipate approximately 45 complete seed sets to give away, but I’ll send some partial sets if I run out of one type of seeds. As things went last year, I ran out of blue hubbard squash seeds first and mailed a few sets that contained just neck pumpkin and paste tomato seeds. This year’s outcome depends on how many people qualify for seed sets.

One sad caveat: Seeds are available only to folks in the United States and Canada. I reviewed Australian import rules last year and realized if I tried to do that for every country, I’d be at it until the fall harvest… so US and Canada only, please.

The thing in this photo that looks like a big butternut squash is a neck pumpkin. It is remarkably like butternut (also shown): very resistant to Squash Vine Borer, orange flesh, tastes like butternut. These things can grow to 20 or 30 lbs, though my largest this year was about 12 pounds.

Earn Squash and Tomatoes from Your Small Kitchen Garden

Technically, I suppose I’m not giving away seeds; there are strings. Here’s what I ask for you to qualify for free seeds:

1. Leave a comment in response to this blog post. In it, tell me something about your preferences for tomatoes or squash. Tell me, perhaps, which you prefer, how you use them, or whether you’ve grown them… and make me laugh.

The blue hubbard squash in this photo is about a quarter the size of my chocolate lab. Thankfully, the dog didn’t fall asleep next to it or she might have awakened as a pod dog. This is a challenging squash to grow; it is very susceptible to Squash Vine Borer; all my blue hubbard plants succumbed without producing viable fruit in 2010. This year I’ll plant outdoors at the end of July… and I may use floating row covers to keep insects from laying eggs on the plants. If you get a few blue hubbard squashes from your plants, they could be more than 20lbs each. The meat of a blue hubbard is a rainbow of colors and has one of the best squash flavors I’ve ever tasted.

2. Complete and submit a form on the Contact Us page. If you want to receive seeds, I’ll need your snail mail address, so enter it into the form. Make sure you use the same email address on the Contact Us form that you use when you write your comment. Also, if you plan to promote your entry (read items 3, 4, and 5 below), please identify in the form the Twitter and Facebook identities you’ll use—and/or identify the URL of the blog on which you’ll post a link.

If you do items 1 and 2, you’ll go to the end of my mailing list to receive seeds. I’ll mail seeds on a first-come-first served basis until I run out of seed sets… but there are some twists. You can move up on the mailing list by doing any or all of the following:

3. If you’re on Twitter, tweet a link to this giveaway that includes the hash tag #skgseeds.

4. If you’re on Facebook, post a link to this giveaway and include the hash tag #skgseeds in the text.

Each day that you Tweet or post on Facebook as explained in items 3 and 4, you’ll move up one place on the mailing list. The most you can move up in a calendar day is two places—one for Tweeting, and one for a Facebook post.

5. Finally, you can get a top spot on my seed giveaway mailing list by posting something about the giveaway—along with a link to this page—on your own blog. What do I mean by “top spot?” I mean I’ll build a mailing list of bloggers who post links on their blogs. I’ll mail seeds to the entire list of bloggers (in the order that they post) before I mail to any other entrants.

At Least Get on the List!

Don’t let all these options throw you. At least leave a comment and post your snail mail address on a Contact Us form (items 1 and 2). Chances are you’ll get at least some paste tomato seeds. Of course, when you get your seeds, I hope you’ll think of me during the growing season and provide an occasional update—perhaps with a photo. I was pleased to hear from a few of last year’s winners. I enjoyed that my friend over at gardenmom29 posted photos of her neck pumpkins… I’m pretty sure the two in the 5th photo in her blog post grew from seeds she got in last year’s giveaway.

The seed giveaway ends on Sunday, February 13. I’ll mail seed packets in the week after that.

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Store Butternut Squash from Your Small Kitchen Garden

Your Small Kitchen Garden catches up with a series of posts about what went on in the garden this season while the kitchen gardener (Daniel) was busy writing his book Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry it, Too.

On February 12th of this year, the butternut squash from my small kitchen garden looked a little scary. Fortunately, just one fruit had gone soft; the others were in decent shape and we continued to eat them into March. I chucked the mushy one onto the compost heap.

I harvest a lot of winter squash from my small kitchen garden. Near the end of the season, squash vines cover nearly half of my planting bed. I love the flavor of squash, and I love its versatility: it works in both sweet and savory dishes, and you can cook it into many appealing textures.

But while squash’s culinary versatility is impressive, it has another terrific quality: it keeps well. I’d guess we call winter squash winter squash because of its durability: you harvest it in late autumn, and it keeps well into winter.

Proper Kitchen Garden Squash Stores

Most winter squashes keep best where it’s cool, dark, and dry… and by cool, I mean no colder than about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, store your winter squash in a single layer with no pieces touching other pieces. Relative humidity should be 60 to 80 percent and the temperature should be 50 to 55 degrees.

By March 24th of the year, we were down to our last butternut squash, and it was in reasonably good shape. Consider: harvested in October, and lying on the dining room floor for five months until March. Awesome!

Look closely at this five-month-old squash and you can see wrinkling and a touch of blotchiness; I’d never pay for this in a grocery store. However, the deterioration is (mostly) skin deep. With such minor surface blemishes, the squash meat inside is likely to be in decent shape.

Fortunately, air tends to be dry in winter, so low humidity shouldn’t be hard to achieve. Unfortunately, you might figure your basement for the ideal temperature, but many basements remain damp year-round.

Here’s the good news: if you keep the temperature in your house around 68 degrees, there are probably places on the floor that, in winter, are very close to 55 degrees. For example, you might have a rarely-used guest room that you don’t heat except when you have company. Or, the floor along an outside wall or under a picture window could be significantly colder than the air at chest level.

My Small Kitchen Garden Squash Store

Much to my wife’s consternation, I’ve left a heap of butternut squash on our dining room floor each fall for the past several years. The dining room has a double-wide sliding glass door onto our porch, so the floor is naturally cool in winter. My mistake, of course (besides annoying my wife), is that I heap the squash. However, I’ve had very satisfactory results. The photos tell the story.

Peeled, my well-aged squash looks as good as a freshly-harvested squash. There are differences, however…

Halved down the center, this well-aged squash from my small kitchen garden reveals evidence of aging. The fibers that hold the seeds have dried a bit and shrunk, and the squash meat, itself has dried giving rise to air pockets. Still, there are no soft spots; no rot. Cooked, the only apparent difference between this and freshly-harvested squash will be sweetness; the older squash may sweeter than a young squash.

I encourage you to keep your own winter squash into the winter. Here’s a simple strategy to employ: Estimate how many whole squash you’ll eat by March, and store that many along with a few extra (in case some spoil). If you have any more than you expect to eat by March, freeze them or can them and they’ll last until your next harvest. I explain how to freeze winter squash in Freeze Winter Squash from Your Small Kitchen Garden, and how to can it in Can Squash or Pumpkin from Your Home Kitchen Garden.

Share Your Squash Stories!

I’m very enthusiastic about winter squash, and would love hear your squash stories: Which varieties do you grow? How do you store them? Do you have unusual ways to prepare them? Please leave your story in a comment.

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