Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some Plants Had to Die

It's beginning to be that time of year again. Some plants are withering; others turning brown, not a whole lot of flowering going on. It gets to the point that the new growth ain't worth the watering, and we come to this. Today, the tomatillos and beans were taken down and cleaned of their last fruits. I'm guestimating that this last haul is about 3 lbs of tomatillos and 2 lbs of beans. The tomatillos treated me righteously this year. I was sad to see them go.

On that note, the fall's first crop of beets and bok choy sprouted the other day. I'm still waiting for the spinach, but spinach takes longer to come up. In the space opened up today, I will be doing another round of fall planting with some arugula as well.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Compost

People often ask me if and how I compost. I do a couple different techniques. I use a couple re-used garbage cans with holes drilled on the side for relatively active composting. Active meaning that I add to the pile and turn the pile frequently (every coupla days). This is mostly food scraps. So far the lids have kept the critters away. I do add some yard waste like small twigs and early fallen leaves. A couple weeks back I was surprised to see about 100 mushrooms and several sprouts growing in one of the cans. In general, the two cans represent different stages of the composting process, active and being seasoned. You can notice the different levels of decomposition in the picture above.

I also have a basic heap of yard waste, mostly non-seed bearing weeds and some garden stuff. No food scraps go in the heap to avoid varmints. The heap doesn't get turned to often (every couple weeks), but it does get hacked with the mower on the mow day. At this point, the heap pictured is about half the size.

Lastly, I build earthworm habitats around the yard. These are basically sandwiches of newspaper/cardboard, a carbohydrate, and mulch/compost. The worms churn the area up incredibly fast (couple months), making the soil much easier to work over time. If I get the Re-Imagining Cleveland grant, I plan on using this and other techniques to build the soil. I will have a pictorial of the process soon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tomatillo Processing Continued: Seed Collecting

As you faithful readers already know, I've been obsessed with tomatillos this year. I've grown about 16 lbs so far from four plants. At this time, it appears that the tomatillo plants are gearing down their growth cycle, no new flowers, no new top growth, and a general tired/worn appearance. I sacrificed the one plant about a week ago; and besides its 5 lbs of lush fruit to be picked, it also left behind some not so lush fruit on the ground to complete its Darwinian cycle. And like Paul Simon said, "who am I to go against the wind?"

I picked up these haggard ground fruits and brought 'em indoors to harvest their seeds. From what I can tell, they would of wanted it this way (apart from being moved from where they lay). I got out the trusty blender and churned out some old tomatillo pulp. Water and gravity helped in the process of separating the pulp from the seeds. As I ran running water into a bowl with a spout, the seeds sank and the pulp filtered out of the bowl. Eventually, I was left with seeds and clear running water. The water was poured out; the seeds were placed on a plate, dabbed with a paper towel, and left to dry for several days. I have several hundred seeds now. I'm not sure if tomatillos need a dormancy period, but I'm going to try to germinate some anyway.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Still Lifes with Ripening Tomatoes and Mental Notes

Unless otherwise noted, all seeds bought from rareseeds.com.

Cream Sausage-White meaty, roma-type. Grows big with a nipple-like end. Good mellow taste. Good yields.

Black Prince-Classic slicer though purple in color. Perfect size for BLTs. Stabilized in Russia. Dad's favorite this year.

Orange Banana-Another paste tomato, orange. Basic tubular shape. Tops seemed to stay a bit green even when ripe. Okay amount of flesh.

Green Sausage-A paste tomato that ripens to green flesh. Outside zebra stripes of green and yellow/orange, other worldly. Plus, meatiest tomato this year. Very few seeds. Must do in bulk next year for visual aesthetics.

Plum Lemon-Amazing to look at yellow-roma type that looks like a lemon, also with a nipple-end. However, seedy with not-a-lot of mealy flesh. Least favorite this year for taste sensation. But tied with Green Sausage for top visual sensation. LEMONS IN CLEVELAND?!

Sweet Seedless Hybrid (Burpee)-Classic red slicer with a hitch. No Seeds! Medium size. Supposedly, this is supposed to be the world's sweetest tomato as a result. And I would say that they're good but for $5 for 10 seeds? I must admit that prepping for sauce was easier because of this.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Blog back on: Tomatillo Processing

Does anybody remember the Guns N Roses song with the lyrics, "I used to love her, but I had to kill her."? Well that's exactly how I feel about the tomatillo plant so prominently displayed in the top picture there, all gangly and getting in the way of the cream sausage and classic roma tomatoes. Thus over the weekend, the tomatillo was sacrificed for the greater garden good. It hurt me to do so, but more importantly what was I to do with the 9 lbs of tomatillos? Duh, canning.

I admit I make a pretty mean escabeche with my jalapenos. But this is my first year with the tomatillos and subsequently my first year canning them. I read every recipe I could find on Google (which they also seem to be the same recipe +/- cilantro, and/or +/- some random dry spice), and proceeded on Saturday's day long task. Washing the jars, washing the veggies, chopping the veggies (second time around I used the food processor), boiling down the tomatillos/brine, keeping the jars/lids hot, filling the jars, wiping down the jars, cooking with 15 lbs of pressure, etc. All in all, 9 lbs of tomatillos, plus 4 cups onions, plus 4 cups jalapenos yielded 7.5 pints of salsa.

I also made some Cleveland Brown colored spaghetti sauce for the winter with all the variety colored heirlooms. Unfortunately, Cleveland Brown is akin to puke-orange and that's what happens when you make sauce with red, white, orange, yellow, purple, and green tomatoes. Sarah, this evening, made pa amb tomaquet (spelled correctly) with our white tomatoes. They looked like apple sauce all grated. Anyways, it was amazing with some of the mellowest tomatoes ever. I still got the garlic funk going on.

I'll have another tomatillo processing blog coming up with a "neat" pictorial of the seed saving process. At this point and at this rate, I think I have enough seeds to last a lifetime.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Grants In! Garden On! A Full Bounty!

On Friday, I hand delivered my grant application to Cleveland City Hall. I'm glad to be done with that process. Now it's a waiting game. I uploaded a picture of my garden's initially proposed layout from the application.

Being done with the application process, I finally had time to do some gardening. Today, this second day of August, I had my first real bounty, where the shelves are overflowing, and the fridge is full. That's just a portion of the tomatoes that I picked today. Just look at those purple ones. Also picked a couple of cukes, and pounds of tomatilloes. I may have to do that entry on canning salsa soon. I processed four tomatilloes for seed purposes and uprooted the lettuce tree.

Interestingly, the picture of mucvers were enough to get both my mom and cousin to fry up some zucchini morsels last week. Maybe this should be a food blog, as us Hushers like to eat.