Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Monday, November 2, 2015

Pretties in the Garden: Nov. 2, 2015

Some pretties in the autumn garden: Top row, left to right: Ichi Ki Kei Jiro persimmon,
Autumn sage, more persimmon.  Bottom row, left to right: Virginia creeper in the passiflora,
American beauty berry and mums.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Persimmon Harvest

It is time to begin harvesting persimmons. My Ichi Kei Ki Jiro Asian  persimmon tree continues to pump out lots of fruit.  Unlike native American persimmons, this is a non-astringent persimmon (learn about your tree before you plant it, as there are astringent, Asian persimmons).  If you have ever eaten an underripe, American persimmon, you know what "astringency" means. The flavor is unpalatable, and I find it leaves a sticky,  persistent, plastic-like coating in my mouth and on my tongue.  Definitely unpleasant. An American persimmon is usually considered ripe when it falls off the tree, after a heavy frost or freeze.  However, unless you're vigilant and good at collecting them, they can easily spoil on the ground or animals can get to them first.  But these Asian, non-astringent persimmons are marvelous. They can be eaten while still crispy, like an apple, which is my favorite way to eat them. You could also wait until they soften and have a pudding-like texture.   They tolerate the cold and will cling on the tree, still edible,  through November or December.  I also enjoy dehydrating slices of these persimmons. They get very sugary when they are dry and make a great snack. And the skin is edible too! The fruit is totally seedless, the tree is very easy to care for.  Sound too good to be true? Nope!
Happy harvest!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Roasted Tomatoes

I am roasting my last batch of tomatoes for the 2015 garden season. I find this is the easiest way to deal with a large batch of tomatoes, also eggplant, peppers, onions, and garlic, which can be mixed in together. I put them in a 350° oven, with a little bit of salt and olive oil.  I let them roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until the skins slip off easily. Then I take them out, cool them off, and remove all the skins. The tomatoes are now ready to use in sauce, and if you have mixed them with eggplant, peppers, onions, and garlic, you can purée them all into a wonderful roasted spaghetti sauce!
Happy eating!

Friday, October 16, 2015

2015 Winter Squash

My goodness, it has been a long time since I posted. I need to rectify that!

As some of you know, I have a "thing" for winter squash. (Flash of insight: I have a "thing" for many plants!)  Winter squash is tasty, is the "go to" squash for "pumpkin" pies, is delicious in a curried squash soup and I just love them.

This year, I again grew the old standby, Waltham butternut. This tried and true heirloom is tasty, prolific and has hard stems that make it almost impossible for the squash vine borer to create havoc.  I got a dozen fruits, at least, off of one plant, and it kept pumping them out until fairly recently (too late for some of them to mature, though).  I grew three new squash this year: Gold Nugget (the small, orange one on the left); Galeux d'Eysines (called a "peanut squash) in the center and: Futsu Black (the smaller, warty ones).  None were as prolific as the Waltham, though the Gold Nugget came close.  All these squash have dry flesh, which I prefer, as I believe it tastes better and is easier to cook.  And the Galeux and Futsu are cool looking, too.   The Galeux only produced two large squash, as did the Futsu, but they were fun to grow.

There are two pests that give me the most trouble with the curcubits, the squash vine borer and the cucumber beetle (the borer kills the plant from inside the stem, the cucumber beetle spreads a wilting virus).  This year, I tried a new "barrier" method to deal with them (used this for my cucumbers too, and got a great harvest):  I kept the plants coated with Surround (trademark), a finely ground, Kaolin clay.  You mix it up in a sprayer and spray the plants.  Cucumber beetles, and the moth that lays the vine borer eggs, must not like the gritty texture, and they avoid the plants.  The downside is that Surround will wash off in a heavy rain and must be reapplied.

Oh, I got all these seeds through Pinetree Garden Seeds,Pinetree Garden Seeds

Happy gardening!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

More food for thought

This is a good read, and helps explain why I don't have a lawn:


What to do with okra?

I am happily growing red burgundy okra from Pinetree Garden Seeds (red okra) and I am delighted with it.  It is an attractive plant, with red-veined leaves and red pods.  Here it is growing in a pot, it is so ornamental:

It seems to be fairly easy to grow, given enough sun and space.  The pods stay tender 
even when they get a little larger than typical.  So, how to cook it?  Okra is a star in soups 
and stews, as it acts as a natural thickener.  People sometimes complain about fried okra, 
which can get a bit...er...slimy, but it is great in tomato-based dishes.

So, I sautéed garden onions (1 large, diced), garlic (2 cloves, sliced), some quartered mushrooms
(1cup), and bell peppers (1, in chunks) in olive oil (2 T).  Then I  added chopped fresh basil and 
rosemary,  some dried marjoram, the okra (2 cups, sliced into 1 inch pieces) and a quart of crushed 
tomatoes.  I let it simmer for a half hour, then served it over polenta.  Salt and pepper to taste.  
Total yum!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015