Friday, June 29, 2007

Harvest Snapshot: June 29th

What better way to welcome in Weekend Herb Blogging than with fresh herbs?

Time to cut down the overgrown variegated sage, which likes to crowd out everything else, and nudge the variegated oregano back as well. Also snipped some of the big fuzzy spicy oregano. I thnk I'll have more than enough rubbed sage when I get done (MORE than enough!) but I can always package some up for gifts. I'd like to get another Biergarten (Beer Garden) sage, the oversized leaves were nice to fry crisp in a little olive oil and use as a tasty and stylish garnish. The same can be done with the variegated, but the lighter color leaves tend to look too brown to me and not as attractive. The flavor is more subtle, too.

Believe it or not, with the vast and spreading lavendar bush in the backyard, I actually hadn't considered cutting lavendar. I'd bought some dried in bulk a couple of years ago, and hadn't used it up. However, lately I've noticed that some things aren't setting fruit the way they should. I've started using some foliar feeding, which may help, but I really think the problem is the lavender. Between that, and all the borage over there, it's like having one of those chocolate fountains at a party. Who's going to make it all the way over to the healthy veggies tray? Only the really dedicated!

So trimming the amount of lavender down to where at least SOME of the bees decide to check out the other end of the garden is a good idea. I'm also letting marjoram, cilantro, and a couple of lettuces to go flower at the far end of the garden, and have transplanted at least one borage seedling. Need something special over there to distract the pollinators from the endless lavender party! Normally I'd try to choose stalks that were primarily buds, with few open flowers, as those will retain their scent longer. In this case, I was fairly indiscriminate.

One thing that's great to do with lavender is to make sachets for drawers and sheets. The easiest way is with the little gauzy bags sold at craft stores for wedding favors, but one can also use squares of tulle. Bind several stalks with ribbon, trim the stems so they look neat, and put the bag over the flower heads. If you're folding a square of tulle over, just tie it with ribbon. Wind some ribbon around the stems in a complementary color, and tie it off in a double bow. When we were on sabbatical in the motorhome a few years ago, I did white tulle and blue ribbon and hung them in our bedroom from the white and blue curtains, and got a lot of compliments.

You can also get some plain muslin drawstring bags, or sew tulle pockets, and put lavender buds or flower heads inside and use them in the dryer. I like to add a sprinkle of Mexican cinnamon chunks, or broken cinnamon stick. The resulting scent is wonderful-- fresh and spicy but not cloying. Highly recommended!

If you're really gung-ho, you can weave lavender wands. Some great instructions, with pictures are available at Garden Gate Magazine and at Dharma Trading. It looks more complicated than it is, I've done it and you can too!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Harvest Snapshot: June 26th

The first of the red kuri squashes are in. They could have waited a bit longer, as the stems were not fully brown, but had gotten tough. In general, wait until you can't break the skin of the squash itself trivially with a fingernail. I wanted to harvest these two a little bit early to encourage the plant to set more fruit. Otherwise it might give up and just ripen the other 2 or 3 on the vines, having made seeds already.

The tray is approximately 14x20 inches. Yes, I blinked-- the HUUUGE zucchini in the back was one I ignored a few days ago because it was 'too small yet'. You can see that this time I even picked the 'too small' ones. Fortunately, my husband's manager (and co-workers) haven't been overloaded with garden produce yet.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Blast From the Past?

Regular readers will notice some back-dated posts showing up. I'd created a number of drafts, ready to post, and for various reasons haven't been able to do so. I'm just clearing the backlog, and soon we'll be back to our regularly sporadic updates. :-)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Harvest Snapshot: June 23rd

Trombetta climbing summer squash, more Romanesco zucchini (Renee's Seeds), cucumber 'homemade pickles', red onion started from set in January.

Beans from left to right: Monte's Italian Heirloom (private, via a friend), purple italian pole beans (Renee's Seeds) x Monte's, green italian pole beans (Renee's Seeds).

I didn't deliberately cross the Renee's purple pole beans with the Monte heirloom, but given the times they were growing and the proximity, as well as the great change in the bean shape, I'm guessing that's what happened. The flavor is superb, so I'm happy with that. Normally the purple pole beans look like the green ones, rounded and pencil shaped, in contrast to the flatter purple beans of Purple Queen bush bean. It is also possible that they crossed with Purple Queen, but the broadness of the pods makes the Monte's cross more likely. The fun of saving seeds at home, when you just let the local pollinators decide what works! :-)


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Harvest Snapshot: June 13th

Young garlic (planted Dec or Jan), Monte's Italian heirloom green pole beans, Purple Queen bush beans, a few Yellow Wax beans, some everbearing strawberries, a Pak Choi.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Garden Desktop: Lime Thyme

I'm really fond of thyme, and even more so of citrus-flavored thyme. This lime thyme started out as a 4-inch pot in 2003, and was then planted in the ground, where it became a large clump. When we had to move planters for the neighbor's fence, it turned out that the thyme was right where the fence would go. I was able to uproot it in a cluster and re-pot it. Here is 1024x768 lime thyme desktop.

Harvest thyme in the morning, before the sun hits it, and let the sprigs dry on a saucer or in a colander. It's easiest to strip the tiny leaves from the stems when thyme is partially dry-- when fully dry, the stems break, and you end up with little sharp bits in the thyme. Here's some English thyme I harvested this past fall, next to some variegated sage.

English thyme, lemon thyme, and variegated thyme are all pleasant additions to one's garden beds, where they will provide welcome spring greenness and summer flowers that draw the bees. In sunny, hot portions of the Bay Area, put thyme somewhere that it will get some shade, preferably in the hottest portion of the day. A deep pot, which lets thyme trail over the sides, makes it easy to relocate your thyme to compensate for the area's somewhat extreme seasonal sun and temperature changes. Thyme loves dampness, unlike many other herbs, and does really well in a self-watering planter.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Harvest Snapshot: June 7th

Greens from Violetta cauliflower. Never got heads from the Violetta, that hot spell in March/April really confused them, and I planted in spring rather than fall. Ah well, next year. A couple of spring potatos, Russets that naturalized and pop up in various places after we couldn't bear to toss a few bought ones that went bad. Plus a late chiogga beet or two!

In the colander, a spring or two of cinnamon basil, some strawberries, more zucchini, yellow wax beans, Purple Queen bush beans, some thyme, a couple of early Monte's Italian heirloom beans, a Trombetta climbing squash, and a couple of nasturtiums to garnish a fruit salad I'd planned on making.