Saturday, October 31, 2009

happy halloween! - witch hazel with witch's hats

witch hazel 5

The witch hazel around Fresh Pond in Cambridge is in full bloom now right in time for Halloween. I never noticed the witches' hats before.

Here are excerpts from Nature Observer Journal. A perfect Halloween story.
When you find Witch Hazel examine the few remaining leaves... often see a small cone that resembles a miniature witch’s hat. This is a Witch Hazel Cone Gall; the temporary home of a Witch Hazel Cone Gall aphid, Hormaphis hamamelidis. H. hamamelidis has a life as bizarre as the mythical hags that transformed themselves into frightening creatures to torment medieval travelers. In late fall female aphids lay eggs on Witch Hazel branches. In spring only female aphids (stem mothers) emerge. These produce a secretion that causes a wart-like malformation to form on the leaf.... cone-shaped and hollow with an opening on the leaf’s under surface. The aphid mothers then deposit fertile eggs in the cone... produced parthenogenically. When the next generation of aphids are mature they emerge from the cone and fly to a birch tree where they live as flightless insects and reproduce sexually for several generations. The sixth generation hatches with wings and flies back to the Witch Hazel to reproduce. Another generation of stem mothers hatches on the Witch Hazel and the extraordinary cycle begins again.

© Skippy's Vegetable Garden

garden surprise - a saffron crocus blossom

saffron crocus 2
saffron crocus 3 saffron crocus in the garden

What a surprise in the back garden today! A stunning saffron crocus. I planted a few of these fall blooming bulbs many years ago and they never fail to startle me. The stamens are an unreal intense piercing orange. A color all of its own. And the blue petals are so gentle in contrast. Soft and quiet with a fine pattern. And all this on the background of dry rustling and fall leaves. I sat and watched with my coffee cup for quite some time.

Here's where I got this: McClure & Zimmerman, crocus sativus

© Skippy's Vegetable Garden

Thursday, October 29, 2009

botany of desire - on PBS yesterday

I set the time and date on my calendar. And it was a great show.

I read the book "Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan, a while ago. A very good read. And the show on PBS was very good also. Lots of exciting information and footage - for a gardening fanatic anyway.

I wrote down a few things that struck me:

"What are the chances that we'd have the same sense of beauty as a bee? Smell, color, symmetry..." Definitely true. Also taste. Not much that's better than honey!

On tulips: "Flowers are exquisitely useless." Now there's a non-bee speaking. And someone who don't need the pleasure of beauty.

I did like to hear potatoes described as "exciting".

The Irish potato famine of 1740, caused by Late Blight spreading rapidly in Irish fields planted almost exclusively with a single variety, lasted 3 years. I hope our Late Blight episode in New England is more short-lived. And hopefully it won't spread outside of New England. I didn't know that the most popular variety in the US is the Russet Burbank, the variety McDonald's prefers. Its planted almost exclusively in Idaho's fields. The big tubers with very high sugar content make long perfect fries. Next year, I'm looking forward to trying some blue varieties. Its exciting to hear about the biodiversity of potato fields in Peru.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

rows of fall crops

escarole rows lettuce rows
red leattuce collard rows
collard greens

When Skippy and I visited Waltham Fields, we walked through the CSA fields as well as the community plots and experimental station. These are photos of the CSA fields. Rows and rows of colors and textures. The last crops, enjoying the late fall sun.

Local farms are finishing up their seasons now. Last crops are roots (carrots, potatoes, parsnips) and hardy greens (cabbage, cauliflower, escarole and kale). Lots of collards too - a southern green, often grown in very warm areas because it resists bolting. Similar to cabbage, but a loose head, great big leafy leaves and mild flavor. I'm trying to grow some, but planted too late this year. A challenge for next year.

The heads of lettuce are fantastic at this farm! Beautiful. I enjoy walking through a field and seeing the such an abundance of expertly grown crops. One of two beautiful heads in a home plot, but here rows and rows!

spectrum mix califlower

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

bright fall cosmos

fall cosmos
© Skippy's Vegetable Garden

It seems that cosmos are the latest spots of color in the garden this year. My marigolds and zinnias are long gone. These cosmos are at the Cambridge community garden I visited yesterday. I like the bold magenta tones.

what's growing at community gardens? lots of fall vegetables

cambridge community garden bok choy 3
Neville Place Community Gardens (Cambridge MA) and baby bok choy
brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts
bok choy 2 bok choy
bok choy
beets leek
beets, leek
chard, white chard, red
white and red Swiss chard
lettuce and bok choy
rows of lettuce, baby bok choy and chard
shell beans turnip
shell beans, turnip
winterbor kale purple broccoli
winterbor kale, purple broccoli
tuscan kale
Tuscan kale

I went by a couple local community gardens yesterday to see what's growing. Waltham Fields and Cambridge Neville Place community gardens. Both have wonderful things still. It gives me ideas on what I can plant for late fall next year. The Brussels sprouts are very pretty. And the Tuscan kale. The big purple head of broccoli is fantastic!

In my garden, I have escarole, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, and a row of mixed greens that includes kale and bok choy. I also have the celeriac and parsnips still in the ground. Also lots of parsley and some tiny collard greens. The weather has been perfect for these recently and they're growing well.

WFC gardens
Waltham Fields Community Gardens

Monday, October 26, 2009

garden blog PIRATE site

Pirate site

Check out this pirate site! Gardening Realm Boo! Is it just me they're stealing from? Do you recognize your material here?

I didn't give my permission for them to use my material and I left a comment today for them to remove it. Let's see if I get a response.

By the way, thanks to Mostlypurple for finding this lousy this.

goggle satellite map of Belmont Victory Gardens

Microsoft PowerPoint - Google map of BVG

This is an aerial snap shot of our community gardens that I came across today. Looks like late in the day on about April 18, 2007. The resolution is amazing! I can see that I had cleared and turned my plot, but there's no fence up yet. Seems to me Google had a lower resolution version last time I looked.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

not my year for apples

ugly apple

Last year I carefully covered all 5 of the apples on my little Fugi tree with stockings. They ripened perfectly and were delicious. But, not being convinced that this was necessary, I left them uncovered this year. Hmmm. All four apples this look terrible. I don't know what caused this. But I think I'll cover them next year.

please tell me your beet recipes

I have 12 pounds of beets to eat! Do you have any great recipes? Please add them or a link below.

I usually bake beets in foil at 400*F for 40 min or so - until they're tender. Then cool, peel and slice. The other day I mixed them with other roasted winter root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, celeriac, fennel and parsnips) with lots of fresh thyme and sage. They were delicious. I made a lot for leftovers, which I chopped fine and fried well the next day to make hash. That was even more yummy.

I'd like to try making pickled beets, but have never done this.


Jarrahdale pumpkin Jarrahdale pumpkin 4
Jarrahdale pumpkins
Baby Pam pumpkins baby pam pumpkin
Baby Pam pumpkins
Long Island Cheese pumpkins at the Fair Topsfield Fair 17
Long Island Cheese and Cinderella ‘Rouge Vif d’Etampes’ pumpkins
pumpkins 1 pumpkins in the wheelbarrow
pumpkins from my garden this year
1811017111_78fd40a534_o sam carries the pumpkin
Big Rock pumpkins
Copy of ignacio with the pumpkin Copy of James' pumpkin 1
pumpkin from Spain - Calabaza RoteÑa

So many varieties!

I've been confused about when a squash is a "pumpkin"? I've read that a pumpkin is, by definition, a round orange winter squash. But shape can vary from tall to fat. And in addition to orange, but they can be green, white, red, yellow or blue-gray. Usually smooth, they can also be heavily ribbed or knobby. A very technical explanation I read is that pumpkins have stems that are more rigid, pricklier, and squarer than squash. It seems its more a tradition whether a particular winter squash is called a pumpkin.

The Jarrahdale seeds were sent to me to try by Botanical Interests and they were fantastic in the garden. I got three nice big pumpkins from two plants. The vines are about the biggest I've ever seen and they scrambled all over my garden fences. The variety is from the town of Jarrahdale in New Zealand - a cross between Blue Hubbard squash and huge red Cinderella pumpkin. Its nearly identical to 'Queensland Blue', the variety that Barbara Kingsolver made into Thanksgiving pumpkin soup in Animal Vegetable Miracle. I've read that the thick flesh is orange, medium sweet and absolutely delicious! It smells almost like a cantaloupe when opened! I'm looking forward to making something special from mine for Thanksgiving! I have a nice pumpkin soup recipe.

I like growing Baby Pam for cooking. They have small vines and produce lots of pumpkins, each the perfect size for a single recipe.

The Big Rock are nice for carving. For the past two years, I've gotten one 10-15 lb pumpkin per plant.

I'm thinking about pumpkins to grow next year. Long Island Cheese and Cinderella ‘Rouge Vif d’Etampes’ look like fun. I photographed them at the Topsfield Fair this year. Chiot's Run has a nice post on the Cinderella here.

My brother-in-law sent me these photos of the knobby green pumpkins in his garden in Spain. Wow! That's a great variety. I asked him what it is and he said, "I don't know its just the pumpkin that's grown around here". Today he emailed and said its commonly called Calabaza RoteÑa. He says it tastes great. This would be fun to grow.

© Skippy's Vegetable Garden

skippy and the great pumpkin by the garden skippy and my pumpkins