2020 tomato review-the ‘darlings’ of the veggie garden

2020 Tomato Review

As the Tomato Lady of Santa Fe, this year was a great tomato year in the garden especially compared to last year’s tomatoes which were dismal. This year I started with 38 plants, lost 2 right away to curly top virus and lost several more to a soil fungal disease but overall the disease level was very low due to it being such a dry year.  I think I had good production because I started them super early this year-May 6, which is the earliest I’ve ever put them in the ground and I gave them the water they needed.

Here are the tomato varieties I grew this year. If you haven’t even heard of some of these, I encourage you to try some new varieties for yourself-keeps it interesting!  Some of you may have had a great year with some of these varieties, so use your own experience when selecting which varieties to grow. All varieties are heirlooms or open pollinated unless otherwise noted.

Moby Dwarf cherry tomato trial project-This is a wonderful larger yellow cherry tomato. Wonderfully intense flavor. I was involved 2 years ago growing this out for Craig Lehouiller, author of Epic Tomatoes. I found some of the plants I grew had a anthocyanin blush (purple blush) on its shoulders so I’m continuing to see if we can get this trait to stabilize for future generations. The plant is only 4 feet tall, very prolific and would be great in large pots as well in the ground as I do. You can get the original seeds now online at Victory Seeds. A must try.  63 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Black Cherry-I only grew one plant but boy was it prolific! This is one of my favorites that I grow every year. No disease. Very dependable. Purplish color. Great intense full bodied flavor like a good wine. 64 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Virginia Sweets-A yellow tomato with red blush inside that is sweet, sweet, sweet. This year they did well although in some years not as good. But I always come back to them because when they do well, they are great! 80 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Lucky Cross-One of my all-time favorites. This year the mice seem to really like them so I didn’t get as many as I would have liked. Great sweet flavor. Yellowish peachy color with marbled red interior. Wish I had more plants since I was sharing with the mice! 74 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Ananas Noire-One of my favorites. Don’t be put off by the colors-green with a red blush but the flavor is sweet like nectar. Takes all season to get them but worth the wait. 85 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Large Barred Boar-NEW THIS YEAR! A wonderful tomato from Wild Boar Farms that is slighter larger than Black and Brown Boar which it came from and is a mid-season ripener. It is a med-large mahogany color with green stripes tomato. Great flavor and only 65 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Black and Brown Boar-I’ve always loved this oval shaped tomato from Wild Boar Farms because it has super flavor and is a good producer. Mahogany with green stripes. 68 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Cherokee Lemon-NEW THIS YEAR! This is a new Cherokee variety for me. Its color is a pure yellow with yellow flesh inside and has good sweetness. It was not very prolific though, so I will see if it makes it into next year’s roster but I usually give a new tomato two years to try. 75 days to harvest. MAYBE will grow this next year.

Cherokee Purple-I come back to this tomato every year. A great producer with outstanding flavor.  Purple with green shoulders. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Cherokee Green-A green tomato that turns a yellowish-green that is green throughout with suburb sweet flavor but was not as prolific as last year. 75 days to harvest. MAYBE will grow this next year.

Cherokee Carbon-I adore this hybrid. A cross between a Cherokee Purple and Carbon. Great flavor like Cherokee Purple but bigger and less cracks. Purple with green shoulders/ Great producer too. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Pink Berkley Tie Dye-Usually this is a good producer with great flavor but this year it was a disappointment for me as it did not produce many tomatoes. 65 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Captain Lucky-NEW THIS YEAR! I liked this mostly green with red blush tomato. All around good flavor. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Goliath-One of a few hybrids that I grow every year. Great old fashioned tomato flavor and it rarely gets cracks or blemishes. A good producer. 65 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Pantano Romanesco-This year I was disappointed in this tomato when normally I like it. Good old fashion flavor but not very prolific. 75 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Mushroom Basket-NEW THIS YEAR! I’m kinda so-so about this one. Great big shape with many flutes but ripened unevenly for many of them. Also not a good producer. 75 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Paul Robeson-Another of my all time favorites-this ‘black tomato’ has a rich flavor that wins many tomato contests every year. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

BKX-NEW THIS YEAR! An improved version of the Black Krim tomato that did not produce very well. For me the original Black Krim is never a good producer and this one is about the same. If I’m going to grow a tomato it has to be a good producer. 80 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Purple Calabash-NEW THIS YEAR! This is an heirloom from Thomas Jefferson’s garden so I was excite to try it. Sorry to say, I wasn’t impressed. They were small fluted purplish tomatoes with lots of catfacing flaws on bottom. Nice flavor though. 75 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Big Zac-Another good hybrid that can grow some colossal sized red tomatoes with old fashioned tomato flavor. One slice will fill a BLT sandwich. 80 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Goldman’s Italian American-the only paste tomato I grow. It has the best flavor of any paste tomato I’ve ever tried. Makes wonderful pasta sauces. 85 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

 

 

 

New pepper this year-Lava Red pepper

Corno di Toro peppers-Lava Red peppers

I use to start my Jimmy Nardello and Shishito sweet peppers inside under lights the first week of March but since they take so long to germinate and grow out to tranplanting size, I started buying them from Agua Fria Nursery in the past few years. When the nursery ran out of these sweet peppers last spring, I was bummed. Not only because they didn’t have those varieties but also because it takes peppers 8-10 weeks to grow from seed to transplanting size which is why one needs to start them super early or buy in a nursery. I thought I had run out of time.

Lava Red peppers

My best friend, Lava, from Germany had saved some sweet red pepper seeds that her son gave her from a farmers market in Germany. She described them as long red, sweet, thick walled peppers but didn’t know the name. I had the seeds for a few years but didn’t try them since I was hooked on the ‘Jimmys’. In my desperation, I decided to try to grow them out late.  I grew four of them from her seeds and to my surprise, they are a type of Corno di Toro (horn of the bull or bull’s horn pepper). We don’t actually know which variety of the Corno di Toro peppers they are and there are several. I named this one Lava Red pepper after her. Corno di Toro peppers are named after their shape and are a type of Italian frying peppers that are sweet green or red but if you let them turn red, they are a little bit sweeter.

Now at Harry’s Roadhouse here in Santa Fe, I remembered (seems so long ago) they serve some kind of sweet grilled peppers strips in their house salad which I love. So I decided to grill the Lava Red peppers as I now call them and take off the skins like what we do for our hot green chilies here in New Mexico. But before I grilled them, I saved some seeds to freshen up my supply of seeds for future use.

Notice I put one of those dessicant packets (from my vitamin bottles) in with the seeds to make sure they are completely dry. Then I will remove it later.

 

Normally they would be grilled on the BBQ till the skins are black and then cooled in cold water and the skins slide off from the peppers, leaving the sweet pepper meat. This steps takes a little more work but the flavor of the skinless peppers is superb and well worth the effort.

 

Using a small grill in my fireplace to roast the peppers

The night I wanted to grill them was way too cold outside (in the 20’s) to be standing by the BBQ so I decided to grill them in my fireplace in my house while I watched the World Series. I made a fire of cedar wood and put a small portable grill over the hot coals.

 

Then I sat there and grilled my peppers over the cedar wood coals. The smell is fantastic and the flavor of the peppers is sweet and the cedar coals added a subtle smoky nuance to them.

 

After the skins are off, I put them on wax paper in layers an freeze them and take them out as needed.

I use them in scrambled eggs, on my salads, in sandwiches and I’m sure there will be many other ways to use them. I got 5 lbs of grilled peppers!

They are now one of my favorites. I like the thick walls and sweet flavor. Isn’t it funny, I was forced to try something new and it turned out fantastic! So try some Corno di Toro peppers next year, you won’t be disappointed! You can also eat this pepper raw as well!

October Veggie Garden Update

 

Here’s the latest update in my garden as of Sunday October 18th. The season is winding down fast now, and so am I. The pics above are what we harvested today.

Some warm season crops like cucumbers, summer squash, green beans, dry beans, butternut winter squash and corn are finished. Today’s harvest of the warm season crops like tomatoes and peppers were picked, including some green tomatoes which I will ripen indoors. I got a couple of butternut squash and cucumbers too. I turned off the drip systems to all of them today.

The perennial fruit crops-strawberries, grapes, rhubarb and blackberries are also done. But the raspberries, which are a fall crop are still giving up some berries but are slowing way down now too. I will leave the drip systems on the perennials till it freezes.

Other cool season crops in the garden are still shining, loving the cooler weather we have right now. These include cabbage, chard, another winter squash (sweetmeat) and kale are still in the main garden and ready to harvest. I’ve been harvesting the kale, cabbage and chard for a long time.

I am harvesting broccoli heads, warm season lettuces and radishes that I planted as succession crops in August in my garlic bed which has been vacant since July. I figured I would have enough time to harvest them before I plant a new garlic crop back in it. The garlic heads are coming this week and I will plant them by the end of October in that bed once the other veggies are harvested.

But the season doesn’t end yet. I currently have some cool season crops that I started inside under lights like lettuces, spinach, arugula and Pak Choi. They will go into my cold frame and greenhouse this week but not in the main garden. I’ve actually been waiting till both the greenhouse and cold frame are cool enough in the day to put them in so they don’t bolt and this week with the daytime temperatures in the 70’s and the nighttime temperatures in the 40s is now perfect to put them out. They should last till December using row cover when the temperatures drop to freezing at night to extend their lives. It will be nice to get greens and lettuce from the garden in November. My last hurrah!

 

What have I been doing?

Wow-it’s been almost a month since I last posted. How time flies! I go from posting a lot in July to not much at all in August. So what have I been doing in the last month?

 

Harvesting!  Harvesting!  Harvesting!!

 

TOMATOES
This year has been a great tomato year vs last year which sucked. When the harvesting starts in earnest, I become headless (but in a good way)! I can’t process the tomatoes into tomato sauce fast enough as it seems everyday was a new bumper crop that needed to be picked and eaten and dealt with (can’t let any of them go to waste)! Plus I’ve been selling some this year. I’ve really loved all those Caprese salads and know they will end in the not to far future.

CUCUMBERS
Most of the cucumbers have been harvested and preserved. I’ve made sweet pickle relish, Bread and butter pickles and cornichons. I tried to ferment some green DILL pickles but failed miserably (I’ll have to get my fermentation friends to help me). The dill pickles were too salty and not crisp like I had hoped. I think I left them in the crock too long and now the cukes are slowing down. Oh well, there is always next year.

BEANS
The green beans, Emerite are slowing down and the Zolphino dry bean pods are starting to dry out so I am harvesting them as the pods dry out and will shell them later this winter. I don’t wait till the end of the season but pick the dry pods as they are ready, otherwise the beans fall out of the shell if I wait too long. I’m so excited as I got them in Italy 2 years ago and last year when I planted them a gopher ate every plant and every plant I replanted. Of course the gopher had to eat my most expensive bean-it was 40 Euros/kilo (that is 47 dollars) over there as it is endangered in Italy and they are trying to bring it back. One thing is the gopher had good taste-it didn’t go after my less expensive beans.

CABBAGES
The Kalibos cabbages are ready for harvest too. All my fermenter friends will love getting one of these for sauerkraut or kimchi! I keep one too but they are so big, one does me just fine and will last for months in the refrigerator.

 

 

PEPPERS
The Corno de Horno peppers and Lava Red peppers are still green. I will wait till they turn red when they will be sweeter. There will be a bumper crop of both of these this year. Nice problem to have!  I’ll have to figure out what to do with all of them! The Jimmy Nardello peppers are turning red (at a reasonable rate for harvesting). The Shishitos peppers have been kicking for a good month.

 

BERRIES/GRAPES
The grapes and blackberries are done but the raspberries are just starting to kick in and will be in full blast harvest mode soon. We are harvesting every 3 days now. It is a fall-bearing raspberry called Polana and it is the best producing raspberry ever for me at my garden.

 

SQUASH
My summer squash is still kicking and my winter squash, Butternuts, are starting to change color to tan and will be ready mid-end of September.

 

 

SHALLOTS
I harvested 2 beds of shallots which are now curing and will store these like onions for the winter. i love shallots over onions as they are sweeter and cost a lot more in the grocery stores.

 

 

CHARD/KALE
And of course, the chard and kale are loving the cooler weather and will go to frost. But they like it hot or cold weather wise. I have too much kale. Anyone want some?

 

 

CARROTS
All carrots are ready for harvest in the next 2 weeks.

CORNI grew sweet corn this year and waited too long to harvest. Bummer. There is always next year…

 

That’s it! Busy as a bee right now!

 

 

Today’s harvest-August 5

 

Everything is starting to explode in the garden. Harvest time is here for many fruits and vegetables. Here is today’s harvest. From upper left clockwise: Friulana summer squash, AtomicRed carrots, Boothsby Blonde cucumbers, Emerite french filet green bean, Jimmy Nardello peppers, one Shishito pepper, and a variety of tomatoes.

Lots of fruit is ready to harvest. From top to bottom: Triple Crown thornless blackberries are just starting to come on, the very first Polana raspberries (we only got a few but the main harvest will be in the fall and the bushes are loaded) and on the bottom are the first few Himrod seedless table eating grapes-they have a wonderful flavor.

2019 Garden pics!

Here are some pics of my garden this year. Now that we are in September, I wanted to capture it in all it’s glory before it’s gone. I’ve worked hard tweaking out the infrastructure with new framed beds and weed barriers and wood chips in the paths this year. Having retired from the Santa Fe Farmers Market two seasons ago has allowed me to do more in the garden. I also added some perennial fruit like raspberries and blackberries since I don’t need space for 125 tomato plants anymore! By mid-October or sooner, it will be toast with the first frost so might as well enjoy it while I have it. I have an abundance of flowers this year that I grew for my edible flower class and besides being beautiful and edible, they attract many beneficial insects and pollinators. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Winter is here early

Fall harvest-tomatoes, Tahiti Butternut squash, Bradford watermelons and Craupadine beets

I just heard last night’s snow was the earliest on record for Oct 14th in Santa Fe. The weather apps have said it was going to be 27°F last night. Woke up this morning to a light snow, ice and the temperature was 24°F here. Harvesting has been intense the last few weeks. Why is there always so much to pick in the end? The only annual crops left are a few kale, beets and cabbages outside in the main garden and greens in the greenhouse and cold frame. I’m not sure how they fared as I wasn’t able to go out and check today, and in truth, with 34°F for a high, I was in no hurry to see if they made it. They were covered with winter weight row cover with the hopes they make it and I will check tomorrow. I was more concerned the barn animals were ok with this first cold snap and made sure all the heaters in the water tanks were working and the chickens had their heat lamps on. I guess winter is here.

Growing Season for 2016/Fall Harvest

fall-harvest-crop_nov-2

Fall harvest in 2016-tomatoes, beets, carrots and kale are just a few of the vegetables still being harvested here on my micro-farm

This has been a most remarkable growing season this year. In fact, I can’t remember in all my 21 years here of weather like this. After two months of unseasonably hot summer weather at the beginning (when the tomato blossoms dropped because it was too hot) and then two months of very cool summer weather (when the tomatoes didn’t want to ripen because they need heat to ripen once they are set) we now have been in an unbelievably wonderful fall. Nice and warm in the 70’s in the day and cool but not freezing nights.

But all this is going to change very quickly now that we are in November. Weather prediction is for it to change to colder weather. Like duh, it’s NOVEMBER dude! Of course it will get colder! My fruit is done-apples (we made hard cider!), apricots, grapes, strawberries and raspberries are done here. Most of my warm season crops are gone (cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplants, pumpkins, corn, etc. except the tomatoes, my favorite crop!)

Meanwhile the fall harvest continues with tomatoes still ripening (at least this week) and all the cool season crops are kicking it and should be for quite some time if I cover them with winter weight row cover. The kale is going gangbusters, cabbage is ready, onions and potatoes are ready to harvest, carrots and beets are ready to be dug out too and chard is busting out all over.  My broccoli and escarole I planted in August at my fall garden class are almost ready too. Then pantry is bursting and the refrigerators and freezers are overflowing too! Enjoy what we still have left of this season!

What’s up in the garden!

I’ve been busy in the garden. Which is why I haven’t written lately. Hard to write when so many things need to get done. Here’s the latest update.

WEATHER: How about this crazy weather? Hot, cold, hot. Go figure! That’s how it is this time of year. It actually hailed 6 inches last Saturday between Harry’s Roadhouse restaurant and Seton Village Drive on Old Las Vegas Highway-a very small section of land. Drove through it right after it happened-would not have want to been in that one. Luckily we didn’t get much hail at the farm-thank you universe! Just missed us. One friend of mine was not so lucky and all her veggies got wiped out. Now it is getting warm again.

HARVESTING: Still harvesting lettuces and spinach. In fact I picked almost all the spinach as it will bolt soon with the warmer weather and the lettuce will also bolt soon, so much of that is picked too. The old kale is done now. The new kale ready to go in. The rhubarb is fantastic with many stalks ready to pick. I feel a strawberry-rhubarb gallette coming soon!

PLANTING: The main garden is about half weeded-Ugh! But the beds are all cleaned up and ready for all the tomatoes that will be planted next Wednesday. Now I just have to finish weeding the pathways.

DRIP SYSTEMS: The drip systems are now up and running. I hate it when they act up. Sometimes it takes 2-3 days to get everything going and not leaking. Feels great when it’s done. I can’t believe it went as smoothly as it did this year.

GIANT PUMPKINS: My first giant pumpkin was planted today at my friend, Deborah’s house. Hope it does well out there! Still have 3 more to plant next week here in my garden plus I have some giant long gourds and 2 giant zucchini (marrows) to put in. I’ve had trouble the last 3 years with getting any of my giant pumpkins successfully grown. Hopefully one of the pumpkins will do well this year. I have a plan!

DEER!: We had some deer come and eat all the Orach (which is ok) and half of one of my grape plants (which is NOT ok). Ate the leaves and the flowers of what woulda been future grapes. I covered the rest up with row cover. Hopefully they will not explore and find the plants. There is not much in the main garden to eat so hopefully they will move on. Luckily they did not eat the garlic plants!

MORE PLANTING: The peppers and eggplants starts will be planted the first week of June and the seeds of other warm season crops will go in next week too.

Busy time of year! Phew!

 

Veggie chips-yams, beets, carrots & red potatoes

veggie chips final

After making kale chips, I thought why not try making other veggie chips from some of my vegetables. After all, I’ve seen veggie chips in the stores and thought it would be fun to try make some. So far I’ve done yams, beets, carrots and red potatoes. Some of them I did in the dehydrator and some I did in the oven.

mandolinemandoline setting

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all of them I used a mandoline. Mandolines are used for slicing things very thin. The one I got was not very expensive but does the job well. It has 4 settings with #1 setting slicing the thinnest and #4 the thickest and all of the settings still slice thinner than you could do with a kitchen knife. Not having used one before, I started using #1 setting which slices super thin. I then tried #2 setting which I liked better for the dehydrator and then used the #3 setting which worked even better for both the oven and the dehydrator. It was all an experiment. Here is how I did them:

Yams
I started using the #1 setting of the mandoline to slice the yams which was too thin. Hard to believe it can slice veggies that thin. More like shavings. One big yam filled 10 trays!  I like the dehydrator for these as you don’t have to watch them so closely and they keep their gorgeous color. After they were done, they were paper thin. Subsequent batches I used the #2 and #3 setting which were more like a potato chip in thickness.

yam sliced

After cutting the slices of yams, I put lemon juice on them, about a tablespoon of olive oil and massaged them in till everything is coated.

yams on dryer

Then I put them out on the trays. You have to spread them out being careful to not overlap them so they can crisp up.I lightly put some crushed rosemary on some of them and just lightly salted all of them. The rest just had salt but no rosemary. Experiment. I set the dehydrator to 145-150°F for 2 hours and then turned it down to 135°F till the chips were crispy. Hard to say how long they take as it depends how thin you slice them and what temperature you use. It took 2 hours for super thin and maybe 4 hours for the #2 setting on the mandoline. They should be crunchy like potato chips.

beets sliced

Beets
I used the#2 setting on the mandoline but think you can use the #3 setting as well for a more substantial bite. I put lemon juice and olive oil on some of them and on some of them I dipped in a cane sugar solution to make the beets sweeter-no lemon juice on those. I saw that as an ingredient in the store bought chips but afterwards felt it is not really necessary. Put on trays and lightly salt them.

carrots drying

Carrots
I used the #2-3 setting on the mandoline. Do the same as above with just olive oil and salt.

 

Red potatoes
For these I decided to try them in the oven as the thought of dehydrating raw potatoes didn’t really appeal to me. They were easy. I sliced them in my mandoline using the #3 setting which works well. I think they need to be a little thicker when using the oven as it gets done faster than using the dehydrator.

potatoes ready

When using the oven to dehydrate or baking the chips, you must really pay attention. If you do them in the oven, set your oven on 250°F (the lowest setting on many ovens). They cook pretty fast-about 45 minutes. You’ll have to watch them closely towards the end so not to burn them. Some recipes say set your oven at 300-400°F but when I did that they burned very quickly and were inedible.

For these I put about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and olive oil massaged in, then spread them out single layer on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and then added salt on some, salt and pepper on others and salt and smoked paprika on still others. I tried onions but they turned out kinda funky.

potatoes_dried

Here are the finished potatoes.

I’m finished with tomatoes for the year 2015!

JC at Farmer's MarketFinally this week there are no more tomatoes sitting around in the house! FINITO! NONE! DONE! Nice to see the kitchen table again! This week I made the last batch of tomato tapenade and the last batch of raw tomato sauce (24 frozen gallon bags of raw tomato sauce). Phew! As a friend Deborah says, ‘That’s the part no one tells you about’-preserving your produce. It goes on and on and on for months. Soon before Christmas, I will have to can some spaghetti sauce from some of the bags of frozen sauce. But not now-I’m gonna take a week off!

JC with fishIn fact right now I’m on a flyfishing trip on the San Juan River below Navajo Dam in our cozy SCAMP trailer. It’s cold outside tonight-going to get down to a lovely 20F° but the trailer is nice and warm inside (thanks Nevan for getting that great heater!) and do you believe it, we have internet access which is great as you want to be inside by dark because of the cold and going to bed at 6pm is a little early for me. Tomorrow we start fishing for some big ol’ trout HOGS. The fishing shops said today the dry fly fishing has been great. So I hope to catch some montrous fish and get some R&R while here for a few days. Better get some sleep (what me?!), although I don’t plant (freudian slip meant to say plan) to be out too early tomorrow…

Drying tomatoes

IMG_7961

So someone gave me a jar of dehydrated tomatoes in olive oil and I thought they looked very beautiful and I know when you put them in pasta dishes, it’s bursts of intense tomato flavor. A great addition in the kitchen. So I thought, that’s what I can do with all those little cherry tomatoes! Look how beautiful they look when first put on the trays. I’ve dehydrated some during the last 2 weeks. I put all kinds together and not just cherry tomatoes.

tomatoes in oil

Here they are in the olive oil in a jar. I love these jars from Italy-Quattro Stagioni.
You can get them at Amazon. These are the 5 oz size.

I want to still eat some fresh while they last but there is definitely more than I or a small army can eat before they go bad. Today I also made 4 more pans of tomato tapenade. Pantry is getting full quick!

The last of the summer harvest-Nov 4

late fall harvest

The garden finally froze last night in earnest and I got to say I’m relieved that I don’t have to go out and harvest today. Not bad being that we went up to November 4th before it succumbed. I still have chard, carrots, beets and kale but the rest of the garden is toast. All that cool season stuff will be around awhile until we consistently get super cold at night but the warm season vegetables are gone. It was a big year for me as I grew 125 tomato plants with 31 heirloom tomato varieties. Phew! Just thinking about it makes me tired!

So yesterday, knowing the weather was coming, I picked the very, very, very last of the tomatoes, lots of chard, the last of the beans, some Glass Gem corn, more potatoes and I found 2 more squash. The eggplants and all the peppers were done 2 weeks ago and the cucumbers were done a month ago. This has been the biggest and best garden I’ve ever had especially with all the rain we got this summer and all the wonderful, warm days-not too hot. I didn’t even have to use any organic pesticides or fungicides this year-fabulous!

Turk’s Turban Squash

turk's turban squash

This year, one of the squash I grew is called Turk’s Turban (Curcubita Maxima). I picked all of them last week right after the first frost which killed the vines. Winter squash gets sweeter if you leave it outside for one frost. It’s a beautiful heirloom winter squash with a cap like a turban hence the name and is orange, green and white with some warts. It is also known as French Turban and Turk’s Cap and is an old variety from France (predates the 1820’s). They can get up to 12″ in diameter but my biggest was about 9 inches. It was easy to grow and didn’t get squash bugs which was great. Many people use them as a gourd because of their beauty but I’m going to eat it to see how it compares to other winter squashes. They say it is sweet, rich and nutty—I’ll let you know!

Curing Potatoes

potatoes just dug up

Dig up potatoes when the soil is drier so not much dirt sticks to them.

A friend of mine asked me why a few of her potatoes that she just harvested are soft. I honestly don’t know except that I know we need to ‘cure’ potatoes for about a week before we store them to heal any abrasions, minor cuts and thicken the skins a bit. So here’s how to cure potatoes.

Dig up potatoes in the fall, when the plants are dying, then the tubers will be as big as they will get. When you first dig up your potatoes, don’t wash them right away. Dig up potatoes when the soil is a little drier so not much dirt sticks to them. Discard any bruised, green ones or soft ones. Use up any damaged ones right away. Put them somewhere where it is a little cooler and they get good air circulation out of direct sunlight. I put mine in a basket lined with newspaper (so the dirt doesn’t get everywhere) with the dirt still on them inside my pantry as it is darker in there. If I had a garage, I’d put them in there but I don’t. They just need to be out of direct sunlight. Then after about a week, I take them out and brush off the dirt well with my hand but I still don’t wash them. I wash them as I use them. You want the skins to be dry. I also again look for any soft ones and discard them as they can ruin the rest and I put them back where the sun don’t shine as I don’t want them to turn green. Don’t eat any green ones as the skin has some photo toxins in them from being exposed to too much sunlight. I’ve never gotten sick from eating one as it is mildly toxic but why eat anything that is toxic. That’s the point of organic gardening right? I use to think store bought potatoes tasted the same as home grown potatoes but not so. Nothing better then fresh potatoes. They’re fantastic and not so starchy tasting.