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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
I used the #2-3 setting on the mandoline. Do the same as above with just olive oil and salt.
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.
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.
Here are the finished potatoes.
Finally 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!
In 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…
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.
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 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!
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!
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.
Harvest season is full blast right now. Started out with our Home Grown New Mexico ‘Jam On’ class where we made a Strawberry-balsamic jam and a terrific Blueberry jam.
Then the grapes ripened-ate lots and dried some into raisins for later.
The cucumbers ripened so fast I was making lots of pickles. First I made bread and butter pickles, then cornichon pickles and then dill pickles-crock, refrigerator and canned. Must have about 30 jars+ and now the 5 gallon crock is full where I am fermenting some with salt brine. After I was bored with pickles, I made some sweet pickle relish which I haven’t tasted yet. Will probably make more of that with the giant cucumbers I miss when looking for little ones. So far I’ve made pickles with Jody, Nick and Elodie.
Then I bought 20 lbs of peaches from the Farmer’s Market and Mernie and I made 3 different peach jams.
Now the tomatoes are coming in and I’m starting to make the raw tomato sauce that I freeze in gallon plastic freezer bags. Later in November after I recover from harvesting, I will take them out of the freezer and make different pasta sauces like puttenesca, marinara, penne alla vodka and good ole spaghetti sauce.
Soon I will harvest potatoes too.
and we will harvest honey from the bee hive.
Of course then there is all I take to the Farmer’s Market that I harvest every week-tomatoes, eggplants, shishito peppers, beans, tomatillos and sometimes rhubarb, kale and chard when I have the room on the tables. Phew! Busy time of year!
The best part of it all is I haven’t bought any vegetables in the store since early July and I’ll have a full pantry for winter when harvest season is done.
Ok, I have something to confess – I’M TOMATO ADDICT!! I need my fix! Here are the first organic tomatoes of 2014 season. I got 5 Sungold and Black Cherry tomatoes during the last week of June. That is the earliest I have ever gotten tomatoes ready to eat. Sungolds are one of the few hybrid tomatoes I grow because they are soo sweet and Black Cherry tomatoes are an heirloom tomato that is fantastic as well with it’s sweet earthy flavor. I have gotten more little tomatoes since then that are eagerly eaten-sometimes right off the vine – if I can’t wait. I HAVEN’T HAD A TOMATO SINCE LAST OCTOBER! I never eat the ones in the restaurants or buy any from a grocery store-I just patiently wait until my tomatoes get ripe during the tomato season. It’s been about 9 months since I ate a real tomato!
Here is a mini Caprese without the basil. Of course I had to go get some fresh mozzarella to go with those first tomatoes! I don’t have any big Italian basil yet to add to my Caprese but gobbled them up with the mozarella and 18 yr old balsamic vinegar and olive oil over them. The sweetness was divine!
And to think I HATED tomatoes as a kid – couldn’t stand those slimy seeds! My how things change through the years! Of course all I ever got were those store-bought tasteless tomatoes. It wasn’t until I had a REAL tomato ripened on the vine that I became a tomato addict!
Why else have a vegetable garden in the summer if not for the tomatoes!
Now that the harvest season is over, I have so much to catch up on with you all from this season. Seems when I am in the middle of the gardening season, I’m just too tired to write about all the things I want to share as I’m either in the glass shop or out in the garden during the day and come in at the end of the day ‘dirt tired’ as I say. So now I can catch up on maybe a particular vegetable I wanted to try, or how much honey I was able to harvest this year or a particular dish I cooked and enjoyed or something else I observed. I did take pictures all along waiting till I had the time to share.
Here is a photo of the last harvest of the season on Oct 21, 2013. I picked the Tarabais beans after they dried in the shell. They are in the baskets (on the left) waiting to be shelled, 3 heirloom Banana squash (on the right) which I left out in the first few frosty nights as they get sweeter if left out in the cold (but do bring them in when we get really cold), French Fingerling potatoes were dug out and put in the black box to cure and the very last of the tomatoes that I finished ripening inside that later became sauce and in the white bucket behind all of that was the honey we harvested just before putting the bees ‘to bed for the winter’. You always leave enough honey for the bees before harvesting any for yourself and some years you don’t get to harvest any. Here it is waiting to be put into jars after being strained in the white bucket. More on these individually later.