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.
I started using ‘Deep Root trainers’ last year for my fava beans and other bean crops that need deep cells or for plants that don’t want the roots disturbed when planting. The cool thing about them is that the cells are 5 inches deep and shaped like a clamshell, with two sides that open up like a book. There are 8 sections total that fit snugly in a tray to hold them upright that comes with the kit. They are great as they have grooves that keep the roots growing straight instead of circling in the cell and strangling the plant. They also air prune when they hit the bottom of the cell. No need to transplant into another pot, just plant them out in the garden. You just put seed starting soil in each cell, pat it down and put the seeds in. The only drawback is the plastic clamshells are very fragile and must be handled super carefully to keep from cracking but knowing that, I am careful and have them for three years so far. You can get them through Amazon. Get the 5″ deep ones, NOT the 3″ ones.
Pictured above are fava beans in their cells, 6 are already planted in the ground. Just carefully open the clamshell and slide them out into your hole in the ground with no root disturbance for those sensitive plants that hate to be transplanted.
I also used root trainers with a hard to germinate french variety of beet called ‘Craupadine’. It is probably the oldest beet in existence. I have not had much luck with germination when planting these seeds directly in the ground so I decided to try them in the rootrrainers this year and have much better germination although still spotty. I thought being a root vegetable, they probably would not like to have that main root disturbed. I think they will do well. I won’t wait till the plants are too big. I am planting them outside after the first true leaves (cotyledon leaves) come out. So far 27 have germinated which is more than I have ever grown at one time. They are ready for transplant above. I am so excited as these are the sweetest beets I’ve ever eaten. The french farmer markets cook them over a smokey fire in foil and serve them still warm.
Here are my favorite vegetables that I grew for 2017. Mind you I’m super picky and I’m sure there are many other varieties out there waiting to be tried that are great. That’s what keeps it interesting for me. Also I give you where I bought the seeds or transplants. You may be able to buy these elsewhere but this is where I purchased them from.
2017 Tomato Winners
***ALL-TIME FAVORITE TOMATO
Lucky Cross: MY FAVORITE TOMATO-Bigger tomato. Starts yellow then turns more pinkish yellow on the outside with red marbling inside. Sweet and luscious with few cracks. Ripens later in the season but before the end of the season. Part Brandywine and tastes like them. DELICIOUS! Not to be confused with Little Lucky tomato. Seeds from Victory Seeds
Goliath: A very abundant and nice size red tomato. No cracks and old-fashioned tomato flavor-excellent. Seeds from Totally Tomato seeds
Costoluto Genevese: Beautiful fluted tomato with old-fashioned tomato flavor from Italy. Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Marmande Garnier Rouge: A medium to large dark-red slightly fluted tomato from France-excellent old-fashion tomato flavor. Seeds from Secret Seeds Cartel
Big Zac: Huge, red sweet tomato-takes all season to ripen but still one of my favorites-worth the wait. Transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe
Goldman’s Italian American: My favorite for a sauce tomato-Unique, beautiful and large tomatoes have a pear shape, being ribbed and pleated. These have an intense red color and fantastic flavor when ripe. Thick, red flesh is perfect for delicious tomato sauces. Ripens towards end of season. Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
NEW! Stump of the World: Big pink tomato with sweet flavor. Good at high altitudes. Seeds from Tomato Growers
Black and Brown Boar: Brownish-red tomato with green stripes-good, sweet, earthy flavor. Seeds from Wild Boars Farms
NEW! Summer of Love: Large and very meaty red/yellow bi-color beefsteak with purple anthocyanin splashes on the sun-kissed fruit-wonderful flavor. Seeds from Wild Boars Farms
NEW! Lover’s Lunch: A very beautiful and tasty striped red/yellow with bi-colored flesh. This large, meaty, fruity and sweet tomato has stand-out flavor. Seeds from Wild Boars Farms
NEW! Lucid Gem: First they ripen yellow, than more of an orange when very ripe. Very attractive with black purple anthocynin splashes on shoulder that contrast with the yellow skin. Flavor is very good- Sweet with fruity tones. Very meaty, very few Seeds – One of the best varieties for heat tolerance. Seeds from Wild Boars Farms
NEW! Solar Flare-XL: Bigger than the regular Solar Flare-very sweet red with faint yellow stripes. Seeds from Wild Boars Farms
Black Cherry: One of my favorites that I grow EVERY year. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe
Sungold: One of my few hybrids-Always a favorite-super sweet yellow cherry tomato. Transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe
2017 vegetable winners
Wasabi arugula: This arugula gives the same nose-tingling sensation as the wasabi condiment used in Japanese dishes. This variety is very quick to bolt but delicious. Grow in early spring before heat. Seeds from Johnny’s Seeds or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe
NEW! Borlotti ‘Lamon’ beans: Climbing beautiful cream, red splashed shell on outside with beans being a pale pink with red splotches inside if you let them dry. I like to harvest them when dry. According to the Venetians, Lamon’s are “THE” bean for ‘pasta fagiolo’. Seeds from Seeds of Italy
Émérite Filet Pole Bean: Émérite is a true Filet Bean from France, produced on graceful vines growing to 8′ tall. When picked early and often, the beans are tender and have outstanding flavor. Seeds from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
Craupadine: I’ve tried this one before-poor germination every year except for one year and the one year it did germinate, it tasted FANTASTIC-sweetish beet I’ve ever eaten. Will try to start seeds inside this year to see if I get better germination. Would really like to get this one again. Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Violetta bok choy: A beautiful green with purple tipped leaves and tastes great sautéed. Transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe
Kalibos Red cabbage: This Eastern European heirloom cabbage has a pointed shape and intense red/purple leaves. Beautiful and sweet flavor. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange
Argentata chard: Has green leaf with big white stalks that when cooked, melt in your mouth. Plus it is the most cold tolerant variety in my garden outlasting many other varieties of chard. Seeds from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
Poona Kheera: My all-time favorite eating cucumber. Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Fairy Tale: my favorite-never bitter or tough skin. No need to peel this small eggplant. I just cut them in half and saute or BBQ them. Transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe
Florence Fennel: A bulb type fennel from Italy. Wonderful mild anise taste to add to Chippino or Boulabaise. I chop it and freeze it for use later. Seeds from Seeds of Italy or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe
Jimmy Nardello: Super sweet, red pepper-good for sauteing or cook on BBQ. It is thin-walled. Good cooked or raw. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe
Waltham Butternut: I grew it because I had heard it doesn’t get squash bugs and that was true for me-good flavor too. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe
Rogosa Violina “Gioia” Butternut: An Italian version of Butternut. Grew much larger with excellent flavor and no squash bugs-YAY! Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Costata Romanesco zucchini: This is the most flavorful zucchini I’ve ever tasted-sweet nutty flavor. Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe
Moon and Stars: This has a beautiful dark green skin with yellow ‘stars’. Taste is super sweet and it ripened before the end of the season. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe
Here are my favorite vegetables going into the 2017 growing season. I may not have room for all these in the gardening but these are my favorites as of right now
VEGETABLES FOR THE TABLE-TOMATO LADY’S FAVORITES
Goldman’s Italian American-85D
Any cherry tomato
Artisan Blush Tiger
EARLY TOMATOES-52-65 days
Bella Rosa*-very firm even when ripe
Pink Berkeley Tie Dye
Black and Brown Boar
LATE-SEASON-80 days +
Purple Cherokee-purple tomato
Paul Robeson-dark tomato
Indigo Apple or Indigo Rose
*denotes hybrid tomato
Romano-Italian pole or bush
Tarbais-dry pole bean for French cassoulet
Chiogga-beautiful red with white stripes inside
Scarlet Nantes-orange sweet
Chantenay Red-orange very sweet
Ruby Red-gorgeous red/good flavor
Argentata-white stem-favorite in Italy-very cold hardy
Poona Kheera-best tasting ever
Lemon cucumber-never bitter
Boothsby Blonde-Bread and Butter pickles
Russian Pickling-Dill pickles
Mini Whites-sweet pickles
Rosa Bianca-big eggplant for Eggplant Parmesan
Fairytale-small, sauté or BBQ
Jimmy Nardello-red thin skin pepper for sautéing-SWEET
Shishito-Japanese small green pepper-saute-serve for tapas-NOT HOT
Poblano-use for chile relleno/MILDLY HOT
Butternut-will not attract squash bugs
Galeux D’ Eyesines
Costata Romanesco-zucchini-Favorite of Deborah Madison also
Bennings Green Tint-patty pan
Still catching up on what’s up in the garden. I planted a new bean called Climbing pole French Bean – Meraviglia Venezia that I bought from Franchi Seeds. It’s a Romano type of bean only yellow in color. I wonder what it will taste like. I also planted Emerite french filet pole bean from John Scheepers Vegetable seeds and a Chartreuse leaf colored scarlet runner pole bean which I grow for looks as the bright yellow-green leaves look fantastic against other greens.
Detroit Red beets, Craupadine beets and Atomic Red carrot seeds were planted directly in the garden. I put row cover over all of them to keep the birds from eating the bean seeds and to keep moisture in the ground for the beets and carrots. If you’ve had trouble with birds eating germinating seeds, put row cover over them till they get about 3 inches tall. The Detroit beets and carrots are coming up nicely but the Craupadine beets are not. They are so hard for me to germinate compared to other beet seeds-still I try as I love the flavor of them.
Cucumber seeds planted in 2″ pots in the greenhouse at end of May, have germinated and will go into the garden today-June 15. The varieties are: Poona Kheera cucumbers (best tasting slicing cuke ever-never get bitter), Parisian cucumbers (I will make Cornichon pickles out of them), Boothby Blonde cucumber seeds will become Bread and Butter pickles and National Pickling cucumber seeds which will become dill pickles. Can’t wait to make pickles!
Last year and every year before, I planted cucumber seeds directly in the ground but roly polys ate my cucumber seeds as they germinated last year in the soil. Roly polys, sow bugs, pill bugs, potato bugs are sort of interchangeable names for Armadillidiidae. They are actually good composters of horse manure so they are great in a compost pile but can damage small seedlings as they germinate in your garden when you plant seeds. Last year, I thought it was a cut worm eating all my seedlings, but found the roly polys instead to be the culprits. I had to plant 3x before I could get enough up and only after I sprayed them with Neem did I have success. This year I pre-started them in the greenhouse in 2″ pots to get them a little bigger. I find when seedlings are bigger, the roly polys don’s bother them anymore. They only like the young tender seedlings as they emerge. If they do eat some of my other seedlings that are direct seed planted, they will be toast as I will spray Neem Oil on the roly polys on the soil where they live to get rid of them.
The winter squash varieties I’ve planted are Rugosa Violina Butternut and Waltham Butternut. I grow Butternut squash because it doesn’t attract squash bugs! It’s the winter squash to grow if they are a problem.
I’m also growing ‘Tahume’ Calabacitas squash which is really a winter squash picked very immature-we eat it like summer squash out here in Santa Fe especially in the dish called Calabacitas, which is a mixture of sauteed onions, corn, Hatch green chili and calabacitas squash. I got this from Botanical Gardens seed company. Very yummy!
Summer squash varieties I started are Costata Romanesco zucchini (best flavor ever) and ‘Bennings Green Tint’ patty pan. If I hadn’t had such trouble with the rolly polys last year I would just plant the seeds in the ground and you should too if they are not a problem for you. The soil has warmed up nicely—over 70°F which is perfect for squash seed germination.
Should be done with all veggies planted this week. So if you think you are behind in the garden this year, don’t worry, you’re not alone!
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.
So now that the Persephone period is almost over and the magic date of January 15th is upon us, what does that mean? It means our day lengths are getting longer and January 15th is when we start getting 10 hours of daylight that will continue to get longer every day. Have you noticed already it now gets dark around 5:30 instead of 5 pm? The darkest time of the year is over. What does that mean to gardeners? To learn how to start cold hardy vegetable seeds super early outside and how also how to start them inside read on.
If you already planted cold hardy vegetables late last fall in a cold frame, low tunnel or hoop house, you may have noticed that the little seedlings haven’t been growing much at all as winter set in. Now with longer daylight hours, they will start to grow again and barring any devastating freezes, they will continue to grow and you can get cold hardy crops earlier this spring.
In late winter, before you have harvest your winter crops, decide what you want to plant in your bed once space opens up in your cold frame. As the end of the Persephone period draws near (January 15) , you can re-seed the openings created from your harvesting or you could start planting seeds in your bed if you don’t have anything growing. My soil in my unheated greenhouse is at 40°F right now (as of January 12). Lots of cold hardy vegetables germinate in cold soil. They will be slow to start at first but they will start as your soil warms up to 40°F and warmer. Now with the day light getting longer, you can think about starting early. The winter sowing you do will be ready for harvest by early spring, often long before the same crop when grown outside without protection. A bonus is many of the cold hardy winter crops don’t like our springs, bolting on the first few warm days so you’ll be able to harvest that spinach before it bolts!
Some cold-hardy plants planted inside a cold frame, low tunnel or hoop house can tolerate a hard freeze at night, provided they are allowed to thaw during the day. The plants must be completely thawed before you harvest them. In addition, put some winter row cover over seedlings at night to give them an additional 4-6°F protection even though they are already in a cold frame, etc. Remove the row cover on days when it is above freezing. Watering is necessary to get crops started, but they will generally need very little water during the winter season-early spring once established.
STARTING VEGETABLE SEEDS INSIDE:
I’ve already written about starting seeds inside on many earlier posts.
To learn all about starting seeds indoors to get a head start go here:
WINTER HARDY VEGETABLES
The following list of winter vegetables to grow is from ‘The Winter Harvest Handbook’ by Elliot Coleman. These can be planted either as transplants (first started inside under lights) or outside as seeds in cold frames, low tunnels or hoop houses.
Asian greens-Tatsoi, Pak Choi (Mei Quing Choi), Mizuna, Tokyo Bekana,Komatsuna
beets-Red Ace, Merlin, Touchstone Gold
beet leaves-Bull’s Blood, Red Ace
carrot-Napoli, Mokum, Nelson
chard-Fordhook Giant, Ruby Red, Argentata
lettuce-Red Saladbowl, Tango, Rex, Rouge d’hiver
mustard green-Toyoko Beau
radishes-Tinto, D’Avignon, Cherriette