Fresh Dates

Those who follow my blog for few years now probably got it that I LOVE fruit. All fruit. Sweet, sour, soft or crunchy. From first few strawberries, blueberries, to late apples - it's all welcome. I also love tropical fruit and even started growing my own lemons and other citrus, small banana palm and a pineapple. But sometimes I get a cravings for thing that are not available in this area, and my sister either brings me fruit when she's visiting or sends in a package. Today is one such day - I got a box of fresh Dates. Most people have tried dried dates (usually stuffed with peanut butter for some reason which makes me gag). But how many have tried fresh variety?
On the picture you can see some are still very light color - they are very crisp and crunchy, not very sweet and have this tart/numbing property when you eat them - I LOVE them. On another hand, few are very very ripe and you can see them by dark overripe color - they are very mushy and that's what usually being used to dry. They are SUPER sweet and I'm not a big fan of that. I like the nice middle- almost fully ripe but still a crunch to it.

Next on my target is to get fresh green pistachios once they're in season in October! I love fresh not-dry nuts like walnuts and pistachios so I try to find them whenever they come on the market. Afterwards it will be very large pomegranates and Pomelos right in time for Christmas :)

50K visitors

I realized this morning when I opened my page to answer comments that I just hit 50,000 visitors to my blog - thank you to all who's been keeping me company! For a private blog with no advertisement or marketing it's not too shabby :) granted i'm far away from 1 million like 2-Men but I treasure each and every one of your visits and comments. Nothing makes me happier than to be able to share my passion for gardening and to learn from all of you via comments and visits to your blogs. Here's to the next 50K :)

Visit to Cross Estate Gardens

Last week I was invited by a coworker to go and visit local hide-away garden - Cross Estate Garden. It was a perfect warm but not too hot day, so we spent our lunch hour walking around flowering beds, under shade of very large old trees and trying to snap pictures of butterflies and bees. Some flowers were unassuming at first, but had really strong fragrance and others were more showy. There were some metal and wooden structures either supporting plants or adding another dimension to the garden.  It's definitely was a good hour.
And at the very entrance, there was a HUGE plant (not a tree) with leaves that you can use as umbrella when it rains. I have no idea what it was but it was awesome! I took a picture of my friend Megan next to it so you can see how big it really is.
If anyone knows what this plant is please let me know!

Happy Meals

My friends all tell me how lucky my husband is - not only he gets organic home grown veggies, but he also gets very nice meals for dinner/lunch using those veggies. I try to balance the meals to include side of protein - seafood, eggs, beef, chicken, sausages or pork. Then add some starch like rice, couscous, pasta or potatoes. And of course veggies. What ever is in season, from salads, asian greens and bright asparagus in spring, to sweet potatoes and winter squash, beans, peas, peppers - whatever I have under my hands and in the fridge/pantry. Bake a loaf of fresh crusty bread to go with it and maybe a pie afterward and I have a happy hubby, which makes me happy at the end.
Some things are simpler than others like plain egg salad, or a stirfry, others more fancier like seafood - it all depends what kind of a mood I'm in and how much time I have once I come back from work. Either way he gets to have yummy meals. I however keep my veggies mostly raw or with minimal cooking, avoiding some of the heavier dishes I make for him (like meat and gravy). Works for both of us.

Black Dirt Harvest

I forgot to weight my harvest this week - mostly zucchinis, few tomatoes and cucumbers as they went all to the community kitchen before I realized my mistake. Oh well. But I do want to share a picture of beautiful Easter Egg Radishes that were picked yesterday at a farm in the Black Dirt region. For point of reference I placed a blank piece of paper on top - that's 8.5" wide :)

On the weekends I get to go to that farm and help out with little things like planting and weeding in spring/early summer or harvesting later in a year. And I got to bring few things like these lovely radishes and yard-long beans home to share with coworkers, which made them very happy.

Beans, Beans and more Beans

People often ask me why I have such a long list of seeds and why do I bother with all the varieties. Wouldn't it be better to have just one type of tomato, pepper, potato or bean? But the answer is always "no, life would be too boring if we only had 1 of each". All the taste, texture, different flavors that vary so much - how can you not enjoy them? Last year I did the spotlight of different tomatoes and how they go from smoky and complex to almost fruit-like and non-acid flavors. So this time the spotlight is on beans. There are too many varieties in the world with some being grown for dry beans that can be stored for winter, and some for eating fresh, or can be done as both. They can be categorized in several groups:
  • Green beans
  • Yellow Wax
  • French Filet
  • Asian Yard long
  • Cow peas (technically a bean)
  • others such as Soy, Lima and Broad bean (Fava)
And then you have choice of bush or pole - do you want to have neat little bush to pick from or do you prefer to see a wall of climbing beans that makes it fun trying to put them into towers/walls and you won't have to bend too much to pick them?

And of course all those gorgeous colors - bright yellow, purple, speckled, red, dark and light green etc. I can only wish I had enough space for many more to plant. I'm not a fan of dry beans - never got to really like them, but I do have few varieties that I like to grow for eating fresh:
So from top to bottom in the picture of what I picked yesterday:

  • Kentucky Wonder - heirloom bean, with traditional "green bean" flavor.
  • Romano Purpiat - deep purple wide bean that turns green when cooked - very tasty stringless bean and very quickly becoming one of my favorites for its buttery taste.
  • Garden green bean - Tenderbush - the typical green bean you get in a store.
  • Purple Velour - french filet variety, with slim and crunchy texture and very pleasant taste.
  • Dragon Tongue - this can be used as fresh or let it grow out and dry for winter, but I like it fresh. It's nice and buttery when young but if it's overgrown can get a bit stringy so I pick them when they're still flat.
  • Roc D'or - this is a pole variety that I love for both taste and texture, and in addition it really a heavy producer.  This is a yellow wax type with very mild buttery taste, perfect for a side dish and stores well in a freezer if I blanch it.
  • Green Slenderette - another french filet, small in size but nice crisp taste. Not a heavy producer though so not sure if I will grow it next year.
  • Soliel - yellow french filet, very slender, crisp and somewhat brittle in texture (breaks often when I harvest) but has pleasant flavor.
  • And last in the picture is soy bean - green butterbean. I like steaming them and eating fresh with a little bit of salt to enhance flavor.

Not pictured that I tried this year are Dolico - more like a cow-peas but can be used as a green bean. I was not happy with the flavor and pulled out plants after first try. Garden yellow - brittle wax was mostly destroyed by groundhog though I did get first few flushes out of it. French Gold pole bean - lovely taste and texture, but not as good as Roc D'or. Red Noodle and Gita was destroyed by groundhog and never got to produce, and Purple Queen was demolished as well, but I had it last year and liked it flavor very much.

So here you have it, few varieties to think about and I have a long list that I want to try next year in addition to what I already have.

Harvest August 18

The garden is slowly dying off, and I started to pull out everything from beds and will prepare them for winter - this is one thing that I was not able to do last year and it's very visible in this year harvest. Not adding manure in fall to de-compost shot down growth of everything considerably. So I will get a truckload delievered and spread for next year. Only 1 bed planted for fall garden. But few thing still being harvested, including beans, tomatoes, first Diva cucumber, few peppers, tiny corn and one yellow squash.
The community is also starting to wrap up, with most of the tomato plants dying off. But I did get second cantaloupe, onions, tomatoes and zucchini. 
Visit Daphne's page to see how others are doing in their harvests this week and share yours.