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July 28, 2009

Armenian Yard Long Cucumber Taste Test

Have you tried growing this variety of cuke? One of the attractions of this particular variety is the boasting value. They really do grow very large, very quickly. I will show you in pictures what to expect if you decide to grow one of these behemoths in your vegetable garden.

All of a sudden, a huge green amazing looking fruit appears amidst an otherwise ordinary looking amount of foliage.

cuke_growing.jpg

In mid July it seemed the growth had slowed up, so unable to resist any longer, and seeing the beginnings of other huge fruits, I harvested and brought it to the cutting board. You can see how big this baby was.

cuke_1.jpg

The first cut. Let's see what the inside is like.

cuke_2.jpg

Hmmm... lots of seeds.

cuke_3.jpg

I'm not too keen on eating lots of seeds, so I decided to scoop them out.

cuke_4.jpg

Then I cut the flesh into chunks as slices were no longer an option. Even after taking the seeds out there is still more cucumber to eat than you would ever think possible.

cuke_5.jpg

The flavor is milder than some of my other varieties of cukes, which in itself is not a bad thing. However I'm not keen on the feel of the flesh which I would compare to that of a melon. So, would I grow this variety again? Actually, after living with the cut cukes in my refrigerator, I realize I am not too attracted to them after all. I think they have novelty value and could get kids interested in growing vegetables because they are so much fun, but when it comes to eating, give me good old burpless or victory any day.

I guess size isn't everything.

July 26, 2009

Sunday Backyard Harvest Blogging

Atrios posted Sunday Rooftop Harvest Blogging so I figured I would post a Sunday Backyard Harvest Blogging post.

This is what we picked this morning:

SundayHarvest.jpg

And this is what we picked Friday:

FridayHarvest.jpg


July 21, 2009

One Loss for the Environment

Just recently I had to move. It came as a bit of a surprise, so in my scramble to find a place, get everything packed and all the rest of the annoying things associated with moving, I decided to leave some garden items behind.

I left the new owner a lovely butterfly bush that attracted not only butterflies but hummingbirds too, a pineapple sage with beautiful red flowers as well as some other fragrant flowering herbs. I also left a patch of well tended ground complete with compost all ready for the summer season's plantings.

I loved my little patch of land. I turned it from a bare piece of dirt when I moved in, to a little piece of paradise full of butterflies, hummingbirds, mourning doves and robins. The bedroom and bathroom windows looked out onto this view and each time I looked out the window I felt happy. Along with all the plants I added during my tenancy there, were a couple of old peach trees that still bore fabulous fruits.

Below is a photo of the yard when we arrived.

before.jpg

And now two photos of the yard soon before we left.

after_1.jpg

after_2.jpg

I know that not everyone is a gardener - although secretly I can't imagine why - so I was prepared to imagine this little paradise becoming over grown with some weeds and maybe the vegetable patch not being used. But nothing prepared me for the ultimate downer that I was faced with when I learned that the entire piece of land, all that was on it including the peach trees and the ornamental plants growing in the front yard, have all been bulldozed. They are gone. And what is now in their place? A very large truck!

Of course I am kicking myself for not digging up every single plant, but beyond what I see as my loss, is the overall loss for the green movement. Gardens being bulldozed and shopping malls put in their place and housing subdivisions being erected on farm land are all losses for the environment and the little creatures living there.

I sure hope all my little bird friends that lived in that garden have a safe place to go.

July 15, 2009

Tomatoes: Heritage vs Hybrid

I used to be a purist. Everything in my garden was organic, grown from seed and was only a heritage variety. I guess I grew up to the fact that although this was the noble thing - it may not be the most practical. I am still a purist in terms of organic, but I'm afraid I have moved away from lofty ideals when it comes to which variety of vegetable to choose.

This year I had to start completely from scratch due to moving house. My old garden was just reaching that point where it was old enough to thrive on hearty piles of self generated compost. Enter new patch of ground covered in weeds and no compost. I had no time to start anything from seed. It was either buy plants or miss the season altogether - so I bought plants. Among the plants I bought were a couple of hybrid Early Girl tomatoes.

Right now, mid-July, these two plants are already giving us ripe tomatoes. A newer plant has fruits ripening up almost as fast as an older plant we moved from the previous garden. See below the older Early Girl already with red fruits.

earlies_olderplant.jpg

And the one month newer Early Girl also about to produce a juicy delicious ripe tomato.

earlies_newplant.jpg

While I was spending all my energy making raised beds and adding soil amendments and not taking fun trips out of town, a good friend came back from a trip to an organic nursery and gave me a couple of heritage tomato plants. These I planted within a week of the newest Early Girl. The pictures speak for themselves.

Here is the Kentucky Beafsteak. A nice healthy plant, many flowers, good foliage - one green tomato.

ktybeafsteak_tomatoes.jpg

And here is the one green tomato in case you missed it.

ktybeafsteak_tomatoes2.jpg
And last but not least the Church tomato. One tiny little green tomato near the top of the plant. Can't see it? Took me a while!

Church_tomatoes.jpg

Maybe these heritage tomatoes are not suited to this particular Californian mini climate? Maybe they will suddenly come in to their own in September? The jury is still out, but right now I must admit that I am glad I lowered my standards, because I am enjoying lovely ripe home grown tomatoes. Yum!

I will let you know later in the season what I have decided about Heritage vs Hybrid.

July 14, 2009

2 Books to Read About Backyard Farming

Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, a Short History of Herding and the Art of Making Cheese, by Brad Kessler.
Brad writes " The longer I lived with goats the more connections I saw to a collective human past we've since forgotten, here in North America at least. I saw how so many aspects of our everyday culture arose from a lifestyle of herding hoofed animals".

Based out of Vermont, read how Kessler and his wife started off with two goats and changed their lives.

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, by Novella Carpenter.
Very interesting account of an Oakland backyard farmer.

July 6, 2009

The Connection Between What We Eat and How We Feel and How Healthy We Are

They're eating food grown in the White House vegetable garden.

The Obamas' first harvest,

Working with a few professional supervisors under the eye of their host, they pulled up a big bounty: 73 pounds of lettuce, 12 pounds of peas and one cucumber (which had originally been white but was yellow by the time the kids got to it). And then they all went inside to cook, before returning to the garden to eat.

First Lady Michelle Obama said,
"My hope is that [through] this garden, we can continue to make the connection between what we eat and how we feel and how healthy we are," she told the kids...

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