Monday, June 7, 2021

Bountiful harvests of early summer

Bountiful harvest for a tabbouleh--made
possible because of the pandemic travel ban.
Yellow banana peppers, assorted tomatoes,
curly parsley, purple and white onions,
garlic chives, and bunching onion leaves.

Cooking to the harvests

Because of the pandemic, we haven't been traveling since March 2020, which has resulted in many more crops and harvests that would not have been possible otherwise. Normally, we would have been traveling at various times during this period--mostly to be a guest presenter on cruise ships--so we would not have been able to accomplish this.

We enjoyed the cool-weather harvests including, parsley, dill, broccoli, and cabbages. I wrote The lettuces to document some of what we grew this year. Also, at the end of that article, I provided details on a bed preparation where I planted some of our tomatoes--they are, as of now, much taller than me and have yielded a bountiful crop. I covered how I prepared that bed in Enrich soil by composting in place


My husband and I worked together to plant tomato and pepper seeds in 4-inch pots in early December. We kept them on trays and moved them inside when it was cold and outside when it was warmer until the end of February when I planted them. I was going to wait another week to plant them just to be safe from late frosts, but the tomatoes were more than ready to be planted. The late frost didn't come, but I was ready with some sheets and blankets that I could have laid over and clothes-pinned to the tomato cages.

The tomatoes were getting too big for their starting pots. Lovely roots.

I had prepared small swales under each tomato cage with extra-rich compost and some well-composted horse manure. The swales make it easy to augment the irrigation so that the water soaks into the soil. One problem tomatoes have is if there is irregular irrigation, they'll get blossom-end rot or splitting of the tops of the fruit. I used hoses from the rain barrels to fill these swales--at first it was every day, but after a month or so, I backed off to gradually to every third day unless there was rain.

Small swale planting with one tomato plant on each side sharing a tomato cage. Yes, the tomato plants in this bed are much taller than me! Look at all those tomatoes...

Later, after harvesting the onions, I also planted Everglades tomatoes, which will continue to produce fruit into the summer. While we normally grow cultivars of the standard tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), they stop setting fruit when the low nighttime temperature is higher than 73 degrees, which is normal through our Florida summers. The Everglades tomato (S. pimpinellifolium) is a wild-type ancestor originating from Ecuador and Peru. It's also called a currant tomato due to its small size, this species is very durable and will continue to set fruit through the summer. It's indeterminate and it's said to grow to twelve feet long/tall. At this point, they are still small, but their flowering has begun.

So what to do with all these lovely tomatoes? Well, we've been adding them to salads, putting them on our pizzas, roasting them, and just eating them as snacks. In addition, we've enjoyed the following...

If we have parsley, tabbouleh is on the menu, but this year we used fresh tomatoes. This recipe uses barley as the grain--very hearty. We made a yummy tomato and onion pie/crustless quiche. We decided that we could have doubled the tomatoes.

Tomato and onion sandwiches on multi-grain
 bread fried in olive oil.
Marinated tomato salad.


Tying the harvested onions in bunches
for drying in the garage.

Most of our tomato dishes have included onions. I planted three bunches of onion plants. One was a short-day onion sampler, while the other two were sweet granex onions. I wrote about how I plant these onions in Short day onions and more...

These bunches seemed much larger than I'd remembered, so the bed I'd prepared for them was not adequate. I needed some more garden space quickly. I even prepared two large containers for planting with onions. After harvesting and the drying, we weighed the dried crop before storing them--28 pounds and this was after using twenty or so of them before the drying was  complete. We stored them in paper bags in the bottom of the pantry. So another bountiful crop.

Also, I planted some bunching onion seeds along with the cool-weather crops last fall. Bunching onion (Allium fistulosum), aka scallion, cutting onion, bulbless onion, Welsh onion, and more, is a perennial and can be used in place of chives, but the hollow leaves are much bigger around. The pollinators are attracted to the flower heads, which are also edible.

Bunching onions are perennials A beautiful bunching onion flower head (Allium fistulosum)


We planted the pepper seeds in early December and treated the same as the tomato seedlings, but the tomatoes were more vigorous growers in those four-inch pots. So I waited another week to plant them, because peppers can grow and be productive right through our hot, wet summers. Again, I used the small swale method for planting the pepper plants.  Two cultivars that are new for us are the yellow banana pepper and the chocolate pepper. They are both sweet when they are ripe, but do not taste like bananas or chocolate--just damn-good peppers.

Yellow banana peppers turn orange when they're ripe. Chocolate bell peppers--very sweet

And more!

Of course, these were not the only crops. Our extended home time allowed for many more choices, including salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor), which is a perennial crop that can be used like parsley or other herbs. The leaves have a slight cucumbery taste during most of the year, but in the summer they are more reminiscent of watermelon. It's easy to grow from seed, but it's best to plant this with other perennial crops and herbs so it does not get in the way during crop rotations.

Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) Salad burnet flower head. It's in the rose family.

I planted carrots three times during the cool season, so we'd have an ongoing harvest. These beautiful purple carrots are the last crop. I've just begun to harvest this row, so there will be many carrots in upcoming meals--maybe I'll make a carrot cake so dessert can count as a serving of vegetables.

A late crop of purple carrots Dill seed harvest.

'Inca Jewels' sunflowers are not far from the
vegetable garden to trap stinkbugs and
to attract pollinators. 

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are not only pretty, they attract many pollinators to your yard. This patch is growing near the vegetable garden beds. One warning about sunflowers is that they exude an herbicide from their roots and from all part of the plant. If you've ever had a sunflower seed bird feeder, you probably observed that nothing grows where the sunflower shells fall. This trait is known as allelopathy and other plants such a Australian pines and black walnut do this as well. So the wide-spread advice of planting sunflowers with cucumbers or any other desirable crop is much worse than just ineffective. The cucumbers will suffer and the gardeners following this bad advice will blame themselves--maybe even thinking that they have a "black thumb." Here's a link to a study on the allelopathy of sunflower:

So I hope you've been able to use this "at-home" time fruitfully--literally! If you need help getting started, our "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida" covers everything from building soil to sustainable harvests. The link on the side bar of this blog takes you directly to the publisher for purchase.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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