Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ode to "Helda"

Late August means our favourite bean is ready to be eaten. "Helda" is a romano type pole bean that has the sweetest, "beaniest" flavour of all the types we have grown.Bill has an interesting , rustic  set of poles for them to climb. (click for full size image)
They soon do a good job of completely covering all the poles from bottom to top (and beyond).
Here is the skeleton in late June.
The beans are touted as growing 6-8 Ft. tall, but I think they would go as tall as the poles would allow.
It is a joy to browse the patch and pick the lovely dangling beans.Usually there is a set of 2 or 4 ready at any given time. 
Their are several seed sources for these, but we have purchased them from Lindenberg Seed in Manitoba for the last few years.
It doesn't take a huge number to make lots for a meal or two.
Each can get to be quite a generous size while still retaining their flavour and tenderness. 
The littlest seem to get eaten raw!
It is very easy to miss them while picking, and inevitably a few get missed....these are the ones that can sometimes get a little large.
Even the "average" sized ones are 8 or 9 inches in length. It helps with the picking when they get too high to reach....they dangle down quite well.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our little basil forest -

We have had quite a successful growth of basil this summer, probably due in part to lots of sunny weather. We have grown most of our basil in planters for the last several years, and seem to have better success doing so. These planters are located on our faithful potting table and get a reasonable amount of daily sun.
We also have one pot on the back step which is handy for a quick nip of basil anytime.
Click to see the post on CG Forum
Our little basil forest - Garden Gallery - Canadian Gardening Forums
In general it is nice to grow herbs in pots. A collage of some from our back step 
(click for larger image)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sharon's Wonderful Flowerpicking Spree

Early this Friday the thirteenth, the dog, two cats and I set out to pick a great assortment of floral material. It had been a very cool night so everything was very fresh and well hydrated. My neighbor had asked for some flowers to help her prepare several large arrangements for an outdoor wedding on Saturday. She didn't have to adhere to any great colour theme, so she will have a good time putting all this material together with some from her own garden. Sometimes I think we don't have a very good "cutting" garden, but am always quite pleased with what we find. I took the wheelbarrow out to the back garden areas. One's arms soon get a bit too full. (Click the images for a full size)
She was quite anxious to have a few lilies, so one bucket contained part of those. Hopefully the pollen doesn't stain the white ones too badly. The white is one called Simplon. The pinks are StarGazers and Berlin. Another bucket has a stalk of Tom Pouce. 
I had four buckets ready for the "volunteers". Here they are all filled. 
Here is a little collage of several groups. All in all it was a very nice way to start the day.
As an addendum, here are a couple of the finished products...Norma did an awesome job. These were emailed to me this morning.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lilies with difficulty

(Golden Stargazer above)
This post to the CG Forum was done with a fair bit of griping! Slower than slow would be a good description. As if our "snaily" dialup wasn't bad enough, I have to turn off our dial-up accelerator to access and post. The season of oriental lilies is here and most are doing beautifully. It is proving to be a challenge to remember that I have to examine each lily for the Red Lily Beetle this year. I have found a few adults and just yesterday a small new batch of larvae. Ugly things they are!
Hopefully we will be vigilant enough to prevent too much damage.
Click on the link
A bit of Boogie Woogie

Friday, August 6, 2010

Another Garlic Harvest

The first week of August seems to be garlic harvest time, and this year was no exception. Planting and harvesting garlic, not to mention eating it, is one of the favourite gardening pusuits. I was anticipating a very poor harvest this year. For some reason several rows grew very poorly. Most notable was the basic failure of the softneck variety.
It was a pleasant surprise that several of the hardnecks types, with the exception of the row of Wyndvale Heights, did very well. Why they were poor is a mystery. It was a very nice garlic, too bad it seems to be not available via Garden Import anymore.
There was quite a full wheelbarrow load.

Each type was kept separate and given a cursory wash off with the hose. Our sandy soil isn't really very "dirty"!
The intact plants were arranged in mesh trays and set out on the picnic tables in the sun to dry off a bit.
Then they are put on the table next to the house under the overhang to continue drying and curing.
They get a bit of a rearrangement on a daily basis. We also have to check that sowbugs may not have found their way into the stash! Raising the trays on another layer helps that problem.
The tops usually get cut off to about 6-8" in about a week, depending upon how quickly they shrivel.
A final trim of the stem and roots happens when it seems thay have thoroughly dried. They are then put in open boxes or paper bags and stored in a dark closet in the basement. The heads destined for replanting are put aside and labelled.
I usually don't bother counting them until they are ready to be stored. The number planted never matches the number harvested anyway!
Last year I planted a nice hardneck variety obtained at the Farmer's Market in Antigonish. They did very well and I must see if I can get more.

A few years we received a head or two of one I call the "Giant" garlic from our friend Maureen. She didn't know its name, but we have managed to keep a modest supply of this one each year. It makes a nice head with only 4-5 large cloves....a very user friendly type.

We have had a variety of hardneck types over the years from various sources. This year it seemed one was a bit more precocious than the others. The heads had loosened up quite a bit more than is advisable. I expect if I had paid more attention to those plants, they might have been lifted a bit sooner.

No real harm done....they will just get used sooner, or will make great candidates for melted garlic. It seems I only make that in the late summer after garlic harvest. It makes a more mellow version of roasted garlic, but can use up heads of garlic quite quickly.
To make melted garlic, gently heat olive oil (or a mix of olive and canola) in a small saucepan. About a cup of oil usually works. Add as many peeled cloves of garlic as you like. They should be about covered in oil. Have the heat very low. Fresh garlic will start to caramelize very easily.
Simmer gently for about 15 minutes until the cloves are softened. There will be a subtle change in colour. Strain the oil into a jar for future use. Mash the cloves with a touch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. I usually refrigerate the garlic infused oil as well
The mashed garlic can be used in any application calling for roasted garlic....from potatoes to bruchshetta.
Our garlic growing venture this coming fall is going to see the patch moved to an adjacent garden spot which has been growing buckwheat in anticipation. The bed the garlic came out of will also grow some buckwheat for the rest of the season. Seed was planted there Aug7th.
An addendum August10th! 
The tops of the harvested garlic shrivelled up very quickly since last Thursday's harvest. 

I will trim the roots and remaining stub.