Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I'm a writer, and whenever I go to workshops on storytelling, someone is bound to talk about peeling back the layers of an onion to get at the core of a character or a story. It makes me crazy every time they say it.

Admittedly, I'm metaphor-impaired, but I know my onions. And if you peel back all the layers of the onion -- there's nothing left!

The onions this year are, on average, a little smaller than last year. Or maybe it's just that there's a wider range of sizes, from substantial to puny.

There are a number of likely explanations. Last year was overwhelmingly rainy, including during the critical phase when the onions are storing up all their energy in the bulb. This year, the rain was good EXCEPT during that critical couple of weeks. Also, the onion bed this year has had less compost added to it than last year's bed, some of it is in a more shady spot, and we did a LOT less weeding this year. All together, it makes me marvel that we got any crop at all.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pepper season

We've picked about fifty banana peppers so far, and pickled just a fraction of them, about 1 1/2 quarts. Most are being eaten raw. They really are excellent, and they tend to ripen a couple weeks before the Ace peppers hit full size.

The Aces have set quite heavily, and the plants are falling over. Usually, I stick cages around them, but of course I had to skip it this year, when it looks like we're going to have a record-breakingly heavy crop. We've picked several, but not enough to get the plants to stand on their own (more than two) roots again.

This is the first year in quite a while that we've planted hot peppers. Habanero. Which I didn't realize were among the hottest of the hot when we bought the plants. We're growing them for our co-gardener's husband. I hope he's ready for the deluge -- no one else I know eats them, so he's on his own with what looks to be a substantial crop. We don't always get the really hot weather that peppers prefer, but that hasn't been a problem, at least during the last month or so.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Garlic experiments

We experimented on the garlic in a dozen different ways this year.

First, there was the new-to-us variety that succumbed to cold/wet weather, an wasn't early enough or prolific enough to justify the space it took.

Second, we've always had trouble waiting long enough for the garlic heads to finish growing, but this year we waited a little too long. The ones we harvested in the first half of the month, before I was out of town, were at their peak, and the ones we harvested the 20th to today were somewhat over-mature, with their wrappers disintegrating. On the plus side, the bulbils on the top of the scapes were fully mature and easy to remove and save for eating and/or future planting.

Another experiement in the works: Pickled garlic. It's basically just peeled garlic cloves soaking in vinegar with a small amount of salt and sugar, left to mellow for thirty days. The first batch will be ready on July 28. I've also made a batch using just the bubils from the top of the scape, on the theory that they might be interesting on top of a cracker, perhaps with cheese in between. Sort of like caviar made out of garlic bulbils.

Still to come this year (if we like the first batch): picked garlic with a hint of habanero pepper, for those who like hotter stuff.

The experiment for next year is to test what I think is largely a myth among garlic growers. I've read in a number of places that removing the scapes will result in a bulb that's substantially larger than if the scape and it's bulbil head are left to mature. My theory is that there might be a small difference -- enough to matter to a commercial grower seeking top dollar for his crop -- but not enough to give up the secondary crop of the bulbils or to justify the extra work of clipping the scapes. So, we're planning to play two rows of six cloves, preferably taken from idential heads (or as close as possible in size and vigor) in close proximity to each othe, and then clip the scapes of one of the rows and not the other. Harvest them all at the ideal time (how can we tell if they're ready without the scape to judge by?), and then weigh them.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Wild turkeys

We have wild turkeys in the neighborhood -- three adults and a dozen or more chicks.

After checking out my deck (where my cats were fascinated by them), they wandered into the backyard to check out my car and the recovery garden.