Monday, August 11, 2014

Alliums. We can't live without them!

It has been a long time since I’ve posted a garden blog. A very busy day job, the construction of our new greenhouse and the ever-expanding garden has kept me too busy for blogging this year. Hopefully, that will change as the garden has a lot to show, I have a lot to report and a bit more time on my hands. Instead of catching you up, I’ve decided to start with current events – harvesting and storing alliums. We all know these as onions, garlic and shallots and a main staple in almost everyone’s kitchen. What would meals be like without these little and big balls of flavor? 

I plant my garlic in November and the onions are one of the first things you can plant in the spring. I believe I started planting onion sets the first of April – about the same time I planted the Spring peas and cleaned out the strawberry bed. This year I planned for a big onion crop in hopes of harvesting enough for the coming year. I think I’ve succeeded. 

Onions have stopped growing when the leaves lose their color, weaken at the top of the bulb and flop over. The leaves' job is done and the remaining energy goes into the bulb. Once they were all down, I left the bulbs in the ground for about a week to mature fully. After I pulled the onions I let them lay out in the hot sun for several days to dry. This drying process kills the root system at the bottom of the bulb.

The onions are now in the second, longer drying or “curing” process. They are spread out on trays on the patio and out of direct sunlight. This process can take two to three weeks. Onions are ready to store when the skins rattle and the roots are dry and wiry. 

I've decided to store my onions and garlic in paper bags in the garage. My research reports that storing them this way can extend their life for months. I will report on how this works next Spring. Read more about storing onions, garlic and shallots this wayMy shallots are not quite ready to harvest, but I'll harvest and store them in the same manner.

In the next few weeks, I'm planning to try this new recipe for Sweet and Spicy Canned Onion Marmalade

Stay tuned for future posts. I can't wait to tell you about the greenhouse. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bees, birds and berries

 The strawberry patch is healthy and thriving and loaded with berries this year. It has taken much love and care, but this week we are seeing the pay off. These everbearing varieties put out runners like nobody’s business and in order to get a great crop you have to cut them off whenever and wherever they appear or they drain energy from the actual berry production. When the season winds down, I’ll leave enough to start another row or two because I think that I simply can’t have too many strawberries.

Next, the birds have started to take their toll on the actual crop, so last week I wasted no time and covered the rows with light row cover fabric to keep them from devouring the entire crop. The birds managed to pick and choose the ripening berries and I had a hard time finding a red one that was not half eaten. I did leave several plants out and available to the birds and squirrels, but the rest are for the people. By the time I put on the row covers there were very few blossoms left that needed to be pollinated by the bees. I read that you could take the covers off for 2 hours a day and the bees will do their business and they’ll be good to go. As I said, it is taking love and care for these wonderful sweet berries. 

 We had the first big harvest last night and the berries are gorgeous and incredibly delicious. My sister, Jenny, picked about 4 quarts this morning so they are coming on fast. 

Last night we enjoyed fresh berries with whipped cream and tonight I made a batch of strawberry ice cream. I’ve already done the initial taste test and I can’t wait for a full bowl before bed. We're looking forward to a long healthy harvest. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Red Oriental Poppies

Every year my poppy plant doubles in size and this year I will have over 60 bright orange poppies. They are one of the first flowers to bloom and they've only just begun to bloom. Enjoy the show!