Bush Beans and the shallow gardener!

A post from the middle of a HUGE snowstorm here in Southern Ontario….  It is hard to imagine that the garden beds, now covered in up to 7 feet or snow will ever be ready to plant again.  Since I haven’t started sowing quite yet & don’t have any seed swaps left to send out, I am feeling very non-gardeny…  So I decided to post reviews of my 2013 bush bean harvests!

I grew twice as many bush beans this year and will likely add to that total next year! A favourite summer activity involves grabbing the dried pods and mixing them together.  Later when I shell them, it is like a mini-Christmas, full of surprises.  The only problem is that I had a couple of crosses & had to check which plant that they came from with subsequent harvests!

On to the variety reviews and photos:

BLUE JAY

imageA bush snap bean discovered and named by Russ Crow in 1977.  Brought back from the brink of extinction by a few Canadian Seed Savers.  There is a great write-up on Mr.Crow’s site A Bean Collector’s Window.  The large, sturdy plant has beautiful blue/purple flowers with a fantastic yield of tasty snap beans.  The harvest started early and they stayed tender for a long time.   Bonus is that the dried seed is gorgeous!

BLACK VALENTINE

imageA hardy, productive variety grown for green snap or dried black beans.  It is fairly early for me.  The pods are great to process – long and straight. This year I planted these for their dried bean yield.  I have found them to be my most productive black bean, edging out Cherokee Trail of Tears (pole).  I only had a dozen plants and managed to get 3 cups of dried beans.  Not bad! Great for all recipes needing black beans.

DAPPLE GREY

imageThere is no known history for these beans.  All that I can say is that I loved growing these.  The unusual colouring was my favourite to shell.  They were early, foot high plants with a good yield.  The bean itself is great.  I ate them in an Italian peasant soup. That is just a tomato based soup with every leftover bit of veg in the kitchen!  The bean plumped up well and held its shape during cooking.  Another grow again!

JACOB’S CATTLE

imageI grew these for the 3rd year in a row.  I like them!  They are prolific, early and I love the shape and colour of the dried beans.  I use them in chili.  They don’t go mushy.  The bean has a long history in Maine, with many different stories of possible origin.  It is supposed to be a great baked bean.  I haven’t tried it that way yet.  Either way, I think that I will take a year off next year, but it will come back again in 2015.

ORCA

imageAnother return to the bean patch and another great soup bean. This was a last-minute fill in of a dozen plants when I couldn’t find where I stashed my seed for Mrocumiere, a rarer variety that I had planned on trying.  My missing seeds showed up at the end of summer, right where I thought that they were!  Anyway, Orca produces well for me.  It is a tasty, dependable variety in my garden!

PIROS FEHER

imageThis is a Hungarian variety.  It  grew a few short vines, but nothing to long.  I used it as a snap bean when very young, but I wish that I had left them on the vine to dry.  It was good as a snap, but the dried bean is excellent!  It is a plump odd-shaped bean that keeps its colour when cooked.  It is lovely in stew, chili and soup. A definite grow again.  I’m just not sure where I will fit all of my grow agains!

WOOD MOUNTAIN CRAZY

wood mountain crazy and rattlesnakeA ridiculously prolific green snap given to me by another crazy Canadian bean collector.  I got masses of tasty, thick green beans with purple stripes.  They are not as tender as some, but are very tasty.  I made a little mistake with my seed saving & these got mixed in with my Rattlesnake pole seeds. Argh!  So, next year I will have to grow them and thin out any that start to vine!

SHIN KINTOKI

imageThese are dark maroon Japanese dry beans.  They are used as dessert beans or simmered with soy, or dashi soup.  I actually threw them into a chili.  They took on the chili spices & were very good.  The next batch that I cooked to attempt dessert, I managed to burn beyond recognition.  The plant was the earliest in my garden & produced & died quickly. Even with our not long season, I think that I could have grown 2 sets of plants!

VERMONT CRANBERRY

imageA New England heirloom dried bush bean.  You can use them as shelly types too (although I didn’t).  I like them, but they did not produce in my garden at all.  Since everything else did well, I don’t think that they will get another shot.  Too bad, I love the dark pink colour of the seed and enjoyed shelling these ones!  They stayed firm when cooked and were very tasty.  Great texture for baked beans.

YELLOW EYE

imageAnother repeat crop.  My favourite variety for baked beans.  The texture is creamy and the taste is perfect for the sweetness of baked beans. Early, great yields, an all around excellent bean!  They shoot out a few runners & I try to save next year’s seed from the less vining plants, but occasionally forget in my hurry to pick the dried pods.  These are an easy bean to shell.  Another to grow in 2014.

INDIAN WOMAN YELLOW

imageThese extra small dried beans were an odd plant for me.  The plant was like a miniature.  It had smaller leaves, skinny pods, runner tendrils everywhere, but not great production.  Had I know that the plant was so small, I would have squished a few more in & put them on the outskirts of the bed. They ended up dwarfed by the Yellow Eye and Vermont Cranberry on either side.  I haven’t tasted them yet, but they are really cute!

In the end, I have more “grow every year” types and very few “don’t grow again” varieties.   At some point I will have to narrow down my grow agains and stop adding garden beds.  From the new to me plants, I recommend Piros Feher for dried beans, Wood Mountain Crazy for production of snaps, Blue Jay for its lovely history and Dapple Grey for its good looks!  I am a shallow gardener, picking beans by their cuteness when dried!

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2013 Pole Beans

all beans

It was a great year for dried beans in my garden, but not great for snaps.  I was a bit surprised, as it was a cool, wet summer with very little sun.  The beans seemed to get woody quickly and there was a very small window for picking shelly beans.  The dried beans were ready earlier than usual.  I need more room for the pole varieties next year!

BOSNIAN POLE

Bosnian poleRemy, from Sample Seeds got this variety from a gardener from the Netherlands who got them from a neighbour who fled from Bosnia during the war.  The black, brown and white colouring is unusual, as the plump seeds change over time.  It looked like a green podded romano with 5 to 6″ flat pods.  It stayed stringless for a good length of time.  It did well in my cool wet summer. My yield was outstanding and the beans tasted great.  A grow again variety.

DESERONTO POTATO BEAN

deseronto potatoFrom the Tyendinga Reserve just east of Deseronto, here in Ontario.  It is used dry as a soup thickener or can be mashed like potatoes.  Described as a vigorous twining bush bean, after reading a review of the growth on Seasonal Ontario Food, I decided to grow as a pole bean.  Lucky.  It ended up 8 feet tall with an excellent yield.  It produced steadily in a cool wet season.  I plan on making mashed beans later this week and will replace this with the update.

DOLLOFF

doloffThe history of this bean is described in great detail on The Extreme Gardener.  Named after Roy Dolloff of Vermont, this is a great green shelly bean or can be used as a dry bean.  It is also supposed to be an excellent baked bean.  The striking squarish flattened seed resembles a lima bean. This one did great in my garden.  I tried the shelly type and it was very tasty.  The dried beans are very pretty. I am hoping to try them out over Christmas.

FLAGG

flaggMay be an Iroquois Indian variety.  Named after Gail Flagg of Maine, who helped to keep the variety from disappearing.  The bean is easy to shell.  It is a large, flat seed shaped like a lima bean with black and white streaks.  Sometimes it grows out with reverse markings.  It is used as a quick cooking dry bean.  Excellent yields.  I didn’t try it green, but it has a lovely buttery texture when cooked as a dry bean.

GOOSE

brown tobacco wormI only had a few seeds for this variety.  I planted it for seed production.  Its large light brown seed was said to have been found in the craw of a goose.  It is a vigorous pole bean.  It grew great for me in my cool wet summer.  I didn’t taste any, showed great will power 😉  It is supposed to be an excellent shelly bean.  The pink colour of the pods on the vine are striking.

HERITAGE DORE

mayacoba canario and heritage doreHeritage Dore is a French Canadian heirloom vining bush type of bean.  I grew it as a pole to check how well it would climb.  This one got about 3-4 feet. It would have been better suited to climbing my cornstalks than ending up dwarfed by my other pole types.  It is a dry baking bean that didn’t do well for me this year.  Perhaps it didn’t like the lack of sunlight, unlike the other beans. Maybe I will try it on a cornstalk next year!

RATTLESNAKE

rattlesnakeThis is a very popular snap bean.  The dark green pods are streaked with purple.  The purple colouring fades when cooked.  The pods are long, thin, straight and tender.  I love the taste and texture.  I get a huge yield of fantastic beans.  They freeze well.  The plant produces well from midsummer until frost. It seems to pick up a bit in the fall when the weather cools. They are one of the varieties that I grow to eat fresh and also to freeze for winter.

TENNESSEE GREASY

tennessee greasyI had very few seeds, so I grew these out for seed production.  It didn’t produce very well, but I got enough to try again.  The purplish-brown feathered colour is quite striking & was not in the original mix. The tiny square seed are interesting & seem to have stayed true. I will plant them again, but next year I will go back to the North Carolina Greasies.  They missed getting seeded this year when I misplaced my seed pack until it was too late to sow.

BARKSDALE  – no photos

Barksdale is a cool weather loving wax bean.  Mine produced very long, slightly curled, light yellow beans.  They were fairly tasty, but a bit tough.  The production was low compared with Gold of Bacau (from 2012’s garden).  I was a bit surprised, as this summer was cool and wet.  Most beans grew very well, but not his one.  I would give it another try, as it seems to be a favourite wax bean of other gardeners.

BROWN TOBACCO WORM

I only had 4 seeds of this variety and made one of my mistakes….   It ended up winding itself around the Tennessee Greasy pole beans.  I think that I separated the seeds correctly… but will have to grow them out again to be sure.  If I did it right then it has a very good yield for just 4 seeds 😉  It is said to be a string bean with exceptional snap taste.  Hopefully I will get to try a few next year!

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2nd Tomato Taste Test of 2013

There is a lot of information on gardening online.  Some websites I find myself going to almost daily for information.  One of my favourites is Tatiana’s TOMATObase.  This site lists every OP stable tomato that you can think of.  If it doesn’t list it, you can become a member and add it.  It is a goldmine of beautiful photos, grower taste & growth reviews for each tomato.  I also enjoy visiting a few of the gardening forums.  Tomatoville was the first forum that I joined.  The site is full of information and helpful, welcoming gardeners. Whether it is plant advice or mailing seeds, the site is full of generous gardeners.  Folia is another forum that I joined shortly after Tomatoville. I originally joined to track my seeds, but found a community of kind, encouraging gardeners, posting mini-blogs, called journals that are exceptionally well written. I Dig My Garden is a little more political, but very interesting reading. Homegrown Goodness has great info on amazing breeding work and technical knowledge.  Several members have great blogs. I especially love Seasonal Ontario Food.  There are so many forums and blogs to wander through.  The above are just a few that I visit on a regular basis.

Now for the next set of reviews!

ANNA RUSSIAN  I was really looking forward to trying this variety.  The last 2 years I ended up with seeds that were crossed or mixed up.  This year the plant fell to septoria early and the production was not good.  That is too bad because it was a 9.5 taste!  Extra sweet with the creamy heart texture and great aftertaste.  A wonderful balance of sweet and tang.  This is a Russian variety (via Oregon) with wispy foliage.

KARDIA KARPOS is not a stable variety yet. Gary (Tormato at Tomatoville) found this pink heart shaped tomato at an unattended roadside stand.  He saved the seeds & got pink hearts on a potato leaf plant.  He shared the seeds with other gardeners.  Neither of my plants grew true.  I grew a  pink RL beefsteak, rated a 6 on my taste scale.  The 2nd plant was potato leaf with very blunt red hearts. An 8.5 with a good strong, sweet balanced taste.

KARDINAL  is a semi-determinate pink heart grown commercially in Russia.  It is said to be the same as Mazarini.  I tasted them both in the same tasting.  They look and taste the same to me.  The plants grew very similarly as well.  This year both were an 8.  Sweet with very little tang.  I like Kardinal, but didn’t love it. I will likely not grow it again next year, as I grew Mazarini in 2012 & thought that it was good, but not great.  Too many others to try 😉

SPUDAYELLOW STRAWBERRY  There is a bit of a debate whether this variety is a potato or regular leaf plant.  Bill Malin, who selected the variety says that it is PL.  His definition is different than the traditional definition of potato leaf. Sadly, the debate made no difference to me, as mine were not hearts.  A 6.5 mealy and bleck.  A lovely yellow colour and quite good production.  Too bad.  I won’t save seeds from this one.

BRAD’S BLACK HEART  Yay !!!  I love hearts, hubby loves the black tomatoes. The plant is a wispy leaved black heart that was found in a patch of Black Krim tomatoes by Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms.  Outstanding taste. 9.5 Sweet, smokey, tangy all at once!  More pear shaped than most of my hearts,  (the least heart shaped is pictured).  Decent production in a terrible growing year.  I loved this tomato.  A grow again next year.

ANGEL HEART  is an orange heart bred by Millard Murdock, who is featured on the Artisan Seeds Site. Millard has sent me several seeds over the last couple of years & yum!  His are some of my favourites.  This one was good.  A pretty orangish-yellow heart with no cracking or spots with a 7.5-8 ish rating.  I think that the weather affected this variety.  Good production, but a weak flavour.  I think that I will try it again next year.

MORAVSKY DIV was given to me by my friend Rob, who I met at the Buffalo-Niagara Tomato Taste Festival hosted by Remy from Sample Seeds.  A Czech commercial variety, posibly a strain of Stupice.  Very early with round red tomatoes on a strong potato leaf plant.  This one pumped out fruit in spite of the septoria that destroyed the plants around it.  Sadly the taste wasn’t there this year.  A 6, sour and no sweet.  Likely better in a warmer year.

WOW This tomato was supposed to be a large round orange cherry bred from Brandywine, sungold F1 & an unknown grape cherry.  Both years that I have grown it, it has shown up as an elongated red cherry with a pointy end.  It is thick skinned and meaty with an excellent sweet taste.  I made a few jars of salsa from WOW last year & it was excellent. Great production last year, OK this year.  It is an always grow in my garden.  A solid 9.

GREEN PEAR was introduced in 2009.  It is a sprawling regular leaf cherry plant.  Great production of small green when ripe pear shaped cherry tomatoes.  Mine ripened very early.  Like most green when ripes they are slightly amber coloured when ready to eat.  This variety has an excellent flavour, sweet and rich, just like a green when ripe beefsteak in a smaller package.  I love greens!  A plant again next year 8.5.

KELLOGS WEST VIRGINIA This is Mark Korney’s (whom I also met at the Buffalo-Niagara Tomato Taste Fest) cross of Kellogs Breakfast & Akers West Virginia. The tomatoes were much smaller on my plant than other gardeners report.  Other gardeners also rave about the taste, but mine were just OK.  A 7.5.  I think that a lot of the red and pink tomatoes needed more sunshine to develop their rich sweet tangy taste.

GREEN VELVET was my most prolific regular sized tomato plant in 2013.  This regular leaf plant made it through the septoria until quite late.  It was good tasting, but not great.  Too much tang with no sweet.  It didn’t have the same depth of flavour that I usually love in the green when ripe tomatoes.  It also kept its very dark green shoulders when ripe.  A 6.5.  Too bad because the production in a bad year was fantastic!

PURPLE HAZE F6 This tomato has interesting breeding lines.  Brandywine crossed with Cherokee Purple and grown until F4 as a great tasting potato leaf.  The F4 was then crossed with Black Cherry to produce a great tasting black cherry fruit on a potato leaf plant.  My F5’s were great, but low production.  I saved the seed and got an OK tasting medium sized beefsteak!  Ah well, back to the F5 seeds I go for next year’s spring planting.

NOWICKI  Is a lovely red heart paste type fruit named for Jan Nowicki.  I got the seed for this one from Frances, a gardener who participated in my Canadian Autumn Seed Exchange last year.  It was meaty with that distinctive heart shaped texture.  Very sweet with great tang mixed in for a very balanced flavour. A 9.5 rating!  Many of the hearts were outstanding this year.  They must have enjoyed the cool weather a bit more than the beefsteaks.

So once again, the hearts take the flavour award for this tasting!  Often the Russian varieties are supposed to be good for colder climates, so maybe the cooler temperatures this year helped out all of the wispy leaved Russian hearts!

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First Tomato Taste Test of 2013

First Tomato Taste Test Notes for 2013

2013 has been a disappointing tomato growing year for me.  In my area of Southern Ontario the ground stayed frozen late.  All of the crops went in a month late!  The weather went from freezing to 100F and muggy overnight, causing the 1st blossoms to drop.  Once the plants started to bloom again it started to rain.  It was cold and rainy all summer.  As the rains began Septoria swept through the plants.  I pulled the affected leaves, but couldn’t keep up.  After a few weeks most of the plants had turned brown and died, with the rain spreading disease through the beds.  The taste of the tomatoes didn’t develop as well with less sun & production was only about 1/10th of a usual summer.  At least I got to try some new to me varieties!  All of my taste tests were done over 3 days in September.  Here are the results:

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HAWAIIAN PINEAPPLE is an OK bicolour, but should have been solid orange, as pointed out by Trudi Davidoff of http://www.wintersown.org/.  This is a great site, full of information on seed saving & winter sowing.  This tomato was mainly orange with light red streaks running from the bottom. Must have been a cross. Production wasn’t great, but not many of the bicolours seem to produce well in my climate.  I rate it a 6.5.

GILDO PIETROBONI  Not a great tomato for fresh eating from my garden.  5.5, very plain with no tang or sweet – watery tasting. Luckily, it is very meaty with few seeds.  It cooked down quickly and made excellent deep flavoured sauce.  I will sauce the rest. I’m not sure if production warrants a grow again, although the ones that I got were huge.  Hard to tell with the weather and septoria this year. Cooked I gave it an 8 rating.  Nice to have the large ones to chop up!

CAROL CHYKO’S BIG PASTE This Chyko family of Pennsylvania heirloom was my largest tomato of the year.  All of the fruit was at least 1lb.  Huge meaty blunt hearts with very few seeds.  It has very light red coloured flesh that doesn’t look particularly appetizing, but the flavour is very strong.  A solid 8.5 with great balance.  I would grow this one again. I think that production would be better with a better summer.

LITHUANIAN & UNKNOWN CROSS F2 – This tomato showed up in my garden last year and was one of my favourites.  I saved the seed to try to repeat a potato leaf pink small round fruit.  The taste is the same as last year, but the fruit is not round and pink, it is slightly oblate red.  I would rate it a 9 with excellent tangy sweet taste, just like last year’s fruit.  I don’t know whether to grow more of the F2 generation next year or to keep going with the F3′s 2014.  Love it!

BLUSH  This plant is an “always grow” for me!   So pretty,  elongated bicolour yellow, orange and pink with metallic stripes that glint in the sunlight.  The skin is quite thick but the taste is explosive.  They are so sweet and strong tasting that not many make it into the house.  Production was down this year, but the leaves seemed more resistant to Septoria than other varieties. This variety was  developed by Fred Hempel of Baia Nicchia Farm.

SEEK NO FURTHER LOVE APPLE A pink beefsteak on a tall regular leaf plant.  Gary (Tormato from Tomatoville), who distributed the seeds says that it has a tangy unusual taste.  Mine are a gorgeous deep red inside. They have a clear epidermis – so classified as a pink fruit.  Sadly, they were a very bland 6.  Maybe warmer summer would develop its taste, because it seems to get very high taste ratings from other gardeners.

HUMPH  This is one of Remy from the http://www.sampleseeds.com/ favourites.  I tried to grow it last year, but lost the seedlings early in the season.  This year I got a few tomatoes.  The amber blush appeared almost red & I think that I let it get over-ripe.  It had too much tang compared to the sweetness, but definitely had the “green tomato” taste profile.  I like it & would try again in a better growing year.  It is hard to compare them during a terrible summer.   7.5 rating.

PINK BUMBLE BEE  This is a tomato that was on my most wanted list and I ended up getting just 1 seed from Gary in the Totally Tomatoes swap (thank you!) What a cool cherry.  Large and round with a sharply pointed end. A unique colour; pinkish pale orange with silver streaks.  The metallic sheen is gorgeous. Fred Hempel, who bred Blush, also came up with this one.  It is extra sweet.  I love it.  It will join Blush in my grow every year category! A 9.5.

ANNA MARIA’S HEART  A large pink Russian heart on a wispy leaf plant.  It did not do well in my Septoria ridden garden.  It was one of the 1st plants to shrivel. I have read that it tastes best when almost over-ripe.  So I waited and wow!  9.5 extra sweet with tang – HUGE taste.  The aftertaste was great. Outstanding. This was my favourite of the year.  All of the hearts that I picked today have been amazing.  An absolutely grow again variety.

MALAKHITOVAYA SHKATULKA (Malachite Box)  This is an outstanding 9.5 rated green tomato!  It is the perfect blend of sweet and tang.  Great acid balance and very tomatoey tasting! There is something about those green when ripe tomatoes that I love.  This variety is one of the best.  This year the amber blush of the skin was very dark, as seen in the photo.  Maybe it has something to do with the lack of sunlight?

LITTLE LUCKY HEART I don’t think that this variety is stable yet. The last 2 years have produced very blunt hearts, maybe not even hearts.  I don’t think that I would classify them as true hearts. Even if not a heart it is outstanding. Said to be a 3 way cross with Ukrainian Heart or Yellow Oxheart, Tad and Brandywine.  It ripens late in my garden, but is worth the wait. Extra-sweet and fruity, a solid 9 rating.

LIMMONY This is a small light yellow oblate Russian heirloom variety known for the lemon overtones in its unusual taste.  I really loved this one in 2012, but 2013 it just doesn’t have the same depth to the taste. A 6.5. Juicy and still lemony, but no zing.  Sort of watered down. A lot of the tomatoes that did well last year didn’t seem as good this year, maybe they need more heat and sun to bring out the taste. Production was good again this year.

BLACK PEAR (Chyomaya Grusha) A Moldovan variety.  The tomatoes are really cute.  Saladette sized brown pear shapes with green shoulders hang in clusters all over the potato leaf plant.  Fantastic production. Also fantastic taste! 9.5. Very sweet with just a little less tang that Brad’s Black Heart. I think that I liked Brad’s just a touch better for taste, but would take Black Pear’s prduction. A grow again next year.

HESHPOLE  This is a unique tomato. Less commonly heart shaped fruit that grows on a potato leaf plant.  The name is from the 1st 2 letters of HEart SHaped POtato LEaf.  Found by Darrel Jones.  I loved it.  A lovely sweet pink heart.  8.5 with the buttery texture typical of heart shaped tomatoes.  The Septoria didn’t affect this plant very much.  The potato leaf plants lasted longer. I will grow multiple plants next year.  Great tomato.

LARGE BARRED BOAR  One of my favourite looking varieties.  Black and green stripes glint almost metallic in the sun.  The inside is a rich brown and red. It is variety from Brad Gates at http://www.wildboarfarms.com/.  This year’s tasting wasn’t as good as 2012.  I rated it a 7; too tart.  My black tomatoes benefit from more sun. Sunlight and warmth seems to develop the deeper, richer taste that black tomatoes are known for.

JDs SPECIAL C-TEX This black beefsteak is a cross of Early Girl F1 and Black Krim from Conroe, Texas (C-Tex).  This year’s crop was a bit smaller & less productive than previous seasons.  I think that the taste is richer and deeper in sunnier summers, but even with no sun & rain it still rates a 9. It has a rich spiciness that I love. One of my favourite blacks,  it is a grow almost every year variety for me.

MONOMAKH’S HAT  is a pretty semi-determinate plant that produces large pink hearts.  It is a Russian commercial variety.  My plant had good production but the fruit was bland with no real taste.  I picked them at several stages of “ripeness” but none stood out.  Maybe this one needs heat for flavour developement,  but most of the Russian hearts were outstanding, so likely not a grow again for me.  I rated the taste at a neutral 5.

FEUERWERK  Supposed to be late to ripen but mine are always one of the 1st ripe tomatoes in the garden.  It is a red tomato with yellow stripes and flecks that resemble fireworks.  Some weather brings out the flecks more.  The picture shows less pronounced flecking. Last year this was a great tasting tomato.  In 2013 it was a 7.  Tangy with not much sweet to balance the taste.  The production wasn’t as good either.

REBEL YELL F6  This is my largest beefsteak plant for the 2nd year in a row.  The septoria didn’t affect its potato leaf foliage as much.  Bred from Stump of the World and Bear Claw, this plant has outstanding tasting lines & follows suit.  Rated 9.5 both years. Juicy with outstanding traditional tomato taste.  Great production both years.  Overall, the most successful plant in my garden for the last 2 years.

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2013 has been the year of Septoria and fantastic heart shaped tomatoes!  My favourite was Anna Maria’s Heart, but all of the hearts did well.  Its too bad that other than Heshpole, the heart shaped tomatoes are usually on wispy leaf foliage plants that the Septoria decimated.  Ah well, next year will be better!

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3rd Annual Canadian Autumn Seed Exchange

It is that time of year again!  The seed exchange has been so much fun that I decided to run it again this year (:

It is very simple.  Basically, save your seeds, mail them in, get seeds that you want back!

There are about 40 participants with a wide variety of seed.  Some are veggie gardeners, some trying to fill in perennial beds, even some indoor tropicals!  From Black Beluga Lentils to Ruby Silk Love Grass, from White Wonder Cucumbers to Blue Pod Capucijners soup peas!

Let me know if you are interested in participating and I will send along the details!

If you would like to know a bit more about how the swap is run and the general guidelines, see last year’s post

https://nickysgarden.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/2nd-annual-canadian-autumn-seed-exchange/

happy harvesting!

Nicky

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Potato Flowers and Flesh!

imageMmmm potatoes.  Boiled, fried, mashed, roasted, french fries, chips…    I love to grow potatoes.  I placed my order from Eagle Creek in Alberta on January 4th.  Last year I waited a week after the site opened for the year and missed out on the varieties that I wanted. It is amazing how quickly potatoes sell out!  The potatoes arrived on time & looked great – lots of eyes and no bad ones.  Eagle Creek have a great variety.  It is very hard to narrow it down to just a few to grow!

Potatoes are easy to grow.  As soon as you can work the soil in the Spring chit your seed potatoes by placing them in a paper bag to sprout eyes.  You can cut them or plant whole tubers.  I usually cut them in half, making sure that there are a few eyes on each piece.  After chitting, dig a trench and pop them in!  You can “hill them up” by covering the plants with soil as they grow.  I am usually busy doing a million other things and only manage to throw a bit more soil on top of the plants once or twice and still get a good yield.  If you rotate your garden beds, plant them in last year’s legume bed.  When the plants turn brown and die back they are ready to dig up and eat.

I haven’t taste tested any of this year’s crop yet, so the following taste & use descriptions are based on research and previous years experience.  I decided to do an early post about potatoes so I could get some nice flower pictures.  Most of the plants are flowering this week and the bed looks great!

PINK FIR APPLE

imagePopular in the UK, Pink Fir Apple is an old European heirloom from the 1850’s.   It is starting to get more popular in North America.  I picked it for its taste reviews, colour and that I love fingerling potatoes boiled then covered in butter & fresh mint.  This one is a fingerling variety that grows long, narrow, knobbly tubers.  They are pretty light pink skinned with butter yellow flesh.  The waxy texture makes it perfect for boiling and using in salads.  It is said to have a nutty flavour.  Good for storage, but just OK for production.  The bright white flowers have just started to die back on my plants.  This was the best photo that I could get!  It was the 3rd to flower this year.

DAKOTA PEARL

This is one of the 2 repeat varieties in my garden.  It is a smooth skinned round shape and has creamy white flesh.   This midseason variety was bread for making chips and I agree.  It’s dry floury flesh is perfect for chips.  The recipe is easy.  Slice the potatoes as thinly as you can – I use a mandolin, but a sharp knife works just a well.  Soak the slices in water over night.  They will be crisp by morning.  Brush on oil and bake – or if you grew up with a British parent, pull out the chip pan & fry them.  A Google search revealed Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm in Ontario is releasing a Dakota Pearl Ale made from sugars extracted from this type… Chips and beer.  Hubby will likely pick this one as his favourite.  It was the first to flower and I missed the picture.  Bah… pity, they were big yellow eye catching flowers.

CANDY CANE

This potato was very funky looking when I sliced it open in the spring to chit.  Red, smooth skinned and white flesh.  It gets its name from the pinkish red mottled ring about 1/4″ in from the skin.  The colour disappears when cooked.  It is a midseason sweet flavoured potato.  I picked this one to grow because it is a Diploid with 24 chromosomes instead of the usual 48.  Wild potatoes are usually Diploids and I wanted to see the difference.  It is a dry and floury fingerling type.  The flowers were the 2nd to open.  Lovely white and prolific.

ALL RED

imageI chose this variety so that I could make purple and red potato salad (with Russian Blue).  It is a bright cranberry red skinned tuber with red inner flesh. The colour was striking when I cut them to chit in the spring.  It holds its colour when cooked & should look amazing with the purple potatoes.  It is a midseason, moist potato said to have excellent rich flavour perfect for potato salad.  It is also supposed to be drought resistant.  I don’t think I will be able to test for lack of water this year, as it has rained enough to pass for English weather this summer!  I should have a great potato crop with the constant moisture!  It has very pretty large deep pink flowers in large clusters.  Pretty enough for the flower bed.

GERMAN BUTTERBALL

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1st place winner in virtually every taste contest.  It gets rave reviews and I can’t wait to try it!  I was lucky to get the seed potatoes this year.  They sold out just as I placed my order!  I was pleased to see it in the shipment, as I was on the borderline of getting a substitute.  Roasted, fried or mashed, this russet skinned tuber with buttery yellow flesh is a highly regarded all purpose potato.  Good for every recipe with great yields.  Excellent for long term storage. I wish that I had a root cellar.  It has been known to set True Potato Seed, but I haven’t seen any yet.  Its white flowers are lovely against the dark green foliage.

RUSSIAN BLUE

Pink fir appleThe other repeat in the garden.  The kids love the sweetness when roasted and the colour is fantastic.  It is a late season, heavy setting variety.  Dark purple skin and flesh that holds its colour when cooked.  It is high in starch and low in moisture content, so best baked.  Great roasted.  This is the only potato that I have grown from True Potato Seed (TPS).  It has set berries again this year, so hopefully I will have more to collect!  Usually potatoes are grown from seed potatoes (tubers), but some plants produce a small round berry.  Inside the berry are the tiny seeds, resembling tomatillos or ground cherries.  It takes me 2 years to get a crop from seed.  The first year is the spent forming the tubers.  The 2nd year I plant the tubers.  The flowers are a garden standout.  The lilac purple flowers stand quite tall and are very photogenic.

So….    That is the preview.  Hopefully I will get around to posting the taste test and growth results later in the summer!

flesh photos…

Pink Fir Apple

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                                        All Red

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                                     Candy Cane

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                                           Russian Blue

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Introducing Bozley!

We had planned on taking a little break from doggie responsibility for at least a few months, if not longer.  Maybe we could go on a few trips without worrying a babysitter, or go out for dinner at friends & not come home early, get out of the house a bit & sleep through the night for a while.  But… since Grizzly left us in December I have cried every day.  The world seems so quiet & grey without him.   I lasted a month before I couldn’t stand another second without a furry companion.

Grizzly was a humane society fella & I couldn’t have asked for a more sweet, friendly, loving & trustworthy companion, so we searched the local humane societies and rescues.   We finally found a little guy at a rescue called HART.  We saw 3 pictures and a video of him on Petfinder and fell in love.  HART seemed to have a very thorough screening process, which we really liked.  I submitted an application, had a phone interview, had a home visit to make sure our home was safe for a little guy, then finally got to meet him at his foster home.   The HART ladies were very kind & helpful. They helped us fly through the adoption steps and it didn’t take long before we brought home our:

BOZLEY BUGZ GRIZZLY WILKINSON NORTH

Bozley in snowHe is a fearless, beautiful blue eyed 9 week old Springer Spaniel (mom) crossed with an Australian Shepherd mix (dad).  He is nippy & jumpy, but sleeps for 2 hours for every 15 minutes of walking.  He knew “sit” when we brought him home, but figured out “lie down” within an evening.  He was the hit of the Trans Canada Trail by our house this Sunday morning. The kids think he is beautiful & they are amazingly good with him.  We are working on his puppy jumping & nipping & I am very proud of how patient & positive they are with him, helping to teach him good puppy habits.  He is adorable.  He is the funniest when he is exhausted.  He tries SO hard to keep his eyes open… he just can’t do it!

Bozley asleepHis bed is too big for him & he keeps sliding off the edge.  We roll him back up on top of the bed & look over 5 minutes later to see him wedged between the bed & wall with his legs straight up in the air, fast asleep.

The little guy has Grizzly’s amazing paw prints to follow & I couldn’t be happier, as I have a little furry one to love & snuggle & spoil again.

 

 

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Winter 2012/2013 Trade List

December has crawled by without Grizz and it is almost Christmas. I have just started to trade seeds for my spring planting.  If anyone is interested – just send me a message.  I like to share, so SASBE or SASE are also available for some seeds.  All of the seeds listed are collected from my garden 2011 or 2012 unbagged & usually not isolated.  Some peppers are slightly isolated – ask for more info if anything appeals.  I am in Canada & happy to trade with other countries.

FLOWERS: (good sized pinch)
Adam’s Needle- Yucca                                         Ageratum – Blue Mink
Calendula – Flashback                                         Datura – Lilac La Fleur
Four O’Clock – Magenta                                       Mallow – no ID pink
Marigold – “crazy blend” (from a trade)                   Marigold – Tashkent
Marigold – Vanilla F2 – saved from a hybrid            Morning Glory – Milky Way
Poppy – No ID Orange Oriental

HERBS: (good sized pinch)
Amaranth – Love Lies Bleeding                             Basil – Lettuce Leaf
Chives                                                                 Dill – Frank’s Extra Large
Millet – Intense Purple

HOT PEPPERS: (10-15 seeds unless noted)
Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper -red) (5-7)                   Long Red Cayenne
Cherry Bomb                                                       Habanero – Red, Orange or mix
Hot Banana (commercial 2011)                             Jalapeno
Hungarian Hot Wax (commercial 2012)                  Ring of Fire
Thai Dragon

SWEET PEPPERS (10-15 seeds unless noted)
Corno di Toro Giallo                                              Pimento
Orange Shepherd                                                 Super Shepherd

OTHER VEGGIES:
Cucumber – Double Yield (15)                               Cucumber – Straight 8 (15)
Cucumber – Sweet Slice (15)                                Cucumber – Sayu Long Chinese (15)
Eggplant – Black Beauty (10-15)                          Ground Cherry – Aunt Molly’s (10-15)
Jaltomate – Garden Berry (10-15)                         Melon – Canary (10)
Melon – Mini-honeydew (10)                                 Squash – Delicata (10)
Squash – Spaghetti (10)                                      Tomatillo – VerdexPurple (10-15)

TOMATOES – all from my garden, unbagged 2011 or 2012. 10-15 seeds of each
Amana Orange, Amazon Chocolate, Ananas Vert, Beefsteak (commercial), Berkeley Tie Dye Heart, Black Cherry, Black From Tula, Black Krim, Blush, Brandywine Yellow, Byche Serdste Oranzehevoe (may be crossed), Campbell 19, Carbon, Charlie’s Green, Cherokee Purple, Chile Verde, Chocolate Cherry, Costoluto Genovese, Coyote, Crnkovic Yugoslavian, Cuostralee, Dad’s Sunset, Dice’s Mystery Black, Donskoi, Dwarf Emerald Giant, Early Kus Ali, Ernesto, Evergreen, Feuerwerk, First Mate, Garden Lime, Gary’O Sena, Gianni, Gold Medal, Golden Rave F2, Goose Creek, Grandma Oliver’s Green, Granny’s Heart, Great White, Green Doctors Frosted, Grub’s Mystery Green, Guernsey Island, Guernsey Island Pink Blush (elongated cherry version), Hays, Hillbilly, Indian Stripe Potato Leaf, Isis Candy, Japanese Trifele, JD’s Special C-Tex, KBX, Kosovo, Large Barred Boar, Lemon Drop, Limmony, Little Lucky, Lucinda, Lucky Cross, Malakhitovaya Shkatulka, Mazarini, Monkey Ass, Neves Azorean Red, Nicky Crain, Nyagous, Olive Hill, Orange Russian 117, OSU Blue, Paul Robeson, Primrose Gage, Principe Borghese, Purple Calabash, Red Star, Red Stuffer, Roma (from a swap), San Marzano Lungo F1 (commercial 2011), Siletz, Snow White, Spears Tennessee Green, Stump of the World, Sungella, Tuxhorn, White Currant, White Queen, Yellow Pear

I am mainly interested in edibles/herbs, but also love tall clumping perennials and annuals that do well in planters.  I generally like the tall ‘English Cottage Garden’ type flowers or any easy to grow flower (:  I have a massive “Most Wanted list”  But I am easily tempted!

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Grizzly

December 1995 to December 3rd, 2012

17 years of love.

R.I.P. Grizzly

grizzlygrandmascouchWe were together 24-7. He came to work with me every weekday for 17 years.  There are no words to describe what he means to me. Missing you.

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Naked in the Garden

I always grow pumpkins because we have a pumpkin carving party every year.  We have the kids of our baseball team members over late in October to carve a Jack-O’-Lantern and the adults eat & drink.  Some years I have enough pumpkins to go around.  Some years we run down the road to the pumpkin farm (:

This year I decided to try something different. I love roasted pumpkin seeds, but dislike the mouthful of wood after chewing them.  Naked seeded, or hulless pumpkins have no shell, eliminating the problem. I ended up with seeds for Triple Treat, an aptly named triple use pumpkin in a trade.  It is a great pumpkin, you can carve it, make pie with it and it has Naked Seeds!

My vines were killed by cucumber beetles, but I managed to harvest 4 small bright orange pumpkins.  Not large enough for carving & nowhere near enough for the party, but VERY meaty, thick walls.  One small pumpkin would have made 4 pies.  My husband & son made pies out of the 1st one that we picked. They loved it.  The verdict was very “pumpkiny” and very yummy.

There was around a cup of seed in each of the pumpkins. I very lightly salted them with pink Himalayan salt and put them in the oven to roast.  They popped like popcorn.  I had to keep turning the oven up & down to roast them without having them pop all over the kitchen!  The taste: WOW. Unbelievably good.  Tender, tasty…  My new favourite snack.  A definite grow again.

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