Oct 072011
 
TOMATOES

I’ll admit, I was pretty clueless about gardening when we set out on this quest to grow our own veggies. I guess I just assumed we’d plant and then the work was done. Boy was I wrong. Recently I wrote about things I learned for next year’s garden. It’s been a learning process every step of the way.

One of the big things I should have done is make a gardening calender for when I planted the crops, and when they should be ready for harvesting. Next year! I’ve been reading gardening books and consulting Google for advice on when my crops are ready–and HOW to harvest them.

LETTUCE

I just cut off the leaves, wash them and eat them. The lettuce regenerates pretty quickly, so we always have lettuce. Here is the romaine lettuce when we first planted it:


And it turned into this:


The lettuce is the biggest success of the garden, I think.

Until it bolted and I had to pull it all out. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to prevent that next year, unfortunately.

ONIONS

Apparently onions can be picked at any stage but the thing to look for is the leaves to lose their color and flop over.  The instructions were to pull the onions up on a sunny day and let them sit in the sun for another day or so to dry. This drying kills the root system at the bottom of each bulb. The roots will be like little brittle wires when they’re dry. Onions are ready when the skins rattle and the roots are dry and wiry.


I pulled one really early and it tasted great–it was small, but tasty.

SQUASH

There are so many different kinds of squashes, and apparently different rules for all of them. For example, summer squash should be harvested when still tender and slightly “immature” but winter squash needs to be “fully matured.” How the heck do I know the difference?! I planted acorn squash.

Squash before:

Acorn squash is a winter squash (who knew?) and needs to be harvested when the rinds are tough. The easiest way to know when to harvest: it’s dark green in color and hard. This is where a gardening calender would have come in handy because the squash takes between 80-100 days to ripen.

Squash after:

 

ZUCCHINI

The zucchini was the biggest surprise. I had no idea the plant would get so big and literally take over the garden. The advice from everyone was: “pick them young and pick them often.” Big zucchini is apparently flavorless or bitter. The zucchini can be picked in the “baby” stage and it’s supposedly sweet. The normal size when picked is 6-7 inches long. Baby zucchini:


To harvest, snip the fruit from the plant with pruners or scissors, or just give the zucchini a bit of a twist; the stem should come away from the rest of the plant easily. The zucchini is ready:


The zucchini was amazing. It would be tiny on a Tuesday and I’d get busy and forget to check them until Sunday and all of a sudden they’d tripled in size! I loved the zucchini. I gave tons away to friends and coworkers, plus we ate a ton of it all summer long.

TOMATOES

These were pretty self-explanatory. When they are red they’re ready! Our tomato plants grew humongous and a few of them even toppled over because of the weight. There were hundreds of tomatoes growing on the plants. We got a few different varieties of plants so it was cool to see the differences in size and color as they ripened.



I picked some of the baby tomatoes that were ripe. They were delicious and sweet, tender and more amazing than anything I’ve bought in a store.


Once the tomatoes all came to fruition I had to become creative with ways to use them:

  • Mozzarella, basil and tomato salads (my favorite)
  • Tomatoes on green salads
  • Homemade salsa
  • Marinara sauce

Lots of yummy options!

PEPPERS

I was really looking forward to harvesting this little guy:


For months I watched him grow,  plump up, turn a golden green. I was excited to see it change colors. Then one morning I found this:


Yep, some little bastard destroyed my pepper. So so so sad! :(

Luckily one survived the slugs and I was able to enjoy my pepper.

 

JALAPENOS

Michael had done tomatoes and jalapenos before and they were successful. We did jalapenos this summer to go with our tomatoes and (what I thought was) cilantro to make salsa.


We chopped up the jalapenos and put them in a lot of things–turkey burgers, salsa, everything. They were tiny but delicious.


Finally, the herbs I planted were massive. They flourished and I didn’t really have the opportunity to use them as much as I wanted to. I wish I had been on top of things to make a bunch of pesto with the basil to freeze. I am currently in the process of drying some oregano and parsley though.

QUESTION: If you are a gardening, what was the biggest success and failure of your garden?

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Aug 162011
 
IMG_9960

Sunday was a busy one for me. I had a lot of house chores and errands to run in between going for a swim and then meeting a friend for a walk. The swim felt good. After biking almost 40 miles on Saturday I just wanted to stretch my muscles in the water. When I finished my swim I lounged in the hot tub and two gentleman commented on how fast I was swimming. It was nice to hear the encouragement. One guy asked me if I was training to be like Diana Nyad. I think the feat she attempted is pretty amazing, even if she had to quit 53 miles short of her goal.

Sunday afternoon I met up with my friend Erika to go for a walk on the Springwater Corridor. It was weird to be on the trail and NOT be on a bike! We got to chatting and before I knew it we’d walked about three miles! We turned around and headed back.


It was great to see my friend and spend some time together. It’s been such a busy summer that I haven’t had a lot of time for much of anything besides training, traveling and working. It was nice to go for a walk too. When we hang out we usually get happy hour or meet for drinks. After eating out so much in July I just don’t feel like eating out for awhile! Also, after an entire summer of being diligent about using sunscreen I forgot to put sunscreen on before my walk and got a little burned.

After my walk and an expensive trip to Trader Joe’s, I worked in the garden a bit. My tomatoes are doing great and I even saw a few starting to turn red!

Some of the tomato plants we got have gotten huge, but still green:


Plus I have one pepper that will hopefully turn orange soon…

I do have bad news about my lettuce plants though and I am really bummed about it. Lately my full, vibrant, tasty lettuce has turned wilted and weird looking. After lots of Google searches for what the heck happened, I realized my lettuce became “bolted.”

“Bolting is a condition which occurs in lettuce plants when an elongated stalk with flowers grows from within the main stem of the lettuce plant. Bolting is a condition that occurs not only in lettuce plants, but in many plants in the vegetable garden including the variety of plants in the cabbage family. Those cabbage family plants include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi and of course the common cabbage.”

Dammit!!! What I read said there was no fixing it and if the plants did manage to grow any lettuce leaves they’ll be bitter. That means I just to need to pull them out. :( I am so bummed about that. We were producing so much lettuce we could barely eat it all and then seemingly overnight we lost almost all of the plants. There are a few lettuce plants remaining that might be okay to harvest but I don’t have high hopes.


So sad!! My lettuce! My glorious lettuce! :( At least my acorn squash and zucchini are flourishing. We used the last of the good lettuce for dinner because we had some guests over. No more lettuce from our garden after that:


I topped the salad with some croutons, sliced tomato, shredded cheese, black olive and black beans. I added a dollop of light sour cream, some salsa and a small piece of skinless chicken breast grilled.


I also had some homemade guacamole and tortilla chips. There wasn’t enough good avocado to make guacamole for everyone unfortunately, there wasn’t even enough for one serving really. Michael kindly gave it to me to snack on before dinner. I love fresh guacamole!

QUESTION: Should I pull out the lettuce and replant new lettuce? Any tips/advice to prevent “bolting”?

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