June 27, 2010

Rooftop Tour

Watch the semi-aerial tour of our gardens, as of June 2010:


June 25, 2010


They are here! The tomatoes are ripe and are coming to a market near you. In fact, we brought a few cherry tomatoes to the markets this week; we'll have lots of baskets for Saturday's market.

We'll also be bringing these Cherokee Purple big tomatoes. Don't let their appearance fool you; these tomatoes are delicious! All the recent rain has caused them to grow uglier than usual -- and Cherokee Purples aren't known for being pristine -- but they taste fabulous.

Friday's Featured Food: Maggie's Favorite

It's Maggie's turn! Maggie said her favorite veggie is the pink potatoes, but since we featured those last week, she had to pick again. She chose watermelon.

First off, no, we don't have watermelon right now and won't have it for sale for the July 4th weekend. Watermelon grown in Kansas is usually not ready until late July.

We don't grow too many watermelon, since watermelon grows best in sandy soil, something we don't have. The varieties we do grow, however, are very unusual. This year we are growing:
  • Golden Midget: small and yellow, perfect for Miss Mags. I like it because the rind turns yellow when it's ripe, so no more thumping-and-guessing when to pick it.
  • Jubilee: oblong-shaped watermelon with a green-striped rind, known for its large size
  • Crimson Sweet: tried and true, the old-faithful of watermelons
  • Sugar Baby: small, dark-green fruits
  • Moon and Stars: dark blue-green rind with yellow spots
  • Black Diamond: another old-faithful variety, this one producing dark green fruit with bright red inside
For something new, we are going to try square watermelons this year. How cool would it be to have one of these to enter in the county fair:

Not only do watermelons taste great, they also contain high concentrations of lycopene, an antioxidant that may help reduce the risks of cancer and other diseases. They are also great on hot days, a refreshing snack thanks to all that messy juiciness.

Recipes for watermelon? Sure, why not! I adore, love, crave, need watermelon rind pickles. They are easy to make but time consuming. But, oh my gosh, they are SO worth the effort. Here is a great recipe for these delicious sweet pickles:

1 large watermelon, quartered Pickling salt
2 tablespoons plus
2 teaspoons whole cloves
16 (1 1/2-inch) sticks cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
8 cups sugar
1 quart vinegar (5% acidity)

  1. Remove flesh from melon (reserve for other use); peel watermelon.
  2. Cut rind into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Place rind in a large crock or plastic container.
  4. Add water by the quart until it covers the rind; add 1/4 cup pickling salt for each quart water, stirring until salt dissolves.
  5. Cover and let stand in a cool place overnight.
  6. Drain well.
  7. Place rind in a 10-quart Dutch oven; cover with cold water.
  8. Bring to a boil, and cook until rind is almost tender.
  9. Drain and set aside.
  10. Tie cloves, cinnamon, and mustard seeds in a cheesecloth bag.
  11. Combine spice bag, sugar, and vinegar in a Dutch oven.
  12. Bring to a boil; remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes.
  13. Add rind to syrup
  14. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook until rind is transparent.
  15. Remove spice bag.
  16. Pack rind into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
  17. Cover at once with metal lids, and screw bands tight.
  18. Process in boiling-water bath 5 minutes.


June 23, 2010

Veronica Cauliflower

What is green, spiraled and tastes good? Veronica Cauliflower. This is another of my vegetable experiments that went pretty well. The heads aren't really big, but it does taste really good. I have eaten two heads by myself, just boiled with some cheese on top.

June 20, 2010

All's well on the hill

I've said it before and I'll say it again... it is amazing what a bunch of saran wrap and pipes can handle. No, it's not saran wrap; it's greenhouse-grade plastic. But, wow. Three rounds of storms, each one packing the threat (if not actual) 60 mph straight-line winds and hail. This was the view from our porch tonight, which looked the same as yesterday morning and evening:

And looking north, a few minutes later:

But, no major damage to report. All six buildings are still standing. We lost one tree and have ripped plastic in one corner of one of the mobile buildings. The outside crops are leaning to the east but will probably bounce back. Because we are on top of this hill, the many inches of rain isn't affecting us much, either.

We are thankful to be spared, but our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who haven't been so lucky. Flooding rain near Concordia, 90 mphs winds in Waterville, many crops ruined... we are thankful.

June 18, 2010

Friday's Featured Food: Katie's Favorite

This week Katie got to pick our featured food, and she chose the pink and purple potatoes. The purple potatoes are Purple Majesty, and the pink potatoes are Mountain Rose. Both make quite the impression at the dinner table. When the nutrition experts say to feed a rainbow, I don't think they meant a rainbow of potatoes. But, it does encourage our girls to eat their veggies. Check out these beauties:

To make the cool shapes, Jay ran the Purple Majesty, Pink Mountain, Yukon Gold, and Red Norland potatoes through the apple corer. He then cooked them on the grill in a foil packet with a little bit of butter, for about 10 to 15 minutes. And, here's the result:

Updated Recipe:

Michael Anthony’s Fork-Crushed Purple Majesty Potatoes
1 lb. Purple Majesty Potatoes , washed
4 small shallots or onions, minced
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

In a large pot, cook potatoes with skins on in heavily salted boiling water until tender, approximately 15 minutes. Remove potatoes from pot, and peel them while still warm. (1) Place potatoes in a large bowl and, using a fork, gently smash them, maintaining a fairly chunky consistency. (2) Fold in minced shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, fleur de sel, and white pepper. (3) Finish with parsley. Serves 4.

Source: http://nymag.com/restaurants/recipes/inseason/29408/


June 15, 2010

June 14th Picture Tour

Tonight I took some pictures of the gardens. Seeing is believing. I could tell you how great everything is looking, but I would prefer to just show you. Enjoy!

Center Row of Tomatoes in High Tunnel. They are over my head now.
Center Row of Tomatoes in High Tunnel

Outside row of tomatoes. They are loaded
Outside Row in high Tunnel

10 tomatoes in one truss, CRAZY!
Over achieving Cherokee Purple

Little High Tunnel Planted May 17th
Little high Tunnel Tomatoes

Habaneros and Bell Peppers
Habanero and Bell Peppers

Sweet, Bell, Hot Pepper patch
Pepper Patch

One of the two rows of bell peppers in the High Tunnel
Outside row of peppers

Cherry Tomato Madness
Cherry tomatoe Madness

Cherry tomato Blooms.
More blooms and Blooms

Outside Squash and Cucumbers
Outside Squash and Cucumbers

Veronica Cauliflower
veronica Cauliflower

Potato Patch
Potato Patch

Okra and Roma Tomatoes
Okra and Roma Tomatoes

Watermelon, Canteloupe, Pumpkins and Winter Squash.
Watermelon, Canteloupe, Pumpkins and Winter Squash

First Green Beans, Just blooming
First Green Beans

Second Planting of Beans
Second Planting of Beans

Inside Zucchini
Inside Squash

Inside Cucumbers
Inside Cucumbers


June 13, 2010

Follow-Up on Cucumber Beetle

We had mentioned our plan of attack on cucumber beetles a week or so ago. Well, here's what the sticky pad and cucumber beetle lure looked like, in action:

And here's a close-up, so you can see what is actually on the sticky pad.

We were pleased with the result.

June 12, 2010

Delicious oddities

Jay loves to find unusual (to us) vegetables to grow. That's how we end up with such a rainbow of produce at the Farmers Markets! It's also how we stumble upon such delicious delicacies as Haikuri turnips (sorry, no picture!),

Cheddar cauliflower:

Mountain Rose potatoes:

and Husk Cherries:

Yum! I'd say "you've got to try them!" but I'm not sure if any will make it to market, at the rate we are devouring them!

June 11, 2010

Friday's Featured Food: Jalapenos

I know, I know... this is sort of a duplicate, since "H" stood for "Hot Peppers". What can I say? We like our jalapenos!

We grow four varieties of jalapenos:
  • Grande: As you'd expect by the name, this variety is known for its big peppers. These jalapenos average about 3-4 inches, making them great for stuffing.
  • Jalaro: This variety was developed by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service and is the first yellow jalapeno variety. If you are patient, they will turn from yellow to orange to red. It is a very prolific variety and what we use in our yellow and red jalapeno jelly.
  • Fooled You: These 3-inch peppers look just like jalapenos and carry the good taste without any of the heat. It's what we use for stuffing, so that the girls can eat them too. and, 
  • Purple jalapenos: Just like the name says, it goes from green to purple to red. We use it for our purple jalapeno, which is a big seller here in K-State land. (We save the red for our northern friends.)
Since my hot pepper post already explained how to make grilled stuffed jalapenos, I had to call in the reinforcements (Jay) for a recipe. We have shared our Bread-and-Butter jalapenos with friends and family but, unfortunately, can't sell it at market, due to state food safety rules. They are delicious, more sweet than hot but with a little kick. We mix it with cream cheese for a dip, use it as a topping for homemade pizza, put it fajitas, and add it to scrambled eggs. And now, you can make your own!

Bread and Butter Jalapenos

2 pounds jalapeno peppers
1 pound onions
3 cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons mustard seed
2 teaspoons tumeric
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon ginger

  1. Wash and cut jalapenos and onions into thin slices. Cold pack them into jars. 
  2. Place remaining ingredients into large saucepot and bring to a boil.
  3. Pour hot mixture into jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
  4. Remove air bubbles. Tighten lids/caps.
  5. Process 10 minutes in boiling water.
(FYI these instructions are not written for a novice canner. If you need some canning 101, please check out the KSRE publication on canning and preserving.)

June 10, 2010

Potatoes are Here

Potatoes are here. While we aren't digging bucket fulls, yet. We are digging a few to sell at markets. We have Red Norland, Yukon Gold, Mountain Rose and Purple Majesty. Tonight the Purple Majesties were a real good seller at the Manhattan Farmers Market. Check out this picture!

Kansas Potatoes

That was last year's crop. This year's crop is just getting started:


June 4, 2010

Friday's Featured Food: Isis cherry tomatoes

Isis cherry tomatoes are one of eleven varieties of cherry tomatoes we are growing this year. The Isis variety matures to a red-orange-yellow color. Think "Kansas sunset" and you'll be right on.

Our other cherry tomato varieties are:
  • Tomato berry: These red cherry tomatoes are shaped like strawberries and just as sweet
  • Sweet million: Red cherry tomato known for its great flavor and yield
  • Red pearl: A red grape tomato, meaning it grows in clusters
  • Red pear: As you would guess, they are pear-shaped and red
  • Yellow pear: Pear-shaped and yellow
  • Golden sweet: A yellow grape tomato, also grows in clusters 
  • Sungold: Very sweet, orange-colored cherry tomato
  • Sweet gold: Bright yellow-gold cherry
  • Black cherry: A great tasting cherry tomato with a purple-to-black color
  • Snow white: Ivory colored tomato
We often get asked what our favorite variety is, and each of us have a different answer. Maggie likes the sweet gold, because yellow is her favorite color. Katie likes the tomato berry, because they are shaped like strawberries. Jay likes the high yield and disease resistance of the sweet million. I like the sweet, fruit-like taste of the sungolds.

It's seems a shame to post a recipe for cherry tomatoes, since we rarely (if ever) "prepare" them. Cherry tomatoes are like candy in our house; there is almost always a bowl or basket of them sitting on the counter. As we pass through the kitchen, we'll grab a handful and eat them... all day every day. We literally snack on them all summer and, thanks to the high tunnels, nearly all year.

But for those who want to do something with them, here is a great soup recipe just for you:

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • EVOO
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 4 quarts cherry tomatoes, stems removed
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  1. In a large stock pot, saute onion in oil over medium heat until soft and translucent.
  2. Add salt, pepper, dried basil, and flour. Cook for a few minutes.
  3. Whisk chicken broth into flour mixture until mixed thoroughly. 
  4. In a blender, blend the cherry tomatoes in batches, until they are the consistency of salsa.
  5. Add tomatoes to the roux (flour mixture) and stir. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Stir in baking soda and sugar. (The baking soda (base) will react with the tomatoes (acid) and foam up like a elementary school science experiment. The kids LOVE watching this part, and it's a great opportunity for an impromptu science lesson.)
  7. Reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  8. Add half-and-half and fresh basil.
  9. Stir and simmer for at least 5 minutes. Turn heat to low until ready to serve.


June 3, 2010

Don't Bug Me, Cucumber Beetle

This guest is not invited:

This a cucumber beetle, and he's doing his best to eat away our squash, cucumbers and (we think) green beans. (Click here to learn more about this pest.)

But we have a plan.

Jay ordered sticky traps and a cucumber beetle lure to try to rid our garden of these little stinkers. The lure is actually a pheromone, that special scent that attracts species to one another. We'll use the lure to bring the cucumber beetles to the sticky traps and thus getting them off our plants.

The shipment should arrive today; we'll let you know next week if it was as effective as we hope it will be.

June 2, 2010

Wednesday Double Market begins

Tonight is the maiden voyage for the Wednesday Farmers Market in Clay Center. We hope the additional time and location will allow us to reach the customers who sleep in or chase ball every Saturday. I'm looking forward to it, because I get to cover the Clay Center market while Jay goes to Manhattan. That means the girls and I have an excuse to stay at Dexter Park and listen to the City Band concerts all summer long.

June 1, 2010

It's harvest time!

Updating the blog is going to be a lot harder in the weeks to come. We're just going to be so darn busy! Not only are we heading to 4-5 markets per week, we are also picking and harvesting tons of produce. Well, not tons yet... last year it took until mid-July to reach an actual ton harvested.

Today, Jay picked 45 zucchini and 14 heads of broccoli, so far. He also finished weeding, mulching, and weaving the tomatoes and peppers, and has brother Anthony continuing to weed the leeks and onions. And, insane fellow that he is, he planted another 120 pepper plants, 70 of which are Habaneros. It's going to be a hot summer, in more ways than one.