Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Around the Garden - September 24, 2016 - Pumpkin, Ginger, Turmeric, Watermelon, Sage & Roselle

Dear Folks,

My garden like any garden has its ups and downs.

I am always happy to see the mostly-ups in our gardens and the rewards.

The male flower of the "Upper Ground Sweet Potato Pumpkin" is huge, and I finally spotted some female flowers yesterday and keeping my fingers crossed.  After the first seeds I planted did not take I replanted amongst my purple sweet potato plants and they took off.

Pumpkin-Sprouted-after 5 days
Just in case, I decided to push the planting limits and just replanted some seeds 4 days ago near my Bradford Watermelon.  We shall see.  I got the seeds for this heirloom pumpkin, one which was grown at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate, from Baker Creek Seeds.  Reportedly a pumpkin tasting like sweet potato, maybe planting it with my sweet potato will make for a happy union. :-)

One of the "downs" - my huge (5+ feet across) Common Garden Sage has died back.  This old plant, probably 9+ years old has been a part of my garden and one I enjoyed harvesting.  The one bright spot is a piece of it is still alive. I won't try to prune back until later in October.

Sage goes slightly dormant in the summer and can be over-watered.  However this may be a case of competition because of all the tree roots around it, in addition to other herb shrubs like Rosemary.  I will see what I have when I begin to prune later.

Meanwhile, I put some more Ginger in the garden in a new place (August 20th) where Turmeric (planted July 6th, up August 5th) liked its location very much, thank you!

This is the observation part of gardening in the desert, or anywhere else for that matter, it is what it takes to be more successful.

It is important to learn the characteristics of your garden.  It is your living friend and benefits from your keeping in touch with it regularly. :-) -- Catherine

In the case of these tropical root crops, they like dappled shade here in the Valley.  The problem with the original locations where they did well was the ebb and flow of the garden shade.  We had to take our a tree and a huge banana plant over the years which exposed the original location to far more sun than the ginger liked.  As a result the Ginger struggled each of the last couple of years.  I will be moving the old plant (while seeing if there is a harvestable root) to this new location.  If all goes well next year I should have a nice harvest of ginger.

The real pleasure of our garden this month was the official harvest of our first Bradford Watermelon.  I can't say enough about this awesome fruit.  The entire fruit is edible, the white part tastes like a cucumber, crisp and slightly sweet.  Right now I am testing the viability of the seeds.  I hope to have a 1st generation desert grown Bradford next year.

This one weighed around 20 pounds.  There is one more which I am letting go until the tendril dries out. This first one could have gone a bit longer before harvesting, but I just could not wait because it passed the 'thump' test.

I am also going to bake some of the skin with a bit of oil and salt when I harvest the last one.  The Bradford, known for its extremely tender skin and fruit (cuts like butter) was "lost" for decades because it could not be shipped.  Thankfully the modern family members chose to share the seeds and other products.

. . .


Free Seed Share Next Friday, and Free Lecture Next Saturday. 

One last plant growing in the garden.  My Roselle are about 5 feet tall now. Buds showing.  I should have open flowers within 2 weeks, followed by the delicious and gorgeous flower calyx.  Hibiscus sabdariffa is an outstanding plant in the warm weather garden.  The entire plant is edible, including the leaves.  The tangy lemony/cranberry flavor is mostly found in the burgundy cayx, but the leaves have some of the flavor too.  Use it raw - I added to a BLT sandwich the other day along with sweet potato and Egyptian Spinach leaves* - in salads and some traditional recipes pickle the leaves for later use. A high Vitamin C source from an incredible food plant.

* Regular lettuce varieties do not grow in the warm weather here in the desert, so I have been experimenting with using warm/hot weather lettuce options with great results - and taste!

Links on my website for my calendar and books

Did you miss my podcast interview on Herbs with Greg Peterson at the Urban Farm?

Check it out here.

Have a great time in the fall garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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