Garden, Plant, Cook!

Monday, October 03, 2016

Garlic Planted, Cilantro Re-Seeded, Baby Pumpkin, Me and Roselle, Brining

Dear Folks,

The rain yesterday did two things in my gardens, settled in the garlic I planted on Saturday, October 1st and saved us a watering day.

We got nearly a half inch which means the gardens are nice and wet and do not need the scheduled watering.  Pictured is a clove Elephant Garlic being planted.  Beside that clove are regular garlic ready to be planted.  Plant garlic cloves with the pointy side up.  This will be the center stalk from which the mature head of cloves comes from.

The Allium family includes onions, chives, shallots, garlic, leeks and elephant garlic.  The familiar common Garlic is Allium sativum, while Elephant Garlic is Allium ampeloprasum.   Elephant Garlic is actual a form of leek - on steroids!  It has a milder flavor compared to common garlic's strong, even zingy flavor.

Both grow well here in the valley.  If it looks like I planted too close together -- I did on purpose.  I planted 39+ cloves of common garlic and 8 of the Elephant type.  I always plant extra by planting 3-4 inches apart, so I have "green garlic" to harvest like scallions through the fall/winter/spring.  This delicious addition to your cooking ingredients is a "scallion" only with garlic flavor instead of onion.  Harvest when the greens are about 8-10 inches tall and the clove has swollen slightly.  You can replace with another garlic clove to continue the harvest capability.   Instead, by harvesting every other plant as I need during the cool times, the space between widens allowing more room for each clove to grow to head size.

In April start watching for the plant to send up its flower stalk, called a Scape, it's spiral growth continues and you cut them off when they reach the height of the leaves -- this year it was early May.  Scapes are an edible delicacy only available about 1-2 weeks a year.  Once the Scape is cut off, watch for the leaves to begin turning yellow, about 2-3 weeks later.  This is harvest time. 
Gently dig each plant out, brush off the dirt and hang to dry in a shaded area in the garden or patio.  When the outside skin turns papery it is ready to store.  You can use the green tops as you would scallion tops.  Even the hard center stalk can be used to flavor broths, stews, soups and then removed at serving time.

From the aromatic to the gorgeous, this is my Roselle Hibiscus sabdariffa, now reaching taller than me and beginning the flowering stage moving toward harvest of the gorgeous lemony/cranberry flavored Caylx.  The entire plant is edible.  I've been using the leaves in place of lettuce with their tangy flavor.  While the caylx is known for its high Vitamin C component (if you see "hibiscus" or "red hibiscus" as an ingredient in teas - this is the plant), the leaves also have vitamin C as do the flowers.

Meanwhile, my Cilantro re-seeded and I spotted the new seedlings last week.

I love my gardens.  Many of my favorite plants freely re-seed coming back year after year.  Successive generations of seed is "regional adaptation" at its best.  The seeds which come up naturally are the strongest in your garden.

For this reason I urge you to direct sow if you can.  All of the seeds may not come up, but those which do will be the hardiest.

I am excited about the prospect of an heirloom pumpkin.  I have baby pumpkins on the vine, which has a mind of its own and has spilled out of the raised bed and ranging towards the trees.  I am going to let it roam and just try to keep it out of harm's way while it, hopefully, produces "Upper Ground Sweet Potato Pumpkin" reported to taste like sweet potato and once grown in Thomas Jefferson's gardens at Monticello.

In an "inspired" moment I decided to sow the pumpkin seeds in with the sweet potato, because the SP provided some "nurse" shade to the seed area.  It worked nicely as you can see a bed of sweet potato and pumpkin vines.   I hope to be harvesting pumpkin and sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving.

And, finally I decided to brine more of the Caper buds and berries and have set them to 'work' on the counter.  This is a fermentation brine with no vinegar and when I tried it for the first time, the buds turned out great but the berries not so much because I waited to long to pick them.  This time I picked the berries younger.  What I am looking for is that the berry seeds had not matured turning dark, and that I picked the berry while the seeds are white and immature.  The dark seeds proved to be very bitter, while the berry it self was tasty but not worth eating.  We shall see.  I want to be ready for next spring when the plants start budding and begin a large fermentation jar where I will pick buds regularly adding to my caper version of the old fashioned pickle barrel.  The food you are brining needs to be held completely covered under the liquid so I have a pickle weight wrapped in cheese cloth and tied with a string to allow me to lift and re-position any that rise to the top.  I have a light plastic food cover over it (not seen in the picture) to keep dust off, but allow any bubbles to escape.

That is all for today, folks.  I am always happy to answer questions.

Be sure to check out my youtube channel where I post short videos with helpful tips.

Have a great week in your fall garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


P.S. I started a Cafepress "store" where I chose some of my favorite photos from the gardens and put them on t-shirts and other things.  The link is in the sidebar.  I welcome feedback and/or suggestions for products you might like to see offered.

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