IN PRAISE OF “RED RIVER” ONIONS

IN PRAISE OF “RED RIVER” ONIONS

My wife and I have been looking for a mild red onion ever since the variety “Mars” disappeared from the seed market in 2006. This old favorite fell victim to acquisition by Monsanto and was dropped from their catalog.

I am happy to report that we have finally found a worthy replacement called “Red River”. “Mars” was exceptional in that it had a VERY mild taste; easy on the taste buds. All of the varieties that we have tried over the last thirteen years have just been too sharp tasting. “Red River” has that mild flavor we have been craving. Whether it is sliced and put in a sandwich, chopped up and used in fresh salsa or added to potato salad, “Red River” delivers great crunch and easy to live with flavor.

We bought our onion plants from Jung Seeds. However, “Red River” is available from a number of suppliers. “Red River” is our new go to red onion.

Garden Journal – 1st Week of August

Garden Journal – 1st Week of August

It was another busy week in the garden as more onions came to harvest, the weeds seemed to accelerate their invasion of the garden, yet more seeds were planted and the tomatoes got some TLC a week prior to our annual “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner”.

RED ONIONS READY FOR HARVEST

RED ONIONS WITH THEIR TOPS BENT OVER – THEIR WAY OF SAYING “I’M DONE. GET ME OUT OF HERE

“Red Zeppelin” Onions Ready for Prime Time

The gardening week started with another onion harvest.  I pulled the “Red Zeppelin” onions, set them out to dry and then cleaned them up so they could join the Walla Walla onions in our kitchen pantry.  I love red onions; in salsa, in salads and cooked dishes like roasted beets and red onions with balsamic vinegar.  For some reason, this year’s harvest has been fantastic.  Most of the onions are in the 3″ diameter range with very few small ones.  I will end up giving away two thirds of the harvest because my wife is not a fan.  That’s OK.  I can make a lot of people happy.

HARVESTED RED ZEPPELIN ONIONS

RED ZEPPELIN ONIONS – CLEANED UP AND READY FOR THE PARTY

SHALLOTS READY FOR STORAGE

I CLEANED UP THE SHALLOTS WHILE I WAS AT IT.

Planting More of My Wife’s Favorite Radish – French Breakfast/Radish d’Auvignon

I can’t believe how fast we burn through each planting of French Breakfast radishes.  Yes, they are mild, but they seem to evaporate in the fridge.  We are quite fond of slicing them thin and putting them on top of a piece of baguette slathered with Kerry Gold butter.  Works for breakfast, works as an hors d’oeuvre with wine or cocktails, works as a snack with a beer.

I planted two rows, 8″ inches apart.   I planted the seeds 2″ apart in the rows.  In about 25 days we will begin to harvest.

SOME FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES HARVESTED EARLIER IN THE YEAR

SOME FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES HARVESTED EARLIER IN THE YEAR

This Time of Year, the Tomato Plants Need Love

With one week to go before our annual ”Tomato Lovers’ Dinner” I have been spending a lot of time watering, fertilizing, pruning and spraying fungicide on the tomato plants.  This year, I will be offering eight varieties of heirloom tomatoes during the tomato tasting portion of the dinner.  The dinner itself will feature marinara sauce made with our own plum tomatoes.  The salad will feature yet another tomato; Matt’s Wild Cherry.  All together, we are talking about 40 plants.  I know what your thinking,  Greg’s a little crazy.  OK, you might be right.  I’ve actually started thinking that it might be time to dial it back little.

That said, this week I found evidence of early blight on at least six of my tomato plants.  I sprayed OXIDATE fungicide using a curative concentration (1 oz. to a gallon of water).  Hopefully, that will slow down the disease long enough for me to harvest the ripe fruit I will need.

EARLY BLIGHT ON TOMATOES

EARLY BLIGHT ON MY GREEN ZEBRA TOMATO PLANTS

Despite the Blight, Tomato Season is Upon Us

This week we have enjoyed the following tomato varieties:

Black Ethiopian

Green Zebra

Rose

Nebraska Wedding

Matt’s wild Cherry

Margherita Plum

Roma II Plum

NEBRASKA WEDDING AND ROSE TOMATOE3SW

TWO OF OUR FAVORITE HEIRLOOM TOMATOES – NEBRASKA WEDDING AND ROSE

PLUM TOMATOES

RIPE PLUM TOMATOES

Processing Plum Tomatoes

I picked some plum tomatoes every day last week.  By week’s end we had enough fruit to process.  We use two different methods of processing.  The first one involves setting up a line consisting of a boiling pot of water, an ice bath, a cooling bin, a cutting board, a discard bucket and a clean bowl for the finished product which is either diced tomatoes or tomato halves.  We the  put the tomatoes in plastic bags, vacuum seal and freeze them.

FROM RIGHT TO LEFT - TOMATOES, BOILING WATER, ICE BATH

FROM RIGHT TO LEFT – TOMATOES, BOILING WATER, ICE BATH

The tomatoes are placed in boiling water for one minute and then removed and placed in the ice bath to make removing the skins easier.  One of us man’s this station.

PROCESSING TOMATOES, STATION 2

THE SECOND PROCESSING STATION RIGHT TO LEFT – COOLING RACK, CUTTING BOARD, DISCARD BOWL AND BOWL FOR FINISHED PRODUCT

AFTER REMOVING THE SKIN, I CUT THE TOMATO IN HALF LENGTHWISE AND REMOVE THE GREEN PORTION OF THE STEM AND THEN REMOVE THE SEEDS

After seeding I will either dice the tomatoes or leave them in halves for freezing.

VACUUM SEALING TOMAOTES

WE VACUUM SEAL THE TOMATOES USING OUR “FOOD SAVER” MACHINE.

It took Catherine and I approximately and hour to process our first batch of plum tomatoes, including vacuum bagging and clean up.  We froze 5 pounds of diced and 3 pounds of tomato halves.  Next time, we will use method number 2; roasting tomatoes in the oven for 30 minutes, cooling and then running them through a food mill.  The end product is puree.

Here’s wishing you all a great harvest and good times sharing with friends and family.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

 

 

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of July

It’s hard to believe that nearly two weeks have passed since my last post.  We’ve been in travel mode; first to New Orleans to see our new grandson Theo and then out to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts for some culture.  Needless to say, I came home to a vegetable garden in need of some love.  Thankfully, most of the love involved harvesting.

Garlic Ready for Harvest

Before we left for New Orleans, the garlic plants were beginning to look like they were ready to be pulled.  I noticed traces of browning on the leaf tips.  When we returned from our trip the garlic patch was definitely ready for harvest.

BROWN TIPS ON GARLIC PLANTS

THE GARLIC PATCH READY FOR HARVEST. NOTICE ALL THE BROWN TIPS.

One of the first things I did when we returned from our trip was to pull the plants and let them dry out a bit in the sunshine.  After a couple of days I cut the garlic heads from the stems with a pair of pruners and trimmed the roots off with kitchen scissors.  I then wiped off the dirt with a towel and separated the heads by the number of cloves in each.  Most of the heads had five or six cloves.

My ultimate goal is to set aside the largest heads with the largest number of cloves to use as my seed stock this Fall.  The smallest heads of garlic will be used first for cooking.

RECENTLY HARVESTED GARLIC

NEWLY HARVESTED GARLIC SEPARATED INTO 4, 5 AND 6 CLOVE HEADS

The Hot Weather Crops are Starting to Rock

We came home to cucumbers, peppers (both sweet and hot), zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant.  Some of our heirloom tomatoes are beginning to produce.  As expected, “Black Krim” is one of the early arrivals, as well as “Black Ethiopian” and an early “Rose” tomato.

OUR HARVEST BASKET ON THE FIRST DAY OF OUR  RETURN FROM VACATION

OUR HARVEST BASKET ON THE FIRST DAY OF OUR RETURN FROM VACATION

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES ON THE VINE

Last year, I received some eggplant seeds from Italy as a gift.  We are growing the same variety this year with great results.

ITALIAN EGGPLANTS

ITALIAN EGGPLANTS

Walla Walla Onions Ready for Harvest

After three months in the ground, the Walla Walla onions were finally ready for harvest, just in time for making salsa.  These mild white onions have been a favorite around our house for the last ten years or so.  We are talking “Vadalia” mild.  Do you want to add some “rock-n-roll” to your burger?  Try a nice thick slice of Walla Walla.  They are also great in salads.  Walla Walla onions don’t store well so we will try to use all of our harvest before the end of the summer.  I also enjoy making a simple cucumber and onion salad  using the Walla Walla onions.  In addition to the Walla Walla’s, we also grow red onions and a yellow storage onion which both need a couple more weeks in the ground before harvest.

WALLA WALLA ONIONS

OUR WALLA WALLA ONION HARVEST DRYING IN THE SUN

The Tomatoes are Doing Fine

One of the advantages of being away for a week was the impact of a week’s worth of growth of our tomatoes.  Many of the plants grew at least a foot with some growing 18″ or more.  Some varieties are just beginning to produce ripe fruit.  We are three weeks away from our annual “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner”, which we offer as an auction item at our church.  I’ve lined up a professional photographer to shoot this year’s event and will devote a couple of posts to this event.  We start off with a tomato tasting.  This is the adult version of kids in a candy store.  Doing a tomato tasting is a blast.  People love trying new tomatoes and are surprised at the different taste notes that each variety displays.  If you grow a variety of  tomatoes, especially heirlooms, think about doing a tomato tasting for your friends.  Trust me, you will become a hero.

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES GROWING ON THE BACK OF THE SUNSHED

I would love to hear from you.  How are your tomatoes doing?  What varieties do you have?  Have you seen any signs of disease or the dreaded tomato horn worm?

All the best,

Greg