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Harvesting Onions

August 9th, 2017

I finally got my internet back up and running, the technician said that pretty much every modem in our town was zapped by the big storm. After furiously catching up on work, I’m back to being able to post to the blog. The good thing about having minimal internet, is that it gave me time to get my onions harvested, which needed done…..last week. Storage onions should be given minimal water in the weeks leading up the harvest, this will help them store longer and better. I always try to harvest them early if a lot of rain is in the forecast. We had rain last weekend, a half an inch. So not tons given the dryness of the soil, but still more than I like for them to get. Ideally I prefer to harvest them after a long, hot dry week (which we had last week).

Even though the conditions weren’t ideal for harvest, they will store fine enough. Most likely they won’t last until next April, but they will last long enough to be used up. I should weigh my storage onions one of these years. It always seems like there are way too many of them to weigh. It would be nice to know how much I end up growing each year.

What are you harvesting in the garden this week?

Tucked In

August 1st, 2017

I’ve tried growing cauliflower for years, then a few years ago I read about ‘Bishop’ and finally achieved cauliflower success.  They’re supposed to be self-blanching heads, though I still tuck the leaves around the heads to make sure they’re nice and white.

I would harvest these, but I’m waiting on a few gallons of white wine vinegar. Pickled cauliflowers is one of our favorite winter time treats, all four heads I grew will be pickled and put into jars for winter eating. It’s perfect sautéed in a cast iron skillet as a side to bratwurst or some other kind of pork. I’ve always liked cauliflower, even when I was a kid. I can eat it pretty much eat it cooked in any way, or raw as well.

Are you a lover or a hater of cauliflower?

I use the recipe for pickled cauliflower from Well Preserved by Mary Dragan, but I add caraway and mustard seeds to the jars before canning.

Fennel, Fennel, and more Fennel

July 27th, 2017

I’ve loved fennel for quite awhile. I’ve tried growing it for just as long, without much success. It never failed that my fennel bolted before it formed bulbs, I probably count on one hand the number of bulbs I was able to harvest in all my years of trying to grow it. Then, two years ago I tried ‘Preludio’ fennel from Johnny’s and was finally able to produce fennel bulbs with remarkable consistency. This spring, I decided to see if it was actually the variety or the conditions here in my Maine garden that caused my success.

I seeded the same number of ‘Preludio’ and the heirloom variety ‘Florence’. I planted them in the garden and watched them closely. Out of the 8 plants of each I transplanted, only one ‘Florence’ produced a bulb, the rest bolted. As you can see by the image below, the ‘Preludio’ is on the left, ‘Florence’ bulb bolted in the middle, and the single bulb of ‘Florence’.

‘Preludio’ also produced much larger and tighter bulbs. We did a taste test and they were the same in taste and texture. Overall, I’ll keep growing ‘Preludio’ since it ensures my success with fennel. If you’ve struggled to grow fennel in your garden, give this variety a try. Another tip is to not disturb the roots. Seed in a soil block if possible and transplant before the roots get too big. Root disruption can be on the causes of bolting in fennel.

Do you eat fennel? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it?

Friday Favorite: Gherkins

July 21st, 2017

I’ve always loved little gherkin pickles, both the sweet and the dill ones. Many years ago, I was given an old Farm Journal Cookbook that had a wonderful recipe that made crunchy sweet pickles. I always thought it would be perfect for gherkins. I tried growing an heirloom gherkin pickle, it didn’t do well. When I saw ‘Adam’ gherkins in the Johnny’s catalog I decided to give them another go.

Unfortunately, the cut worms got a few of my seedlings, so only two are producing cucumbers at the moment. I seeded two more to fill in a bit, but I definitely need to grow way more vines if I want to have enough for a couple batches of pickles. The problem with the tiny cucumbers is that you need loads of them to get the 3 lbs needed for a half batch of pickles. I’m thinking next year I may grow a row of 15, make one large batch of pickles, then rip out the vines and plant fall peas or broccoli.

The recipe I’m using is very involved (10 days it takes to make a batch of pickles). At least I have four vines of ‘Boston Pickling’ cucumbers for making regular pickles, so I’m harvesting those very small to increase my yields. I may also use the recipe in ‘The Joy of Pickling’, all the ones I’ve tried from that book have been fantastic.

What’s your favorite type of pickle?

Picking Peas

July 12th, 2017

I always grow garden peas, they’re a wonderful thing to have in the freezer in the middle of winter. This year I planted a 25 foot row of shelling peas. We’re on our second harvest so far, there will be one more before the plants are done.


The peas are blanched and layered on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Then I freeze them and put them into gallon freezer bags. I like being able to scoop out a cup or two as needed. One of our favorite ways to enjoy these frozen peas is pureed and eaten as a side with seared scallops. The recipe is from River Cottage Every Day, it has become a favorite.

We don’t eat a ton of garden peas in the summer, mostly we stick to the vegetables that can’t be frozen and that are best fresh, like fennel. My two favorite varieties of garden peas are ‘Green Arrow’ and ‘Little Marvel’.

Do you grow garden peas? Do you have a favorite variety?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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