It’s been a heck of a year here at our “farmette”. Initally too much rain and now not enough. The heavy rains gave disease an early chance to creep in. So our tomatoes and peppers were hit early on with some blight (septoria spot on tomatoes, xanthomonas spot on peppers). This was followed up by a July of nearly no rain. I cannot complain as we have had a bumper crop regardless of the conditions. The peppers were really beat up from the bacterial blight but completely rebounded after the rains stopped. What’s unfortunate is that we have had roughly 60 tomato plants completely die off. I suppose this isn’t the worst thing in the world as I have plowed that area to plant a huge Autumn crop of broccoli and spinach.
We have grown in the past to supply ourselves, our neighborhood farmstand and our hot sauce business. It was really exciting to add to that by growing this year for:
Vault Brewing Company in Yardley, PA
Fairless Hills Produce Center (they co-grow with us)
Comfort Food in Morrisville, PA
Bar Ferdinand in Philadelphia, PA
I am hoping to continue working for these local spots and growing their requests rather than simply providing what we have available. Hearing from our community about how much they love our produce over what they typically find in the store is a real feel good thing. We will continue to push to be better and better.
We are excited to be working with Matt from Fairless Hills Produce Center to sell our produce this year. It’s an experiment on how well Shannon and I can grow for a local market. If this works out, we hope to continue doing this for years to come. Demand for locally grown produce has skyrocketed in recent times, so we are excited to be able to fill some of that area.
Part of that experiment is lettuce. We are growing it in waves to be ready weekly and the first patch worked out well. We started these in March and they will be ready for picking sometime this week.
Few tomatoes are as famous as the San Marzano tomato. Prized by Italians and an essential part of a true Neapolitan pizza, these veggies are a classic heirloom that many gardeners seek to grow. That’s why for many years I was somewhat disappointed by heirloom San Marzano seeds. What I ended up growing were just ok sauce tomatoes. Don’t get me wrong, they were beautiful, but they just didn’t excite me with their awesomeness…and I expected to be in awe.
Last year I was conversing with my fellow gardening friend Arian about my disappointment over the San Marzano and he pointed me towards the San Marzano Redorta. He even gave me one he had recently grown. I took the tomato home, peeled it and immediately recognized the greatness of this tomato. It had few seeds and firm flesh…hallmarks of a paste tomato, but with so much more flavor than you expect from this kind of fruit. Usually you just expect a plum to hold it’s shape in sauce, but this tomato was great. No plum I’ve grown (and I have grown a lot) has had this kind of flavor.
So guess what we planted this year? San Marzano Redortas…and they are spectacular. I cannot stress enough how good they taste, how easy they are to peel and how nicely the plants grew. With proper fertilizer (we used our chicken manure), the plants grow huge amounts of the large fruits you see below. The growth habit is somewhat indeterminate but they aren’t out of control like some varieties can get. First ripe tomatoes came in in 78 days.
So did I figure out the secret with Arian’s help? I don’t know. I’ll just pretend that this is the true San Marzano… because the shoe fits. I can’t be the only one that has been disappointed by the other “San Marzano” variety floating around…hopefully this post is a step in the right direction for some people. And if I am wrong about this, feel free to chime in. I always welcome an education. =)
San Marzano Redortas
Prepping the tomatoes for dinner
It’s mid June and I haven’t posted a thing… sorry homies, I’ve been pretty busy. I am beyond excited about our gardening efforts this year. Everything looks so green and lush. I’ll get into those specifics later on…
A few nights ago, Shannon and I were cooking some dindin when she looks out of our back window. “Look at all of those mayflies” she said. I take a look and see what she means. It looked like a bug bomb exploded. So I head out the back door to get a closer look..honeybees everywhere. Initially I thought, “Crap, one of my hives is swarming”. A swarming hive sucks because the colony splits with half of the bees and half of the honey. If you don’t catch your swarm, you are basically losing half of your honey and the possibility of a new hive. A good beekeeper will notice the overcrowding in the hive before it happens and will split the hive into two. Overcrowding is basically a signal to the bees that it’s time to split our colony and find a new home. I had to do this once already this year with a very strong hive.
The swarm started to congeal on an old playground in my neighbors lawn. “Cool” I thought, “I can easily get that swarm when the rest land on that old playset.” I did a quick check of my existing hives and sure enough, these bees weren’t from my hives. So this is a wild colony that lives somewhere in the woods around my house. This is excellent news on a few fronts. One, the bees in our area are strong enough to not die to colony collapse disorder and two, these bees are acclimated to our weather and will be great to have in a hive to survive the Winter.
I spoke with my neighbor, showed them the swarm and they had no problem with crazy me coming to remove thousands of bees. This was a massive swarm of bees but I was confident I could just drop the entire cluster into a bucket and take them to their new home. I thought I was super-baller by only wearing a veil on my head and some neoprene gloves to grab the swarm as I’ve never had a problem with a swarm before. Bees that are swarming are usually very docile. I’m an idiot. The second I tried to drop the cluster into the bucket I was lit up. With 15+ stings all over my body, I dropped the bucket and ran while my dad, previously watching from afar, swatted them off of my back.
I went inside and geared up properly. After that, getting the swarm was a breeze. I had to make two trips to the hive because the first group filled the entire 5 gallon bucket. We are three days in and this colony is very active in their new home. I’m very excited to see how productive they become.
that’s a lot of bees
If you garden and preserve fruit/veggies often, chances are you have a lot of unwanted friends hanging around….I’m talkin’ bout fruit flies.
Nothing is worse than trying to let some tomatoes get extra ripe for saucing only to find that one went bad and is now covered in fruit flies. Fortunately, there are solutions to dealing with them. A little apple cider vinegar and soap can rid your home of most of them within a single night. Here’s Shannon with a quick how-to on dealing with our flying friends..
Summer goes by so quickly…especially when you have a new baby girl. This Summer was by no means spectacular thanks to near constant rain and lower than normal temperatures. The peppers did not like these conditions and we will barely eek out enough sauce to fulfill demand. But what can ya do? The tomatoes did not like the rain either and came on later than normal. I shouldn’t complain though; we had an amazing amount of tomatoes and the heirlooms performed very nicely. We canned more sauce than ever before.
So onto the Glass Gem corn…
Every single patch of Glass Gem corn grew fast, strong and is now done. At this point we are simply waiting for it to dry out and hoping that the animals stay away from it. A few of the early-planted stalks dried completely which gave us the opportunity to pick a cob and see the treasure within. Here’s Shannon with a how to on growing corn and a dehusking of that cob: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Giw9J-HOyrs
UPDATE: Our Glass Gem corn seed is now available on Amazon! http://www.amazon.com/Cherokee-Indian-Heirloom-Premium-Packet/dp/B00GR3B0NK
Here is the Glass Gem Corn in it’s current state…. It’s gone to tassel and the ears are pollinated. I can’t wait to see what we get out of it. Keep your fingers crossed that our wildlife friends stay out of the patches!
Despite the rain, our heirloom tomatoes have done quite well this year. I am going to lose a few plants from too much water but I am pleased with how most of them are doing. Strangely the tomatoes still taste great and aren’t cracking much. Check out how beautiful they are…
We have close to 50 different varieties planted…above you can see Calf Heart, Black Master, Super Snow White, Amana and Yellow Pear. We are proud to offer some of them for sale on the veggie table in front of our house. Many thanks to Michelle America for taking photos of them. We are saving the seeds to sell on Amazon this coming year.
June has begun and usually by this time of the year things are growing really fast. The recent hot days have proven to be beneficial to everything. The tomatoes seem to double in size every few days. I look forward to the many heirloom varieties we planted.
I’d like to thank my parents for helping me to weed the peppers last night. Weeding close to 1000 pepper plants is no small task and with a newborn, I just couldn’t do it alone. It was really hot out but they powered through to help finish. The peppers could be doing better; the cold weather really hit them hard. No worries though, they always bounce back.
So how about that glass gem corn?…. It’s doing so well. Almost every seed that was planted germinated. Here’s a quick glance at the one patch.
Glass Gem Patch #1
It’s growing fast. I can’t wait to see what treasures are coming from these plants.
After I took this picture I walked down to the garlic to see how it’s doing. The answer is; very well. The garlic is sending up flower heads called “scapes”. These scapes must be pulled off of the garlic to ensure all energy goes to the bulb. Supposedly they are delicious to cook with. I’ve never grown garlic and it’s not something sold in a store so I’ve never had the pleasure of eating scapes. I guess I’ll have to look up a recipe with Shannon.
The scapes I pulled off of the garlic
With great joy, we welcome baby Katherine to the world. “Kitty” was born on Wednesday at 1:31pm weighing in at 8 lbs 13 oz, 21.75 inches long. There are no words to really describe the feeling of seeing and holding your child for the first time….it’s just overwhelming. We brought her home today and couldn’t be happier. Kitty is the first grandchild for both of our parents. It’s nice to add a new farmhand to the family
For now though, we will see how things go on my end. Having a baby is like having another fulltime job and I feel like I already have 4 of those. Something may have to give….I guess we will see!
In the meantime, previous work done is paying off in a big way. Tonight my parents picked our strawberries for us. We have two rows of them planted out in front of the house and they are coming on strong. The secret to getting good yields of strawberries is to keep them weeded and to keep them from crowding each other out. Without competition they thrive. Whatever you plant this year should not be expected to produce until the following Spring. If you need plants, I have tons to share.
As anybody who has picked fresh strawberries knows, you cannot compare to the superior flavor of fresh picked to the store-bought.