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Showing posts with label Vegetables. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vegetables. Show all posts

August 19, 2012

My Convincing Argument - Grafted Tomatoes Prove That Their Worth It

MASSIVE FLOWER TRUSSES ON A GRAFTED SWEET 100 TOMATO PLANT - 7 FEET TALL, AND NO SIGN OF FALL BLIGHT - ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

I have been so impressed with grafted tomatoes, that I wonder why I still grow conventional plants. I guarantee that in 5 years, all of you will be raising grafted tomatoes, and not seed-raised home grown plants. Grafted tomatoes are not new, since grafting peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers is a common p practice for greenhouse crop growers, and the method has been used for years in Japan and Europe. The concept is simple, graft a tasty, or heirloom variety onto a rootstalk that has been selected for vigor and root making. The result? Bigger plants, bigger yields and bigger tomatoes. Grafted plants can handle stress better and they are far more resistant to blights, which if anything, is the main reason why I would choose grafted plants over traditional un-grafted plants.

I tried grafting my own plants two years ago, but I struggled with timing the scion and the rootstalk plants. I will try again next spring, as I have all of the materials, but as grafted plants becoming easier to find, you may just find that buying them will be an easier option. Rootstalk seed is expensive, almost prohibitively so ($30-$80 for a packet of healthy rootstalk seed), but when one only needs a few plants, buying them is an option.

 Full disclosure - I cheated this year -, my plants came courtesy of the Home Depot who asked if I wouldn't mind trying some varieties that they will be carrying next year in most of their stores. Since I had little luck starting my own grafts, I agreed. I also planted them along side the same seed-raised varieties that I had started - in a side-by-side comparison test. The truth? Most of the others are now dead, but the grafted plants are still growing strong. They have a hint of fungus, but not nearly the amount that my traditional plants have. It seems that now the the Home Depot will be carrying plants, you should not have a problem finding them next spring ( at least in North America). For lovers of heirloom plants, this is a Godsend, since heirloom tomatoes are some of the most susceptible to soil borne virus'.
LOOK AT THE FLOWER TRUSSES AT THE TOP OF THE GRAFTED TOMATO ON THE LEFT. THE PLANTS ON THE RIGHT ARE SEED RAISED IN MY GREENHOUSE.


MY SEED RAISED TOMATOES ARE SUFFERING WITH LATE BLIGHT, WHICH STARTED A FEW WEEKS AGO. SO SAD, BUT, THE GREEN TOMATOES WILL MAKE GREAT PICKLES.


THIS YELLOW GRAPE TOMATO HAS BEEN THE HIT OF THE SEASON.  'GOLDEN SWEET F1' IS A VARIETY THAT I WILL GROW AGAIN. THE BEST PART? THIS SAME VARIETY SELLS FOR $5.99 A PINT AT OUR LOCAL FARM STAND! IT HAS BEEN PROLIFIC, AND, THE FLAVOR IS EXTRAORDINARILY SWEET.
THE TOMATO CROP THIS YEAR IS JUST STARTING, ANY ALTHOUGH NOT THE BEST YEAR FOR TOMATOES, IT IS ALSO NOT THE WORST YEAR.

ON THE LEFT, PICKLED CAULIFLOWER (REFRIGERATOR FRESH PICKLES) - ON THE RIGHT, GINGER, GARLIC AND CURRY PICKLED CAULIFLOWER (TO BE FERMENTED). I USED BlACK PEARL CHILI'S SINCE I DID NOT HAVE ANY OTHER CHILI PEPPERS THAT WERE RED YET. THEY'LL WORK FINE.

I felt so compelled to 'put something up', and I really don't know why. Maybe it's because I always remember my parents doing it - there was hardly a late summer day when we were not canning somethings when I was a kid. I mean, my mother was almost obsessive about it - no, she WAS obsessive about it. We never just canned willy nilly, when harvest time came, we seriously canned - as if we were preparing for the apaocolyse. We would never starve, since we could live on hundreds of quarts of Bread and Butter pickles. So, I guess as the crops of late summer arrive, it comes as no surprise that I should want to can a few pints of pickled beets, pickles and tomatoes. 

Today I canned a few quarts of cauliflower. I didn't grow it, it came from our local farmers market, but everything else came from the garden. The heirloom garlic, the peppers, even the coriander seed heads. These are fresh pickles - I mean, they are being fermented, but not processed - so they are not cooked. I like my pickles to be crispy. Both recipes are from THE JOY OF PICKLING by Linda Ziedrich. Next week, I will start making some of my mothers pickles - recipes that were handed down from her father, who was born in 1889. Pickles are like gifts from the past - the recipes are handed down, generation to generation - I love using the old crocks that are in the cellar, that were my grandparents. They have held pickled green tomatoes and sauerkraut ever year since 1910, but I also like to add a few new pickles to the list - Japanese pickles, German pickles and this year, some Indian inspired pickles such as the ones above.


JALAPENO'S!

July 22, 2012

Harvesting Hardneck Garlic

'DUGANSKI' HEIRLOOM HARDNECK GARLIC, FRESHLY DUG AND READY TO BE CURED IN A DRY, SHADY SPOT OUTDOORS. 

Growing your own garlic takes time, this crop was planted last October 2, so if space is an issue, you may want to try buying garlic at your local farmers markets. Still, home grown garlic is pungent and strong, and crops can be heavy, so given the cost of even a few garlic bulbs, the flavor of home grown and the volume you will harvest, loosing some space from where you may want to grow tomatoes may be worth it. This year, I am mostly growing Garlic and Tomatoes, as space is precious and of course, the sweet peas took up a good amount of room, too.

 This is my first year growing garlic, and although I made some mistakes ( not cutting the flower scapes off early enough, and not digging some varieties earlier before the stems turned brown) I think I still have been able to harvest a decent crop of three varieties, Duganski, Bavarian Purple and Western Rose. Being somewhat of an bulb expert, I thought that growing garlic would be easy, but my logic was not always correct. Growing garlic is quite different than growing onions.

Across New England, gardeners are digging their garlic this week, as garlic must be dug before the tops fade away and dry, unlike onions. It's a bit of a judgement call, but most experts agree that once the first two bottom leaves begin to dry and turn brown, it is time to dig ( not pull) out your garlic crop. Garlic at this point, will still have strong roots, and stiff stems, and a curing period will be required. Don't wash the soil off of your bulbs, but rather allow them to dry ( never in the hot sun, as that can change the flavor). Find a shady spot outside, and let them air dry and cure for at least three weeks. Once the drying process is complete, snip off the stems leaving just small stump.
HARDNECK GARLIC IS READY TO DIG, IN MID TO LATE SUMMER, JUST AS THE BOTTOM LEAVES BEGIN TO DRY AND TURN BROWN.

USING A PITCHFORK TO FIRST LOOSEN THE SOIL, WILL ENSURE THAT BULBS ARE NOT DAMAGED, SO RESIST PULLING ON THE STEMS TO REMOVE THE GARLIC FROM THE SOIL. HARDNECK GARLIC AT THIS STAGE WILL STILL HAVE STRONG ROOTS, WHICH WILL NEED TO DRY OFF BEFORE BEING REMOVED AFTER THE CURING PROCESS.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO BRUISE OR DAMAGE THE GARLIC HEADS AFTER DIGGING, THE PAPERY SKIN WILL MATURE SLOWLY AS THE BULBS DRY IN THE SHADE. , AND ONCE DRY, ANY REMAINING SOIL CAN BE RUBBED OFF CAREFULLY, THE ROOTS TRIMMED AS THE STEM CUT FOR WINTER STORAGE..


HARDNECK GARLIC STEMS CAN BE LONG, THESE ARE NEARLY FEET TALL.

May 23, 2012

7 Things to Avoid when Preparing a Vegetable Garden

THESE SNAP PEAS MIGHT BE ABLE TO SURVIVE WITH SIX TO EIGHT HOURS OF SUNLIGHT IS FINE, BUT TEN TO TWELVE HOURS CAN ADD TO YOUR HARVEST SUBSTANTIALLY.

1. Avoid Shade - Duh - But Count Your Hours of Sunlight


There are many factors to consider when selecting the perfect site for your vegetable garden. most can be fixed or altered after you have constructed it, so focus on what you can't change - the weather. Not all plants need sunlight in order to grow, but generally speaking, vegetables are the exception to the rule. But shade can be a sneaky thing - shade can be cast long distances in the morning and in the evening, and a tall tree in a neighbors yard, or a garage may block the sun at sunrise or near sunset, which may seem minor, but ever hour of extra sun may mean the difference between early tomatoes, or late ones.

When planning you raised bed, look for the sunniest place in your yard. Consider cast shadows from neighboring trees, especially in the morning and in the evening, and notice if the canopy of  a tree extends over your garden.  I have a high fence along the southern end of my property which casts a long shadow across several raised beds for most of the year, but between late May and late August, these beds receive nearly 16 hours of sunlight.

December 10, 2011

Cardoons - So Yummy, It's Cardunculous.

CYNARA CARDUNCULUS, or the COMMON CARDOON - IT LOOKS LIKE FUZZY CELERY WITH THORNS, OR AN ARTICHOKE PLANT ( WHICH IT BOTANICALLY IS), HAS RECENTLY BECOME A STYLISH ORNAMENTAL FOR THE SUMMER GARDEN, WITH ITS LARGE, THISTLE-LIKE FOLIAGE, AND GREYISH COLOR.

 Worth growing for many reasons, the Cardoon is gaining in popularity as an ornamental, often seen in trendy perennial borders, where young plants set out in spring, grow into massive, grey-foliaged urn-shaped forms which compliment many planting schemes. What many new gardeners do know, is that history of this plant, a popular medievil and ancient European vegetable, even grown in colonial America as a late autumn and early winter vegetable. Today, the crop is still cultivated in France, particularly the Savoie and Provence, where the trimmed thick, white stems are braised, and slow-cooked with various alpine cheeses, cream and Parmesian - how could anything combined with that, be bad? I think it's time that we re-discover the other benefits of this ancient vegetable, consumed since the 4th Century, that makes even the oldest heirloom tomato, seem infantile.
CARDOONS, ARE  KNOWN IN ITALY AS CARDONE, CARDUNI, OR CARDI, THIS THISTLE-LIKE RELATIVE OF THE ARTICHOKE IS A POPULAR VEGETABLE IN MANY MEDITERRANEAN HOLIDAY RECIPIES, ESPECIALLY IN GREECE, PORTUGAL, MOROCCO, LYBIA CROATIA, FRANCE AND ITALY, WHERE IT IS FOUND IN MANY CHRISTMAS EVE DISHES.

One can't write about cardoons, without mentioning artichokes, for the two share a small genus ( Cynara) and they are so close, in fact, that only the species name changes, and many selections are difficult to define when seen growing side-by-side in the garden. Some selections of wild cardoons in Sicily even have edible buds, like artichokes.
Cardoons are easy to grow in many temperate gardens ( Zones 3-6 as annuals, and they may winter over in warmer zones), the plant is best cultivated as an annual. Seeds must be started indoors, early in the year, for they require a long growing season. I order my seed in January, and start them along with artichokes, in early February in the greenhouse. Young plants grow best with bright light, so keep seedlings under lights if you do not have a greenhouse, with the lights set at 16 hours of day-length. 


Cynar, an Italian aperitif, is a liqueur which takes advantage of the bitterness found in cardoons and artichokes. Hip New York restaurants, like Mario Batali's BABBO, serves wonderful cocktails with this liqueur, some with blood orange juice, gin and it is included in authentic negroni's instead of Campari.

BLANCHED CARDOONS ARE HARVESTED IN NOVEMBER, CUT AT THE BASE, WITH THE CUT END WIPED IN LEMON JUICE TO PREVENT BROWNING. WATCH OUT FOR THE TINY SPINES!

BLANCHING STEMS and HARVEST

Cardoon stems must be blanched before eating because they can be very bitter. In gardening terms, this means wrapping them stems in a light-block material for approximately four weeks starting in late September, which will turn the stems white if you are successful in blocking out all light. Old gardening books, such as the Vilmorin vegetable guide advises that the stalks be wrapped in hay tightly, and then have the soil earthed-up around the bundles. Newer methods use any opaque material along with cord, to tie the plants into grocery-store celery-like bundles.  There are self-blanching varieties, or if you really want to be authentic, you can wrap the mature plants in October with tar paper or black sheeting, tied tightly around the stems, so that they grow white ( a method used in Europe), or use specially designed cardoon blanchers, terra cotta tubes that fit around the stems.




October 29, 2011

Digging Belgian Endive for Winter Forcing

AS THE SNOW BEGINS TO FALL, I DUG THE ROOTS OF BELGIAN ENDIVE, NICE AND THICK AND EARTH-COVERED - THESE WILL BE POTTED UP FOR FORCING DURING THE WINTER.

Last April, on a cold, overcast and dreary day with the threat of snow ( not unlike today), I planted a crop of Belgian Endive.  Belgian Endive is one of those old-fashioned crops that requires that you dig the root and force it during the winter, at one time, the only way to obtain fresh vegetables during the long winter months that were not winter-storage vegetables like squash. Few gardeners today bother to grow such crops, since Belgian endive can be purchased year-round at specialty markets, but yeah, I'm not your average gardener, and besides... I really like the crunchy, nutty taste of raw Belgian Endive - I buy a few most weeks in the winter for salads,as well as dishes where it is cooked (often braised in broth or served gratineed with cheese). 

THE BELGIAN ENDIVE ROOTS MUST BE HAND-DUG CAREFULLY, AFTER A LIGHT FROST, BUT BEFORE A HARD FREEZE. WITH A FOOT A SNOW EXPECTED THIS EVENING, AND 24 DEGREE F. TEMPS, IT WAS TIME TO DIG.
It takes patience to grow Belgian Endive, since true harvest of the vegetable happens 10 months after planting the seeds, but how can you beat home-grown anything with something purchased at a store. These are organic, (no fertilizer since Belgian Endive is a low-fertilizer crop), and I know exactly what went into them. Home Farming is great, but when space is limited, I prefer to grow those vegetables that I cannot find readily, the varieties that are difficult to find because either they don't ship well, or commercial growers select more sturdy varieties that ship well and last. There are just some vegetables that one cannot buy truly fresh, and this is one of them.

THE ROOTS MUST BE AIR-DRIED FOR A FEW DAYS AND THEN TRIMMED SO THAT THEY WILL ALL BE OF UNIFORM SIZE. THE OPTIMUM ROOT SIZE IS 1.5 INCHES IN DIAMETER, SO, ALTHOUGH THESE ARE SMALLER, A HARVEST CAN STILL BE MADE, WITH THE HEADS OF ENDIVE BEING LESS PRETTY.
 Also, I have always wanted to grow some myself, in the proper way - grow the plant all summer long, dig the roots at frost, dry them a few days, and then pot them up tightly in a container where they will spend the winter in complete darkness, in a cold store room in the cellar. When I am ready to begin forcing them, I will move the container into a warmer location, but continue to keep it in complete darkness ( wrapped in black plastic, most likely, but in a warmer closet).By mid-January ( yes, Jacques), I hope to have some Belgian endive for our annual American Primula Society Winter Bash that we host. Keep fingers crossed for a winter salad of fresh Persimmon and Belgian Endive.
THE MOST UNIFORM ROOTS WILL ALL BE POTTED TOGETHER AFTER THEY ARE AIR-DRYED ON THE POTTING BENCH IN THE GREENHOUSE.  SMALLER ROOTS WILL BE POTTED IN A SECOND CONTAINER.

The variety I selected to grow is from Johnny's Selected Seeds, TOTEM F1. A very good guide in pdf format is available from Johnny's, you can find it here at the bottom of their page. If  you want to try growing Belgian Endive next year in your garden, do download this pdf and then try them. So far, the crop has be much easier than I expected. Plant the seed as soon as the soil can be worked, keep them weeded all summer. They prefer draught, and sand soil that is not high is nitrogen. Dig the roots in late October or November before a hard freeze, air dry for a few days in the sun, trim them to remove most of the leaves, leaving an inch or so of stem, and trim the root tips so that they are of uniform length if necessary, and pot tightly, neck-neck in a clean, deep box or pot with potting soil ( ProMix). Keep completely dark and cool until you start forcing in December. Then move the pot to a place where temps are near 70 degrees F, continue to keep the pot wrapped in black plastic or cloth to block out all light. Cut off the tight, light yellow heads when the emerge to a size that you prefer.

The same process can be used to force Rhubarb ( Dig now and treat the same way, but force in a cold room),  and with a difficult to find vegetable called Sea Kale ( Crambe maritima)- Still trying to find seeds for that.




October 23, 2011

Fractal Broccoli

THE HEIRLOOM ITALIAN BROCCOLI, ROMANESCO, HAS A COMPLEX AND BEAUTIFUL FRACTAL PATTERN SEQUENCE THAT DEMONSTRATES A RECURSIVE HELICAL ARRANGEMENT OF CONES, A COMMON MATHEMATICAL SEQUENCE USED IN 3D COMPUTER ANIMATIONS.
Mother Nature has an apple too, but hers is not a computer. This split geometry is not rare at all in the plant kingdom, after all the Fibonacci Sequence and the power of five, is a common sight in the autumn - think of the seed head of a sunflower. In this beautiful head of Romanesco Broccoli, nature takes this patterning a step further -  into a 3 dimensional realm. Scientists call this design  a mathematically correct recursive helical arrangements of cones. So, in a  sense, this could  Kai's Power Tools Fractal Broccoli.

Whatever, it's cool, and delicious, and even though Romanesco Broccoli may have the same Latin name as regular broccoli, it does taste a bit different, much more sweet and nutty. It's real gift however is its crunchiness and tenderness, unparalleled in the great family of crucifers. I nice head like this will crumble and snap into a thousand tiny morsels. For this very reason, fine chefs prefer this version of broccoli for raw, crunchy crudites and dishes. Sadly, this variety is seasonal, so look now for heads at your high-end market this fall.

October 2, 2011

Planting Heirloom Garlic

SOME OF THE MANY HEIRLOOM VARIETIES OF GARLIC I AM PLANTING THIS WEEKEND. ALL ARE FROM TERRITORIAL SEED. IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO ORDER SOME RIGHT NOW, AND PLANT A ROW OR TWO.
 If you are new to vegetable gardening, it might seem odd that some crops are planted in the autumn, especially here in New England, where one associates harvest with autumn,pumpkins, gourds and apples rather than planting anything beyond bulbs....but wait, if you plant ornamental allium varieties and species, than it should not be a surprise at all to know that the proper time  to plant garlic is also the fall, for it too in indeed, an Allium. Allium sativum

 Garlic is currently one of those stylish crops, stylish in a sense that hip farmers markets now carry countless varieties of heirloom garlics, and festivals abound in the late summer just after the garlic harvest in August.  I have resisted growing garlic for no particular reason other than perhaps that when it comes time to order garlic, I prefer to spend my money on other bulbs. I also rarely think of garlic until spring when I see garlic scape's in other peoples gardens ( like my brothers), and then I kick myself for not planting it.
GARLIC MUST BE ORDERED IN THE LATE SUMMER, AND IS BEST PLANTED BETWEEN OCTOBER 1 AND NOVEMBER 15 IN MOST NORTHERN US ZONES.

 Being a passionate foodie and cook, as well as a lifelong gardener, it's about time the I grow garlic, and folks like most things I do, I am not jumping in with a little splash - I am growing many varieties of heirloom garlic, some from Spain, Portugal, Russia, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine. There are three things I do love about garlic in the garden, the first being their flowers - long graceful necks with a gooseneck bud that hangs gracefully down, it makes any cottage garden look more "cottagy". Second, these buds are also delicious to eat in stir fry's. At Whole Foods, they are a seasonal treat that I rarely can afford, so since they need to be cut off anyway, BAM! I get two great reasons for garlic in the garden. Third reason is simple, I love garlic. And NOTHING compares to garlic when it is fresh, especially when you can choose from many types of garlic that you will never find in a market.

There are two types of garlic, Hardneck type which has a stiff 'neck' or dried stem, and it typically has very large cloves, then there is Softneck - the sore you typically get at the supermarket. You can plant supermarket garlic too, but don't expect good results since most commercial garlic is grown in China or California, and most has been treated with a sprout inhibitor, which will cause even sprouting cloves to eventually weaken and die.

CLOVES MUST BE SEPARATED BEFORE PLANTING, AND 3 or 4 HEADS WILL GIVE YOU A BOWL FULL OF CLOVES, OR ABOUT 35 - 45.
 Garlic is fun to grow, and the flavor from home-grown garlic will surprise you, depending on the variety, it can be fiery and hot, or intensely sweet. Either way, if you LOVE garlic, you will NEVER buy store bought garlic again.
PLANT CLOVES TWO INCHES DEEP AND 6 - 8 INCHES APART. ROWS CAN BE 8 INCHES APART IF YOU PLANT IN A GRID, WHICH IS FINE IN A SMALL RAISED BED. COVER CLOVES WITH SOIL AND WATER WELL - THE GOAL IS TO STIMULATE THE CLOVES ( BULBS) TO START TO PRODUCE ROOTS BEFORE IT SNOWS.

 Once the bed is planted, it is recommended to cover the bed in mid to late November with 6-12 inches of straw before the first snow. The straw is removed once growth begins in late winter, pine needles could also be used since once growth begins, this mulch will be removed in the spring.
Since I have a "terrier problem", I used the now cleaned cucumber trellising to discourage unnecessary snuffling and digging from our furry friends, until they forget that I showed some interest in the raised beds. 

Here is a shot of the Brunsvigia bosmaniae mentioned in y previous post. After a cool, rainy weekend, it is starting to fade. It does look like the honey bees were successful in pollinating the rare plant, and in a pot next to this, some seedlings from last years bloom are emerging.

September 20, 2011

My 1802 Melon Project

This little project began last May, after purchasing a rare 1802 gardening book. It was then, when I discovered that in the early Nineteenth Century, the first glasshouses and 'stoves' in America were used not for flowers, but  mainly for fancy food crops - particularly the new 'Pine Apples' and citrus, that arrived home with sailors on their whaling ships. These plant crops, collected from exotic ports in the south seas, also included fancy table grapes from Europe,  that could ripen in the forced coal heated grapery for early winter table fruit, Muscadine grapes, nectarines and yes, melons.

NOIR DE CARMES and VERT GRIMMPANT - RARE HEIRLOOMS FROM NINETEENTH C. FRANCE

I was inspired to consider optional uses for my glass greenhouse, which say unused for most of the summer, which brings me to my experiment in growing these melons. Not ordinary melons mind you, but vintage varieties that might have been grown in an 1802 greenhouse.  I chose to grow these period fruit for a few reasons, their authenticity- living legends that anyone can grow thanks to a growing group of seed savers who search the planet for vintage or heirloom varieties that might have been lost, their romance, because come on, what could be more desirable than tasting a fruit that is a clone of what Marie Antoinette may have enjoyed, but mostly, for the flavor, which had proven to be unbelievably delicious in a honey-meets-nectar-of-the-Gods, way.
A CHARENTAIS TYPE FROM THE 1700's



TENDRAL VERDE TARDE MELON - A HARD, WINTER STORAGE MELON, THAT MAY NOT BE READY TO EAT UNTIL THANKSGIVING.


BOULE D'OR MELON, REPORTEDLY GROWN IN VILMORIN'S BOOK, THE VEGETABLE GARDEN IN 1885. NOW VERY RARE, THE PALE GREEN FLESH IS EXTREMELY SWEET.



Now that I harvested 'my melons' my friends at work can stop teasing me about having to go home and "water my melons".





July 9, 2011

CUCUMBER MOLDS FROM JAPAN

Grow your own heart-shaped cucumbers
Cuteness from the garden. Who wouldn't  love these heart cucumbers from their own garden?

What more can I say about these fun and cute cucumber molds from Japan that I haven't said already, except that - yes, my past posts on these molds when I first saw them in Japan 5 years ago have been kind of insanely popular on Pinterest and in social media.

Obviously, novelty raises the share ability and social media quotient! There is no denying that there are many home gardeners and mommy bloggers who adore these molds, but even though are mostly just pinning them to their boards on Pinterest or sharing old images with their followers on Twitter and Facebook, not to mention Instagram -- I did have to wonder if anybody has actually tried them?II decided to invest in a few imported from Japan (warning, they are pricey and probably not worth spending $75 dollars or more for, as surely, commercial growers will be dabbling in introducing these soon. Not deterred - as I am one whom is always up of some novelty- it's time to test these guys out.

June 20, 2011

The Last Turnips of Spring

Scarlet Queen turnips are harvested from one of my raised beds on the last day of spring.
 With the summer solstice approaching tomorrow, the last of the spring turnips are harvested so that I can replant the raised bed with pickling cucumbers and kohlrabi. Many people believe that only tomatoes taste better from the home garden, but to those of us who raise other vegetables, we know that although summer tomatoes taste exceptionally good, the truth is that many vegetables that are fresh and home-grown taste like nothing else one could ever buy at a farmers market or store, and it is the spring and autumn crops that often have the most defining flavor. June peas and spring turnips are sublime, when steamed and served with nothing else but fresh butter and sea salt. Once one has tasted them fresh from the garden, there truly is nothing better from the vegetable garden.
 Turnips are fast growers, particularly spring turnips. You know, those small white, or purple-top white turnips one sees at the market. Many people are confused with turnips, since here in New England, there are also winter storage turnips that are also called Rutabaga, that have yellow flesh and purple tops - those are the ones that are as large as soft balls, and appear in the markets in the late autumn and winter, covered in wax, and are hard-as-rock. Delicious, yes, but different than tender spring turnips, that are grown to harvest size in just a few weeks. The two turnips are grown differently, since spring turnips have tender stems, and can be grown for either their tender greens, or for fast turnip crops in the early spring and autumn. Rutabaga can only be sown in July, for autumn harvest.
 This year I grew a red turnip called Scarlet Queen ( there is a variety with green stems, and one with red stems), which is available from Johnny's Selected Seeds. Sown in late March and early April, the plants grew fast, and much of the crop was harvested as a greens crop, since we adore fresh, tender turnip greens almost just as much as the roots. I love how this variety looks like a beet, but the inside flesh is crispy and white, like a radish. Picked any later, and these would become woody since turnips dislike any stress while growing, even a day of wilting can cause woodyness in the root. A constant supply of water is necessary, and a short, fast, cool growing season is best.