Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall Vegetable and Apple Harvest Report

    One of the better garden years in this island spot is ending, with only some greens, cabbages, and brussels sprouts left to harvest. Rains at just the right time, and in just the right amount, combined with the sturdy new tall fence to keep out the deer, resulted in better yields of most vegetables. It was, also, a good year for apples.
The bean field, 2013. Close rows fill intervening spaces.
Among the successes were the General Lee cucumbers, and the Yellow Crookneck summer squash, a newer and an older variety. These cukes are never bitter, and sized up to the standard American slicing shape. A longer harvest season—more than six weeks—would have been welcome for these. The bush snap beans did well; Black Valentine are surely the tastiest green beans and freeze well, although the second harvest is not nearly as plentiful as the first. I have yet to find an outstanding wax bean. This year I planted Golden Rocky, which are vigorous with heavy yields; but unless picked young, the texture turns rubbery in cooking, and they don’t freeze well. The dry beans also did well; the best were the Light Red Kidney variety. Others included Black Coco, Jacobs Cattle Gasless, and Kenearly Yellow Eye, along with Tongue of Fire for shell beans (and dryu) and Black Jet Soybeans. The Black Jet are a dry soybean and something of an experiment. All the dry beans are hanging in bunches in the barn loft, waiting for more complete drying. This year, because I could dry them inside the garden fence, I strung twine between posts and dried the plants off there after picking them; I think this will speed the drying overall, never easy in this coastal climate.
    Tomatoes were better or worse depending on earliness and susceptibility to early and late blight. Tomato hornworms also were a problem. Celebrity, usually a reliable variety, was hit by hornworms and blight; Sungold came in early enough to escape both. Juliet was too small, and Mountain Magic has lasted till now, immune to late blight—although small in size, very tasty and worth replanting. I wasn’t able to get paste tomatoes to grow from seed this year, so they were absent in the garden. The Ace peppers did better than they usually do.

Broccoli was fair, troubled as usual by mid-summer heat; red cabbage has done very well. In the photo to the left, the green growth between the rows is tilled in to add organic matter to the soil. Beets, spinach, radish, arugula, and lettuce all did well as expected. Onions were smaller than I thought they would be, given the rains. Of the potatoes, the Dark Red Norland’s tops died in August but the potatoes had already sized up; yield was smaller than expected. On the other hand, Satina did very well, the plants lasting well into September, and the yield larger than in previous years. It’s hard to beat Satina for taste. I had to pick off the potato beetles almost daily during some parts of the summer.
    This year’s apple crop was good. The old tree in the orchard that at various times I’ve thought was a variety called Duchess, and at other times Shiawassee, is—I am now convinced—Fameuse; and it did well, supplying many apples for cider wine. The Liberty tree is not as vigorous or bearing as well as it did ten years ago; it has suffered some damage to the trunk over the years. The Winesap, as usual, bore well but the apples were very mild (aka tasteless). An old tree which for years I thought was Gravenstein has turned out on further consideration to be a variety much planted in these parts called Milding; it is indeed mild but not too mild and in fact is quite delicious, particularly to those whose taste buds, like Marta’s, don’t like tartness in an apple. The Prima yielded very few apples, but the Sheepnose did well. The Baldwins in the orchard also did well, and in a week or two they will be ripe for picking. I had grafted Fameuse onto two other trees in various parts of the property and they, also, did well this year. The Greening behind the house, like the Prima, was on its off-year during the biennial cycle. Next year I expect they will both be full. Fred, along with Nathan and Clara and their family, came over and helped Marta and me pick and press the apples over Columbus Day weekend, and afterwards we played old-time string band music as we do whenever we get a chance and not as often as we’d like, these days. Cider is in one carboy now, fermenting, and this afternoon I added sugar to bring up the alcohol content which will help to preserve it in the bottle, as well as sweeten it a little to the taste.

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