Chili Rellenos, Kinda’

A bowlful of poblanos translated into a small army of shrimp and chorizo stuffed peppers. Yum.

Rellenos

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It Tastes Better When You Share

Each year POD grows two containers of basil — a quantity that pretty successfully sustains the garlic-breathing monsters who live below the deck.

Sweet, Sweet Basil
Sweet, Sweet Basil

Something that’s nearly as enjoyable as the wonderful husband’s pesto, is sharing bags and bags of extra basil with fellow monsters. This year’s basil wasn’t quite as prolific as it was in previous years, but a co-worker was just bestowed with bag chock-full of green goodness.

What a terrific thing, vicarious pesto: the same joy (almost) without any of the accompanying garlic-consciousness.

A recipe for growing basil:

  • Some like it hot — basil thrives in full sun and likes the heat. With the waning sunlight, POD expects basil’s day’s are limited.
  • Heavy harvesting — to keep your basil full and bushy, harvest it frequently.
  • No flowers for you — do your best to prevent the plant from flowering. If it does flower, pinch them off. You want all the plant’s energy devoted to leaves, not flowers.
  • Watered, not wet — basil plants are thirsty buggers, but they hate perpetually soggy soil. Well-drained pots are crucial.
  • Feed me — like every other plant in the garden, basil needs to be fertilized to produce those deep green tasty leaves.

2009: A Review

Apologies for an incredible dull post. When making plans for next year, however, it’s important to remember what worked and what didn’t. So, here it is, all in one tidy package.

Herbs: This year’s parsley, mint, tarragon, bay, and thyme were winners. Next year, grow basil from seed. The lavender never blossomed and thus, failed miserably. Next year, plant oregano and cilantro! The mint was a fine companion to the Gold Nugget tomato, but given diseases that befell the tomato, it should be planted with the rest of the herbs next year.

Lettuce: The four-year-old hand-me-down seeds produced well. They did not do well as companion plants to cucumbers and tomatoes. Could have used more — use the carrot container for additional lettuce. Still, it may be time to spring for new seeds

Carrots: After two years of parmex, it’s time to try something new. Plant as companions to tomatoes.

Radishes: Worked very well. Need to buy new seeds.

Peppers: Poblano Segundo produced well but needs careful fertilization and calcium to prevent yellowing leaves and blossom end rot. Save seeds and plant again next year. The Thai chili and random ornamental hot pepper both  produced incredibly well.

Cucumbers: Lemon cucumbers produced very well. Try the iznik again — only produced one cucumber, but dozens were on the vine before mildew throttled them. This was POD’s second attempt at growing Spacemasters — whose small, compact vines seem perfect for a roofdeck garden, but what’s the point if they only produce two little cukes?

Muskmelons: Refer to More Than a Handful

Rainbow Swiss Chard: Grew very, very well as a companion to the cucumbers and melon. Buy seeds and plant again! Perhaps try as a companion plant to tomatoes as well.

Snap Beans: Need more! Refer to Food for Thought.

Eggplant: Consider omitting. Three plants produced only enough for two meals. Preferred the Udmalbet over the Bambino.

Tomatoes: Oh, tomato. While the cherry tomato experiment worked fairly well, it’s worth experimenting with a couple new varieties. Four plants. New: black cherry tomato and Kellogg’s breakfast (full size). Old: Tumbling Tom, Gold Nugget, or Isis Candy. Prefer the Isis Candy, but the Gold Nugget produced more heavily and the Tumbling Tom fits in a 1.5 gal container and seems poised for a second crop.

Parsnips and Brussels sprouts: Verdict to be rendered at a later date.

Persnickety Parsnips

POD’s figuring things out as we grow along, but parsnips, like any other veggie, seem to be a little fussy. But, so far, so good — every one of the javelins has germinated and they’re sprouting right along.

  • Rich, deep, well-fertilized soil
  • Go light on the nitrogen, though — evidently they don’t like it
  • Full flavor develops when the roots have been exposed to near-freezing temperatures
  • POD’s hopes for a Thanksgiving crop may not pan out — perhaps more like a February harvest, just when they’ll be most needed
  • Full sun/partial shade okay

Eating Eggplants

Eggplants

Apologies to POD’s mother, but early memories of eggplants bring thoughts of bowling to mind, rather than eating. Those gargantuan, spongy, fibrous, gooey, tasteless monstrosities were more suited for tossing at pins (say, the stringy wrist-thick wild asparagus that grew in the field) than sticking in your mouth.

All that changed with the discovery of Thai eggplants at Philly’s Number 1 Oriental Supermarket at 6th and Washington. These little guys actually have flavor of their own, possess a satisfying crunch, and are completely devoid of spongy goo.

Although this is only the second meal produced from the Udmalbet and Bambinos, it’s a keeper.

Adapted from Casa Moro (2004) by Sam and Sam Clark

3  udmalbet and 6 baby bambino eggplants
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4 tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbs pine nuts
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbs balsamic with a pinch of sugar
1-2 tbs fresh oregano, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450

1) Slice eggplants into cubes the size of sugar cubes, then sprinkle with the fine salt. Leave to sit in a colander for at least 20 minutes, then blot dry with paper towel. Toss with half the olive oil, spread out on a large baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes until they start to brown and are completely tender.
2) Put the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium to low heat. Add the onion, pine nuts and a pinch of salt to the pan and soften for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3) Add the garlic and dried oregano and cook until the garlic, onions and pine nuts have taken on an amber color — be careful not to burn anything.
4) Add the cooked eggplant to the pan, increase the heat slightly and stir briskly for a minute or two.
5) Stir in the vinegar and most of the fresh oregano and cook for two minutes more, until some of the pungency of the vinegar has gone. Taste for seasoning, and serve with the remaining fresh oregano scattered on top.

Death by Powder

Well, thank goodness POD’s cucumbers were just about ready for retirement.  They survived a minor case of leaf spot and random blight but powdery mildew did them in.

powdery mildew
powdery mildew

It’s not a surprise, really. Temperatures have cooled and light has waned: a perfect recipe.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota Midgets have also been touched. Because there are at least six melonettes ripening, the most affected leaves have been snipped and the rest drenched in a dripping coat of Neem.

disease-stunted lemon cucumber
disease-stunted lemon cucumber

Fall Fell

lettuce seedsWell, dear friends, Fall has touched down in South Philly. Which is not to say we won’t be slammed with a few more 90 degree days; but generally, temps are hovering in the 70s during the day and low 60s at night. The biggest challenge, though, is the rapidly dwindling sun exposure. POD enjoys at least six to eight hours of sun throughout most of the summer but by September, it receives only a few hours of morning sun.

What does this mean for POD’s zone 7 garden? Major work on deck.

As you can see from yesterday’s post, there’s been some reorganization.  First, all containers have been crammed together to maximize sun exposure. Both the Gold Nugget and Isis Candy cherry tomatoes bit the dust, as did the spacemaster and lemon cucumbers (tune in for more info on Friday).  Filling their shoes are several more parsnip seeds, French radishes, lettuce, Swiss chard, and carrots.

Parsnips and Radishes of the Future
Parsnips and Radishes of the Future

The Brussels sprout seedlings have also made their way, full-time, onto the deck. Honestly, they’ve been looking a little peaked lately. Here’s hoping they pull through.