Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy Fall! (and a last taste of Summer)

Today is the official first day of Fall--my favorite season! I'm looking forward to cooler temperatures, wearing cozy sweaters and boots, and eating lots of pie and soup. Temperatures are still a bit warm around these parts, though, so it's hard to get into a complete autumn mindset. While looking at food porn online yesterday, I came across some summer salad recipes that I wish I had found, oh, about 3 months ago.

Tomato Carpaccio - does this scream summer, or what? I don't really have any garden-grown tomatoes left, but next summer I plan to grow some big slicing tomatoes for salads just like this.

Endive and Warm Pear Salad - Well, this salad seems a little high-brow for my simple taste, but it looks delicious. And I confess that I do love pears in salads, and pears and endive seem to be a common combo that works very well. Maybe one day, when I'm a proper lady, I'll have dinner parties where I start the meal off with something classy like this instead of the beer-burger-and-guacamole parties we have now. Maybe.

Avocado and Corn - And speaking of guacamole, I think this avocado and corn salad is my favorite. I love avocados and ate a lot of avocado and tomato salads this summer. I wish I lived in a more tropical zone where I could grow healthy avocado (and citrus) trees.

So farewell Summer! Here's hoping for a happy fall season.

(all food photos via Mark Bittman)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Last weekend, when we were cleaning off the patio, we noticed this praying mantid under the leaf of one of the sunflowers. The problem with these bugs is that they eat the good and bad insects, so I've learned not to get too excited when I see them in the garden. We took him off the leaf and put him in the strawberry patch, which right now is a buffet of ants and possibly a Japanese beetle. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Garden Clean-Up

Technically there is still one more week of summer, but recent temperatures have been cool and very fall-like. With overnight lows in the 50s and low 60s, I think veggie production is going to slow down considerably. I think we got all we could out of our only bush bean plant--two pints! Not bad considering we started it late. Our tomato plants have slowed down a lot, but the peppers are loaded with fruit and still cranking them out. The pictures above are recent harvests of peppers and beans. Garden chores accomplished over the weekend: We cleaned a lot of pots off the deck, specifically the sunflowers and squash plants, which were dead and brown and scraggly. 
The Sweet Chocolate peppers are FINALLY starting to ripen into their dark brown color--I think. They look a little orange right now.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Purple Beauties

{deep sigh}......What a September this has been. I'm going to avoid the emotional topics that have been in the news lately, especially in DC--hurricane/tropical storm/heavy rains and floods, the September 11 anniversary, and general job/economic woes--and instead post something completely superficial. (However, NY Magazine has interesting coverage/tributes of the 10-year Sept 11 anniversary, if you're interested).

Purple is my favorite color, and purple fruits and veggies fascinate me because there just don't seem to be that many of them {don't even get me started on how totally awesome purple potatoes are}. I tried growing purple bell peppers last year but didn't have any luck getting purple ones from a "miscellaneous variety" seed packet I bought. So this year, I specifically ordered Purple Beauty seeds.

It was worth the wait. My Purple Beauties are stars! The plant has been cranking out peppers steadily in the last few weeks. 

So far, I have harvested one pound of purple bell peppers.  Next up: cooking a couple and freezing the rest. The Purple Beauty plant, along with the Sweet Chocolate plant, have grown so much that Husband transplanted them both to bigger pots over the weekend.

sweet chocolate peppers waiting to ripen

P for Purple Pepper!

Like all our other peppers, the Purple Beauties and Sweet Chocolates are in containers and have done very well in their pots. They were both grown from seed. The Sweet Chocolates haven't changed color yet, and I hope that I get to see them turn that nice dark chocolate brown color as promised on the seed packet. But for now I'm very happy with the purple peppers. :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our Goldfish Pond

I've done an entire post on our new kitten and have shown pics of our sweet 3-year-old cat, so now I want to mention our gilled garden companions. This goldfish pond was part of the house when we bought it, and we love listening to the soothing sounds of the running water. The birds and squirrels seem to like it too, and we frequently see them stopping by for a drink.

The pond has five goldfish and water lilies which bloom briefly every spring. Our first year in the house, there was a huge toad that lived in the pond. We'd see it swimming and sitting on the lily pads or hiding under the Japanese maple that's near the pond. Last year we saw the toad and a smaller frog briefly in early spring. We were excited that there were two, and then they disappeared. We didn't see either of them again for the rest of the 2010 summer. We hoped to see one or both again this year, but we didn't see anything this spring either, and then...
...a few weeks ago, we saw a little frog! This picture is awful, but it's the only proof I have that there's a frog in the pond!  I've read that frogs are a sign that your pond is healthy, so I'm very happy to see it. He should have plenty to eat with all the mosquitos and flies swarming about, and I hope he stays and invites a couple of friends too.

Do you have a pond in your yard?  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Strawberry Resurrection

I thought they were done for the season, but the strawberries are making a comeback. Blossoms, buds, and even one bright red strawberry have emerged (circled in yellow). I took this picture last night during a break from the heavy rain we got yesterday. Temperatures were cooler, too--in the 60s during the day! I actually had to wear a jacket, and for the first time in months, I wore pants to work (as opposed to a skirt. I don't usually go bottomless ;))  Between the weather and all the school buses on the road, I guess summer really is over.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Looking Forward to Beans and Loofah

Happy Labor Day! I wish every week had a 3-day weekend. I find myself more productive at work and home when the schedule works out this way. I'm a wino, and one of the highlights of my weekend was a visit to the Narmada Winery, which I highly recommend to anyone in the Virginia area.

As I look forward to a possible tomato bumper crop and more pepper harvests, I also have two new crops that are maturing in September: green beans and loofah (as in an exfoliating loofah sponge!).

We planted bush beans in a container, and the five seedlings have just matured into producing plants. We harvested about a pint and a half late last week. We started these seeds in late June, but I wish we had started them earlier or planted more. Note to self: plant more beans next year. We love beans, too, I don't know why we didn't this year.

Loofah plants are something we tried growing on a whim last year, and the plants did so well that we had to grow them again this year. Loofahs are in the cucurbit family. The vines and flowers resemble cucumbers, and the fruit looks like a giant zucchini. I don't have any pictures of the actual fruit from last year, but here's a picture with more info. We have loofah planted in our small ground plant, and the vines grow wild. Last year they reached up to the deck, and it looks like they're on their way to reaching that far this year too.

Loofahs grow all summer, but really take off when the summer heat breaks. Last week the weather was absolutely gorgeous here (the one good thing about tropical storms is that they often leave nice weather in their wake). With temperatures in the 80s during the day and 60s overnight, the conditions were ideal for the plants to take off. The bumbles love the flowers, and the plants were covered in bees all weekend long. Yay! Keep pollinating!

We have two fruit already! You can see that they resemble zucchini. Although you can eat the fruit, we're going to let them grow and dry out. Then we'll peel them and process them to get the sponge that you see so often in the store.
Here's hoping for a good bean and loofah harvest!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August Harvests

This week has been uneventful, compared to Mother Nature's Earthquake/Hurricane Smack Down last week. She has been nice to DC this week, with clear, sunny days and cool nights with temps in the 60s. I love it! I wish I could send these cool temperatures and rain to friends in Texas, the midwest, and other parts suffering from heat and drought.

August was a good month for harvesting. We collected a lot of peppers and tomatoes--I know, "a lot" is not exact, but I wasn't as meticulous as I wanted to be when tracking our harvest. Also, sadly, a lot of my tomatoes split, exposing the flesh. On Sunday, once it stopped raining, I went out to the garden and saw tons of flies and other bugs in the cracks. There was a slight rotten smell, too. I picked the tomatoes and threw them out. I've come to accept bugs in the garden, but I'm not going to eat after a fly.

It looks like some of the tomato plants are getting a second wind, though. I've seen new blossoms on the grape tomato plants and others have tomatoes that are green and/or blushing.

Peppers--they were the stars in August. We collected from all the different varieties and I expect more for September. The cherry peppers are producing so well that we're thinking of keeping a plant or two inside over winter. They taste so sweet and are perfectly bite-sized, this variety is quickly becoming a favorite. (Click here for a full list of the peppers we're growing this summer).

August was also a good month for harvesting cucumbers. We have four cucumber plants, but it looks like three of them have finished producing. I don't know how much we can get out of the last one.

For those who asked, the Bumble Lush furballs did fine during the storm. I hope all your pets were OK too! I thought I'd share a shot of Pickles hiding amongst some vines.