What I’m Planting in 2018

One of the many pleasures of this seed-ordering time of year is sharing seed order lists with friends and family. I send my sister Sarah my annual order list and enjoy seeing hers. And it’s always fun to have seed conversations with my neighbor Carol and with other gardening friends. In this spirit of sharing, I’ve made a table listing all the seeds I’m planning to plant this year, some brief comments about why I’ve chosen these vegetables and these varieties, and very often links to posts I’ve written about many of these vegetables over the years of this Lopez Island Kitchen Garden blog. I hope this list will be a useful resource and, more important, that anyone who has other vegetables and vegetable varieties they like will share them in return.

Here’s a key to the seed catalog sources listed by letter after each variety:

A = Adaptive Seeds

F= Fedco Seeds

J = Johnny’s Selected Seeds

MT = Moose Tubers

PT = Pinetree

SSE = Seed Savers Exchange

TSC = Territorial Seed Company

UP = Uprising Seeds

Seed What I’ll plant in 2018 Comments
Arugula Arugula F I plant arugula in August as a fall and winter green.
Basil Genovese F

Sweet F

Round Midnight F

 

Genovese and Sweet are both good green basil.   Round Midnight is purple and a lovely accent color with sliced tomatoes.
Beans, Bush green Maxibel F Maxibel is my favorite bush green bean.
Beans, Pole fresh Fortex UP

Golden Gate F

Northeaster  J

Rattlesnake F

I like the mixture of colors and shapes of these pole beans.

 

Beans, Pole shell and dry Aunt Jean

Good Mother Stallard

Soissons Verte

Tarbais

Seeds for all of these I’ve saved over the years or gotten from friends

Beans that don’t dry on the vine make great shell beans.

 

 

Beans, Bush shell and dry Cranberry

Drabo

Black Turtle

Seeds for all of these I’ve saved over the years or gotten from friends

Cranberry I like best as a shell bean. Drabo and Black Turtle I like as a dry bean.

 

Beets Avalanche TSC

Kestrel F

Touchstone Gold F

I like to grow red, yellow and white beets. TSC used to carry Kestrel then dropped it. I’m glad Fedco  brought it back. I was happy to order it this year.
Broccoli DiCicco J

Piracicaba F

Umpqua F

I grew Piracicaba last year and liked its constant side shoot production.
Brussels Sprouts Diablo F

Gustus F

Hestia TSC

Igor TSC

Nautic TSC

Gustus was my favorite for flavor and hardiness in 2017. I’ll grow more Gustus relative to the others this year.
Cabbage January King A I continue to like January King best for winter cabbage.
Cantaloupe Prescott Fond Blanc F After a few years off, I’m going to try cantaloupe again.
Cauliflower Fioretto 60 F

Snow Crown F

Fioretto with its side-shoot growth habit seems worth a try. I’ll grow Snow Crown cauliflower as a back-up.
Carrots Mokum F

Purple Haze F

Red Cored Chantenay F

White Satin F

Yellowstone F

In addition to orange Mokum and Chantenay, Purple Haze, White Statin and Yellowstone offer beautiful colors as well as sweet, crisp flavor. Purple Haze is my favorite for flavor and beauty of these three colorful, non-orange carrots.
Celeriac Brilliant F

Tellus A

Both celery root varieties  have great flavor but Tellus is a tiny bit sweeter.
Chard Argentata F

Fordhook F

Rainbow F

Rainbow chard is so pretty.

Fordhook is winter hardy in the garden and tender on the plate.  I’m trying Argentata this year for its thicker stems.

Collards Cascade Glaze F

Flash TSC

Despite its rough appearance, collards are very tender when sautéed. It’s a great winter green alone or mixed with cabbage.
Corn Café F

Candy Mountain A

Café matured early in 2017 and was very sweet.   I’m trying Candy Mountain for comparison this year
Eggplant Diamond F

Galine F

Rosa Bianca F

These three eggplant produce reliably in my kitchen garden when grown in a cloche.
Escarole/Endive/

Radicchio

Borca A

Pan di Zucchero F

 

Indigo F

Fiero F

Radicchio de Treviso F

Borca and Pan di Zucchero, both sugarloaf chicories, have become one of our favorite winter greens.

The red versions are great too.

Fava Windsor F I always grow favas and like Windsor for its size and rich flavor.
Fennel Mantovano A

Preludio J

These two fennel varieties have been very bolt resistant in my garden, planted in early spring and again in late summer.
Ground Cherry Ambrosia Husk Cherry F After a few years off, I’m growing ground cherries  again this year.
Kale Lacinato F

Lacinato, Dazzling Blue A

Red Russian F

Redbor TSC

White Russian F

Winterbor TSC

If I could grow only one vegetable, it would be kale. Search my blog for the many entries on growing kale, kale puree, kale flower buds and kale salad
Leeks Bleu de Solaize F

Lancelot F

These two leek varieties seem most winter hardy, most rust resistant and sweetest.
Lettuce Super Gourmet Blend TSC I like lettuce mixes.  They are a good way to get variety without buying a lot of different seed packets.
Mache Granon A

Vit TSC

I can’t imagine not having mache in the winter garden.
Mustard Red Giant F Sautéed red mustard is a favorite winter side dish.
Onions Newburg A

Patterson F

Redwing F

Purplette J

I miss Copra! Newburg and Patterson are OK substitutes but not as sweet as Copra.

Redwing is a great storage red onion.

Purplette is a spring favorite.

Pac Choi Shuko F I’ve never grown Pac Choi so this will be an adventure.
Parsley Gigante d’Italia F My favorite parsley
Parsnip Gladiator TSC What would winter meals be without sweet parsnips?
Peas, Snap Sugarsnap F I continue to plant this original sugar snap pea despite the off-types that still appear and the lack of disease resistance.   I like the flavor better than any other sugar snap pea.
Peppers Red sweet:

Carmen F

King of the North F

Lady Bell F

Revolution F

Orange sweet:

Etudia A

Gourmet F

Yellow sweet:

Flavorburst F

Poblano spicy:

Ancho Magnifico TSC

Tiburon F

Peppers produce reliably in my kitchen garden when grown in a cloche.

I grow red, orange and yellow sweet peppers for their flavor and colors and roast and freeze any that are left.

Poblanos are mainly a winter treat, roasted and frozen in summer/fall and used thawed for sauces and mixed with mashed squash or potatoes in winter.

Potato Daisy Gold MT

German Butterball MT

At the recommendation of Will Bonsall, I grew Daisy Gold last year, really liked it and will grow it again.

German Butterball is an old favorite.   Both store well.

Raab Sorrento TSC Though kale and other brassicas provide delicous raab-like flower buds in the spring, I like to grow a little raab in the fall.
Radish Champion F

Cheriette F

I grow radishes in the cool of spring and enjoy them alone and with new lettuce. These two varieties make pretty, mildly spicy red globes.
Rutabaga Joan TSC Earthy, sweet rutabaga is the perfect winter root.  Search my blog for many root vegetable recipes.
Shallot Ed’s Red My friend Dave Sabold gives me seed of Ed’s Red.   Shallots are another winter treat.
Spinach Abundant Bloomsdale A Some years I plant spinach in late fall and let it winter over and begin growing early in the spring. It’s always welcome in salads and wilted in butter.
Squash, Summer Costata Romanesca F Costata Romanesca is my favorite zucchini, flavorful and not watery.
Squash, Winter Burpees Butterbush F

Hunter TSC

Candystick Dessert Delicata A

Honeyboat Delicata A

Blue Kuri A

Potimarron A

Tetsukabuto PT

Burgess Buttercup TSC

While I like big winter squash like Buttercup and Blue Kuri for pies, mashes and soups, I’ve also grown to like smaller, one-meal squash like Honeyboat Delicata for roasting. And for the past few years I’ve also liked Butternut squashes for both roasting and stews.
Tomato Amish paste F

Brandywine, Pink F

Cherokee Carbon TSC

Cherokee Purple TSC

Darby Red & Yellow A

Dester SSE

Fiachetto de Manduria UP

Genuwine TSC

Golden Jubilee (aka Golden Sunray) F

Hillbilly TSC

Jasper Cherry F

Jaune de Flamme F

Momotaro F

Mortgage Lifter TSC

Orange Paruche TSC

Prudens Purple F

Speckled Roman F

Sunchocola Cherry TSC

Weavers Black Brandywine F

Each year, I grow old favorites, return to some I’ve grown and liked in the past (underlined), and try some new (italics) that look intriguing. I was especially pleased this year to find in the Fedco description of Golden Jubilee that this tomato used to be offered under the name Golden Sunray, an old favorite of mine.  Search my blog for many post about drying tomatoesroasting tomatoes, training tomatoes and growing tomatoes.

 

 

Turnips Gold Ball F

Oasis F

White Egg F

Gilfeather F

Spring turnips are an amazing treat. Try them!

Gilfeather winter turnip is just as great a treat.  Try them too!

 

 

 

 

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Seed Ordering Steps 2018

Seed Ordering 2018

There are a couple of steps I follow when preparing to order new seeds each year. I reorganize seed packets in the shallow boxes where I keep them, replacing the spring, summer, fall planting order they’ve been in since the start of the last planting year with an alphabetical order that matches most seed catalog layouts, and then I check the contents of each packet and decide what seeds I need to order for the year ahead. This year, however, my seed boxes seemed fuller than ever and the challenge of alphabetizing so many packets prompted me to look seriously at my seed-ordering habits. Just how long have I been keeping some of these seed packets and why?

If I want more of a variety and the seed packet is empty, it’s an easy decision to order more. But if there are a few, or more than a few, seeds left in packets ordered one, two, three or more years ago, do I order new seeds and avoid the risk of running out or do I stay with the old seeds, plant what’s left, and hope for germination? I confess to the habit of ordering new if there’s the slightest chance I’ll need them but also keeping the old even though I do know that seeds don’t stay viable forever. As a result, my seed boxes have arugula going back to 2011, beets to 2009, broccoli to 2008, corn to 2007 and on through the alphabet to some really old zucchini seeds. Two boxes have become five.

Getting serious about sorting out these overflowing boxes, I searched for some seed viability charts. Of the many charts online, I settled on one from the High Mowing Seeds, a table that lists seeds alphabetically in one column and “longevity under proper seed storage conditions” in the next. Using it, I separated my seed collection into two boxes of probably viable and three boxes of most likely not viable. I’m not ready to discard these older seeds quite yet; I do remember times when some officially expired seeds of corn, peas and onions have germinated. But at least when this year’s seed packets arrive, I’ll have a much easier time filing them into the current, thinned out, viable seeds boxes.

Seed Type Longevity Under Proper Seed Storage Conditions
Artichokes 5 years
Arugula 3 years
Beans 3 years
Beets 4 years
Broccoli 3 years
Brussels Sprouts 4 years
Cabbage 4 years
Carrots 3 years
Cauliflower 4 years
Celery/Celeriac 5 years
Chard 4 years
Collards 5 years
Corn 2 years
Cress 5 years
Cucumbers 5 years
Eggplant 4 years
Endive/Escarole 5 years
Fennel 4 years
Kale 4 years
Kohlrabi 4 years
Leeks 1 year
Lettuce 5 years
Melons 5 years
Mustard 4 years
Okra 2 years
Onions 1 year
Peas 3 years
Peppers 2 years
Pumpkins 4 years
Radish 5 years
Rutabagas 4 years
Spinach 2-3 years
Summer Squash 4 years
Tomatoes 4 years
Turnips 5 years
Watermelon 4 years
Winter Squash 4 years

Another thing I do while sorting through seed packets is to note the especially successful varieties from the year before. There were four new varieties from 2017, all from Territorial Seeds, that I will definitely plant again:

Redbor Kale: advertised as “vigorous and cold hardy…both beautiful and tasty. Mild and crisp, this finely curled kale adds a flash of color to salads.” I’ll grow even more plants next year.

Hunter Butternut Squash: I really like Burpee’s Butterbush butternut squash but the description of Hunter tempted me to order seeds for comparison. Hunter is everything the description claims and I’ll plant it again next year: “A classic butternut that sprints past most common varieties, maturing faster than any of them that we’ve trialed! The shapely fruit have creamy, smooth textured, sweet orange flesh, and average 1 1/4 to 2 pounds each. Healthy plants are highly productive too. These long-storing squash will provide delicious eating all winter long.”

Cherokee Carbon Tomato: “The best of Cherokee Purple and Carbon, these beautiful beefsteaks have a dusky blush and rich, delicious flavor.” Who knew there’d be a tomato even tastier than Cherokee Purple? From Territorial’s Heirloom marriage series, Cherokee Carbon is one that I will definitely plant again.

Orange Paruche Cherry Tomato: I’m always tempted to try taste-test winners and I can see why Orange Paruche won. It has replaced Sungold as my favorite orange tomato. “The quintessential flavor of summer is captured in these succulent, sweet and flavorful fruit. Orange Paruche excels in productivity with astonishing quantities of brilliant, glowing orange fruit that are irresistible and vitamin-packed. The 1-inch round fruit crowd branched trusses on the indeterminate, vigorous plants. The winner of our in-house taste test.”

And how long will I keep these seeds before reordering them? According to the seed viability chart, seeds of kale, winter squash and tomatoes should be good for four years. Unless I run out, I’ll try not to order more until 2021.

Winter Vegetable Mash or Hash

Winter vegetables 2017

There’s something so appealing about a pile of winter vegetables. Maybe it’s the mix of colors: orange, yellow, white and purple carrots, green striped Delicata squash, rosy rutabaga and green Gilfeather turnip contrasting with brown potatoes, white celery root and parsnips. Maybe it’s their compactness, these solid, densely textured vegetables. Or maybe the appeal is the anticipation of their flavors, richly sweet carrots, parsnips and squash, pungent rutabaga and turnip, earthy potatoes, nutty celery root, delicious individually but even better mixed together.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with ways of mixing the colors, textures and flavors of these winter vegetables. Mashing is one technique, creating smooth purees or chunky blends from two or more cooked vegetables. Hash is another, dicing vegetables into small, same-sized cubes and roasting or sautéing them together so that the pieces crisp and the flavors blend. Mash and hash both make comfort food for this time of year.

Last weekend, a friend invited us for dinner. She was serving slow-braised beef and we agreed that some sort of mash would be a great accompaniment. Keeping it simple, I settled on potatoes and rutabaga, peeling, quartering and steaming the potatoes, peeling, cutting into chunks and boiling the rutabaga, then mashing the two together with some buttermilk and butter, salt and pepper. The rutabaga gave just the right pungence as well as a pretty yellow tone to the potatoes and the buttermilk added a touch of sharpness.

Another favorite mash combines potatoes, celery root and Delicata squash. With garlic and thyme infused cream and butter, this mash is smooth, richly sweet and beautifully orange.

Celery Root puree

In contrast to this smooth mash, there’s a chunkier one I first made several years ago, sautéing all the vegetables together in a pot then mashing them into a coarse mix for a pretty side with pork chops and leeks.

Roots mash in pot

Roots mash on plate

I often roast chunks of winter vegetables, but when making hash, I dice the vegetables into smaller cubes. Roasted at 400 or 425 until they are soft and beginning to crisp, they result in a hash that’s perfect as a side dish for pork or lamb. Lately, though, I’ve been pairing winter vegetable hash with eggs, once for dinner and once for breakfast.

Hash and eggs

I could eat this tasty combination for lunch too. Potatoes alone make a fine hash but hash with rutabaga, turnip, and Delicata squash is three times better.

A few nights ago I turned some leftover winter vegetable hash into a free-form baked pasta dish. Following a recipe that called for broccoli but substituting hash, I tossed boiled and drained pasta and hash together on a sheet pan, spooned ricotta across the mix, sprinkled on a mix of bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese and lemon zest, drizzled on some olive oil and put the pan under the broiler for four or five minutes to warm the ricotta and crisp the crumbs and parmesan. Piled on plates, this pasta and hash made a great dinner.

Hash and pasta

The variations on mash and hash are endless. Begin with an inspiring pile of winter vegetables and start experimenting.

Thanksgiving Salads

Our Thanksgiving feast surrounds the turkey, gravy and stuffing with lots of vegetable side dishes: mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, succotash, winter squash, rutabaga, all offering rich, sweet, earthy and pungent flavors as well as soft, dense textures. In past years, to balance these heavier side dishes, I’ve experimented with opposite flavors and textures, most often in salads. Celery root and apple salad dressed with apple cider vinaigrette has been a good choice, both crisp and acidic. It’s pretty, too, with additions of toasted nuts and chopped parsley or arugula. Or I’ve made a simple salad of mache and sherry vinaigrette, fresh green contrasting the other mashed, roasted and pureed vegetables. Some years a guest will bring pickled vegetables or sweet and sour red cabbage and I skip a salad altogether because these acidic flavors work well to balance the richness of the other vegetables. This year, when we’ll have the same line up of rich side dishes, I’ve settled on a radicchio and pear salad, going for the pleasantly bitter flavor of radicchios and the fresh sweetness of the pears.

Radicchio and pear salad was an easy choice this year because the red and green radicchios and the pears from the kitchen garden have been so beautiful.

Radicchios in basket

Radicchios cut in basket

I’ve made this salad several times already. It goes together quickly, easy to do at the last minute.   The green is Sugarloaf chicory and the red is Indigo radicchio. I usually slice the crisp leaves rather than tearing them because it’s quicker and I like their ribbon-like shape. The pears ripening now are Conference and Comice. I quarter them, peel them and then slice them into chunks. Toasted hazelnuts add their sweet, nutty flavor and some crunch. I’ve tried both sherry vinaigrette and balsamic vinaigrette and prefer balsamic because its complex sweetness complements the slight bitterness of the radicchio. Finally, this is a beautiful salad, one more reason to include it on the Thanksgiving table.

Radicchio salad T-day

What is a shell bean?

“What is a shell bean?” a friend asked me the other day when I was describing succotash, a traditional New England dish of corn and shell beans that I often serve at Thanksgiving. We’d been talking about her dry bean crop and the varieties she’d just harvested. “A shell bean is the bean fully formed in the pod but not dry yet,” I said, adding that I often harvest beans at this stage, remove them from the pods, boil them to eat right away with just olive oil, salt and pepper, or blanch them and freeze them so I can have shell beans in the winter.

Shell beans harvesting

Shell beans on terrace The idea of a shell bean was completely new to her and I realized that my answer wasn’t making sense. I’m so used to calling the plump, fresh bean harvested in mid-summer a shell bean and the smaller, hard, dried bean harvested in early fall a dry bean that it never occurred to me that this fresh shell bean stage could be so unfamiliar.

Later, wondering if I was trapped in my own bean universe, I turned to seed catalogs to see how others talk about these two bean stages. Territorial Seeds refers to shelling beans and Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Fedco refer to shell beans but the harvest stages are the same. Territorial advises: “For shelling beans, pick when the seeds are fully formed but still soft and green. For dry beans, maturity can take 3-4 more weeks depending on the weather. Harvest when 90% of the leaves have yellowed or fallen off.”   Johnny’s advises picking shell beans “when beans are plump inside pods” and harvesting dry beans “when at least 90% of leaves have fallen and pods are dry.”

In the Fedco catalog, there’s a “Shell and Dry Beans” section with some introductory sentences advising gardeners to “Harvest shell beans when the beans are plump inside pods. For dry beans allow pods to dry on the vine until pressing the beans with your fingernail leaves no indentation.” In the descriptions of the beans that follow, Fedco’s catalog writers often characterize qualities of the shell stage and the dry stage. Silver Cloud Cannellini beans “make amazingly early and absolutely superb shell beans…When dried and cooked its smooth, meaty texture and dense meaty flavor are prized in minestrone.” Limelight is “excellent both as a shell and a dry bean.” Tiger Eye makes “superb fresh shell and delicious baked beans …Wide 4” pods fill with large flattened kidney-shaped seeds mostly white at the shell stage but taking on more yellow as they dry.” Jacob’s Cattle “if harvested earlier…make superb shellies.”

Any bean can be harvested at the shell or the dry stage; even green beans that have grown too tough to eat green can hold tasty shell or dry beans. In my years of harvesting beans at shell and dry stages, I’ve come to favor certain beans at the shell stage and others at the dry stage. Cranberry, the pole flageolet Soissons Verte, Good Mother Stallard and all runner beans taste best to me at the shell stage while cannellini and black beans taste better fully dried then rehydrated.

Soissons Verte

Bean Soissons Vert

Good Mother Stallard

Beans Good Ma S

Runner Beans

_DSC6515

But if your intent is growing dry beans, even seed catalog descriptions might not encourage shell bean harvest. The phrase “shelling beans” might signal only the process of removing the beans from the pods. Yes, you do shell both shell beans and dry beans, along with peas, so the term is confusing. And if you didn’t grow up eating shell beans as I did, maybe you have to discover shell beans by chance as my friend Carol did, explaining: “I learned about them accidentally years ago when frost was threatening, the beans weren’t dry and I ate some. Get the word out there!  They are wonderful.” It’s true. As a bean tasting  we did a few years ago revealed, shell beans are rich and creamy, fresh tasting and nutty, needing nothing but a little olive oil and salt and pepper, or maybe a little corn, to make a meal.

Bean tasters

Bean samplesDry beans are very good, but they aren’t the same; they’re starchy and less sweet, wonderful at absorbing other flavors but not so good alone.

Or maybe you can discover shell beans at Thanksgiving dinner. As I do nearly every year, I’ll serve succotash at Thanksgiving, using a mix of Cranberry, Aunt Jean and Soissons Verte shell beans and sweet corn I’ve frozen in the summer in anticipation of this holiday meal. I’ll be sure that my friend tastes these shell beans and hope that my answer to her question: “What is a shell bean?” will finally make sense.

Succotash bowl

My favorite succotash recipe

1 ½ Cups fresh corn cut from the cob or frozen corn thawed

1 Cup fresh shell beans or frozen shell beans

1 Garlic clove, minced

2 Tablespoons Butter

1 Teaspoon Olive Oil

Salt

Pepper

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and add fresh or frozen beans; simmer until soft, about 7-10 minutes but check often. When soft, drain and set aside.

Heat butter and olive oil, add garlic and cook 2-3 minutes

Add fresh or thawed corn and cook, stirring frequently, until hot

Add beans to corn, mix, heat through and serve

Serves 4

Easy to double or triple

For an interesting history of succotash, see this article from Yankee Magazine.  And for more history and some tasty variations on the basic succotash recipe, see David Tanis’s New York Times City Kitchen column Yes, Succotash Has a Luxurious Side.

Feeding the Kitchen Garden Beds: Cover Crops and Compost

I’ve just finished the last big kitchen garden task of the year, planting cover crops in the eight beds that have held summer and storage crops since late spring. It’s a multi-step process that starts with cutting back and hauling away for composting the spent foliage of corn, beans, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, squash, onions and potatoes. The next steps focus on replenishing the soil that supported all this food from spring to now.  They are the most important things I do for the kitchen garden.

Our soil is clay loam that I learned early on needs infusions of organic matter every year to sustain the next year’s crops. The sources of organic matter I’ve settled on are winter cover crops and compost. Without them, clay loam becomes more clay than loam. To avoid this scary fate, every fall I spread the beds with a sprinkling of complete organic fertilizer, lightly work in a 2-3 inch layer of compost and then scatter on seeds of a cover crop and rake them in.

Cover Crop seeding

Cover Crop raking in

In the past, I’ve covered the beds with Reemay to protect the seeds from birds until they germinate and begin growing, but this year I spread a thin layer of the mulch over the bed, recycling the mulch that had kept down weeds and kept in moisture in the beds all summer. I’m hoping this mulch will protect the germinating and growing seeds and will also break down over the winter and provide one more source of organic matter.

Cover Crop mulching

For the past few years the cover crop I’ve used is Merced rye from Osborne’s Seeds in Mt. Vernon. The rye replaces Austrian Field Pea which I used for years until I discovered that it was harboring a population of pea weevils that later feasted on my sugarsnap peas and fava beans. (For more on pea weevils see the entry for April 29, 2014 on Linda Gilkeson’s Gardening Tips ) I’m hoping the rye will break this cycle.

As the Osborne catalog description says: This vigorous winter cereal grain is a great choice for winter cover and soil stabilization. It grows rapidly in cool weather, forming a dense stand with an extensive root system that absorbs unused soil nitrogen and loosens heavy soils while suppressing weeds. It is important to incorporate quickly once mowed, or the stalks will become very woody. Rapid growth in the spring can be controlled by mowing. Sow 90-110 pounds per acre, increase as it gets later in the season or if your seed bed is rough. I follow their advice and mow the rye down with the mulching lawn mower several times from late February through mid-March. Then I’ll cover the beds with black plastic or a tarp and let the cover crop rot down for about a month. I experimented with this step several years ago and was really pleased to find that the rye grass as well as the roots broke down considerably under this cover, leaving friable soil nearly ready for planting.

Planting the cover crop is easy. The challenge is having enough compost to add to all the beds. Despite our efforts, we haven’t been able to make enough compost each year for all our beds. There’s usually enough to use in the fall or in the spring when I plant buckwheat in the beds that have held winter crops, but never enough for both seasons. Fortunately for us, though, there’s a great source of compost right here on Lopez Island. At Midnight’s Farm, David Bill and Faith Van De Putte have been making compost that is a perfect for our garden. Check out the Midnight’s Farm website and be sure to watch the 3-minute video that describes the compost making process.

A couple of weeks ago we stopped by Midnight’s Farm in our small pick-up truck for a yard of sweet-smelling compost that was enough to add to this fall’s eight beds.

Compost David filling truck

A bonus of driving to Midnight’s Farm is getting what David calls his “five-minute tour” of the compost operation, two minutes longer than the website video and just as inspiring.

Compost with David Bill

In fact, a few days later as my husband Scott was chipping up our corn stalks and other summer garden foliage and building our compost bins he imagined just taking all this garden waste to David next year and letting him and his machines do the work. It might be hard to give up making our own compost, but then again, it might not.

This week, the fall rains have begun in earnest, watering down through the layers of mulch, cover crop seeds and compost to the kitchen garden soil, starting the process of rebuilding the soil for next year. The next kitchen garden task won’t be for a few months when seed catalogs start arriving and I begin January by ordering seeds for the year ahead. But for now, the garden is resting and so am I.

Slow-Roasting Tomatoes

 

Plum Ts and toes

This year I have a very big crop of Fiaschetto di Manduria, an Italian plum tomato from Uprising Seeds. I grew this variety for the first time last year, attracted by the catalog description emphasizing its adaptation to our climate, its 2-3 ounce size, productivity, suitability for drying and determinate habit. Because of the advertized determinate habit, I grew last year’s plants in the cold frame where they produced well despite outgrowing the cold frame’s protection, and the manageable-sized crop made nice dried tomatoes. This year I grew a few more plants, six instead of four, and planted them in the greenhouse. Yikes! In this warmer environment, they grew twice as tall (definitely not your standard determinate habit), spread out in all directions, and produced at least four times as many tomatoes as last year’s plants. Now I understand the warning in the catalog description: “These small, 2-3 oz, plum shaped tomatoes…hang like grapes from the bushy determinate plants in such prolific quantities that we eventually had to just stop picking them because we couldn’t keep up with the processing.”

Luckily, I haven’t had to give up on picking. Just as the plants were sinking under the weight of ripening tomatoes, I found a great way to keep up with the processing. A September 6, 2017 Food 52 column titled “Molly Wizenberg’s Slow-Roasted Tomatoes with Sea Salt & Ground Coriander” arrived in my email just as the harvest was getting overwhelming. I remembered hearing about this recipe from Orangette years ago and I was grateful to be reminded of it again. As the author of this Food 52 column notes: “This is the single most genius thing you can do to a tomato. They’re best and most outrageous when made with ripe Romas or other meaty types, but as Wizenberg points out, slow-roasting will bring out the tomato in even the pale and off-season, if you feel the need. Make a lot. They keep for a week in the fridge, and are just fine in the freezer. Adapted slightly from Orangette and A Homemade Life (Simon & Schuster, 2009).”

Here’s the recipe:

drying plum Ts set up

Makes as many tomatoes as you want to cook

 Ripe tomatoes, preferably Roma

Olive oil

Salt

Ground coriander

Heat the oven to 200° F. Wash the tomatoes, cut out the dry scarred spot from the stem with the tip of a paring knife, and halve the tomatoes lengthwise. Pour a bit of olive oil into a small bowl, dip a pastry brush into it, and brush the tomato halves lightly with oil. Place them, skin side down, on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle them with sea salt and ground coriander—about a pinch of each for every four to six tomato halves.

Bake the tomatoes until they shrink to about 1/3 of their original size but are still soft and juicy, 4 to 6 hours. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature. Place them in an airtight container, and store them in the refrigerator.

Dried tomatoes in pans

Still warm on the baking sheet, these slow-roasted tomatoes are amazingly delicious. It’s very easy to stand there and snack on them. The ground coriander is a subtle but perfect flavor addition, providing slightly nutty, very slightly curry overtones to the tomato’s sweetness. They are lovely as an appetizer with cheese and bread. Lightly chopped or pureed, they would make a perfect sauce for pasta or roasted vegetables. I’ve already roasted enough tomatoes to pack eight pint-jars for the freezer and will fill a few more jars with the last of the harvest. They will be a highlight of this winter’s meals.

Dried tomatoes in jars

And if you don’t have plum tomatoes to roast, cherry tomatoes, larger plum tomatoes like Speckled Roman or Amish Paste, or even big, lumpy heirlooms like Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter or Pruden’s Purple all roast well with this technique. I roasted a pan of Sunchocola and Orange Paruche cherry tomatoes the other day, transforming them into concentrated tomato-flavor treats.

drying cherry Ts terracotta

I also tried small a pan of Speckled Roman and Amish Paste and one Mortgage Lifter, equally delicious and already packed into freezer jars for winter.

Will I grow Fiaschetto di Manduria in the greenhouse next year? Yes, but no more than six plants.