Kitchen Gardens on Lopez Island

This week I gave a presentation on kitchen garden design to the Lopez Island Garden Club.  As examples of kitchen gardens, I used photographs that my husband Scott took this past July of more than a dozen kitchen gardens here on Lopez Island. From his work, I selected photos of garden gates, vegetable beds, tomato houses and berry enclosures to illustrate the wide range of design options in each of these areas.  My thanks to all the Lopez Island kitchen gardeners who shared their gardens, apologies to those whose gardens I missed, and special thanks to Scott for taking the photographs.

Gates: Welcome to the Kitchen Garden

Mary gate

Skyriver gate 1

Dale gate

Mino gate

McCabe gate

McDougall gate

Metcalf gate

Garden Beds: Lots of design options

Ground level beds

Raised beds at different heights

Beds sided with different materials: wood, metal, stone

Beds separated by paths of different materials: dirt, grass, wood chips, gravel

Beds that are part of landscaped lawns

Beds that are enclosed by fences

Permanent Garden Beds: Lots of advantages

Keep the growing area free of foot traffic

Build up good soil

Improve drainage

Provide a surface for attaching fencing or hoop houses

Create a comfortable height for tending beds

Accommodate sloped terrain

Mary bean poles

Skyriver corn

Adams beds close view

Taylor beds long

Garden bed May

Case beds rectangles

Case rabbit fence

Karp beds close

Karp beds potatoes, tomatoes

Reynold's beds diagonal view

Reynolds bean support

McCabe beds stepping down

McDougall beds step down

Mino beds

Dale beds 1

Anderson beds closeup

Grimes beds long view

Tomato enclosures: plastic, polycarbonate, glass

Adams tomato house

Taylor tomato house

Dale tomato house

Grimes greenhouse

Reynolds greenhouse

McCabe greenhouse

Berry enclosures: frames and netting

Karp blueberries

Mino berry house

Reynolds berry houses

McDougall berry house

Adams strawberry house

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

Gardening and Traveling

I love gardening and the meals that the kitchen garden offers, but I love traveling too. As I plan each year’s gardening calendar, decisions about when to plant are influenced by when I want to be away. Over the years, I’ve learned that with the help of gardening friends to water and to raise lights as indoor seeded plants grow I can arrange planting timetables that open spaces for travel throughout the year.

February and March are the months when I start seeds indoors for summer’s plants, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers; storage plants like shallots and onions; late spring plants like peas, broccoli and cauliflower; and long season plants like celery root.

Sometime in April, early or later depending on weather and when I’m home, I begin planting seeds in the ground, salad greens, spring turnips, carrots, beets, fennel and potatoes. In May I continue with seeds that need a little more warmth to germinate, corn and beans directly in the ground and squash in pots to germinate before setting them out as soon as they’ve formed true leaves. Late May is also the time to start leeks in pots or in a nursery bed so I can transplant pencil-size stalks in early July.

June to late July I’m thinking ahead to fall and winter vegetables, direct seeding parsnips in early June, starting Brussels sprouts indoors a week later, then cabbage, more broccoli and cauliflower indoors. In July I start kale, chard and more fennel, carrots and beets as well as winter turnips and rutabaga.

Early August and on into September I start seed of hardy greens like mache, arugula, mustards and radicchios. And from October to January I harvest fall and winter crops but have no more seeds to plant.

This planting summary suggests that October through January would be great months to travel and they are. Weeks of hiking and backpacking, more weeks of skiing, and longer trips farther away find room in the calendar. But spring is great for travel too. Attention to planting timetables and the help of a kind friend who’s happy to share my seed starting room to start her own plants make it possible.

Last year, I was away from the garden for most of April. Knowing that tomatoes take about six weeks from seeding to setting into the ground, I started tomato seeds on February 17th and set out sturdy plants in the greenhouse on March 27th a few days before leaving for a month.

tomato-starts-soil

 

tomato-seedlings-sturdy-tall

The same day I started tomatoes I also started some broccoli and cauliflower and set these starts out in the garden just before we left. On March 1st I seeded a flat of onions and set robust plants out in the garden when I returned at the end of April. Also on March 1st I started a flat of sugar snap peas and set them out in the garden on March 18th.  Finally, because I wanted to have eggplant and pepper starts ready to plant out when I returned, I started seeds in 1-inch cells on March 8th , moved these tiny seedlings to 4-inch pots three weeks later, just before leaving, and when I returned in a month sturdy plants were ready for the garden.

This year I’ll be traveling for most of March and into April. Encouraged by my success last year, I modified the timetable slightly. I’ll be back April 5th so I started tomatoes February 22nd and hope for plants to set out soon after I return. I’m starting eggplant and peppers in 2×2 inch pots March 6th, the day before I leave, and hope they’ll be ready to pot up into 4-inch pots when I return and then be ready for the garden a few weeks after that. I seeded onions on March 1st again this year but not peas. This spring has been so cold and wet that I’ll wait until I return to plant peas. And I’ll leave the broccoli and cauliflower I started February 22nd in 4-inch pots and hope they won’t be too overgrown to set out when I return.

Finding a balance between garden and travel, between being home and being away is a challenge for a year-round kitchen gardener but the adventure of travel makes it worth the effort.

 

Seeds for 2017

2017-seed-catalogs

Ordering vegetable seeds each year is a process of looking back at what worked and what didn’t and ahead to re-ordering old favorites and tempting new varieties. It’s a pleasant process, a good way to spend some January afternoons. This year though there was some sadness as well as I looked for acceptable replacements for some long-time favorites no longer available.

Avalanche Beet and Red Cored Chantenay carrot were delicious additions to the kitchen garden’s root vegetables this year. I’d ordered Avalanche, a sweet white beet and recent AAS winner, for its color. It looked great steamed or roasted with yellow and red beets and though its flavor was a bit milder than a red beet it was still deliciously beetlike. I’d ordered Red Cored Chantenay because my friend Mary gave me one to taste last winter and I was amazed by its juicy sweet carrot flavor. It’s an heirloom from the late 19th century and one I’m grateful is still available. I’ve also been especially impressed by how well it’s held this winter, heavily mulched with hay, through 20 degree night-time temperatures.

Two tomatoes that I’ll definitely plant again this year are Sunchocola , a large henna-colored cherry tomato, and Fiaschetto de Manduria, a paste tomato from Puglia via Uprising Organics. Both were flavorful whether fresh, roasted or dried. And both produced early and continued to provide lots of tomatoes throughout the summer.

A couple surprising disappointments were Escamillo and Lipstick peppers from Johnny’s. Johnny’s wonderful Carmen has been a favorite for years and the catalog described Escamillo as Carmen’s “perfect, golden-yellow partner.” It did look pretty but it was missing the sweet and spicy flavors I like in peppers. Lipstick tempted me with its blockier shape compared to Carmen’s bull’s-horn shape but it wasn’t so productive as Carmen or so flavorful.

It’s hard to resist new varieties of tomatoes and this year I gave in to two. The first is Orange Paruche, described by Territorial as “succulent, sweet and flavorful,” excelling “in productivity and taste with astonishing quantities of brilliant, glowing orange fruit.” But the deciding piece of praise for me was that Orange Paruche won Territorial’s in-house taste test. The second is from Territorial’s Heritage Marriage Series, Cherokee Carbon The catalog describes it as “the best of Cherokee Purple and Carbon… beautiful beefsteaks [that] have a dusky blush and rich, delicious flavor.” Cherokee Purple is one of my favorites and my friend Carol says Carbon is a great tomato so maybe this marriage will work.

Sugar Snap peas and Copra onions were two sources of sadness. For the past several years I’ve noticed the corruption of the original strain of Sugar Snap peas; more and more off types have been turning up, peas the shape of flimsy snow peas mixed in with the classic crunchy, sweet edible pea pod. Most catalogs no longer even offer the original Sugar Snap, suggesting as replacement Super Sugar Snap. I’ve tried Super Sugar Snap and been disappointed by the flavor so this year, intrigued by their catalog description, I’m trying Adaptive Seeds’ Sugaree . “A classic green sugar snap pea… Super tasty with a classic sweet crunch …Originally bred to be a public domain replacement for Sugar Snap…”

Copra has been the perfect yellow storage onion in my garden for years but this year’s Fedco catalog signaled its end with their description of Patterson Onion, the suggested replacement: “2016 is a time of great partings. Which is worse: losing Obama as president or losing Copra onion?” Well, there are replacements for Copra. Turning to Adaptive Seeds again, I’m going to try their Newburg  described as “simply the best open pollinated yellow storage-onion… a great replacement for the classic Hybrid Copra.” I can feel optimistic about a replacement onion; as for the just-inaugurated replacement for Obama, I feel only despair.

The garden can offer some relief from despair. It’s an act of hope to bury a small seed in the ground and trust that it will produce a plant and food. And the hopefulness of gardening can be a metaphor for other acts of hope. Small seeds of goodness can germinate, can grow and reach out into the world. I can’t order these seeds from a catalog but I’m going to look hard for them in the year ahead, plant them and join with others to move beyond despair.

Cold Snaps

We’ve had a lot of cold weather in the past few weeks, days barely above thirty-two and nights close to twenty. Almost every winter we get these cold spells, those of 2012 and 2014 come to mind, and during each I wonder what will still be thriving in the winter kitchen garden once the cold passes and we return to our usual temperate coastal winter temperatures. Experience tells me that the heavily mulched root vegetables, the rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, carrots, beets, will be fine and most of the plastic and Reemay-covered kale, mustard, arugula and radicchio will be too.  Walking through the garden, surveying the mulched mounds, the frosted cold frame, plastic tunnels and Reemay blankets, I remind myself that everything will taste sweeter after this cold. But it is hard to look at this frozen garden.

cold-mulched-beds-16

cold-cold-frame-16

cold-reemay-16

Luckily there are storage vegetables to get us through these cold times. Winter squash, potatoes, onions, dried beans and dried tomatoes and the shell beans, corn and peppers I put up at the end of summer all offer comforting meals. I have a black bean, poblano pepper and onion soup simmering on the stove for lunch. I may add a bit of leftover baked Buttercup squash to it for sweetness. And I’ll top it with a dollop of spicy red pepper hazelnut sauce.

black-bean-soup

I’ll roast another winter squash or two and make a savory tart and perhaps some squash soup. I’ll sauté some onions, thaw some roasted peppers and put them on a pizza.

pizza-pepper-onion-sausage

For a salad perhaps some corn, black beans and slices of dried tomato.

corn-black-bean-salad

We’ll be fine until the more temperate weather returns. And we’ll enjoy the clear skies and sun that come with these cold spells. If cold brings sun, it can’t be entirely bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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