Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I've got ripening VERY hot peppers and "Gray Street Grapes" so time to choose a container to collect them in and freeze until I have enough to make my first ever grape-based hot sauce. One of the many good influences that Allen Boatman has had on me was turning me on to hot sauces free of the distraction of vinegar (which I DO like otherwise) by lowering the pH with other means. I think he uses bulk citric acid....I use bulk ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). I'll simmer the grapes in water, will strain out the seeds or possibly just run it all through the blender with the hot peppers since grape seeds are nutritious, simmer in the sauce pan with sea salt, coconut oil, roasted sesame oil, MAYBE some honey depending on how sweet the grapes are, add the vitamin C, simmer briefly, then bottle. I'll be sure to save a bottle for him.

Since the 70s, the Chickasaw Plums I've seen were small trees, with white to nearly white flowers, and with quite a few fruits. This remains a petite hedge despite the home being uninhabited a long time, the blooms (which look a lot like peach blooms) are cotton candy pink, and I've never seen fruits on it. I'll take pics when it defoliates this winter, and when it blooms in spring. My current best guess is that it might be the root stock of a previously planted peach or nectarine. Crushed leaves exude that "sweet cyanide" scent that I so associate with cherry tree leaves in Denver. I'm hoping someone can help me ID this shrub, thanks!

In the 11 years I've been back in Tampa from Denver I've grown cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) varieties like Purple Crowder, Zipper, Black Eye Peas, Corrientes, Cream 40, White Acre Field Peas, Iron Clay, two mystery ones that evolved in people's gardens from Whippoorwill, plus a few types of Yard Long Beans bred from a subspecies whose name I can never remember...the Asian long beans are sweet, mild and tender even when quite long, but the vines themselves seem to be short lived, with just one good crop before they fail. Of the other cowpeas I've tried (there are MANY MANY varieties) only Iron Clay bears young pods that are mild, non-bitter, sweet and tender up to 6 inches in length. The others seem best shucked or cooked edamame style when green, or harvested as a dried bean. Funny that all these years later that Iron Clay is still my favorite! The tender young leaves of all the cowpeas are good raw or cooked and loaded with protein. If I was a vegan gardening in a hot humid climate I'd definitely grow cowpeas. Next summer I will try one called Turkey Craw that is supposed to make giant seeds and pods.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Back in the 70s a lot of us well-meaning, super idealistic, enviro-hippies virtually paralyzed ourselves in our quests to be perfect pacifists/environmentalists/vegans, etc. And I feel that I am seeing that again in new generations of permaculturist/organic gardeners...."don't use scavenged plastic containers as gardens and rain barrels since they are made from oil plus might leach BPAs"....."don't sheet mulch with cardboard boxes and free wood mulch because the cardboard might contain sulphur compounds and the trees MIGHT have been sprayed"....."don't use city water as it contains chloramines but don't use rainwater because it contains atmospheric pollutants"....."don't use fish emulsion and kelp because they MIGHT contain heavy metals and involve bulk harvesting from the open sea ecosystems"....."don't grow any crops but native plants"....."don't grow any crop some have labelled as invasive"....."don't go to gardening and permaculture events if you have to use a car"...."you MUST be a strict vegan"...."don't use dolomite or any mineral supplements because they are mined"...."don't use manure or bone meal or blood meal or fish emulsions because animals were killed"...."don't use solar panels and batteries because they contain lithium and other toxic elements"..."don't use manures because the animals' foods might not have been organic, plus the animals are captive even on free-range farms".....and more. If one pursues ideological purities to their ends, you can end up painting yourself into a very small corner in a joyless life that affects VERY little change in the world.

I am growing more Jack Beans (Canavalia ensiformis) this year than ever.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Cowpea that Michael Spinelli mailed me seeds of that he suspects is the result of chance crosses in his greenhouse between 'Whippoorwill' and a Thai Yard Long Bean has now begun climbing like crazy in a back porch 18 gallon Water Wise Container Garden. No blooms yet, but it will be fun to see if his hunch is correct when the pods form. A brief infestation of large dark aphids has largely self corrected, which happens often here each year on my various cowpeas.

It was my understanding that my "White Potato Onions from Texas" would go dormant in never did, one I left in the container did but re-emerged and has been growing like crazy a few weeks now, and these two, which HAD gone dormant and that I had lifted up many weeks ago, have regrown this crazily just while sitting on top of plastic edging lightly shaded by the avocado tree!!! So today I will plant them in a bed out front all by themselves and labelled with a miniblind strip. The bulbs are milder than I like, but the leaves have pungent onion flavor. I am about 95% sure that what I got at a Tampa Rare Fruit Council meeting as "Indian Shallot" is the same thing....makes sense as the potato onions ARE members of the shallot family.

I'll try this recipe but substitute cucusa or yams or tender young Iron Clay cowpea pods for the tindora I am so scared of.....sounds yummy!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Well it ain't purdy, but now I have a two story roach and pillbug farm next to the hen house, using the very weathered jacuzzi covers that came with my free jacuzzi that have been in the way and eyesores for months. First layer....weeds from the front yard that had been JAMMED into a garbage can for a week and starting to ferment. Second layer: more of the same plus old edible ficus pads. All held down with scavenged decorative blocks. In a few days I'll lift up both covers and splash on two buckets of VERY old food waste from Wimauma restaurant, add more weeds, then let the "ranch" build up the herds within for a couple of weeks. 100% free.....waste not, want not! It is amazing/revealing that the dino-raptors that we call chickens GREATLY prefer moving living critters to vegan the morning after a freeze they swarm through my gardens scarfing down anole lizards immobilized by the cold. They'll love this roach condo!

Quite long but a great overview of a crucial vitamin/hormone many of us are very deficient in. I stopped using deodorant soaps in the 70s after learning they kill skin bacteria crucial to our making our own D3 using sunlight. A friend in Albuquerque with scary bone and other issues at 74 and who is RARELY outdoors inspired me to re-look into it. Per my suggestion she ordered D3 caplets, 1000 IU, at a great price and they arrived today. Us gardeners should be fine...if we have a healthy skin biome, just 15 minutes in the sun with a lot of skin exposed can give us 20,000 IU!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

One of my goals as I revamp my front yard to make it tidier is to add more color while incorporating more roses plus quite a few more food crops than I've grown in the past. The glads and the rambling roses in the west bed out front are thriving, but I continue to be amazed by the vigor of Jon Butts' infamous sweet potato and the "Joyner Butter Beans". The sweet potato vines keep encroaching into the path, making me think I should not have planted them there though they are choking out weeds there wonderfully. I can see why the folks in whose garden the "Joyner Butter Bean" evolved from 'Whippoorwill' feel that the pollen parent was 'Iron Clay' cowpea as all of a sudden the vigor is remarkable, with the vines scampering up rebar intended for climbing roses!! Pods are tough even when young so I cook and serve them like edamame soybeans, cooked 10 minutes, drained, and tossed with a little coconut oil and soy sauce. It's been a few years since I've grown hollyhocks, which in Denver reseed to the point of being a weed. They always remind me of my childhood in the UP of Michigan....nice to see this pink one doing well in the summer heat as in the past I've grown them only as winter annuals. I am in love with this super vigorous, bushy red pentas that Mary Jo originally acquired in 1992 before the breeders, in their well-intended efforts to "improve" pentas, bred out the vigor and longevity. The original red species type from Egypt was very tall and very lanky and I grew it in the early 80s when it was a common sight in Tampa, so the 1992 date makes me feel it is an early hybrid when the breeders sought to reduce the lankiness. 27 of the 30 cuttings rooted.....I'll plant maybe 15 here and will share the rest. Donna Bevis I want to give you one to see how it fares with your reclaimed water. The first pic is from June 2 when I cut the young plant down to stubs for cuttings...the second pic is from yesterday!! It is a butterfly magnet.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I want to taste this...folks I know who have say the cooked fruits are delicious.

I just learned today from an old friend of basic Bagna Cauda of butter, garlic and anchovies for dipping bread and veggies...I bet this version would be awesome on pasta!

Here are those oddly pale-colored, oddly tiny aphids that keep plaguing my Perennial Edible Hibiscus. There were no spray bottles at Dollar Tree so I'll see if I have one somewhere so I can try spraying the leaf undersides with home made neem leaf tea.

I did not think it possible for me to hate Verizon any more after that mind boggling nightmare that resulted from responding to their promotion to add TV to my bundle, but they managed to rachet it up once more. I've been waiting for my box to send them back their remote and box to no avail, so today their robot left a message saying I failed to choose a return method and threatening huge fees! So a call there OF COURSE resulted in my being on hold a very long time....I used that time to find a Verizon TV store to take it there myself....all a GREAT distance from my home, plus a friend of a friend did that in exasperation but Verizon failed to record that she physically returned it and put her through weeks of additional hell. My report to the Better Business Bureau will be a novel. I don't see how a company can be so intrinsically inept while making extremely poor customer service integral to their operations.

When Jon Butts and Debbie told me at WMNF that they grow a replicating onion that resembled clumps of scallions, I assumed that it was a form of Allium fistulosum like I grow, and that I very strongly suspect that "Eliska's Bunching Onion" is a form of. But last night at the Twilight Market at Roosevelt 2.0 Jon blew me away when he said that now and then they send up viviparous stalks topped with baby plants, just like Egyptian Multpliers and Allium canadense do!!! I bought this bundle and today will choose a dedicated place in a garden out front to plant some in and label with a miniblind strip, plus some in a container garden. I'll eat one to see how they taste. JUST as I thought I MIGHT be wrapping up my studies of multiplying onions, I all of a sudden have a new one to obsess on!