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Green pepper pickled in Kombucha

Every autumn some peppers do not have time to mature to red. They can be eaten green. But this year, almost all of them were still green when I had to harvest before the first frost. They keep well in the fridge, just the taste deteriorates after a week or two. A change I do not like – they’re going to taste like peppers from the supermarket, when they get this off-taste. To avoid the off-taste, I usually salts my peppers lightly, and put them in the refrigerator. This year I tried kombucha pickling instead.

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Green pepper pickled in Kombucha

I have for some years made kombucha regularly. Gradually I discovered that kombucha have more uses than just as a healthy soft drink. Inspired by “The Art of Fermentation” written by Sandor Ellix Katz, I covered the cut green peppers with kombucha, added a pinch of salt and poured a couple of teaspoons olive oil on top. The closed glass I put in the fridge for maturing, unlike how I make kombucha.

The pickled green peppers turned out wonderful. They are still crunchy, has maintained a good pepper flavour, has a delightful sour tinge and no added sugar. It has not been necessary to heat or boil, should be great if you prefer raw food. The only drawback is that the colour of the peppers have changed to olive green. A light kombucha SCOBY developed on top. I removed it once, it didn’t develop again.
The kombucha pickled green peppers are delicious as a condiment on rye bread open sandwich and with hot meals.


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Eggplant (Solanum melongena)

Again this year, I had to resort to the eggplant seeds from 2009. I wait for a hot summer, so I again can harvest mature seeds. This year we ate the whole harvest. I harvested on September 30, and the following week we had the luxury of our own tender eggplants.

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Rima F3 No.3

The seed envelope from 2009 where I wrote “Rima F3 No.3″ is a treasure. It is with no doubt my best eggplant seed envelope. This year more than half of the plants fruited in the open ground (seedlings was sown indoor before transplant, as the other years) despite a cool summer. However, in this cold summer I can’t imagine they can set seeds. Instead we have eaten them all, except one, which revealed some seeds that might mature, as I cut it open in the kitchen.

In the greenhouse, I have grown their cousins, Rima F3 No.1. (motherplants were siblings). I did so to highly increase my chances to harvest ripe seeds. Since this is the third year in open ground without harvest of mature seeds from my eggplants, I’m testing a new strategy. Should I grow my seedlings in the greenhouse, save seeds from each fruit separately and numbered? Then I can make comparative cultivation out in the kitchen garden, and this way recognize the best seed envelope for next generation (to be grown in the greenhouse…). It will not be quite as dogmatic plant breeding, but maybe it will speed up the process? I will sow my Rima F4 No.1. seeds next year, to learn if this strategy works for me. I would of course prefer to harvest my seeds from plants in the kitchen garden. Hopefully I come to that in the future.

PS. My garden tiles measures 40x40cm.


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Hawberry (Crataegus laevigata og Crataegus monogyna)

There are plenty of hawberries on the commons, in hedgerows and scrubs. This year I couldn’t resist to pick some of them. When I got home, I found a recipe for ketchup based on hawthorn on Jonathan Wallace’s blog Self-sufficient in Suburbia.

Since I always have to try things a little different than stated in the recipe, I ended up making ketchup from: Hawthorn, kombucha, sugar, red wine vinegar, salt, garlic, black pepper, paprika, chilli and tarragon.

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Hawthorn Ketchup

The result was 4 glasses of hawberry ketchup. The taste is great, quite similar to tomato ketchup. This is the first time I’ve used hawberries. With this experience, I could not dream of growing tomatoes for ketchup. It is easier to go out on a nice day and pick the small berries, than it is to grow a similar number of tomatoes from seeds, taking care of them spring and summer.

The process is simple. Rinse the berries, cover them with half vinegar and half water (here I used kombucha and a little vinegar). Gently boil them 30 minutes and press them through a sieve. Kernels and stem residues remain in the sieve, out comes a beautiful red mass. The spices are added and the ketchup boiled again, then poured on scalded glasses. I immediately turn the glasses, to let the heat of the content pasteurize the lids.


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Open bean flower, ready for pollination

From Asturias in northern Spain, I got a nice tasty big white dry pole bean. But it’s a bit late, and for that reason not prolific in my garden. I’ve tried three varieties of this Asturian bean, none of them full-fill my wishes. Two of them I had sent directly from a gardener in Asturias. It’s the earliest varieties they have in Asturias.
The only way ahead is to breed my own pole bean of this type.

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Bean Fabada da Asturias

Fabada da Asturias was the first pole bean of this type that I tried in my garden. I got it from Gerhard Bohl, Germany. Since I had Andecha, which is also a pole bean, with even bigger white seeds, from Anselmo in Asturias.

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Bean Andecha

What cultivars should I cross them with? It should of course be an early bean, as the only thing I’m unhappy with is that they are late maturing.
An obvious choice could be an early bush bean, but I want a pole bean. Pole beans yield so much more than bush beans. In my garden, I can easily find poles to support the beans.
Therefore I will cross to early maturing pole beans that do well in my garden.

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Bean Carré de Caen

Pole bean Carré de Caen proved to do well in the wet summer last year. It grew, flourished and set lots of beans almost endlessly. It has some similarity to the Asturian beans, being white and delicious, but the beans are very small. This I will use for crossing.

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Bean Chabarowsk

Pole bean Chabarovsk grows really well in my garden, and is the first pole bean to ripen dry beans every year. It is a borlotto-type, but because of its earliness I will use it for crossing.

Normally beans self-pollinate before the flower opens. Therefore I have to pollinate before the flower opens. But when? I looked it up in Carop Deppes book “Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties”. She is not sure, but suggest beans behave like peas in this matter. Mother-plant flower must be quite undeveloped and small. Father-plant flower opened naturally the same day.

Both stigma and stamens are tightly wrapped in a conch-like spiral of the lower petals, the keel. As long as the stigma and stamens are sitting inside the keel, it is impossible to cross them. The keel has to be removed. I ruined three flowers learning how to do it. The conch-like keel is visible in the second image from the top (Fabada da Asturias). In the top image the keel has been twisted out of the keel.
Of course it is even more difficult with the mother-plant’s flowers, because they must remain on the plant. I pulled accidentally the flower of the plant several times – that makes no good cross. But even that I learned.

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Bean flower stigmas hooked together

First the father-flower is prepared, since pollen is more robust than the stigma. Pollen is able to withstand a trip around the neighbourhood in bodily hairs on a bee! When both flowers are ready, there are several possibilities. Either the usual hand pollination, transferring the pollen directly from the stamens to the stigmas. In beans, usually self-pollinating, it’s possible use the pollen attached to the father-flower’s stigma. Stigmas ends in a spiral, so they readily hook together. I wonder if the pollen is released as the father-flower’s stigma dry out and wilt? Carol Deppe writes, that this hooking method is significantly more successful than the usual hand pollination. I played safe, used the stamens as brushes to paint a miniature of yellow on the stigma, before I hooked up the two stigmas.

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The pollinated bean flowers
A: Carré de Caen x Andecha
C: Andecha x Chabarowsk
F: Chabarowsk x Fabada da Asturias

To protect the stigma and style from drying out in the summer sun, I put masking tape around. Note that the tape adheres to the remnants of the petals, but don’t touch the sepals. The tape hopefully come off along with the petals when the pod grows lengthwise. If the tape is adhering to the sepals, the tender pods may break when growing. Another bit of masking tape is sitting on the pedicel so it does not fall off with the flower. It must indicate that this flower is crossed. Finally, I write a letter with a waterproof pen on the pedicel tape, and break of any older flowers in the same cluster, so they do not take the all energy resulting in the abortion of my cross.
Now I can just wait and pray, and hope to see the pod develop in a week or so. Nothing more to do before harvest.


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Toad (Bufo bufo) and Leopard slug (Limax maximus)

A new toad has claimed the garden territory. It is still shy when I meet it, particularly in the greenhouse. However, it is calmer than at our first meeting.

It appears to be a friendly little creature. I have seen it cradle with one of the leopard slugs. I hope they join their forces to keep the killer slugs out of the garden.
The hedgehog has also started to patrol the garden, especially in the part of the garden where I find killer slugs. The old toad had no problems with hedgehogs, and I hope the new toad will befriend the hedgehogs in the same spirit.

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The killer slug, Arion lusitanicus, have invaded the garden

It’s been many years since the killer slugs was found in a garden nearby. Since then I have every summer expected the invasion. Now it happened, with many years of delay. I have found two adults and four youths in all, on three occasions, within the last three weeks. I have often searched in the garden morning or evening without finding any killer slugs. But now I probably should get the habit of these late walks to round up the slugs, and I hope it will become a dear habit.
They are nicknamed killer slugs, but we are killing more of them, than visa-versa.

A lot of snails and slugs live in the garden already. Since the news of killer slugs approaching, I’ve been more gentle towards my old snails and slugs. It visible in the number of burgundy snails, which has increased from rare to ordinary. They eat tits and bits of my plants, but less than would be annoying. I want them to stay, so I will not use poison or nematodes against the killer slugs. Change my mind later? Maybe! But first I will try to find a balanced way to live with them, and only kill them individually, when I find them, not to suppress my friends, the “old” snails and slugs.

Does anybody know for certain, if the are edible – maybe even delicious?
I could build a cage to collect them, until enough for an hors d’oeuvre. This way I might even be thankful for the day they finally arrived :-)

From my “old snails and slugs” I have learned, that some things, like germinating melons must be protected, or they will feast on the tender sprouts. But when the plants get just a little larger, they are out of danger. Coffee, ground, fresh or from used filters, keep my “old” snails and slugs off the germinating plants, and no harm done (I hope). I will continue and intensify the use of coffee (it’s also good for the soil).

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Larged-flowered calamint and ground-ivy infused kombucha

Time has started with a lot of seasonal products from the garden. Right now the garden offers lots of calamint and ground-ivy. I’ve only occasionally used the ground-ivy to steep in white wine in May, and the calamint for mixed herbal tea. Now I wanted to mix and cold infuse them in kombucha, and it resulted in a nice refreshing drink.

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Kombucha (Чайный гриб)

I have my kombucha from Siberia, where it is called “Чайный гриб”. I feed the kombucha organism with strong tea with 10% sugar, after it has cooled. There should also be a rest of the kombucha tea left in the bottom of the jar. I cover with a cloth and ferment for a week, and then the nice refreshing drink is ready.
At times I make a fresh batch every week. It keeps well in a bottle in the fridge. When tired of the drink for a period, the culture keeps alive on the kitchen desk for months. Over the years I’ve had it survive several periods of inactivity. I was about to take another break, but then got the idea to infuse fresh herbs.

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Larged-flowered calamint calamintha grandiflora

Larged-flowered calamint has a nice pleasant aroma, but lack some more rustic elements. It is one of the herbs that are both a herb and a perennial. It lives for several years and self-seeds moderate (easily removed)
Later in the summer there are some lovely flowers.

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Ground-ivy Glechoma hederacea

Ground-ivy has a somewhat bitter flavour that is easy to recognize once you’ve tried it. This is both a weed, a herb and a medical plant. In Germany, loved by the name Gundermann. Before hops became universal in beer, ground-ivy was one of the herbs added to spice beer. In my garden it grows overwhelming, spreading by runners into the kitchen garden and establishing it selves even in the lawn. Really a herb for the low care garden.

My previous experience with ground-ivy is adding it to white wine. It should only steep for one hour. If steeping until the next day, the result is very different and in my opinion poor. For that reason I only steep my kombucha for one hour.

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