Softneck Garlic

by Darius Van d’Rhys

Softneck garlics are well adapted to warmer climates. It is softneck garlic that you are likely to find in the grocery store, because softneck garlic stores and travels better than hardneck. The types of softneck garlic you are most likely to encounter are Artichokes (with a sub-group of Turbans) and Silverskins.

Artichoke Garlic
Artichoke garlics (sativums or softnecks) are the most commonly grown commercial garlic because they are easier to grow and produce larger bulbs than most other garlics. They store well and this is what you probably buy at the grocer’s. In fact, most people aren’t even aware that there is more than one kind of garlic.

Artichoke garlics are generally very large, and have a wide range of flavors with some like Simoneti and Red Toch being very mild and pleasant and others such as Inchelium Red and Susanville, have greater depth of flavor. Purple Cauldron (in the sub-group Asiatics, now considered a hardneck garlic) is much stronger and sticks around for a while. Chinese Purple (another hardneck Asiatic) is instantly hot!

The Turban sub-group of artichoke garlics tend to be the most colorful artichokes and have fewer cloves per bulb than the others. The turbans also harvest earlier and store less long than the other artichokes and a good bit stronger in taste as well. (I didn’t find much information on the turban garlics, sorry.)

Some Artichoke Garlic Varieties
Kettle River Giant’, giant bulbs, 10-15 cloves/bulb, early harvest, medium, stores 6-7 months.
Inchelium Red’ Harvests mid-season – stores 6-7 months. Grows very well in warm winter areas. In 1990 Rodale Kitchens, part of the parent organization of Organic Gardening magazine, sponsored a garlic tasting contest. Inchelium Red won. It usually has anywhere from 12 to 20 cloves and is large enough that even the interior cloves are generally of good size. Bulbs are usually over 2 and a half inches in diameter and will weigh several ounces each.
Red Toch’ Harvests early in season – stores 6-7 months. Semi-rich but very mellow. Grows very well in warm winter areas. It is not quite as mild as Chet’s and not quite as strong as Inchelium Red. Red Toch averages fairly large bulbs that are a little larger than Chet’s but not as large as Simoneti or Inchelium Red.
California Early’ Harvests Mid-late season – stores 6-7 months. This one of the two Gilroy cultivars is the one you’re least likely to find in the local supermarkets because it is processed into dried and pickled and otherwise processed garlic products. California Early is a little bigger and sweeter than California Late, which is definitely on the hot side. Cal Early is an excellent all- around general use garlic and a wonderful baker.
Applegate’ is a mild and mellow artichoke garlic and is a good garlic to grow in warm winter areas.
Early Red Italian’ Harvests early in season – stores 6-7 months. It has a semi-rich flavor and a little bite, but is still on the light side.
Lorz Italian’ An Heirloom Garlic. Excellent strong garlic for warm winter gardeners. Harvests mid season – stores 6-8 months.
Thermadrone from France, Harvests in early-mid season – stores 6-7 months.
Simoneti‘ Harvests in mid-season – stores about 6 months.
California Late’ Harvests Mid-late season – stores 6-7 months. One of the two cultivars you’re most likely to find in the local supermarkets, along with California Early. California Late is a little on the hot side and has more color. it is a prolific grower and a good commercial garlic
Siciliano Harvests mid season – stores about 6 months. Rich flavor, zesty medium pungency. Its richness makes it excellent for raw eating as in pesto or salsa.

Some Turban Artichoke Varieties
Chinese Purple’ Harvests VERY early in season – stores 5-6 months. Very strong garlic taste with a fierce heat.
Shantang Purple’ – Limited supply, Hot, 6-8 cloves/bulb, good for many climates.
Maiskij’ – This Turban garlic originated in Turkmenistan, one of those small, mountainous Islamic republics near Chechnia. The taste is medium strong, leaning toward being bold, but not overpowering.
Silverwhite’, almost mellow taste for 15 to 20 seconds before you experience an intense heat that lasts for about 30 to 45 seconds. Good to Fair for Warm Winter Areas, Harvests late season – stores 8-10 months.

Silverskin Garlic
Silverskins have silvery, white skins and are composed of many small cloves. They also have a nice sturdy neck that is easily braided. The flavor of Silverskins is usually stronger than Artichokes. ‘Nootka Rose‘ and ‘Rose du var‘ are both full-bodied Silverskins.

Silverskin garlics are in a class by themselves. They are the last garlics to mature and they store the longest. They also have a great range of taste, pungency, and size as well as time of maturity. No other garlics braid better than Silverskins and they will grow well in most of the USA.

S & H Silverskin has a musky, earthy taste with very little bite when eaten raw. Locati can be fiery hot. Silverwhite has a richness to it and seems almost mellow for 15 to 20 seconds before you experience an intense heat that lasts for about 30 to 45 seconds. Nootka Rose has that same richness but with only a medium heat. Silverskins have more cloves per bulb, on the average, than the artichokes and some, like Mexican Red Silver have a lot of tiny cloves while others, like S & H Silverskin and Silverwhite have almost all large cloves with very few small ones.

Some Silverskin Garlic Varieties
S & H Silverskin has a musky, earthy taste with very little bite when eaten raw.
Nootka Rose’ Heirloom from Washington State, rich, bold taste with medium heat, large mahogany cloves, 15-20 per bulb. , Fair for Warm Winter Areas, Long storing.
Locati’, can be fiery hot. Fair for Warm Winter Areas, 11-12 cloves/bulb. Harvests late season – stores 8-10 months.
Rose du Var’, bold, strong and long French garlic taste. 8-12 cloves/bulb Harvests late season – stores 8-10 months.
Other Silverskin varieties include ‘Mexican Red Silver’, ‘Sicilian Silver’ ,’Silver Rose’, and ’Mild French’.

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Hardneck Garlic

By Darius Van d’Rhys

Are you a hardneck or a softneck kinda garlic lover? Do you know?

Most of us only know the supermarket variety, which is a softneck grown for shipping qualities rather than range of flavor. Hardneck and softneck are the broadest terms used for all varieties of garlic, and there are several hundred sub-species within those varieties. We’ll look at a few of the hardnecks here, and some taste notes you might consider in growing one variety over another.

A separate article will cover softneck garlic for Southern climates.

All garlics are Alliums, the species sativum, and originated in central Asia. Garlics fall into two broad categories, the hardnecks which usually grow a woody, hard neck or scape in the stem center are var. ophioscorodon. The softnecks which usually don’t grow a scape, are var. sativum. The climate in central Asia is damp and cold, which the hardnecks prefer. The softnecks were later developed from hardnecks and do better than hardnecks in warmer climates.

History
Most of the early garlic in the US came with immigrants from Poland, Germany and Italy. In 1989 the Soviet Union finally invited the Americans into the Caucasus region to collect garlic varieties. They were only allowed to travel at night (in military areas) and as they went from village to village along the old Silk Road, they named the cultivars from the towns where they were purchased. Hence, we often have a variety known by more than one name.

Hardnecks
According to many garlic lovers, hardnecks have the only ‘real’ garlic flavor although I am a garlic lover and I heartily disagree. Hardnecks are distinguished by the stiff “neck” or stalk in the center of the growing plant and they tend to have fewer but more uniform cloves around the stalk. There are three distinct groups of hardnecks: Rocambole, Purple StripePorcelain. Three additional groups have recently been added, Marbled Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe and Asiatic. Unfortunately, I found very few variety references for them.

The most readily seen garlics are Rocambole and the term is often used as a generic name for all garlic. Rocamboles have thin, parchment-like skins and do not store as well as softnecks. However, they do peel easier. The term ‘serpent garlic’ comes from Rocamboles, which have curling top scapes that produce seeds called bubils. Bubils may be planted which in 2-3 years will mature into full-sized garlic bulbs.

Purple Striped garlic is aptly named for the stripes which all have to some degree. The differences in Purple Stripes in taste are from mild to pungent, and in time to maturity. I have ‘Chesnok’ growing in my garden, mainly for roasting whole.

Porcelain garlics have a thick, tough skin making them excellent for storing. The heads are plump with just a few large, fat cloves. Only the Silverskins (a softneck) store longer. Porcelains are all full-flavored, generally running to musky hot and pungent in taste. They are usually more expensive to buy and have the fewest cloves per bulb… sometimes as few as 4 although 6-8 is more typical.

I no longer wonder where fire breathing dragons come from in Chinese folklore – they’re ordinary people who have eaten too much of the Asiatic garlics. Asiatic garlics were originally classified as a separate group that was part of the Artichoke garlics (Softnecks) but recent DNA research done independently by Dr. Gayle Volk[2] of the USDA in Fort Collins, Colorado and Dr. Joachim Keller of the Institute for Plant Research in Gaterslaben, Germany, shows them to be weak-bolting hardnecks.

Here is a list of a few hardneck garlic varieties, with some notes about them and taste descriptions:

Rocambole:
‘Baba Franchuk’s’, endangered and hard to find, excellent flavor with punch
‘Carpathian (Polish)’, very strong, hot and spicy and sticks around for a long time
‘Colorado Black’, smooth, medium bite
‘Dan’s Italian’, good strong bite
‘German Red’, rich, strong flavor, hot and spicy, lingering flavor, 8-9 cloves/bulb
‘Killarney Red’, perhaps originated from ‘Spanish Roja’ or ‘German Red’ but said to grow better than either of those. Rich flavor, 8-9 cloves/bulb, heritage, endangered and hard to find
‘Korean Purple’, hearty delicious flavor, heritage, endangered and hard to find
‘Purple Italian’, rare, rich and strong and not overly hot and spicy, 8-9 easy to peel cloves/bulb
‘Purple Max’, strong rough flavor, heritage, endangered and hard to find
‘Puslinch’, excellent lively flavor, heritage, endangered and hard to find
‘Spanish Roja’, heirloom, huge bulbs, strong hot and spicy, full flavor, 8-9 cloves/bulb

Purple Stripe:
‘Bogatyr’ stores well, 5-7 cloves/bulb
‘Brown Tempest’, a marbled purple stripe, heritage variety, 5-9 cloves/bulb
‘Chesnok’ or ‘Chesnok Red’ (aka Shvelisi) roasts well, rich hot medium flavor, lingering taste, 4-10 cloves/bulb
‘Chrysalis Purple’, large, dependable, hardy, easy to peel, 8-12 cloves/bulb
‘Duganskii’, heritage variety
‘Khabar’, smooth mellow taste
‘Metechi’, very strong, heritage variety
‘Persian Star’ (aka Samarkand), rich elegant medium flavor, heritage
‘Purple Glazer’, tall with large bulbs, sweet hot and warm richness like ‘Red Toch’ and ‘Burgundy’, heritage, hard to find, 9-12 cloves/bulb, stores 5 months
‘Red Rezan’, hot, mid harvest, needs very cold winters, 9-12 cloves/bulb, stores 5 months
‘Siberian’, mild delightful flavor, not overpowering, 5-7 giant cloves/bulb, heritage, thrives in cold climates, stores 5 months
‘Skuri #2’, very strong
‘Starbright’ has a somewhat nutty flavor

Porcelain:
‘Dan’s Russian’, full flavor that starts strong and then fades
‘Fish Lake 3’, heritage, good taste and strength, endangered and hard to find
‘Georgian Crystal’ is very mild with fat bulbs, 4-6 large cloves/bulb, stores 6 months
‘Georgian Fire’, rich, robust, strong and lingering flavor, endangered and hard to find, 5-9 cloves/bulb, stores 6-7 months, Hottest
‘German Stiffneck’ is often called ‘German Extra-Hardy’, ‘German White’ and ‘Northern White’, strong and robust flavor, stores 10 months or longer
‘Leningrad’, hot and strong, endangered and hard to find
‘Music’, large bulbs, hot, sweet and pungent, 4-7 cloves/bulb, stores 6 months
‘Northern Québec’, endangered and hard to find
‘Polish Hardneck’, sometimes called ‘Polish Carpathian’, rich flavor, hot searing pungency that sticks around for a long time. Good hot strong long storing garlic.
‘Romanian Red’ is fiery hot and has a lingering tanginess
‘Rosewood’, very strong and robust and sticks around for a long time and can nearly be overpowering at times
‘Susan Delafield’, very HOT, tolerates wet soils, endangered and hard to find
‘Ukrainian Mavniv’, good strong flavor
‘Wild Buff’, very strong and robust and sticks around for a long time and can nearly be overpowering at times
‘Yugoslavian Porcelain’, strong with good taste, 2-5 cloves/bulb
‘Zemo’, hot, strong and spicy robust flavor, grows well, stores 5 months

Asiatic Garlics
‘Asian Rose’ – A strong garlic, Harvests VERY early in season – stores about 5-6 months.
‘Asian Tempest’ – A strong garlic. Harvests VERY early in season – stores about 5-6 months.
‘Japanese’ – Early harvest, 4-8 cloves/bulb, stores 5 months, Hot
‘Korean Red’ – rich yet mellow. Harvests VERY early in season – stores about 5-6 months.
‘Pyong Vang’, Mid-harvest, 7-10 cloves/bulb, stores 6 months, hottest
‘Russian Redstreak’, A rare early season mild garlic; delightfully mild and full flavored with only a little heat, productive, stores very well, presents a nice appearance with an excellent raw flavor.
‘Gregory’s China Rose’, Harvests early in season – stores around 6 months. – Excellent for growing in Warm Winter Areas. Rich earthy flavor.

Footnotes:
[1] http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/growing.htm
[2] Genetic Diversity among U.S. Garlic Clones, Gayle M. York, Adam D. Henk, and Christopher M. Richards, J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 129(4): 559-569. 2004

Photo Credits: Many Thanks to Hood River Garlic Farm, http://www.hoodrivergarlic.com/

Garlic for planting should be pre-ordered now (or before late summer) to assure availability. By mid-to–late summer when I usually start to think of planting garlic, very few varieties are still available.

Some sources for buying garlic:
http://www.garlicfarm.ca/garlic-varieties.htm

http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/boutique.htm
http://www.hoodrivergarlic.com/

http://www.seeds.ca/rl/rl.php
http://rareseeds.com/seeds/Garlic
http://www.seedsavers.org/products.asp?dept=89
http://www.johnnyseeds.com/catalog/search.aspx?scommand=search&search=garlic
http://www.nicholsgardennursery.com/store/dept.asp?dept%5Fid=130&mscssid=Q08K9VW4TVWG8LUA9MFUQ5M750188FWD
http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/catalog/allium.html
http://www.seedsofchange.com/garden_center/browse_category.asp?category_id=6345
http://www.goodseedco.net/garlic.html
http://www.filareefarm.com/asi.html

Why Grow Garlic?

by Darius Van d’Rhys (darius) June 3, 2008

The first benefit to the home gardener is the opportunity to grow and use some of the magnificent garlic varieties seldom, if ever, found in the supermarkets and rarely even at farmer’s markets or roadside stands. Out of over 600 sub-varieties, only 2 are commonly found in grocery stores. If you like cooking and eating garlic, expand your repertoire!

The second benefit (besides eating the garlic) is the growing garlic has natural fungicide and pesticide properties. Garlic companion planting is especially beneficial to lettuce by deterring aphids, and to cabbage. Garlic oil is effective at repelling and even killing snails and slugs.

As well as protecting other plants, garlic can also improve their flavor. Beets and cabbage are reported to be good companions that benefit from this. However, not all companion planting with garlic is beneficial. Garlic doesn’t cooperate well with legumes, peas or potatoes so do not plant your garlic too near these.

ImageWhat Kind to Grow, and Where

Garlic isn’t just garlic, there are many different kinds of garlic and they’re almost all different in size, color, shape, taste, number of cloves per bulb, pungency and storage times.

Botanists classify all true garlics under the species Allium Sativum. There are two subspecies; Ophioscorodon, or hard-necked garlics (Ophios for short) and Sativum, or soft-necked garlics.
Hardnecks further divide into Rocambole, Purple Stripe, and Porcelain sub-groups although 2 more sub-groups have recently been added: Marbled Purple Stripe and Glazed Purple Stripe. Softnecks have 2 main groups: Artichokes and Silverskins. Artichoke garlics now include the Turban and Asiatic sub-groups. There is yet another group called Creole, long thought to be a sub-group of the Silverskins but the latest DNA studies show them in a separate class by themselves.


So, how do you decide what to grow? 
I have separate articles covering each of these groups following this article and you will find good information in them. One is a general overview, this one is on basics of growing and cooking garlic, and the ones on hardnecks, softnecks and Creoles will help you decide which type for your climate and which varieties for your taste buds.

Garlic is easy to grow. Great garlic is difficult to grow.

 Image

Garlic developed in central Asia with long cold winters, damp cool springs and warm, dry summers. Since then it has been grown around the world and a few needs have changed. Varieties like Rocamboles still need those central Asian conditions. Porcelains and Purple Stripes are more tolerant but still won’t do well in a hot dry spring. Hardneck Rocamboles do poorly in warmer climates.

Garlic tolerates most soils but if you want excellent large and beautiful garlic, you need a healthy soil full of micronutrients and minerals. High concentrations of NPK fertilizers can kill off the healthy microorganisms living in the soil, as can chemical herbicides and pesticides. “If the government requires applicators to wear ‘protective’ clothing (boots, gloves, hoods and masks) to apply it, why would you want to eat it?” [1] Garlic really needs the minerals and micronutrients more than an abundance of NPK. The soil should have manure and compost added on a regular basis. Rock dusts and minerals can be added; they act like long-time slow-release fertilizers and the garden will continue to maintain fertility for years to come, with fewer applications eventually needed.

Garlic should be planted in the fall in the north. This gives time for sprouting roots to develop before the emerging plants die down with cold winter temperatures. After a few frosts but before the ground freezes hard in my Zone 5b, I cover my garlic bed with 6-8” of straw which helps prevent frost heave. When the ground begins to warm in the spring, I remove the straw so the sun can warm the emerging stalks. Sometimes the fall planted bulbs will sprout enough to send up green shoots before winter. That’s okay… they will die back and grow again in spring.

Garlic likes fertile, well-drained soil so that the bulb is above the water level and the roots deep into the moist soil. Plant the cloves root end down, about 4” deep and 6” apart in the north, and 2-3” deep in the south. Bubils (from the scapes) can be harvested and planted but they will take 2 or more years to produce a large bulb. Some vendors and growers recommend soaking individual cloves in water with bicarbonate of soda for a few minutes, and then dipped in rubbing alcohol (or 140 proof vodka) for 3-4 minutes to kill any pathogens. Use the largest cloves to grow the best bulbs for next year.

If your soil is healthy and fertile you may choose (or not) to add a foliar spray in the spring. A tablespoon each of molasses, seaweed and baking soda in a gallon of water makes a good spray used 2-3 times in spring. Do not use a foliar spray on dry plants, nor spray close to harvest. The leaves will become lush at the expense of the bulb.

When the tops just start to turn yellow/brown and fall over, gently dig the bulbs. There should still be some green inner leaves. When only about 8 green leaves remain, stop watering and let the soil begin to dry. After digging the bulbs, do not wash, just brush off loose dirt and store in dry shade for 2-4 weeks to cure. Treat them gently as they can bruise easily and thus not store well.Image

Store garlic warm (55-65ºF), dry (40-60% humidity) and in the dark to keep it dormant. Garlic is usually hung to dry and good air circulation is very important.

Here’s a photo journal of the whole process of preparing beds, planting, harvesting and storing:http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/gardenyear.htm

Tips on Cooking with Garlic

When the cell walls in a garlic clove are cut, diced, chopped, crushed, etc., the cloves release allicin which gives garlic its smell and taste. Peeling cloves is tedious but you can easily peel them without breaking cell walls by soaking individual cloves in plain water for an hour or two, or by dropping them in boiling water for 60 seconds. When you want to add garlic to a dish, the larger the pieces, the milder will be the flavor. James Beard’s recipe for Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic is at the end of this article. It surprisingly has the barest hint of garlic due to long cooking of whole cloves.

The finer you cut garlic, the more allicin is released, creating a stronger flavor. For a bold, assertive garlic taste, finely chop or crush the garlic. Let it rest for a few minutes, and then add it just before cooking is complete.

A good health practice to fight E. coli found in supermarket meats is to rub crushed raw garlic all over the meat. Crushed raw garlic is a powerful antibiotic that can kill E. coli, but it will not kill the bacteria INSIDE the meat. To do that, you must cook the meat thoroughly.

I personally don’t find garlic breath objectionable. However, sunflower seed oil and parsley taken together will drastically reduce or even eliminate primary garlic breath. After eating a garlicky meal, eat a spoonful of sunflower seeds and a sprig of fresh parsley and you will find your breath much less offensive to others.

When you cook garlic long and slow, it becomes creamy and less strong. Most garlic odor on your hands can be eliminated by rubbing them on a piece of stainless steel flatwear under running water.

Footnotes:
[1] http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/growing.htm

Photo Credits: Hood River Garlic Farm http://www.hoodrivergarlic.com

Read my other garlic articles here:
Why would anyone grow A Stinking Rose? For Garlic of Course!
http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/613
Hardneck Garlic for Northern Climates
http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1030/
Softneck Garlic for Southern Climates
http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1031/
Creole Garlics
http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1032/

 

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
by James Beard

2/3 cup olive oil
8 chicken drumstick and thighs (or 16 of either)
4 ribs celery, cut in long strips
2 medium onions, chopped
6 sprigs parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup dry vermouth
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
40 cloves garlic, unpeeled

1. Put the oil in a shallow dish, add the chicken pieces, and turn them to coat all sides evenly with the oil.

2. Cover the bottom of a heavy 6-quart casserole with a mixture of the celery and onions, add the parsley and tarragon, and lay the chicken pieces on top. Pour the vermouth over them, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add a dash or two of nutmeg, and tuck the garlic cloves around and between the chicken pieces. Cover the top of the casserole tight with aluminum foil and then the lid (this creates an air-tight seal so the steam won’t escape). Bake in a 375°oven for 1 1/2 hours, without removing the cover.

3. Serve the chicken, pan juices, and whole garlic cloves with thin slices of heated French bread or toast. The garlic should be squeezed from the root end of its papery husk onto the bread or toast, spread like butter, and eaten with the chicken.

 

About Darius Van d’Rhys

I have a ‘growing my own food’ obsession that comes from my overlapping interests in cooking, nutrition and gardening. I am also a “teacher”, a writer, a builder… and a craftsperson and… and… and many other things, LOL. In fact, I guess I am a generalist, and a Seeker. I live in the southern Appalachian Mountains on a hillside with a creek in front, and drive a 15 year old truck I lovingly call “My Farmer’s Ferrari.” Editor’s note: Darius passed away on March 19, 2014. Her readers will miss her greatly and we are thankful for her legacy of wonderful articles.

Pink Passion Dwarf Tomato and Why Tomato Shoulders Stay Green or Yellow

pink-passion-73017---6

Pink Passion

This is the first picking of tomatoes from one of my Dwarf Tomato Project plants. It is called Pink Passion. A bit blurry, I apologize. Some are slightly heart shaped, pinkish red with yellow, greenish shoulders. They range in size from golf ball to softball. The plant seems to be suffering in this heat, high 90’s.

Tomatoes like heat. To a point. It can cause their flowers to dry up and fall off. It can also cause the green-yellow-orange shoulders. Lycopene, chlorophyll and carotene are all pigments present in tomatoes and work to give them their color.

Lycopene is the pigment that gives the fruit it’s color red. Chlorophyll gives the plants their green color, Carotene gives them their yellow or orange color.

The optimum temperature for lycopene production is between 65 degree and 75 degrees. After 75 degrees, lycopene production slows. The fruit’s exposure to direct sun dictates what happens to its shoulders. As sun strikes tops of tomatoes, temperatures in the fruit rise, inhibiting lycopene causing them to stay green.

Tomatoes may stay green due to chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants their green color. Excessive heat prevents chlorophyll from breaking down. When subjected to hours of hot sun, chlorophyll hangs on.

Carotene, another pigment in tomatoes, produces yellow and orange. Less affected by heat carotene (yellow) shines through while lycopene (red) is inhibited, thus yellow shoulders.

The part of the tomato most protected from direct exposure to the sun will be the color it is supposed to be.

  • This is one of the reason I crowd my plants and grow them up. I try to space them about 2.5 feet apart and use massive tomato cages. Planted in containers, it is more difficult to give them extra leaf coverage. Try placing them where they will get shade in the afternoon when the sun is hottest.
  • It is also why I don’t prune. Leaf cover is so important in protecting the tomatoes. It also protects against sunburn, a white flaky patch.
  • There are also tomato varieties, usually heirloom, that naturally have green shoulders. I’ve seen them a lot in dark tomatoes such as Japanese Black Triefle and Cherokee Purple.

The Biggest and Most Beautiful Petunias, Fluffy Ruffles, That I Grow (and Sell in the Spring)

CA-Giant-3Also known as Superbissima Grandiflora. In fact that is the only name I had for them for the longest time. After doing some research, I found out they used to be called California Giants and are an heirloom petunia from way back. They are no longer commercially grown, at least I’ve never seen them at the big box stores or local nurseries.

They are huge, sometimes reaching 5″ across! In colors of dark purple and lighter pink, they have fantastic, contrasting veining in their centers.

CA-Giant

Fluffy Ruffles

Fluffy Ruffles has, well, a lot of ruffling! Double Fluffy Ruffles has even more.

CA-Giant-4

Double Fluffy Ruffles

Dark green foliage, rounded leaves and thick stems compete the plant. Usually when a plant is not carried commercially in the petunia world, it’s because it doesn’t live up to the weather or produce reliably. I have not found this with this petunia. It hangs from a basket nicely, is a pleasure to deadhead, lasat for a long time and produces lots of blooms. I use it with other flowers to fill a pot. Because it is so stocky it holds up well to the weather in my garden.

floral-display

This is my favorite petunia! If you would like to come by and see it in my garden and the different ways I use it give me a call. I’ve had people come by and are stunned and perplexed when they see it. They don’t know what it is! You can buy them from me next spring as I will always grow it.

Try Something New: Big Cheef Dwarf Tomato

big-cheef.jpgYes, these came from a dwarf tomato plant. Part of the Dwarf Tomato Project. It was very tasty and produced an ample supply of tomatoes for such a small plant. Staked, in a large pot, it was maybe 4 feet. Perfect for someone who wants to grow slicing tomatoes without taking up much room, such as a deck or apartment balcony. A very pretty dark pinkish fruit.

Information about the Dwarf Tomato Project. I’d put the link to their website but apparently the server has gone down.

This remarkable project was started in 2005 by Patrina Nuske-Small of Australia and Craig LeHoullier of Raleigh, North Carolina, and by February 2011 it had over 250 volunteers growing out various tomato crosses and segregation lines, selecting for new dwarf varieties with the best taste and unique color characteristics. This project is still continuing, and it will yield many more tomato varieties with heirloom taste and perfect for space-challenged home gardeners.

This is the very first all volunteer world-wide tomato breeding project in documented gardening history. None involved are botanists or horticulturists – just avid gardeners with a keen interest in learning about tomato genetics or discovering interesting new tomatoes.

All Tomato Dwarf Project varieties are associated with the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI)

The OSSI Pledge – “ You have the freedom to use these OSSI seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents, or other means, and to include this pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.” The seed packets that you share or sell should include this information.

Starting Seeds in March

This has to be the longest winter I can remember. In 2008 we had lots of snow but it didn’t stick around for 3 months as it has this year. We can’t even put up our third greenhouse yet due to snow on the ground! Did I mention it is March 3rd?

tomato-seeds-2tomato-seeds-racks

Above are pictures of our tomato babies, as yet unborn. There are approximately 5000 seeds in the various gray cells. We bottom watered them with almost a gallon of hot water for each flat on March 1st and then the were moved to the shelves under the lights. In about 7 days they will germinate. It’s actually quite exciting checking them everyday, most times twice a day, to see if they’ve raised their tiny, green heads.

tomato-seeds

This is a close up of some of the cells. I spent several hours every day spreading the tiny seeds in rows of 50 to 35 seeds in each cell. This year I even used tweezers to keep them orderly. Doing it over a couple days saved my back big time!

Once they get their first set of true leaves, I will transplant them into 3.5″ pots and they will go out into the greenhouses.

One very important tip when starting seeds: Use a sterile seed starting/germination mix. It will help tremendously in not getting damping off. Nothing is worse than seeing them lush and healthy one day and watching them fall over the next. Very sad. It doesn’t matter whether you are starting tomatoes or petunias in a greenhouse or inside your family home. Since I started using a sterile mix I haven’t had damping off. You can get it at NW Seed and Pet and possibly other big box stores.

Mucho Nacho Jalapeños and Emerald Fire Jalapeños -A Germinators Dream! (at least this year)

Every once in a while you meet a plant that you really like. This year, mine is the Mucho Nacho Jalapeño and the Emerald Fire Jalapeño, Peppers are notoriously hard to germinate, especially the superhots (Carolina Reapers, Ghost and Trinidad Scorpions) and the hot (Tabasco, Habanero, Serrano, Hungarian Yellow Wax etc.) to mildly hot (Jalapeños, Numex Big Jim, Anaheims, Poblanos etc.) Some of the hot peppers can take up to 4 weeks or more to germinate and then if you get 50% you think you are doing pretty good.

 

mucho-nacho-jalapeno2Mucho Nacho is a new one for me this year. It is supposed to be hotter, fatter, longer, more prolific, well, you get the picture, than a regular Jalapeño. It was the first one to germinate and it was very happy, vibrant and healthy. Lush. I can’t say enough about it.

emerald-fire-jalapeno

The Emerald Fire was a close second. Germination on both of these were close to 90 – 95% which is really good. Nice strong stems, beautiful true leaves, easy to handle when transplanting into 3.5” pots.

For those of you who germinate your own seeds in a greenhouse you can understand how happy I was to handle these guys. Some plants, especially flowers practically require magnifying glassed and tweezers!

jalapeno-green-pepperMucho Nacho Jalapeños – 68-70 Days

An impressive Jalapeño from Mexico, large, 4” fruits are fatter, thicker, heavier, hotter, and up to a full inch longer than regular Jalapeños. They start off green and mature to red. Vigorous and prolific, they set heavy loads about a week earlier than is typical of Jalapeños.

ad8bf754-f0b0-446d-992d-573a80710745_1000Emerald Fire Jalapeño – 90 Days

These hot peppers are good for salsa, pickling, grilling, and stuffing, Extra-large, thick-walled, crack-resistant peppers, plump and delicious. Emerald Fire is very prolific and there will be enough peppers to share with your friends and family!

Winner of a 2015 All-America Selection, Emerald Fire is compact enough for patio containers, but may need some support to hold up all the peppers! Easy to grow, standing up to heat, humidity, and refuses to crack. Long season but worth the wait!

Freaky Fruits: Seeds Sprouting Inside Tomato – Garden Culture Magazine

seeds-sprouting-inside-tomato-1Interesting article. I’ve seen seeds germinating inside of tomatoes but NEVER to this extent.

What’s the real cause of seeds sprouting inside tomato fruits? It’s not normal, at least not in years past. Is it a GMO thing, or something else entirely?

Source: Freaky Fruits: Seeds Sprouting Inside Tomato – Garden Culture Magazine

Update on the Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert Squash in My Last Post

I tried the smallest Uncle David”s Dakota Dessert squash and it was really good, First I roasted it with nothing on it to get the flavor. The first bite was a little vegetal, the next, in the thicker part of the piece was dry and slightly sweet. I was a little concerned I wouldn’t get full flavor since it was the smallest and least developed off the bunch.

pumpkins and squash 2016 - 3.jpg

Once I tasted it for unadulterated flavor, I threw some butter, brown sugar and spices; mace and allspice on top. You could also use apple pie spice or nutmeg. I put the dish back into the oven, at 350 degrees until it melted. Oh boy was it good!