Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tomato Issues. Damn. Wilt?

I arrived home Sunday from our camping trip in Big Sur and, of course, ran out to the garden right away.
I was laughing at myself a bit because, really, how much can change in 2 days? Right?
A lot, really.

Upon first look everything is robust and beautiful.

But upon closer look, some of the plants seem to be wilting.

Their leaves are twisting and turning brown.

This plant is wilting, while the plants on each side still look completely fine.

Even the stems have some damage on them.

While I was poking around trying to figure it out (while mothering 2 cranky kids, so it took quite some time if you can imagine) I found the first unripe tomato! And something else... thrips? I don't even know if we get thrips here? I've never seen them and I've been gardening in this area of California for 15 years and in this spot for close to 10 of those.

I'm at a complete loss at the moment. This year has been my most challenging yet. The weather was so wet and cold for so long, and now the berries have Septoria and the tomatoes have?? I have no idea. I thought perhaps blight but the tips of the upper stems seem to die off before anything on the bottom. And the plants showing the most damage are in completely fresh composted soil. I'm fairly certain the soil is complete with nutrients. I read that tomatoes can in fact get Septoria also, so perhaps it is that even though they live on the opposite side of the garden? I found a pretty nice site from Cornell University listing a variety of tomato ailments. Who knew there were so many? I've grown them so easily in the past without complication. Sigh. I'm leaning towards Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus, which is spread by thrips. I'll need to spend some time researching it, but I have found a few good links such as this one showing some examples of wilt and this one showing a photo of what thrips look like. I'll be investing in some sticky cards for certain. I've pulled the worst plants and plan on spending those little moments here and there when possible doing some pruning.

Completely open to suggestions and ideas!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

This Weekend

Tomorrow morning we leave to go camping down the coast in Big Sur. I haven't been to where we are going for at least 5 years. I stumble on writing that, it doesn't seem possible that 5 years have passed. I was just out in the garden, late nite while my family sleeps, watering and picking and on my way back I walk past my big beautiful borage plant which volunteered to grow on the edge of the tomato garden. Every time I see borage in my yard I think of the lovely place where we are going as it was the first place I ever saw borage. I remember seeing it out the back door under some apple trees, right next to the kiwi vines, and thinking it was the most gorgeous plant I had ever seen. I've always had some in my garden since then.

I'm so excited to visit this special place again and be able to bring my family and some friends to take in those hills and swim in those waters. Ahhhhhh.

Have a great weekend, see you next week!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Full Disclosure

Just to be fair, and in the spirit of mommyhood, I bring you my kitchen right now.

I'm doing so much cool stuff in it right now and I can't wait to post about it but with two youngins I have to find time to:
1. figure out how to do stuff
2. plan stuff
3. do stuff
4. clean up after I do stuff

And I tell ya, #4 isn't a natural for me ;)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sunday Flowers. A day late. But who's counting?

I've had one of those days. Productive, plentiful, filled with gratitude and happiness! At the end of this long day of canning, dehydrating, smoking, pickling.... I realize I have forgotten to post my Sunday flowers. Here they are, as they are, among the chaos which marks the end of my day. Love.

Happy Summer Solstice

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Not Goaty

Yesterday I headed out to The Bancroft Ranch in Carmel Valley for an artisan cheese making class. Julie Lang brought a few La Mancha milking goats and a few 3 week old baby goats down the hill for the occasion. Since the babies were away from their moms for the first time in their lives Julie brought along a bottle to feed them in case they got hungry in those few hours. It was really cute. (and who knew a beer bottle can be reused to make the perfect feeder?)
We also had an opportunity to learn how to milk a goat. Of course I had to try it! I've always wanted to try and next spring I'm hoping to get a few goats. It was easy! The bucket of yummies they are given while milking may have something to do with the ease? hahaI was able to drink some fresh, raw milk moments after milking. It was delicious!
Then we watched as Julie made ricotta and a classic chevre with herbs. Did you know fresh goat milk doesn't taste "goaty" at all? There is an enzyme in the milk which, when left for a few days, begins to change the flavor. So fresh goat milk doesn't taste goaty at all. In fact, it tasted a bit like sweet grass; Very subtle. Several young girls were there who professed they don't like milk at all and didn't want to taste it. After a bit of coaxing each of them tried it and said it tasted much better than cow milk to them. Fresh and raw from loved animals? Can't go wrong there!

The fresh ricotta was then mixed with some fresh herbs and made into raviolis. DIVINE.

The day was topped off with goat milk cheesecake made in a classic New York style. Ohhh the decadence!

What a fabulous day! Thank you Susan and Julie!

If you live locally and are interested in any upcoming classes, you can find a list of them here. Next month's class and lunch sounds pretty awesome. Julie sells goat cheese locally (and it is the best I've ever had!) and can be contacted through her Facebook page here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Eat Nasturtium Seeds!?

When I was searching around the other day looking for ideas to preserve some nasturtium blooms I stumbled across some other intriguing ideas. Did you know during WWII nasturtium seeds were ground and used as a substitute for black pepper?

I'll be trying two recipes of the same thought:
Preserving nasturtium seeds to be used like capers.

I'll be doing the classic vinegar pickling method as per this recipe from *2* Survival Cooking and then lacto-fermenting some as per basic lacto-fermenting principals which is basically fermenting in a container filled with 2 Tablespoons of sea salt per quart of water and allowing to set until fermented. I found an interesting read with more details and somewhat humorous reading here at Reality Sandwich (funny the things we find while searching LOL).

I thought I'd post it before I've actually created anything because I tend to get annoyed when, months after something was in season, great things are brought up on blogs that I wish I had been able to try. The lacto-fermentation recipe takes months! So, in case anyone was wanting to try something new from a prolific (at our property anyway) source here you go! :)

And I really must add that finding and picking the seeds is a FANTASTIC game for a 4 year old!

In The Tomato Patch

::Borage flowers sharing space with the tomatoes::

The tomatoes are growing right along. I didn't end up getting every single one trellised or caged and I'm seeing where I will need to dedicate some time to getting a bit more of that done while I still can (kind of) this weekend. The plants in proper cages are already showing how they will be easier to harvest from, come harvest time that is. Their size, compared to what they looked like just 15 days ago, really demonstrates what amazing things come from warm sunny days which were so late to arrive here!
Even the remote thought of tomato harvest time sent me searching around hoping to find a little baby tomato. Nope, none here yet. There are lots of flowers popping up though! I wish I could say what type of tomato plant these pretty little fuzzies came from but I'm afraid where I was terrific at marking which seedlings were which, come planting time everything became a bit confused. I wish I could blame it on my 4 year old, but he was better than I with taking the name marker out and putting it next to the seedling. Had I written them down then I'd have at least a third of an idea! Once the tomatoes start to fill out I'll know. I hope.

Inter planted with most of the tomatoes went basil. I had forgotten about them until yesterday afternoon when my son asked, with his fingers wrapped around the base of the plant ready to yank, what kind of weed smells like pizza. Now he knows all about basil.
Look how cute this Sweet Genovese is tucked under the wing of a tomato. What happy bedfellows.

::Sweet Genovese::

::Red Rubin::

::Thai Siam Queen::

::Greek Mini Yevani::

While we were out there we transplanted the last few little straggler basil seedlings. Their roots were so healthy and pretty and nice and long so they'll be instantly able to tap into the slow, deep water of the drip lines. None of the basil plants have their own dripper, they're all just thriving from the deep watering the tomatoes get every few days.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nasturtium Preserves

I had some inspiration today. Both kids asleep {at the same time?!} and a bounty of blooms along with a clean kitchen led to searching around the web for what I might do with a whole mess of nasturium blooms. I found nothing. So I made it up as I went and some lovely stuff came from a mind bent on nothing but a bunch of beautiful goodness in the quiet of an afternoon kitchen bathed in sunlight.

I started with fresh blooms and then added in some African Blue basil just for fun. Just sounded yummy.

Gave them a good long soak (and removed a whole lot of ants that I hadn't seen while picking). I have to admit I was afraid cooking these beauties would turn them brown and ruin them. Eh no matter, there were many more outside.
Here is what I came up with:

1 cup packed nasturtium flowers
2 cups water
2 T white balsamic vinegar
1 T basil flowers
1/4 cup maple syrup
Pamona's Pectin, following directions

The results are beautiful. There is a delicate hint of pepper which I could see on a delish pork loin. Hmmmn might need to try that. Oooh or over a nice soft triple cream brie. mmmmmmmm.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Flowers

:::sweet peas and carrot blossoms::: (I couldn't decide which to post :)

....joining A Sonoma Garden with summer flowers