Posts filed under ‘heirloom vegetables’

it’s here

blight1

blight // (blt)n: Something that impairs growth, withers hopes and ambitions, or impedes progress and prosperity.

I don’t know why I thought I I was secretly immune to it but I did. I imagined my beautiful heirloom tomatoes, lovingly grown from seed (most of ’em) through sheer will and hope and compost tea and milk, would somehow be the ones to elude the dreaded disease decimating tomatoes across the country. As everyone else was spraying nasty chemicals and the price of tomatoes skyrocketed to 8$ for a Brandywine, I was doin’ ok.I had Sungolds and Black Krims and my Cherokee Purples were just starting to turn.

Then today, I saw it—the dreaded late blight—on a Juliet Roman. In denial, I quickly removed the scabby, just ripening tomato, and frantically demolished it to the garbage inside the house.  When I went to check out the rest, i noticed a few of the Black Cherries, Delicious and the Striped Roman had the cancerous looking symptoms as well, just a few tomatoes on each plant.

Sigh.

blight2

I made quick work to remove all of the affected tomatoes, mostly just turning red and doomed to be thrown in the trash, and noticed one unusual thing. I didn’t have those dark, oily black spots on the stems that are the surefire sign of late blight, that death sentence of a disease. The fruit had the look of late blight, but the plant looked exactly like early blight. This small detail gave me hope that there was a chance to save these guys.

James Weaver, an heirloom tomato farmer in Bowers, PA, has developed a technique that uses simple pruning to combat early and late blight, and I’m actually testing it out and writing a small piece for Organic Gardening Magazine. James says that cutting the top 20% or so encourages it to put more energy into the base, and the plant actually regenerates. We’re doing some trials for the homegardener, and this is one heck of a year to test it out. So, I’m giving it a go, and keeping my fingers crossed. Will keep you posted.

To distract me from obsessing over the health of my tomatoes, I’m excited to be attending a chef potluck tomorrow night/ photo shoot for Organic Gardening. Chef Alex Lee of Iron Chef/ Bar Boulud fame will be cooking up Tim Stark’s heirloom tomatoes and I will do my best to be happy that at least someone is making Gazpacho. Pictures to come…

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August 17, 2009 at 3:11 am 3 comments

Heirloom Varieties

Striped Chiogga Beet

Striped Chiogga Beet

It wasn’t until just yesterday that I realized I had a theme going on in my garden. A friend had stopped by to chat, and as I was showing her what was going on, I realized that I was growing alot of vegetables with stripes—Chiogga Beets, Dragon Tongue beans, Calliope Eggplant, and even Dragon Carrots. So actually, it’s more like a purple stripe theme going on.

Dragon Tongue Beans

Dragon Tongue Beans

Dragon Tongue Beans: These were so easy to grow, I just direct seeded in May, and they quickly bunched up with pretty violet flowers, followed by large yellow bean pods with wavy purple stripes. I love serving these raw, because when you cook them, they lose their stripes. They are also great stirfried with cumin, garlic and olive oil.

Chiogga Beets and Dragon Carrots

Chiogga Beets and Dragon Carrots

This is what I love about growing your own food from seed—-you have access to a world of different types of heirloom vegetables that you just can’t find in a store. These Chiogga Beets and Dragon Carrots are both just as easy to grow as typical beets/carrots, and they have such a story to tell. The Chioggas, dating back to pre-1940 Italy,  have peppermint-type rings inside, (which also means they won’t make everything pink when you cook them). Dragon Carrots, with their bright purple outside, and yellow/orange rings inside, have amazing flavor and look fantastic on salads.

And to complete the purple theme,  the  especially obvious Calliope Eggplant:

The Striped Calliope Eggplant

The Striped Calliope Eggplant

I had a friend share 12 eggplant plants with me last month, and this was the first to all-of-a-sudden show up with a bunch of tiny purple striped eggplants. So, yes, this one was accidental, but quickly caught on. The Calliope Eggplant is also good for containers, producing tons of purple striped fruit. I’ll let you know how it tastes when we pick them later this week.

July 19, 2009 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment


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