Sunday, August 19, 2007

The 'other' edible relatives of the tomato

So most of us veggie gardeners already know that potatoes, eggplants and peppers are related to the glorious tomato but these are just the frequently talked about relatives.

The tomato has other family members rarely mentioned in dinner table conversation.

Let me introduce you to some of them:

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Tomatillo plant

This is the tomatillo. Best known as an ingredient in salsa verde. Used thus, it is wonderful but I also like to eat them out of hand when the husks turn yellow. They have a fleshy fruity taste with an edge of tartness that is difficult to describe. The green tomatillo, in my garden, doesn't need supplemental watering and grows in an open but sprawling habit.

Ground cherries are also grow in a papery packaging. They are delicious little berries used fresh, in perserves or even pies. I grew Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry this year and found that it was an extremely prostrate plant, one could even describe it as a ground cover. The yellow berries are eaten when completely ripe. This is when they turn bright yellow and fall off the plant. You can store them in their husks for a perid of time (the amount differs depending on what you read) but let's say a couple weeks.

Lastly, we have sunberries (not garden huckleberries). Perhaps the most contraversial family member. Why did I specify that they were not garden huckleberries? I suspect that would require an entire post to explain but in short:

Luther Burbank bred the sunberry in the early 1900s but critics charged him with re-introducing the garden huckleberry. I don't have experience with the latter but understand that it is only palatable after lots of sugar has been added. However, sunberries are very tasty eaten right off the plant. Here's my problem with them. Everyone warns you to only eat the ripe berries. The unripe ones and all other parts of the plant are poisonness (you shouldn't eat potato fruit or tomato leaves or... this family only gives certain parts up for consumption). Well, I have two small children who routinely eat green tomatoes and strawberries so shouting at them every time they are near the sunberry patch to only eat the purple ones is a bit exhausting. My youngest did eat a couple green ones and seemed completely unaffected by the way.

Also they are a bit time consuming to harvest because but no more so than blueberries. On the plus side, they are early and productive. Oh and they taste great in apple crumble.


How to make ground cherry pie

Mapple Farms, my supplier of sunberry and tomatillo, as well as rare tubers including short season sweet potato.

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Saturday, August 4, 2007

How to grow a cabbage as big as your head

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Or at least as big as my niece's head.

1. Start way too optimistically early - like March, under lights.

2. Transplant in a 18 inch square space, ammended by half frozen manure, when you are still getting snowstorms even though you know that you should wait until it is reliably 7C outside at night or warmer (but not too warm).

3. Cover with little cloches and fret alot.

4. Figure there's no way these guys are going to make it and start another batch in April. Pretend you planned this.

5. Forget to water a lot.

6. Pick off cabbage worms, or better yet, do a little science project by bringing them indoors to watch them turn into butteflies. Lots of fun though releasing them does add to the pest population.

7. Wonder, when you get around to weeding, if they will ever be ready

8. Harvest first and second crop (both survived) and wonder in amazement that it actually worked again!

9. Be grateful for the joys of gardening.

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This cabbage has no lingering doubt when the spammers make comments about its size. Those holes on the outer leaves (the inner leaves were unblemished) are caused by an assortment of catepillars and slugs. But they left sooo much cabbage, I can't really complain.

Wait you really want to know how to grow great cabbages?

Veggie Gardening Tips is a blog full of great information about organic vegetable gardening and he's written a post to answer just this question!

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Overwintered Peppers - a sunny update

Perhaps, followers (humour me) of my overwintering pepper saga are curious what has happened to the darlings now that they have come out the other side of darkness and cold.

Well, fourty leaf fatali has a little surprise for us:

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The Recap:

To save you from searching through links to find out all about the excitement of fourty leaf fatali, let me tell you a tale.

Once upon a time, there was a man who was married to a plant crazed lady. She made him watch the children while she attended some excruiatingly boring seed event with a whole bunch of long haired organic types. He would have been dozing in the corner if it wasn't for their baby and toddler. To try and entertain the man, she suggested he pick out a hot pepper variety to grow.

He picked out fatali. The name, at the very least, sounded promising.

However, the plant proved to be anything but. It produced a ground total of 4 leaves the first year. Yes, four. Admittedly, it was smushed into a pot with two other peppers but that was only because the crazy plant lady assumed that the 2 leafed seedling was going to keel over at any minute when potting time arrived.

Well, crazy plant lady decided to try one of her crazy plant projects and brought the overcrowded pepper pot indoors for the looooooooooooooong Ottawa winter. She managed through much subtle negotiation to secure the coveted south window light for her babies. Noticing they looked unhappy in January, she repotted them. By this time, four leaf fatali had suprised her by turning into fourteen leaf fatali. Maybe it liked cold wintertime windows and low angled sun? It also produced buds, would it grow fruit? No such luck! The beds fell. The leaves started to look sad.

Crazy plant lady sighed.

But come spring, she stuck it in the garden in the designated hot pepper spot with what she presumed were others of its kind. Unfortunately, a wind storm had knocked over all her potted pepper babies and she had repotted them hastily, forgetting to make sure they were all labelled properly so Fatali is surrounded by sweet peppers.

Then fourty leaf fatali made more buds, and low and behold fruit!

More overwintered peppers

And my cayenne plants are producing their second crop. I think I'll try and overwinter some of the sweet varities this year.