Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What to do with kale? Green juice/smoothies!

I am loving all the greens I have on the balcony. The community garden also produced lots of kale and collards. I have quite a few bags full of greens in my freezer. I've been looking for new ways to use these greens. I've tried salad, kale chips and various ways to cook them down. One my favorite gardening youtuber, John Kohler, is a raw foodist. I am fascinated by this lifestyle - they do not heat food over 100-something degrees. I don't agree with the scientific explanation for why this type of diet is healthy, but you can't go wrong with eating lots of fruits and vegetables.  Some of the ways John consumes the bucketload of greens he grows is by juicing them or making green smoothies. So...after thinking about it for about 6 months I finally did it. I got a VITAMIX!!!
I've wanted the Vitamix to make tofu since my home blender cannot break down the soy beans fine enough. This Vitamix is powerful (and expensive)! I've been enjoying green smoothies in the mornings. It is pretty fantastic. I've also been making green juice. First I blend everything in the Vitamix and then I strain it through a cheese cloth. This actually takes forever but I'm not ready to commit to a juicer just yet. I prefer to figure out a better way to strain the pulp after blending. Tonight I blended kale (from farmer's market), grapes, oranges and ginger.
And after straining, the green juice looks like this.
This juice is really good. The grape+kale combination is my favorite so far. This vitamix was a very good investment!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Birth of ladybugs

I've noticed several ladybug larvae around the container garden. Then they disappeared so I thought they matured and few away. Then I found this on my collards (while I was searching for harlequin bug eggs).
birthing of a ladybug
This is the first time I witnessed the transformation of ladybug larvae to an adult. The change is huge! It is like the ugly duckling, the ladybug larvae is quite grotesque (spiny little critters). And it emerges from its shell as a beautiful shiny ladybug.  Here is another at the early stages of transformation.
Larvae entering the last stage of transformation
Also the basil are flowering. These basil flowers are attracting many bees...especially the huge bumble bees. I'll try to take a picture of them next time I see them in the garden.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Harvest Monday - September 10, 2012

I have an overabundance of hot pepper. 2 pepper plants that I thought were going to be sweet ended up being spicy. The jalapeno plants were also very productive. I got to a point where I just had to many spicy peppers. Since it is time to start planting fall vegetables so I decided to harvest all my jalapenos and pull the plant. I canned the jalapenos - very tasty but I have to find a way to use them more frequently. I still have a couple of cans from last year's harvest.
Large bowl of green and red jalapenos
I was able to harvest 2 cucumbers before the plant succumbed to powdery mildew. I am also starting to harvest zucchinis. I tasted the zucchini (raven) raw, it was good but the grey summer bounty variety I grew last year were sweeter. For some reason raw zucchini gives me a bad stomachache so I will be cooking up some zucchini. I'm actually freezing them so I can use them in soups during the winter.
Raven Zucchini (top) and Champion bush cucumbers (bottom two)
Out in the community garden, there are 2 spicy pepper. The longhorn pepper and pablanos. I'm not sure if the pablanos are really pablano because at the garden store I recall it being categorized as a sweet pepper. With the longhorn pepper, I made one can of hot sauce which required blending and boiling of the pepper. My nose and fingers were burning until the next day. The hot sauce is ridiculously spicy. I'm not sure if I will be able to use it really. Fortunately, the boyfriend eats lots of spicy food so maybe he will enjoy it. I also harvested some sweet peppers (big boy peppers) as well as eggplants (black beauty, italian, and ichiban).
Harvest fromt eh community garden. The green peppers are all the spicy peppers.
I have been able to harvest some cherokee purple from the balcony garden. Compared to the community garden, the tomatoes are small. But taste-wise, the tomatoes from the balcony container garden was one million times better. I'm wondering if it is because the balcony gets more sun. I'm not sure. But these tomatoes were INSANELY sweet and delicious. There are still a couple more waiting to ripen on the plant so I can't wait to harvest them.
Not so beautiful but delicious cherokee purple tomatoes
Tomatoes were peeled, but these are the BEST tasting tomatoes!
I'm linking up to Daphne's harvest Monday. She has a beautiful harvest and awesome looking butternut squash. It's also so much fun to see what other gardeners are harvesting too!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Harlequin bugs!

I've been feeling really lazy these past two weeks and been avoiding doing any garden chores. There is a lot of cleaning to do both on my balcony garden and community garden. I haven't gone to the community garden for some time...fortunately it has been raining on and off so the remaining plants are doing quite well. I planted some kale and bak choy - I will be posting updates later on.

This post is about bugs...and lots of them. I thought I would have problems with the brown stink bugs this year but in fact the little buggers that decided to hang out on my balcony is it's close cousin: the harlequin bugs. I've been noticing these creatures earlier in the season but they exploded in numbers about 3 weeks ago. There were consistently clusters of 4-5 pairs of harlequins bug couples on each of my three collard plant. There were also hanging out on my lone bok choy plant. My combat strategy was to shake them into a container filled with water, but for a while it seemed like it was not worth the fight.
The harlequin bug couples on collard are little camera shy
Harlequin bug in bok choy
The eggs of the harlequin bugs are absolutely beautiful and also easy to spot. So I've been checking the leaves frequently and scraping them off.
Eggs are pretty but must be destroyed!
At this point I feel that I may have won the war since I have not seen any harlequin honeymooners the past 2-3 days. You can clearly see the damage on the collard and bok choy. Fortunately, the damage was not too detrimental to the plant. The diversity of the insects in the garden never fails to surprise me.
Spots where harlequin feasted on collard juice
little damage on bok choy