Monday, August 28, 2017

Can you ID this fig? Lattarula Fig? #GardenCuizine Late summer FIG harvest @EatRight_NJ

Lattarula Fig?
Ficus carica Italian Honey 
Can you help me identify this fig variety? Today, I picked a few small bowls of delicious, ripe figs off a healthy shrub in Woodbury, New Jersey. And, noticed so many more still to ripen! As you may remember from previous GardenCuizine postings, we have a few fig trees at our house. But, our little fig trees are not growing like the hearty shrub I saw today. 

Our struggling figs include a Chicago Fig. I'm not sure what variety the other fig tree is. Both fig trees we have are not producing, even after surviving several years in the ground outside with no pampering or winter cover. 

The figs I picked today are from a shrub-like fig tree that is thriving! It is growing in NJ and planted directly in the ground with no special attention. In fact, I was told it has been chopped to the ground from landscapers a few times in years past. It must be around 8 to10 foot high and wide.The leaves are not exactly the same as the fig trees we have.
The greenish figs are soft and a little bit yellow when fully ripe. I'm thinking it may be a Lattarula Fig. What do you think? I've never heard of or seen that variety for sale locally, have you? 

Whatever variety it is, I will try to propagate it from cuttings and let you know how it works. Or, I may try saving seeds like I do tomato seeds and see if they grow.

Happy Gardening!

Blog post and photos Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Pasta Sauce Prep * Preserve your fresh Tomato harvest #GardenCuizine #HealthyCooking #PomodoroSauce

Pasta Sauce Prep
Whole Peeled Tomatoes
We make Pomodoro (tomato) Sauce from scratch most of the time. We do not always have fresh locally grown or homegrown Jersey tomatoes to use though, so we often use canned San Marzanos. At the end of the summer, when our homegrown tomatoes are plentiful, we make homemade sauce in batches as the tomatoes vine ripen. Once picked, if the tomatoes ripen too fast, we move them to the fridge until we are ready to cook them.

This year was a challenging tomato year for us. We got Tomato Blight really bad in our main garden. But, even so, we are surprised and thankful to be harvesting lots of fresh tomatoes.

Yesterday, Harry started preparing our first batch of sauce. We plan to save it for Christmas lasagna dinner. We all enjoy a taste of our garden in December. 

The first step to making homemade pasta sauce is to prepare the tomatoes. Sort through and pick out tomatoes that would make the best sauce. Meaty tomatoes such as San Marzano Plum and Goldman's heirloom make the best pasta sauce, or "gravy" as some Italians call it. We often add and cook down other heirloom tomatoes too; otherwise, we could never eat them fast enough!

Sauce Prep (can be done day or week ahead of cooking)
Gather all the ripe tomatoes you plan on using for your first batch of sauce. You will need one large pot of boiling water and one large pot of water with ice.  
Note: you do NOT have to score the tomatoes with an X on the bottom before blanching! This is very time consuming and not necessary when you are working with a lot of tomatoes.

1) Boil water in a large pot. In batches, blanch the tomatoes for about one minute in the boiling water
3) Remove with a slotted spoon to ice bath. The water just has to be cold; if your ice melts, don't worry about it. Let tomatoes float in the cold water until the skins wrinkle.
4) Remove and core the tomatoes. Harry likes his new Hullster Tomato Corer from Gardener's Supply Co.

5) Peel tomato skins. For sauce, place whole peeled tomatoes in a bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to cook your Pomodoro sauce.

Besides high quality tomato sauce, peeled whole tomatoes can be frozen for later use in soup, stewed tomatoes, chili and other recipes.

Blog post and photos Copyright (C) Wind. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Surround your home with gardens that benefit #pollinators #nativeplants #Clematisvirginiana

Clematis virginiana
Virgin's Bower
 Hardiness Zone: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b

Over the past few years we've been transforming our yard and gardens to feature more native plants to feed and attract wildlife. This beautiful native plant just appeared in our yard and gardens a few years ago. At first I thought of it as just a non-wanted weed and always pulled it out. Last summer I spotted the plant for sale at Bowman's Hill - a native garden supplier. I thought to myself, "We have that!" Their sign identified it as Clematis virginiana - also called Virgin's Bower or Devil's Darning Needles. 

We decided to let our free native grow. It spread here and there around our yard. Why let it? Because pollinators desperately need more essential food and habitat in neighborhoods. Non-native plants, such as Sweet Autumn Clematis, have replaced many native plants in home gardens. 

Non-native Sweet Autumn Clematis is also called Virgin's Bower. We have that vine too. They are both beautiful, but now I am pulling out some Sweet Autumn and and letting more native clematis grow. They both are vigorous growers. You can tell them apart by the plant's leaves. Sweet Autumn Clematis has round leaves and Clematis virginiana has toothed or jagged edged leaves.

Twining Clematis virginiana has fragrant, white, feathery flowers. The blooms appear late summer into fall: August through October. Pollinating insects like bees and butterflies benefit from the nectar.

Clematis virginiana will climb and cascade over anything including other plants, arbors, trellises, or fences. The vine is delicate and easy to pull up if it grows where you decide you don't want it.

Photo Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Related Links
For more information see: Jersey Friendly Yards 
Why Native Plants Matter

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Simple Solar Eclipse Viewer made from a whole grain cereal box #GardenCuizine @Eatright @KidsEatRight

Make Your Own
Solar Eclipse Viewing Box

For the first time in about 40 years a total Solar Eclipse will be happening tomorrow August 21, 2017. Because of where we are on Earth, the Eclipse will be visible across America. Depending on where you live within the USA, only some will experience a total eclipse and others will see a partial eclipse. In NJ, we will see a partial eclipse as it tracks in a narrow band from Oregon to South Carolina.

After you make your viewing box, to avoid damage to the eyes, NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN. Stand outside with your back to the sun. Hold your homemade Solar Eclipse Viewing Box up to allow the sun to enter a hole that you made in the foil. As the moon passes in front of the sun, the solar eclipse will be projected onto your white paper "screen". 

Nasa posted a link with easy directions on how to make your own Eclipse Viewer simply and quickly out of a cereal box. As we get closer to the eclipse, the directions are showing up online just about everywhere. I just made mine! Click here for the directions.

I'll be working tomorrow and plan to take a short break at show time! I used a Cheerio's cereal box. I have another Cheerio's box for a label reading lesson just prior to the event.

Have fun!

Related Links
Eclipse Education
Next Total Eclipse across America 2024
Blog post Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Double Trouble in Our Jersey Garden #TomatoBlight #TomatoEndRot #TomatoTrouble

Double Trouble 
in Our Jersey Garden
Tomato Blossom End Rot
and Tomato Blight

Rainy weather was a garden blessing at first. Jersey Peaches were reported to be one of the best harvests in years. But, now our hopes of having a bumper crop of Jersey tomatoes from over 50 heirloom, homegrown plants is gone. We're having one of our worst years ever for tomatoes. Struggling Jersey tomatoes may be a result from all the heavy rains we've had this summer. 

This year Harry has been diligent about weeding beneath our tomatoes leaving uncovered dirt. Some gardeners use black weed covers beneath their plants. I bet that would have helped us. 

When rain falls hard, it splashes dirt and spreads fungal spores up from the soil onto plant leaves. Blight disease can travel fast and kill tomato plants. Frequent rain can cause it to spread like a forest fire... sigh.
Tomato Blight
I noticed a few wilted plants with some yellowing leaves on plants in a few raised beds. I wasn't overly concerned because we have had wilt issues in the past and still had a bountiful harvest.

Looking at our garden now you'll see yellow, spotted, wilted - brown and dying leaves hanging everywhere. Pretty much all our raised beds appear to be affected by this soil-borne fungal disease.

The environmental stress has caused some tomatoes to drop even before ripening. Some fruits appear stunted in growth. Some just didn't have a chance to develop before the plants died.

Tomato Blossom End Rot
And, as if Tomato Blight wasn't enough, we also noticed Tomato Blossom End Rot too. Luckily, End Rot is treatable. The good parts of the tomato are still edible.

Like people, tomatoes need calcium to develop. If the plant is calcium deficient the tomatoes will develop a black spot on the bottom end. Variable soil moisture of either too dry or too wet can trigger end rot. Soil that is too wet limits available oxygen to the plant. 

We have a soil test kit and plan to test our soil pH again and adjust accordingly before next season. According to, if you have tomato end rot the soil should be between pH of 6.5 and 6.8 to free up more calcium in the soil. Rutgers Cooperative Extension, on the other hand, recommends pH should be between 5.8 and 6.3. I think ours tested higher (7.0?) in the Spring. Any comments about pH recommendations?

What do you do? 
We know about spacing out the plants for air circulation and about crop rotation. We do try. Harry had them more spaced out this year. Maybe next year we will avoid planting tomatoes all together.

You can Google Tomato Blossom End Rot and Tomato Blight to find plenty of info that is out there on what to do when you have these situations. See below for a few links that I looked at that you may find helpful too.

Gardening always provides good times and bad. Each year we never know what will be great and what will be a bust. That is just how gardening goes. 

.... Linda, if you are out there and listening... you are the MASTER GARDENER! We just go through the motions and have fun along the way.

Garden On!

Related Links
Conquer Blossom End Rot
Blossom End Rot 
Diagnosing and Controlling Fungal Diseases
Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden