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Archive for the ‘Produce Tastings’ Category

While these huckleberries are easy to grow, you'd need a lot of plants to get a decent harvest.

I was so excited to grow these for the first time. A plant I can grow and harvest berries from in just one year, how novel! I researched for a while on what variety of Huckleberry to choose and finally decided on this one, that claims it can be eaten raw as well as cooked–important for future gardens when I have a little one running around.

The Description from where I got my seed:

 (Solanum nigrum) Sweet purple berries are great fresh or cooked. They are much like Wonderberry but are larger in size and give heavier yields. Very easy cultivation; start seeds and grow like pepper plants, just 75 days to harvest.

First Impressions:
When the description read “they . . . are larger in size and give heavier yields” I assumed they meant the size of the berries. They don’t. They mean the size of the plants. The berries are super tiny–like elderberries. And my plants didn’t get very big either. The largest one is still less than knee high and I’m only 5’2″.

Another problem is that the fruit doesn’t ripen all at once. So when you only have 4 plants less than 2 feet high you get maybe 20 berries per harvest. That might fill a teaspoon. The picture above is 3 harvests worth. Not kidding.

My taste review:
Raw, these berries taste fresh and sweet but are on the bland side I can see why most people cook these a little with some lemon juice.

If I had enough to cook, I would do it.

Plant Growth & Health:
While my pepper plants got decimated by slugs (again!), these plants were left unscathed. They grew very much like pepper plants and put out teeny white flowers that made the small dark purple berries on cute clusters.

The plants are healthy but short. And yields of berries are way lower than I was expecting. I thought they’d be absolutely loaded with fruit but instead they make fruit very similarly to the way pepper plants do: about one fruit cluster per stem intersection. In order to actually get enough to do something with (i.e. make a pie or some jam) I would have had to plant a hundred of these plants.

The reviewer who said her plants got to be 7′ high is not the average, but the rare exception in my opinion. Way to get my hopes up . . .

My subsequent harvest was way bigger, see?! I have small hands--this might be 2 tbsp full.

Will I grow again?
What am I supposed to do with a tablespoon of berries? I might add them to some yogurt or a single portion of fruit salad. But seriously? Considering the yield, and that they need garden space to grow, I seriously can’t plant them again. Unfortunately.

End-of-Year Stats:
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield_______Yield per Plant
__4____________60___________-15________-_____too small to measure
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A decent sized handful of berries for the first harvest of Year 3.

Official Description:

Raspberry, Killarney Standard, Red raspberry. Ideal for canning or making jams and preserves. The hardiest raspberry we know of, disease-resistant and bears medium-sized, very bright red berries. Good flavor and freezing qualities. Ripens early and bears for 4-5 weeks. Recommended for colder climates.

Appearance:
These are raspberries. Traditional red raspberries.

Taste:
They taste like raspberries! Seriously, there’s nothing special or distinct about this variety. But they’re good, of course!

Growth & Health:
This type of plant has dark thorns like hairs on a light green stem, making identification very easy when a stray shoot pops up in an unexpected place.

All four types of raspberries I planted in Year 1 (2009) were slow to start. Now in Year 3, this is the second healthiest of my 4 varieties. It is also putting out new shoots away from the original planting,which I will transplant elsewhere.

The thorns on these are much finer, and more hair-like than Jewel. Of course, I still wear gloves to harvest the berries. I’m not a masochist!

Grow Again?
Yeah, sure. It’s nice to have traditional red raspberries even though production isn’t very good yet.

End-of-Year Stats (3rd year Harvest):
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield____Yield per Plant
__2_________late June_________-_________1 cup_______1/2 cup

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You're lucky to see a picture at all. They usually don't make it into the house.

Official Description:

The Fall Gold Raspberry has a sweet berry, with a large yellow-gold color. The bush is everbearing, and its very winter hardy, making it an excellent choice for northern gardeners who want to taste delicious raspberries. The Fall Gold Raspberry plant ripens in July and September in the warmer areas, and late spring and July through August, up to a hard frost, in the colder areas.

Appearance:
The shoots of this plant are a lighter green than the standard red raspberries. The leaves are quite soft, but the thorns are pretty managable. I don’t know if it’s just the location I picked for this plant or the plant itself, but the plant is very short and frankly, not very healthy. The berries start out white and ripen to a golden yellow.

Taste:
These are my favorite berry! The few I find that are ripe go right into my mouth. My hubby is lucky to get 5 or 6 in a season. They have a much milder taste than standard red raspberries, and taste less tart, more sweet, and juicier. These might be a good variety to try for people who don’t like red raspberries. I love them!

Growth & Health:
All four types of raspberries I planted in Year 1 (2009) were slow to start. These were the second to last slowest. Their 2nd year shoots almost got to knee high. The 3rd year shoots are finally starting to get taller and more robust looking. I am pumped that they are still surviving year to year and making a berry here and there.

A total downside is that this is the only variety of 4 that gets these tiny inch worms that eat the leaves. Luckily they leave the berries alone. I don’t use sprays, so the plant will just have to get stronger and heartier to survive the minor bug attacks. I’ve heard of “Red Raspberry Leaf” tea, but never “Yellow Raspberry Leaf” tea–maybe the worms know something we humans don’t! Maybe someday I’ll actually try and brew some.

Grow Again?
Of course! I would love to have a full row of these. I can’t wait for fall so I can do some proper maintenance on all my berry plants–mainly adding compost and manure and mulching heavily. Plus the usual trimming of last year’s shoots. That should be a great boost for the health of this plant.

End-of-Year Stats (2nd year Harvest):
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield____Yield per Plant
__1_________July and Sep_________-________-_____(too small to measure)
3rd year Harvest:
Just started.

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Official Description:

Standard, black raspberry. Ideal for canning or making jams and preserves. Vigorous, erect plants produce large, firm berries with good flavor. Ripens early and resistant to anthracnose. Hardy in Zones 5-8.

Appearance:
These are raspberries that look and grow more like blackberries. They are a deep purple color, the vines are even purple. They are also more vigorous than standard raspberries. The shoots they put out are healthy and large and they make lovely clusters of berries in the Spring, with 7 to 10 large berries per cluster. The berries start out pinkish red that ripen to dark purple (berry-black or aubergine).

Taste:
They taste like raspberries but with a juicier mouth-feel. You know how regular raspberries can make your mouth feel dry? It might be an effect of their sour, mouth-puckering taste. Well, Jewel raspberries don’t do that. Therefore they taste sweeter than the red type.

Growth & Health:
All four types of raspberries I planted in Year 1 (2009) were slow to start. Jewel was the only one of 4 to actually put out a full-sized shoot for Year 2. This is testament again to its vigorous (invasive) growth habit. Now in Year 3, this is the healthiest of my 4 varieties. It is also putting out shoots further away from the original planting, good for starting new plants elsewhere.

Downside: the thorns!

Grow Again?
Unlikely. These are hardy, vigorous, and put out a lot of fruit. But the vines have many thorns. In hindsight, I’d get more yellow raspberries and instead of black raspberries, choose a thornless, non-suckering blackberry.

End-of-Year Stats (2nd year Harvest):
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield____Yield per Plant
__2_________late June_________-_________1 cup_______1 cup
3rd year Harvest:
Just started, but have harvested about 1/2 cup already.  

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Victoria rhubarb, diced

Official Description:

The best cooking rhubarb, bar none-noticeably sweeter and milder the all others. Stalks are slender and very tender, so it’s quick and easy to fix for the pot. Plants are prolific; stalks green with red blush.

Appearance:
The stalks are green with a red tint at the root end. If you cut your stalks to harvest, you will get even less red tint than if you twist off by hand. My plants were a little low on full-sized stalks, which are supposed to be 1 inch wide.

You get more red color when stalks are twisted off rather than cut.

Taste:
If you are already a fan of rhubarb, then you will like these. They have the classic tart taste. They are really versatile in the kitchen, too. I used them in strawberry-rhubarb popsicles, rhubarb coffee cake, rhubarb muffins, etc.

Growth & Health:

 

Rhubarb plants in the garden

 

These plants are big and beautiful. When the planting tag says they need 3 feet of room, give it to them! I had to transplant one of my plants as it was planted too close to the first. The roots had grown exponentially since the first year I planted them. This was their 2nd year, and they grew very well and were very productive. They did tend to droop during the dry summer, so I kept them watered by hand to keep them perkier. However, when the stalks lowest to the ground start to droop, they will eventually die. You might as well keep the plant trimmed and eat the excess than let it go to waste.

Grow Again?
Rhubarb is a perennial, so it’s there for life. However, had I paid more attention when I picked out my variety, I would not get the Victoria kind again. I really wanted red stalks to provide more visual interest in the garden bed.

End-of-Year Stats (2nd year Harvest):
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield____Yield per Plant
__2__________late May_________-_______26 cups_______13 cups

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The lemon squash is an heirloom summer squash

I loved growing 8Ball zucchini, so when I found out there was a round yellow squash out there I couldn’t wait to grow these.

Official Description:

(C. pepo) The shape, size and color of a lemon, it grows great here, has huge yields and the best resistance to insects I have seen in a summer squash. Very tasty, great fried! A favorite, this is a superb market variety and is very attractive.

Appearance:
They are very like a lemon in size and shape. When picked at “lemon” sized, they average 6 oz, but I tried to wait and pick them when they were larger, 8 oz or so. The outside of the squash is absolutely amazing: they are delicately handpainted with 2 shades of yellow.

See the hand painted striping?

Taste:
They taste just like any other yellow squash. In my experience, yellow squash differs from green zucchini by having a tad thicker skin, slightly more rubbery texture and tend to be seedier at a smaller size. These keep better than store bought yellow squash, thankfully. They also have pretty dense flesh so they can really hold up to various cooking methods.

A lemon squash makes nice slices

Growth & Health:
I grew 2 vines. They are a bush-type plant. One vine was healthy and productive, the other was a runt. Both plants escaped with only minor damage from early squash vine borers. They got powdery mildew late in the season but my larger plant kept trying to grow despite being in the throes of certain death.

Grow Again?
Maybe. I was not impressed with the harvest of these. If I grow again, I’ll plant twice as many so I can make stuffed squash more than just once in the season. But overall, I preferred 8Ball zucchini to these. The fruits would not get bigger than 8 oz no matter how long they were left on the vines while the 8Balls got to 1 lb easily. They really are attractive, though.

End-of-Year Stats:
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield____Yield per Plant
__2____________63_____________-_______9__________4

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After reading Amy Goldman’s superb book on squash, I just had to seek out this variety and grow them for myself.

This squash is the smaller of the two, at 1 lb 6 oz or so

Official Description:

(C. moschata) The wild squash of the Everglades. The round, lightly ribbed 3 lb squash have tan skin. The sweet flesh is deep orange, dry and of good quality. The productive vines are resistant to insects and disease. Found growing wild in Florida by early Spanish settlers, it can now only be found in remote parts of the Everglades.

Appearance:
They are kind of shaped like bottle gourds, or a pear shape with a round wide bottom and a narrow short neck. They were green on the vine and turned tan about a month after harvesting. Cut them off the vine when you can’t easily poke your thumbnail through the skin. Then continue to store the fruit to develop peak flavors and eat when the skin has turned completely buff colored, or about a month later.

Taste:
Unfortunately, after all they hype I had for these, they were bland, watery and stringy. And a bit coarse as far as texture. I did not enjoy mine even stuffed with delicious bean filling. Alas, my portion went to waste. For the second one, I’ll use it in baked goods (like pumpkin bread) to hide the texture.

The flesh was medium orange but a bit coarse and stringy.

Growth & Health:
I had one vine grow and got two squash. This was very disappointing for me, as I had read about these vines in terms of invasive, can’t be killed, grows like a weed, roots from the nodes, puts out tons of squash, etc. The only thing I hadn’t read about it is that it has variegated leaves that were very pretty. Growth was minimal and less than the standard pumpkins I also grew. It was mildly resistant to squash vine borer but my pumpkin vines were attacked worse and still managed to make bigger fruit.

The leaves are a beautiful variegated pattern

Grow Again?
Sigh, no. I love these for the heritage of them, but I can’t use them for what I wanted: stuffed squash meals. The size were smaller than projected and yield was way less. I’m going to explore growing maximas next year for their guaranteed smooth flesh quality.

End-of-Year Stats:
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield____Yield per Plant
__1____________109_____________-_________2__________2

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