Harvest Monday: the Giant Comes Home – 08/26/2013

August 26, 2013  |  6 Comments  |  by Ben Czajkowski  |  Gardening

Not much to report on the garden this week. I had to water my plants for about the sixth time, this season. This glut of rain is quite perplexing and has been a bit of a pain, to the peppers.

Harvest Monday 08/26/2013

The Fish pepper plant continued to produce. It’s been a consistent producer, and its fruits will become hot sauce for Christmas presents soon. I’m just waiting on the Tabasco peppers to finish turning from orange to red.

Giant Aconcagua Pepper

Giant Aconcagua Pepper

The big ‘news’ for the garden this week is that I finally got a giant aconcagua pepper! The one that I should have gotten, previously, conveniently rotted on the plant

Anyway, I also bought a zucchini, squash, and another cucumber plant and set them up in Kratky Method hydroponic buckets. I’ve loaded them up with nutrients, and we’ll see if I can get any fruits before the season ends down here in Greensboro.

Lastly, my Boston Pickling cucumber plant that was marked as dead, in a Kratky bucket, has started to grow new roots. Its little bit of growth has produced another couple of cucumbers. So, as long as it continues to produce fruits, I’ll continue to love it!

Weekly Weights:
-Giant Aconcagua Pepper: 2 3/8 oz.
-Cherry Bomb Pepper: 1 oz.
-Orange Mini Bell Pepper: 1/2 oz.
-Fish Pepper: 1 1/8 oz.
-Arugula: 1/2 oz.
-Baby Cukes (from dead vines): 1 oz.

Head on over to Daphne’s for her Harvest Monday roundup!

Harvest Monday: Pickle City – 08/19/2013

August 19, 2013  |  12 Comments  |  by Ben Czajkowski  |  Gardening

Quite a small harvest this week after a few in a row of bountiful harvests. Not complaining, though, certainly.

Harvest Monday 08/09/2013

I finally procured a Red Beauty Bell Pepper that wasn’t half rotted or half green or torn open by the birds. Something started to do damage to it, though, over the weekend. I am glad I was able to cut it from the plant. Makes me sad because I have no idea when the next flowers will start popping up, on the plant!

Pepper Assortment

Pepper Assortment

The Fish Peppers produced another wonderful harvest of red peppers. I am going to make some hot sauce this weekend and give it to people as Christmas presents, I’ve decided. I’ve already found hot sauce jars and added them to my Amazon wishlist. If you have a hot sauce recipes you’ve made before, please leave it in the comments. Thanks!

3 Jars of Refrigerator Pickles from Kratky Hydroponics

3 Jars of Refrigerator Pickles from Kratky Hydroponics

Boston Pickling Cucumber Seeds

Boston Pickling Cucumber Seeds

Lastly, the Boston Pickling Cucumber plant is starting to fade away. I think I drowned the roots, which was a learned lesson in my Kratky method hydroponics experiment. I saved a couple dozen seeds to share with people, over the Fall and Winter. I might grow a few of them again next year, depending on how the pickles turn out.

I made three jars of refrigerator pickles, and I look forward to enjoying them in a few days with my lunches. Nothing like fresh pickles!

After the success of the Boston Pickling Cucumber, I am heavily considering going to see what is left at Lowe’s. It’s late August, but I think I’ll be able to get a growing season into mid-October… We’ll see.

Weekly Weights:
Red Beauty Bell Pepper: 4 3/4 oz
Fish Peppers: 1/2 oz

I’m linking to Daphne’s Harvest Monday roundup.

Refrigerator Pickles from Kratky Hydroponics

August 18, 2013  |  1 Comments  |  by Ben Czajkowski  |  Cooking, Gardening

There are so few treats as delicious and satisfying, from the garden, as pickles. There’s just something about that SNAP!, as the first piece breaks off into your mouth.

Refrigerator Pickles from Kratky Hydroponics

I’m not talking nasty sweet pickles; I’m talking delicious dill and garlic refrigerator pickles. Sure, I could have canned them and then waited 6 months. I already have 4 jars of those under my kitchen island, and I am getting quite impatient for fresh pickles!

Thankful for my bountiful harvest of 12 cucumbers from a plant that I didn’t have to put in the ground, do much to care for, and learned an abundance from, the Boston Pickling Cucumber has been a true treat. Using the off-the-grid Kratky hydroponics method, I was able to make three packed jars of refrigerator pickles.

The recipe was easy and took only a few minutes. The longest point was the boiling and cooling off. All cukes are going to be different sizes. So, scale the rest of this recipe to your liking and needs. Here’s what I did:

Supplies:

  • 12 or so cucumbers for pickling
  • 3 old spaghetti sauce jars with good lids
  • 1 bunch of dill from the grocery store
  • 1 bulb of garlic, 3 cloves per jar
  • 1 TBSP coriander, cracked
  • 1 TBSP peppercorns, cracked
  • 2 cups white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 TBSP picking salt
  1. In a pot, mix the water, vinegar, and salt. Bring to a simmering boil. Boil til the salt is completely mixed.
  2. Scrub the jars with hot, soapy water. Or sanitize them per your regime.
  3. Clean the cucumbers thoroughly. Don’t skin them. What are you? A monster?
  4. Slice the pickles into whatever configuration you want: spears, slices, cubes, chunks, spirals, hearts…
  5. In the bottoms of the jars, pack in some dill. Scale to your liking.
  6. Add in the 3 garlic cloves and 1TBSPs of coriander and peppercorns, to each jar.
  7. Pack in those cucumber cuttings! Pack it tight. Don’t break them though.
  8. Add another layer of dill on top of the jar.
  9. Using a ladle and a funnel, or something similar, put the brine into the jars. Leave about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of head space.
  10. Tap the jars vigorously to shake loose any air bubbles. Add any more liquid that you might need.
  11. Bring the jars to room temperature.
  12. Put in fridge.
  13. Enjoy in about 48 hours. However, the longer they sit, the more delightful they’re going to be.
  14. ???
  15. Profit

Leave any recipe thoughts, comments, questions, tips, or tricks you might have in the comments!

Harvest Monday – Morning Edition: 08/12/2013

August 12, 2013  |  12 Comments  |  by Ben Czajkowski  |  Gardening

Another pepper-tastic week in the garden. No major casualties to report.

Harvest Monday 08/12/2013

Ripening giant Aconcagua pepper

Last week, the giant Aconcagua pepper plant had a fruit that completely decayed, on the plant, during ripening. Luckily, I have one pepper on there that appears to be holding its own, for the time being; it’s beginning to ripen. There are also two other peppers that are still growing.

Scottish Kale

Picked Scottish Kale

In the kitchen, I had a few Kale plants that I kept tiny. From them, I picked leaves that I would add into the baby’s purees. Sadly, they were hit with aphids, and I just decided to cut and wash the leaves.

Leaving the plant outside overnight, most of the aphids decided to find a new home or were eaten. I still harvested the plants and have two more prepping in the Aerogarden.

Birds pecked into this Red Beauty Bell Pepper

Red Beauty Bell pepper ripening on the plant

Another bird got at one of my two remaining Red Beauty Bell peppers. What you can’t see is about 1/3 of it is still green-red. I picked it, and my wife cut away the bad spots. She fried up strips and put it them into her red beans and rice dish.

The remaining Red Beauty is being checked daily for problems. At the time of this writing, it’s in good shape!

Boston Pickling Cucumbers

The Kratky Method Boston Pickling Cucumber plant put out another round of cukes. The plant is suffering a bit. I cut off the dried leaves and tried to re-string some of the vines to increase airflow. So far, I’ve been very pleased with this method of hydroponics and cucumber plant, in general.

Mini Yellow Bell Peppers, Fish Peppers, and Chinese Five-Colored Peppers

Lastly, the hot peppers and mini bell pepper plants continue to put out a decent crop.

Weekly Weights:
Red Beauty Bell Peppers: 4 3/4 oz.
Yellow Mini Bell Peppers: 8 1/4 oz.
Fish and Chinese Peppers: 3 1/4 oz.
Cherry Bomb Peppers: 2 1/8 oz.
Boston Pickling Cucumbers: 1 lb. 4 5/8 oz.
Scottish Kale: 1/2 oz.

Visit Daphne’s page and to see others and share your harvest.

Harvest Monday: Putrefaction – 08/05/2013

August 5, 2013  |  6 Comments  |  by Ben Czajkowski  |  Gardening

This was an interesting week for my peppers. And not interesting in a good way.

harvest monday pepper blend

To start things off, I started chopping up what I thought were very small Red Beauty bell peppers. I’d remarked on them in previous Harvest Mondays, thinking that two of my three Red Beauty plants had just put up a crop of tiny, crowded bell peppers.

Unintentional hot peppers

Unintentional hot peppers

Turns out these were hot little bastards a la Cherry Bomb peppers.

That blew my mind. These Red Beauty bell pepper seeds were from a seed packet that I’d had around for a number of years. I thought, maybe, because these peppers were next to my Tabasco container, the pollen from those hot peppers crossed into the sweet bell peppers and created a hybrid. ABSOLUTELY WRONG.

Peppers cannot become hot hybrids like this until the next generation, if this was the case. If these were sweet bell peppers, I saved the seeds, and planted them next year, then there would be a chance that these peppers would be a hot child. The likelihood is that whatever seeds that I had from the packet were most likely cross-pollinated. Or I’ve somehow mixed up seeds over the years, still managing to get one Red Beauty bell pepper plant.

Regardless, I am disappointed. While I appreciate hot peppers, I really just wanted a solid crop of sweet Red Beauty bell peppers. Instead, there was about a couple dozen or so hot peppers that I hadn’t prepared for! I chopped some up, melted them in with Brie cheese, and made turkey-wrap presses with them. Made a great, fiery lunch!

My wife chopped all my peppers, over the weekend, and we’re going to make sweet and hot bell pepper spread and probably give it to people as Christmas presents. While she worked in Boston, she learned about a sandwich condiment called “Hots”, which is a hot pepper relish spread. She swears by it, as do many others on the Internet. So, we’re going to give it a shot.

Yellow and Orange mini bell peppers

Yellow and Orange mini bell peppers

The mini bell peppers put out a massive crop, all ripening at once. Usually, I’m not that lucky. Almost a pound of peppers that will be added to the hot relish.

Fish peppers and chinese five colored peppers

Fish peppers and chinese five colored peppers

Striped Fish Pepper

I love the stripes on these Fish peppers

Same with the Fish and Chinese Five-colored peppers.

Birds pecked this Red Beauty bell pepper

Birds pecked this Red Beauty bell pepper. Liam found the stem fascinating.

Even the hot peppers weren't safe from the birds

Even the hot peppers weren’t safe from the birds

I was forced to harvest two of my Red Beauty bell peppers that were actually bell peppers. One had begun to rot, and it wasn’t quite ready to come off yet, but I cut it anyway. The other, was attacked by these smart-as-shit birds that plague my area of North Carolina. Added to the relish.

Boston Pickling Cucumbers

Boston Pickling Cucumbers

The Boston Pickling cucumbers produced several nice fruits this week. Along with the two from last week, I’m going to make another jar of pickles to go with the four aging in my cabinet. I actually might make refrigerator pickles from them, the more I think about it. I don’t really know if I want to boil just ONE jar…

Pepper's insides turned completely to water

Pepper’s insides turned completely to water

The devastating blow came this week when I went to check on my Aconcagua pepper plant. I had two long, soon-to-ripen peppers. I noticed that one was yellowed, sagging, and wrinkled. I picked it off and it immediately dropped from the stem, splattering onto the ground in a wet, sicking mess. It smelled absolutely awful. Somehow, the pepper putrefied or liquefied, right on the plant! I tried Googling for similar experiences, but nothing came up quickly. This pepper plant is cursed! Luckily, there is still one healthy looking fruit and another following closely behind.

I also scrapped the three mini bell pepper plants that were in the deep water culture hydroponics bucket, in my kitchen. The three have been fighting an aphid infestation for just too long, and I don’t feel like continuing to prop them up. I learned some mighty valuable lessons from my patient zeroes. Now, it’s time to move on to another plant (like a real bell pepper!)

I’ll end on a good note: since I couldn’t sleep on Saturday night because of some wicked acid reflux, I began to research overwintering these pepper plants properly. I’m probably going to build a mini-hot house for the containers. I’d love to keep some of them into next season for an even bigger crop, especially early! With how cold it was to start the summer, I’ll probably only get one more solid harvest out of these plants.

This week: new pepper plants and feeding!

Weekly Weights:
Red Beauty Bell Peppers: 10 oz.
Chinese and Fish Peppers: 2 3/4 oz.
Mini yellow and orange Bell Peppers: 15 1/2 oz.
Red Beauty Cherry Bombs: 11 1/8 oz.
Boston Pickling Cucumbers: 1 lb. 3 1/8 oz.

I’m linking to Daphne’s Harvest Monday.

Harvest Monday: For Whom the Bell Pepper Tolls – 07/28/2013

July 29, 2013  |  2 Comments  |  by Ben Czajkowski  |  Gardening

Good lord. So many bell peppers to use up!

Harvest Monday, July 29, 2013

This is the exact problem I wanted to find myself in. Only I had expected the Red Beauty peppers to be a bit bigger. This group has been the size of mini bell peppers, but they’re weighty, definitely. All of the peppers are going to be stuffed and roasted this week. I am incredibly excited about it. I’ve been pinning various recipes, for the last couple weeks.

Harvest Monday Group Shot

Harvest Monday Group Shot

A ton of peppers came off the plants, this week. The Kratky Method hydroponic bucket produced two cucumbers that I decided to pick and sample.

Cucumber compared to pepper

Cucumber compared to pepper

The cucumbers are only a few inches long, but they still tower over the small peppers.

Striped Fish Peppers

Striped Fish Peppers

I love the striped Fish peppers. They’re taste is fantastic. I look forward to sharing out their seeds with people that like peppers with a little bit of heat. They taste a step down, in terms of heat, when compared to jalapenos, in my opinion.

Weekly Weights:
Boston Pickling Cucumbers: 6 5/8 oz.
Mini Bell Peppers: 3 3/8 oz.
Red Beauty Bell Peppers: 10 1/8 oz.
Chinese Five Color Peppers: 1/8 oz.
Fish Peppers: 1 1/2 oz.

Harvest Monday is a chance to show off weekly crops. It’s hosted by Daphne.

Harvest Monday: All the Colors of the Rainbow – 07/22/2013

July 22, 2013  |  4 Comments  |  by Ben Czajkowski  |  Gardening

Happy Monday! Somewhere, in an alternate dimension, the non-sick me is typing this while sipping a homebrewed beer instead of a cup of tea. When my family visited last, my mom drank my last bags of my comfort tea (Chinese White). I am a sad gardener.

Harvest Monday: July 22, 2013

Harvest Monday: July 22, 2013

It was another hot, muggy, wet week in Greensboro, but I only had to water once… It’s absolutely surreal that I haven’t had to water much. I prepped the garden containers to retain moisture, and now I think I overdid it. The peppers have wet feet, and they’re a bit on the light green side. As Barbie suggested, and as I’ve seen frequently on Pinterest recently, I’ve ordered a box of Epsom salts with which to spray my peppers.

Luckily, I hit up a yard sale over the weekend. I bought two giant square earthbox-like planters for $3 apiece. Normally, these suckers retail for around $50, the full kit. There’s nothing better than the feeling of getting an awesome sub-irrigated planter for cheap!

Regardless, I pulled in another batch of colorful peppers.

A Rainbow of Assorted Peppers

A Rainbow of Assorted Peppers

The bell peppers, the larger red ones, for some reason, they didn’t gain much in size. Two of the three Red Beauty bell pepper plants are like that. The third has its fruits at sizes I would expect. Now, these plants are all undersized and set a ton of fruit. So, it’s possible that it’s a space issue.

I am stoked to stuff these suckers and grill them, though!

The other peppers are an assortment of the Chinese Five Colored peppers, mini yellow and orange bell peppers, and Fish peppers. I wanted to do tasting notes on the Five Colored and Fish peppers for this week, but my taste buds are shot!

The yellow mini bell peppers from last week were delicious! Tiny, but they packed a huge punch. I’ve already begun pinning what to do with the glut of others that are on the way!

Weights:
Red Beauty Bell Peppers: 5 3/8 oz
Mini Yellow & Orange Bell Peppers: 1 1/8 oz
Fish Peppers: 1/4 oz
Chinese Five Colored Peppers: 1/2 oz

Weekly Garden Update – 07/16/2013

July 16, 2013  |  1 Comments  |  by Ben Czajkowski  |  Gardening

Time for a quick container garden update (to at least document, once, this summer) and check in on how the various plants are doing (spoilers: they’re okay, for the most part!).

The Littlest Gardener takes a nap after a busy day.

The Littlest Gardener takes a nap after a busy day.

It’s been a hot week, so far, and it makes everyone sleepy, especially the Littlest Gardener.

Rosemary, Peppermint, Sweet Mint, and Sweet Basil

Rosemary, Peppermint, Sweet Mint, and Sweet Basil

The peppermint and sweet mint are in some need of a haircut. They’ve completely overrun their containers. The sweet basil is unhappy with the amount of rain that we’ve received; it doesn’t like wet feet very much, and the soil that it’s in retains too much water. I should remedy that. Lastly, the rosemary just had a haircut earlier this week.

A container of mini bell pepper plants.

A container of mini bell pepper plants.

A ripened, orange mini bell pepper.

A ripened, orange mini bell pepper.

The mini bell peppers that are soil-bound are happily producing peppers. One of the orange peppers is fully ripe and will be picked tomorrow.

Red Beauty Bell Peppers

Red Beauty Bell Peppers

The Red Beauty peppers, in an earthbox I picked up for $5 at a yard sale, they’ve put on a ton of peppers. Three of them are almost ready for picking. Excited to turn these into burrito filling.

Aconcagua peppers

Aconcagua peppers

The Aconcagua pepper plant has two awesomely long beauties on there that I, honestly, didn’t realize where there until I took this picture. They’re facing away from the house.

Cajun Belle Peppers

Cajun Belle Peppers

The Cajun Belle pepper that shares the planter with the Aconcagua pepper is stagnant since I picked it up from Lowe’s a few weeks ago. It was probably stunted when I purchased it, which makes me sad because I was really looking forward to trying these peppers.

Tabasco Pepper Plants

Tabasco Pepper Plants

Tabasco Peppers upclose

Tabasco Peppers upclose

The Tabasco peppers have put on a load of flowers, in the last week, several of which have turned into fruits. Really looking forward to seeing just how spicy actual Tabasco peppers are.

Chinese Five Color Plants and Fish Pepper Plant

Chinese Five Color Plants and Fish Pepper Plant

The centerpiece of the container garden contains two Chinese Five Color peppers and one Fish Pepper plant. The Chinese Five Colors produce beautiful purple peppers to start that turn various colors through its live. The Fish Pepper has variegated leaves and peppers with white stripes. They’re supposed to be mildly spicy, and I’m looking forward to trying them, as well.

Kratky Method Pickling Cucumber Plant

Kratky Method Pickling Cucumber Plant

Kratky Method Pickling Cucumber Roots

Kratky Method Pickling Cucumber Roots

Lastly, the experimental Boston Picking cucumber plant, in the Kratky method planter is doing very well. I’m going to need to set up a trellis for it by the end of the week. I’ve been pinning ideas that I need to put together, this weekend to help maximize my future-pickle output.

Harvest Monday and the First Peppers of the Season – 07/15/2013

July 15, 2013  |  5 Comments  |  by Ben Czajkowski  |  Gardening

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in Harvest Monday, which is a garden community activity that allows gardeners to showcase their weekly harvests (hosted over at Daphne’s).

Harvest Monday: Mini Bell Peppers and Rosemary

Harvest Monday: Mini Bell Peppers and Rosemary

The three pepper plants that I have in my kitchen, which are growing mini bell peppers hydroponically, produced the first two yellow peppers of the season. I am looking forward to eating my first fruits of my hydroponic experiments.

The soil-bound counterparts are just absolutely flush with mini bell peppers. The hydroponic three are struggling a bit; they’ve come down with a round of aphids that have forced me to pluck the flowers to control the outbreak. While I am treating the plants, it’s a time-consuming process, sadly; any gardener who has fought through the aphids of War knows this plight.

Mini Yellow Bell Peppers on bed of rosemary

Mini Yellow Bell Peppers on bed of rosemary

Anyway, my rosemary plant has metamorphosed into a bush. So, I cut back some of those thicker branches, which have gone into the dehydrator. Dehyrating the rosemary cuttings makes the house smell fantastic. There is nothing like the smell of rosemary, aside of the fresh smell of pine. Makes me long for winter…

I’ll infuse some of the trimmings into olive oil and maybe even make some rosemary almonds and cashews, since, for some reason, there’s a glut of both in the pantry (thanks, Costco!).

Elsewhere, the arugula that I started for my Kratky Method Hydroponics experiment sprouted within 36 hours. That’s crazy! I’ve never had seeds sprout, with baby leaves up so quickly before. The kale is not far behind those (the stoma have come free), and the spinach is lingering. Learn more about this sub-irrigation method.

Recorded weights:
Peppers: 1 3/8 oz.
Rosemary: 1 1/2 oz.

Rosemary Olive Oil Recipe

July 14, 2013  |  Comments Off  |  by Ben Czajkowski  |  Do It Yourself - Gardening (DIY), Gardening

Growing rosemary is easy. It’s a low-fuss plant that produces some of the most poignant pins on the planet.

So, when you’re rosemary plant becomes a giant bush, you clip it back and use the clipping for just about everything: from bread to hair conditioner (works well).

Today, though, I turned the rosemary into a delightful cooking and mealtime treat. And, it’s super simple:

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil

Ingredients and Materials
-a container for the concoction
-funnel (optional)
-extra virgin olive oil
-4-6 sprigs of rosemary (scale to concentration and size of container)
-red pepper flakes (optional)
-roasted garlic chips (optional)
-pepper corns (optional)
-really, anything you want…

First, choose whether or not you want to dehydrate the rosemary; I opted to dehydrate the sprigs this time.

Take the sprigs of rosemary and put them into the container. If you have a long vertical container, like pictures above, leave the rosemary on the stems. You want equal distribution and opportunity for the infusion.

Add any dry extras that you want. I added red pepper flakes. I opted to add any garlic I want at cooking time.

Fill almost all the way to the top of the container with olive oil. You’ll want to leave a little head space. Using a funnel might making pouring easier.

Nothing says you can’t start cooking with it right away. I like to let it sit for a week first, though.

List any additions or thoughts on rosemary olive oil in the comments.