Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review of Annie's Black Krim tomato

I am not the best person to give an opinion of tomato taste profile.  I don't really like raw tomatoes.  I mainly use them in sauces and on BLTs. Actually, now that I think about it, I might be the perfect person to give an objective opinion.

The black krim (on left) is a deep maroon with green seeds on the inside.  Obviously much darker than the one on the right which I think is a classic beefsteak.

The red tomato has your standard delicious homegrown flavor.  Obviously vine-ripened and 100X the intensity of your supermarket hothouse 2.99/lb. junk.

The black krim should be a special treat for any tomato lover. Highly acidic and potent in flavor.  Some say they are higher in sugars but I didn't notice any more sweetness.  Cheers!

Update 8/20:  Now that it is late in the season, I have a few comments to add.  First, these plants, while interesting and tasty, are not very practical for real food production.  They are more of a novelty item.  The plants produce very few fruit.  While the tomatoes are very large, they are highly prone to splitting.  The fruits look very under-ripe until they are too ripe.  The entire top half of the tomato will remain dark green until it is over-ripened, and while the green coloration does not affect the taste, it is unattractive and deceiving when judging ripeness.  The fruit never quite achieves one uniform color when ripe.  The fruits are also mushy and lack toughness.  They will not stand up to stacking, boxing, or transport and are therefore a poor choice for markets.  They are an excellent slicing tomato but are terrible for preserving.  The scalding/peeling process causes most of the flesh to dissolve, and there are many seeds. half of each tomato is wasted.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Black Hungarian pepper wins again!

For the second year my Hungarian blacks have proven the earliest to ripen.  Grown in containers in the greenhouse, the large, bushy plants are prolific and grow some of the prettiest jalapeno-type pods that turn from dark purple to bright, shiny red.  Walls are thick and juicy, versatile for cooking and pickling and make the best hot sauce. Comparatively slow to soften, dry out and rot after picking, especially if kept in the refrigerator.  This is definitely one of my all-time favorite chile peppers!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Early Review of Baker Creek Feher Ozon Paprika pepper

This was the first pepper I used this season.  After great germination, I now have more of these in my GH and garden than any other.  I started picking them while still light in color.

  • Early germination and rapid growth
  • Quick to flower
  • Short, stocky, sturdy plants
  • Good for container gardening
  • Prolific for their size (5-8 large pods in 1st wave)
  • Pods are upright and thick-walled
  • Amazing, powerful aroma and green bell flavor even when immature
  • No heat so far
  • Perfect in any recipe that calls for green bells
  • Very pale in color (not a problem as long as color isn't important to presentation)
  • Good for stuffing and general cooking needs

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chinese Red Noodle Bean Recipe

Here is a great way to use those giant noodle beans.  A great side with grilled meat or fish.  I had some tatume squash that grew back from last year, so I threw it in with some onions and some home-made chimichurri.  Delicious!

Serves 2:
1Tbl Olive Oil
1/2 cup onions, sliced
5-6 noodle beans, cut into 3" pieces
1 small summer squash, 1" dice
1/4 c. white wine
2T. chimichurri sauce (optional)

Heat oil in medium-hot pan, saute onions for 3 minutes or until clear.  Add beans and saute for another 3 minutes,  Add wine and squash, cover and cook 3 minutes.  Add chimichurri, stir, then serve.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review of Annie's Black Cherry Tomato

These plants are extremely prolific and the flavor is intense!  Sweet and super-acidic, you should like really bold flavors (think olives and curry) in order to enjoy these.  They can easily overpower anything you add them to.  I halved them and threw a handful in a light garlic sauce for shrimp and pasta and they added the perfect amount of acidy.  Definitely a must-try if you want to learn how much flavor a little cherry tomato can pack!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The $400 patio!

I am proud of this job.  Recycled brick pavers and a lot of lifting got this job done in a little under 2 weeks!

Used patio pavers: $100
Stone and sand: $100
Compactor rental: $50
Polymeric sand: $65
Mulch and miscellaneous: $25
Gas to haul everything: $60

The best part about the used bricks is that there were already many cut pieces from the previous patio.  I was able to find all the irregular shapes I needed and didn't need to rent a saw!

Step 1:  8 inches of stone base. Do it if you want the patio to last several winters. Our 12x16 layout required about 8 tons of 2A modified, which is 3/4" stone mixed with stone dust for good compaction.  That was 8 trips to the quarry in the pickup truck.  A lot of shoveling, raking and tamping to get it level, but only cost $10 per ton. If you can get a delivery truck to drop it right on your site, pay the extra for delivery and save 8 hours of work!

 I removed about 5" of topsoil and grass to fit the stone to the level I wanted.  I liked that because it meant I could build up flower beds in other places around my property.

Step 2: Find two straight bars of some sort that won't bend and about 1" high to use as levelers and a screed for the top coat of sand.  I used two shelving brackets that worked reasonably well. The screed was a piece of angle steel.  Many people use strong pipes for levelers and a straight wooden screed.  I just used what was laying around.

Step 3: Buy leveling sand (the quarry had "DEP sand" for $15 a ton.  I only needed one ton for my 12x16 irregular, but it was close.  I had very little left over.  Work in small patches and start laying in your pavers.  You want to be very careful with your measurements at the beginning so it doesn't throw everything off at the end.  Run lines, snap chalk lines, and measure constantly if you want everything to be perfectly straight.

Step 4: Keep going!  It is monotonous and heavy work, especially on 90-degree July days, but it's worth it! Lay the leveler, check for level, screed the sand, lay the brick, repeat.

Step 5: Edging.  I like to come up with  a non-commercial product that will work just as well.  Since I didn't need any curves, I figured a straight piece of composite decking would work. It's tough, easy to work with, and impervious to rot. I am lucky to have a used building supply house nearby that sold me a 20-footer for $12 plus another $12 for spikes to hold it in place.  $24 is much better than $75 for a "professional" edging kit. I ripped the 1x6 board into two 1x3s and had my border.

Step 6:  Rent the compactor.  It makes for such a nice, clean, even surface and is worth every penny.

Step 6: Sweep in the polymer-based sand.  We needed 3 buckets at $20 each.  Not an essential step, but it really locks the stones and hardens so it won't wash or blow away. 100 pounds of play sand would be a whole lot cheaper.

Step 7: Landscape as you like and done!

 Now to paint the house!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Cheapest DIY Rain Barrel (that works better than most)

So I found a way to build an effective rain collection barrel for around $40.  The advantages to my rain barrel are that it:

  • Harvests every drop of rain until full
  • Won't clog under normal conditions
  • Only needs to be cleaned once a year
  • Does not overflow in a storm
  • Will not interfere with your existing drainage system
  • Easy to install and remove for winter storage
  • Uses standard downspout materials found in any home center

All parts were purchased at the local Ace Hardware store.

I used a trash can (32 gal) for easy cleaning and construction.  A 55 gal blue barrel could be adapted for increased water needs.

1 trash can with lid
2 plastic downspout extenders (accordion style), fitted to the size of your downspout
1 bulkhead fitting (this may be difficult to find at HD or Lowe's, but search Ace or online)
1 boiler drain valve or your choice of hose connection
1 tube silver gutter sealant (much better than silicone for this job)

At first I tried silicone to seal the seams, but it wouldn't stick the the trash can material.  My next move was to try Seamer Mate, found in the roofing/gutter section of home depot.  A full-size caulk tube is not necessary, and you have to throw it away after you open it, so try to find the smaller tube to save some money.

Since using Seamer Mate, I found the Lowe's version.  I can't remember the name, but it's found with the gutters and it comes in a caulk tube.   It's clear and you don't have to throw it away after opening.  Much more economical. This stuff has a million waterproofing uses, and what great adhesion!

Here is a close-up of the bulkhead fitting.  This is essential to keeping water in your barrel!  Notice how the inside is threaded so you can add a drain valve.

The best part about this design is that every drop of rain is directed into the barrel, and once full, all rain goes back into your drainage system.

During winter, the barrel can be removed.  Just take the top accordion and reconnect the two sections of downspout for flawless performance.

If the trash can is too much of an eyesore, you could always build a little house like I did here.  I found some old doors and used them as my walls, with just some planks as a roof.  It doesn't have to keep out water, just hide the barrel from view.  

I put hinges on the front for easy access,

And when the season is over, I just disconnect and store the barrel inside!  

Here is another version that I built using a 275 gallon cube tote tank.  It required some creative use of PVC to fit the outlet, but the design is the same. I used some stockade fence to hide it.