Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The virtuous radish

French Breakfast radishes alongside their cooked green tops

Now that the heat of summer is over and the cool Fall nights have begun, it's time to plant new seed of cool-loving vegetables and greens. These are many of the same veggies that thrived in cool Spring.
About 3 weeks ago I began planting new little rows of spinach, carrot, bok choy, radishes, beets, and new baby kale and swiss chard. I also have been trying out new types of seeds for various Asian greens to see what they do.

My favorite radish is the long French Breakfast radish.
The trick to radishes, since they grow so quickly in cool weather, is to plant a new row of seed about once a week, with only about 15 seeds in the row, one inch or so apart. This provides a steady source of fresh young crispy radishes, rather than having too many radishes ready to harvest at once, or worse yet getting older and fibrous in the ground while waiting too long to be picked. Treat your seeds like the precious treasures they are, and space them out carefully in succession for the best freshest supply of delicacies.

When radishes are still young and fresh, their green tops can be cooked quickly in a very small amount of water and eaten like spinach. Incredibly nutritious! The slightly furry-prickly leaves quickly soften and shrink in volume by about two thirds when cooked, just like spinach does. I like to cook a whole large bowlful in about 1/2 cup of water, add a small pat of butter and a little sea salt at the end, and consume the nutritious broth right along with the radish greens.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

From the garden

Today I picked a big bowl each of carrots, cherry tomatoes, and string beans from our vegetable garden.
This is about the fourth bowl of green beans and the second batch of carrots we've gotten from the very small patches I sowed- each only about one square yard's worth of garden space.
We've had lots of cherry tomatoes for several weeks now, but tomatoes are winding down. The single large tomato in the photo is our last of the large tomatoes- we've had a drought and the tomato vines are giving up the ghost.
The carrot variety is "Royal Chatenay", a short fat carrot. I like the shorter carrots since I don't have to dig eight or nine inches down to loosen the soil when sowing the seed. Instead, five inches with a garden fork will do them nicely. I probably should have pulled these carrots when they were smaller, but I was busy with other things. Some of the carrots were one and a half inches thick! They taste wonderful anyway, like all fresh grown carrots do.
The green bean is a Blue Lake bush type. I like the bush beans rather than pole beans for my situation- they won't grow in a tall climbing shape that might block the sun from other plants. My protected vegetable garden space is not limitless, so I have to plan carefully.
We'll be having carrots and green beans with mashed potatoes for dinner the next couple of nights.
The large single flower is Tithonia, or Mexican sunflower. A friend gave me three tiny seedlings of it. The plant gets quite big and has large showy bright orange flowers. This stem blew over in the wind and broke so I put the flower in a glass of water.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Crazy Comb

I put a box with no wax foundations on top of each of my hives a few weeks ago, to see if they would build some straight comb and fill it with honey. When you give bees space with no foundation, you have to keep an eye on them to discourage them from just building wild wavy honeycomb every which way. One frame had a nice straight comb started, but on another frame there was this beautiful 'art comb' begun. The last photo shows how it was oriented when hanging from the frame's top bar. Keep in mind that all the curves on this piece of comb are exactly how it was built by the bees- there was no sagging or bending to create these undulating folds. It's like a delicate coral.
I had to remove it because if it got larger I wouldn't be able to remove frames later on at all. In the wild, bees naturally construct comb shaped like beautiful hanging leaves.
It was a shame to have to cut this comb out, but it's certainly a lovely delicate and mysterious thing to have in the living room to show people. It smells wonderful too, pure beewax.
Hopefully the bees will try drawing some straighter comb next time.