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Filtering by Tag: romano beans

Today's pick from my "orto" (vegetable garden)

Rosetta

Someone asked me the other day how much food I typically get from my Oakland orto. Of course it varies depending on the time of the year, but during the summer I typically pick enough for family dinner every night. As an example I thought I'd show you what I picked from my garden today, July 22, 2010. I picked enough romano beans to cook and serve as a salad for dinner:

This handful of gorgeous zucchini blossoms I will save for my Saturday cooking class:

Lots of figs, both Adriatic and Black Mission, from my trees:

I also picked two cucumbers, three zucchini and two eggplants, which I will use in a pasta dish tonight.

Oh! I forgot! I even got a basketful of strawberries from our strawberry bushes:

and lots of sweet sweet Italian prunes. Take a look at how many are on just one branch!

There is a lot of satisfaction in growing your own vegetables. I hope that I have convinced some of you to give it a try, even if you have only pots on a terrace. In fact I extend my own garden by planting in pots; all my basil and hot peppers ended up in pots this year. I even put a cherry tomato plant in a pot, and take a look at it. It is the first one to have ripe tomatoes!

I also get eggs every day now. Here are the eggs just from the last three days. The beautiful blue-green ones  were laid by Gelsomina, our Ameraucana chicken.

My family can almost live off our small garden during the summer months, especially now with the addition of those eggs.

My garden at the end of June

Rosetta

Last month I was worrying that my garden wasn't doing as well as last year since the weather had been unsually cold for the Bay Area. But after taking some pictures today and comparing them to last year's, I was amazed at how similar the garden is. After all that cold weather everything seems to have caught up to about where it was last year. But this year we have a new garden member: actual kiwi fruit on the vines!

I planted the vines three years ago and have patiently waited, and this year it finally happened. Last year, having almost given up on them, I went to the nursery where I had purchased the vines and asked whether I really had a male and female plant. The lady behind the counter reassured me: "It takes three to four years before kiwi bear fruit". Well, she was right! The fruit finally showed up this year and lots of them!

I'm happy to see my vegetables in such good shape. I've been tending them all by myself this past month since my parents are vacationing in Calabria. I have just a few more weeks on my own and then I will get lots of help with watering, tying and pruning those tomatoes. Take a look at last year post, so you'll know how to remove the suckers from the tomato plants.

The Romano beans are up to the top of their wood poles, loaded with flowers and tiny beans which I'll soon pick. The zucchini plants have started producing flowers and zucchini.

The tomatoes are up to the same level as last year

and the peppers and eggplants are doing just as well.

I think my parents will be happy with the results!

My vegetable garden in July

Rosetta

Since my last garden update in June a lot has happened in my garden. I have enjoyed fresh strawberries, zucchini, cucumbers, romano beans and baby lettuce every day, and lots of wonderful figs. We have a small patch of strawberries that provide us with the best fruit all summer long; we manage to pick a basket every other day!

Look how wonderful they are below, fully ripe and sweet and juicy. Note the shape and size carefully so that you can buy strawberries that look just like them at a farmers' market. Whatever you do, don't buy those giant, perfectly shaped strawberries.

July is also the month when we start harvesting and preserving some of the garden bounty.

We picked our sweet Italian red onions (cipolle di Tropea) and as you see from the picture below we braid them and hang them from my apple tree, which is how we always kept onions in Calabria. This way, they stay in the shade and don't sprout.  Not that I have to worry about their sprouting--they don't last past the summer months, because they make for great eating.

My 14-year-old son harvested his potato patch and was very proud of the results; from just a few cuttings he managed to pick 15 pounds. He has just planted another crop, this time of Yukon gold, to see if he can produce two crops in one year. I will let you know how his experiment turns out.

We also harvested my oregano patch.  Right after it is in full flower we cut it down to the base.

We tie the long stems in bunches with kitchen string and hang the bunches upside down to let it dry in a shady spot in the garden. This is the oregano that I'll use for the rest of the year for dishes that require it dried. But I always keep a small patch of fresh oregano in the yard; luckily here in California I am able to have fresh herbs all year round.

I also harvested lots of basil and made my first batch of pesto. I freeze it and put it away for the winter months.

The tomatoes are growing up their trellis. They are almost at the top of the poles and all the branches are loaded with tomatoes. In about a month I will have the juiciest, sweetest tomatoes.

The Italian eggplants are just starting now...

...as well as the sweet Italian peppers.

For the next update I will have a garden full of eggplants, tomatoes, romano beans, and hot and sweet peppers. August and September are the best time of year, loaded as they are with all my favorite vegetables.

My vegetable garden in June

Rosetta

I promised you in May that I would post some pictures of how my vegetable garden looks after a month.  Compare the photos in the previous post to those below to see the difference a mere four weeks make.  It is amazing to see seedlings change into fully grown plants and start producing fresh summer vegetables. The zucchini are producing beautiful blossoms and fruit.  The romano beans have grown to the top of the wood poles and the beans are ready to be picked.

The tomato plants are on their way.  My dad builds the entire trellis with recycled material he has around my garden, like wood poles, metal posts left over from when we built my house, and left over irrigation tubing.  He buys nothing and recycles everything from year to year.

The poles are about 6 - 7 feet high--that's as high as we can reach to tie the tomato stems--and planted about 6 feet apart.  These poles support the horizontal bars, which he makes out of wood sticks or tubing, are placed about 12 inches apart.  When the plants start producing, the trellis looks like a wall of tomatoes. You will have to wait until August to see what I am describing.  In the meantime, if you have planted San Marzano tomatoes and would like to use this time-honored Calabrian technique, please feel free.

Take a look at the picture below to see how my dad ties the tomato stems to the trellis. He uses strips of his old worn shirts!

We always remove all the suckers once the tomato plant is well on its way up the trellis. A tomato sucker, or side shoot, is a growth that appears between a branch and the main stem. Here is a picture of what it looks like:

We leave suckers on the lowest portion of the tomato plant, as many as five or six,  and these become the main branches that will produce tomatoes.  All the other suckers that are produced by these stems will be removed as the tomato stems climb up the trellis.   You want to prune the suckers when they are small, no more than two to four  inches.  Suckers this size can be snapped off with your fingers, but suckers any thicker than a pencil should be cut with a pruner or knife to avoid damaging the plant.

The eggplant and pepper plants are growing well and my two cucumber plants are on their way to producing:

This is the best time of the year in my garden; I get to pick fresh vegetables on a daily basis.

Even my fig trees are ready to produce wonderful sweet figs. They will be ripe enough to eat right off the tree by next week.

I have two large fig plants, a Kadota (green-skinned and golden flesh) and a black mission tree. I'll have more on figs in a future post.

My vegetable garden in May

Rosetta

While I was in Calabria the first week of May, my parents planted tomato plants in my garden for me: 30 San Marzanos, a couple of  Early Girls and few sweet red 100s, which are cherry tomatoes.  The majority of the San Marzanos will end up canned in jars, although we do eat a few in salads and I bring them to use in my cooking classes when they are at their peak. (The tomatoes, not the classes!). All the other tomatoes we eat fresh off the vines. Following the "from scratch" theme of this blog, my parents always start the tomato seedlings from the seeds they harvest from the tomatoes of the previous season.  The original seeds were the ones they brought from Calabria in the 1970s.

This is what the tomatoes looked like a week after they were planted:

My dad also planted zucchini, peppers (both the Italian sweet and the Calabrian hot), eggplants, and Romano beans.  One of his secret is to give each plant a nice drink of  "manure tea".   Yes, you guessed it:  goat manure steeped in water, truly smelly stuff.  He gives each plant about a quart of this tea and it acts like a booster shot.  It is amazing how they take off.

He always places the seeds of the Romano beans directly into the soil in early April and as you can see from the picture below the plants are already on their way up the poles.  My dad always uses old branches to make poles for the beans to climb on.

Here are pictures of the  zucchini, eggplant, cucumber and pepper plants.

I also have a wonderful lettuce bed of mixed baby greens that are thriving:

And right next to the lettuce bed are some beautiful potatoes planted by my 14-year-old son, who loves to grow his own potatoes as his own little project. He put them in the soil back in March and here is a picture of them in May:

I will give you a garden update next month so you can see how everything is progressing.