All posts by Jordan Charbonneau

SESE Candy Carrots and Sweet Roots

This is the third in our series of posts to help the many folks are getting into gardening for the first time, or are getting more serious about their vegetable gardening in these pandemic times. It’s from Pam Dawling AKA “Farmer Pam”, author of Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres, and The Year-Round Hoophouse: Polytunnels for All Seasons and All Climates. She managed a garden for 20 years that grew vegetables year round for 100 people. Pam also has her own wonderful, detailed, gardening blog SustainableMarketFarming.com. The first post in this series covered many useful details on Succession Planting. The second post, Last Chance Sowings discussed vegetables that need to be planted in late July or early August in order to become established in your fall and winter garden.

Pam writes from her experience in USDA Hardiness Zone 7a, in the Mid-Atlantic USA. Adapt her advice for where ever you are gardening. 

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August is when we establish root crops that will feed us in the fall and winter, either from storage or direct from the garden. The cooler fall nights make roots deliciously sweet. Clear out your old crops, prepare beds and sow soon.

Carrots

Long beds of fall carrots. Photo Bridget Aleshire

We sow our fall carrots August 4. Here in central Virginia, zone 7a, on a sandy clay loam, we grow Danvers 126, a sturdy, open pollinated variety with high yields of tasty carrots. We harvest in November and eat them all winter until next spring’s first ones in late May. It’s worth growing enough for the whole winter – in the winter time, home-grown carrots are so much tastier than anyone else’s!

Aim to sow 30 seeds/ft (1/cm), 0.25-0.5″ (0.6-1.2 cm) deep. We sow in single rows 8-10” (20-25cm) apart. Carrots do well on raised beds, because the soil stays loose and the roots can easily grow deep.

Carrots thinned to one inch. Photo Kathryn Simmons

Sow carrots whenever the soil temperature is below 95°F (35°C), and be sure to keep the surface damp. Use shadecloth, or water a lot, until they emerge – it may take only 4 days. This is so different than in the spring when the soil is cold and carrots don’t come up nearly so fast (and the weeds come on strong). Hard rain in the first 3 or 4 days after planting can dry the soil to a crust that stymies their emergence. To prevent this, if you get heavy rain, irrigate for half an hour each day afterwards until the carrots emerge. 

Once you see tiny carrot seedlings, we hoe the weeds between the rows. A scuffle hoe works great for this job. Then hand-weed between the carrots and thin them to 1” (2.5 cm). If you are in an area with Carrot Rust Fly (AKA Carrot Root Fly), be sure to remove all carrot thinnings and broken foliage from the garden, so you don’t lure the low-flying pest with the wonderful smell of carrot leaves.

Washing and sorting carrots for storage. Photo Wren Vile

To get decent size carrots, you have to thin them. We do a second thinning, to 3” (8 cm) apart, at the stage when we can eat the baby carrots for salads. If we get more weeds, weed them again. If carrots are spaced too widely, they will be more likely to split, and the overall yield will be reduced. 

Beets 

Young Cylindra beets. Photo Wren Vile

Beet “seeds” are in fact seed balls, and each one will germinate a cluster of beets. It’s important to “single” the beets (reduce to a single seedling at each spot) as soon as possible as they are their own worst enemy, and won’t grow big if crowded. We weed and thin as for carrots, in two stages, and then harvest out the biggest beets for fresh eating, leaving the others to grow for storage. Beets take 45-80 days to maturity. Trimmed beets keep well at 32°F (0°C) and 95% humidity in perforated plastic bags under refrigeration. We like tender Cylindra beets.

Kohlrabi

Early White Vienna and Early Purple Vienna kohlrabi. Photo McCune Porter

I know kohlrabi is not actually a root, but we treat it as one. Kohlrabi transplants successfully, unlike carrots and turnips, and this is our method for fall crops. We sow kohlrabi (Early Purple Vienna and Early White Vienna) in the week beginning 7/2, for transplanting 8/3-8/9 and harvesting in late October. We could sow in early August for November harvests. Harvest when the kohlrabi are 2-3” (5-7.5 cm) in diameter or even up to softball size. If left growing for too long they become woody.

Cut kohlrabi from the ground with a sturdy knife. The base of the globe can be quite fibrous, so cut either the wiry root just below the soil surface, or cut higher, leaving a small disc of the globe behind, attached to the taproot. Snip off the leaves. Kohlrabi stores well in perforated plastic bags in a fridge.

Turnips

Harvested Purple Top and White Egg turnips. Photo Pam Dawling

Turnips are among the fastest growing crops other than leafy greens. In zone 7, we sow 8/6 (last date for us is 9/5). Although they grow best in cool weather, turnips have no trouble germinating at high temperatures.

Turnips are available in gourmet varieties, to be eaten small, young and tender, 35-50 days after sowing, up to 2” (5 cm) in diameter. The delicious F1 hybrid Hakurei (38 days), a smooth white flat-round shape, with crisp sweet flesh, and hairless leaves, is the most famous of these. Other delicious turnips include White Egg, Red Round, and Scarlet Ohno Revival. Harvest small and use promptly, as they only retain quality for a short storage period. For storage we grow the extremely reliable workhorse, Purple Top White Globe. 

Turnips are ready when 3” (7.5 cm) in diameter (30-60 days from sowing), To harvest, loosen the roots with a digging fork, then pull. Trim tops and tails in the garden (or move to the shade if it’s hot). For successful long-term storage, cut cleanly between the leaves and the root. Then wash (to make them easier to clean later), drain and store.

Storage in perforated plastic bags under refrigeration works well for us. Turnips will keep for about 4 months at temperatures close to freezing and humidity of 90-95%. Higher humidity will make them rot.

Winter radishes 

In early August we sow winter storage radishes. We like Miyashige daikon, China Rose, Misato Rose and the Shunkyo Semi-long pink radish. Radishes will germinate in hot soils. Simply weed, thin and water, then harvest by thinning the rows (these crunchy thinnings are delicious!) and finally harvest for storage. Daikon can go very deep, and are tender and brittle, so dig carefully. These big radishes are great to use in the winter, for salad, stir-fries or making pickles like kimchee.

Rutabagas

Solarizing a bed with clear plastic. Photo Pam Dawling

Rutabagas are only sown here in late summer. They take longer to grow to a good size than turnips do, so we must start earlier: 7/15-8/4 here, (mid-August at the latest), allowing 90-100 growing days. For small plantings, plan on 10’ (3 m) per person. Yields of rutabagas can be 50% higher than turnips.

If you sow fall root crops too early in the summer, they can get woody. Rutabagas (known as Swedes in the UK) are, botanically, part swollen taproot, part swollen stem (the neck and the secondary roots growing in two rows down the sides of rutabagas distinguish them from turnips). Rutabagas are mostly yellow-fleshed with a tan and reddish or purplish skin, although there are white-fleshed varieties. They all have blue-green waxy, non-hairy leaves. Turnips come in a range of colors, white or yellow flesh, with white, purple, red or golden yellow skins. The leaves are bright grass green, usually hairy, and not waxy.

Rutabagas come in very few varieties. Gilfeather (85 days, OP) is sold as a turnip, but is botanically a white rutabaga. Sweeter and later to mature than turnips, it doesn’t become woody even at softball size. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange also has American Purple Top (not to be confused with the Purple Top White Globe turnip) and the Lithuanian Nadmorska, a large oval 90d OP. 

Keys to growing mild, sweet-tasting rutabagas include cool temperatures and sufficient irrigation. The optimal germination range is 59-95°F (15-35°C). We sow four rows in 4’ (1.2 m) beds. Seeds need to be 0.5” (1.2 cm) deep. When flea beetles or grasshoppers are a problem, use row cover or insect mesh.

Early thinning and weeding are important for shapely well-developed rutabagas. Thin to 4” (10 cm) within 10 days of emergence, or at least by 1” (2.5 cm) tall; then to 10” (25 cm) when 2-3” (5-7.5 cm) tall. Our rutabagas are ready from mid-October. The flavor improves after frost.

Rutabagas are among the hardiest of vegetables, and can be left in the ground until all other crops have been harvested. They can store for as much as 6 months in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator. They do best stored above 95% humidity. In the UK, rutabagas are not waxed as they are in North America. In fact, they store well without waxing, and I encourage you to try skipping the petroleum product.

Rutabagas can even be stored in the ground all winter, unlike turnips. Mulch over them with loose straw once the temperatures descend near 20°F (-7°C). 

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Pam Dawling has grown vegetables at Twin Oaks Community, central Virginia for 27 years, feeding 100 people from 3.5 acres.  She has written two books: Sustainable Market Farming and The Year-Round Hoophouse. She blogs weekly at https://www.sustainablemarketfarming.com

12 Creative Ways to Use Pickled Vegetables

New gardeners are often flooded with produce and ideas for preserving it. Among the most common suggestions is to pickle it and for good reason. Pickled foods are easy to make and store incredibly well. They’ve been a staple in many traditional diets. You can find recipes for pickled peppers, dilly beans, pickled cauliflower, pickled snap peas, even pickled watermelon rind!

If you decide to make a lot of pickles this year, here are a few good ways to use them.

Pizza

Pickled jalapeños, banana pepper, and garlic scapes are great for spicing up wintertime pizzas. They pair well with roasted tomatoes.

Potato or Pasta Salad

Dilly beans, cucumber pickles, or dilly snaps peas add a tasty crunch to your favorite potato or pasta salad recipes.

Spring Rolls

Spring rolls are a fun way to use whatever veggies you have on hand. Tossing in a few pickles is a great way to add a little extra flavor. Try pickled peppers, carrots, radishes, onions, or garlic.

Charcuterie Boards

A charcuterie board with pickles you grew and made is extra impressive. If you don’t want to get too involved they’re also just a great snack alongside crackers, cheese, fruit, and/or nuts.

Omelets

Make a spicy veggie omelet with diced tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, spinach, pickled jalapeños, and salsa.

Burgers

Next time you make a burger try something besides the classic cucumber pickle. Pickled garlic scapes or radishes are a great options. The same goes for cold sandwiches.

Salads

Pickled vegetables salads are surprisingly tasty. Try pickled vegetables like radishes, carrots, cherry tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, or cauliflower. Chop them up small and serve over fresh baby greens with your favorite vinaigrette.

Fried Rice

Finely chopped pickled vegetables are perfect for adding color and flavor to simple fired rice recipes. Try to squeeze out as much liquid as possible so they don’t make the rice soggy.

Cocktails

Pickles make great garnishes for a variety of cocktails. Try some of your pickled vegetables with a Bloody Mary, pickle-juice Margherita, or make some pickle infused vodka.

Soup Garnishes

Homemade pickle garnishes are a delicious and simple way to make soup a little more special.

Deviled Eggs

Small slices of pickled vegetables can make deviled eggs feel a little more special. You can also add a touch of pickle juice to the mixture.

Hummus

Next time you’re having hummus serve it with some finely diced pickled veggies in the center. Peppers are always a favorite!

Pickling vegetables is a great way to store the season’s excess. Learning to incorporate these pickles into meals can help you make the most of your harvest.

Preserving Leafy Greens

One of the best parts of gardening is all the fresh greens. Their grocery store counterparts just don’t compare! Unfortunately, they don’t stay fresh forever. If you’re growing fall greens this year, here are a few ways to preserve your harvest.

A quick note: for best results use freshly picked greens that are free from bad spots. Harvest in the morning or evening if possible and especially if it’s hot, dunk greens in cool water immediately after harvesting. You can use these methods for a variety of greens including collards, kale, chard, and spinach.

Freezing Greens

To begin, put a pot of water on to boil.  While it’s heating, rinse off your greens and roughly chop them. Also, prepare a large mixing bowl or pot of cold water and ice. Once your water boils, blanch your greens in it, about 1 pound at a time, for one 1 minute.

Strain them out and immediately dunk them in your ice water. Then squeeze as much water out as possible. Place them in containers to freeze. Alternatively, spread them out as best you can on a cookie sheet to freeze and move them to containers later so that they don’t freeze together as much.

Dehydrated Greens

Dried greens may sound odd but they can be surprisingly good. Some “heartier” greens like kale, make great snacks when dried with a bit of salt and seasoning. Others like spinach or even lettuce, are great for drying and powdering to add to soups and smoothies.

To dry your greens, rinse them off and lay them to dry on a towel. Then transfer them to a dehydrator tray, placing them in a single layer. Greens with minimal stems can be dried on the “herb” setting or at about 95°F. Green with larger stems may need to be dried at a warmer temperature, between 105°F and 110°F. Your greens may take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours to dry.

When they’re completely dry and brittle, pack them in airtight containers and store them out of direct sunlight. You can also powder them in a blender or food processor first.

Fermented Greens

Fermented foods are excellent for gut health and are easier to make than you’d think. Try our simple recipes for kimchi or sauerkraut and experiment substituting other greens that are available to you such as kale or collards.

Pressure Canned Greens

Many people don’t love this method but if you like canned food, it is possible to pressure can greens. Just like for freezing you’ll need a pot of boiling water and clean, roughly chopped greens. Blanch your greens 1 pound at a time for 3-5 minutes or until well wilted.

If desired add 1/2 tsp of salt to sanitized jars. Loosely fill jars with hot, blanched greens and cover with boiling water leaving 1 inch of headspace. Place your lids on and process pint jars for 70 minutes or quarts for 90 minutes. Use the correct PSI for your canner and elevation.

Learn more about pressure canning greens and canning safety at The National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

 

Enjoy your harvest!