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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cool as a Lemon Cucumber

Cucumbers seem to be one of those vegetables that always do well for us. In the past we have grown  many varieties with success. This year we might have found a new front runner for coolest cucumber in the garden.
Lemon cucumbers with crookneck squash
For the first time we are growing lemon cucumbers and we are big fans. The name comes from their round shape and yellowish color. We can't tell a big difference in flavor from our other favorite variety the double yield. You might wonder why you would want a cucumber that is smaller than others and doesn't taste different. Here are a few reasons we like them.

  • They are very prolific. I think we are getting more cucumbers from the lemon cucumber than the double yield.
  • They are unique. Not everyone has them. They might be good for those of you that want to sell unique products at farmers markets. It's fun to give them away to neighbors and have them rave about how interesting they are.
  • Our kids like to eat them like apples so they are eating more of them.

What new vegetable varieties are you growing this year that we need to try?


Monday, August 12, 2013

Veggies in the Flower Garden

Do you grow vegetables in your flower garden? We have been growing herbs in the front flower garden for a while.  The last few years we have grown cabbage as edible decoration and find it to be a very beautiful plant. Here is a picture of one of our cabbages next to it's neighbors, mint and petunia .

On a side note, does anyone else think that the word cabbage is one of the weirder sounding words. Say it ten times. Just seems so unnatural.

Read more about edible landscaping here and here.

What edible plants do you like to add to your landscape?


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Squash Bugs

I have given a name to my pain, and that name is squash bug. If you aren't familiar with squash bugs, they are angry, petty little pests that are just trying to get revenge by eating, and killing the squash plants in your garden. They are mad that they have a dumb uninspired name and they insist that in this world of political correctness we call them what they really are "Squash Insects." The term bug is just insulting to them.

Blurry image of squash bugs. It's hard to take pictures of the bugs as they curry away at the first sign of movement
You might think that I am anthropomorphizing a little too much but trust me, these bugs are out for me and trying to voice their displeasure with a vengeance. The sad part is that it is the innocents that have to suffer. My zucchini is taking the brunt of their abuse, but they also killed two of our pumpkin plants and are trying to take out my acorn squash as well.  

Plant damaged by squash bugs

I found some good information on squash bug at this link managed by the Colorado State University extension. It gives good information on the life cycle of the squash bug and it lists some  methods for getting rid of the pests.

Squash bugs are very hardy so the best way to get rid of them is to check your squash leaves early in the spring. You will see patches of eggs on the underside. I just squish the eggs and wipe them off of the leaves.

Squash bug eggs on the underside of leaf
If you don't catch them early, one of the best methods I have used to get rid of them is to lay small boards or cardboard at the base of your squash plants. Many of the bugs will hide under the boards at night. If you check under the boards early in the morning you can kill them using organic squishing methods.

According to the CSU article you can also spread Diatomaceous earth/pyrethrins applications around the base of the plan. This is an organic method, but I can't vouch for it as I haven't used it. There are also insecticides and pesticides that might work but I am not a fan of them as I want my bees to be safe.

What do you do to rid your garden of the vile squash bug?


Monday, August 5, 2013

Armenian Cucumbers

We all have our tried and true heirloom plants that we like to grow every year, but it is always fun to try new varieties to see if there any we like even more. This year we grew Armenian Cucumbers for the first time and they are amazing.

I quick check on the web will tell you that Armenian Cucumbers (also called snake melon or serpent cucumber) are not really cucumbers. They are actually a member of the muskmelon family. We were pleased to find that our crop tastes just like cucumber. In fact, I don't think you would be able to tell the difference in a blind taste test.

Armenian cucumbers grow up to 3 feet long! From our experience they taste better when picked at about 15 to 20 inches long. Many sources also claim that you won't get cucumber burps from the Armenian variety. We bought ours at our local IFA store which sells heirloom varieties that work well in our area. You can also get them online through on of the heirloom seed purveyors.

What is your favorite cucumber variety?


Friday, August 2, 2013

Veggie Tacos

One of my favorite meals of the summer is vegetarian tacos. You can grill almost any vegetable and throw it in a taco and it will taste great. For this batch I used some sweet potatoes from the store and some onions and zucchini from the garden.

We had one of our best harvests of onions this year and the best thing is that they were all volunteers from a batch of Walla Walla Onions we planted last year. They are so sweet and almost too beautiful to eat.

We also planted 3 zucchini plants. As those of you that plant zucchini know, 3 zucchini plants provide enough food to feed a family of seven for two years. They are ridiculous showoffs in the garden and make many of the other plants in the garden feel that there yield is embarrassing.  Even though they are showoffs, zucchinis do grill up nice for tacos.
To make the tacos, add onions and zucchini to a bowl with a little olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper. After mixing them together I grilled them. The sweet potatoes were cubed, salted, and then sauteed in olive oil.

Our kids loved them, even our son that would only eat protein if given the choice. You can change the ingredients as different vegetables come into season. Grilled or roasted tomatoes can be added as they ripen, tomatillos can be used to make a green sauce, corn adds a nice sweetness, and even eggplant and potatoes are a great addition to veggie tacos. Make sure to add some guacamole to really put the meal over the top.