... growing and hybridizing all kinds of plants in zone 6b Maryland since the 1980's.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

INCREDIBLE{!!!} Neck Pumpkin harvest

I could hardly believe how well this one volunteer plant of 'Neck Pumpkin' performed. It sure is humbling, considering that I actually planted three different kinds of squash earlier in April and all of those failed completely. I noticed this little squash seedling coming up under the lilac bush and decided to leave it, since the garden "wasn't happening" this year. When it started flowering I could tell it was a neck pumpkin by the tiny squash at the bases of the female flowers. I was totally impressed by the first wave of harvested fruit, 8 of them, that weighed 71 pounds combined. But there were still 13 more on the way and when they were harvested and added to the total, the final yield was a whopping 165 pounds!!! All from a single plant that I didn't even plant.
The squash range from 7-11 pounds generally. See the roll of masking tape in the one picture for scale.
 Here's how I've been preparing them. I cut the seed cavity off, kind of low so that there's a hole to get the seeds and slop out. Then I put that hollowed out end on a cookie sheet (preferably with edges so the juice doesn't run anywhere) and poke some "steam escape holes" in the top. I then covered the cut edges with foil and baked for two (or two and a half) hours at 350 degrees F.
 Here it is after baking.

And see how the skin is just sloughing off. Otherwise you can easily scoop out the soft pulp now with a spoon. Then it's into the food processor to puree. And put into two cup portions (a standard can amount) into zip lock sandwich bags for freezing.
 In our house, most of this puree has been getting made into pumpkin cake.
Here's a link to an old post with the recipe, which I haven't changed except for to add a Tablespoon or two of lemon juice to the "wet ingredients". Pumpkin cake recipe

Hibiscus seed pod fur

Shelling out seeds from some hibiscus crosses this season, I was intrigued by just how furry this particular one is - it's the F1 hybrid, 'Blue River II' X grandiflorus. I realize that these hairs are on the pod and unlike cotton, the seeds are hairless. But the thought still crossed my mind that somehow this trait could be exaggerated to the point that hibiscus could become a fiber crop, like a perennial version of cotton...

Jewelweed variation

A quick sampling showing the cool variation in the small population of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) growing in the ditch at the end of the driveway. The pale variant (with reduced orange/yellow background color) had first caught my eye several years ago, but my favorites are the ones where the red dots are expanded to completely cover the petals. 

The longest keeping Cheese Pumpkin from 2015

 This 4.4 pound cheese pumpkin was harvested last Fall and here it is still in great shape on September 14th of the following year. No special storage needed. It was just stored on a shelf in the basement.
It was still juicy and bright orange inside.
And made a nice puree that we used the next day to make a tasty loaf of bread. [It's essentially just white bread, but with pumpkin puree in place of most of the water]

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

2016 Rose seedlings

A purple foliaged seedling among the open-pollinated seedlings of F1 Rosa carolina X gallica.
My bet is that "3/4 Native" was the pollen donor for this one.  "3/4 Native" is ('Fragrant Cloud' x carolina) X virginiana.
('Fragrant Cloud' x carolina) X 'Basye's Legacy'
The seed parent was infected with RRD, so I was trying to get any seeds I could from it.
Thankfully some have germinated and are looking good.
(moschata x wichuraiana) X OP and various - [used mostly 'Darts Dash' and 'Home Run']
Previous years open-pollinated seedlings had a little variation but in general were fairly uniform in appearance, so I expect any Darts Dash and Home Run offspring to stand out. At least two so far, are looking like they may be from the rugosa.
 "3/4 Native" X OP and various [mostly 'Illusion' and 'Winners Circle']

'Basyes Legacy' X OP and 'Darts Dash'
I figured the most vigorous and rugosa-like seedlings would be easy to tell were from Darts Dash
So far they're looking pretty vigorous, and from what people say Legacy seedlings usually aren't.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Amazing tomato!!!

Almost unbelievable – I picked this little yellow guy back on August 15th! I’m sure it was at a hard green stage when I picked it, so it probably will be very much lacking in flavor, but still… how many home-grown tomatoes will last for half a year without any special storage?!?!

I remember the picking date because our first killing frost came on August 17th . When I heard the weather prediction warnings two days earlier, I went out and picked all tomatoes, ripe and green, and put them down in the basement. The temperature down there is pretty consistent with the rest of the house – 67-68°F year round. So it’s not like some special storage conditions. Basically it’s room temperature. I decided to go ahead and cut it open before it shriveled or rotted (or got eaten) like the rest.

The flesh was very thin and the seed cavities had big air pockets in them, but the seeds themselves looked mostly good and the gel around them was pretty juicy also. Before squeezing the seeds into a little plastic cup, I had to see what kind of flavor this 6 month old tomato would have. Well, I can’t say it would’ve have been the BEST ever salad tomato or slicer for a sandwich, but would you really expect that? Surprisingly…  it did have a nice tangy “umamitomato flavor and was juicy enough that it would have been at least acceptable. Amazing!

Overwintering Peppers

The overwintering “select” peppers are still doing well. I’ve been keeping them in this wagon for easy moving. Most of the time they’re right inside the basement doors where they get some sunlight through the basement door windows. Here they are enjoying a warmer day outside.

I’m hoping to harvest a lot of seed from them in 2016. And because these are all mild peppers, and they will be growing in relative isolation, all of the seeds should produce milds from this point forward. Up until now, I’ve typically had more than 50% hots. It’ll be very nice not having to play “hot pepper roulette” in the future as I taste test down the rows.