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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Long keeping squash continued...

Well, laziness sometimes ends up showing you things you would have missed otherwise. I left the butternut squash and little orange field pumpkin sit on the counter all night after halving and removing their seeds for saving. This morning I noticed that the flesh had started to separate a little from the rind of the little orange pumpkin. So in addition to being harder, the rind was also very thick on this one.
 Couldn't help but try scraping it out to see if it would make a gourd type bowl. Sure did! I couldn't have done that with the normal type of pumpkin.

So, I put the pretty orange bowl out in the sun to dry and got to thinking about the possibilities this hard rind might have, if I incorporated it into my own pumpkin lines.

Then I wondered if baking would ruin the hardness of the rind, since that's how I typically prepare all of our winter type squashes. Usually I wrap in foil and bake for 1-2 hours, then scoop out the flesh from a floppy collapsing skin. So, I did that to the stem half of the pumpkin.
 Wow, that hard shell was super-easy to scoop out after baking! And the heat doesn't seem to have hurt it a bit.
 Sadly, the flavor of the flesh was really lacking. It wasn't bad, just had NO sweetness whatsoever. Compared to the butternut that had been stored just as long, this one wasn't even close in quality. The butternut still was great - pleasantly fragrant and sweet.
But even so, I still think there's some potential for this hard rind trait to be added into my hull-less lines maybe, to add another dimension of usefulness to them.
Here are the two halves of the shell put back together. The top (baked) is a little glossier and darker than the bottom. Now let's see how they dry down.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Squash from last season

Decided I'd go ahead and cut the last two remaining squash so I can save the seeds. Here's the butternut in really good shape. If I weren't feeling so lazy at the moment, we could definitely eat this one.
 And here's the little orange field type pumpkin that we got as a freebie last Halloween. It looked just like all the other little orange ones, but I think it must've picked up a hard rind gene from somewhere, because I almost broke the knife just trying to pierce it. Then it was nearly impossible to saw it in half, with that same knife (that easily cut the butternut). Not so sure if I want my pumpkins to be that hard to cut but the hardness sure did seem to make it last a long time. I wondered if it might have been from a cross with one of those bitter ornamental (Cucurbita pepo type) gourds to have such a hard skin, so I tasted a piece of the flesh to see if it might be bitter. It wasn't bitter at all.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cucumber seed saving

First picture is of the 12 pounds of rejects from the cucumber patch today. Made some tasty cucumber salad out of the ones that weren't too mature. Funny how we're still getting round ones popping out of the gene pool after so many generations down the line from that original cross of 'Straight 8' and 'Lemon'.
I especially like the whites that have showed up and plan on blending them with the nicely-formed, long dark green types that came from a later infusion of 'Summer Dance' genes.
The box holds the keepers for seed (as it stands today). These were all from vigorous early fruiters. We'll probably just eat everything else that forms from this point on. 
When I get the time, I'll core the seeds out of these and let them ferment a couple of days before washing them in a strainer and spreading them out to dry. BTW The tough skins can be peeled from the flesh, which makes a tasty addition to soup (look up "Old Cucumber Soup" recipes for inspiration). It's a great way to make use of something that would otherwise just go to the compost heap. 

Aronia (black chokeberries)

What an unfortunate name for a pretty easy and useful fruit - "Chokeberry". From that name you might think they'd be awful to eat or even poisonous maybe, but in reality they're actually not too bad. Truth is they aren't very juicy and they are not too sweet either, but they certainly don't deserve to be associated with choking. LOL
 Please forgive my terrible photography skills... above is one ripe fruit cluster. Below are the washed fruits from today's pickings. This is the first year they've fruited enough to bother with and the bushes are still only knee high at best.
 Below are the berries being softened by boiling with a small amount of water. We smashed them with the masher and then strained the highly pigmented juice through a strainer. All that pigment is supposed to be anthocyanins (think antioxidant).
 Followed a simple recipe for sorbet and made this tasty batch from about 3/4 aronia juice and 1/4 wild blackberry juice. Nobody's choked on it yet. ;0)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Daylily 'Condilla'

I've always admired the pictures I've seen of this oldie. I finally got a plant and even in spite of just being dug and replanted, it's still cranking out loads of perfectly formed hose-in-hose (flower within flower) doubles. I'd thought it was more of a yellow, but it's more like the color of a slice of American cheese. Glad to finally grow it!

Dogbane beetle

While out weeding, I found this pretty little dogbane beetle (Chrysochus auratus). My photography skills don't do it justice - it's more beautifully iridescent (like an oil slick) than the picture shows it.

If you want to see a really nice picture of one, check out this link:
Update: tried to get a better picture when I saw another one yesterday...
A little better but still not expert photography by any means.

Calycanthus 'Aphrodite'

Asian/American hybrid Calycanthus 'Aphrodite' is still looking nice and keeps making more and more blooms.

Cukes for seed

The three whites in the middle and the ten nicely formed early ones (stacked two layers deep at the top) will be the seeds saved for next season.

Radish seed harvest

Just harvested this years radish seeds and kept two special select plants separate. They were two plants with the most purple color on the foliage, stems, and also had darker, rose-pink flowers. The pods were even purple and when they dried down, some turned an almost iridescent blue. Prettiest radish seed pods I've seen ;0)
I plan on planting these in a few weeks for the next round of selection. These are storage type radishes so the best looking roots will go into zip-lock bags in the refrigerator until next Spring. The rejects will get eaten.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Squash crossing

Planted 'Long Island Cheese' and 'Butternut' squash this season. Both are Cucurbita moschata type so should intercross easily. Last night, I got some flower buds that were going to open the next morning ready for the crosses. I prepared a bunch of male flowers of 'Butternut' by taping the tips shut so they wouldn't open this morning. (The males don't have a tiny squash at the base.)
Also prepared three female flowers on the 'Long Island Cheese' by wiring them closed at the tips with twist ties. This prevents early morning visits by bees. (Female flowers will have a tiny squash at the base)
When I had a male flowers peeled open and ready to pollinate, I open the twist tie and rubbed the pollen on the stigma. Afterwards, I taped the female flower shut.
If all goes well, these three will join the one I did several days ago. It's flower has dropped off and the little fruit is swelling up fast.