Sunday, October 24, 2010

Full Blood Moon

I love October. It's when things finally cool off around here. The full moon of October is called the Blood Moon. If I remember correctly, that has to do with the slaughtering of livestock that occurred around this time of year to store meat and thin the herd before winter.

But that was in Europe. Here in Texas, things are a little different.

Fall is a time for planting here, but this time around I'm planting cold weather crops that will grow all winter. Here I've got my Brassicaceae, that is, bok choy, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, started in pots. That family of plants is actually much better grown in winter. The cold weather gives them a sweeter flavor, and there aren't a lot of bugs.
Another plant family that's better in winter is the Alliaceae. Here are my onions. If you recall, my last batch of onions didn't do so well, but I'm giving them another try. Right now they look really puny.

I've also got leeks. These are from some bulbs I got from my CSA farmer. Leeks grow little bulbs off to the side, and at first I kept them to replant, but then decided not to bother and threw them in the compost pile. When they started growing out of the compost pile, I decided to give them a chance and transplanted them to the garden. I put them in a trench, and will pile dirt up around them as they grow to make the white part (which is the best part of a leek) longer.

My garlic has started coming up! This is one of my softneck varieties. They usually show up before the hardnecks. I also have some shallots and potato onions planted, but they haven't shown up above ground yet.
I just planted my little lettuce plants. This is a lettuce mix that has both red and green varieties. Lettuce gets very bitter in warm weather but does great in winter.

I still have some plants left over from the summer, like my okra. This stuff just won't stop until frost kills it.

A surprise underneath my okra are some watermelons! I thought they were dead, but they grew back and now have two softball-sized fruits growing. I wonder if they'll have time to ripen before frost.

These are my fall eggplants. My spring eggplants didn't make it partially because of a late cold snap, and partially because the seeds I got had very low germination. In summer I went ahead and planted all the rest of the eggplant seeds to see if any would grow, and got these plants. They might have time to grow some fruits before frost, but it's going to cut it close.
The jalapenos are going nuts! All my plants are covered with fruit. I might have enough to make a batch of jalapeno jelly, which I found is much better than concord grape jelly on a peanut butter sandwich.

Two varieties of sweet potatoes, Vardaman and Beauregarde, are flowering. I tried to find you a nice fresh flower, but the best I could do was an old one from yesterday and some buds. You can see why sweet potatoes are close relatives of Morning Glories. The flowers look exactly the same. I was a little surprised because sweet potatoes, like garlic, have mostly given up sex, but sometimes you get a variety that still likes to flower.

What really says autumn harvest to me is winter squash. I've got lots of cushaws growing now, but I'm having trouble telling when they're ripe. Not a lot of people grow cushaws, so Google isn't helping much. You harvest pumpkins when they turn from green to orange, but I think these stay white with green stripes. Pictured above is my biggest specimen. I plan on using them in "pumpkin" recipes, since pumpkins are just winter squashes with that certain look (round, ribbed, and orange). Botanically and culinarily there's no difference between a pumpkin and a winter squash, so they're interchangeable in recipes.

One of my vines is making fruits that have no necks. Not sure what the deal is with that. Genetic diversity, I guess. They'd make some interesting looking jack-o-lanterns, but none of them are very big yet.

Looking at all these fruits, and with Halloween coming up soon and me wanting to cook up some pumpkin (well, winter squash) containing goodies, I finally decided to "sacrifice" this guy here and see if it's ripe.

Here it is now with the jack-o-lantern pumpkin from the store and my Halloween cat for scale. Now that I cut it's umbilical cord, I'm afraid it might not be ripe enough, but I've got plenty more squashes to experiment on. The worst that will happen is this squash will be a bit paler and less flavorful than a fully ripened specimen. I'm going to let it "cure" for a few days before cutting it open. In the meantime, it is looking quite decorative if I do say so myself.

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