Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters October 2016 Newsletter
October 2016 Newsletter Print E-mail


October E-Newsletter 2016

     What a lovely month October has been!  Unusually warm temperatures and beautiful days allow us to enjoy the gardens longer than normal.  We hosted a neighborhood cook-out one evening which was really fun.  After the first frost, I pulled frosted annuals to create space that I could use to decorate the gardens for autumn.  Adding thirty six bronze mums and a variety of pumpkins made it colorful.  The wooden ghosts & wooden jack o ‘lanterns that we always used at the farm are in place.  My dad made them for me, so it is always special to see them in the gardens.
     I’ve been preserving the last of the potager harvest, storing away the winter squashes, collecting seeds, and doing a final tidying of all the gardens.  The potage planting plan for next season was completed, so the hardneck garlic could be planted last week. It took some figuring, because of the need for crop rotation.  I’m still picking beans, digging carrots and harvesting beets.  The fall salad crops are doing nicely, with kale, various lettuces, arugula, spinach, raddicchio in abundance.  There was even a bowl of lovely ripe strawberries to harvest, which was nice since the fall red raspberries are nearly finished.
 Now I’ve started planting all the bulbs.  I’ve finished in the new front island, the new north shrub island and the front garden, but there is still the deck garden and the south shrub island to do, and the additions in the potager borders and the addition garden to extend the bulb season and fill in gaps in the blooming schedule.  Soon it will be time to seed the perennials, although there aren’t nearly as many as usual since the gardens are getting full. Yes, I’ve already received the first seed order for next season!  A true gardener is always looking forward!And, before frost threatens all the tender plants must be moved indoors.  I can’t recall a year that we haven’t already had a frost by now, and I am truly enjoying these extra days.  And, just to compare the photo below was a year ago this week.  The potager and its borders have really progressed well.

Did you know:
*Many leading economists predict that “legal” marijuana will surpass health care as our nation’s leading economic sector by 2020!  That’s only 4 years away!
*Indianapolis used to be second in the nation in indoor vegetable production, with over 150 greenhouses.  Now there is only one left:  Wiegman’s.
*Outdoor “furniture” made by stacking concrete blocks is all the rage.  Used both indoors and out, inexpensive sofas, benches, picnic tables, and more are being created by thrifty folks in both urban and rural areas.  Check it out on Pinterest or Google images for “cinder block furniture.”
     *More people in the world eat goat than any other meat!

Herb To Know:  Garlic
     With Halloween only days away, it’s time to make a garlic necklace to keep vampires away.  If that doesn’t appeal to you, it’s also time to plant garlic…the hardneck varieties that grow best where there are real winter freezes.  Garlic has been an important flavoring and medicinal herb since early in man’s history.  Rather than dwell on familiar knowledge about the use of garlic, I’m going to report on the garlic harvest from my potager, in the hope that my findings will help you make good decisions as you plant your garlic.
     I planted ten varieties and here’s what I found:  By far the biggest cloves were produced by “Mary Jane” and “Rosewood,” with “Khobor” close behind.  Some of the “Mary Jane” cloves were the size of marshmallows, and although there are only 4-8 cloves per bulb, together they make up a big bulb.  All of these have very good flavor and I’ve planted all I have of each, looking forward to a fantastic harvest next August.The only cause for pause was the thin wrappers.
     The varieties with the heaviest and tightest skins/wrappers were “Deerfield Purple,” “Killarney Red,” and “Romanian Red.”  Those durable covers mean that these will be good keepers in long-term storage, so I’ll plan to use those last and hopefully I’ll still have home-grown garlic till I can begin harvesting green garlic in spring.  “Killarney Red” produced the largest return, so I have planted six full rows for next year.  All of these have decent sized cloves.
     “Inchilium Red” has medium-sized cloves, but they are layered more like the soft-neck garlic you buy in the grocery (usually from China, by the way.)  Still, I planted some of it, because it was productive and has a good flavor.
     “Musik” and “Spanish Red” are traditional varieties that I’ve grown for decades and saved the largest cloves to plant each autumn.  They have some layering, but are reliable growers with good production and flavor.  I’ll still plant a small patch of each, out of sentiment more than production data.
     “Creole” is the only variety I chose not to plant again.  It had the smallest stemmed plants; the leaves never did get deep, dark green but stayed slightly yellowed throughout the growing season.  It produced flower buds first, and had the smallest cloves and bulbs of all the varieties tested.  The flavor was not so outstanding or different that it merits potager space again.
     If you have not planted garlic yet, there’s still time since October has been so warm.  Look for these varieties at your local farmers’ market or shop on-line.  I can recommend Abbott’s Family Farm, a vendor at the Muncie Farmer’s Market as a local source.  Hurry though, it’s is time to plant and many markets end in October.

The Harvest continues….    
     Until it actually freezes, and brings the season to a final close, continue to harvest the herb garden. Snip and freeze small bags of chives. Make simple syrups with mints, lemon balm, anise hyssop, cinnamon basil, etc. by bringing 1 c. water with 1 c. sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and infusing the herbs in the hot syrup.  Cover until cool, then strain and store in the refrigerator.  These make great toppings over cakes, pancakes, custards or additions to tea and cocktails.  Continue to dry herbs for culinary use, teas and bath mixtures. Make herbal sugars by layering sugar and herbs in a tight container.  After shaking several times a week for two weeks, remove the leaves. (Add those sugared leaves to teas!) Use the flavored sugars in baking tasty cookies, pound cakes, puddings or drinks.  Make herbal salts, herbal butters and vinegars.  Freeze small containers of various pestos.  Snip fresh new growth of dill, rinse, pat dry between paper towels, then put the sprigs into a freezer container.  When you need it, simply snip off the required amount of frozen dill, and return the rest to the freezer immediately.  This winter, you’ll have the flavors of the garden at your fingertips.

Seed Collecting
If you grow non-hybrid varieties of herbs or flowers, now is the time to collect seeds for spring planting.  Try to collect them on a dry day.  I put each variety in a standard envelope, writing the name, color, date, and in which garden they grew.  I bring the envelopes indoors and spread them on a table for a few days, to make sure they are completely dry.  Then I store them alphabetically in plastic shoe boxes, sorted by “Early Annuals”, “Early Perennials”, “Midseason”, “Late”, etc.  When spring comes, they are easy to find, and I don’t have to sort through every envelope to find what needs to be planted first.   Adding a tablespoon of powdered milk wrapped in a bit of tissue and fastened with a staple or tape in each box helps keep the seeds dry.   A change in temperature (like during the ice storm last winter!) can cause condensation within the box.  The milk will absorb any moisture.  Discard the packets next summer.

Recipe:  Green Tomato Chili
I developed this recipe to use all the green tomatoes that must be saved before frost.  Don’t be afraid to use the entire bulb of garlic, but do adjust the amount of jalapeno peppers to suit your family’s taste.
    In a large skillet, heat 2 T. oil (or use a non-stick spray.)  Cook 2 lb. ground beef until lightly browned, stirring often.  Meanwhile, peel and chop 1 entire bulb of garlic and one large onion.  Add to skillet and continue to cook and stir until onion is soft.  If needed, add a bit of water to keep it from sticking.  Add 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped and seeds removed.  Add a dash of salt, and a few grinds of freshly ground pepper.  Add 4 large green tomatoes, diced and 1 can of great northern beans.  Cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Happy Halloween to all.  Remember to put rue by your doors on Halloween night so the evil spirits lurking about looking for a nice, warm home for the winter won’t pick yours!  Enjoy these last beautiful days of autumn, and I’ll be back to talk with you again next month. 

Herbal blessings, Carolee