Archive for June, 2009

Problems with Open Pollinated Carrots

June 21, 2009

Spring/Summer thinnings

Spring/Summer thinnings

I did a bed of multi-colored carrots this spring. I got the seed from Baker Creek and I selected a “white”, a “yellow”, a “red” and a “purple”. I don’t think much of spring carrots ( I like mature fall carrots) and so I thought that I would grow them just for color accent in meals. I bought open pollinated varieties because I am trying to avoid the big seed companies. In this case, however, there may be a good case to be made for buying carrots from major seed purveyors.

I got a LOT of duds. Duds in this case are “wild” carrot. It is inedible; not poisonous but too tough to eat. And, it wants to act like an annual. That’s how you can tell which carrots in the bed are good and which are not. The duds throw up a seed head right away.

I did some research on saving seed from carrots and here is what I found out. First, they are not self-polinating; they are pollinated by insects so you can’t isolate the seed carrot with floating row cover or such. And, you cannot have ANY other carrot variety within a radius of 1/4 mile. Actually, some instructions say 1/2 mile. Either way, that is a LONG WAY and really difficult. Such isolation is not easily within the means of even the extraordinary gardener or most farmers. You really need to kill everything that can cross pollinate with your target carrots in the radius and that means standards of growing hygiene that are only possible if you are a seed producer. It also, likely, means a lot of herbicides and mono-cultures of other species around the target plants. It makes you wonder how they were grown in pre-industrial times. There were probably a lot of dud carrots grown then. Did pre-industrial growers specialize in seed varieties? I’d like to know more about pre-industrial, locally focused, agriculture. I wonder if all of those post-apocalypse planners about now are curious about these issues too. What do seed savers think about difficult to produce seed for what are food staples. Are there tricks for difficult species?

Fall Crops Started

June 18, 2009

Now is the time in Zone 5-6 to start Fall crops. Actually I started mine a few weeks ago but it can be done now. I have Brussels Sprouts that are in 4 packs and are about 3″ tall. I just pricked out the kale, collards and cauliflower and put them into 4 packs. And I have fall broccoli just coming up in my starter flats. I also started some radicchio. Soon I will direct seed fennel and Belgian Endive (Whitloof Chickory). I started some additional lettuces but they are not yet my Fall crop … maybe a month later for those. The large bed of garlic I have is getting ready to harvest and that’s where a lot of my brassicas will go … that’s my normal rotation.

Fava Beans

June 15, 2009
Favas ready to harvest

Favas ready to harvest

Long time since my last post. Too much gardening to do, too many house (es) repairs and, after all, its almost Summer, a time for doing and not the best time for reflecting.

Our fava crop is in. Whoppie. If you have not grown them then you should. They are relatively easy. You plant them as soon as the ground can be worked, except where the winter temps are moderate and then you plant them as a fall to be wintered-over crop. They like to germinate in cool soils and they don’t like summer heat. We planted Aguadulce from Seeds from Italy. If you live near an ethnic food store (Italian, Indian or Middle-eastern) you can buy a bag of dried favas and just plant them. They’ll germinate. They will probably be Windsor which is a bit gross as a bean compared to other varieties. I use these seeds for Favas grown solely as a cover crop.

In most North American areas, you plant them in late March and harvest them in early June. The plants are GREAT nitrogen fixers so they are good for the soil and the plants are brittle so you can easily chop them into the soil for a green manure. The beans are encased in thick fibrous pods. You harvest them when you can feel that the beans are like small baby limas inside them … maybe 4 inches long and as think as a pinky finger. You boil the whole pod in a lot of water for a few minutes and then cut the tip of the pod off and squeeze out the beans inside. If they are as small as a baby lima then you can just eat them. If they are larger then you can take off the outer shell and eat the inside. There are lots of good instructions for processing them on the web. Here is one. Here is another.

We will likely get three meals from about 15 feet of a double row. Our first small picking was fava risotto. The second was fava beans and bow tie pasta with olive oil, butter and a good Reggiano. We’re not sure what the third will be. If we are lucky (and the temps stay moderate) we will get a fourth small picking.
Fresh favas taste like the best baby limas. They are sweet and green with a little crunch. Most recipes for green favas are Mediterranean in style. Mature dried favas are used to make many middle-eastern dishes including the famous Egyptian nation dish Foul (fa’ oul), of which there are many variations.

If you are going to grow one “uncommon” vegetable, and if you have a bit of room, grow favas. Not only will you get a culinary treat but you will also improve your soil at the same time.