Its the Year of the Cucamelon!

I know what you are thinking, what’s a cucamelon? I asked the same question last year as I watched and read posts of this unique and tasty fruit. I saw colleagues of mine growing it in the mid west and in eastern Canada. Could this cute plant grow here on the west coast of BC? I had to try. It’s known under many names from mexican sour gherkin to mouse melon and now cucamelon. This plant originates from Mexico and Central America and has been grown for years.  How could we not have known about it?

Its the Year of the Cucamelon!

As you can see above, its tiny and harvested when its the size of a grape. It’s a cucumber that has hint of lime to it. The seeds are easy to start but start slow so be patient. I started mine in the greenhouse but I will start them outside in the raised beds next year. What I noticed is that the transplants tended to sit and sulk and send out new growth from the base. The weather was warm so maybe they are better direct sown like regular cucumbers.

Its the Year of the Cucamelon!

The cucamelon vine is quite light and easy to train up a support system. I used a post at each side of the bed with 1/2″ plastic netting  as high as 4′ attached from post to post. Next year I will use 6′ high posts and add a center post for support. This vine is now growing up a sunflower so it can easily get to 8′ high. The weight of the vine is now placing some pressure on the netting but its holding fine.  A center post would help this next year. The plant produces tiny yellow flowers followed by its fruit. It’s easy to pick but wait until they are the size of a grape. Smaller fruits are a bit sour to taste but edible.

Its the Year of the Cucamelon!

This is one days harvest. We tend to eat them in salads or straight from the bowl or garden. I have pickled them as well.  As a friend said, they look like someone used a shrink ray gun on a watermelon. I had someone else say that if I was trying to grow watermelons, I wasn’t very successful. These are definitely the hottest plant on the garden scene right now so I promise I will be growing them next year. Its said the plant is perennial and will come back next year so I will mulch my plants to see if they return.

Its the Year of the Cucamelon!

You can be sure I am saving seeds from the cucamelons. I have hundreds of seeds so far and that means I will have plants ready in the spring. Like tomatoes, their seeds are best fermented to remove the gelatinous coating around them. Although they are a member of the cucumber family their plants do not cross with regular cucumber plants. That means the seeds I collect will produce the same plant next year. Have you grown cucamelons this year? If so I would love to hear your thoughts.

Harvesting the Peppers

I was in the kitchen garden harvesting some miniature peppers this morning. I had seen these cute little peppers being sold in grocery stores for $5 a pound. Back In January I saw seeds for the peppers in a seed catalogue and I quickly ordered some so I could try them out. Now that we have had three hot summers the weather is perfect here for growing peppers. The raised bed they are planted in gets full sun for most of the day. It seems to be the perfect location for this heat loving fruit.

Harvesting the peppers

I planted the pepper seedlings using the red plastic that is supposed to help achieve higher yields. Next year I will just cut strips of the red plastic and place it between the rows but close to the plant stems. It will be much easier that way. Trying to dig a planting hole in the slits I cut in the plastic was too time consuming.  Even though the other plants don’t show the red plastic, I did end up using strips throughout the whole bed.  Has it increased my yield? I think so but them I haven’t tried it without it. I still think the old fashioned ways for growing are the way to go but I will always try something once.

Harvesting the peppers

This is how it looks today. I have to laugh at the way the Marigolds grew. I never dreamed this type of Marigold would bush out like it did. It’s Marigold ‘Bonanza Mix’ and definitely a keeper for next year. In this bed are miniature bell peppers, green bell peppers and jalapeno peppers. As our weather has dipped to about 10C-11C at night I know its time to harvest before we have any cold damage. Peppers grow best at temperatures above 55F or 13C. Last night I placed a floating row cover over this crop to keep some warmth in. I will remove it during the day.

Harvesting the peppers

Today I harvested the first of the miniature peppers. Are they not the cutest? Now what will I make with them? I know I could use them raw in salads or stir fry them but that seems so ordinary. Today I found a recipe that literally had me drooling. It’s by Valerie Lugonja, the Canadian Foodie. Check out her recipe here for stuffed miniature peppers.  There is nothing better than looking at what you have prepared for dinner and knowing you grew it as well. I only picked 3/4 lb. of peppers today as my back told me the bending over the bed may not be in my best interest. I need to build in a seat rail  along my raised beds for easier harvesting.
Harvesting the peppers

So just to show the size of the peppers, here is an orange one. I cant wait to harvest more peppers and make this dish for dinner.

Million Dollar Pickle Cucumber Relish

Have you ever grown cucumbers only to wonder what you will do with seven cukes laying on your kitchen counter? Even then I knew I had many more almost ready to pick in the kitchen garden. I grew Cucumber ‘Garden Oasis’ and ‘Persian Baby’ and grow they did. I devoted a whole raised bed to cucumbers and cucamelons. I made cucumber salads, cucumber water and ice cream bucket pickles but still had lots of cucumbers. I suddenly remembered a recipe I got years ago from a customer. You see I worked in a grocery store years ago and an elderly lady shared her recipe for relish with me. I wondered if I still had it. I found the carefully typewritten note among my other hand written recipes. Yes, it was time to try out million dollar pickle cucumber relish. I love relish and hoped it would be easy to make.

Million Dollar Pickle-Cucumber Relish

The recipe below says use a mincer on the vegetables. I have no idea what a mincer is. I used my food processor to chop the 6 pounds of cucumbers. That’s about 6-8 good-sized cucumbers. I have a kitchen scale so I used it to make sure I got the six pounds needed.

Million Dollar Pickle-Cucumber Relish

For the onions I used Walla Walla onions as they are sweeter. I chopped them a bit too fine.  They were added to the large bowl of chopped cucumber.

Million Dollar Pickle-Cucumber Relish

Next I chopped up red peppers pulsing carefully as I wanted it a bit chunky.

Million Dollar Pickle-Cucumber Relish

Next was the green pepper and the vegetables were done. Hmmm…. look how full my largest bowl is. How would I be able to add the brine which included two quarts of water? I mix the vegetables together well and split them up between two large bowls. Remember they will need to go in the fridge so use a size that works for you. I loved being able to do all the vegetable prep work the night before and I placed the veggies in the fridge overnight.  This filled two large bowls right to the brim once the salt water brine was poured on. The next morning I drained the vegetables using a colander. Take your time to really let them drain well. This gives you time to get your boiling water bath going and to mix up your dry ingredients.

Million Dollar Pickle-Cucumber Relish

I mixed up all the dry ingredients such as spices, cornstarch and sugar and added the vinegar. Now here in Canada we don’t measure in quarts so I used 4-250ml cups of vinegar. Mixing the vegetables and the sugar mix can be done in a large canning pot.  I brought the relish mixture to a boil and turned down the heat so it would simmer for 40 minutes. Once it was cooked I was ready to place it in jars and process it.

Million Dollar Pickle-Cucumber Relish

Here is the original recipe below. Now when I read bottle and seal that was when I thought I better bring this up to current canning standards. I sure don’t want to make anyone sick by not canning things right. I placed the relish into warm sterilized jars, wiped the rims carefully before placing seals and rings on the jars. Once the relish was in jars I placed them in a boiling water bath in a large canner and processed for 15 minutes. Be sure to have the boiling water cover your jars at all times. Remove jars carefully using tongs and let cool. Label your jars with product and date. So how does it taste? Its sweet and isn’t something you eat alone. I look forward to trying it on a hotdog or hamburger very soon. After all, it’s what makes a good hotdog, right?

Milllion Dollar Pickle ( Cucumber Relish) Original recipe

6 lb. cucumbers  (do not peel) I would remove some of the seeds when I make this again.

2 lbs. onions, cut in wedges

3 red peppers, remove seeds and membrane

2 green peppers, remove seeds and membrane

Method:

Put cucumbers, onions and peppers through a mincer ( I used a food processor). Cover with 1/2 cup of coarse salt to 2 quarts of water. Let stand overnight. Drain and rinse.

Mix

2 tsp. dry mustard

1 tbsp. turmeric

2 tsp. mustard seed

1 tsp. celery seed

1/4 cup cornstarch

4 cups white sugar

Blend spices, cornstarch and sugar with 1 quart of vinegar.  Pour over pickle mixture-cook 40-45 minutes, bottle and seal.

 

 

 

 

Planting the Fall and Winter Vegetable Garden

Today turned out to be an overcast day and a perfect one to work in the garden. I had been putting off getting a fall and winter vegetable garden in. I knew what I wanted to plant but harvesting in the kitchen garden has kept me busy. It was time to tackle the compost boxes as I knew I needed to refresh the soil in the raised bed by the greenhouse. Now I haven’t had the best of luck in these beds at this time of year. As the days shorten the sun tends to go behind my neighbours home. Today I decided to start some root crops. I harvested all the potatoes in this bed yesterday so I won’t be planting those again. I am a real stickler of proper crop rotation. Today I am planting seeds that I haven’t grown in this bed. There is an existing rosemary and thyme plant that will stay in here for ease of harvesting.

Planting the Fall and Winter Vegetable  Garden

With help from Farmer Jim we got some compost out of the bottom of the compost bins. I spread it around the bed. It has a few bits and pieces that haven’t quite broken down but I am not worried. They will break down pretty quick in this garden. I removed any twigs that were in the soil and returned them to the compost.

Planting the Fall and Winter Vegetable Garden

It was nice to get the compost emptied a bit. With the end of the summer crops approaching I need room to add the vegetation to the compost. What I hadn’t remembered to do was water the compost. With our lack of rainfall we need to remember to water the compost and give it a stir to incorporate air into the pile.

Planting the Fall and Winter Vegetable Garden

After spreading the compost and digging it in a bit I added some glacial rock dust and organic fertilizer to the soil. I love this product and have used it for a couple of years. If you have followed my kitchen garden progress you will know that it looks like it’s on steroids. Seriously, I am not the best at growing vegetables but I think the combination of good soil and fertilizer is why the kitchen garden is doing so well.  It will be interesting to see the difference between this garden and the kitchen garden. The kitchen garden is in full sun all day and that makes a huge difference.

Planting the Fall and Winter Vegetable Garden

I am not one to actually measure fertilizer. I sprinkle it generously over the soil.

Planting the Fall and Winter Vegetable Garden

Then I used a fork and trowel to mix the fertilizer and rock dust in well. I watered the bed being sure to throughly moisten the soil. It was so dry. Now its time to plant!

Planting the Fall and Winter Vegetable Garden

I love Napoli carrots and it says they take 55 days until harvest. There is lots of information on a seed package. That’s about eight weeks so on October 15 I should have a harvest. That’s well before our first frost date so they should do well. I am hoping to leave the carrots in the ground and use them as we need  them.  With our warm winters it’s getting harder to store surplus harvest in the garage. Yes, a root cellar would be great if our water table wasn’t so high.

Planting the Fall and Winter Vegetable Garden

I found my easy seeder for the carrot seed. I used this when I work with kids planting seeds. It allows for one to four seeds to be planted depending on how it is set. For carrots I want one seed at a time. A tap on the top has a seed pop out the hole and down the chute to the soil. I find I don’t waste carrots seeds if I use it. With carrot seeds being so tiny, its easy to plant too many at once.

Planting the Fall and Winter Vegetable Garden

So what did I plant today? I planted ‘Tom Thumb’ peas, ‘Napoli’ carrots, ‘Detroit Red’ beets and ‘Laurentian’ turnips. I love making homemade soup in the winter so I should call this the soup garden.

Planting the Fall and Winter Vegetable  Garden

One last step was to place a floating row cover over the bed. Its to keep the four-legged creatures out and prevent this newly planted garden from becoming a litter box. As the plants grow I will use a larger piece of fabric so it allows the fabric to rise with the plants. The fabric is permeable and lets water through. It comes in different weights so it can be used to extend the season by keeping the soil warm. Now its watch and wait for the seeds to germinate. With our warm days it won’t be long.

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-August 2015

Its Garden Bloggers bloom day so I thought I would update how my garden is doing. Even though we are at stage three water restrictions I can water the garden using a hose and nozzle with a shut off. It takes two hours to water just half of the garden so I concentrate on the new plantings, large shrubs and trees. Of course, the vegetable garden is a high priority since we grow a fair amount of food. This week I am up to ny ears in cucumbers. That’s okay as I am making greek salads and we love cucumber water.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-August 2015

In the spring I grew Love Lies Bleeding or Amaranth caudatus. The long pinkish red tassel like flowers hang in clusters. This annual flower is easy to grow from seed and reaches a  height of about four feet in my garden.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day 2015

Nicotiana is another annual flower that I grew from seed this year. I had hoped to have success growing it in partial shade but the plants are sitting there sulking. This plant is in full sun and obviously loves its location. This plant is known to self sow so I may not be happy if I have too many of these next year. This plant easily grows to six feet but so far it hasn’t needed staking.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-August 2015

Dahlia ‘Ferncliff Duo’ is out this week. The Dahlias love their new spot near the kitchen garden.
Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-August 2015

Snapdragon ‘Purple Prince’ is making a wonderful border plant in front of the Dahlias. It’s a rich deep reddish-purple although it looks more red in this photo. The growth of this plant is taking off and it should have masses of flowers soon. This is definitely a plant I will save seed from.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-August 2015

Dahlia ‘Wheels’ is out but I have some concerns about the streaks of yellow I see in the one petal. Each year I get some changes happening even though it’s still the original tuber. This is one of its better years having solid red petals on the outside as expected. Some years I have very mottled red and yellow petals.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-August 2015

Dahlia ‘Mango Sunset’ is still my favourite to date. I am glad I placed the supports around the Dahlias at planting time. With the large flowers they definitely need support.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-August 2015

Here is a photo of the Dahlia  garden. Its full, that’s for sure. I am not sure if the Artemisia ‘Silver Brocade’ has a chance. It is getting crowded out.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-August 2015

One of the best annual flowers I have grown this year is Marigold ‘Bonanza Mix’. I planted one plant every foot around this bed of pepper plants and look how they have grown. I have not had to deadhead one plant since they went in. I will save seeds from this Marigold to grow again next season.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-August 2015

This is a new plant to me. Its called Berlandiera lyrata or chocolate flower. This is a temporary home for it so I can see how it does. Hopefully it makes through the winter. It’s cute how the flower fades to the light green after its petals fall. Its said the blooms smell like chocolate but I haven’t checked. I know, I need to slow down and smell the flowers.

DSC09318

Its been the best year for roses. I can see this new cluster of blooms from my family room window. They would make a wonderful fragrant bouquet. This rose tends to bloom on and off until late October.

DSC09319

The Coreopsis I grew from seed is still in bloom. I have it in partial shade and it does well there.

That’s about it for this garden bloggers bloom day. I am linking over at May Dreams Gardens.

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour!

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour

You must be wondering why I am out walking several times a week. I am on a mission to get fit but also find some beautiful gardens. What I love about walking is how much more I see in people’s gardens. You miss the fine details when driving. The other morning a friend suggested a couple of gardens she knew I would love to see. They are on 52-A street in Ladner. You know an eager gardener when they plant right to the edge of the boulevard. Potentilla  and Heather make a pleasing combination along the roadside.

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour

In the garden is what is known in Ladner as a peace pole. Peace poles were made by high school students in Delta. Its part of the Peace Pole Initiative and each one is inscribed with the words “May Peace Prevail On Earth”.

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour

Upon a closer look I found my knight in shining armour! This is pretty cool I think. Another peace pole is placed to the side of the front door. There is more garden art throughout the garden making you look more than once so you don’t miss anything.

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour

The house next door has a beautiful garden full of perennials. Bird feeders hang from the trees. I love the purple colour of this home.

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour!

Hydrangea, Dahlias and Rudbeckia fill this garden with late summer colour.  Check out the garden art on the wall.

I Found my Knight in Shining Armour!

I love a bit of whimsy in the garden. Peeking under the arbor we spied this large banner. Is that another knight in shining armour? They remind of the kings on a set of playing cards.

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour!

What was disheartening to see was this sign at the end of the driveway. Its pleading for the return of a white bench that was taken from this spot. Another one has replaced it. The bench is there so people can rest a spell. It’s sad that a few people have spoiled this for others. 

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour!

Once we left 52-A street we walked over to 55A street. I hope I have this street correct. It’s the one that I call candy cane lane as every resident on this street puts up Christmas lights for the community to enjoy. I had never walked this street in the summer. This garden was full of colour with Roses, Gladioli and annual flowers taking the stage. I love repeat blooming Roses.

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour!

In the center of the lawn a single Blue Fescue was planted in a container to hide a stump. I wanted to reach out and touch it.

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour!

This is another angle of the garden. Are those pansies still in bloom? Hard to believe after our heat wave and drought this summer.

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour!

Across the street was the most beautiful rose! Yes, this one has several different colours on one plant. Shades of yellow, dark pink and light pink make this one a keeper.

I Found My Knight in Shining Armour!

This curved  path that takes your eye to the back and disappears. What is beyond? Another garden?  I like the use of small stones as pathway material. If you want to kneel and work in the garden, its gentler on the knees. This is a lovely well designed small garden.

Have you been following my Ladner garden walks? If not, here are a few links to previous walks. You never know, I may have taken photos of your garden.

My Home Town Garden Walk

Cactus Topiary Anyone?

A Secret Garden Revealed

My Friday Garden Walk in Ladner

Ladner Gardens Beat the Heat With Beauty

 

Ladner Gardens Beat the Heat with Beauty

Ladner Gardens Beat the Heat with Beauty

Ladner’s gardens are beautiful. If you haven’t visited our small town, you must. This is one of the gardens planted by the Corporation of Delta. I love the colours they used this summer. In the back is a seldom used plant called Gomphrena in purple and white. I haven’t grown this plant in many years so perhaps its time to think about using it again. A wave of purple Petunias is in sharp contrast to the chartreuse colour of Ipomoea  or sweet potato vine. Its followed by a lighter colour of Petunias. It’s like a river of flowers welcoming visitors to Ladner.
Ladner Gardens Beat the Heat with Beauty

Gomphrenaglobosa grows to about two feet high with tiny globe like flowers. It’s fairly drought tolerant and will withstand high heat. It sounds like a wise plant to use as our summers warm up each year. This year we are dealing with higher than normal temperatures and a lack of rainfall. It makes you look at your garden and rethink your plant choices going forward.

Ladner Gardens Beat the Heat with Beauty

We walked up Central avenue to five corners. Five corners are well-known to the locals. We have an intersection where five roads meet at a five way stop.  We turned the corner near Grove avenue as I knew it would not disappoint me. Rudbeckia is in full bloom everywhere. It’s the Japanese blood grass that caught my attention in this garden. Grasses are great plants and  provide movement in the garden. Here on the west coast we don’t use them as much as we should. Japanese Blood Grass or Imperata cylindrica is a perennial grass but it needs a well-drained soil. I have had trouble growing it in my heavy clay soil in Ladner. Obviously it works for some and I should give it another try.

Ladner Gardens Beat the Heat with Beauty

You know how much I love Dahlias. Isn’t this a beauty? This garden was full of large-flowered Dahlias in all colours.

Ladner Gardens Beat the Heat with Beauty

I was excited to see this garden on Grove avenue. Its bright and cherry and plantings of red flowers echoed  the grasses in the garden.  I think this is a great way to reduce lawn and we may see more gardens like this going forward. Lawns are water hogs and require too much care.  Seeing a cute garden like this makes me wonder whats in the backyard.

Ladner Gardens Beat the Heat with Beauty

As  we ventured on our way home I found this stunning rose. This is definitely the best year for roses. The lack of rain means the flowers are holding up better and there seems to be less disease and insect problems. As I walk each day I talk to gardeners along the way. It’s always fun hearing stories, exchanging garden tips and seeing smiles. I asked someone yesterday how their tomatoes were doing. He said its the worst year ever. A sigh of relief washed over me as I agreed. But, he said, the roses are outstanding! Whats worked in your  garden during this heat wave?