Barbara Gosnell

Curious about Kohlrabi

That weird looking vegetable in your CSA box and at the market stand.  The one that looks like an alien spaceship.  Or maybe the vegetable version of an octopus.  You know.  The one that is too strange to take a chance on……

Kohlrabi

It’s kohlrabi.

And not trying it would be a mistake, because kohlrabi has made the superfood list for it’s combination of super nutrition (it may help lower blood pressure and support healthy hearts) and great flavor.  You can delve into the details of nutrition by clicking HERE.

You may have received either Green or Purple kohlrabi and they are just the same – once they are peeled, that is.  We plant both in our garden because green kohlrabi tends to be ready for harvest about 2 to 3 weeks earlier than the purple.  Planting both extends the season for one of our favorite veggies.

Part of the cabbage family, it has a mild, slightly sweet flavor that complements almost any meal or stands on its own as a snack food.

As you would with a root vegetable, the first step to prepare or store your kohl is to remove the leaf stems.  They will break off easily at their base.  Clean and save them as you would kale or collard greens.  They can be used exactly the same way and have a pleasant flavor somewhat reminiscent of broccoli.

If you want to store the kohlrabi for a while, it will keep on a counter top for 3-5 days or in the crisper section of your refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

To use, you’ll want to peel off the outer tough skin with a paring knife or potato peeler.  The white, tender, inner portion can be cut into matchsticks for snacking or shredded and used raw in salads or coleslaw. You’ll find some great pictures if you click HERE.

You might also slice it thinly to add to a stir-fry or cube it and add to soups or stews.  As with all things, a quick internet search for recipes will most definitely bring you a variety of ideas.

I do hope you’ll give this super-vegetable a try.  It isn’t just healthy.  It’s really good eating!

Market Again!!

The garden is finally beginning to produce a little bigger quantity, so we’ll be making an extra market this month!

May 15 garden

Look for just a few New Potatoes to go with the fresh Dragon Tongue beans or French beans.   Some of the last Lettuce of the spring season that are still sweet and fresh.  Spring Onions – reds, whites and texas sweets along with some pretty red scallions.

We’ll have Kohlrabi – purple and green, Scarlet and Dutch Blue Curly Kale – still tender and sweet.  A new (to us) kale called “Tronchuda” has a large flat leaf that is perfect for sandwich wraps or ‘cabbage’ rolls. And Swiss Chard, of course.

I’ll bring some bunches of cilantro, parsley, oregano and peppermint, chocolate mint and spearmint.

And I’ll have a couple more of the Thai Roselle plants for your own garden.  This is a member of the hibiscus family which produces a flower calyx that is used for a healthy herbal tea.  You can find more information about that by clicking HERE.

As always, there isn’t a lot of any given thing.  Come early for best selection.  I know it must sound like a really trite sales pitch when I say that – but really….

Hope to see you there!

Dragon Tongue Beans

Heirloom veggies generally spark questions with their intriguing shapes and colors.  This week, for example, our CSA customers will receive a beautiful and different ‘green’ bean with the outstanding flavor heirlooms are renowned for.

If you aren’t a CSA customer, but live in the Athens area, you can order some fresh-picked from our Farm Store (just click on the link at the top of the page.)  We’ll harvest them just for you and deliver them to a local store for your pickup.  Check it out!

Dragon Tongue Beans

Called Dragon Tongue Bush Beans (or Dragon Tongue Langerie), these beans have flat, edible pods and a creamy white base color with variegated stripes of dark purple.   One of our favorites for garden-grazing as we harvest. (There are perks to gardening!)

As with most heirlooms, you don’t need to feel obligated to find some fancy recipe for them. Just use your own favorite green bean recipe.  They will make your dish something extra special.  In fact, we had these for dinner last night, cooked gently with fresh new potatoes and flavored with spring onions and green garlic.  Really good, I must say, although they lose the beautiful colors when you cook them.

If you want to try something new to showcase the fresh, crisp flavor, feel free to add them to a raw veggie platter along with the carrot sticks and red peppers or simply snap them into short, happy pieces and toss them into a favorite salad.  I’m thinking they would make excellent refrigerator pickles, as well.

I found several great sounding recipes on the Gardenerd website you might want to check out  (Just click HERE.). I’ll be trying the Summer Bean Salad in the next few days.

We often provide recipes for CSA and market customers and we label most of the veggies just so you will have the right words to do a quick internet search for more information and recipes.

If you find – or create – an especially good method for fixing any of our fresh veggies, we hope you’ll share the tips!  We’d love to try it your way!

But the most important thing is not to avoid those unique and different heirlooms.  You’d miss out on so much great eating!

All Clear at Gopher Knoll

Our sincere thanks to everyone for your concern about the garden (and us) after last night’s storm.   I’m not sure if that was a record setting downpour, but we’ve certainly never seen one quite like it.

rain gauge.

I understand we had just over 10″ locally.  Can’t tell for sure, since our 5″ rain gauge topped out somewhere along the way.

Bunny fence

We will be moving a lot of dirt from where it landed at the bottom of the garden back to the top.

Rain damage May 2015

The cucumbers will be grateful.  They’re hanging on to what’s left for dear life right now.

If we dry out just a bit today (hopefully the next rain will hold off until tomorrow evening, at least, we are expecting to have CSA boxes filled and delivered on time in the morning.   Will let you know if that needs to change.

Our thoughts and prayers for all who have been hurt and are dealing with real damage from this.  Especially neighbors in the Van area.  Y’all stay safe.  And dry.

Second Monday!

Well, we missed the first one – so we’ll be at market THIS weekend!

The garden is finally looking good, although things are growing more slowly than usual due to the amount of rain and lack of sunshine.  We did get to pick the first good mess of beans this morning!

Wish I could post a picture, but the photos won’t upload to the website right now.  I’ll try again to get a slide show up later on.

We’ll have lots of spring greens at market this weekend – along with beautiful spring onions and green garlic.  There will be Mervielles des quatre saison (4-season marvel) lettuce.  Crisp mint romaine and the deep red “garnet rose” romaine.  Some beautiful butterhead lettuce and another called Ice Queen.   The last of the mache (corn salad).  This will be the only time this spring we’ll have these lettuces, as the weather will simply be too warm for them after this.   I’ll make up a few bags of spring mixed greens including some bloomsdale spinach, new zealand spinach, arugula, mizuna, & corn salad.

We’ll have a beautiful kale mix including scarlet kale, dutch blue curly, lacinato and red russian.

Lots of delicious swiss chard!

Will also have some fresh herbs –  parsley, cilantro, oregano, thyme, peppermint, spearmint and dill.  Get some good pickling cukes from the good folk at Hwy 19 Produce (they’ll be at market, too) and pick up some fresh dill to make those perfect pickles.

And some tomato starts – I had extra of the Texas Wild tomato.  This is the only tomato I know of that actually has acclimated to growing wild in Texas – which means it tolerates our heat and normally dry conditions.   The Texas Wild is a currant tomato, producing a very small and tasty fruit.  Unlike other tomatoes, it is insect pollinated and will need to be planted apart from other tomato plants if you plan to save seed.

And finally will have starts for your herb garden.  German chamomile, echinacea purpura, Thai basil and sweet basil.  Interplanting herbs among your tomatoes and squash may well help to repel some of the bugs.

As usual, we don’t have large quantities of any given thing (except maybe swiss chard), so come early for best choice.

See you in the morning!

What? No First Monday?!!

IMG_20150430_133923021
And, they’re off!!

We are out of pocket this weekend, running the Vintage Car Rally Association  “All Stars for Autism” Rally in Joplin, Mo.    Son, Travis, has come in from Seattle to be the driver for this one.

No worries.  Jeff is taking care of the garden and we’ll be back in time to start the CSA on Tuesday and hope to see you at market on the following week.  I’ll be posting to let you know what all we’ll have there.  A hint:  the garden is really looking good right now!

Many thanks for your patience and good wishes!

April Garden

It’s been a very wet spring – with a long, hard freeze in February and months of more gray skies than blue.   As hard as it has been to get into the garden through the mud and get things planted, you might be wondering what has survived and whether we’ll get those spring goodies we’ve been waiting so impatiently for.

Time for a slide show, then, of the April 2015 garden.

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Of course, there’s more to come.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons and squash are still going in.   Lots of different herbs this year, as well.

We’ll have the “Farm Store” page open soon, so be sure to check that page for produce that’s available.   We’ll harvest for you and take your garden fresh produce to a local shop for payment and pickup.   Our thanks to Athens Organic Supply on Hwy 31 and Dana’s Health Food on S. Palestine in Athens for making it easier for you to eat local!

First Monday – First Spring Market!

Market is opening a whole month earlier this year!  And we’ll be there with super-fresh spring greens for your special Easter dinner.

Lettuce

This Winter Density lettuce is so beautiful, it almost hurt my feelings to take it out of the garden!  This variety is a dark green romaine with a texture almost like a butterhead lettuce.  What a pleasure for those spring salad bowls.

We’ll have the season’s best mixed baby kales and some beautiful young swiss chard.  We even have several heads of a gentle little salad green called ‘corn salad’.

If you’d prefer to grow your own, we have some salad baskets planted for you with two unique romaines – a bright green one called ‘Crisp Mint and a deep red ‘Garnet Rose’.  Talk about a pretty basket!

If you are an herb tea drinker, you’ll recognize an herb called ‘rooibos’, – it makes a zingy red tea with a natural sweetness.  It is made from a flower in the hibiscus family called “Thai Roselle”.   And we’ll have these young starts for sale along with basil, chamomile and a few Cherokee Purple tomato starts.

We do hope to see you there!  What a way to bring in spring!

[Edit:  I just realized I made a mistake here.  Rooibos is a different plant altogether.  The Red Thai Roselle we have for sale is the primary ingredient in Celestial Brand “Red Zinger” tea.  Both red.  Both tea.  Both full of antioxidants.  Both delicious.  But different.   So sorry if I misled anyone….]

Out with the bad …

In with the good….

Generally our approach to pest control in the garden.

This is a topic we get lots of questions about, so today I thought you might enjoy a look through how we take care of pest control at Gopher Knoll.  You know, of course, that we do not use any chemical pesticides in the garden – but that doesn’t mean we do nothing at all to keep pests at bay.

Companion planting:

  Sweet Allysum aphids

This little flower, nestled among the lettuces, down rows of kale and even between okra plants,is called Sweet Allysum.  According to Agricultural Research Service (USDA), this little flower has real power in eliminating aphid problems from organic operations.  “Lettuce growers in California’s central coast plant alyssum to attract adult hoverflies that feed on the flower’s pollen and nectar. After eggs laid by the well-fed females hatch, the voracious larvae prey on currant-lettuce aphids—important primary insect pests of lettuce in the region.”

Other studies have indicated that interplanting as little as 1 allysum plant every 20 feet can be sufficient to control aphids in lettuce fields.  Pretty amazing pest control for a little flower.

This is our first year to interplant this particular flower.  I expect (hope) that it will reseed itself and come back annually.  That would be easier in a no-till garden (which we are not, yet.)    We’ll let you know how it goes.

Another companion planting idea we use is planting radishes among the cucumbers and squash to discourage cucumber beetles and squash bugs and borers.   A quick google search for “companion planting pest control” will take you to a variety of possibilities.

Encouraging the good guys:

wasp eggslacewings

We generally have plenty of ladybugs in the garden and they and their larvae eat plenty of aphids and potato bug eggs,  but not all the helpful insects are well established in our garden yet, so we actually release extra every year.

Trichogramma wasps are really effective at reducing damage by all kinds of caterpillarstomato hornworms, corn earworms, cabbage loopers, etc.    We introduce these by ordering wasp eggs that come attached to a small strip of cardboard.   We tack a strip to bushes or trees in the garden area and allow them to hatch naturally.  We’ve done this a couple of times each spring for three years now with visible results.

This year, we also released Green lacewings, which are effective against aphids.

I admit to having been a bit of a skeptic about this one originally.  I couldn’t see how a few tiny wasps released into the big world could have much effect.   I was wrong.  This works.

Insecticidal soap:

orange oil soap

Of course, fire ants are a problem for everyone in East Texas.   We use old coffee grounds to encourage ants to choose another place to live (see below), but when a mound gets out of control, a drench with a blend of orange oil and soap will take it out without too much collateral damage.   We use just one ounce of orange oil and a squirt of liquid soap to a gallon of water.   Pour the liquid slowly into the ant bed to allow it to soak in deeply.

Soap itself is a broad spectrum pesticide – meaning, it will kill the good guys as well as the bad – and some soaps can contain chemicals we would not want to introduce to the garden.  It works because the fatty acids in the soap “dissolve”  the cell membranes of the insect, allowing cell contents to leak out and the insect quickly dies.  We use Dr. Bronner’s pure castille soap – made from organic olive oil – and only in very controlled and limited applications.   For example, in addition to the occasional drenching of an ant bed, we might use a mild (1 tsp per quart of water) solution to occasionally spray squash bug larvae if other control measures don’t provide adequate control

Be aware that soap only works when sprayed directly on the pest or when the pest contacts a wet solution.  It will not kill any bug that crawls over or even eats a leaf that has been sprayed and the soap has dried.   Use it carefully in late dusk after the bees have gone to bed, to avoid accidental exposure of wet soaps to your honeybees.

Soap can be phytotoxic (damaging)  to some plants, so test just one plant and wait a day or two before using again so you’ll know how it affects any plant you choose to use it on.

Coffee:

coffee

Oddly enough, a good many bugs and other critters including ants, slugs, and flea beetles,  don’t seem to like coffee as much as I do.

Nice.

That means I can sprinkle used coffee grounds (or fresh really cheap old coffee grounds) around the perimeter of the garden and encourage many bugs to simply go a different direction.

I sprinkle them around the blueberry bushes and other acid-loving plants, as well – just to help keep the soil pH down in those areas.  I also sprinkle grounds down rows of lettuce or greens, around okra, etc. to help eliminate ant problems there.

The operative word here is “sprinkle”.   Not large quantities.   Small quantities can also be fed to worms or added to your compost.

A few other ideas that we use selectively include using basil tea (in off season, made with a drop of basil essential oil) to control aphids in the greenhouse.  And I will plant lemon balm and sprinkle crushed lemon balm leaves among the squash and melon plants to discourage squash bugs.  Note:  lemon balm is in the mint family – and it can become invasive if planted directly into the garden.  Try planting it in a pot that is buried in the location you want it – easy to pick up in the fall, too.  🙂

You have ideas you use?  I hope you’ll post a comment and share!

Spring Rain

And we’re grateful.  Really, we are.

But, could we have a little break now?   The lakes are full.  The ground is soaked.

And we are trying to take advantage of the little breaks to get the garden going.   We had a load of compost delivered yesterday.   It was more challenging than we planned.

Stuck compost truck.

A very large, very stuck truck.

WreckerThis is the very large wrecker that came to rescue the very large, very stuck truck.

Unloading CompostThis is the very large load of compost – too wet to actually slide out of the truck.

second wrecker

This is the not-quite-so-large second wrecker, helping the very big wrecker up a very slick slope.

I think I can.  I think I can…..

Now that we have compost, we can finish preparing garden rows.  Once the ground dries enough to do that, that is.

Today, it’s raining again.

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