Sunday, July 25, 2010

Invasion of the Giant Man-Eating Worms!

I have been fairly lucky up until this point to keep my garden pretty bug free.  I mean sure some Japanese Beatles have snacked on the green beans a bit but other than that I have only had to even spray for bugs one time at the beginning of the growing season.  So imagine my surprise, dismay, complete revolution when I found these guys on my tomato plants.  The Hornworm.
I was just taking a quick glance at things before heading out of town and I noticed the tops of two of my plants were missing.  I have been having trouble with them leaning a bit and growing above the cage so I figured the plant had just broken off.  But I was perplexed when I couldn't find the top of the plant on the ground laying there.  After a bit more careful searching I found some of these guys perfectly blending in with the giant stems they were devouring.  They had eaten about half of the ENTIRE PLANT!  Leaves, stem, tomatoes-everything!  After removing these four mid-day, and two more later in the afternoon I applied a quick spray of Sevin bug spray and hoped it would keep them away.  No such luck.  While I have been out of town Leslie has removed about 6-8 more of the suckers.  I guess they don't mind Sevin products, maybe they found it to be a tasty condiment to the large quantities of tomatoes they have devoured.  Maybe something like a balsalmic?
In other garden news I have decided that next year all green beans will be planted in one long row instead of two rows as my two current rows are almost meeting in the middle.
Picking them has become an exercise in total claustrophobia.  Bean vines sticking to my body, grabbing at the widest parts of me from all angles.  Production has been fair, I'll be interested to see how they are after I have been gone a week.  A neighbor came by to pick some once but I'm not sure how deeply he picked into the maddening cluster of vine-y terror.
The okra has grown quite tall and soon will block the sprinkler pole.
It is always so strange in April or May to look out at this huge expanse of dirt in the backyard and think to yourself-wow I have plenty of room this year, no garden crowding, no stepping on plants to pick other plants.  The July comes and everything is growing on top of each other.  I have to admit that pulling the dead squash and planting new sort of gave the garden this "re-awakening" in a way-it's fun to see something sprouting again mid-season. 
I'm going to close for now but hope to post this week about last weekend's canning, pickling and preserving marathon (approx. 18 hours of kitchen work over two days.)  It was quite the experience.

Watch out for Hornworms this week-vicious, greedy, hungry bastards.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Would You Like Okra or Green Beans With That?

It is becoming a common refrain around here-every night at dinner, no matter what is being served you have a choice of side dishes-okra or green beans. I suppose it is much healthier than chips or fries-although fried okra can't be at the top of the diet foods list either. There is nothing like adding something you grew to the table every night. So on that note here is a garden update:
 I'm picking about this much stuff every 2-3 days.  I thought the green beans had totally fizzled out on me but then yesterday I ended up with this-
I think the extremely hot June weather caused a case of "blossom drop" which really halted green bean production.  After some cooler temps, a good fertilizing and some water they are picking right back up.

The okra is growing like gangbusters.  I am picking it almost everyday and the plants are about waist high, boob high.  At first I believed I had left way too much room between the green beans rows as well as between the green beans and okra but alas they are too close together now and when I move between the rows to pick I'm bumping up alongside all of the plants. 
My squash all seem to have contracted Squash Vine Borer and so I have ripped most of them out and re-planted fresh seed.  I was pleased to already see it sprouting and the squash casserole Iron Chef competition will probably be delayed about 50 days until we have squash again.  (I do not think Leslie is disappointed by this.)
The jalapeno peppers are producing well, but not as well as last year.  I haven't had any to can yet.  Last year I did about 12 pints. 

The red and green bell peppers are coming in and the red ones are finally turning red.  They always seem to take SOOO long to change colors.
The eggplant are coming along, I'm not sure when they need to be picked having never grown them before but the tag on the plant said 8-10" so I think I will wait a bit longer.
Finally the tomatoes which really are doing well considering the problems I have had with the fungus.  The bottoms of the plants are really devastated but they are producing fruit and we have had some BLTs and I have made 2 rounds of fresh salsa.
This time of the year most of the gardening work is the "harvesting" which is rewarding.  I tend to start to let the weeds go and the plants end up taking over most of the square footage of the garden.  I caught myself already contemplating changes in layout for next year this week-I guess I'm getting a little ahead of myself-but there is always that "hmm what if I run the green beans against the fence and then I will have more room for fill in the blank vegetable".

Oh I almost forgot-I used my new canner last week (happy early birthday from Mom and Dad) to make homemade pickles-I've done about 10 quarts so far and they are quite tasty.
In fact yesterday someone told me they were the best homemade ones they had ever had.  Nice.  Rewarding.  Worth it!
Would you like Okra or Green Beans with that sandwich?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Seafood Wrapped in Pig Meat...

What could be better right?  Seafood, in this case shrimp, wrapped up in a pocket of tasty bacon!  This recipe is a fairly quick and easy one based loosely on a tasty dish from Pappasito's Mexican Cantina called Shrimp Brochette.  I made this one up myself and have tinkered with it a bit until I came up with the easiest way possible to make this dish.  You only need 4 basic ingredients:

Shrimp, (the bigger the better, peeled, deveined and I even removed the tails.)  Actually I bought them peeled and deveined and only removed the tails myself ;)  Some cream cheese, either the tub kind or regular block kind softened slightly.  Some jalapeno pepper (fresh, seeded, sliced into strips) and bacon, I prefer regular as opposed to thick cut. (You cut each strip in half.)

So this is easy peasy-Cut into shrimp in the same area where they are deveined a little deeper but not all the way through.  Add some cream cheese and a slice of pepper...

Wrap shrimp in bacon.  Now from this point there are a couple of ways you can continue.  The first time I tried this I skewered them and cooked them on the grill but honestly they were a little hard to skewer without the insides squirting out and they flamed up a good bit on the grill.  Next try was on a broiler pan with a toothpick stuck in each one.  But this time I just wrapped them up and laid them on the broiler pan like so...

Fire up the broiler on your oven, pop these puppies in for 5 mins, pull them out, flip them each over with some tongs and pop them in for 5 more minutes.  You end up with something that looks a bit like this...

Ok granted they aren't beautiful for company.  But they taste GREAT!