I came back from vacation at the end of August to find— surprise!—just a few overgrown pattypan squash, as you can see in the photo at left. Whew, those pattypans breed overnight and grow huge while you’re not looking. For a while I just begged everyone who came by to take some, but then inspiration struck and “Mrs. Scarecrow” was born. She’s a bit lazy, but she loves to chat to all the kids..
Now I have only 27 more overgrown squash left.
What a wonderful autumn we’re having (but I just have to add that it is too dry).
“You have tomatoes?” was the incredulous response most people had to their invitation to my annual tomato and harvest party this year. Like most of the summer, the week leading up to it was gray and drizzly. A forecast of partly cloudy and a 30% chance of showers for Saturday made it sound like a great day for a NW garden party! The day dawned chilly and cloudy as I harvested what tomatoes I could, waiting until the last moment to see if they might get a few more rays on the vine.
People arrived in the late morning bundled in coats. We went out to the porch to taste what tomatoes there were. Of the four test varieties I grew, only two had ripe tomatoes: ‘Red Pearl’ grape tomato, which produced a small bowlful, and ‘Blush’, which had only four ripe ones (and one was cracked). ‘Thompson’s Grape’ was just starting to be ready. Of my standbys, ‘Sungold’ (picked many days earlier, after an evening downpour to avoid cracking) did well for the season we had, and ‘Early Cascade’ was not yet totally ripe. In the photo above, clockwise from upper left are ‘Early Cascade’, ‘Red Pearl’, and ‘Blush’.
‘Sungold’, in a class by itself, is offered as dessert after the tasting.
Now the taste test! ‘Red Pearl’ initially got mixed reviews—nice shape, not seedy but mushy and watery, or light and fruity. One person liked how it exploded in her mouth while others thought the skin was tough.
Everyone ooh’ed and aah’ed at the looks of ‘Blush’, both whole and cut in half—definitely a beauty. As they took a bite, it got all kinds of compliments for its sweet and balanced complex flavor until one person announced that she thought its great looks prejudiced our opinion about its flavor. She thought it was just sweet, not complex or flavorful at all. Everyone agreed that it should be used in a way that would show off its good looks (like in salads), if not also its flavor.
‘Early Cascade’, one of my standbys, usually gets raves on its flavor but not this time because it wasn’t completely ripe. ‘Northern Delight’ was brought to the party by a guest who grew it to see if it would do well in our difficult tomato-growing region. Nope, it got only poor reviews: “disappointing.” This person also grew ‘Siletz’, developed especially for the Pacific NW maritime climate. Many said it “tastes like a tomato” but many also commented about its watery quality and large seed cavity.
Going back to ‘Red Pearl’, people said it tasted great in comparison to the others. Its bowl was soon empty.
The clouds began to part as we sat down to enjoy a harvest potluck where people brought dishes made with garden goodies if possible. I made a rice salad with arugula, ‘Derby’ cabbage, ‘Sweetie Baby Romaine’ lettuce, ‘Midnight Lightning’ zucchini, yellow ‘Mariachi’ peppers, and the last sunchokes from last year, all from the garden.
‘Gusto Purple’ produced nice hot peppers which made a spicy relish with chopped onion, rice vinegar and sugar. This photo shows the Gusto in all its color stages.
Small bouquets decorating the tables were made with some of the flowers we are trialing—the one at left includes ‘Moonsong Deep Orange’ marigold, basil, and feverfew.
The afternoon got warm as we finished our lunch with brownies and double chocolate ‘Cavilli’ zucchini cake. With full bellies, we rambled about the vegetable garden and came upon our real dessert, sun-warmed raspberries right off the vine.
I transplanted ‘Shiny Boy’ watermelon seedlings late—on July 31— in a bed I forgot was dedicated to something else. So after they were growing for a couple of weeks I dug them up (2 plants) and replanted them in another bed. I moved them at 10 pm in the dark. I don’t think they knew what happened because they woke up in the morning and kept on growing. I guess it’s not true that melons don’t like to be transplanted!
I love the intense colors of this ‘Alvaro’ melon, left. It measured 6″ x 6-1/2″, a little bigger than expected and very sweet and tasty. I would grow ‘Alvaro’ again. The bell peppers are ‘Pinot Noir’ and are starting to come in at a larger size since the pump for the well was repaired.
The two types of melons in this picture are ‘Yellow Honey’ honeydew and ‘Crimson Sweet’ watermelon. The catalog description said ‘Crimson Sweet’ would grow to about 25 pounds, however they are weighing in at 40 pounds. I haven’t got room in the fridge for them, even when cut in half, so I am giving away a lot of watermelons. ‘Yellow Honey’ (the two yellow melons in the photo) is confusing me as the sizes are vastly different. Most weigh over 13 pounds, but this little one is about 7 pounds. What’s up with this?
The melon vines are very long and threaten to enter the house. Bill says he’s “afraid of waking in the morning with melons in the bed.” Today I trimmed their vines so he could sleep at night and so I could get out the bedroom door without wading through them.
When Bill puts down the camera he will have to take this melon from me—I’m stuck like this and I can’t stand up while holding it. When I carried one of the 40 pound watermelons into the house last week I hurt my knee and was limping around for DAYS. I won’t do that again—and Bill is now in charge of harvesting the melons.
The melons are delicious and producing heavily but, sadly, I will have to pull them out soon to make room for my cool season veggies and garlic. Or maybe I will just trim the plants and keep one or two vines with melons, to enjoy into November?
Kathy’s post inspires me to share this kid-sized structure for vines. A few years back we built the “playhouse” using elm and ash saplings. Fair warning: It’s a fun morning project with helpers, but pretty frustrating trying to do it yourself.
By September of the first year, the entire structure was covered with cardinal vines and ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glories. Every year since then, the playhouse has been covered with annual vines, including squash and gourds for the past couple years. Whatever we plant, the entire structure is an eye-stopper without fail.
Like Kathy, we set the uprights directly into the soil and expect we’ll have to replace the entire structure in another couple years. We were hoping for 10 years, but the constant irrigation has lowered our expectations somewhat.