Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pests, Tomatoes, and Two Recipes!

My topics of the day don't really go together very well. Sorry.
We'll start with the bad news and end with the good. :)

Beware! The pretty white "butterflies" flitting about everywhere right about now, are the harbingers of brassicae disaster! They are cabbage butterflies, and they are searching out their fav places to lay their eggs - plants from the brassica family! Soon they will turn into little green caterpillars and eat your supper!

The other day I found their evil work in one of our growbeds. That pretty picture of mixed greens I posted previously, had a collard green in the mix. The leaves were riddled with holes. The watercress and arugula were affected as well. I pulled all the plants from the gravel, and was horrified by the millions of tiny green caterpillars I saw on the gravel surface! I wanted to reach for the BTK (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki) so badly! But knew I could not! Though BTK is approved for caterpillar killing in organic gardening, I can't spray it into my growbed because of the fish.

Time to get creative. Jeff adjusted the drain so the bed filled totally with water. We left it that way for a day. Voila! All caterpillars drowned. Scared me though. Insect infestations in a greenhouse can take over everything. As soon as we have to close up the greenhouse for winter, I will watch closely and order beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings as necessary. I can also use, in moderation, a foliar spray made of molasses, water and dish soap. Insecticidal soaps and neem oil can be used if I am very careful not to get the spray into the bed itself and thus to the fish. Smaller plants can be pulled from the growbed and dunked upside down in the fish tank, where the fish will be happy to eat the bugs. I haven't needed to try this yet. Apparently the Aquaponic Source is selling a fish-safe insecticide - I think I will buy some just to have on hand.

There is also one tomato plant that looks like it might have late blight. Maybe it was too close to the water input and its leaves were splashed. I've never had a tomato with late blight before, so I will take some photos of late blight to the greenhouse tomorrow and see if I can identify it. Or if anyone lives nearby and recognizes late blight when they see it, I'd love your help!

Okay, now the good news. We're FINALLY getting enough ripe tomatoes at a time we can't eat them all. Some are from the dirt garden - I planted them in dirt when they grew too big waiting for the system to be ready. Yeah! After sharing them, I will make heirloom tomato sauce!! Here are some tomato pictures. Aren't tomatoes beautiful?
Orange Oxheart, Brandywine, Japanese Trifele (my fave) Sungold, and I forget the name of the round red one.
I bought some Romas at a stand, fearing I would never have enough tomatoes to can. They were $17.99 a box! I've paid anywhere from $8 - 12. before. Apparently there's a drought or a blight or something somewhere and tomatoes and potatoes are expensive this year. I tried roasting them instead of boiling them to get the skins off - suppose to be delicious. I like that you can just pick the skins off their backs.

 Hmmm, this turned out to be a picture of my countertop that happens to have canned tomatoes on it.
Fellow tomato lovers rejoice! I have found yet another way to love tomatoes! This is awesome:

Slice your amazing heirloom tomato onto a plate
Brown some butter (put butter in a pot, swirl now and then, let it get light brown, then pour into another container before it goes too dark)
Pour the delicious nuttiness of the browned butter over your tomatoes while it is still hot, thus sizzling into the juices of the tomatoes and creating something different than you've ever tasted before! Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Or just salt. Eat immediately. Wow! I tried this today for the first time and was wowed!

And I did promise you a watercress pesto recipe to put on top of your tilapia. The peppery lemoneyness would be lovely on any white fish, as well as on pasta or sandwiches etc. I think arugula would be a nice substitution for the watercress if that's what you  had.

4 cups watercress, leaves and smaller stems
2 garlic cloves
zest and juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts
1/4 - 1/2 cup grated parmesan, grated off a real block of parmesan
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
In a food processor, pulse all except olive oil til chopped, Add oil in a stream til smooth and desired consistency.

The fish, by the way, are getting fat and sassy. Almost time to let them go into the big-boy world of the tank.
On that day, I will take a photo of them and post it for you to see.

Friday, September 7, 2012


This is how you spin honey:

Pick a lovely sunny day and do it on your deck. Why not?
I'll tell you why not, you will be swarmed by the very bees who gave you the honey, and they're all screaming, "What the *&$# is this? Give us back our honey! Okay we'll take it back ourselves then. Perhaps we'll take a pound of flesh too!"

Plan B is to scoop everything up, shake the bees off, and hand it all inside, quickly shutting the door after every item.

Cut the cap off, scrape the comb with a forky thing from Lowe's that's real purpose it to clean paintbrushes. Place in the spinner. Crank by hand, spinning the honey out into the giant tin can, and also, unknowingly,  spraying a fine spray of sticky honey all over everything in the room.

Pour into a bucket. Strain three times with graduated strainers to get the wax out.
Clean up the mess!! Melt wax and honey mixture from cappings in a double boiler, never reaching any higher temperature than 140 F. 137 is perfect. Pour this mixture in a straight-sided jar and lay a piece of cheesecloth on top. The wax will float to the top and you can neatly lift it off with the cheesecloth. Put this wax outside for the bees to clean up. Use the wax for candles, soaps, salves, lotions etc. Eat the honey!!

How to grow stuff:

How to pickle stuff:

How to ferment stuff:

Place desired veggies in a jar. These jars have green beans, carrots, yellow beet, cauliflower, garlic and onion, pepper flakes and italian seasoning, brine. Cover and let sit for 4 days, burping daily. Soon it will look cloudy. Then one day when you burp it, it will bubble all over the place. Taste it and see if you like it. Put in fridge, where it will continue to pickle. This is called Veggeroncini. Next I will try saurkraut. Next time I will also post a recipe for watercress pesto, which is delicious on TILAPIA! And we are growing a LOT of both!