Second Harvest

Harvesting is exciting for the boys!

All the watering, weeding, and watching pays off when they get to pick their vegetables.

On our second harvest, Jude collected his two kohlrabi and a giant, 12 inch cucumber.

Morris harvested green beans with his dad, and the squash that fell off its vine. Too small to cook and eat, Morris dissected it and learned all about what’s inside.

Ty harvested his ever-growing kale, which I’m freezing for winter soups.

The garden gives back.

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They’re BACK!

I’ve been looking for them…

The boys know what kind of destruction they can wreak, and last growing season we were surprised by their voracious appetite. At first we thought the deer had visited; the ends of our tomato plants were nibbled off and some of our tomatoes were bitten. And then, we found them – hugging the stems and chewing away – these camouflaged caterpillar beasts: tomato horn worms!

This season, they’re back! Again, I noticed the leaves missing off the tips of our tomato plants, and then Jude and I started our inspection. We found TEN! Ten caterpillars were eating away on our seven tomato plants. Jude tossed them into the yard, even though he wanted to destroy them.

He had his chance when we found two more about a week later. Jude karate-chopped one…and its guts sprayed all over my legs. (Moms of boys experience things that moms of girls probably do not, I was reminded.) The aggression feels justified when they’re munching on our beloved garden…even if is gross.

Art in the Garden

“Art in the Garden” is one of my favorite nights of the summer! The Polk County Master Gardeners designed a beautiful Enabling Garden near HyVee, and residents get to enjoy it all growing season long. These gardeners host a Children’s Art in the Garden night once a summer, and I enjoyed it so much last year, I had to go back!

This year, the night coincided with a double birthday party, so the older boys went with their dad. Time with cousins trumps all. I took Morris, along with my sister, and my niece and nephew, and we had a wonderful time. (And made it to the birthday party later.)

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My niece and nephew collaging!

Here’s a breakdown of some of their creative, garden activities:

  1. Collage: Use pictures of plants, flowers, etc. to make a garden collage.
  2. Build a Bug: Make insect pictures using pine cones, seeds, dried flowers, etc.
  3. Crown of Flowers: Attach wildflowers to a crown for kids to wear. Wild!
  4. Flower Arrangement: Select a vase, select wildflowers, and master gardeners make a  beautiful arrangement for you to take home.
  5. Flower Loom: Select flowers to weave into a loom.
  6. Seeds: Decorate an envelope full of wildflower seeds to take home and grow on your own!
  7. Decorate a Cookie!: This was a highlight. Decorate a flower or butterfly-shaped cookie with all the frosting and sprinkles you want!

Morris made the coolest bug out of a pine cone and acorn top. I treasure it! His favorite station was the cookie decorating; he picked the biggest cookie he could find and topped it with lots of purple frosting and sprinkles.

What a great event!

A Foot-Long Cucumber

It’s true! Rex grew a cucumber that’s twelve inches long! It was hiding underneath the cucumber leaves, so we didn’t even get to watch it grow. All of the sudden, there it was!

Rex has a few ideas for it: One, give it to our family friend, Beth, in exchange for cooking him a delicious meal. (He thinks she’s the best cook around after making him a cheesecake for his birthday.) Two, make dill pickles (which he loves to eat with peanut butter). Three, make the cucumber salad grandpa likes. Great ideas!

The Big Boy’s Kohlrabi

Tyler/Daddy has a garden, just like his three boys. (So do I, but we mainly focus on the boys, here.) Work keeps him busy, but he checks in and picks from his garden a few times a week. Ty selected an assortment of plants he’d never grown before, just to learn from them, I think: How does a cauliflower or an eggplant grow?

His favorite vegetable this season has been his kohlrabi. It’s a peculiar looking vegetable. Its pale, green bulb sits above ground and looks almost like it’s suspended. If you look underneath, you’ll see the main stem. Smaller stems, or shoots, come off the surface of the ball – almost in a random configuration – and there are rounded leaves at the end.

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From what we researched, the kohlrabi should be harvested when the bulb is about 2 to 4 inches in diameter. If it’s picked too late, it becomes “woody” tasting, I guess. Some say it tastes like a turnip, or a cross between a radish and a cabbage.

I’ve never eaten a kohlrabi before, but I found five, suggested ways to eat it according to kitchn.com.

  1. Raw: It tastes like a cross between a radish and a cabbage.
  2. Roasted: Throw it in with other vegetables and roast it. It caramelizes and mellows in taste.
  3. Steamed: It supposedly blends well with potatoes, eggs, etc.
  4. Pureed: This chef adds it to soups or adds herbs to the puree.
  5. Fried: Dipping pieces in breadcrumbs and frying it makes everyone love the taste.

We opted for raw since we all wanted to know what a kohlrabi really tastes like. So, I peeled the outside layer off and sliced it into large chunks. It tasted more like a radish to me, without the bite that radishes sometimes have. Rex thought it would be good roasted with brussel sprouts. Ty and Jude liked it raw and added it to a salad for lunch. It’s definitely a grow-again!

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Green Beans for Dinner

When Morris planned his garden this Spring, he wanted all green bean plants. I thought he might like some more variety, so we added a tomato plant, chives, a squash, some pepper plants, and peas (He didn’t really care about variety, but I thought he might like watching some other plants grow.) However, six or seven of his twelve squares are dedicated to green beans, and boy, are they sprouting!

In the beginning of July, the delicate, soft purple blooms started forming. A week later, teeny-tiny green beans grew from the flowers. And by the middle of July, Morris had three to four green beans ready to pick off of each plant. He picked over 50 beans in one day!

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And, he proudly washed them on his own and shared them with his family for supper.

Our First Little Harvest

It’s so exciting when a few vegetables are ready to harvest at the same time. One night this week, we had our first little harvest.

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Jude picked his second yellow squash, which is a beautiful golden yellow. I thought it would be soft like a zucchini, but I found I had to cut off the tough outside and slice the inside. We grilled slender pieces and sprinkled on salt. It was so delicious, and I wished we had more.

Morris had lots of peas to pull off of his plants. I don’t remember peas growing so tall and reaching for room like the pole green beans, but these sure do. This year, they are probably two feet tall and abundant with pea pods. Many of them are eaten the second they’re picked, but a few made it to the kitchen. Morris also picked a few of his yellow banana peppers and two jalapeno peppers, but these were bagged and given to his Papa, who has an affinity for the spicy.

Rex pulled off two of his cucumbers, and he has about six more coming soon. We’ve been slicing them regularly for dinner: what a summer treat!

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Morris’s Quick Pick

Morris’s garden is full of tall, reaching pea plants. Many of them are competing in height with the cucumber plants, and they are full of delicate, white flowers. Today I noticed there were almost a dozen pea pods hanging from the end of those flowers, and Morris excitedly picked three… and then ran off to do other boy things. I’ll encourage him to pick the rest later…

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Jude’s First Pick

IMG_2498Hooray! Jude’s garden is growing cucumbers like crazy! Today, he picked two: one looked normal and one looked like…well, Jude thought it looked like a cucumber gun. He had a lot of fun shooting it before gifting it to his Aunt Heidi for hosting an amazing Fourth of July party. He also picked his first yellow squash, and there is another one that will be ready to pick right behind it. We plan on grilling these with our Sunday night hamburgers.