"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Harvesting Green Tomatoes, Peppers, Corn, and Squash

The vast majority of this year's tomatoes stubbornly refused to ripen on the vine. I coaxed and pleaded with them, all to no avail. Their fate was set in stone when spring declined her initial invitation and showed up late for the party. If I could have tossed a lasso around the sun and pulled it closer to our garden perhaps that would have helped...but alas I have no such magic.

So, with the rainy cool weather pushing the last of summer aside we made the decision to pick all but our cherry tomatoes rather than risk the possibility of dampness or even frost stealing away our crop in the next couple of days. Most, if not all, of these tomatoes were fully formed and should slowly ripen inside over the next few weeks. We've had to pick our tomatoes green many times in years past but never this many. I am happy though as I was somewhat concerned for a while that we would not even see the fruits fully develop this year.

All the tomatoes were removed from the buckets, wiped clean of water (we picked them in the rain) and placed in cardboard boxes on our porch. We will bring them into the house a few boxes at a time to help speed up the ripening process and slowly convert them into salsa, sauce, and such.

I believe this box contains a few German Strawberry, Kellog's Breakfast, and (hybrid) Margherita's. They all have such a pretty green hue to them don't you think.:)

Yesterday I picked sweet (green) peppers from all but the potted pepper plants which were brought back into the greenhouse, I am hoping that they will ripen up a bit more. We will probably pull the remaining hot pepper plants and hang them upside down, this often helps them to finish ripening and hopefully "heat" up a bit as most are lacking in that department.

My hots aren't hot and the Paprika has no color.:(

While our popping corn is still outside trying to finish forming we were able to harvest our Painted Mountain and Blue Jade corn. We didn't spare much space for corn in the garden this year as there is still an abundance left over from the previous season. Once the kernels have shriveled enough to be removed from the cob they will be put on a screen in front of our wood or pellet stove to finish hardening because they have a propensity to become moldy if they are not cured properly in a warm dry environment. We do the same with our sunflower seeds. All of our corn is dried, stored in gallon jars, and will be ground into cornmeal as needed.

I love the color variance that we get with these varieties of corn.

And then there is the squash. A dismal harvest, perhaps our worst ever. I left many squashes outside on the vine to finish growing but with this cold rainy weather I hold little hope for them unless a couple more weeks of warm dry weather shows itself. Thank goodness for large hubbards, sugar pie pumkins, and gold nuggets. All three of which struggled mightily but at least gave us a few mature specimens to be used sparingly throughout the winter.

Normally at this time of year the vines have begun to die back and the rind has hardened to the point that it can no longer be easily pierced by a thumbnail. I leave a couple inches of stem on the squash as they perspire through their stems, any without may begin to rot. Those that lack stems or have soft spots are always used first and are usually the ones we steam and freeze to be used as soup or in mashed squash dishes. Unblemished squash is allowed to cure on our porch for a couple weeks or until the temperature drops below 50° at which point it is brought inside and kept cool and dry, right around 50-65°

All of that said, I am very excited to harvest our root veggies as I think they will be our summer's shining star. We hope to begin harvesting beets, carrots, potatoes, and parsnips as soon as we are afforded a couple of dry days in which to work.


el said...

Ugh! I guess every year is different, eh? We've had a decent year and I am in the I suppose enviable position of having to pull my tomato plants to make way for fall greenhouse crops, waaaay before they're finished growing. Peppers too but that always happens as they're perennials in their native land and so don't necessarily want to stop, like tomatoes do.

I think it's a good practice to have two seasons' worth of crops, like that corn of yours, because goodness knows it will be a sad thing if you get two cold/rainy years in a row. But on the upside those hubbards look fantabulous!

Engineeredgarden said...

Good lord! I'm in absolute awe of the sheer number of tomatoes you harvested - green or not!

Oxray Farm said...

We suffered the same tomato fate. I've been pulling them off the vine slightly orange in the hope that it will inspire the green ones to hurry up. It's worked so far, but I am afraid the bulk of our harvest will be pulled green. I am going to need a lot more tubs and buckets to store them in.

My squash did really well! But from our local gardening group... I seem to be the only one who actually produced squash this year. Must be beginners luck?? Who knows.

I think I am going to follow in your footsteps and put peppers in pots next year. We'll see.

Looking good though, and that corn is beautiful. We really don't have any space to grow corn, unless I make my front yard the corn maze... then the possibilities are endless!

Faith said...

All of those tomatoes! And corn! And Peppers! What a harvest. I am amazed every time you put up a new post. Maybe one day our harvest will be half as much as yours.

ThyHandHathProvided said...

Our winter squash harvest was dismal as well. But, your corn is gorgeous. All those green tomatoes!! I don't know if you've seen this yet, but it's the first thing I thought of when I saw all those green beauties...http://thyhandhathprovided.blogspot.com/2008/10/curried-green-tomato-sauce.html

Annie's Granny said...

Having had the problem of no heat in my hot peppers last year, I contacted my seed source who came up with the following:

"I did a bit of research on the subject this afternoon and spoke with several pepper growers, including one of my local growers who has been doing it for 55 years. He told me that the capsicum levels can be reduced significantly by too much nitrogen and water. He told me that if your plants are large and beautiful, with lots of peppers, that you may have provided "too ideal" conditions. He suggested picking most of the peppers and then allowing the remaining ones to turn red, and trim a branch or two off the plants. Often times this type of injury will cause an increase in capsicum." Mike Dehlendorf, Ohio Heirloom Seeds

That's one heck of a crop of tomatoes! The photos of the corn and squash make me feel like winter is near.

miss m said...

Well, if anyone asks to see a bounty of tomatoes, I'll just send them your way ... Wow !

The corn is simply magnificent and I certainly wouldn't knock the squash harvest, if it were mine anyway. ;) The potted peppers will appreciate the extra TLC, I'm sure. Hope your hots heat up for you.

Another great post, Mr. H. Always enjoy the read. Dig your writing style.

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

That's quite a truck load of green maters! I've just recently had some of the most delicious tomato pepper fermented relish. It's got just a bite of hot and it's fermented sour that goes so nicely on a sandwich. I got it from our Amish farmer. It has onions, green tomatoes, peppers, salt and whey...that ought not be too hard, but man is it yummy! All your peppers and maters made me think of it. BTW your corn is beautiful! Too bad we lost ALL of ours to the varmints! It's us against them.

thyme2garden said...

Your harvest does not fail to impress, green or red. All those green tomatoes look so beautiFULLY shaped, I bet they will ripen to their true intended colors in no time.

When you said squash had a "dismal harvest" I was definitely not prepared to see that next picture. I guess "dismal" is all relative depending on your level of expectation!

Sorry to hear about your less than hot "hot" peppers. I read the same thing on Granny's website a while ago about needing to "abuse" your hot peppers to get them hot, so we really made sure to water our peppers as little as possible. As a result, out hot cayenne peppers are about as hot as they come. Perhaps you can make your greenhouse peppers really thirsty and see if they get hotter?

thyme2garden said...

Wanted to send you a quick email, but didn't see your email address on your blog, so I'm leaving you a comment instead.

My spaetzle maker came from one of those special kitchen stores (it was a gift), but I see that Amazon has one that looks practically identical to mine for only $10.59. Here's the link:

Spaetzle Maker

The first couple of times that I made spaetzle, I did with a colander and it made kind of a mess, too. This works much better! Tell your wife I'm so glad you guys tried my recipe and liked it!

Anonymous said...

When I'm reading about weather conditions you have and unusually early fall, it seems that we live next door to each other.
But when I see your harvests, I know that my fall came much too early.

I see that your tomatoes did not suffer any blight damage? Blight was the main reason I had to pull my tomatoes. I hope that tomatoes will ripen for you, as well as peppers in the greenhouse. We had very positive experience with root veggies too this year.

Corn looks absolutely beautiful!

Ayak said...

Green tomato chutney is a good idea for those that don't ripen...delicious!

Ruralrose said...

I also concur this is very similar to my dismal production this year. Excellent tips on the peppers. I have unripe squash what can I do? Peace

Heiko said...

This still looks a pretty impressive harvest, even if green. Getting tomatoes red wasn't my main problem, but greatly reduced yields with this summer making an unsusually short appearance this year. Peppers were a complete wash-out. Corn I did 2 sowings, because 70% of the first lots never caught in this cold spring.

So while our conditions were not as bad as ours, at least you seem better prepared for the worst scene scenario.

Mr. H. said...

El - I'm glad to hear that your tomatoes did well this season, ours were amazing last year so I guess two years in a row would be asking for a bit much.:)

I couldn't agree more regarding your thoughts on having two seasons worth of crops stored away. This is something we are working hard to achieve with a variety of crops...the only easy one is berries, we always have too many berries.

I'm pretty sure that at least three of those hubbards are from your seed. I grew out both yours and mine but lost tract of the markers in the vinyness of it all.

EG - Considering how barren our plants looked in late July I am pretty surprised myself. I might need one of those wonderful mechanical contraptions of yours to warm up the weather around here a bit.

Oxray Farm - I have this set date of the 20Th of September for pulling tomatoes and squash. We never leave anything we care too much about on the vine after that as frost usually hits us between that date and mid October.

I'm so glad that you had good luck with your squash. Have you ever thought of trying a small stature corn like Blue Jade, it takes up very little room and could even be grown in clumps in a pot I suppose. As long as you are there to give them a shake every so often they will pollinate well without having to be grown in a large block.

Faith - You know, that's what I say when I see your cabbage and kohlrabi plants...maybe one day mine will look that big. It must be all that moose dropping fertilizer you us, I'm going to try that you know.:)

ThyHand - The curried green tomato sauce sounds good. I must admit though, I had a hard time getting past that wonderful sounding tomato pie recipe. Next season we will both have a great crop of winter squash...right.:)

Annie's Granny - Thanks for the pepper advice Granny, that is very interesting information. I think that perhaps our soil is too nitrogen rich in the pepper area and I will work hard to be more abusive to the plants next season...that shouldn't be to hard.:)

Miss M - Yes, the tomatoes did well considering how late they got started, now if we just had another month of nice warm weather.

I saved out some pretty good sized sections of the garden for squash and planted around 8 different varieties this year. So while I am very happy with what we did get I just can't get over all the wasted space. I need to find a better location in which to grow my squash next year...more sunshine. Thanks for your nice comments.:)

Diane - It is us against them, I go to war with the voles, deer, rabbits, and Mother Nature herself each year and each year they somehow manage to breach my defenses enough to inflict some sort of damage. Wish I had an Amish farmer in the neighborhood, the fermented relish sounds really good.:)

Mr. H. said...

Thyme2garden - The squash eats up so much room in the garden that I hate to see it not produce to it's full potential...next year though.:) Although, the weather seems to be improving and if we don't get an early frost and the rain holds off perhaps some of the other fruits will have time to mature...fingers crossed.

I think I will take your and grannies advice and hold off watering the greenhouse peppers and tomatoes and see if they won't hurry up with the ripening. I really wanted to can some hot jalapenos this year.

Thanks for the spaetzle maker link, I think we will pick one up as those noodles were so good that way. I have to admit that we were a little leery of adding the nutmeg but it really added a nice flavor to the noodles.

Vrtlarica - Some years we have a really nice warm fall that extends well into October..some years summer ends quite abruptly in late September.

Our tomato plants still look really good, even after all this cold rainy weather. We don't seem to have a huge issue with blight in our garden and I grow them in the same location each year. I honestly think that the fact that we save our own seeds each year makes a big difference, perhaps the plants adapt to our environment over time and become less susceptible to blight. I never prune anything either, I often wonder if pruning opens them up to disease. I have also noticed that our indeterminate plants handle the cold weather much better than the determinate varieties...I think the indeterminate tomatoes are much more hardy and vigorous.

Ayak - Green tomato chutney sounds good. Speaking of recipes, I ran across a Turkish pickling recipe that I was going to ask you about..of course I can't remember what it was now. I will have to get back to you on that one.

Ruralrose - It all depends upon what stage the unripe squash is in. If it is close to being mature they will sometimes harden up and do well in storage if you get them into a warm dry place for a week or so. We take all of our really small ones, especially the ones that still have tender skin, cut them up into chunks, skin and all, blanch and freeze. They can then be used in soups or stir frys. If the skin is too hard it will have to be removed before blanching and freezing.

Mr. H. said...

Heiko - Mother Nature and her legions always do their best to challenge us in the garden, so we do spend a lot of time working on good defenses. Too bad about your peppers.

This year I pre-germinated all of my corn before planting. I think this made a big difference and allowed them to grow rather than rot in the cold soil. Just take all of your corn seed and soak it over night, then roll it up in a slightly dampened towel at room temperature. They should all start to germinate within a couple of days and can then be planted.

Mrs. Mac said...

You will have a bounty of goodness (tomatoes) this winter! Have you started picking your apples yet? Mine still taste a little starchy. Also .. when is the time to harvest the sun chokes? Happy picking :)

villager said...

I would love to have sent some of our heat your way. It's been way hotter than normal here, as well as dry. We did get hot peppers that were hot, but the sweet peppers have been few and far between.

It's good that the root crops have liked the weather. That makes a great case for planting a diverse set of fruit and veggies!

Anonymous said...

Ditto to what Dave/Villager wrote! ;-) Here, we had plenty of hot peppers but our only productive sweet pepper was Italia. Our tomato yield was the worst ever and this year was terrible between heat and the drought. Oh, and I forgot to list the deer...the latest deer escapade was the herd crawling under the fencing in Garden #3 to eat pumpkins and winter squash. Did I say 'eat'? Silly me...I meant to say GORGE. Come November, venison will be in the freezer....they're really fattening up nicely!

Seriously, despite the poor quality of the weather you suffered through, your harvest is wonderful, green 'maters and all! They are beautifully formed and yes the shades of green are lovely. I sure do pity you when they turn red and your workload increases exponentially!!

Oh -- your wicker loveseat drying-rack is awesome! Is that an Idaho custom? ;-)

LynnS said...

Looks like Blogger made me "Anonymous" today. Sorry about that!

kitsapFG said...

Those are really well formed and mature looking tomatoes - so I am confident you will get them to ripe status. Considering the year we have had - you done good! Being on the coast I had even more clouds and coolness so you can well imagine how frustrating a growing year this has been. I am still managing to salvage some decent tomatoes - doing essentially the same thing you are just on a less grand scale. Have to tell you that I loved the photos of the colored dent corn - real eye candy.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey Mr. H! wow, i'm feeling your pain. its been a tough year for us too. BUT - really, great work using whatcha got. And i'm totally envious of your hubbards - they are my favorite.

onward and upward, right? i've already got the fall stuff popping up and if all we eat is greens.. well thats ok too.

i'm gonna pop over to Thy Hand's site for the green tomato recipe. i'm a huge fan of hers but cant leave a comment on her site - hope she sees this!

Mr. H. said...

Mrs. Mac - We have started picking some of our apples. The Spitzenburgs were "falling off the tree ripe" so we picked them and added a few of the other not so ripe Akane apples into the mix for a tart apple sauce. Depending upon the variety most apples grown in this area seem to be ready right around the first frost...usually in October.

The sunchokes can be used anytime but they are better and often larger if left in the ground until after a few frosts. Also, the stored carbohydrate of the sunchoke is inulin, which differs from the starch of the potato. If you are not used to it, your stomach will rumble. This only effects some people.

Because this starch, or inulin, is not easily digestible by everyone, it may be best to introduce the vegetable in small amounts until your body is used to eating this food.

Villager - I agree, especially where we live, diversity is a key ingredient in a successful food garden. I would have gladly accepted a little of your heat and traded you straight across for a bit of rain.:)

Lynn - Oh, too bad about the tomatoes. Hopefully next year will be better. But yes, if times get really hard at least you have a nice fat herd of deer to fall back on.:) Our deer eat everything that pokes through the fence but so far we have been able to keep them out of the garden, although they did have a feast one night in the strawberry bed.

So you like that drying rack.:) Believe me, those squash did not stay on the wicker chair long as Rowdy was very upset to see his wicker bed taken over by cucurbits.

Laura - I can only imagine how challenging gardening can be were you live, especially in a year like this. Our rains have finally let up and it looks like we might have another week of good weather, so I am excited about that. Time to dig potatoes I think.:)

Isn't that corn great, I sometimes think we grow it just to see all of the colors.:)

Mr. H. said...

Ohiofarmgirl - Definitely, onward and upward. Our greens are starting to look good too, pretty soon I will have to get my act together and set up the row covers I suppose.

Lorena said...

That corn looks gorgeous. My hot peppers didn't get hot either, they look like hot peppers and taste like bell peppers, I guess they didn't get enough sun or hot weather.

Frugilegus said...

As educational and awe-inspiring as usual - I can't believe the tomatoes didn't succumb to your persuasion. But they're still looking like a good crop ... if a little green! Those peppers look mighty fine in that greenhouse - I wonder if we'll be lucky enough to get a rundown of which you've grown sometime (or have I missed that?). As for that corn and squash, I think I'm too jealous to type any more.

Mr. H. said...

Lorena - Isn't it terrible, I really didn't want to grow jalapeno sized sweet peppers this year. The one pepper that is starting to heat up a little for us is our cayenne blend, once they turn yellow there is some heat.

Frugilegus - I can't believe that the tomatoes did not succumb to my wishes either but now that they are on our porch and in our house they don't stand a chance against the power of my mind and are slowly turning red.

Here is a list of the peppers I grew this year: Sweet peppers = red Belgium, paprika, numex chili, chocolate bell, black beauty bell, sweet banana, pepperoncini, king of the north bell, tollies sweet pepper, red organic #2, long sweet Italian, cubanelle, marconi, mini red bell, and red/orange mini(elongated).

Hot peppers = cayenne blend, serrano chili, jalapeno, black pearl, chocolate habanero, and one other that I can't remember.

Everything put out a fair amount of fruits except for the chocolate habanero and the only peppers that changed color for us in any number were the mini and black beauty bell peppers.

Heiko said...

That pre-germinating advice for corn sounds good. Thanks for that.

Kelly said...

I can't get over the sheer volume of your harvest! Sorry the tomatoes and peppers are giving you such trouble. I tried hanging a pepper plant upside-down last year and they all shriveled up on me, any idea of I what I did wrong?

Mr. H. said...

Kelly - We only hang our thin-skinned mini bell, pepperoncini, and hot peppers. While changing color they are also slowly drying.

The only way that I know of to ripen up a thicker skinned pepper and keep it from "shriveling" is to pull it, replant it into a pot, and then bring it in out of the cold. Sometimes this will allow the fruit to finish ripening.

Also, I have noticed that many peppers that have begun to change color a little bit will finish up doing so if pulled and stored in a humid environment at around 40-60°. This seems to work best for us with small or elongated peppers like Italian, bannana, or any mini varieties.

You can see how we store our peppers at - http://subsistencepatternfoodgarden.blogspot.com/2009/10/root-cellar-how-we-store-peppers.html

Kelly said...

Awesome info, thanks! It was an Italian variety I hung.....I am off to check your link out.

Wendy said...

you've got some absolutely gorgeous harvests there.

The Cottage Garden Farmer said...

Your tomatoes look great even if they are still green I'm sure you'll find that most of them ripen up in time. I'm sure you've heard this before, but putting them in a drawer with a ripening banana does help.

Mr. H. said...

Wendy - Thanks, I think we will be making a lot of tomato sauce again this year.:)

Cottage Garden Farmer - Thanks for the advice. So far they are ripening up pretty quickly but if it cools off and that process slows down I will have to resort to something like you suggested.

Haddock said...

It is so nice to see such a variety of garden fresh collection.

Mr. H. said...

Haddock - Thank you, we were very fortunate once again this year.

Sense of Home said...

Wow, I am so impressed with your harvest. I know, the tomatoes did not ripen, but look at how much you have! The green tomatoes I brought in the house a couple weeks ago have, all but one bowl, been used green or ripened. Of course like my husband said they don't have as much flavor ripening in the house.

Are you able to live off of what you grow or do you sell some of your produce at a market? It looks like you grow enough to live on, which is really impressive.

Very nice post! I have missed blogging this week, perhaps when I conquer this cold/flu/infection I have been battling the last couple of weeks I will have the energy to start blogging again.


Mr. H. said...

Brenda - They are all starting to turn red so we have been very busy processing them...and processing them and processing them.:)

Yes, we are able to live off the food we grow which is why you will see such large amounts in some of our pictures. We don't sell any of our produce at this point but we do dabble in plant sales every spring.

I hope you start feeling better really soon.

Laura said...

I love that beautiful corn! Sadly we had the same problem with our tomatos and peppers this year :( I know what you mean with wishing you could bring the sun closer! I just made some green tomato chutney with the last of our crop.
I'm sure you already know this, but just in case you don't, if you put bananas next to the tomatoes (or any other fruit/veg) the ethylene gas they give off speeds up the ripening...

meemsnyc said...

I'm in such awe of your tomato harvest! How many plants produce that many tomatoes. Truly amazing. Your peppers looks great too!

Mr. H. said...

Laura - I will have to try making the green tomato chutney one of these days as it does sound good, I have never tried it before. So far the tomatoes seem to be ripening up pretty fast but thanks for the tip.

Meemsnyc - Thank you. Don't tell anyone but we have well over 100 plants this year and because frost has not hit us yet it looks like I will be doing some more tomato picking this week. Lots of sauce.:)

Robbyn said...

Isn't it interesting how one year certain things thrive and the next year almost the opposite do? Your corn was gorgeous, and I covet all those green tomatoes!! (in the nicest way, of course) :)

Mr. H. said...

Robbyn - Yes, each year is certainly different in the garden and nothing can be taken for granted. The tomatoes are turning red fast, we have been canning up small batches of them daily.

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