Harvest Monday, September 12, 2016 – Bees & Figs + Freezing Asian Greens + Cooking Sweet Potato Leaves

The birds were getting blamed for my damaged figs until I saw the following sight.


The bees discovered my ripened figs and decided they really, really like figs. Now I must pick my figs as soon as they are ready, no more waiting another day or 2 for them to get sweeter.

The good thing is it appears the same bees will return to and stay with the same fig for days until it disappears and not take bites out of multiple figs so I don’t mind sharing with them. But because there are so many bees I have lost many figs. Wonder what the honey taste like?????

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Planted a fall crop of Hon Tsai Tai in foam ice chest and they certainly are doing well. Cut in all the flowered stems. Below photo is showing a portion of the harvest.


Hon Tsai Tai

Leaves, stems and flowers are all edible.


Cooked Hon Tsai Tai loses some of its color (photo right), but add vinegar, lemon juice or white wine and observe the magical transformation (photo left).


Hon Tsai Tai

Look closely at the plant at the lower right in the above photo, you can see where I cut the stems. The central stem was quite stout, ½+ inch in diameter, the side stems were thinner. All were tender. The plant will continue to produce more flower stems. These will all be about pencil-size but still tender and delicious.

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Hip and back are much improved. Just in time for me to be able to bend and harvest my first crop of Black Summer Pac Choi from the garden.


Black Summer Pac Choi

Above are 2 of the 6 I harvested. They were planted in partial shade and I believe that is why they are doing well despite the heat and drought. There are 12 remaining in the garden hope they continue to do well.

Also harvested more Win-Win Choi and more Green Lance Gailan.

Despite the heat and drought, all my fall planting of Asian greens are doing extremely well, from now on I will concentrate on fall planting of Asian greens and forget about spring planting.

With so much greens coming in at once decided to freeze most for winter enjoyment. The frozen greens are great in soup, stews and braising, not that wonderful for stir-frying, but acceptable.

The traditional method to freeze vegetables is to blanch then shock in ice water, drain and freeze. With all the blanching, cooling and draining I always felt I was pouring the nutrients down the drain.

Last year I decided to think outside-the-box and experiment with a different method and was happy with the results so am doing the same this year.

Freezing Asian Greens:
Cut vegetables into desired lengths after cleaning and washing.
Add prepared vegetables and a few tablespoons of water (see NOTE) to pot or frying pan.
Turn heat to high and stir and mix vegetables until they turn bright green, lower heat to medium and continue stirring and mixing for another 3-5 minutes, adding water as needed to prevent pot from drying out.
Remove from heat and spread on a sheet pan to cool (vegetables are partially cooked at this point).
Once cooled, place in freezer bag, date, label and freeze.

NOTE: The amount of water needed will depend on the water content of the vegetable. Bok Choi and Napa Cabbage are high-water-content vegetable so the residual water from washing may be sufficient, Hon Tsai Tai, Choy Sum (aka Yu Choy) and Gailan on the other hand are low-water-content vegetable and will need more water.

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Also brought in some sweet potato vines. I cut about 8-12 inches of the tender tips from the vines of the different varieties of sweet potatoes I grow. Leaves from all varieties (both the cut leaves and the heart-shaped leaves) are edible.


Sweet Potato Vines

Sweet potato leaves are highly nutritious. Use as substitute for spinach, kale, collard or Swiss chard, as a side, in soups, stir-fries, toss with noodles/pasta, quiche, combine with curry and coconut milk …

Sweet potato vine (5486)

Sweet Potato Vine. Vine (lower left) is tough and not edible. Leaf as well as leaf-stem and tender tip (lower right) are all edible.

Cooking sweet potato leaves:
1. Harvest about 8 – 12 inches of the young tender section of the sweet potato vine.
2. Cut the leaves (including leaf stems), and the tender tip from the vine, discard the vine.
3. Separate the leaf-stem from the leaf. Cut leaf-stems and leaves to desired lengths, I cut to about 1½ inch lengths.
4. Add a bit of oil, garlic, ginger slices and salt to wok or frying pan.
5. Add leaf-stems, sauté a minute or 2. Add leaves, continue sautéing until reached desired doneness. (I like mine crisp-tender, see NOTE). Adding liquid, if needed, to prevent burning.
6. Stir in 1 – 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil if desired. Enjoy!

Keep in mind sweet potato leaves reduces in volume by more than ½ when cooked.

NOTE: I like the contrasting texture of the soft melt-in-your-mouth texture of the leaves and the crunchy, a bit chewy texture, of the leaf stems and frequently toss the leaves and leaf-stems into the wok at the same time.

(NOTE: I only eat vines grown from edible sweet potatoes tubers. I was told not all sweet potato vines are edible and not to eat ornamental sweet potato vines, not sure how true that is.)

To learn more about sweet potato leaves and recipes, click here for an article from Prevention, here from Epicurious and here from Botanical-Journeys-plant Guide.

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Other harvests for the week included: more Figs, Peppermint Swiss Chard, Amaranth, Long Beans and Lettuces.

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Copyright © by Norma Chang. All Rights Reserved. Do not use/repost any photos and/or articles without permission.

Do visit Dave at Our Happy Acres for more Harvest Monday

Posted in Gardening, gluten free, Harvest Monday, meatless, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Harvest Monday, September 5, 2016 – Containers Harvests

Happy Labor Day!!!!!

Hard to believe it is September. I must start paying closer attention to the nighttime temperature now as pretty soon frost will be in the forecast.

Where oh where did the year go?

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Containers’ crops continue to perform well, the only drawback is the watering. Due to the heat and drought, I must water twice a day.

A couple first harvests for the year from containers are: Semi-Heading Mustard and Green Lance Gailan.

The semi-heading mustard (below photo) formed a fist-size head in the center of the plant,  and all the stems are thick and tender. Pretty impressive looking plant, it weighed in at just a shade under one pound.

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Semi-heading Mustard

I always enjoyed the simple stir-fried mustard greens served in restaurants and decided to duplicate it at home. This is what I did:

Stir-fried Mustard Greens
After washing, cut mustard (leaves and stems) into bite-sized pieces.
Add oil to preheated wok (or frying pan).
Add a thumb-sized piece of smashed ginger and minced garlic to oil. Stir-fry until fragrant.
Add salt and mustard to wok, stir-fry until mustard turns a bright green color. (I like it at this stage but you should taste and continue to stir-fry until reached desired doneness.) Serve as a side.
That’s it! Quick, simple and delicious.

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I tried growing Green Lance Gailan for a spring crop without any success so was pretty excited when I saw how well the fall crop is doing. In the future I will skip spring planting and focus on fall planting only.

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Green Lance Gailan

The stems of the Green Lance are pretty fat, about 1-inch in diameter.

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Green Lance Gailan

They are in the fridge for the moment.

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The China Express Daikon really took off. The potting mix in the 14-inches deep container is pretty loose yet, as you can see from the photo below, the root at the top in the photo is not straight, wonder why? Also about 1/3 of the root was above ground (same situation with all the other roots).

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China Express Daikon

The above went home with friends.

I am also growing Tae Baek Daikon, a Korean variety, they are coming along nicely as well.

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Lettuces were showing sign of bolting due to the heat so cut the entire head (instead of outer leaves). Below is a portion of the total harvest.

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After cleaning, all the lettuces were wrapped in clean paper towels then placed in a plastic bag, they should last a while in the fridge.

Had a few extra Forellenschluss Lettuce seedlings in cell pack that I hated to discard so transplanted them into 4-inch container to see how they would perform. And what happened? They grew into good size, good looking plants.

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Forellenschluss Lettuce

The down side was they needed to be watered more frequently so I moved them to a shadier area and they continued to do well while the ones in the sunny location showed signs of bolting.

Will harvest outer leaves as needed just to see how long I can keep them in those little containers. Most likely will need to fertilize more frequently.

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Both Eddo (aka coco) plants are growing by leaps and bounds.

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Eddo aka Coco

Look closely at the container on the right, see the baby leaf at the base of the plant? I think, I hope, that means a baby eddo is forming. Am tempted to investigate but decided to exercise restraint. I would be so pleased if I could harvest just one eddo.

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Other harvests for the week were:

Figs, Long Beans (Red Noodles and Green), Tri-Colored Amaranth, Peppermint Swiss Chard and Sweet Potatoes Vines. Most were shared with friends and family some went into the freezer for future meals.

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Copyright © by Norma Chang. All Rights Reserved. Do not use/repost any photos and/or articles without permission.

Do visit Dave at Our Happy Acres for more Harvest Monday

Posted in Container gardening, Cooking, dairy free, Gardening, gluten free, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Harvest Monday, August 22, 2016 – Container Ginger Update + More Container Harvest

Am planting 2 different varieties of ginger in containers for comparison. In the photo below:

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The ginger plant on the left is from rhizome (root) I purchased from the local health food store, it was very skinny, about the size of my pinky. It took about 2 months to sprout.

The ginger plant on the right is from rhizome I got from Florida, it was quite chunky, click here for a photo (like the ones in the food markets). It took about 4 months to sprout but has grown a lot since since July 18 and is now 32 inches tall.

Not sure why there is such huge differences in sprouting between the 2 varieties. Planning to bring both indoor for the winter to grow as houseplant

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First container grown figs were picked on Monday 8/15. Ate them straight, super sweet.

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Have been picking a few figs daily, but they disappeared fairly quickly. Did manage to save some to share with friends.

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Containers providing me with an abundant of good eats.

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Above photo: Left – Red Amaranth. Middle –  Forellenschluss & Midnight Ruffle Lettuces. Right – Tri-Colored Amaranth.

Photo below: Left – Win-Win Choy. Right – Golden Pascal Celery.

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The celery has a nice celery flavor but the ribs are skinny, is this due to the extended heat wave and drought we are experiencing?

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Am debating whether to plant celery again next year.

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Below photo: Blue container – Red Core Chantenay Carrots. Foam ice chest – Green Lance Gailan. Window box – Win-Win Choy.

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In the window box above I planted 12 Win-Win Choy. The plants grew to resemble baby bok choy and I was harvesting outer leaves 30 days after sowing.

In the window box below (same size as the one above, 36″ x 8″) I planted only 5 Win-Win Choy. The plants were much, much larger (like the regular size bok choy we see in the supermarkets).

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Experiment conclusion: If you want baby bok choy and earlier harvest, plant the seedlings closer together. If you want larger and fatter ribs bok choy, space the seedlings further apart.

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I am so excited, the daikon, China Express, I planted in container have formed nice looking long white roots. The seeds were direct sown in the container 7/12/16.

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One of the daikon was flowering so pulled it. Worried that it would be woody but it was tender and crispy with just a little bite.

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Daikon was small, only 5+ inches long. Peeled and thinly sliced, tossed with a bit of rice vinegar, salt and sugar to make a quick pickle. Very tasty.

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Was given some semi-heading mustard seeds which I planted in a foam ice chest. The plants are very pretty and I understand are heat and disease resistant.

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I have 6 plants in the ice chest, too many, should remove at least 2 so the others can grow properly. Going to let one of the remaining plants go to seeds for next year’s planting.

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Came across these sprouting eddo (aka coco) in the grocery store. Had to buy them to see if I could get them to grow.

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And grow they did.

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I am aware that the growing season in the Hudson Valley is too short for them to produce edible size corms but I wanted to see how they grow. May be I can over winter the plants in my basement, will see. Any of my readers have experience?

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From the garden, harvesting more Red Noodles Beans and Chinese Long Beans.

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All the above, and more, went home with friends.

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Copyright © by Norma Chang. All Rights Reserved. Do not use/repost any photos and/or articles without permission.

Do visit Dave at Our Happy Acres for more Harvest Monday

Posted in Gardening, Growing ginger, Harvest Monday, Husdon Valley, New York, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Harvest Monday, August 15, 2016 – Chinese Long Beans + Containers Harvest

Decided to heed doctor’s advice: no digging in the garden, no heavy lifting and to avoid bending (this is easier said than done).

Except for harvesting the beans on the trellis and watering (those are stand up chores), for the past 2+ weeks I pretty much stayed out of the garden. My hip is feeling a whole lot better, not back to normal, but getting there.

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The green Chinese Long beans are not quite ready yet, but will be in a day or 2.

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Chinese Long Beans aka Asparagus Beans & Yardlong Beans

Look at all those beans hanging on the vine, going to be a great harvest.

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Did harvest Red Noodle Beans. Cut them into about 2-inch lengths, blanched, cooled, placed in freezer bag and froze for winter use.

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Red Noodle Beans

The 2 beans in the middle of the photo have past their prime, I was going to leave them on the vine for seeds but decided to harvest them so you can see the differences.

Click here to learn more about Chinese Long Beans and recipes.

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Fortunately I have my containers so was not suffering from gardening withdrawal. I elevate the containers so I can sit and tend to them.

The following Tri-Color Amaranth and Win-Win Choy are from seedlings started early-July.

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Tri-Colored Amaranth & Win-Win Choy

The Win-Win Choy seedlings were transplanted into window box. I harvest just the outer leaves. The plant will continue to grow and in a few days I will be harvesting more outer leaves. Win-Win Choy is pretty hardy and with a bit of protection on frosty nights should be producing well into December, I hope.

I cut the Win-Win Choy into bite-sized lengths. Add choy and cubed tofu to boiling broth, cooked till reached desired doneness, flavored with sliced scallion, sesame oil and soy sauce. From garden, in this case window box, to wok as soon as harvested, cannot get any fresher.

The Tri-Colored Amaranth seedlings were transplanted into a foam ice chest. This is the first time I am growing amaranth in a container and am happy with the results. Definitely repeating.

I also transplanted a few seedlings into a window box for comparison and they too are growing well.


In the above photo you can see where I cut the main amaranth stem and the side shoots that are growing.

Tri-colored Amaranth is a vigorous grower, the side shoots will be ready for harvest in a few days. I am hoping to be harvesting side shoots until first frost.

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Homegrown lettuces are on the menu again. The following lettuce leaves are from seedlings started early-July.

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Lettuces: Forellenschluss & Midnight Ruffle

The lettuces seedlings were transplanted into window boxes and like the Win-Win choy I harvest just the outer leaves. The leaves were so fresh and tender, a simple dressing was all that was needed for the salad.

I will continue to harvest just the outer leaves as needed and the plants will, hopefully, continue to grow until late fall early winter.

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Copyright © by Norma Chang. All Rights Reserved. Do not use/repost any photos and/or articles without permission.

Do visit Dave at Our Happy Acres for more Harvest Monday

Posted in Container gardening, Gardening, Harvest Monday, Uncategorized, Vegetables, window box gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Harvest Monday, August 1, 2016 – Garlic, Potatoes & Onions + Chinese Long Beans

Finally got rain (really rained not just a sprinkle) this past weekend and more rain today in the forecast. Grounds getting a good soaking. Plants are happy and the brown patches on my lawn should, hopefully, disappear this week.

Dug in all the Duganski Garlic and German White Garlic from the garden.

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The above is a pile of the freshly dug Duganski Garlic.

Below photo: Garlic all bundled and hanging in the shed to dry and cure (I keep the shed door open during the day for ventilation).

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Left Bundle: Duganski Garlic. Middle & Right Bundles: German White Garlic. Peeking out at the upper right corner are the German Red from container.

The heads of both the Duganski and the German White are not as large as last years and I think it has to do with location. The soil in the location they were planted this time is not as loose and well drained as the previous location. Need to give them a better location the next planting.

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The tops of both the Adirondack Red Potatoes and the All Blue Potatoes died earlier in the month of July and the yield was poor for both varieties.

According to Cornell University Potatoes Growing Guide, potatoes perform best where summers are cool (65° F to 70° F). We have been experiencing prolonged heat wave, (high 80° F and 90+° F) could this be the reason for the vines dying early resulting in poor yield?

The vines of the Fingerling Potatoes planted in the same section of the garden, however, is still growing strong, why? The Blue Fingerling Potatoes I planted in container are also still growing well. Perhaps Fingerlings are hardier and more adaptable? Will harvest both when the vines die.

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Left: Adirondack Red Potatoes. Right: All Blue Potatoes.

Most of the potatoes are small, good for roasting or boiling whole. Click here for cross sections of both potatoes

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Dug in all the onion also. Got a few decent size onions but most are small, a good harvest compare to previous years. Still trying to figure out why I am able to grow leeks and garlic but not onions.

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A poor onion harvest

The 2 onions in the center front (above photo) each weighs a bit under 4 ounces (they are the largest), a best for me, next year I just may produce properly sized onions, there is hope!

The onions on the right are very small, like pearl onions. Wonder if they will keep well until next spring for use as onion sets, or, what if I plant them now, how will they grow? Think I will plant half and save half.

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The Red Noodle Long Beans are loving this heat and grew by leaps and bounds.

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Red Noodles Long Beans

Should be harvesting those beans and many more this week.

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The Green Chinese Long Beans are not producing yet. But setting lots of flowers so beans should be following soon.

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Green Chinese Long Beans

The flowers are usually in pairs so are the beans, looking for harvest this week.

Click here to learn more about Chinese Long Beans and recipes.

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The sweet potatoes are loving this heat also, the vines are taking over a lot of garden real estate. Should cut some of the vines for use in cooking. Click here to learn about cooking Sweet Potato Vines/leaves.

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A Section of the Purple Sweet Potato Patch

Hope many tubers are setting underground. Am tempted to dig around but know it is much too early and must wait until at least the end of this month.

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Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’

The fence is to keep the deer away from my mountain laurels.

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Copyright © by Norma Chang. All Rights Reserved. Do not use/repost any photos and/or articles without permission.

Do visit Dave at Our Happy Acres for more Harvest Monday

Posted in Flowers, Gardening, Growing sweet potatoes, Harvest Monday, potatoes, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments