- Author: Jan Rhoades
It is definitely harvest time in my garden - I guess it has been for awhile. Like all good gardeners, I browsed the seed catalogs and found two new varieties to try out this season: Burbank Red Slicing Tomato and Crane Melon. My choices were inspired by a trip to Santa Rosa and the Luther Burbank Garden. What a treat to walk in the garden of a man that left such a horticultural legacy. Read on to find out more about these two winners. Both are listed by the The Slow Foods Ark of Taste, a catalog of distinctive foods deemed threatened by industrial standardization. They are definitely two to try!
In Sonoma County, the last name of Crane is pretty much synonymous with the word melon. The Crane family has been farming melons there for more than a century.
It all started when Richard Crane was enticed to set down roots in the area because of the Gold Rush. But it was his son, Oliver Crane, who succeeded in breeding a golden melon that grew incredibly well in the unique clay soil and climate of Sonoma County, and without much irrigation. Named the Crane melon, it is a cross between several heirloom varieties: a Japanese melon, an ambrosia melon, a white melon and a Persian melon.
Beginning in the 1920s, Oliver sold his melons out of the farmstead's barn in Santa Rosa. Today, six-generations later, it has become an iconic landmark known affectionately as the “Melon Barn” where the family continues to farm and sell these melons. The Crane Melon is not found at grocery stores as it is vine ripened, and does not have the shelf life to be shipped. The Crane family claims that, “The Crane melon's flavor is due to its terroir. The melon was developed to be grown...in a particular soil, within a specific climate zone, farmed in a certain style.”
The Crane Melon has appeared in magazines, newspapers and TV shows. A Los Angeles Times article recognized it as a true heirloom. A striking melon it is slightly pear shaped with a gently tapering end and averages 4 to 7 pounds. Its exterior is a pale dusty green color with dark green blotches that become a rusty orange when fully ripe. The inner orange flesh is firm and succulent This melon is described as highly aromatic and exceptionally sweet and juicy with notes of honey, rose and orange blossom.
Over the past month, I have eaten several of these delectable melons from my own generous vine. They are quite big and make a lovely dessert. I am not sure that the soil here has the same terroir, but I can truly say they are the best melons I have ever tasted.
Burbank Red Slicing Tomato
Developed around 1914 by plant wizard Luther Burbank, this tomato was reportedly the only variety that Mr. Burbank raised for canning. It is a semi-determinate that grows on stocky bushes 18 - 36" tall and produces beautiful 6 - 8 oz fruits perfect for slicing and canning. Quite productive and a fairly early tomato, it has no problem with cool nights and even seems to tolerate drier climates. The fruit is a deep red color with a satisfying bold tomato flavor.
In his own words, Burbank described this tomato as, ”The earliest, smoothest, largest and most productive of all early tomatoes. It is of a bright red, the flesh being firm and of superior quality. The plants resist disease in an unusual manner, and unlike most early tomatoes, it produces heavily all summer. A fine home or market tomato, as it is a fine keeper and shipper."
The 1923 Burbank Seed Catalog reads, ”Fruit, bright crimson; thick, solid, heavy, smooth, medium to large in size, superior quality, unusually heavy and continuous bearer throughout the season. Good keeper and fare shipper. The Burbank has one other unique and most remarkable quality which will be appreciated by those who like fresh sliced tomatoes for the table. Unlike other tomatoes, the skin peels freely from the rich, firm flesh. “
All summer, I have been enjoying these fine tomatoes in sandwiches and salads, as well as cooking them down to paste for winter use.
- Author: Dustin Blakey
Gardeners everywhere are familiar with marigolds. They are not exactly new. However, even though there are so many new types available now, I usually see people planting either the obnoxious pompom-shaped "African" marigolds, or the more diminutive "French" types.
Using place names to describe marigolds is a surprising taxonomic construction since neither type is found in Europe or Africa. In fact the genus Tagetes is native to southern Mexico.
While marigolds are great sources of color in the garden, especially if you deadhead the fading blossoms, there are some more interesting options that can be planted. Breeders have been selecting new species and making interesting crosses. A favorite of mine that is not commonly seen in our area is the signet marigold, Tagetes tenuifolia. Perhaps the easiest to find of this type is the cultivar 'Tangerine Gem'.
'Tangerine Gem' marigolds grow into a compact globe covered with orange (tangerine?) blossoms that need no deadheading. In my garden, I have had problems with earwigs and crickets eating the foliage of other marigolds, but at least earwigs seem to avoid this one. It has fine, dissected foliage that looks more like our native fernbush (Chamaebatiaria millefolium) than the usual marigolds. It tolerates full sun, but like most things in Owens Valley, prefers light shade in the afternoon. Mine started to bloom in mid-July and is exploding with color in these shorter days.
'Tangerine Gem' has edible blossoms, a nice bonus from the landscape! They are slightly bitter, but add interest and color to salads. Make sure you pluck off the petals. The base of the flower is very bitter and unappetizing.
One cool feature of many marigolds is that they are known to be antagonistic to root-knot nematodes. Unfortunately, this is one marigold that doesn't help. Many garden sources cite using 'Tangerine' marigolds, a cultivar of T. patula, to control nematodes. 'Tangerine Gem' is an entirely different plant. The University of Arkansas says that this cultivar may even make nematodes worse, so don't plant it where you've have nematode problems before. If nematode control is your goal, stick with other marigolds that have a good track record.
Chances are slim that you will find this marigold for sale locally as transplants, so the best way to get started with them is to buy seeds. (Thankfully inexpensive in this case.) All marigolds are easy to germinate. You can sow seeds directly in the garden 1/4" deep in April, just put out more than you need and thin out extras. It's usually best to start them inside. Make sure seeds are lightly covered. I've noticed this type starts a little slower than other marigolds, but it makes up for it later, with plenty of growth when the weather warms.
'Tangerine Gem' is a nice annual you should consider planting when you're planning out next year's garden./table>
- Author: Dustin Blakey
You no doubt have noticed that those green bananas you bought at the store a few days ago have steadily turned yellow and are beginning to show some brown spots. Some fruits, like bananas, continue to ripen in some way after they are harvested. We call these “climacteric” fruit.
Climacteric fruit are great if you are selling produce. A grower can pick and ship their fruit while it is immature and depend on it ripening after it's purchased. Gardeners often pride themselves on picking ripe fruit out of their gardens, but it is still good to understand how fruit ripening works, particularly as the season ends in fall.
Many fruits, once they reach a particular level of maturity, will continue to ripen; they are the climacteric fruits. This process is associated with the production of the plant hormone ethylene gas and an sharp increase in respiration. Tomatoes, cantaloupes, pears, apples, peaches, avocados, bananas, and figs are all climacteric fruits; however, their ripening may look a little different for each species.
If you've ever consumed store-bought tomatoes and peaches, you'll note their color and firmness will change, but there isn't an amazing change in sweetness or flavor, whereas pears and bananas transform into a wonderful, tasty treat. That is why home-grown tomatoes are so wonderful, and having fruit trees is still popular despite the hard work needed to maintain them properly.
Not all fruits have this ripening pattern. Grapes, strawberries, pineapple, pomegranate, and citrus are non-climacteric fruits. They tend to last a long time since there is not an ethylene induced burst of respiration. You've probably noticed that citrus fruits taste and look very much the same from the day you get them until you eat the last one. Even non-climacteric fruit eventually will change their character, especially pineapple. It's just not associated with the same burst of physiological activity.
Ripening is an important topic for gardeners to know something about for two reasons: fall harvest and extended storage.
At the end of season you may be tempted to harvest all you can before frost. If a fruit is climacteric, and it is far enough along on the road to maturity, it will continue to ripen. This is handy for tomatoes. Completely immature, green tomatoes may need to be used as such, but if there is a hint of color the chances are good they will ripen on your counter if they did not get too cold. If you have a questionable watermelon in the garden that is underripe, it won't compete the ripening process since it is not climacteric fruit. They need to be picked ripe.
The other key reason as a gardener to understand which fruits are climacteric is to prolong storage. All fruits will ripen more slowly in cooler temperatures, but the ideal temperature varies by fruit. Tomatoes prefer being kept about 50°F but apples are closer to 32°F. Most refrigerators are set around 40°F. If temperatures get too low, then ripening may never happen, but too warm and fruit will continue to mature quickly.
In addition to temperature, climacteric fruit are usually sensitive to ethylene. Not only do they release ethylene gas, but they are very receptive to it. To prolong shelf life and delay ripening, keep ripening fruit away from fruit you are trying to keep from ripening. When you are ready for stored fruit to ripen you can bring it into a warmer location and put it into a bag or with other ripening climacteric fruit to hasten the process.
If you want to experiment with ripening (a good science project to undertake with kids doing distance learning this year) look at ripening pears and bananas. Both are easy to ripen and will show their progress in an obvious way. Underripe fruit are available year-round. Try ripening them at different temperatures, both together and apart.
Now that you know more about fruit ripening, hopefully you will have more options with storing and using produce from your garden and the store.
For more information, see this article which explains the physiology of fruit ripening in much more detail than you really care about. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/12042368.pdf
- Author: Carmen Kappos
Wishing you happy gardening during these trying times.
For the original article please go to this link./span>
- Author: Trina Tobey
Living in California, we inevitably get smoke from wildfires in our yards and gardens and this year is no exception. Over 7,400 fires and 3.1 million acres have burned across California so far this year, making 2020 an extreme year for fires on top of COVID-19, protests, an election, and heat waves. But how does all of this smoke and ash affect our plants? I did some research and found that there are both positive and negative effects of smoke on plants.
Positive effects of smoke come from the increase of carbon dioxide. Plants extract carbon dioxide from the air and use it in photosynthesis to feed themselves. If the plant has an ample supply of water and there is enough sunlight shining through the smoke for the plant to use the extra carbon dioxide, the plant can produce more food for itself. At moderate levels smoke can diffuse the light, which can be a relief for plants here in the high desert that are normally exposed to very intense light every day. This is good for the plants but also for us humans and animals who depend on oxygen.
Conversely, smoke and ash particles can coat plants inhibiting photosynthesis. Smoke particulates can clog stomatal pores which prevent the gas exchanges required in photosynthesis which decreases the amount of food available to the plant. Smoke that sticks to plants can be bad for the plants but good for us. Plants, especially fuzzy plants, remove these smoke particles from the air by absorbing them into their leaves and stems and by minerals translocated through the roots. Again, this eventually helps clean the environment.
If plants are covered with smoke and ash, both sides of their leaves should be cleaned with water. As for the produce you eat from your garden, simply washing it with water before consuming it should remove any of the residue you might otherwise ingest.
In conclusion, the good news is that your plants will likely not be harmed by the smoke, especially if you give them a bath. The bad news is that the smoke is still hazardous to us humans.
Luckily, we have the plants to help us out by cleaning the air for us.
Humans can find out current air quality conditions online at airnow.gov./span>