Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures

Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures - learning about gardening up north.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tomato Varieties For My Greenhouse

What Tomato varieties do you grow? Here in Wasilla, Alaska our season can be short so early season varieties do best and cold tolerant varieties are preferred. I started growing the local popular varieties: Early Girl, Early Tanana, and Stupice in my Alaska Grow Buckets, but quickly learned that standard tomatoes can outgrow my greenhouse and needed to be pruned when they grew up to the roof! 

I decided to switch to Bush or Dwarf varieties. I was very happy with a compact sturdy variety called Extreme Bush from Victory Seed company. They were very prolific, cold tolerant, and full of 3-4 oz fruit. About golf ball to baseball in size. Extreme Bush are an open pollinated heirloom variety and great for seed-saving. 

Extreme Bush
Extreme Bush tomatoes are prone to cracking when ripe, but since I make tomato sauce it really didn't matter. They also seemed so suffer from early blight or fungal disease and would turn yellow and then brown with disease at the end of our summer growing season. Pinching off the lower branches and spraying regularly with a fungicide helped and I recommend starting early and spraying every week with Green Cure brand Fungicide that is labeled as safe for organic growers. You can get it here on my Amazon Affiliate Store.

Last year I tried Bush Early Girl tomato variety from Tomato Growers Supply and was very pleased with the results. I have grown standard Early Girl tomatoes before, but as a standard tomato plant they would grow too tall inside my greenhouse. Bush Early Girl is a hybrid that is a more compact and sturdy bush type tomato and also listed as VFFNT disease resistant. Which stands for: V = Verticillium wilt FF = Fusarium, races 1 & 2 N = Nematodes T = Tobacco mosaic virus-resistant. The plants held up very well just as indicated. They also produced larger fruit about 6-8 oz a little larger than baseball size and big enough for slicing on a burger. Also cracking was not a problem with this variety.

Bush Early Girl
Bush Early Girl
Bush Early Girl may have less fruit than Extreme Bush, but the larger size made for a similar harvest. They did ripen a few weeks later than Extreme Bush, but that may have been due to our weather. I had plenty and they made excellent tomato sauce. This photo was taken in mid September and I had to add a small space heater to my greenhouse for the chilly nighttime temperatures. 

So when do you start your seeds and when to you plant them out in your unheated greenhouse? I am lucky to have a home weather station that tracks the overnight temperature and lets me judge when it is safe to move my plants or if I need to add a space heater.

An electric oil filled space heater seems to keep my 8x16 ft. greenhouse about 10 degrees above the outside temperature. I try to keep the overnight low temperature above 40 degrees whenever possible.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What Do You Do With Kale ?

I will admit kale is not my favorite veggie, yet I know it is good for me. It is very easy to grow, very frost tolerant, and therefor a great staple crop for my garden here in Wasilla, Alaska. Kale has become the new zucchini with bountiful yields and the quandary of what to to with all that kale? I am not a big kale smoothie drinker and blending veggies with sugary fruit juice is not my style.

Baby kale is still fairly tender and is great for adding with other fresh greens for salads, but older kale will develop thick, woody ribs and stalks and the leaves take on a leathery texture that is not pleasant to eat raw. Removing the ribs and stalks will help, but the leathery leaves are better if you cook them. Wilted kale is pretty good, but the texture will improve by first braising the trimmed kale covered in a small amount of broth, stock, or wine for 15 minutes then removing the lid and letting the liquid reduce and finish with crumbled bacon and balsamic vinegar and a pat of butter.  

I enjoy processing my garden veggies and berries in season and put them away for use all year long. Processing kale can be a challenge. Canning or blanching and freezing my fresh produce are two methods I use. One method I found for using my prolific kale crop is to trim and cook it covered in a seasoned stock and then puree it in my blender. I then freeze the puree in plastic sandwich containers and once frozen I will pop them out and seal in vacuum bags for long term freezer storage. 

This pureed kale takes on the flavor of your stock and is great as a soup base for cream of kale or kale cheddar soup. I add this pureed kale to many of my other hearty soup recipes. I make split pea soup with carrots in a chicken stock and add pureed kale and some bacon crumbles. This will warm you up on any frigid Alaska winter day. Adding split peas, lentils, or leftover chicken to a basic vegetable soup along with pureed kale from my deep freezer is my go-to winter dinner. I will make a large pot of hearty soup on Sunday and freeze meal portions for using all week long. Add a salmon burger, wrap, or salad and you have a sit-down dinner.

What about kale chips? I have tried packaged kale chips and they are a good snack choice, but they just seem too fragile. Not good out of a bag and I was not impressed with the wasteful expensive protective packaging some producers use. Homemade kale chips are a better choice, but I like a chip that can stand up to salsa or dips and kale just does not work. I am going to try making baked kale crackers using pureed kale with almond flour plus egg and olive oil. Rolled very thin, pricked with a fork and baked. If anybody has tried this before, please share your results in the comments section below.

So do you grow kale? Share your experience and what you do with your harvest. Share your frost and winter harvest stories too. Is kale the new Zucchini?