NATURE’S TURN: Signs of maturity, cure alliums, plant for autumn

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By Monday, Aug 14 Farm and Table
Judy Isacoff
Painted Mountain corn kernels partially removed from cob. Aug. 20, 2016.

August 14 – 27, 2017

Mount Washington — An ear of corn is ripe for fresh eating when the strands that spill out of the tip of the husk are dry, brittle and a deep shade of brown. To further confirm that the kernels are plump and have filled out the cob, gently grasp the ear, especially the silk end, to feel its fullness. These observations are of value to shoppers as well as gardeners. Whether at a farm stand or market, it is a small crime of property damage to tear open the tip of an ear: everyone wants to have the opportunity to buy undamaged produce. As for the possibility of uncovering a worm when husking the ear at home, it won’t have eaten much!

Liz Fayad created a rhubarb leaf bonnet and models it here with stalks for her quiver. Aug. 8, 2017. Photo: Jonathan Tillis

Liz Fayad created a rhubarb leaf bonnet and models it here with stalks for her quiver. Aug. 8, 2017. Photo: Jonathan Tillis

Thoughtful handling of fruits and vegetables must be modeled for children who grow up in families of shoppers rather than growers of food. While at a market, I observed a young child squeeze, pick up and drop back unripe peaches from a display as if they were balls to be tossed. A bruised peach won’t ripen; a bruised apple has lost its keeping quality. The grower’s efforts are squandered.

The multicolored corn I grow, Painted Mountain, has been developed for its hardiness in cold, dry climates from a selection of 70 native strains. It is a good sweet or green corn for a short period when the kernels are “in the milk.” Beyond the green corn stage, the ears are left to dry on their stalks in the garden. Dried kernels provide year-round food when ground into flour and are the seeds for planting next year.

Garlic bed with holes left where plants were lifted. Notice the crumbles on the soil surface revealed when leaf mulch was raked away. Aug. 8, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Garlic bed with holes left where plants were lifted. Notice the crumbles on the soil surface revealed when leaf mulch was raked away. Aug. 8, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Garlic must be dug while the bulbs are intact. If left in the ground too long, the cloves separate from the center stem. All of my garlic is laid out in an airy shed out of direct sunlight until I have time to tie the stems in bunches of about a dozen. I’ll bunch the stems with the largest bulbs and largest cloves together and set aside for October planting.*

Onions with wilted tops ready for curing. 2017 season later to harvest than last year. Aug. 9, 2016. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Onions with wilted tops ready for curing. 2017 season later to harvest than last year. Aug. 9, 2016. Photo: Judy Isacoff

The latest onion harvesting recommendations come to us from UGA Extension: “Maturity is best determined by pinching the neck of the growing onion. Necks of immature onions are stiff, while necks of optimally mature onions are soft and limber. When the necks are so weak that they cannot support the tops the onions are over mature…..” More from UMass, loosely quoted: Adequate curing in the field or in open sheds may require two to four weeks, depending on the weather. Be sure onions are well-dried and necks are tight–i.e., the tissue does not slide when you roll the neck between your fingers–before topping. Leave 2–3 inches of neck on the bulb. Minimize mechanical injury during harvest and topping. Bruises provide direct entry points for diseases to get started. 
Grade out damaged onions before putting them into storage. Damaged bulbs give off moisture, which is favorable for development of diseases in storage.

Coriander/cilantro plant flowering and producing seed. Aug. 9, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Coriander/cilantro plant flowering and producing seed. Aug. 9, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Good for beneficial insects and for the palate, grow several dill and coriander plants for their flowers and seeds. In common parlance, the leaves of the coriander plant are known as cilantro and the seeds as coriander. Trim the flowers from umbels of both coriander and dill to sprinkle on food as an edible garnish. Whole umbels make fine decorations. When the seeds are forming and still green, add them to pickling brine and other recipes. Green coriander seeds straight from the umbel add flavor to cooking rice. Left to dry on their stalks, both coriander and dill seeds may be picked off their stems and stored in spice jars. For winter storage of seed for planting, I place dried umbels and loose seed in paper bags.

The full cycle from seed to seed, bulb to bulb, is all around us. Where we plant one seed, we harvest many!

Addendum

Another look at late summer sowing by another leading source.

Seeding chart

Resources

Painted Mountain corn – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46MZli6pK-Q

Painted Mountain corn for children – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHWN0recsJA

*http://theberkshireedge.com/natures-turn-summer-gardens-rolling-crest-savor-harvest-renew-sow/

Complete onion harvest article August 10, 2017 issue of http://ag.umass.edu/vegetable/newsletters


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