Sunday, August 14, 2016

Harvesting Begins

Seminole Pumpkins

While there is still far more growing that we've yet to harvest as well as ongoing produce that gets regularly harvested, we have a few extras this year that are new and exciting since we only planted them in May of last year.

This was our food forest last May and that little tree on the left was the Custard Apple while the Barbados Cherries are in the planting bed at the bottom of this picture.  There are two small bushes at either ends with a small Loquat in the middle.

The first are our Barbados Cherries (Acerola).  These tart cherries are different from their cold climate cousins.  They don't require the long cold spells needed for regular cherries to produce.  They tolerate the extreme summer heat and humidity we get here in Central Florida.  They are more tart than regular cherries and have 3 smaller pits rather than the larger single one and a real benefit is that they have extremely high concentrations of vitamin C and phenolic antioxidants.

The flowers on our Barbados Cherry Plants

A Barbados cherry - they grow close to the branches and don't have the long stems that regular cherries have

We have heavily pruned the cherries several times and they grow like mad, now that they are producing fruit we'll hold off pruning until the season ends. It's amazing to see the growth in only one year and the fact our trees are already producing fruit is really exciting.

Our Barbados Cherries today almost smother the Loquat tree in the center, and would be twice the size had I not pruned them heavily the past few month. They are in desperate need of pruning and shaping, but with all the flowers on them I want to let them go until I harvest all the fruit they'll produce this season.
The next tree that is producing a new fruit for us is the custard apple (annona reticulata).  We had to cover and protect this tree during the brief frost we had earlier this year, but after losing the very top branches it has come back strong, flowered and has 3 good size custard apples on it.  Right now they still aren't ripe and look like green brains hanging on the tree.

One of our little "green brains" growing
Our pineapples have produced a lot of fruit this year.  We had 11 altogether and have harvested 3 so far.  The rest are still growing and beginning to ripen on the plants.  They are still smaller, but their flavor is amazing!!  After eating them I start the process all over again by taking their tops and planting them outside to produce yet another plant for production.

The Seminole Pumpkins that came from a volunteer from last years plants produced an incredible 22 pumpkins before I pulled the vine out.  You can see some of the pumpkins in the picture at the top of the page.  They aren't large pumpkins, but they are sweet and plenty for our needs.  We still have a couple more vines that have started from our compost piles and will produce a few more, plus we have lots of butternut squash that started the same way and are really growing large squash for us this year.  We've harvested 9 (8 in picture below and the one we ate) so far with a lot more still at varying stages of growth and size around the yard.

The monster squash in the front of the picture here is 14 inches long and 6 1/2 inches wide. So that gives a bit of perspective for all the others that are smaller, but each is still a good size.

The ginger I started from store bought pieces are growing well and have beautiful flowers, so I'll do a follow up post when it comes time to dig up the roots and see the size of that harvest.

Our sugar cane is growing like mad throughout the yard as I take pieces and start more and more around so that with little effort we are adding to our production levels of this plant that makes a great wind break, provides shade for other plants and will produce it's usable cane.  Last year we just did taste samples and then replanted.  This year I'll juice it before replanting the pieces we'll cut from the upper portions of the long cane and we've found a great use for the long leafy portion that we cut up, dry and use in our wicking beds or as mulch.  I've been doing some studies of sugar production so that eventually we can make a basic sugar product with a larger harvest that we will eventually have as our cane expands throughout the yard.

Sugar cane by the bamboo in the front yard

Beautiful - thick cane

Younger, smaller plants by peach tree in the food forest area

Our figs are really producing a lot this year.  I've already harvest about 10 pounds of fruit and have frozen them for using later.  The 3 larger trees (each about 4 feet tall right now) are loaded again with fruit that we will harvest and eat when ripe.

Some of the ripe figs we picked earlier

Our experimental Giant Blue Corn grew to giant size stalks, but only produced a small amount of harvestable corn.  So we gathered this, removed the husks and are drying it to save for seed.  Though there's not a lot of it, it is a pretty dark blue colored corn and we'll research and prepare our beds a bit better the next time we plant it.  Now that we have more than the few seeds that arrived in the pack I bought, I feel free to try it in varying places around the yard to try to find the best locations for growing it.

The girls by the giant blue corn stalks

Some of our harvest

Blue corn dried for seed for next time

All of these have done well in a short amount of time and in the midst of the intense Summer heat and humidity we get here.  I'm now planning my gardens for our best growing season as we move into the Fall.  Temperatures will cool down, but still remain warm enough to do a lot of growing.  I'm finally beginning to learn how to work with rather than against the seasons here.  YAY!!!

We've been enjoying the pumpkins in the form of delicious pumpkin bread, as I cook and puree all the pumpkins we grew for later use.  My freezer has lots of the stuff that will be used in breads, soups, cookies and pies over the coming months.  Now that we're harvesting all these butternut squash I need to get busy doing the same with them. I love when I see what these are selling for a pound in the store to know the savings we're enjoying and that we are getting healthy fresh fruits and vegetables regularly to add to our diets and food stores.

We're hoping at this time next year our peach, nectarine, plums, pomegranates, avocados, olives, jackfruit and pineapple guavas will all be producing well for us.

That's it for now - happy gardening.

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