Saturday, March 15, 2014

MY COSTA RICAN GARDEN JOURNAL: Note to Self: Find Blight-Resistant Tomatoes by Marilyn

Me in my garden with my first carrots and daily lettuce.
In my last entry, I was mourning the upcoming loss of my squash plants to cucumber beetles. Although I planted five varieties of squash (3 summer, 2 winter), the only ones that made it through were the zucchini. They prospered despite the proliferation of beetles. Probably because they were the fastest growing they could push past the attack. The other squashes, and the cucumber and cantaloupe plants, were DOA. I will try floating row covers next time. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph the total devastation of that part of the garden.
In the other part of the garden, the spinach continues to produce and we have enough lettuce to eat salads daily. One day I found a recipe for lettuce braised in butter and garlic – two big bunches became my lunch – a nice diversion from raw salads. The carrot tops were getting huge, so I did a test harvest of two of them – the carrots are getting enormous! You can see in the picture that they have a way to go, but I won’t have to be getting carrots at the feria for a while. I googled carrot-top recipes because they are so beautiful, they look so healthy and smell wonderful. I’ll be making this one from Vegetarian Times soon:  
I will be eating the carrots AND the tops.
Warm Chickpea and Carrot-top Salad
Serves 4
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 medium onion, minced
1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained
1 cup finely chopped carrot greens,
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt, to taste

Heat oil over medium heat. Add cumin, and sauté 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add onion and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes. Add chickpeas and sauté until heated through and any liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes.Remove pan from heat and add carrot greens. Toss, then transfer to a serving bowl and season with lemon juice and salt before serving.

And with all my carrot greens, I was happy to find the article, 5 Ways to Eat Carrot Tops.
from a great foodie website called TheKitchn.

The cornstalks “look” lovely and healthy. But I’m not holding my breath for that first corn-on-the-cob feast after talking to some folks who’ve tried growing corn here. It has to do with the light. Here in Costa Rica, we get 12 hours of sun every day (well, not in the rainy season – I’ll have to research growing corn then). Apparently, to bring the sugars up to the kernels, corn needs more dark and less daylight. One friend told me that his corn grew to about 4 feet and then – nothing. My cornstalks are now about 3 feet high and I’m seeing some tasseling – I will make a full report in my next garden entry. An aside – when we were here in June-July, Paul and I bought what looked like delicious, wonderful sweet corn from a guy on the side of the road. He had huge piles of it. Well, we got home, steamed the corn, got out the butter and salt and … blech! What were we eating, feed corn? Turns out we were eating the kind of corn used to make tamales. Live and learn.

Early blight - so sad.
So, now for the sadness that was my gorgeous, full-of-blossoms tomato plants. One day they looked great. I thought I was doing everything right – I garlic-sprayed the white flies within seconds of discovering them, never got the leaves wet when watering, fed them yummy chicken poop mulch. But it was not enough. Early blight took over the crop, seemingly overnight. The plants are still blooming and fruiting, but, as you can see in the photo, every fruit looks like it was punched in the eye (if tomatoes had eyes). I googled “can you eat blighted tomatoes?” and some folks say “yes, just cut off the blight” but I went to the feria instead and bought a kilo (2.2 lbs.) for $2. I still want to grow my own – I just need to find blight resistant varieties here in Costa Rica. Since many coffee farmers have now turned to growing tomatoes instead, I should be able to find better seeds at a nearby agricultural store.
So many tomatoes, so much blight :(
Eggplant blossoms - I can't wait!!!
These pepper plants were totally destroyed by the dog
 knocking them down the hill. So happy they've come back.
First pepper blossom
The peppers and eggplant that I’ve also planted on the patio seem to be flourishing. They’re starting to blossom and so far nothing is eating them (knock wood). Eggplant has got to be my absolute favorite veggie (not counting tomatoes which are officially fruits) and I’ve noticed it’s hard to find eggplant at the Farmer’s Market, so I can’t wait to begin harvesting them.
Basil doing fine!
Two tiny chive plants - c'mon guys,
you can do it!
In our little backyard, I had turned over some soil, added compost and planted several varieties of herbs. So far, the only herbs that seem to have made it are basil, one tiny cilantro plant and two even-tinier chive plants. Once the rainy season starts I will stick in some rosemary sprigs from my neighbor’s giant plant. I would love to be able to grow oregano, thyme, and parsley. Maybe I need a greenhouse.
Mmmmm ... snow peas in paradise
One little cilantro
I did plant some snow peas against the fence, despite the fact that the clue in their name should have discouraged me from trying to grow a cold crop in the tropics. So far, I’ve harvested enough for a nice lunch – raw snow peas, minutes from the garden, dipped in homemade honey mustard yogurt dressing. That was heavenly. They are still blossoming, so maybe I’ll get one more lunch out of them.

I do love getting lost in gardening, so I’m not giving up, even though my first attempts in Costa Rica have only been about 50 percent (maybe 40 percent) successful. I welcome insights and guidance from anyone who’s happily gardening in Costa Rica (especially in my micro-climate – 4,500 ft. in the Central Valley).

Lots of lovely lettuce