The plants have been slow to acquire any foliar disease and are growing rapidly. I'm trying to decide what to do, in terms of crossing, next. It's been suggested that I grow out some self'ed fruit. I've been thinking of also doing some crosses between siblings and maybe one other cross with another tomato.
Carrots and friends
I grow a number of members of the carrot family that I'd like to some work on but I am only actively selecting skirret and carrot. Next in my sights will be Sweet Cicely and Mitsuba whenever I get time!
Just Food breeding
Seeds of Diversity is working to increase seed capacity in Canada and Jester Lettuce is one of the OSSI (Open Source Seed Initiative) varieties that is available to growers. It was originally created by Frank Morton at Wild Garden Seeds and I have to say that I love it. This spring, when I did selection on the seedlings, I selected out some darker ones for my own purposes. We'll call them Pink Jester for fun.
I'm also growing out two short season community selections as part of the Just Food Seed by Growers for Growers: short season peppers and disease resistant cucumbers. I'm looking forward to the fried green peppers and cucumber sandwiches.
West Carelton calorie project
In my on going attempt to learn how to breed cabbages in the north, here are some babies. The cabbage is a delicious cross between a slightly blushed savoy (San Michele) and a long season red (Red Rock Mammoth). I've climbed quite a learning curb to get to third generation and continue to climb. For example, the tunnel is producing some great pods but I bet I can't use any pods whose flowers touch the top. At any rate, I should be growing out f4 next year!!
I'm also still doing grow outs and overwintering experiments on perennial kale crosses with Daubenton though I'm thinking of moving away from Brassica oleracea kales toward longer lived Brassica napus kales.
Of course, I'm still selecting seakale, growing out giant colewort, and mostly yellow winter-easy turnip. There is a much older project that I might turn my attention back toward which is a very nice Chinese cabbage. I've been growing it out for years and years but haven't been doing any serious selection. It may be time.
The public participatory blah blah long name.
As summer is around the corner, I thought I'd fill in readers on what's happening on the homestead. To start, so many breeding projects!
True seed grown tubers
Tubers and other calorie crops are of particular interest to me as a grower. This is not to say that I don't love other edible crops. I do. In fact, we have an abundance of greenery growing as weeds, perennial edibles and even the occasional treasured annual. I even have some projects on the go to produce interesting greens such as dandelion selection, thin petiole overwintering chard and Daubenton perennial kale crosses. But when it comes to feeding my family and my community, it is the tubers, legumes, grains and storables that I gravitate toward.
I grow out many tuber crops, which are usually started vegetatively, as true (sexually reproduced) seed. These include sweet potatoes, nightshade potatoes, oca, yacon, Apios, and Jerusalem artichoke.
Other projects falling under the calorie crop label would include The Dried Goods Growing Club, Storage vining crops including the Public Participatory Butternut Squash Landrace, and the West Carelton Calorie Project all in part 2. But before we explore those, let's veer into a few plant families that I tend to focus on.
What would life be without alliums?
I love my onion, garlic, leeks, chives and so forth. Though I sell a number of perennial onion seeds that are not undergoing heavy selection such as Blue Chives - a beautiful, tasty self seeding flat leafed plant that is perfect for the front of a sunny border), I also am working on a few breeding projects.
One of my oldest is probably the perennial leek. It is a cross between Oerprei (ancient) perennial bunching leek and a perennializing population of St. Victors leek selection for purple coloration in the leaf (first selected by the Long Island Seed Project). I'm already pretty happy with the cross that is reliably perennial here but larger than the ancient leek.
Next would come the potato onions. I have been growing out true seed of as many varieties as I could get my hands on including shallot seed. These have been mixed together with the best being replanted. I'm looking for high yielding storage onions that readily overwintering on a fall planting. Right now I have 2015 and 16's selections growing out, producing seed and sets along with a couple rows of new seedlings.
Last year I had a complete failure in my attempt to grow out seed sources for selection of a low input, bulb onion but the seedlings are doing much better this year. I hope to have some seed parent candidates later this summer.
Ongoing are my experiments with walking onion and grow outs of other wild or less cultivated onions including Allium altaicum, Allium stellatum and Allium cernuum.
beans, beans the magical fruit... Legumes
Here are some highlights though there are lots more growing including peanuts (Schronce's Black, Valencia ALE select), Ahipa, runner beans, true seed Apios, some really nifty dry peas that I'm testing, grass pea, soy and a few others as part of the Dried Goods Growing Club (part 3). That's not including al the fun Fabaceae plants in the forest gardens and fields that I am not eating!
I'm probably most excited that I'm finally at the stage of growing out enough Icicle pea to store, save and sell (even if only in a limited quantity). Also, though the peanuts were attacked by what was probably bean flea beetle, they are bouncing back so I'm hoping to do a little pollen swapping between the two northern strains to see what we can produce.
A little landrace of Chickpeas that I have been growing for more than a decade now is also at the stage of increasing again after a big loss a few years ago. I just *might* have enough to share!! Included in this mix are a variety of colours and some popping genes.
This year I'm also doing some selective growing of a few dry beans that I particularly enjoy not only fresh but also at what I like to call the shelly stage for frozen storage in winter. Lastly is one little side project of growing all my diminutive (both plant and seed) dry beans together including Carol Deppe's provider bean, brown selection (I'm missing the black for some reason) and a pink one called Peanut if I'm remembering correctly. They tend to cook up at approximately the same rate and I like the variation in colour.
Go to Part 2
Go to Part 3
A spur of the moment cross late in the year seems to have worked! 2016 was a drought year and my plants all looked more than a little thirsty. In the tomato rows, Santorini Paste and OSU blue were the tomatoes that were the least parched looking so I decided to try my hand at crossing them. I had never attempted to cross a tomato before mostly because I had never felt any interest. After all there are so many tomatoes already that I couldn't see how I could add to the already bloated inventory. However, drought tolerance is an interest of mine so I went out one morning to find a very immature looking flower of OSU blue (as per instructions) and removed the boy parts. The fragile looking thing was bagged and pollen from Santorini added the next day with the bag being immediately replaced. All other flowers in the cluster were removed. Honestly I didn't expect anything to happen but low and behold a fruit grew!
It didn't even fully ripen when I picked it and saved the seeds. Doubt crept in again. But the seeds grew not only adequately but vigorously. Now to wait and see what sort of plants and fruit the babies will reveal.
I have Solanaceous projects on the go: true potato seed, spine-less litchi tomato, tomatillo selection (new this year!), Just Food Market Bell but these are the ones started:
1. Open Ophelia Eggplant Selection
2. Yellow to red sweet pepper - low input
3. Spanish Bell selection
4. Spanish Bell x Hungarian yellow to red intermediate phenotype selection.
On the left: The seeds of the Hungarian yellow to red sweet pepper x Spanish Bell, intermediate phenotype were larger, rather like a bell pepper (in my experience) and consequently the cotyledons are also large and vigorous looking. The fruit are a touch later too rather like Bells, including the Spanish Bell selection. Hoping to select more this year, especially for ever so slightly earlier.
On the right: The Hungarian yellow to red pepper that was sent to me from Europe years ago has been one resilient sweet pepper. It's done well through wetter and very dry years. It also seems quite disease and pest resistant so far. The seeds and seedlings are smaller than the more Bell like phenotypes but the fruit is earlier even if it takes a bit of time to turn red.
I have two eggplant projects on the go but this one is my favourite. These are seedlings from Open Ophelia. It is a small-medium tear drop shaped eggplant that I associate with the European type. I've allowed it to cross intentionally with some blockier, more lavender-cream types and hope to select and stabilize from that. Should be interesting to see what this hardy, reliable cross (originally sent to me as dehydrid Ophelia f3) will produce this year. It has yet to disappoint me!
My husband makes this great meal that is a variation on eggplant lasagna. I love the crunchy exterior and creamy interior of each breaded and fried piece of eggplant. It doesn't hurt that it's layered in his special tomato sauce and cheese.
Eggplants were one of the first heat loving plants that I figured out how to grow in the Ottawa regions. They are resource hungry but the right variety and respect for their need for space to mine these resources has given me great crops most years. I also use plastic mulch as per sweet potatoes though this year I'm going to grow a row without to compare. The best book I've read to help with heat lovers is Ken Allan's Sweet Potato Book.
This year, I had two eggplant projects on the go. One based on long-asian varieties and another on smaller European tear shaped ones. The long variety that I had preformed adequately this year though not as well as in 2015. My favourite was definitely derived from seed sent to me as dehybridized Ophelia.
Seedlings were robust and vigorous and they managed to cope adequately with the drought. I was also happy to see at least three flushes of fruit.
I chose some of the best fruits and let them mature to collect seeds. My favourite seed cleaning technique with eggplant is to use a cheap blender. I scrape the mature flesh in, add some water, and blend for about three seconds. It needs to be a cheap blender or you might end up with seed mush. After that, I add more water, drain off the pulp and then strain the water and seeds. The seeds are dried on a paper plate before packaging.
This is one project I'm always happy to expand because more eggplant just means more of my husband's delicious meals, more ratatouille and more baba ganoush.
2017 Eggplant plans
This year, I plan on continuing the selection process and deciding on the range of characteristics. Low input growing is a must but also useful size, early harvest and good taste will be in there. I'll also have to figure out a name - something from Shakespeare I think.
Seeds are available at the shop.
I start peppers at the beginning of March and plant out when the weather is safe. Usually sometime at the end of May. Usually, they have flowerbuds at this point. It was a very dry year, culminating in severe drought status by mid-summer. I don't irrigate but try to plant with the spring rains. They didn't come so plants were watering in. They also received some sparing rescue watering and by that I mean, I lugged out some buckets and poured water into their planting holes during the most intense heat and water stress. This didn't happen as much as they would have wanted.
Picture on the left is from June 27th. First fruits are those from early flowers. Picture on the right is July 13th.
You can see from the above photos that some plants coped a bit better with the intense drought than others. Note plant above right is not wilting. As far as I know this isn't an artifact of its planting position though maybe it found a juicy morsel of something just beneath it.
We had a good thunderstorm August 13th and I record picking quantities of ripe peppers as of August 20th though there were some before.
Photos below left was taken September 7th and below right just before a predicted though not materialized light frost sometime near the end of September.
All in all, I am happy with the project again this year. The peppers are early, tasty, and preserve well (both dry and frozen). Since I've been working with them, they haven't been subject to any excessive pest or disease and have preformed well in different weather years. I'm also happy to see some intermediate forms (see below) between the Unamed Yellow-red and the Spanish-Survivor Bell though I'd like to do a few controlled crosses to explore this further. If you are interested in trying out some seed, it is available in the shop.
Spanish Bell Survivor (top) originated from seeds sent to me from Spain. Most of the plants struggled the year I grew them and/or didn't set ripe fruit. A few did so I added them to my seed mix along with a few other sweets that were performing well in cooler/low heat unit summers.
Whether you call it litchi tomato or vila-vila, its not a tomato but it is related. The prickly perennial (grown here as annual) produces red fruit that taste a bit like a seedy cross between cherry and a tomato.
They are also mildly frost tolerant. That's right, a solanum that doesn't melt at the first touch of ice. A problem if you live somewhere with mild winters but just fine here. It also repels potato eelworm/nemotode in the soil. The large white to bluish flowers bloom all season offering a late nectar source for the bumbles.
There has been some selection but a lot more work could be done. Imagine a world of vila-vila diversity: ones with huge fruit, one orange with stripes, different flavours and even those that enhance their ornamental flowers. As it is, I belong to a group that is hoping to find a spineless mutant. See Friends of Vila-vila (Solanum sisymbriifolium) on Facebook to join. Though I have to say, a little part of me would be sad to loose the spines.
All about growing, selecting and using edible plants in the Ottawa valley.