It is starting to warm up here in Zone 10 and the gardening has already begun to spring into full movement. Seeds are sprouting, flowers are blooming, fruit are ripening, and it is about to get crazy up in here!
This weekend (February 6th, 7th, & 8th, 2015) was a productive one in the garden. I had many pictures to snap, new ground to break, Ranunculus tubers to plant, and carrots to sow among other fun gardening activities. There were even a couple of surprises. Stay tuned for the updates.
It was not too long ago when I started to seek out fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants. Many of these sought after fruits and vegetables are not likely to found at the local produce section. The reasons are that these crops are generally not commercially viable or not in demand enough. A ‘non commercially viable crop’ is crop that either: do not produce enough, take longer to produce, do not ship well, are difficult to grow, etc. Because of those factors, the price for the crop will be too high for the average consumer. Unable to sell their crop, the growers and sellers then would more likely to be left with crop rotting in the stands.
Where these goodies are not likely to rot are on the farmers’ market stands. With much lower overhead, the growers are able to provide market goers with reasonable prices. When in season, one of the fruits one expects to find at a farmer’s market are blood oranges. The fruit of the blood orange is more likely to be tart. Tartness is a characteristic one does not seek out in an orange. What is sought after are the antioxidant properties.
There are a few types of blood oranges with the most commonly available blood orange variety being the Moro blood orange, Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck. As for the availability of blood orange trees, they are now widely available. Like at the farmers’ market, the tree variety most commonly available is the Moro. That was the first tree I picked up.
Is that the Moro of the story?
No, that is not the Moro of the story. The Moro of the story is to do with what I discovered about oranges this year. When I brought the tree home almost a year ago, I did not plant it into the ground. Instead, I kept it in its container. The reason is that I was not sure if the spot I selected would be its permanent home. Staying put in its container, it set blossoms and then fruit. It was doing well through summer. When fall came around, it started to become sad. It began to shed leaves. Unable to support all the fruit, it began to drop them. It is still winter and more than half of the fruit have been dropped. When the fruit is dropped, they are usually green. I would collect them and put them into the compost bin.
Today, I noticed that another fruit had dropped. In the hunt for the dropped fruit, I also recovered a ripen orange from amongst the ivy. That led to the discovery that oranges continue to ripen despite being disconnected from the tree.
With shallots of course! Shallots (allium cepa var. aggregatum) are in the allium family along with onions, leeks, garlic, chives, garlic chives, and ornamental allium. Allium are characterized by a bulb, green leaf stocks, and a flowering floret. (Garlic chives are the exception. They have a rhizome instead of a bulb.) Shallots reproduce in one of two ways: from seed and from producing new bulbs. The general rule about bulbs is that larger bulbs produce many smaller bulbs while small bulbs produce fewer but larger bulbs.
For the beginner gardener, shallots are great plants to start with. They can be planted just about anywhere here in Zone 10. Full sun or partial shade, clay or soil. They find a way to thrive. Often times, you do not have to go out of your way to get started. They’ll invite themselves in. My shallot crop was started from shallots that I had in the kitchen. More often than not a bag of shallots from the market will begin to sprout before you can use them all. When they start to sprout you can either rush to get them in a dish or you can find it some dirt.
In the dirt, (which I plant about a quarter-inch under the soil), the shallot will continue to grow long green leaves. When the leaves are at least six inches in length, they can be harvested as scallions. This makes shallots and onions great plants to have in the garden. Whenever scallions are called for, it’s a short trip from the kitchen to harvest some. As long as the bulb is in the ground, a new set of leaves will grow back ready for harvest.
When the leaves are left on the bulb it will eventually send out a scape. The scape is a firmer stem that shoots from the middle. It is like a firework. The scape will slowly ascend as it matures. When it reaches its full height, it opens and forms a floret. The floret is like a firework suspended in time. After some time, the tiny flowers that make up the floret turn into seed. From there, even more shallots can be grown. Growing shallots from seeds is fairly easy. It is also surprising how quickly they mature from seedlings.
I have been meaning to find a better way to catalog and journal my gardening. This blog looks to be it. There is so much going on in the garden and so much to archive that it is hard to decide where to begin. After much deliberation I figure the best approach is to just dive in and add entries as opportunities to do so arises.
It is the beginning of 2015 and that means that I have about six years worth of archive to add. Six years ago, my gardening interest started to morph into a passion. That was made possible after moving to a place with a small yard that I used to grow vegetables. Until then, I did not really have dirt of my own to grow more than a couple of plants. The yard I had access to was already crowded and claimed by my parents. The little patch that I was able to wrestle away, I used to grow zucchini. This squash is an easy plant to grow and delicious when picked fresh. However, the plant grows into a fairly large bush. When there is not enough dirt it makes it impossible to grow anything else.
Fortunately, when I moved again in 2012, the place happen to have an even larger yard. That is when my gardening really took off. It was not long before I discovered that there is never enough dirt to grow all the things that I want to grow. As we become seasoned gardeners we will probably share in common this sentiment whether our garden is located in a room, on an urban backyard, a community garden, or farm.