Archive | December, 2010

Sexy Carrots

31 Dec

For the last post of the year (Merry Xmas and Happy New year to y’all) and while we continue on the carrot theme here’s a pic from my a freind of mine. Let’s just call it “Matt’s carrot”.

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Carrots too young to seed?

22 Dec
One of my dragon carrot’s has gone to seed. It’s shot up a 1.5m stalk and has about 6 clumps of flowers growing on it. Logic tell’s me to wait till the flowers / seeds start turning brown and chop them off the plant.
However I did a bit of digging around and strangely enough carrot’s are biennial and therefore aren’t supposed to seed till the 2nd year of their life?? These carrot’s are only 6months old so not sure what’s happening. Perhaps because their an heirloom variety they seed early? I can’t find any information specifically for Dragon Carrots.

Many sites I checked out suggested that you should only save the seeds from the first 2 flowers to sprout as these will produce the biggest and best carrots. Also to ensure genetic diversity, and good produce, you should collect from 40 or so different carrots. That’s going to be hard given I only have about 10 in the ground and I want to EAT them. Which does ask the question, what happens to the carrot when it goes to seed? Can I still dig it up and eat it? Does it lose flavour / color / shape?

I’ll post more as I know.!

Zucchini, Squash and Courgette

20 Dec
The difference between these has always confused me. I kinda knew that courgette was the french word for zucchini but where in the world did squash fit in. Squash was made even more confusing because the English call pumpkins squash.

A few months ago I planted some Yellow Straightneck Zucchini from seed and it really hasn’t gone all that well. Especially compared to the plants growing at a friends place I visited on the weekend where they are inundated with zucchini’s. Turns out that there are male and female flowers and that they had to manually pollinate the female using the male. Luckily we had this conversation before the 2nd bottle of wine was opened. 🙂

On the back of that conversation here’s my few hours worth of research.

Zucchini is the Italian name for a type of summer squash. Folks in North America, Australia and Germany use this. In France, Ireland, UK, Greece and New Zealand it’s known as a courgette.

A summer squash (cucurbito pepo) differs from a winter squash (cucurbito maxima or cucurbito moschata) in that it’s picked when it’s immature (the skin is tender and edible). Winter squash, such as pumpkin’s, are are mature with ripen seeds and a hard skin.

Here a good site listing the types of summer squashes if you want to know the different types. Something I learnt from this site is that my Yellow Straightneck Zucchini is open-pollinated, meaning that it needs to be pollinated from other flowers. I thought it was an heirloom variety.

Open pollinating fruits need female and male flowers. Female flowers have a baby zucchini below the flower while the male is just a flower. Normally bee’s or the wind would pollinate the females but I think I’ll need to hand pollinate. Once you pick the male flowers and pollinate the female the male flower can be stuffed with blue cheese and deep fried in a beer batter for instance. I went to the garden today to “pollinate” my flowers but there’s no females.

When selecting a zucchini from the shop did you know that smaller is better? Less than 20cm is the ideal otherwise the flesh can be watery and fibrous. Good tip when growing them as well.

Squash are up  there with the top healthiest foods with massive amounts of potassium and vitamin A (the summer squash, Butternut has the highest Vit A). Squash are known as “high volume” foods meaning they are filling but have a very low calorific value which works great for weight loss diets. Something I found interesting was that for summer squash most of the nutrient content is locked up in the skin. Therefore, never peel the zucchini skin which I’m known to do.

To finish off, some nice complements to the zucchini and other summer squash are dill, marjoram and cumin. However use them sparingly, their high water content means that strong flavours will overwhelm the subtle flavours.

Why Dragon Carrots?

19 Dec

Over the few years I’ve been gardening more and more. It started with a container herb patch, morphed into an attempt to Bonsai various plants and ending up where I am now with a patch of dirt on body corporate land in the unlikely place between a swimming pool and Sydney Harbour.

This is my first real garden and I’ve probably jumped into rather quickly. I looked up companion planting but when it came down to it I still planted creeping plants (rockmelon, zuchinni, mint etc) next to carrots and tomatos. But it’s all a learning process and that what this blog is about. My garden, what i’ve got, how I’ve done it and as much information about the various bits as I can research and pass on.

The title Dragon Carrots come from a type of carrot of the same name. It’s a purple carrot. Did you know that originally, before selective breeding became all the rage, carrots were purple, white and Orange. It wasn’t until the orange carrots were selectively bred in revenance to the House of Orange in the Netherlands. I stumbled across this breed recently while looking for some more unusal heirloom varieties and they represent my first harvest so seemed appropriate.

On top of that, just this morning I was sent a post from the University of Southern Queensland that purple carrots are being postitioned as the next supervegetable. The results seen from feeding purple carrot juice to overwieght “western diet” fed rats in quite remarkable. It quotes that compared to your regular orange carrots “purple carrots have up to 28 times more anthocyanins, the antioxidant that creates the purple-red pigment in blueberries and raspberries, among other foods.”

So combine the two references and you have the Dragon Carrot blog. Hope you enjoy it.