A couple of months ago I ran into Scott Donovan of Donovan Orchards at the South Wedge Farmers Market, where he was pushing apples and other goodies from his farm. I was surprised because I mainly knew Scott from seeing him in a tie at work, as part of the Finance department.
That day I bought some fabulous organic Galas, and more recently ordered a bushel of these and a bushel of Jona Golds. I’m not any kind of expert on apple varieties, but I find myself more and more interested. I see apple trees in the landscape, especially overgrown strays by the side of the road. But up until yesterday, I can’t say I even knew really what a bushel of apples looked like. Now I know it’s a fair number of apples.
I decided I wanted to try to store them in the basement, so I did a little research. First, Scott advised me to use the Gala’s first, and that the Jona Golds were better storing apples. My research online suggests that hard, crisp apples store better, and sweeter, mushier varieties less so. I also found out that apples respire ethylene, which will rot potatoes, so don’t store them together.
Originally I was thinking I would store the apples in sand, but further research suggested they should be wrapped in newspaper and stored in boxes that are a bit ventilated, such as cardboard. Another tip is to only store pristinely perfect and unblemished apples, as even small bruises will make them more likely to spoil.
I’ve been re-reading Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest, which is totally inspiring. I’m starting to think it is possible to be harvesting cold-season greens in the depth of winter here. I’ve got my cheapo greenhouse up, and as of today, the calendula, collards, parsley, broccoli, and even eucalyptus and lemon verbena are doing fine in there. I harvested some parsley, and had a bite of the root (per Mr. Coleman’s advise) which was a bit like a licorice parsnip. I’m very excited by the idea that I could be sowing spinach, kale and salad greens over the next few weeks. Will they germinate? I’ll let you know how it turns out.
I also found that despite major hard freezes over the last week, the brussels sprouts and broccoli out in the cold zone made a comeback. I was about to tear them out last week, but they looked fine today. I’ve also still got some cilantro, which last year was good through about mid-December. I’m getting a very clear picture of warm and cold areas of the garden, and it looks like the main beds are going to need some overstory trees to cut down on frost. I’ve got a couple of black locust volunteers I plan to move out there in the spring.
We inherited a couple of guinea pigs last month and we’ve finally figured out that they love broccoli stalks as a way to get their substantial vitamin C needs met. This is good, becauses the broccoli I grew this year is about 95% stalk, although I did get decent cuttings off the few that grew. I’ll get them in much earlier next year. When I was a kid and had guinea pigs, I used to hate to clean the cage, but now that I’m composting, I almost look forward to adding weekly home grown animal manures to the mix!