We've been enjoying the bounty from our citrus trees for a couple of months now. We planted the trees a little over two years ago, and this year we've had our first real crop. The clementines were first (not counting the limes and Meyer lemons). Sweet, juicy, seedless, easy to peel---what's not to like? Minneola tangelos were next. A cross between a grapefruit and tangerine, they are very juicy and a little tarter, also seedless. Because they're so juicy, they're a little harder to peel, but well worth it. The Washington navel oranges are coming on strong. Quite large and thick-skinned, they almost look like orange grapefruits. The ruby red grapefruit aren't quite ripe yet, but getting close, as are the blood oranges. The trees have grown a lot in two years. They seem to like all the biochar we planted them in (50 gallons per tree).
This week we harvested our first ginger root. Actually, it's not the root; it's the rhizome. The plant looks like a small bamboo. Last spring we planted 1/2 pound of seed-rhizome in the small raised bed in our tree greenhouse. The half pound was three pieces of rhizome, which grew into three plants. We dug up the largest plant last week and plan to dig the other two up tomorrow. The rhizome on the first one weighed four pounds. I'm estimating the total crop at ten pounds. I don't know if the 20-to-1 return is normal, but it seems good to me. We ordered 3 pounds of seed-rhizome for this year.
I've already made two batches of pickled ginger, which is very easy. Most of the recipes we found online were pretty similar: rice wine and a sweetener (sugar or honey; I used agave) and a pinch of salt. Peel or slice the ginger thinly and let it marinate in the liquid in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Easy, peasy. I also found an interesting-looking recipe for ginger beer that I'm anxious to try. Carol makes an excellent soup with ginger too. Yesterday she made it for the first time with home-grown ginger. See the recipe below.
Our avocado trees are getting ready to bloom again. Last year they had thousands of blooms, but not a single fruit set. Because the citrus have all been pollinated so easily (miraculously, with no bees), we didn't even think about the avocados not being pollinated. Also, in California, we took pollination for granted. Bees were available year-round, and they just went about their business. Not so in New Hampshire in the middle of winter. We had a lot of bumblebees in the greenhouse this past summer, and they appeared to have a nest in the ground inside the greenhouse. But we're just not sure if it was a viable overwintering nest or not, though. Or when they'll emerge. After a little research, we found out that avocado flowers are a little unusual. They open one day as a female, then close up, and re-open the next day as a male. Additionally, their anatomy makes it a little difficult to hand-pollinate. So, after another google search, we found Mason Bees For Sale.com. After talking on the phone with Clinton, who was both friendly and knowledgeable, we placed an order for some bees, and they arrived today. They are in the fridge for now. We'll take them out to time their emergence with the opening of the flowers. Mason bees, also known as blue orchard bees, are small, solitary bees. They are non-aggressive, rarely sting, and much more effective and efficient than honey bees. We're hoping that they do the trick for us this year.
Carol's Ginger Cauliflower Soup
1 med onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic , diced (more, if desired)
3-4 carrots, peeled & sliced
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
1-2 Tbsp ginger, diced
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1-2 tsp salt
1/2 - 3/4 head cauliflower, cut into small fans
3/4 cup barley, rinsed and drained
2 (32 oz. boxes) chicken broth
2-3 Tbsp canola oil
season with salt and black pepper to taste
In a Dutch oven or a large soup pot, saute celery, onions, carrots, cauliflower, and crushed red pepper in 2-3 Tbsp canola oil over medium-high heat. Cook approximately 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, ginger, and bay leaf, and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add chicken broth. Bring to a boil before adding rinsed barley. Stir well, lower temperature, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until barley is soft. Serves 6-8.