This year’s cool season garden might not have happened if it weren’t for a request from Margaret (wonderful mother-in-law) and an article she clipped on exotic radishes.  It was just the stimulus a passionate horticulturist like me needed.  Did I get carried away and overdo it?  

Of course!  I had my Kitazawa Seed catalog out within hours of reading the article and radish seeds were on the way.  Not the little red ones (I found some of them at the nursery) but giant daikons, watermelon radishes and more.  I’ve been told it’s a sickness, but what fun!  The garden is my happy place.  Within 30 days I was harvesting the little red ones and then came the big long white ones.  After a couple of shipments to various relatives I started getting “no more please” replies.  Oh well, I was determined to eat as many as I could so I got creative.

Why not slice some up into rounds (the really big ones were further diced into pie shaped pieces) and they were added to a bread and butter pickle jar that was almost empty of pickles.  These radish pieces soaked up the flavors like a champ and they were even crisper than the cucumbers.  They weren’t processed for room temperature so they remained “refrigerator pickles”.  My wife isn’t a big fan of bread and butter juice/radish fragrance and claimed to be able to smell them within seconds of my opening the jar to sample some of the sweet, spicy crunch.   

Needless to say, I haven’t had to share my radish bounty and it looks like many of the watermelon radishes and the fifteen by two inch daikons may end up in the compost pile.  The smaller daikons like Shirahime and Shunkyo were the tastiest.  The bigger daikons and watermelon radishes seemed a bit strong even for my old taste buds.  I’m sure they will rot into a fine compost and benefit the upcoming tomato crop. 

I also scored some Romanesco cauliflower, broccoli and purple cauliflower transplants.  The flower buds are so delicious that even a radish shy wife loves the cooked broccoli/cauliflower flower buds.  Our quick fix technique is (three minutes in a covered microwave container plus one more minute in the microwave after dotting with butter and seasoning). She also makes a wonderful  Romanesco ham and cheese quiche.

Another fall treat was the Fuyu persimmon crop.  Fuyu is one of the non-astringent varieties, as in ‘no pucker’.  The skins are tough so we peeled them and sliced the crisp flesh into rounds and munched away.  The flavor is very sweet with a hint of cinnamon/honey.  We had so many that we dried some as well.  They were excellent with the potential to last until next years’ crop except we ate them too fast.  As the season progressed, it became obvious that the birds loved persimmons, as well.  We lost a few but we had plenty to share.

We had a good pecan crop this year, too.  We hadn’t done much spraying/fertilizing to deserve it, but maybe the dry fall helped by reducing the infection from pecan scab. One of my favorite varieties is a chance seedling that someone from the Heights once brought into the Extension office when it was located in downtown Houston.  Folks often came by during their lunch hour while serving on Jury duty and one day a man brought in a big pecan nut that looked like it was chiseled out of stone.  My first impression was that it was a hican (hickory x pecan cross).  He said that his father had planted a paper shell pecan nut on either side of the walk that often divided the front yard in those early Heights homes.  Anyway, one of the trees produced this large nut.  I asked if I could come out in February and cut some graftwood and he said yes.  I got his phone number and followed through.  After a few years of grafting this seedling and having folks ask me what it was called I blurted out “Bill Nut” and it stuck.  I’m sorry to say I’ve forgotten the man’s name and lost the phone number.  After thinking for years this was a hican I realized it probably wasn’t since the few hicans I’d heard of were beautiful trees but they were also notoriously poor producers and the Bill Nut makes a decent crop compared to the typical hican which produces only a few nuts per year.  

Another pecan tree that I planted as a nut from a grafted Jackson pecan finally produced a small crop of nuts this year (after 18 years) and they were very nice—medium large with beautiful, delicious kernels.  It seemed only fitting to name it the Debbi Nut after my wife Debbi.   I guess we’re both nuts.

Then came the February polar weeklong freeze.  Luckily all of the cauliflower and broccoli had been harvested and I was beginning to lose interest in the radishes anyway.  Some effort was made to cover plants but the plant cover wasn’t heavy enough for this lengthy Northern Blast of cold air.  The snow that came with it did improve the cover with a blanket of snow and that likely helped some plants.  Unfortunately citrus like our Satsuma that was so loaded with fruit last year and a kumquat we like in our Margaritas don’t look so good.  I’ve done a little pruning to see if I can find any green tissue in the bare stems but mostly it’s a case of wait and see.  Hopefully the citrus will sprout out lower but still above the graft.

My tomato, pepper and eggplant seedlings were indoors with a heating mat and under fluorescent grow lights so we didn’t get set back too far with the summer garden.  They were still pretty small when it warmed up and they could be moved to the greenhouse.  Fortunately they grow really fast once they are transplanted into small pots.  I use Styrofoam cups with 3-4 holes punched into the side near the base.  I also use all kinds of pots saved from previous years.

Included in the tomato patch this year are some favorites from past seasons like Jamestown F1, SV 7846 (now called It’s a Keeper in the Seeds and Such catalog), Cherokee Purple,  JD’s C-TX, CC Bicolor, Sungold F1, Jaune Flamme, Sugar Rush F1, Persimmon, Red Anjou, Big Beef F1, Kentucky Beefsteak (big orange tomatoes, tried some last year-yummy)  and Super Fantastic F1.

New tomato varieties I’m trying this year include Roman Warrior F1 Roma type, Inca Jewels Roma type, Chocolate Sprinkles F1 (dark cherry), Momotaro Gold F1 (a golden version of the yummy Momotaro pink), Precious Pink, Early Doll, Big Juicy F1 (sounded great and the seeds were a dollar each in some catalogs), Roadster F1 (compact plant, big tomatoes) and Pork Chop (a citrusy yellow).  Also included are lots of peppers some hot, some mild plus, as usual, way too many eggplants, but who could resist the Chinese String eggplant.

HAPPY GARDENING!

Bill Adams

Written by Bill Adams William D. (Bill) Adams is the author of numerous articles and his photos have been published in a number of magazines, calendars and books. He is the co-author/photographer of “Commonsense Vegetable Gardening for the South” with Tom LeRoy and he is the co-author of “The Lone Star Gardener’s Book of Lists” with Lois Trigg Chaplin. Bill and Tom also teamed up for another book—THE SOUTHERN KITCHEN GARDEN. Most recently Bill authored THE TEXAS TOMATO LOVER’S HANDBOOK a guide to growing the most delicious tomatoes on the planet. This latest book published by Texas A & M University Press. Bill worked in mass media most of his career appearing on radio and TV programs, and writing a weekly column. Adams also served as the Harris County Master Gardener Coordinator with over seven hundred active members. These days, after retiring from the Extension Service, Bill is concentrating his energies on gardening, writing and photography. He is a much-requested speaker at Garden and Civic Clubs and he is a regular contributor of articles and photography to Neil Sperry’s Gardens magazine. Bill has been a member of Garden Writers Assn. since 1972 and has served several terms as a Southern regional director.