Before we get swamped with seed catalogs tempting us with beautiful flowers and foods that are usually not quite the easily-grown version the catalogs claim, evaluate your experience with garden beds this year. What flowers pleased/disappointed you? What varieties of tomatoes pleased/disappointed you? How about peppers and eggplants? Greens? Plant something new each year.
One thing I’ve not grown before this year, but will again, is sugarloaf chicory (aka Pan di Zucchero). Chicory is bitter, suiting some tastes. What’s the difference among chicory, endive and radicchio? All are members of the Cichorium genus. Radicchio is the Italian word for chicory; variety names are Fiero, Treviso, Indigo and Palla di Fuoco Rosso. Endives are C. endivia, and those varieties include broad-leaved Batavian, Frisee, Tres Fine, etc. Chicories (C. intybus) range from the wild chicory (purple flowers, closing in early afternoon), to Witloof (forcing to form Belgian endive), puntarelle (asparagus-like stems around a core), and the sugarloaf among others.
Some chicory roots are roasted, ground and used as a coffee substitute. Some prefer this to coffee because there’s no caffeine in the chicory coffee.
Seeds for chicory and endive are often included in mesclun mixes for salads, since they’re all good for cut-and-come-again greens. For winter, mature plants are best cut back to within an inch or two above soil level, since they’re hardier that way than when they are fully leafed out, and more easily covered with shredded leaf mulch for protection from the cold.
Sugarloaf chicory grows like a frowsy romaine lettuce, the tight inner core of leaves is sweeter than the loose outer leaves. Washing leaves in warm water reportedly relieves some of the bitterness, and braising in oil and garlic also modifies that bitterness. This nutritious green has deep taproots, and can be grown to maturity best as a fall crop. It’s apparently a little hardier than lettuce, but if leaves are removed about an inch and a half to two inches, it’s quite hardy. Some say it’s hardy down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, hardier than lettuce.
Friends more tolerant of bitter flavor than I tried the outer leaves sauteed in oil and garlic and did not like it. An Italian friend said her family usually “boiled the bitterness out” before sauteeing with garlic. I suspect prolonged boiling would destroy nutrients, but blanching quickly is said to fix nutrients. That might work. In any case, a hardy crop of greens is worth growing.
Watch for these stink bugs
Brown marmorated stink bugs have been found in the Middleton area of this valley. They’re the regular shield shape of stink bugs, but are a marbled (marmorated) brown, with noticeable white spots on their margin. They’re fruit and agricultural pests, and may invade homes. They do stink when crushed. They supposedly cannot bite humans, but some folks disagree. Watch for them in the house, and prepare for their invasion next spring. Youtube.com has instructions for homemade stink bug traps you can make this winter to be prepared.
Help your peach tree
If your peach tree had peach leaf curl fungus last spring, spray a copper-based fungicide such as Bordeaux mixture now, and again in early spring, before flower buds open. This fungus can kill your tree over winter, since open lesions are infection locations that will carry over into spring leafing unless controlled now.
If you noticed many tiny holes in some leaves and red smears on some stone fruits, you should also use a copper-based fungicide now on trees such as apricot, almond, peach, cherry and plum trees. The shot-hole disease is also known as Coryneum blight, and is difficult to eradicate.
Meanwhile, send garden questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.
Taking a break ...
This is my last column before the holidays, so have happy holidays, enjoy food from your own garden for Thanksgiving and make sure your cut Christmas trees are well watered, and the live ones are gradually acclimated for in-home use and gradually introduced to the outdoors after the holiday. See you in January.