Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Product Spotlight - October 2010

Totem Forcing Chicory

Belgian endive, also known as witloof chicory, is a gourmet item found in high end restaurants and occasionally in upscale groceries.
The narrow heads of pale yellow leaves, called chicons, have a mild chicory flavor and pleasing crispness.

Belgian endive is not difficult to grow, but it does require extra attention and handling. The chicons are actually the sprouted roots of chicory plants that were grown in summer, then dug up and put in storage for the winter. The roots can be forced as needed from September to January.

The variety Totem should be direct seeded outside in early July. The chicory plants grow all summer until the roots are fully developed and about 1.5"-2" wide at the shoulder. Around October, the plants are dug and the leaves are cut off to about an inch or two from the root. The roots can be stored standing upright in buckets of sand in a root cellar or other cool area. Ideally, the roots should be held right at freezing. To force them, they should be brought into the warmth, watered, and covered with a black cloth or bucket to exclude all light, which is what keeps the leaves white and bitter-free. The chicon will be fully grown in about three weeks.

Flash and Champion Collards

Collards are one of the vegetables that get better as the weather gets colder. They are very hardy and can be grown in warm areas without protection, under row cover or in a hoophouse in cold winter areas. Individual leaves can be harvested throughout the fall and winter, and the same plants will produce new growth for early spring greens.

Flash has smooth, dark green leaves and is 55 days to maturity. Champion has long, wavy dark green leaves and is 60 days to maturity.

Pumpkins and gourds
From left: Knucklehead; Champion; Speckled Hound; Daisy; Lunch Lady.
 Fall decorating is growing in popularity every year and Johnny's has a huge variety of pumpkins and gourds to fit every need. Customers are looking for specialty pumpkins, jack-o'-lanterns, and gourds from September through Thanksgiving. A selection of orange, white, and multicolored pumpkins dresses up a porch after summer flowers are done. Small gourds make beautiful tabletop decorations. And some of the more exotic specimens are great for kids' crafts.

Here are some of the newest varieties for fall decor:

Champion is a big jack-o'-lantern, usually 30 lb. or more, deep orange and well ribbed, perfect for carving.

Knuckle Head is an orange pumpkin averaging 12-16 lb. with cool, creepy warts all over it.

Speckled Hound is a small, flattened pumpkin weighing 3-6 lb., with splotches of orange and green.

Daisy gourd is a colorful, small-fruited mix, perfect for little hands, with a pattern on the top of each gourd that looks like a flower.

Lunch Lady is a collection of giant gourds, 5 to 20 lb., in different colors and patterns and all covered with warts.

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