Monday, July 30, 2012

Harvest Monday-7/30

It's Monday, which means it is time for harvest Monday, hosted by Daphne's Dandelions.  Pop on over and see what everyone is harvesting!

I needed a break from taking photos of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, tomatillos, and squash.  So...I decided to show you what I have been up to.  It has been so darn hot I have been neglecting the garden (and it shows).

I have still kept plenty busy. Canning. Yep, you read that right.  Canning.  I got over my irrational fear of canning and have started to put up our surplus.  Here is what I have put up so far!
Pepper Jelly

I made 6 1/2 pints of pepper jelly.  I think this may be the main reason I am invited to potlucks!  People often ask if I will be bringing this.  I use the recipe in the box of Sure Jell for hot pepper relish (though it is really pepper jelly).

Ellie Topp's chunky basil pasta sauce

I also made 9 pints of Ellie Topp's chunky basil pasta sauce.  I find that while the recipe says it makes 6 pints, I get 3+ pints.  Probably because I am using heirloom tomatoes (instead of paste).  That would mean my 8 cups of heirlooms have more liquid, which cooks down more.

Annie's salsa 

The first thing I canned was Annie's salsa, which seems to be the gold standard for canned salsa. I had made this before but we always ate it right away.  So far I have made 15 pints.  I leave out the cilantro, preferring to add it fresh when I open the jar.  I will probably make one more batch this week.

Ball's sweet pickle relish

I also tried my hand at pickle relish.  I got 4 pints, when the recipe said 8.  I ended up throwing out a lot of the brine. I would have had jars with 1/10th relish and 9/10ths brine.  This batch was still very soupy.  I think I still need a lot of practice making relish!

Linda Lou's kosher dill pickle

I made 5 pints of Linda Lou's kosher dill pickles.  I think the white rind looks kind of cool.

Salsa verde

And finally I made some salsa verde today.  I do not can this since almost every review I have read of canned salsa verde says it is too tart.  We ate this batch with chips!  Tomatillos freeze well so I just throw them in a bag with a few jalapeƱos and freeze it for when I want salsa verde in the winter.

This week I am going to try my hand at zucchini relish (hopefully it works out better than the cucumber relish) and tomato sauce!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Moment of Thanks

This year has been my most productive summer garden in years.  It is a combination of continual garden expansion, good rains, and well let's face it, luck.  Since I started weighing on June 25 we have gotten over 380 lbs. out of our 35'x35' plot!  While this is the first year I have weighed our produce I know we have not approached this amount in the past.

The "tomato table"

At times this feels very overwhelming.  I will admit, sometimes when I look at the "tomato table", as it has come to be called, I inwardly groan.  That's the tomato table in the photo above.  I know it is not pretty, but I am keeping it real.  I also have a fridge full of cukes, squash, zucchini and eggplants that need a final resting place.  I often choose not to think of those.

I can barely keep up with processing everything.  I am often up until midnight waiting for something to finish cooling so I can store it, pull it out of the canner, etc.  Last night I dreamed I was chopping veggies for canning!

That feeling quickly passes, however, when I think about how many people are struggling this year with their gardens and more importantly, their farms.  Drought and heat are taking their toll throughout the country.  I worry that this may be how things are more and more in the future.  This year I got very lucky and I know and appreciate it!

I also think about all of the people in this country who struggle to get enough food.  I know that, overall, I have been very lucky in my life so far.  For this I am thankful.

After these realizations I look back at the tomato table and give thanks.  Thanks for all that I have in my life.  Thanks for having such a bountiful year.  Then I pull some of my best specimens and set them aside to share with friends, family, and those who are not as fortunate as we currently are.

Thank you Mother Nature for blessing me this year.  Please send some rain to those who need it.  Happy gardening everyone!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

At First Blush

To vine ripen or pick at first blush? Seems there is a lot of contention in the tomato growing world about when exactly to pick your tomatoes.  There are some growers who swear they can taste the difference between a vine ripened tomato and one picked at first blush and left to finish ripening off the vine (note: this is different than picking a green tomato and using ethylene to turn it red, which what they do to most of the tomatoes you get in grocery stores during the off season).  The scientific studies I have seen, however, say there is no difference in taste between the two.  Studies claim that as long as the tomato blushes before you pick it and you let it ripen naturally, it tastes the same as one that ripens on the vine.

Today's tomato harvest

I am one of those folks who pick at first blush.  I have not always been that way.  I used to let mine ripen on the vine.  Recently, however, I have encountered 3 very good reasons to pick at first blush.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Harvest Monday

This week was another great week in the garden, though some things are starting to slow down.  I am still going out and harvesting in the morning and afternoon because I always seem to miss something. Since I feel like I am posting pictures of the same old thing I will show some of what we harvested this week.

This is what I picked this morning.  There are still a couple pattypans and zucchini on the vine that I will ask my son to get.  I was wearing shorts and sandals and the little spines on the squash plants make me itch for hours!

This morning's harvest

Here are some other photos.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Common Grounds Farm Stand

I hate throwing away food.  This comes from the 2 years I spent living Brazil.  For the first time in my life I saw real hunger.  Even though it was almost 20 years ago I can still remember seeing an 8 lb. 6 month old and I get a lump in my throat.

This is one of the reasons I have stressed so much since I came back from vacation and was met by 2 weeks worth of a very good harvest.  I have been struggling to keep up with it before it went bad.  I have done pretty good and the little bit that has gone bad is gobbled up by my worm herd.

At the same time I am quite happy to give away food. I try to grow in an environmentally friendly way.  I figure the "green" veggies that I give my neighbors replace pesticide laden ones shipped from all over the world.  That's a good thing in my book.

Donation to the Common Grounds Farm Stand
Needless to say I was thrilled yesterday when I received an email from the Common Grounds Farm Stand saying they would accept some of my excess.  All of the proceeds from Common Grounds go to support Urban Ministry Center, which supports homeless individuals through a variety of programs.  What they do not sell goes to residents at Moore Place Neighbors, one of UMC's initiatives.  I am beyond thrilled to have this opportunity to share my bounty with others!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lovin' My Lazy Wife (Beans)

For some reason I didn't plant beans for the first 9 years that I gardened.  It doesn't make a lot of sense since they are a garden staple.  I finally got my act together and planted some lazy wife beans this year.  I am loving them.

Shelled lazy wife beans

Lazy wife beans are an heirloom bean that used to be very popular.  They are a "greasy" bean, meaning they do not have tiny hairs on the pod, which gives the pod a greasy appearance.  They are also a cut short bean because they grow so large  that they crowd each other in the pod ends square off.

You can eat these a green beans or as shell beans.  We tried some as green beans and did not care for them.  My daughter who loves green beans ended up using them as a ketchup scoop.  We do love them as a shell bean.  They taste good on their own but also go well cooked up with some garlic and spices.

Why the odd name you ask?  Seems it comes from the fact that they are easy to shell.  That is the real reason I love these beans.  My 3 year old always wants to help me out but there is not a lot she can do with the garden that won't either hurt her or hurt the garden.  She has, however, mastered shelling lazy wife beans and loves doing it!  I hope this is the beginning of a life long love affair with gardening for her.

So easy a 3 old can do it!

The only down side to these is they don't seem to be setting beans in the heat.  This is my first experience with beans so I am not sure that is the problem.  The first planting set a ton of beans.  The second planting, which flowered when they temps hit 90-100 degrees, have not set any beans.  Oh well, we have so much of everything else that is alright.  At least they are doing good things for the soil.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Harvest Monday-7/15

This year is a fabulous year for the garden!  I am getting far more than I can keep up with.  I am still trying to come to terms with the 150 lbs. of produce (yes, that should read 150, it is not a typo) that came out of the garden while we were on vacation.  On top of that we are picking twice a day to stay on top of things.

Morning harvest
Here are some of the things we are getting out of the garden now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Anyone Ever Feel a Little Overwhelmed?

For the first time in over two years my family took a summer vacation.  We visited my family in Florida for two weeks.  One of the promises I made to myself and my family was that I would not worry about or check on the garden while I was gone.  We did have someone house sitting for us whose main task was to pick veggies.  I managed to keep my promise with the exception of one phone call I made asking the sitter to water the tomatoes and peppers growing in pots when the temps topped 100 degrees.

We had a really great time with my parents (note to self: take more vacations).  I anticipated coming back relaxed and refreshed.  I was also really looking forward to getting back to the garden.  I definitely missed it.  I knew the tomatoes would be rolling in, which is something I really look forward to each year.

Yet somehow, since we got back a few days ago I have felt overwhelmed garden-wise.  We returned to a ridiculous amount of produce.  We have 150 lbs. that I have to freeze, can, gift, eat.  I am not complaining about such a bounty.  I am just having a hard time processing it so it does not go to waste.

Our house sitter has a different picking philosophy than I do so we have some very large squash, zucchini and cucumbers.  I also find myself averting my eyes from the 4'x'4 table covered in ripening tomatoes.  I am dispensing with the last of the 10 eggplants that greeted me upon arrival tonight.  Thank goodness the beans, field peas, tomatillos, and peppers were manageable.

I know I have to get a move on before this stuff rots but I am having a hard time bringing myself to just weigh it all!  I am hoping this post (confession?) will get me motivated to make a dent in this stuff and use the canner I got for my birthday!  Has anyone else ever felt this way?
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