Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Still learning

Well, fall is officially here. The days are now shorter than the nights, and we had our first brush with frost last night. I visited all my garden plots yesterday to square things away for the potential frost. I picked the last of the purple green beans, covered the row of fall greens with some row cover, and generally made sure things were squared away. My fall greens are really going gang busters! I got a handful of arugula, kale and spinach for a little salad yesterday. I'll have 4 butternut squashes and 1 last cabbage head to harvest in October. My fridge is stuffed with carrots and kohlrabi and green beans, I have a box full of onions and garlic, and I've got a few tomatoes on the counter still. Not too shabby.

This summer really flew by. I don't know if it was Baby, or being jobless, or the cool weather, or what, but I just don't remember a summer going by this fast before. I learned a lot though, and did things that I've never done before. My first try at pickling went really well, despite the lack of cucumbers. :-) That zucchini relish has been a hit with everyone who's tried it. The potato trial went well. I'll fix the last of those potatoes this week probably. I still need to figure out how to grow more and have enough to eat on for more than a month plus enough to plant out next spring. But, baby steps. :-) My spring planted garlic turned out surprisingly well, with full heads on all of them, and no difference in taste that I can tell. I made some grape juice with my mother this weekend from a friends grapes that were about to ferment on the vine, and that was a first. It's pretty tasty, and I'll definitely do it again if I get the opportunity. I canned corn and carrots this year, both a first for me, and I doubled the amount of tomatoes I canned. I actually ate my kohlrabi and cabbage this year, another first. I don't know about anyone else, but I have this weird thing where the first year I grow something, i.e. kohlrabi, I'll grow a small bit of it, harvest it, and then watch it decompose in the fridge. Maybe try it cooked in one dish, but half the time I mess that up so bad it just ends up in the trash. The second year I'll actually grow enough of the veggie that I'll have a good batch to work with and I'll try lots of things, and then it actually gets eaten. Maybe that's normal omnivore behavior, I don't know, but it's something to think about. Yea, I knew how to deal with a bushel of tomatoes and I had experience with bags of green beans and okra. However, learning dishes to do with 2 dozen kohlrabi bulbs that wouldn't upset my husband and young child was a whole 'nother level. I'm really glad I started my gardening before I found myself unemployed with a small child and trying to actually feed my family with the produce.

Farmers markets will be closing soon in the northern half of the country, make sure you stock up on your favorite goodies. :-)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fall gardening

Remember a couple weeks ago I mentioned getting your garlic seeds squared away? This weekend I got notice that some of my favorite suppliers are sold out of varieties. There's still time to find some if you're still looking, but don't delay!

Are you remembering to grab seed while you're out in the garden? Green bean pods should be drying, lettuce heads should be drying, if you have split tomatoes you can't eat fast enough, ferment them and harvest the seeds.

As predicted, the full moon sprouted my seeds and now they are busy putting on true leaves. I have Beets, Arugula, Kale and Spinach planted. The lettuce mix I planted to the East of them hasn't sprouted yet, but the Hairy Vetch seed I broadcast is just starting to.

Preserving the last days of summer

It's always sad to see the lengthening shadows and creep of autumn's brown. Luckily there's so much preserving to do it's easy to find ways to not dwell.

My mother brought me over a peck of apples last weekend. And this weekend I found a really good deal on some tomatoes so I had my work cut out for me.

The apples were mostly seconds, I expect she spent between 10 and 15 bucks for all of them. I made an apple pie, and I filled up my dehydrator with apple slices. Tonight I'm going to make applesauce with what's left and I'll freeze up part of it as baby food.

The tomatoes were all either small or spotty or both, it's been a rough year for tomatoes. But at less than a buck a pound, it's hard to say no. 10 bucks later and I have enough for a pressure canning batch. Most of them went into my much loved Roasted Tomato and Pepper sauce.

Cut up a bunch of tomatoes. 4-5 lbs per 9x11 pan. Quartering is fine, no need to dice. Make sure there's at least an inch to the top of the pan, fresh tomatoes are going to make lots of juice while roasting down, and if you put too many in one pan you'll just f*ck up your oven when it boils over. Anyway, I used ~9 lbs of tomatoes and filled two 9x11 pans.

Cut up onion, about 1 per pan. Cut up peppers, about 2 per pan. A word on peppers, last year I used bell and they were wonderful, this year there are lots of gypsy peppers at the market so I'm using those instead. Don't be afraid to use what's fresh and local at your market. The roasting caramelizes the peppers, which makes them sweeter, so you can even pick up some peppers that are usually too spicy for your palette. Cut up garlic, about one head per pan. (1 head of garlic should be 6-10 cloves) Toss onions and peppers and garlic in with tomatoes in the pan(s).
Drizzle olive oil over veggies, about 2 tablespoon per pan. Salt and pepper to taste, a handful of basil.
Roast for 1.5 hours at 450, stirring occasionally.
After roasting there should be nicely burnt/caramelized bits and the whole thing should be cooked down significantly.
At this point some people blend the whole mess into a smooth consistency. I don't, I prefer to be more honest with my vegetables. The sauce is good either way.
2 pans made me 3 quarts of sauce.

I made another 3 quarts of whole tomatoes with the best 2-3 lbs I had set aside from the initial tomato pile.

All 6 quarts went into the pressure canner, 15 minutes later at 11 pounds pressure and I was done. :-)