Friday, August 27, 2010


Yesterday i managed to complete my first canning session.  All by myself.

I had 8# of tomatoes collected up. Which seemed to take forever since everything is ripening so slowly.
I found a good recipe for stewed tomatoes (hubby loves those). I washed, blanched, skinned and chopped them, cooked them in a pot for a few minutes to get things hot. I used my dishwasher to heat the jars and keep them hot.  I packed the jars and put them in the cooker.  I didn't have as much trouble adjusting the lid as i thought i might. By following the directions it was fairly fool proof.  The cooker heated and pressurized faster than i had expected- not in a bad way, but i had imagined waiting forever for the water to boil---  as if it were a full stock pot.  But it turned out to be pretty efficient.  I vented it for 10 minutes- used my digital timer and kept an eye on the gauge and the jiggly weight.  When the time was up i shut everything off and let it depressurize, which also happened faster than i had imagined it would.
The lid came off the cooker pretty easily and i used the can lifter thingie to remove the jars to a soft towel on the counter top.
The can contents bubbled for much longer than i expected, so that was interesting.
I did have a few cans that puked out some contents inside the pressure cooker, this made the inside of the aluminum discolor unfortunately- but its cosmetic i guess.
This morning it looks as if the cans are all tightly sealed. Maybe i lucked out.  I think i didn't do a good job removing any air pockets when i packed the jars. Also my tomatoes were pretty dry.  I have planted romas before, but this year was not ideal growing conditions being so dry in the last few weeks. I think there were a lot of internal air pockets within the flesh and pulp.
I do have a few jars whose contents are lower than the others.  I don't have enough experience to know whether or not if this is caused by the cans puking during processing or from the contents softening and losing volume.
So that is how my first try went.
I unscrewed a few rings to test the seals, they all seem very tight so far.

I think i need to reorganize the pantry. Its a flipping mess.

I asked over here at Fresh Preserving Forum  if i could try canning carrots with sugar to make an easier "Candied carrot" dish. Canning the carrots in a light syrup should allow me to simply add butter to the drained and heated carrots and serve them.  There's the matter of safety though, carrots are low acid, but i have a pressure canner so it should be possible, somehow.  But i'm making sure.  They are pretty helpful over there. If it might be risky, i will be told without any beating around the bush. Heh.

I might not get much of anything more out of my garden for canning, but i'm sure i'll get plenty of practice with apples. We go to a local orchard every year and always come back with too much. We have so much fun picking that we get carried away. We buy a good deal of apple sauce so making it at home won't be a waste. I'm also interested in making canned apple pie filling.

I have been enjoying the scent of orange blossom for the last few days. My venous orange has developed its flowers better and they have a scent now.  Only one at a time though, so i don't think any self pollinating is going on.  I'd like to see fruit, but i don't expect any. I love the smell, its not strong enough to float through the air from just one bloom, but getting in close and braving the little spikes is rewarding.

I'm having a watermelon dilemma. I have no idea how to tell if they are ripe.  I read that thunking them can work, smelling them, the patch on the bottom should be a certain color...   I can't decipher the thunk,  i can't get down far enough to sniff, and there is no patch on the bottom.  I'm sort of going by the one cantaloupe melon i have. Its netting is still green so i know it isn't ripe, i imagine if it is not, the others aren't either...?

The overnight weather has been too cool for much more growing to go on, the herb seeds have begun to germinate and we had some good rain last night and yesterday.  Its been needed. The rest of the week is supposed to be sunny and in the high 80's. So i'll be watering again soon.

I have gotten a few more ears of corn. Most are still small, but i have gotten one or two really good sized ears.I'm told the flavor is excellent.  So far the "Incredible"  has won for flavor.  There are a few small corn borers in them occasionally, they aren't too big so far but they will get bigger. I think its too late to do much about them since they are inside the ears no pesticides will reach them. I may just grab all the ears i can right now, clean out the bugs and serve the corn.

I was able to order my Excalibur dehydrator yesterday as well.  I can't wait for it to arrive. Between my Food Saver and the dehydrator i should be able to put together some instant meals without preservatives. 
I think this should conclude the kitchen collection.  I can't think of anything else i might want at this point.
Supplies are all i need.
I found a website called WebStaurant that sells vacuum bags that should work with my FoodSaver, they are a thicker mil number than what Tammy at Dehydrate2Store suggests. They might be even cheaper than the inferior generic bags at WalMart. I think i will try the oxygen packs that Tammy uses,  i'm not looking for doomsday level storage, but where i might not be confident that i have gotten my foods to the proper state of  dessication, the oxygen packs will add a level to my peace of mind. Honeyville seems to have the best price and the most fair shipping rates. Especially since it is the only thing i should need from them $5 shipping is great.  I found other places that carry the oxygen packs, but the prices are nothing special and the shipping is ridiculous.

I hope this method works for me. I'm tired of freezer-flavored veggies. The bags they come in from the store are no good for preventing flavor leaching and freezer burn. I use frozen veggies for soups the most, so drying them will be the best way to keep them for this use.

I found another planting guide chart. The type that help gardeners plant according to feeding a family of determined size. It looks good, but it shows me just how small my garden really is. Even with intensive methods i don't think i could get my plot to produce on this scale.  But it does great as a supplemental, hobby  or snacking garden.

The recently seeded grass enjoyed the recent rain, looks almost ready to mow

On Wednesday i found a caterpillar.  I was hoping to attract one of these by planting carrots-  its a swallowtail caterpillar, maybe a black swallowtail, but i'm not certain. They like things in the carrot family, dill, parsley, fennel etc.
It was getting ready to pupate when i found it, so it attached itself to the side of the jar i put it in almost immediately.

Its hard to get pictures of something inside a glass jar....
When i woke up this morning, it was the same as last night (above picture) by the time i had mad my first cup of coffee, fed all  the animals and looked at the caterpillar again, it had pupated:

I forget how long it takes these guys to metamorph...  so i have to do some research. If it looks like it will be too late in the year for this one, i should be able to refrigerate the chrysalis  and then let it warm up again in the spring to be released.

So, that is what has been going on around here! :o)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kale and rain.

This has been a rather dry summer. We are finally getting some rain today. The New England area has been getting drenched with the exception of my area. It really seems as though the clouds split apart as they are heading my way. We had clouds all yesterday but no more than light sprinkles on occasion.  Today we had masses of clouds that looked promising, but it has taken until now to get a steady rainfall.  Supposedly it is supposed to continue lightly most of the night, but not amount to much more than an inch in total.  Too bad because we need many inches to catch up. Luckily the weather hasn't been hot or things would be turning brown everywhere.

I decided yesterday that i love Red Russian kale. I made a soup last night and put in a whole bunch of fresh leaves in it.  Wonderful flavor, very green but not bitter at all.  It wasn't tough either.  I think i'm going to need more than  6 plants next year.

I'm spending most of today reading and trying to keep up with housework, so i'm not writing much. But i did want to remember about the kale and mention the weather.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dehydrating celery

I don't have my Excalibur yet, haven't even submitted the order. But while i wait, i still have mo other dehydrators.

I'm using my Nesco to dehydrate the celery since it is the one that has the  solid inserts.  I can't find any inserts for the Durabrand.

Celery shrinks dramatically when dehydrated, so the solid fruit roll inserts are critical.



On a nice dry day like yesterday it takes only about 6 hours to do a batch (the Nesco only fits one full bunch at a time).  I had two of the large bunches of celery. Not the neatly trimmed "celery hearts" that come only about 10" long. Hubby likes to buy me the giant rough and ready whole thing. It usually comes with the dirt still on it. and a lot of gangly green matter.  So its more of a pain to clean and stuff.  But i use my mandoline slicer to make the thinnest slices i can and then put them on the trays. The slicing goes pretty quick.
I try to keep them spread out a bit, but not too picky. They get shifted at least once during drying to make sure all surfaces are exposed to drying air.
They don't need to be blanched or pretreated in any way.

The two large bunches of celery end up dehydrating down to easily fit inside a standard sandwich size ziplock bag, though i have a 4oz jar i saved to store them in. The jar once held basil pesto.
I plan to use these celery bits in soups, stews, broths and such.  I read that they can be powdered in a blender and then mixed with sea salt for home made celery salt (if watching sodium or supplementing potassium, i'm sure potassium rich 'lite salt' could be used).

My refrigerator will freeze celery without fail and i'm tired of finding out that it has just before i go to use the celery.  So i hope i will have better luck with this storage method.

I think the Excalibur could do this in one batch, so i look forward to that. I need to get it soon so i can dry my peppermint and basil. I don't have good luck air drying herbs and these two dehydrators i have don't have temp control.

Oh, i wandered around the garden again yesterday- with the camera. More progress with the Job's Tears plants.  They are pretty cool looking the way the seed pod develops.  It looks like i should get enough seed to replant next summer and then from those i should get enough to make something pretty:

The ornamental "pumpkin on a stick" eggplant fruit are beginning to go orange

...and i'm eying the corn.

The silks have dried up, but when i pulled a few test ears, i got mixed results.  I have many small ears that have fully formed kernels, the rows aren't skipped like they get with inadequate pollination, but they are scrawny and widely spaced. I am told that the flavor is very nice despite that.  Another of the test ears was perfectly formed, but the kernels were immature even though the silk was indicating it was ready to pick.  I think lack of rain has a lot to do with this early and incorrect signal.

Where i planted the seeds rather thickly (trying out a theory that is supposed to help the stalks not fall over so readily-it worked but...) i don't think they got as much sun as they could have.  I didn't account for the sun's direction correctly- assuming that the corn would get tall too fast and shade out things too early-- so it went where i put it instead of a better spot.

But i'm going to orient my rows in the opposite direction next year and the corn will be in the final row.
My rows run roughly East to West, i'll have them going North/South.  With the corn at the back, there will be little shading.

I'm going to buy that 1 year subscription to GrowVeg soon so i can plan it out.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tomato days

While not super productive, i think its safe to say i have gotten about 10 pounds of tomatoes so far from the garden.
As soon as i get enough of them i will have to start processing them since even though it is not overwhelming, it is more than we can use right away.

There hasn't been a whole lot going on around here, just basic maintenance. The grass on the new part of the lawn is coming in and its beginning to look less like a toxic wasteland.

I have gotten a few small and sparse ears of corn from the stalks.  The green beans continue to produce sporadically, the summer squash has slowed down and is making some deformed fruit. I think that has to do with the dryness.
Still no significant rain in quite some time.  The rest of my state seems to be fine for rainfall, but the little area i am in keeps getting missed.

I am waiting for my one large cabbage to be ready, the other ones are starting to get solid, the Job's Tears are producing recognisable  seeds.

I picked a perfect Fooled You Jalapeno yesterday, there are a few more small ones out there.

The watermelons  seem to have stopped getting bigger, now i assume they are heading toward ripening.

The cucumbers have stopped i think,  there are one or two still growing but they are small, i don't see any new  flowers on them either.

The Jerusalem Artichokes are really getting tall, they are taller than the corn stalks. One end of the row is much higher than the other, it gets more water than the last end when the yard gets watered.

The weeds around the asparagus need to be dealt with, i can barely see the fronds.

That's pretty much it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dill, cilantro and spinach planting.

Yep, its a bit on the side of "late" to be doing this now, but the space that had the fennel was just making the weeds happy and me irked.  So i went ahead and cleaned it up and am attempting a somewhat late planting of Mammoth dill, cilantro and i used up the last of a very old packet of spinach that has been hanging around 9 years or so.  I never know what to do with things like that. I don't even know if any of the spinach will come up, but if it does it will be interesting. If not, no loss.
  According to what i read, i could expect a good harvest of dill if i had planted it a couple weeks ago, maybe i can expect a paltry harvest if planted now. Paltry is fine!  Anything is fine. 

I was thinking i might plant peas, but i don't eat peas. My kids do, but i don't think its a good time to try.  I need to consider remembering to get some snow pea type seeds, i eat those.

The hubbs took the little one with him grocery shopping so i have an extra hour and now she's napping so i actually had some extra time to do stuff.
I even managed to make some Summer Squash Bread...yes, its actually a recipe for summer squash, not just zucchini. Not like they are very much different of course.... but still.
I don't eat such things but hubby reports that it is very good.  I made it per instructions, i didn't change anything. You can find it here if you'd like:

I also set some carrots to dry, they look so cool like this.  Of course, one had to jump ship.

Today is pleasant and a bit on the cool side, but not at all cold (mid to high 70's), dry and breezy. Its very nice actually.  I hope we get the rain that was mentioned in the forecast last time i looked.

It usually misses us lately, like it is literally being pushed away by something..

I found a tennis ball sized cantaloupe in the garden this morning, didn't get a picture, but its great to see,  i was wondering if i had forgot to plant them or something, lol.
I just remembered that i haven't seen hide or hair of a banana melon yet. 

I'll have to take a close look around there.  Its funny how big a melon can get before i see it... they blend in so well and the vines tangle so much.  I think i need to get some serious trellises built next year.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Odds and ends

I went out and treated the squashes for fungus. it seems to have bloomed overnight. I didn't get to go outside until after that other entry today, but when i did i saw a few squash leaves totally gray with powdery mildew. The summer squash are polka dotted with it too.

I also treated the tomatoes against any local blights  (early or late) that have been circulating.

And then i sprayed some BT to keep the worms out of my cabbages and corn.

This is what i picked yesterday.  They are ripening, slow but sure.

Oh, those square, gallon plus ice cream boxes that  i have them on,  they make great kit containers. I save them for storing lots of things, like my reusable yogurt cups & lids, i kept baby bottle parts in them, cake decorating supplies and we use one as the scrap bucket for the outdoor compost. (The worm bin gets the small bits right away), we keep it next to our coffee maker and its handy for the grounds to go in. The lid keeps fruit flies from getting curious and setting up house.

Um, lets see... i took some more pictures since i had been so lazy the last handful of days.  I love the carnival squash.  They are so decorative on the table that i don't mind them hanging around as decorations until they are stored away, Here's another variation.

Here is a Long Island Cheese

I don't know that i have seen anything from my Red Eye recently, i thought i saw some starting a couple weeks ago, but i didn't happen across any today.  They are a delicious squash, so i hope i have a few this fall.  They are butternut in texture and reminded me of hubbard in flavor.

Here's my single artichoke- its actually a small victory for me in a way because they say you can't grow them up here. This variety gives me the best shot that i know of, and the seed developers didn't fib. Of course one artichoke does not make a grand harvest, but i really hope this means that next year's starts from this year's roots will equal a modest harvest next summer.  Of course, i have to admit that i have no idea when it is or will be ready. Artichokes vary in size and shape by cultivar,  this looks like what is sold as a "baby" size at the grocery store.  I want to eat it, but it would just be one small bite even if it reaches standard size. I have considered letting it flower and set seeds in hopes of retaining a type that is likely to continue producing the first year.  But i have to look into it more:
Barring any more woodchucks, i may have some good cabbage soon. This is Point One:

.The other plants did recover like i hoped they wood. That gardening book i got from my Grandfather before he passed away said that a cabbage can regrow from a stub and produce multiple, smaller heads...the author was right!  I can see 3 good ones and 2 smaller ones getting ready to head up.

I never did cut down that swiss chard.  The seeds i started to put in their place never germinated. Not one. It may have been too hot. That was when we had those days close to 100 degrees. I don't think what i planted likes heat.  Too bad cause it was a waste of seeds.  But the chard is looking good again, its been cut or woodchuck raided at least 3 times now.

This is my only pepper so far
I checked for egglpant again and i don't see a thing, not even a hint.

Burdock leaves,  i'm really curious to learn what this root veggie will taste like. Its been interesting watching it grow.

And finally, the bare spot we want to become grassy. Its slowly coming in.  It needs watering daily though, which is a problem since we haven't gotten more than an inch of rain here for 3 weeks or more.

But the peegee hydrangea is enjoying the extra watering!  I expect some great color this fall.

Since the air is so dry, i decided to use the Durabrand Dehydrator* to try making some beet chips.  I pulled some beets yesterday thinking i'd share them with the neighbors, then i got distracted and they stayed outside all night on the side step.  I didn't want to give them wilted beets, so i decided to try and see if they make good chips since i said something about it at the Never Done Farm blog.
I used my mandoline slicer on the finest insert and i put them in with another summer squash.  I did the summer squash on medium last time, but i'm trying the thinner setting this time. Might not have been very wise because the mid size slice produces a veggie chip only slightly thicker than a standard potato chip.  These squash chips might turn out like stiff paper. But then, they will be easier for the little one to snack on, they should melt in her mouth.   I have no idea what to expect from the beets. If they do what sweet potatoes do, they will be a nice crispy crunch.

I spent a good deal of time last night at the Excalibur dehydrator site. They have some nice instructional videos.  I watched the entire Dehydrate2Store presentation and learned quite a bit.  She gives a lot of good and practical advice and the presentation is nice and clear.  The only thing i wished she would have done is turned on the Excalibur so i'd have an idea how loud it is.  But everything she used in the videos sound loud so it may be a good thing. lol

*I noticed when trying to find a replacement dehydrator about a year ago that a lot of people are looking for the Durabrand Dehydrator User Manual. I found that i still had my original copy so i scanned it into my computer and uploaded it to my Photobucket account for anyone who may wish to find it by searching for Durabrand User Manual or Durabrand Dehydrator.  Here is the link to the scanned images of the manual:
Durabrand Dehydrator Manual

Hopefully anyone who needs it will find it.

Tomatoes, finally.

We did get to pick one tomato on the 5th of August.  It was a Siberia.  The Siberia have given us about 6 more since then. Hubby says they are good, one the small size (like a really big cherry tomato) not very sweet but very tomatoey.

The rest of the plants are finally going from green/white to a yellowy color and many are becoming very red.

I took photos a few days apart over the last week or so that i haven't made any entries:


These i picked on the 12th

I got to have the little pear tomato, it was a bit mealy, but it has been dry. The flavor was nice.

I have gotten a few more tomatoes since then

(edit in that picture)

The corn is continuing to be motivated
Some slender ears, they have gotten a bit fatter since this picture was taken

.The purple tomatillos have put out a number of berries

The ornamental eggplant is looking interesting

The big pumpkin is getting very orange.  Not bd for my first pumpkin...and the accidental one that it is. The other two are looking fine, the middle sized one is beginning to ripen as well.

I discovered that i do have a big birdhouse gourd. It is buried in a tangle of vines and has to be close to 2' tall

The squashes are looking nice and it looks like i will have a plentiful harvest of them. The Carnival (pictured) has at least 6 that i can see and the Long Island Cheese is working on at least 4.
I didn't photo any cucumbers, but we are averaging at least one a day. Not enough to do anything with, but perfect for an occasional snack.  I will plant more next year, even though the production level is not overwhelming- i want to try some cucumber recipes with the extras.

The watermelon has been a toss-up.  I had some nice Pony Yellow forming but they got to Candlepin bowling ball size and then cracked in half.  I do have one round melon still going strong, its almost standard bowling ball size now, but i'm not sure which variety it belongs to.  The oval watermelon is still growing nice. I checked them for cracking yesterday and all seems well so far.
I wonder if i will be able to figure out when they are ripe enough to pick.

Purple podded green beans in flower
The purple beans are taking their sweet time, but the Provider beans are still going,  slowly but i can get about a pound every 4 days.

I think my "Venous Orange" is trying to flower.  No scent so far,  which is  disappointing.

Back view of garden.  The weeds are taking over.  I simply can't keep up at this point.

Oh, and this is what Job's Tears plant looks like as its going to work on making seeds
I hope i get enough seed to replant next year and get some for beading projects.

I saw one sweet pepper forming, its not tiny anymore.  I saw some of the hot peppers flowering,  no eggplant yet.  The summer squashes are still going, the herbs are doing great. I pulled a few more beets but i'm leaving the carrots a little longer.  The melon leaves are turning a bit yellow, not sure if this is disease or dryness. 

So that is the rundown to catch up.

Its a motivation thing.

I have been taking pictures and doing stuff, but i think its rather sad that the reason i haven't made an entry lately has been because it is such a hassle to get the pictures from my camera to the netbook.
Its not really that hard, but try doing this with a toddler who is trying to get to your coffee, keyboard, camera and camera cable all at the same time- while you are trying to save the coffee cup from being spilled, fending off miniature arms, legs, knees and elbows while pushing the right buttons at the right time and making sure files go where they should.

She's content with her toys until the camera and the cable come out.

During her nap, i have other things that need doing, so i rarely complete and entry during her nap.
If she's too rambunctious i simply don't get to play.

Or i get to try and put it all together in small bits.

I'm going to try and put together a real entry today if possible because i do have things worth writing down.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Atomic Red carrots, Crosby Egyptian beets and some finoccio.

My finoccio was pretty much all bolting,  other than that it hadn't actually grown for weeks. I don't think it was getting enough water... the ferny tips were always drying out.
I planted a square maybe 4'x4' and it looks like only 2 stayed in a nice bulb, the third one i kept looks like it was in the process of getting away.  They may be too tough for roasting and being a side dish on their own, so they may end up going into the Clay Pot Cooker as an aromatic for a roasted chicken.

The carrots are looking good. I really don't eat them because of the LC thing, but they smell nice and the roots are firm, longer and straighter than i expected.  I mainly planted them for the rest of the family. I did sample a bite.

I once was brough to the farm of a family member (cousins i think, fairly far removed- i was too young to remember who and i haven't remembered to quiz my parents about it) and we were taken on a tour of the fields. I remember watching as some carrots were pulled up, wiped clean and i was given one to try.  I still remember how unlike grocery store carrots it tasted.
Mine have a similar flavor as that one did (if memory is as sharp as i hope), they are a tad bitter but the taste is stronger than store bought.

Atomic red is supposed to be higher in lycopene than regular orange carrots, but since the color is only skin deep (at least in mine) i don't know that the amount is all that critical.
I think i'd like to try another type of carrot next year.  I also have Cosmic Purple carrots out there...
I got the colored carrots more as a novelty since io had no idea if i was going to get much out of it with this being new soil.... i figured if i only got a handful of roots it would be pretty cool for them to be fun colored!

The beets.  I'll have to cook them up. I'm wondering if they will be tough....i'm always worried things will be tough.  They were planted just behind the carrots in the row so i think if the carrots were not tough, the beets shouldn't be either.
If these are good i should plan to plant a much larger row next year so i can make pickled beets without sugar.

I picked another 3# of summer squashes today,  i get an average of a pound a day though i only pick every other or 3 days.

I'm trying to decife if i should plant more SS next year but harvest them when they still have their blossoms attached (my favorite size) or just plant 2 of each again and simply dehydrate or freeze any (any?, hah!) extras.

Oh, i did make SS chips yesterday, my oldest daughter loves them! Sooooo...looks like i'll be making much more. Sweet potatoes also make great chips when dehydrated.
There is a brand of chips at my health food store, i forget the name, but its a bag of mixed veggies...taro, carrot, parsnip, red potato and beets all thinly sliced and fried up like potato chips.  I bet i could make a blend similar to that, only dehydrated instead and no taro. Its worth a try.
I want an Excalibur dehydrator now. *sniffle*

I have 2 dehydrators. One is an old Durabrand that i may have gotten for Christmas when i was in my teens (my parents also got me a juicer another Christmas, which i still have), yes i was an odd teen.  The other is a Nesco American Harvest FD-39.  It has the heat and fan at the top, which is ok because it won't get filled with juices and oils when i dry meat, but it is loud.  My Durabrand is quiet.  The NAH dries quicker but the noise makes me prefer slow over loud. The trays are also not made to stack high or compact so i can't control the airflow and once when making fruit leather with the sheets, the NAH actually melted its lower tray right in the center a bit.  So i only use it for leathers and keep the bottom tray empty for now. The NAH trays are also way more flimsy and the mesh can break while being cleaned.

Anyway, i'm glad i learned that summer  squash dries up quite nicely!

Tomatoes are all still quite green except for another Siberia which is getting orangey. In 2 more days i think it should be ready.
The first tomato harvest always begins with a smattering of readies.

Edit To Add-

I peeled and cooked the beets, they are delicious!

Friday, August 6, 2010

First tomato!

I did pick our first tomato of the summer yesterday, perhaps a tad early but i kind of wanted to pick it and so i did.  They finish ripening well indoors off the vine anyway.

Of course this one tomato is well ahead of the others,  i don't expect another ripe one any time soon. A little disappointing, but i can handle it.

I have been watering the bare part of the yard as often as i can- we seeded it with grass seed and of course we have gotten almost no rain since.  But i see a green haze forming out there which means the tiny needle-like blades have emerged from the soil. I can't wait for it to look green and healthy since it has looked like a barren wasteland for so long now.

To look at the yard you can see that all our efforts were put into the veggie garden this year. :o)

Horizon Herbs is holding all plant orders until the middle of September due to the heat wave,  so thats ok.

I learned from a recent blog entry at The Never Done Farm that dehydrated zucchini makes a good substitute for potato chips.  I'm wondering how well they compare since i eat low carb- but since i have not had a potato chip in ages- i wonder if i will notice if they are very different.  I can't wait to try it and i wonder if i can quickly deep fry the dried 'chips' to put a little fat into them for the almost greasy potato chip authenticity.  I guess i can slice my yellow squash on my mandoline, soak the slices in salted water, drain and dehydrate.
Now all i need is the weather to cool it so i can run the dehydrators without making the air conditioners compete.

Now, about the weather.  For some reason its supposed to get down to the 40's tonight. Last night the forecast for tonight's overnight lows was low 40's. Thank goodness that has been raised to about 47F because i think 40F might actually be damaging.
Saturday its only supposed to be in the mid 70s in the day, that will be nice from the last few days in the high 80's.  We had been expecting rain and thunder yesterday, but the clouds literally danced around us and we got no more than a few drops, not even sprinkles.  It was cloudy all day and the humidity was crazy, so at least things didn't dry out.
Today it is dry and sunny.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sea Kale

I'm looking up info again on this veggie.  I did a little research on it before i got the seeds, but i forgot and didn't write anything down.
So i'm going to do some searches and leave my notes here. It might be useful for others and i will definitely need it myself.
I'll try and include source links, since i have never grown it myself any info i find will be based on what someone else said.

Sea Kale:

Crambe maritima

Where to buy:
Bountiful Gardens
Fedco  Seeds

More commonly available in UK and surrounding countries and grows wild in places.
The two above  links are the only US seed sources i have found.  I did not include non-US sources because they only seem to be uncommon over here.

Propagates by seed or root cuttings (called thongs). Only available by seed in US
Cultivar- "Lily White"

Root ball divisions of established plants is another way to increase

When to plant:
Direct sow in fall or spring (spring- after last frost)

Hardiness- USDA Zone 5a - 9b
Height- About 3'
Soil pH- neutral to alkaline
Full sun
Prevent from drying out (seaside plant, probably not very drought tolerant)
Benefits from applications of rock salt.
Spring vegetable.
Tastes much like asparagus.
Can be ornamental with its striking blueish leaves.
Flowers are not beautiful (cabbage-like) but are strongly scented. Scent is described to be like honey and compared to brugmansia.
Dried seed clusters can also be ornamental according to taste in decor.

The seeds are pea-like and covered in a corky jacket which must be nicked before planting. The seed coat allows the seeds to float around in seawater for quite some time (years even!) so be sure to prepare the seeds properly or they can take forever to germinate.
Once germinated and growing they need to be set in their permanent place.  Then its at least one year before they can produce edible parts. Up to three years according to some sources. Plants can live for many years,,  i read anywhere from 8-20+.

Harvesting- some sources say that the newest shoots can be eaten, there was nothing  said about these being blanched shoots or if they were the first growth in the spring as they naturally wake up. I guess this is something i'll figure out myself.  I think it means that the shoots can be uncovered and harvested from their bed of winter mulch if a more dedicated blanching method was not used.

Methods of blanching:
The large parts are inedible unless blanched. It seems that almost any large container can be used for this as long as they are opaque. Based on descriptions it seems that a 5 gallon bucket will do for a cover. I think white ones will let in too much light. They do come in darker colors, i have seen dark green ones that would likely work best.  Some instructions say to hill up any fallen leaves around the plants then cover all with the bucket and put bricks on the bucket to hold things steady.  Check them now and then.

They can also be lifted and taken inside to be forced like is commonly done across the pond with rhubarb.  In my blogroll is "Mal's Allotment" and she posted about this during springtime.

Diseases and other things:

I guess they can get club root like their brassica kin.  So if you have issues with club root, Sea Kale may not do well for you.  I read that the cabbage butterfly will lay  eggs on them, but damage is often minimal. I'm sure woodchucks and birds will nibble them and i have learned that woodchucks all have different preferences, so who knows if there will be a lot of damage or not.

How to eat:

Shoots can be steamed, broiled, grilled and tempura fried. I'm sure the ways are endless, but i like simplicity so i don't plan to need many recipes.
Give me my salt, pepper and olive oil and maybe some balsamic vinegar and i'm happy enough.



Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Picture post

I got my Bountiful Gardens seed order yesterday. That was fast. The seeds look good and there are plenty of them.
I got things like SeaKale, Schizandra,  Serviceberry, Amole and Hawthorn, among other things

My Horizon Herbs order has not shipped yet, i looked up my account and it says backorder.... so i guess i won't know for a while.  I'm a little annoyed, i wish the website was kept up to date better.  If something is unavailable it should not be purchasable until it is ready. Its not a huge problem to me, but i'm just sayin'.....

Shopping bag-full in the fridge

Out in the garden i have more yellow squashes.  I'm still enjoying it but the yearly novelty has worn off.
I need to pick more green beans today and i'm out of room in the freezer so i will eat or give them away.
They aren't producing enough for a big enough canner-load that i'd consider worth the effort.  If i had ripe tomatoes i'd do some cans of beans and some cans of tomatoes in one load.
I have been enjoying the Canning forum at the Ball website.  Its a bit slow there, but the members do answer questions within a day and seem to know their stuff.  They are also patient with multiple questions.

I have an  Artichoke!

And... what is this?

A little closer....

Ooooh!  Its turning color!

I didn't expect Siberia to be the first to start ripening. It was the last tomato seedling i was able to get in the garden and it was not the first to flower. Its also partially shaded from both ends- the corn in the morning and the other tomatoes by the afternoon....

And look at all these green tomatoes!

Even the Topsy Turvy is putting a real effort forward.

Size comparison with the onions

Hale's Best i think....

Are you ready for some Football?   Almost.

Unfortunately the Pony Yellow cracked,  but there are more.

Surprised this missed my daughter's attention....

Carnival squash

The great pumpkin turning orange

A  Point One cabbage that seems to have fully recovered

Corn silk

And tassels

Siberian Motherwort

The patio set...  sans camp chairs. It was threatening rain so we put them away.  We got those Coleman folding canvas chairs. They are more convenient than non-foldy chairs because we can take them anywhere and they store much easier.

And this is Chuck...  Chuck likes collard greens....

Chuck won't be eating my collard greenss anymore, since he has been relocated to a nice place about 8 miles from here.

Oh, and here's what my hubby calls my Nuclear Reactor

Its the warning stickers that freak him out.

We've had sporadic rain showers but nothing substantial. It has gotten hotter in the last day or so and humidity was really high today. Nothing like the middle of the US is getting.

Still trying to keep up on weeding. That seems to be the way of it this time of year.
The seeds i got from Bountiful Gardens will likely be Wintersown since they are shrubby or hardy type plants.

I need to sort through my collection so i have some idea of what i have going on or else i will end up buying even more seeds....  i can't use them all as it is!