The Canned Finale

Ah, summer vacation.  For me, it’s wrapping up and next week I switch back into prepping for the school year.  I’ve spent the past two days in the kitchen making sure that I get as much done as possible before time is up.

David and I just returned from a two week road trip (which explains my blogging absence).  I’m going to try to keep this post short, with mostly pictures of food, but there’s a lot that grew while we were gone.

Before we left we majorly trimmed the winter squashes and melons.  After being sprayed for powdery mildew, many of the leaves died.  I got a bit excited with my pruning shears and took down most of the buttercup and red kuri squash plants. The plants were not looking that healthy to begin with, and did not have any new fruit.  We picked what fruit was there, hoping they would set more fruit while we were gone.

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We picked our Kazakh melons!  (We had one earlier in the season, bringing our grand total from the sprawling vine to three melons.) They were sweet with a honeydew-like consistency.

We also harvested three pinnacle spaghetti squash, two buttercup squash and four red kuri squash (we ate one before heading out of town).

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As we don’t have a root cellar, we’ve put them in the hall closet to store for a while.  I’m a bit embarrassed about the state of the closet, but I’m sure you all recognize the important tools like a salad spinner, food dehydrator, crock pot and lots of towels! The box under the towels holds the canned goods that don’t fit in our pantry.

Before vacation we decided to try canning whole tomatoes in water (Ball Book recipe).  After we make enough sauce and salsa to last the year, we’ll do this again at the end of the season.

Prepping for canning tomatoes, LittleLAGarden

I’ve been getting a system down for canning.  Whole tomatoes requires skinning them first.  I prefer to do this with David’s help, but I think he was outside working in the yard when I did it this time.  Yard work is just as important.

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We canned three quart jars of mixed tomatoes.  I love the mixed colors and hope the mixed flavors work just as well!  We used San Marzanos, Indigo Rose, Jaune Flamme and our neighbor’s mystery slicing tomatoes.

Our neighbor helped keep an eye on our cats and garden when we were gone.  We returned a couple of days earlier than we originally planned, and he told us that he had planned on mowing our lawn for us before we got back.  It’s great to have good neighbors!

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The first thing we saw when we got back is two Sugar Baby Watermelons hanging from our A-frame squash/melon trellis!  They’re not mature yet, but they look like they’re getting there quickly.  I’ve read up on how to tell if a watermelon is ready to pick, but I’d love some advice if anyone has some.

The morning after we returned, I woke up early and went outside to harvest our veggies.

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Our Little Leaf pickling cucumbers were the size of normal slicing cucumbers.  I wonder if I should have been picking them at this size the entire season.  One of the two plants on the ladder held six large cucumbers clustered tightly together.  Notice at the top of the plant, there are still more coming.  These are an impressive hybrid!

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Between the two vines in the front and the three in the back, I picked quite a few cucumbers.  We set aside two for salads, and I began slicing and dicing the remaining cucumbers.  After weighing it out, I decided to make a three jars of bread and butter pickles, a half batch of Indian relish and a full batch of pickle relish.

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Of course, each recipe had a different prep and lots of chopping.  I did all of the prep one day, and then the canning the second day.  I also sliced up the smaller parts of the zucchini for zucchini pickles.

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The bread and butter pickles needed to be salted and iced.  Last batch we made was from the Ball Blue Book, this batch was from Put ’em Up!  We’re quite excited about this new (to us) cookbook and also used the Indian and Pickle relishes from it.
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The bread and butter pickles look so pretty while they’re cooking.  This recipe didn’t seem too sweet and seemed to have just the right amount of liquid.
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And our three jars!

I’m just getting started now.

The zucchini pickles have a similar process.

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They had to salt and ice for two hours.

Then instead of cooking the zucchini in the brine, they were supposed to soak in it for two hours THEN come to a boil.

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I decided that these would have to wait until the next day, as I had a lot going on already.  So, they went into the fridge while in their brine.  Hopefully they won’t be too soggy.  To attempt to compensate, we’re going to throw a grape leaf (thanks to our neighbor) in each jar.

The relishes took the most time.  We also have the most jars of them!

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The Indian Relish (top) contains cucumber, onion, carrot and cauliflower.  It is seasoned with cider vinegar, curry powder, turmeric, mustard powder (which I ground myself), and fresh ginger.

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We canned six 4 ounce jars and four 8 ounce jars of this fragrant pickle that will be a great addition to our dinners.

I’m having a hard time accepting the pickle relish because of how it looks.  Earlier this summer I made a sweet relish that looks bright and colorful in the jar. The pickle relish is brown and dingy with flecks of celery seed.

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Our pickle relish is also with cider vinegar.  The brown is from ground allspice, peppercorns and celery seed.  Typically we grind our own allspice, but I dug around the cabinets and found some pre-ground that I brought back from Belize a few years ago.

I hope that was a smart decision.

And now the tomatoes.

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The Indigo Rose are beautiful, a little meaty and not that strong of a flavor.  They are consistent in size.  All of this makes them perfect for roasting, which will concentrate their flavor.

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The amount that we had fit perfectly on two trays.  I sliced them, brushed them with olive oil, and then sprinkled them salt, pepper and fresh thyme. They were roasted in the oven at 275 for about 4 hours.  After they cooled, I put them in a ziploc and tossed them in the freezer to be used.

I also have one tray of cherry tomatoes to roast.  Roasting is perfect for cherry tomatoes that split, and our Isis Candy have been splitting like crazy these days.

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The San Marzanos are ready!!  They are perfect: large, meaty and very few holes.

These will make a great salsa (later) and make a great tomato sauce (now).

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The San Marzanos were added to a sauce pot with a chopped onion and a handful of garlic cloves.  We kept the sauce simple so that we can add more to it when we use it.  After it cooked for a bit, we used an immersion blender to chop up the chunks.  When it was thick enough, we canned the sauce (with a little bit of lemon juice to assure the right acidity) and processed it for 35 minutes.

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We figured out that a full bowl makes 8 pints of beautiful sauce. The small jars for when we make pizza.  We decided that we need to make one more batch of sauce this summer, and we’ll be good for the year.  From looking at the plants, we think that we’ll easily have enough for that and for canning salsa.

While we didn’t make tomato salsa (this time), we did make a salsa verde.

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I picked all the large tomatillos that I found out back.  There are many more coming from the two plants in the back yard.  And our two purple tomatillos in the front yard are finally starting to set fruit.

As we planned on canning the salsa verde, I decided to follow the Ball Book recipe.  I also included some green tomatoes that came off the plants while I was tidying them up.

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I added onion, garlic, the one jalepeno we had growing, crushed red pepper, vinegar,and lime juice.

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After it cooked down a bit, we used the immersion blender to chop it up. When we tasted it, we decided to put in a little sugar also.

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We made three pints and two half pints.  The sauce is a little thin for a dipping salsa, but will be perfect for enchiladas!

Our dining room table is full of jars.  My next step is trying to make space in that closet for more jars.  I’m also working on arranging a food swap in my town.  We tried to register for the Los Angeles one, and it “sold out” in 4 minutes!!  We figure that means it’s time to start another one.  With all of our food that we just made, it’s hard to think about parting with any of it, but it’s exciting to think about exchanging it for things we haven’t made.

As I look at the window, I see a cucumber that needs to be picked.  Looks like it’s time to think about the next round of canning.  Oh wait, I mean it’s time to think about heading back to teaching.

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Eggplants, powdery mildew and figs

David has been busy in the yard, playing with power tools.  We have one final stretch of morning glories to get rid of.  Yes, they’re beautiful.  I’m sure that anyone not in California would be happy to have these plants.  But here, they live year after year, stacking on top of each other until…

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It creates a tangled mess probably full of toxic mold and dust.  To be fair, it could be healthy to breathe in the dust that flies out when we touch the dead vines, but we’re both very cautious.  We’ve also decided it’s time to clear out the morning glories from the fence completely.  This process will take a long time.  David has perfected the method, as he originally cleared our garden space this past January.

For now, David used the string trimmer to cut a border along the bottom of the vines. Many of the vines have begun to die, which made me sad to see this morning, even though I thought I had come to terms with their death.  The hummingbirds have been more active recently; I even saw one hovering in front of the kitchen window and it looked at me.

The morning glories were cut at the roots to make space for our new irrigation in the backyard.  Because our house has weird plumping, we decided to run a 100ft hose down the side of the driveway, and then lay soaker hose in the garden. We’ll then have it on a timer and watering can happen with ease.

The tomato, tomatillo and cucumber plants in the former-morning-glory-filled-back-garden are looking really healthy!

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The delicata squash (left) and cucumber (little leaf on right) recently got powdery mildew, like most of our back yard squashes.  The straight 8 cucumber (larger leaves on tripod) is much healthier.  We’re still picking cucumbers and David recently mixed up a milk, Dr. Bronners, baking soda and apple cider vinegar spray to help with the powdery mildew.  Ask if you want to know more about it, as I know he did research into ratios and rationale.

In the back left, you’ll see the basil.  After the pictures I cut back all of our basil and made about two and a half dozen pesto ice cubes to use later.  We added parsley to this batch of pesto, which helps cut the strong flavor as well as keep it more green for future use.
P1020504We have a small zinnia patch, and we’re loving it.

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The eggplants are finally starting to do something!  Most of our pots have stunted peppers and eggplants.  After the fertilizing, and then a fish emulsion treatment, they have finally started to grow!  Again, we’re lucky to be in Los Angeles as our hottest months can be August and September.

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In the backyard, the rosa bianca has a cage around it to protect it from Rosie’s trampling.  Rosie follows us around the garden while we’re working.  She doesn’t notice if there are plants in the way, as she just wants us to throw her ball.

The above picture has two rosa bianca and two japanese eggplants.

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And the japanese eggplant is starting to grow!

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We cheated a little with the poblano peppers in the front yard pots.  When we were at the farmers market last week, the plant guy had beautiful plants and we decided to buy two since ours were stunted.   P1020521

Our tomatoes, for the most part, are doing great!  There aren’t as many flowers as I’d like.  The black krim that we planted late is finally starting to flower, if you can see it there next to the giant bushy San Marzano.

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The San Marzano is laden with green tomatoes, and we’re getting our sauce pot and salsa recipes in order while waiting.

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Next to the San Marzano, I planted arugula, a couple of green onions and a celery plant. The celery is in the foreground, if you can see it without being distracted by Rosie or the giant pepper! We were waiting for it to turn red, but decided today that it was time to pick it.

Lastly, our neighbors have a fig tree that borders the fence.

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Last year I cut back their tree, because it smelled like cat pee.  I love figs.  I think legally even though they’re on our side of the fence, the figs belong to them.  We’re thinking about picking a few.  We could ask our neighbors first.

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Mardi doesn’t want me to mention it, but being the dominant cat in our territory, it’s possible that the figs could smell like cat pee again this season.

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Busy in the kitchen

We’ve had a few tomatoes from our garden, but not nearly enough to start cooking with or preserving.  David and I decided that we’d roast or dehydrate a few at a time when we have time.  We figured with the way the tomatos are ripening, we wouldn’t start our saucing operations until the end of July or beginning of August.

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There are a few red San Marzanos, but most of them are still quite green.P1020375

The Indigo Rose are ripening, and thanks to a suggestion from a reader, we’re leaving them on the vine until they feel soft.  These will be for salads and roasting.

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The Jaune Flamme are going to be great for drying and roasting.  There are bunches of ripe ones, but there are not many at the same time.  I did get out the dehydrator though, and figured this was enough to do our first batch.

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Our last tomato that is producing fruit right now is the Isis Candy.  These are great to eat in salads.  As you can see though, we’re far from peak tomato season.

Then David chatted with our neighbor across the street.

He told us that he was headed out of town and we should pick all of his tomatoes.
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David and I went across the street, dug around for a little while, and proudly came home with two overflowing bowls of fruit.  There should be more later in the week, but we cleared out everything we could find.

And decided that we’d make our first batch of salsa!

I set aside the largest for slicing (every dinner comes with a caprese salads or tomatoes drizzled with vinegar and olive oil), the smallest for dehydrating and chopped up 7lbs for salsa.  We were going to stick to the Blue Book, but I found a salsa recipe that we’re trying instead.  When our neighbor gets back in town, he’ll get a couple jars of salsa and pickles.

Yes, he gave us cucumbers too.

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He has some gorgeous salad cucumbers, which David made into an Israeli cucumber and tomato salad.  The ones that weren’t too seedy, were quartered and turned into dill pickles. We picked up some pickling spice at Penzy’s earlier this spring, and have been itching to try it.

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Our vines had cucumbers growing on them also.  We’ve been pleased with the shape, size and yield of our little leaf cucumber plants.  I’ve been trying to move away from hybrids, but this one is making me think about that decision.

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We have two vines on the ladder.  The vines are full of flowers and have over a dozen cucumbers in the midst of growing right now.

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I picked these off our two ladder vines and the one in the backyard.  I snagged a few cayenne peppers and a handful of dill and it was time to make dill pickles.

At that point, I put my camera down and focused on cooking.

Our end tally was:

2 pint and half jars (1 chips, 1 spears)

5 pint jars (2 spears, 1 spicy spears, 1 spicy chips, 1 zucchini chips)

And then there were the apricots.
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David bought apricots at Costco for canning, as our new tree isn’t producing this year. We had enough for a half batch of jam.  We decided on something savory, and chose Apricot-Ginger-Rosemary jam.  The amount we had filled two half pint jars and gave us a little bit left over.  The leftover jam was later cooked with caramelized onions and used to top pork chops.

We will savor this jam, and I highly recommend the recipe.  There’s just enough crystalized ginger and rosemary to make it interesting but not overpower it.

We just may be picking up more apricots to make more.

 

The tour, June edition

The harvesting has begun, and it’s time to show the progress!  This week we have to build a lot of support systems for our floppy plants.  We’ve also started to pickle, freeze and nibble food in the gardens.

Today I wanted to share with you all a look back at how much we’ve grown since building our gardens.

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This was day one.

[Insert entire garden pic from today] At the end of the blog I’ll show you what it looks like today, but there’ll be bits and pieces as I take you on a tour around the garden!

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The acorn squash/ eggplant/ bean bed. I couldn’t take a very good picture from this angle, because the two little squash plants on the front left of the picture are now taking over a tomato cage and going everywhere!

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The beans and summer squashes are starting to produce.  The eggplants are finally taking off.  I have one more Rosa Bianca in the nursery, which I’d like to plant this week.  Part of the hold up has been that Mardi, our tomcat, likes to sit (and occasionally leave us presents) in the open space in this bed.  We’ve been working on deterring him, but he’s strong willed.

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This was taken in April, after bringing home the half dead yellow yarrow.  We had yet to plant the okra behind the apricot.

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Isn’t the apricot tree looking great?  We have been watching it and letting it take it’s shape, so that when it comes time to prune it this year we can encourage more main stems.  It’s too bad it isn’t closer to the wall, because it seems to be flat and would have been perfect to espalier.

We planted a little chamomile  that we started from seed, towards the back of the apricot.  There will be verbena and hyssop going in also.  Right now those seedlings are in the nursery, and I’ll probably transplant them into larger pots and keep them in the nursery until fall.  I hear fall is a good time to plant perennials.

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Here’s the yarrow on planting day.

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And today!  We will have flowers soon, and I’m pretty sure they’ll be yellow.  But the plant wasn’t labeled so we could get something else!IMG_1788

Here’s the potted daisy after pruning.

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And we have flowers!  I am enjoying the shape of the plant, and loving that the pink flowers have come back.  Notice the red kuri squash is overtaking the pot?  David is hoping to pick up a cattle fence panel while he’s in Bakersfield this weekend.  Then these squash vine will be growing up and over this pot!

In the side yard, the shell beans and cucumbers are growing well.
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This is right after I transplanted the little leaf pickling cucumbers and the nasturtiums.  (sorry it’s not a great picture, but I wanted to show the size.)

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Today the cucumbers are climbing up the ladder, the dill is tall and attempting to flower and the shell beans are nearly ready to be picked.  We harvested our first cucumber from these plants today!

On the other side of the cucumber ladder is the tomato raised bed.

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Here it is after we planted, and when we were still finishing up our winter growing season.

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Today the tomatoes are coming along, the basil is ready for it’s second harvest and we have a pepper growing.  We have a few varieties of radishes and carrots growing, a small patch of lettuce, and one small leek that just won’t be done growing.

In the front yard we also have our mystery garden area.  IMG_1811

We let the compost sprout, and sprinkled a wildflower mix.  The first batch of sprouts that you see here was mowed down by hungry snails.

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The snails have long been killed and we’ve discovered that wildflower mix= alyssum.  The nasturtiums survived the snail onslaught, as well as the one cosmos.  We’ve been more diligent about watering this area and we’re starting to notice a tiny bit of variety appear.

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David has almost no allergies, but he’s allergic to alyssum.  It’s too bad because I think it’s beautiful, and the cats enjoy rolling around in it.

Our herb bed was cut way back when the bulbs were flowering.

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This was taken right after the sage and basil were planted, and during that small window when the cilantro was ready to pick.

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Currently the cilantro and oregano are flowering and ready to be cut down. We’ll be cutting back and pulling out most of the bulbs shortly.

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The cilantro/ coriander flowers attract flies.

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And ladybugs.

We plan to harvest some of the coriander seeds, and let the plant self seed.

And of course, here’s Rosie to point out the peppers.

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This is pretty soon after we planted the banana pepper, jalepeno and cayenne.

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The cayenne are green and growing well.  We haven’t had any turn red yet, but we know soon enough we’ll be drying them and searching for ways to use them.  Anyone have suggestions?

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The banana peppers have already been picked and been added to salsa.  There are a handful more ready to pick this week.

P1010811And of course, the jalepenos.  We’ve picked four so far, and have a few more waiting for us to use.  These plants are small but full of fruit.

We also have other pepper, tomatillo and tomato plants but they’re not doing much yet.

And here’s the backyard today!

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The tomatoes on the left were just trellised, using the Florida weave.  The arch and squash trellis should be up this week. It’ll be great when we can freely walk around again, without worrying about squishing squash vines.

I’ll try to do another tour update soon, but it may be a couple of weeks.  Life is getting busy, summer vacation is about to start and we’re already preparing food.

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Harvests and pickles

 

This weekend I began perfecting my pickling recipes, as the harvesting has begun!

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When I was watering the cucumber vines in the backyard, I discovered this little leaf pickling cucumber half buried under the leaves!  There’s another in front yard that will be picked this week, and I believe these are both destined for our salads, not pickles.  The vines are full of baby cukes, and we’re eagerly awaiting them!

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As I have mentioned, the zucchini harvest has begun.  This past week we’ve harvested one, but there’s another to pick in a couple of days.  The first few zucchini on our vines seem to be falling off, perhaps from lack of fertilization?

I did pickle the zucchini, as well as the yellow squash, and made a tasty bread and butter pickle from the Ball Blue Book.  They’re a day old, in the fridge, and delicious already.  We didn’t bother getting out the canning equipment, as we know we’ll devour them rapidly.

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Here’s the yellow squash right before I picked it.  Notice the small one next to it has a flower shriveled up and is rotting at the end.  Anyone have suggestions as to what’s going on?

This weekend we also made our first jar of dilly beans (also in the fridge and getting devoured).

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Plant nerd that I am, we have 7 different types of green beans, and I think I managed to sort them out.  Or at least they look like it so let’s just pretend. These are the tricolor bush bean (green), Tavera (filet), and Provider (feel kinda fuzzy).  I’m working on my palate, but they all pretty much taste the same to me.  We had the seeds, so I’m looking more at yield and plant health to decide which to plant in the future.

Of course, we have other colors of beans too! P1010802

The Burgundy pole beans (ok, the one plant) is yielding a few beans here and there.  I think they are the straight ones on the left.  Then we have the tricolor bush bean (purple) and Velour (filet).  There are also yellow beans from the tricolor mix, but I guess they didn’t make a picture because we only have one variety of yellow bean.

This harvest was the perfect amount to make our first jar of dilly beans.
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I picked a few sprigs of fresh dill, grabbed two pearl onions that I planted at school, peeled a clove of garlic (ok, we’ll grow that next year) and made a brine to pack them in.
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I love the look of fresh dilly beans!  Here’s the recipe we used this time.

Today I harvested another large handful of mixed beans, and am thinking these will be eaten fresh.

We also pickled watermelon radishes last week, and I chopped up garlic and put a little too much garlic in it for my taste.  I don’t like radishes much to begin with, and the recipe I used was a gentle experiment with lacto-fermination which seemed to make the radish flavor stronger.

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Also, this week I picked a bunch of shell beans.  I remember shelling beans as a kid, but haven’t ever prepared them myself.  P1010804

These are Tongue of Fire, and they are supposed to be colored inside.  I wonder if I picked them too soon, or didn’t let them dry enough.  We’re cooking them tonight.

This weekend was a guacamole and salsa making weekend.  We harvested the avocados last week (and have a seemly endless supply if we’re able to reach higher into the trees with a ladder) and we had some that were ripe this weekend! The tomatoes were not ours, as we’re still waiting, but our neighbor brought us a bag from his garden.  Luckily we’re growing peppers, so salsa was easy to toss together.

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I picked four banana peppers. They went in the salsa. (I’m a lightweight when it comes to spicy food.)

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And I picked four jalepenos, two of which went into the guacamole.  David always deseeds and deveins them so I can handle the heat.

In the back lasagna gardens, I also found this little surprise.

P1010859It’s an easter egg radish, and a fun one to find.

The food we’re getting is already keeping us busy, and it’s just a little bit here and there.  We know that soon enough we’ll be harvesting so much that we’ll be giving it away, and we’re ready!

 

Flowers on everything!

Each day I notice more and more flowers in our yard! You see, I’ve always had a thing for flowers.  When David and I moved into our house and began maintaining (and adding to) the gardens, we consciously decided to remove many ornamentals, like the Canna lilies who engulfed our sprinklers and hid snails armies.  I joke with David about how he wouldn’t let me plant flowers; he felt stronger about it than I did.  I understand and agree with the reasoning that we have such little space and want to grow as much food as possible.  When we began discussing what we’d do with the property, with no debate, the rose garden stayed.  We put a few annuals in our herb bed and after building our raised tomato bed, we dug a bed dedicated to flowers and perrenials.

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The dedicated flower bed doesn’t hold much and I’ve been thinking about what to do with it.  We planted bulbs too late, and most of them haven’t bloomed.  Three of the five sagos look great and I just decided it’s time to take the other two out.  The asparagus fern was given to me by my sister, and it was half dead when we got it.  It’s now probably our healthiest looking plant in the bed.  There are other plants, not pictured, which were all experiments and the plan is to move the perennials in here around a bit later this year.

For now, I transplanted a few cosmos in here and they seem to like their new spot.

In our yard, the succulents do really well!  Most of them are cuttings from friends or neighbors, and a few of them are from David’s aunt.

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This is the succulent on our porch that we’ve been waiting for.  Many of them have been flowering recently and it’s been so interesting to see all the shapes and colors.

I’ve been more enthralled with watching our vegetables blossom, bringing with them the promise of food.

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These flowers bring David the promise of food, and are ones that I avoid like the plague.  It’s cilantro, or will be coriander.  The flowers seem to always be covered in flies and just rubbing on the plant makes the slightest breeze reek of cilantro.

Off to the backyard gardens, where flowers are everywhere!

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The potted flower that I cut back this spring is getting buds!  I can’t wait to see it covered in pink flowers again, and am so glad that the chance I took on it has paid off so far.

In the backyard we have many types of squashes and melons, and many of them are flowering!  In the squash bed, the only one flowering right now is the Kazakh melon, but the others are getting close!

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I love looking into these flowers.  I haven’t noticed a female one yet, and I’m wondering how different the female melons are.  I’m keeping watch!

This week the sugar baby and buttercup have been taking off. The first female pattypan flowered today.  We currently have three baby yellow crookneck squash on the way!

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There are about five zucchinis growing!  I had originally planning on growing Sunburst yellow zucchini alongside of the Safari, but they were backordered.  I have the seeds now, and David and I were just talking about planting some if/when we do a second planting of zucchini this summer.

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I’m already in love with the Safari zucchini.  I can’t wait to see them pickled and in jars.  Or grilled with fresh basil and tomato.  Or in zucchini bread.

We haven’t had space to grow squash before. I haven’t grown it myself in about 15 years and I’m excited about the harvest from our one plant. I’m hoping we have the perfect amount to keep up with.  In fact, that’s how we’ve planned our plants- enough to can and eat but not be over inundated at once.

Our acorn squash plants already have about five or six fruits coming.
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We have it crawling up and over a tomato cage.  I love how it’s strong tendrils are gripping the wire.  David and I were talking this evening about pruning back the plants a little, so they don’t take over the garden. I think I made him nervous by suggesting that I did not water the plant to grow as large as possible and wanted to… gasp.. cut it.

Our cucumbers are starting to take off.  There are lots of male and female flowers and they are crawling through their beds.  We haven’t set up climbing structures for them.  We just talked about it and will hopefully find time in the next couple of weeks to do that.  The end of the school year is always tough to find time, but I think we have a rather speedy solution.

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We’ve been planning our pickles and we’re keeping a close watch.

The beans have started to grow but are still tiny.  I planted the ones in our school garden a bit sooner, and I’ve been munching on fresh green beans throughout the day. P1010622

The Dragon’s Tounge beans are flowering and growing.  We’ll be eating some within the next couple of weeks!

I really thought that the variety we had was pole beans, but here’s how they look:

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The dill was just planted here, and has already begun to flower.  We pinched it back and are hoping it will bush out a little.  We need the dill for our cucumbers.  The two cukes here are both a little leaf pickling variety. These are the ones that should get another pole and a trellis to climb soon.

Both David and I will be busy this weekend, but hope to find some time to get plant supports in, and transplant the Malali watermelon.  This should be our last weekend in a while before we have a larger harvest.  Right now we have radishes and lettuce ready to harvest.  We just pickled more nasturtium capers tonight. And tried them for the first time- they are like capers with a kick!

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We’re growing food!

Today our seeds we’ve been anxiously waiting for have arrived!!  We ordered seeds from Baker Creek nearly a month ago, and they had to resend them because the first ones never arrived.  David went to the post office to sign for them and opened them before I got home.  As he knew I’d be as excited as he was, he sent me this text:

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While we’ve been waiting for the seeds, the spot for the cucumbers has changed a few times.  Today, I planted 5 of them along the fence in the front yard, in the back of our mystery compost/ flower garden.  Hopefully the tiny little cucumbers and dainty vines won’t get lost amongst the cosmos.  (Although I couldn’t think of a prettier place to be lost.)

We’ll plant the white radishes after we finish the ones we have in.  These are a different heirloom variety (the others were a hybrid from Johnny’s) so we’re hoping we like them better.

The black radishes (which we’ll pickle) and the french breakfast went in, as well as some circus circus carrots that we had laying around.  I’ve tried the carrots in a few places and haven’t had much luck.  This time they all went in right in front of the sprinkler (see right hand side of the picture below).  *fingers crossed*

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The tomatoes are growing well.  We’ve been pinching the suckers to help shape them.  They are getting full of flowers and each of them have little green tomatoes on them.  Which reminds me, I found a great recipe for radish and green tomato salsa the other day, but we don’t have the heart to use green tomatoes this time of year unless they fall off on their own. Perhaps you have some?

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Watching the San Marzanos grow is great fun because they’re in giant clusters. This one is shaping up nicely so far!

In the back yard, we are just getting flowers on the tomatoes.  They need support still, and that’ll be coming soon.  Here’s a look at one of the beds in the back:

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Everything from the beans to the arugula is growing.  They’ll get more fish emulsion this weekend and hopefully these beautiful sunny days are helping them out.
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The cucumbers are starting to flower!  This is the same plant that I posted previously, and it’s had two flowers so far.  I love how the first flowers are so precious, and later in the summer we begin to groan at the sight of new flowers because the fridge is full.

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The zuchinni’s first flower is giving us reason to celebrate!  We are ready!

This year I really think we have the right amount of food for the two of us, plus our friends and canning/drying. In fact, I’m hoping we have enough.

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We have two okra plants, and David just planted three more seeds because we want more.  We’ve recently tried pickled okra (loved it) and roasted okra (sold dried like chips) and want to make both!  In the past we’ve grown okra, and not been sure what to do with it or when to pick it.  This year, we’re armed with recipes and want the plant to grow!

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Our winter squashes are taking off.  I wasn’t sure how we were going to support our two acorn squash plants, so the other day I stuck a cage over them.  I did this to expose the fenugreek that was hiding under it, but it could work.  We’ve been impressed watching the tendrils climb away!

IMG_1944Our Dragon’s Tounge shell beans on the side yard haven’t started climbing their ladder yet, but they have the most beautiful flowers about to open.

The days are getting busier and busier at school, with so little free time during the day.  It’s wonderful to come home, and check in on the progress!

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Fruits, flowers and bugs, oh my!

The plants are growing! Each day, David and I walk around our little backyard garden, inspecting for intruders, new flowers and growth.  We were happy that we had a few days off from watering, but are back to watering each evening and dreaming about soaker hoses and drip irrigation for during the summer.  That, and building bamboo supports for the plants, are high up on David’s project list for this summer.

Here’s a look at the back yard garden, formerly known as the morning glory jungle, now:

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The aisles and edges need more mulch (as well as the front yard flower beds), which David picked up yesterday and I’ll be spreading today. We’ve used the firepit once, and plan to use it again soon!  The squash and melons are slowly getting planted in the front right bed.  I may end up directly seeding the Malali watermelon, as the two seeds that I planted in the nursery have yet to germinate.

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Here’s the temporary nursery at the end of our driveway.  The cage on the right has our praying mantis cocoon, which we check daily. The warm driveway and full sun has been working well for the plants. We have been anxiously checking the perennial flowers that we started from seed.  This week the Munstead Lavender, Chamomile, and Verbena have finally started to get bigger!  The purple tomatillos, eggplants and tomatoes are nearly ready for planting- we’d like them to get a little bigger before they go into the beds.  The squash on the front right, buttercup, was planted right after I took this picture!

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I hacked backed this flower and posted a picture of it in my first tour blog. It’s great to see the plant recovering nicely and shooting out lots of new leaves.

The plants all around the garden are growing bigger and bigger, and slowly climbing the fence.

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The sweet peas are climbing quickly, but have yet to produce flowers. I’ve been training the strays to go up the fence as well, and to fill in the back corner.

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On the other side of the fence, the asparagus beans and scarlet runner beans are slowly getting closer to being climbers. I know that once they get a little bit bigger, they’re going to take off! We’re already drooling thinking about our fresh green beans and canned dilly beans.

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The bush beans are growing rapidly and starting to look like flowers are coming!  I planted tricolor beans, and am excited to see the purple stem on this purple bean plant.

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The Safari zucchini, pattypan and crookneck squashes are all full of buds!  David and I love eating squash blossoms and are hoping to start having male flowers that we can pick and stuff with goat cheese.  Well, I want to pick and stuff them with goat cheese and he wants to let the plants keep their flowers and buy the blossoms at the farmer’s market. Either way, we’re keeping an eye on these buds and hoping to see them blossoming soon!

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The tomatillos are getting taller and taller and are now full of flowers!  We haven’t put cages, or any sort of support on these guys yet, and it’s probably time soon.  This year we planted two tomatillo plants (and have two more purple ones in the nursery).  In the past, we have both had just one tomatillo plant and very little success with fruit.  I recently read that the plants need to be in pairs, as cross pollination is necessary.  We’re hoping that we get plenty of tomatillos this year, and have enough to make jars of salsa verde for the year.

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Our four cucumbers are all growing well.  I as a little worried they’d be eaten by slugs, like last year, but they seem to have cleared that hurdle. This one, in the back yard, looks like it’s waiting for something to climb up.  We were planning on having them trail on the ground, but it may be worth trellising it.  Check out that tendril!

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In the front yard, the peppers are full of flowers!  We ended up with an extra pepper plant that we didn’t mean to buy, so we will be finding creative ways to use cayenne peppers.  The thing is, I don’t like spicy food.  I’ve always loved growing hot peppers because the plants are so beautiful when they are full of colorful peppers.  I’ve never really enjoyed eating them.  Perhaps our friends like hot peppers and will take some off our hands once these little suckers get going.

Speaking of suckers… I’ve been pulling suckers from the tomato plants and shaping them as they fill their cages. And this week I discovered…

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BABY TOMATOES!!

The Indigo Rose is already showing her purple. And she’s tall, lanky and has a glorious purple trunk! She also has lots more flowers coming.

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We also have baby San Marzano’s!  David and I have been finding ways to use up the last of the sauce we stored in our freezer this past year.  After we use the last bag, we still have about 5 jars.  I have a feeling we’ll easily replenish our stock.  We also plan to dry, and roast them, and I’ve been looking into canning whole tomatoes also. Can’t wait until they come in and I’m on summer vacation (without graduate school or a wedding to plan like last summer).

The tomato plants are healthy, and host to many insects.

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This crane fly (I think) was found resting on a tomato leaf.

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I spotted a few of these little bugs on our flowers.  Anyone know what they are?  I grabbed my bug book, and know that they are true bugs. I hope that they are minute pirate bugs, as those are beneficial but I’m not sure about that being a correct ID. I really do need a better Insect ID book, as Peterson’s and my college textbook aren’t helping too much.  Suggestions for what these critters are, and for books, are welcome!

All of the tomatoes are doing really well, except for this one:

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The Riesentraube has been battling insects and possibly disease.  I am a little embarrassed for the plant to show it to you, looking like this, but I feel that I must be honest about how the plants are doing. We’re keeping an eye on it and hope that it recovers, but we’re not sure what we can do to help.

It has neighbors that are getting munched also.
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Most of the basil is looking great, and a few are even preparing to flower.  Our first batch of pesto will likely be prepared next weekend. This plant is the one that has made the most “friends” and hopefully having it next to the tomato is helping protect the tomato.

On the other side of the raised bed, the radish tops are also getting eaten. We have three different types of radish growing, and I’ve also been bringing some home from school.  I’m learning to like radishes, which David thinly slices into my salad.  He’s happy to eat the rest of them.

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These fast growing white icicle radishes are a hybrid from Johnny’s.  I just ordered more white radishes from Baker Creek and can’t wait to plant them!

Hope you enjoy your harvest!