Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cucumber Relish, Pear Butter, and Principe Borghese

The first ripe Principe Borghese tomatoes of the season!  I think I'll grow these next year instead of cherry tomatoes. The plants are more compact and the tomatoes seem to ripen sooner.

This past Sunday, I spent 4 hours at the Community Can event downtown.  The event is put on by NEAT (the Northern Environment Action Team).  Peavey Mart and Canadian Tire donated mason jars and the Co-op donated a week's worth of produce that would have otherwise been thrown away.  Some members of the community donated mason jars, beans, and crab apples, too.  Volunteers come to the event to spend the day sorting, prepping, and canning the produce and the resulting canned goods are donated to one of the food banks in town.  The Nawican Friendship Center allowed NEAT to use their kitchen for the event.

In total, about 10 people participated.  I was surprised there wasn't a better turnout, as the event was well advertised, but that number seemed to work well.  Three of us spent several hours sorting through produce and then peeling, chopping, and pitting it so it could be passed along to the more experienced canners, who were working in the kitchen.  We finished the prep work by 1:00pm, but the people working in the kitchen stayed to do the actual canning until late afternoon.  At the end of the day, 216 jars of food were canned, including stewed tomatoes, pickled veggies (cauliflower, asparagus, and beans), bread and butter pickles, apple sauce and jam (peach and plum).

At home, I made 7 jars of pear butter (a variation on peach butter, outlined in the Bernardin book) on the weekend and 5 jars of cucumber relish yesterday.  Both were time consuming for different reasons, but the end product looks good!  The next things I plan to can (pickled garlic and hot dilly beans) should be a little more straight forward than the fruit butter and the relish. 

And for the record, I will be using a food processor to chop if I ever make relish again!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dehydrating Cabbage

We have a lot of cabbage in the garden this year!  Some will be used fresh in recipes (especially in my favourite cabbage roll casserole), but I also decided to dehydrate some to store.  Most sources I have read say it is as simple as slicing or grating the cabbage and popping it into the dehydrator.  Some recommend blanching the sliced cabbage before dehydrating.  So I tried both.

Blanched before dehydrating
The blanched cabbage certainly looks nicer - a more vibrant green - and the cabbage slices hold their shape more than the slices that were dehydrated raw.  The raw cabbage slices are a paler green or light yellow.

The downside is that blanching beforehand is time consuming and the dehydrator sheets will have to be washed before I use the dehydrator for another vegetable.  (Washing the dehydrator trays and sheets is an event - they are too large to wash easily in the kitchen sink.  We don't have a dishwasher, so I soak and wash them in a scrubbed bathtub!)  When I dehydrated the cabbage raw, it wasn't sticky, so came off the dehydrator sheets quickly and cleanly once dry.  The raw slices shriveled up, so they take up less space in mason jars.

Blanched raw

A comparison

In the next week or so, I will try blanching cabbage wedges to freeze.  We don't have much room to spare in the freezer, but I am curious to see how the taste down the road compares to the dehydrated cabbage.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Little Cabbage

I harvested the first of the little heirloom cabbages I started from seed.  I have lost track of which ones are which, but think this is either a Copenhagen or an Early Golden Acre.  It weighs 2.5 lbs. 


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cowpea Flower

The Grey-Speckled Palapye Cowpeas and looking lush and healthy, but none have produced flowers or pods, until today. Whoever said this was an early variety that does well in northern climates must be under the impression that "North" means the Canada-US border. 

Here is the first cowpea flower.  :)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Broad Beans (Windsor) and The First Mazarini

A few days ago, I harvested a few of the Windsor beans (broad/fava) so I could experiment with blanching them to freeze.  They strike me as an unusual bean and processing them is a tad labour-intensive.  I was surprised at how waxy and firm the second "shell" around each bean is.

After being removed from the pod...

Plunged into ice water after blanching...

Liberated from it's "second shell" (a sturdy thumbnail comes in handy)...

All finished!

For a much more thorough description of growing and processing broad beans, check out the great blog post HERE.

I picked the first Mazarini tomato this afternoon.  I am so pleased with it!  I have oohed and ahhed over it all summer.  It was among the first tomatoes to appear and it quickly outgrew all the others, including the other Mazarinis.  It was also the first to start ripening.  (One of the Early Annie tomatoes isn't far behind).  This one weighs 1 lbs 2 oz.  When I manage to bring myself to cut into it, I'll save the seeds to grow next summer.

Mazarinis are a Russian variety - pink, heart-shaped slicers, meaty with few seeds.  Indeterminate, 80-90 days.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mist and Peas

It is a misty, cool morning.  The forecast says things are supposed to clear off today and that we are in for a sunny week.  I sure hope so.  The garden needs some sunshine and heat.

The weather has been so wet this summer.  Late yesterday afternoon, we ended up picking almost all the peas in the patch, whether they were a good size for freezing or not. The pea plants were soft and drooping over, leaving some peas on the ground.  They were also covered with a red/brown spotty mildew which was starting to make it's way onto the pods.  We spent the entire evening working on them.  We finished around 11:30pm with just over 14 lbs shelled.  Our total for this year is 26.5 lbs.  Not the bumper crop we've had in years past - one year, we had 41 lbs of shelled peas from the garden - but at least better than last year's sloggy, slug-and-mould-filled disappointment (less than 20 lbs).

Too bad we don't have goats.  They would love the shells!  The unshelled peas filled a similar bin.

The pea patch this morning.

Did I mention the ground was wet?

It began to rain the day after we hung the garlic, onions, and shallots outside to cure.  It has been raining or drizzling since.  We have the two branches full hanging in the laundry room with a fan blowing on them.  There is no room to hang them in the shed.  It is very, uhm, rustic.  *L*

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Curing The Onions, Garlic, and Shallots

I thinned most of the lettuce from the carrot & lettuce beds this morning.  It doesn't look like we'll have as many carrots as I'd hoped.  At least now I finally know to sow carrot seed while the weather is still cool.  Hopefully, doing that next Spring will result in a much bigger harvest next Summer. 

Afterwards, I picked peas and then shelled the lot.  Very time consuming, but worth it when we're eating our own garden peas in the middle of January.  This batch resulted in 6 lbs 10 oz shelled peas.  My thumbs hurt!

I pulled the onions, shallots, and most of the garlic this afternoon and we hung them to cure behind the house.  I am very pleased with how the shallots turned out (our first time growing them) and the garlic, too (good sized bulbs).  The onions didn't do as well, and most of them are quite small.  Their stems were wilted and becoming slippery, though, so they had to be pulled.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Mutant Corn and Runaway Runners

The flower bed

Cupcake zinnia

Ball dahlias

Dahlia (the center is a little misshapen, but the colour is gorgeous. The picture doesn't do it justice.

Begonia - what a difference from last year!  (Note to self: begonias prefer dappled light)

A volunteer sunflower and volunteer marigolds in the pea patch.

Lettuce bolting

One of the North Georgia Candy Roasters. I hope they do a lot of growing this month.  Time is running out!  The reviews were right - these are a prolific variety.  I should have planted them in a different location.  I didn't realize they would be so large.  I have four planted in a crowded space at the back of the house. Parts are climbing up the fence, one vine has attached itself to the apple tree, and another is trying to grab onto a container of mint.

Sweet pepper

One of the Gelber Englischer Custard squash plants is finally producing what will eventually be flowers, and hopefully squash.  We were already eating these this time last year!

Parsley and chard bathtub, containers of mint in the front.

Ah, the corn.  *sigh*  I have avoided taking a picture of the corn all summer.  It started out so well, developing into healthy seedlings indoors. They hardened off easily and seemed to transplant well, despite my having to separate their very tangled roots.  We had very cold, wet weather after I planted them and they looked pale and sickly for a few weeks. They started to come back after that, but then began to look like mutants.  Silks were developing out of the stalk with no cobs in site.  It is a short variety (Painted Mountain), but most stopped growing at about 2-3 feet (they are supposed to be 5 feet tall).  There was little pollen on them.  The stalks are skinny.  Now, there are a few cobs, but I'm not sure whether the corn will develop properly on them.  I might try this variety again next year.  If I do, I'll start the kernels in individual little pots so the roots aren't damaged during transplanting, and I will hope that June is much warmer than it was this year!

I thought these Butterscotch beans were supposed to be bush beans, but they turned out to have runners.  I put short stakes in beside them a few weeks ago, and several of the runners have out-grown the stakes.  (This is a little easier to see if you click on the pictures to enlarge them).

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Year of The Slug

We have seen a lot of slugs in the last two weeks, mostly lingering around the strawberries and one small container of bush beans.  We set out some beer traps, which seemed to be working.  Then, on the weekend, R. noticed that one of my beds of beans was being ravaged by slugs.  I went over to look, and sure enough, holes all through my bean plants.  Arhg!  And that variety (Canadian Wild Goose) had been doing so well this year!

We moved a beer trap to the bean bed, but it didn't help.  In fact, the slugs used it as a ramp, crawling over the trap to get to the bean bed!  R. bought a package of Scott's Eco-Sense Slug B-Gon and sprinkled it around the base of the plants.  Within two days, fewer slugs were messing with my beans.

I went outside around 6am this morning to look at the garden.  It was cool and overcast.  I wandered up the driveway to see how things were doing in the raised beds.  To my surprise, I saw a long slug stretched out on top of the parsley!  I barely stifled a loud, "Gross!" (okay, I didn't stifle it...) and pinged it off.  

Continuing along the driveway, I got to the raised bed that is mostly beans, marigolds, and parsnips.  I spotted a slug on a marigold!  I had never seen any kind of pest go near the marigolds before (other than the magpies this year).  I pinged it off, even more disgusted.  Within 30 seconds, it was clear that the first two were the tip of the iceberg.  The beans in this bed (Mary Ison's Little Brown Bunch beans) were covered in slugs.  I have never seen so many in one place in my life.

If I had had my wits about me, I would have come inside for my camera to capture this revolting spectacle.  I was so annoyed and repulsed by dozens of slimy slugs on my plants that the thought didn't even occur to me.  They chewed the heck out of one two-foot section of beans.  For some reason, they didn't bother the parsnips, which were in the same raised bed.  I pinged at least 20 off before heading into the house for the Slug B-Gon.  The spoon we use to sprinkle it between the plants doubled as a slug-slinger this morning.  I can only hope that the new tenant in the house next to our driveway was either still asleep or at work, at the exclamations of, "Gross!" quickly gave way to reflexive mutterings of, "Sh*t!  Sh*tsh*tsh*t!!

We'll see if things have improved for the beans tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, we'll be stocking up on Slug B-Gon, just in case.

Update - August 3rd - I only found 3 slugs this morning on the beans and marigolds.  A vast improvement!