Pic of Peppers

Hello readers,

I hope your gardens are still thriving! Our tomato plants look like they will be wrapping up soon and so do our squash, but our peppers are just getting started!

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July 27th, our first Banana Pepper was harvested.

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July 29th we harvested our 2nd Banana Pepper! The plants are LOADED with more!

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We also harvested about a dozen Jalapeno Peppers on July 29th, and finally on July 31st we had the time to finish up some canning (wrapping up canning week a bit late!). We made Jalapeno Pepper Jelly using a recipe by Ball Preserving and it is OH SO GOOD! I’m quite picky about what recipes we use for canning because of food safety.

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Today, we harvested 3 Orange Bell Peppers (one accidentally was left out of the picture), and 2 Cayenne Peppers. There are so many more peppers on the way and the plants are getting huge! It must be their season now! We’re hoping to later make Picante and Cayenne Powder.

 

 

Link to Jalapeno Pepper Jelly: 

https://www.freshpreserving.com/jalapeno-jelly-recipe-%7C-jalapeno-recipe—ball-fresh-preserving-br1247.html

Heat Wave

Hello reader,

We’ve been in a bit of a heat wave this week (triple digit heat index!), and so this Saturday morning was spent trying to beat the heat by getting out in the flower bed before the heat had a chance to kick into gear. My mom came by to help (it has gotten a little neglected lately and is a big task), and what should I find during the work but a Parsley Worm! You may cringe at the fact we found any sort of “worm”, but the name is deceiving. It is actually the name of the caterpillar that later will develop into a Black Swallowtail Butterfly. I’d read somewhere (during the winter months) that when planting parsley (see my previous posts that show you how we grew it from seed this year), you want to plant extra in case of parsley worm. You certainly don’t want to kill them off! So I went out and planted parsley in the veggie garden as companions, and planted some in the flower bed for visual complexity. Okay so it wasn’t for the complexity, I had too much extra. BUT I did think it may bring the butterflies to THAT parsley since it was near flowers providing a bunch of nectar. And that plan worked! As far I’ve noticed, no caterpillars are in the veggie garden, but this little guy was found in the flower bed crawling along a parsley plant. A quick Google search confirmed my suspicions of it being a Parsley Worm.

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Parsley Worm found on the parsley in the flower bed.

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It looks like the caterpillar is quite happy, despite this heat wave.

And so are the veggies. I noticed in my morning walk around the yard recently just how many flowers are on our peppers! And we somehow still have tomato flowers despite this heat! I’ve tried to capture the plants in some photos for you all, although the flowers on the peppers were difficult to capture well:

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Thank you for reading! Tomorrow will hopefully be another canning day to wrap up Canning Week. Stay tuned!

Bonus Post of the Week!

Hello reader,

It’s been canning week and for a change of pace, here is a bonus post for you!

It’s been a good season for tomatoes in the garden so far (although it just never feels like there’s enough tomatoes!). We have had over 25 San Marzano tomatoes as of this week. I lost count after 25 or so, and am not sure what is considered normal yield, but we’re thrilled with the outcome! These were grown from seed and are still loaded with green paste tomatoes. We’ve also had a lot of the Pink Vernissage (also grown from seed). The hybrids (Better Boy and Jet Star) so far have been a bit more disappointing. Their disease resistance pales in comparison to the Pink Vernissage and San Marzano, and although we’ve had a few slicing tomatoes it doesn’t seem to be at the same rate. Hopefully that will change! They are huge plants, though, and there’s a lot of green tomatoes growing. Maybe they just take more time since they are larger tomatoes. I have to admit while we are observing the differences, I’m starting to think about heirloom varieties to try next year. Too soon? Maybe, but that’s all part of improving the your garden over the years! We even have pulled up a tomato plant that wasn’t healthy, I guess you could say it’s Garden Game Theory!

But I veer off track. You are probably wondering what the point of this bonus post is! Well, if you are having an abundance of tomatoes, but prefer to freeze instead of can, you’re in the right place.

For freezing your tomatoes, you can break it down to these 5 easy steps:

1) Rinse and clean the tomatoes

2) Boil the tomatoes with skin for a minute or two (if you’ve cut the tops off, you may see skin curling off when it’s ready to come out of the boiling water).

3) Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl or pan of ice water.

4) Peel the tomatoes and discard skin.

5) Fill a freezer bag and squeeze out the air. Label and date.

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The bag labeled “San Marzano” has a couple of the slicing tomatoes added as well. This oughta be a delicious sauce during the heart of Winter! If we can wait that long! Pink Vernissage will likely be added to chili. Yum!

That’s it! Easy enough, right? Good-bye to the days of finding tomatoes went bad because you couldn’t eat them fast enough! Good-bye to worrying about canning the beautiful red fruits!

 

Here’s a bonus link we found useful about freezing tomatoes to go with the bonus post:

http://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/garden-to-table/freezing-tomatoes

 

Have fun saving your garden goodies! Thank you for reading!

Preserving for a Rainy Day

Hello readers,

If you read my last post, you probably figured out that this next post is about how we canned our own relish! But as I’ve learned, relish isn’t just from cucumbers. I picked up a canning book years ago and put post-its in tons of the pages for when we would have a garden one day. It was mostly day dreaming back then. This week, I cracked open the book and was finally able to live out the dream! The only dilemma was which recipe to use? Well, with all of the squash we have been harvesting, I finally settled on Zucchini Relish. It gave a fresh spin on a classic, which drew me in and I kept returning to it. We STILL have squash and zucchini left, but I think we will keep giving it away to others and we will blanch and freeze a lot of it (adding to our growing abundance in the freezer). During the fall and winter, after the months of summer gardening have been fulfilled and the rainy days begin to return, it’ll be wonderful to look at what we have already at home that we preserved and froze ourselves. Except for the store bought ingredients we find we need for certain recipes, we’ll know exactly where the food came from and that it was not treated with any pesticide. And as we continue to learn, we’ll hopefully be able to decrease the amount of food we consume that has likely been treated with pesticides.

Back to that relish, though! I called my mom to come help me make sure it was done safely and followed the directions as closely as possible, but somehow we ended up with a lot extra. We aren’t sure why, but we were happy to come out with ten half pints and two pint jars. The zucchini of course was from our garden, but we also got to use a bell pepper we grew! Those peppers are going STRONG and are staring to sprout flowers all over the place – plus there are peppers galore! This may or may not be your next hint for canning week… (Wink, wink)

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That was a lot of chopping!

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Aren’t these half pint jars cute? Don’t worry – If you see bits of squash on the rim like I just noticed in the picture, this was BEFORE we wiped them down.

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Zucchini leftover! The one on the left is pictured in a previous post and measured around 14 1/2 inches long. I wonder how long the middle one is?! They sure are easy to lose track of in the garden!

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All done! Just listening to those POPS!

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The pint size jars – these were a separate batch because of the size difference.

Aren’t those beautiful? We can’t wait to dig in! I’m thinking of adding the relish to potato salad and as topping on chicken or hot dogs. What do you use relish with? Do you have any goodies you’re preserving? Feel free to share in the comments! And if you like what you’re reading, and would like to see more, subscribe, follow, and share!

Stay tuned for the next canning post, and there may even be a bonus post for the freezer thrown in just to mix things up a bit!

Happy canning (and freezing)! Preserve now, and save it for one of those rainy days. But remember be cautious, follow the directions of your recipes, and do your homework before beginning the adventure of canning. It’s worth the time and effort!

 

The recipe for zucchini relish was found in the book “Blue Ribbon Canning” by Linda J. Amendt. 

Canning Week Kick-Off!

Hello reader,

l’ve decided to deem this week “Canning Week”. We have had enough of some veggies to begin processing some of the harvest. Ya-hoo! I have so many memories of my mom canning during garden season. The memories of clinking glass, the aromas of the kitchen, and the popping of lids come flooding back during garden season. Now, I’m beginning to carry on her legacy (with a few questions I still find myself asking her). My husband and I bought ourselves a water bath canner, canning utensils, jars, and all of the ingredients we needed that we didn’t have on hand. There’ll be three canning days this week that I’ll slowly unveil to you all. The first one is a different process than I’ve ever experienced. Those popping lids? There is only silence this time. We’re using our freezer! That’s right, the freezer. No pressure canner, no water bath canner, only the freezer. I found a recipe through Taste of Home (link at the bottom of post) for… Drum roll please… PICKLES!

So there you have it. The first day of canning week is for Freezer Pickles.

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This is not a tutorial for how to do canning, so I’ll leave the directions to the recipe at the end of the post. We ended up with way too many onions so a lot were left out of our jars. And we almost forgot to check that our jars were freezer safe (luckily, they were!)

We can’t wait to take our first jar out of the freezer to try out! If they turn out, we can even start to share with friends and family. One of my favorite parts!

That wraps up the first canning day. We’re feeling a bit tuckered out from the prep of it all! There was a lot of cleaning and sanitizing involved in the process, but at least there was no actual cooking involved for this recipe! Our thermostat and A/C appreciated that, too.

What’s next for the canning week, you may ask? Here’s a hint: You’ll relish it.

 

 

Recipe for Freezer Pickles here:

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/freezer-cucumber-pickles

 

Hot Days of Summer

Hello reader,

The days are getting hotter and the garden is growing bigger! I’m beginning to go through a canning cookbook I have on hand and look through ideas of storing some of our bounty. We both are hoping to make some pickles, canned tomatoes, and maybe some picante sauce my mom used to make. As the garden continues to grow, so does our hope for a bountiful year! Admittedly, last year’s garden was unproductive and overall a sad outcome. Not one zucchini and maybe one or two tomatoes, with a lot of what I’m guessing was blossom end rot and sad peppers that never did much of anything. We planted late, didn’t amend our soil, and bought plants from the store (that were already in bloom and even growing fruits. Apparently it is a “no-no” to plant anything that is blooming. Should have picked off those blooms).

This year, we had more time to plan. We built raised beds, filled them with nutrient dense soil (trying to be careful not to over do nitrogen), grew most plants from seeds, and planted at a more decent time. We did NOT foresee the 2 foot paths not being wide enough! Plants have branched out and fallen over (I’m looking at you tomatoes and borage!), so it’s a bit trickier to get around now. Next year we will stake everything better and EARLIER! And I’m happy to report that the once stunted pepper seedlings are producing a lot of peppers. And although one of my hybrid tomatoes and a couple of pepper plants look to be fighting with disease, we are managing to get a good crop. We’ll be looking into what to do with the problem plants, starting with removing any questionable leaves/stems. I’m guessing that the tomatoes have just been so full and low to the ground for so long, that the airflow had been insuffiecient which invited some sort of disease to begin. It could also be that they are thirsty and not diseased, but either way we are clearing out the leaves/branches that are yellow. I can’t remember a year during my life that the garden didn’t have yellow tomato leaves, even while growing up.

Overall – this garden has been one of the best yet!

Check it out:

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San Marzano Tomato plant – branches have fallen over!

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Peppers, Chamomile, and Calendula.

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More pepper plants.

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Green bean patch. Extremely productive plants! Borage is buried in the back as a companion plant.

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A different angle of one of the pepper gardens. Purple basil is peeking out in the middle.

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Ozark Giant from Baker Creek Seeds.

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Jalapeno Mild from Ferrymorse.

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So many layers of different plants! Companion planting can make a garden visually interesting while helping it grow!

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Going to need to harvest some of the chamomile!

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Staked too late in the season and these have taken on the shape of a bush. They are on the ground (oops) but are still thriving. Pink Vernissage from Baker Creek Seed and San Marzano from Ferrymorse.

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Look at that depth! I think I see some red tomatoes in there.

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The tomatoes have fallen into our squash!

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San Marzano – Beautiful!

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The Jet Star and Better Boy are T – A – L – L! They outgrew their cages!

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Pepper and Chamomile – Best of friends!

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Another photo of the tomatoes that are now growing into the squash. They are tough to contain this year!

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Jet Star. SO GOOD. Put these on some take-out burgers. No shame.

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Strolling through the zucchini (yellow squash is in the front). These are not in raised beds, so they start at the ground and go up to the waist level!

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A size comparison – hand and zucchini leaves.

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Our first ripe San Marzano and our second Jet Star.

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Jet Star Tomato.

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San Marzano Tomato.

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Not sure what happened here, but it’s a fun shape! Also looks like our very own Peter Rabbit Cottontail tried it out.

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San Marzano – Now that’s what I’m talking about! Just look at all of that tomato pulp and minimal seed cavity! Delicious, too!

 

It’s been a tough garden season for many around here, so we are absolutely thrilled and feeling blessed for our outcome so far. Not bad for not using any pesticides, huh?

If you’re having a tough year for your garden as many are, don’t lose hope! Take notes during this season, and when the months become full of cold chills and hot cocoa, take out those notes and start researching how you can improve the next season. Each season is different and brings new challenges. We are always learning! We had an unproductive and sad garden last year – And already feel the joy of persevering. You can, too!

Have fun continuing to craft your garden!

 

Saving Lettuce Seed

Hello reader,

Yesterday, I said in my post that only the San Marzano and Pink Vernissage were beginning to ripen. Well, the Jet Star and Better Boy tomatoes must have overheard the news because when I went out to the garden after work, voilà! Not one, but TWO Jet Star tomatoes were orange! In a day or two, they’ll be ready to pick!

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MMMMH sandwiches!

I also took a new photo of all the veggies we have sitting around waiting to be eaten. There were more veggies to harvest today, and the bounty is beginning to stagger in at a slightly more steady rate.

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We have here (aside from the Flamimgo salt and pepper shakers I threw in for kicks) Fordhook Zucchini, possibly a Black Beauty Zucchini, yellow squash (I THINK it’s the Early Prolific), Green Vernisagge, Pink Vernisagge, the jalapeños from this past weekend, and cucumbers. I have no idea which variety of cucumber, because they have really intertwined together!

We have more on the way by the looks of it.

Check it out:

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Pictured above are San Marzano Tomatoes, Banana Pepper, Jalapeño Mild Pepper, and Cayenne Pepper. (San Marzano was Ferry-Morse purchased at store in town and the peppers are heirlooms from Baker Creek). All of these were grown from seed and you can see previous posts that track the journey of growing them! If you look back at April posts, you’ll notice they’ve grown a lot since then. We learned as we were transplanting them that the egg cartons had caused them to become root bound, but once they were removed from those and planted in the garden they REALLY took off!

On a different note, and arguably the main point of this post, we have lettuce seeds in abundance. The Buttercrunch heirloom variety that we ordered from Baker Creek in Mansfield, MO has officially gone to seed, and so we are scurrying around trying to get everything together to save it for next spring (or maybe even this fall).

The lettuce is extremely tall, and we ended up staking it to keep it standing up! The carrot going to seed (third picture down) already has fallen over, unfortunately, but that hasn’t slowed it down!

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So how do you save lettuce seed you might ask? We’re still learning as we go, but lettuce should be fairly easy as far as saving seeds goes. We are opening up the pods that look like dandelions, and the seeds that are dark in color are the ones we are saving. If the pod has dried out, that’s a sure sign that the seeds will be a dark brown!

We are currently looking into how to store the seeds, and will post an update later. One we have our seeds saved, we hope to participate in a seed exchange nearby and trade our seeds for some others (while keeping some of ours to also plant).

Until then, keep up the good work of crafting your garden!

Saturday Morning

Hello reader,

Yesterday, June 8th, we took advantage of the cooler morning temps. It’s officially summer, and with the season comes hot days and less rain. So in the morning, we try to harness the time and stroll through the garden. We had our third harvest for Cherokee Wax green beans and it was the biggest harvest yet, I dare to say! We also were able to pick three more jalapeño peppers (the first one was previously picked), and our first ripe tomato of the season was ready with more on the way! We split the little tomato and we can’t wait for more! It was the heirloom Pink Vernissage and was bigger than the normal cherry tomato size, but will be great for salads or tacos. We also see a San Marzano beginning to ripen. No signs of ripening with our Jet Star or Better Boy as of yet, but they have grown to be almost as tall as us, so I’d venture to say they are 5 ft or taller (although we haven’t measured them). They have tomatoes filling out their foliage as are the rest of the varieties.
We’ve also noticed banana peppers, more jalapeños, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, more cucumbers (we recently picked a couple small ones), and more squash. However, the squash is usually covered with bees hovering around the blossoms and they become coated in yellow pollen. Since we want to leave them to their bees-ness, we harvest squash at night. Last night we picked a couple more and there is more still growing.
We also recently discovered a bunny nest next to our squash – so cute! Luckily, the lettuce and carrots have already been harvested, but I’m sure they’ll find other things to nibble on. Perhaps we should be creating a “Peter Rabbit” garden theme with statues and a scarecrow that consists of wooden stakes and a small blue jacket. A fairy tale come to life!

I couldn’t help conducting a photoshoot of our most recently harvested veggies before blanching and freezing the green beans. So, for all of you who can’t get enough of garden photos (like me), here you go:

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Spring Blessings and Summer Wishings

Hello reader,

We have been staying super busy this gardening season, and am sorry to say I’ve fallen behind on my posts! I’m going to attempt to condense the past few months into some garden updates for you all.

May 3rd, I boiled and froze spinach. It was our “big harvest” although we only planted a little bit of spinach. It was cool and raining, but the spinach was begging to be harvested! And it was so worth trekking  in the mud in my flip flops to harvest that spinach. The taste was a bit richer than store bought. So delicious! We’d already been harvesting off and on, giving some away, and cooked a delicious dish of spinach Alfredo as well as a hot spinach artichoke dip. The possibilities are endless! Now we are looking forwarded to using our own frozen spinach in future recipes.

May 23rd I picked our first carrot – and it was BEAUTIFUL! By May 31st, we picked almost all of the remaining carrots. We used the carrot tops in a homemade soup (see the recipe below), a pesto, we cooked carrots, and we froze carrots. What a blessing they were! It was my first success growing carrots, and I can’t wait to try saving the seeds to grow them again next year.

May 29th we harvested our first beet after a brief mini vaca. By June 4th we were roasting beets, and they were absolutely delicious and tasted like a gift from the earth. We were pleasantly surprised at our success with all of these veggies! Now, we have jalapeños that are ready to harvest, have started harvesting yellow squash and zucchini, and our first tomatoes are ripening. We are hoping that this is only the beginning and that the rest of summer is as kind as spring has been! What a blessing a garden turned out to be this year.

 

I think that sums up all of the gardening news. Here are some photos to enjoy!

 

Garden Soup Recipe

Author: Tara

Ingredients:

2 Tbls oil
1 onion
1-2 tsp garlic (1-2 cloves)
2-3 parsnips, chopped
1-2 cups carrots, diced
2-3 celery, diced
2 cups greens of choice, chopped
1-2 cans pinto beans
Large can diced tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes to taste)
4 small zucchini or 2 large, diced
1 package sliced mushrooms
7 cups chicken broth
1-2 handfuls fresh parsley, chopped
1-2 large potatoes, diced
Poultry seasoning – to taste
Paprika – to taste
Thyme – to taste
Marjoram – to taste
Salt and pepper – to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in large stockpot. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook until they are more tender and fragrant. Add parsnips, greens, and mushrooms and cook a couple minutes more. Next, add the rest of the ingredients, adding more spices as needed. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then summer until the vegetables are fork tender. Taste and adjust as needed. Enjoy!

 

Have a wonderful garden season as you continue to craft your garden!

 

Please note – If you are uncertain about eating the tops of carrots or beets, they would probably be great for composting or tossing outside for wildlife. We chose to cook with them after trying to research further about eating these, but it’s not for everyone.