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Alice herbs

Alice

herbs

stevia, lemon verbena, julep mint, oregano, marjoram, 3x lemon basil and lime basil mix

(Click here for more on herb drying. Apologies for the quick camera phone pics. I had to catch her in the act! I decided to try to dry herbs this year on the wall art behind the kitchen table because there seem to be too many to fit in the kitchen window like last year. P.S. These words don’t count. It’s still Wordless Wednesday. Shut up.)

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RUSSIAN ROSE TOMATO

russian rose tomato

Russian Rose tomato

Got seeds from: @betweenthelimes
Planting info: I started this from seed and it is now planted in the raised bed reserved for tomatoes. It gets the best possible conditions in my yard: raised bed with the most sun, and the one that is first in the soaker hose line so it gets the most water.
Beauty points: I wish I had taken a pre-slice picture of the first one I picked. It was gorgeous and huge! Size varies from huge to medium, but I don’t think there’s been a blemish on any of them. You can pick them when there’s still some green striping in the shoulder so they don’t go bad on the vine.
Taste: Mild and sweet, not tangy. Better with salt. But the consistency…the first bite I took I thought it was disgusting because it was all meat! Hardly any juice or gel at all. So at first I thought it was gross, but then the second bite I took, I liked it. Because I really like the part right by the skin most on all tomatoes, anyway.
Other considerations: The meatiness of this tomato means it holds up to slicing very well. So to me, this would make a great sandwich tomato, or could be used for tomato salads etc where you want the tomato to be able to kind of stand up to some punishment and still be a little cube or slice of tomato.
Will I grow it again? I think so. I’ll have to either save seeds or purchase some, but I really like the consistency of this one. It’s almost like a roma/paste tomato, but a slicer version. I like it!

I’m so confused. I was all prepared to can this year so I could enjoy my tomato sauce and my salsa over the winter without having to take up freezer space. I figured I’d make it like normal, maybe add some lemon juice for acidity, then can them up as per normal. Now I’m reading that basically I should under no circumstances do that because the acidity won’t be known for sure unless I call in a scientist, and I might kill everyone who eats my salsa in January.

But to me, there is little point in canning if I am not canning my own recipe! If I do say so myself, I make an awesome salsa and tomato sauce, and I want to enjoy *that* over the winter. Not some other person’s recipe.

So…what do I do? Any ideas? Can I can my own stuff or what?

Just for kicks, since I just made a big batch of salsa and took pics with my FANCY new camera my hubby bought me for my bday last week, here’s a more step-by-step of the salsa recipe linked above. I make this every few weeks over the summer. This ingredient list might help you decide if I can can or not, too? The below made the equivalent of about 2 jars of salsa.

INGREDIENTS:
-15 medium ripe slicer and/or roma tomatoes
-large handful of cherry tomatoes (I am using sungold)
-7-10 peppers, depending on how hot you want things (I am using jalapeno, cayenne red and green, and habanero orange and green). If you don’t have enough peppers, substitute Sriracha hot sauce to make up the difference.
-about 3/4 cup of sugar
-about a tablespoon of salt
-black pepper to taste
-sprinkle of onion powder
-about a tablespoon of adobo, taco, or mexican seasoning
-this time, I also added a large handful of lemon balm because it needed to be cut back. Add cilantro if you like it (I dislike it a lot)
-possible extras: corn, black beans, chickpeas, pineapple, peach

tomatoes in the sink

peppers sungold

cayenne, habanero, jalapeno, sungold tomatoes

I highly recommend a cutting board with a nice reservoir for slicing tomatoes (this one was actually a wedding gift to my parents). Mine will be full of juice by the time I slice all these. I slice mine to the size pictured below before putting them in a large pot. The peppers I chop much more finely. (Hint: slice tomatoes with a serrated knife. It’s way easier.)
slicing tomatoes

After your tomatoes are all sliced, add the dry ingredients, then stir it all up and turn your burner on medium. Let sit covered until it starts to simmer a lot or just comes to a boil.
salsa ingredients

salsa-stirred

mixed


salsa-simmering

simmering

Once it’s been simmering for a while, turn the burner off, leave the cover on, and let it sit until it cools down a bit. It’s all ready to jar up now (taste first to make sure you don’t want to add either more hot sauce or sugar before letting it completely cool) – you just have to strain it out. I really need a large mesh colander for this and will eventually get one, but for now I just use a small mesh strainer and/or a slotted spoon, combined with holding the lid on with a tiiiiny gap and draining the whole pot. I really need to remember the colander next time I go to WalMart. If you want, save the juices! They still have all that spicy, tomato-y goodness. Use it as a marinade, or put it on low heat for a while, let it thicken, and use it as a sauce.

salsa

all ready to drain and eat

For now, since I don’t know if I can can it or not, I am just storing it in the fridge like normal. I did put some in a jar for a friend’s birthday, but it’s not “canned” so it will have to stay in the fridge. I also went ahead and froze another batch that had been in the fridge for a while. So much salsa!!

salsa-jar

jarred but not canned salsa


salsa-freeze

salsa to freeze

So….can I can my salsa and tomato sauce or can I not can them? Help.

ground cherry breadI needed *something* to do with the tons of ground cherries I had, and I finally decided on bread. We don’t use a lot of jam or jelly, so that would have sat around for a while. And I’m still not sure how I feel about them as a pie.

What are ground cherries? Related to the tomatillo, they are very small fruits inside a husk. Remove the husk after the fall to the ground and are ripe. The golden fruit inside is pineappley, citrusy, and a little creamy tasting.

This recipe is basically the bread recipe (search page for “bread” – so many recipes on there!) I found on this great GardenWeb thread. Lots of other great sounding recipes in there, too (I also made a modified version of one of the ground cherry sauces using GCs, sherry, and sugar). I was going to use my tried and true banana bread recipe from my mom’s early 1970’s Betty Crocker cookbook (and switch banana for ground cherries), but I figured I’d switch it up. This one is simpler just because there are less ingredients, and it’s also very buttery and yummy. Yet still acceptable as a breakfast food because it has FRUIT in it….right?

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk (I used skim)
1 egg
1 stick of butter OR 1/2 cup margarine (I’ve used both)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed ground cherries (and a little pineapple if you want)
whipped cream cheese (or regular) for serving

Mix together milk and sugar. Add in egg and other ingredients. The batter will be a little runny.

ground cherries

Ground cherries unhusked and husked. All of these went into the bread.

Bake in greased loaf pan at 350°F for about 45 minutes, or in greased muffin pan for about 15 minutes. Cake tester or toothpick should come out clean.
ground cherry bread

The first time I made it, we had a few slices of leftover pineapple from making my dad’s birthday pineapple upsidedown cake. I’d heard so many times that ground cherries were pineappley that I blended some of those in as well. Tasted great! Serve when still warm with some whipped cream cheese on top and it’s amazing. It’s good room temperature, but I found after taking some for lunch that it’s also good cold, which is kind of interesting.

NOTE: I was going to include a better glamour shot of the loaf I just took out of the oven, but it stuck to the pan. Still delicious, but not photo-worthy. So make sure you grease the corners of the pan well! (Loaf pictured is the first loaf with GCs and pineapple. Today’s was just GCs.)

ground cherry bread

Let me know if you make it!

I’m trying to keep track of what I grow this year, so that I can decide if I want to grow certain things again next year. These “veggie reviews” will be categorized as such on the blog. I’ve found them useful on other blogs, so hopefully someone finds these useful as well! One thing I’ve consistendly found useful in this regard is Hannah’s tomato tastings, so I’ll model somewhat after that.

lemon spacemaster

Lemon and Spacemaster cucumbers

LEMON CUCUMBER
Got seeds from: I can’t remember! Either @getinthegarden, @snarkyvegan, or @betweenthelimes. I forgot to mark it on my seed spreadsheet. Oops!
Planting info: I mislabeled a spacemaster as a lemon, so I only ended up with one plant (oops). I planted it in the old veggie garden, which is hard, rocky soil (amended with topsoil and compost). It doesn’t get a lot of water because I mostly rely on rain, but I have been hitting it with the sprinkler since we’re in a drought. It’s growing up an upside-down tomato trellis and is still pretty small (maybe 2-foot long vine).
Beauty points: Very pretty! The have little hairy spikes, but these rub off easily when washing it. They’re a very bright streaky yellow. I expected them to be pale.
Taste: Very mild and a bit citrusy. The skin is thin and, in my opinion, doesn’t need to be removed. Also good in vinegar, but of course you lose the intricacies of flavor. To really enjoy this one, it’s best served simply sliced.
Other considerations: Pick them when they’re about the size of a lemon (duh). If you let them get too big, they get more seedy.
Will I grow it again? It was a bit seedy, but that means I’ll have plenty of seeds to harvest…as long as I get another cucumber. I’ve only had one so far, and I was juuuust about to pick a second when either a bunny or squirrel ate it overnight. I think I will grow this one again, though. It’s good enough and unusual enough that I can enjoy it. The only way I wouldn’t grow it is if I can find the seeds of the delicious white cucumber by CSA grew last year. I’ll have to crawl through old emails and see if I can find the name.

lemon spacemaster

Lemon and Spacemaster cucumbers sliced

SPACEMASTER CUCUMBER
Got seeds from: Botanical Interests
Planting info: These are supposed to be good for small spaces. I planted two in the raised beds beside the luffa. They get watered from the soaker hose and are growing up two upside-down tomato trellises.
Beauty points: Not gorgeous. They have small spikes that can be rubbed off while washing them.
Taste: Tastes like a cucumber! Very thin and not at all bitter skin. Not too seedy, would make decent pickles, I think.
Other considerations: None, really. They’re been growing very well and don’t seem to have any issues.
Will I grow it again? Definitely! I may try another cucumber next year for picking as well, but this one is definitely staying on the list.

This is a more general “veggie reviews”. Not going over specific kids of veggies, but just what veggies I will and will not plan on growing next year in the garden. Might help you if you’ve got a similar garden situation. For reference, my garden is 4 raised beds and one rocky, in-ground bed about the size of a raised bed. The in-ground bed hasn’t gotten a lot of water this year as we’ve had a drought (I give it some sprinkler time as needed), but the raised beds are watered by a soaker hose daily. I of course of have pictures of all of these plants, but don’t feel like searching for them! Use the search box at left to find out more about what I’ve done with each of these throughout the year.

Beans
Grew this year: royal burgundy, pencil pod, dragon tongue, maxibel bush, a couple others
No. As much as I absolutely LOVE fresh beans from the garden, I don’t think I’m going to grow them again next year, other than maybe a plant or two to snack on fresh beans from while outside. I haven’t had great results from the beans I’ve planted. They look scraggly and I don’t catch the beans until they’ve gone hard, or the beans are skinny and don’t taste great (heat, maybe?). And in order to really have enough beans to occasionally use as a side dish, I’d really have to have a whole bed of beans. Beans are readily available from local farmers, both Amish and non, so I think I’ll just get my beans from them next year. The ones I most frequently snack on, dragon tongue and royal burgundy, I may grow a plant or two of.

peas3Peas
Grew this year: Wando and another variety I forget. They tasted and performed the same.
Yes! I so enjoyed growing my own peas this spring, and because they’re just a spring crop, you pull them and they don’t take up space the whole summer. Next year I will plant more peas and plan better where they go (to account for them being replaced with something else), but I will for sure grow them again.

Carrots
Grew this year: tonda di parigi, danvers half long
Yes! I lost about half of my carrots this year because hornworms ate the foliage off of all the ones in my raised bed, so they stopped growing. Consequently, I didn’t get any of the little round tonda di parigi carrots I was so excited about! The carrots I planted in a large pot and kept in a more shaded area did very well, though, so I plan on doing that next year and using raised bed space for something else.

radishRadishes and beets
Grew this year: early scarlet globe radish, detroit dark red beet
Yes! I am also going to try to grow these again in the fall, and will be more conscious of sowing more next year in succession, so I get more than one crop. Both were very easy to grow, weren’t bothered by pests, and tasted great. Plus they are another spring crop like the peas that you get to plant something else in after they’re done (again, I will plan better for that next year). May try some more varieties of each next year.

Peppers
Grew this year: sweet banana, cayenne, jalapeno, marconi, chili, habanero, fish, sweet red cherry
Yes! Though I’m not a fan of peppers on their own, I LOVE making my own salsa over the summer and these guys are a key ingredient. Unfortunately, I lost ALL the peppers I’d started from seed this year in the Great Plant Fry of 2010, so all the peppers I have were from a plant exchange or purchased as seedlings. Botanical Interests is having a free shipping deal this weekend (friend them on facebook for details), so I am planning on making a small purchase, and peppers are in the mix.

Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts

Grew this year: Di cicco and Long Island Improved
Ask me after the fall. Cabbage worms ate the hell out of them in the spring, then it got too hot too fast, so I pulled them and gave up.

Ground Cherries
Grew this year: Whatever kind @snarkyvegan gave me?
Yes! I’ve really enjoyed these weird little plants. I’ve already made a sauce that I used on turkey and last night on my portobello burger (hubby had jalapeno jack burgers) and very delicious bread that I need to share the recipe for. I’m going to try to save some seeds, but if not I’ll purchase more. These are tasty and there’s no way I’d find them if I didn’t grow them myself.

Zucchini
Grew this year: Black Beauty
Maybe. I’m not a big zuc fan and hubby doesn’t like them. I just bought these because Lowe’s was having a sale. They’re not producing like crazy (yet?), prob because they’re in the old garden and haven’t gotten a lot of water.

Okra
Grew this year: whatever Lowe’s had
Nope. Just like the beans, you have to plant too many to get anything worthwhile. I’ve gotten 3 so far and ended up composting them bc what do you do with 3 okra? Also the only thing I ever do with them is fry them, so frozen or random local is fine.

Pumpkin
Grew this year: the seed that came with the compost
Maybe. I grew this one on accident and it’s kind of fun. Only one pumpkin on there and I don’t see more blooms, but again it’s in the garden that hasn’t gotten any water. I like my little pumpkin, but I don’t think it’ll make it to Halloween 😦

Luffa
Grew this year: luffa from Botanical Interests
Maybe. I was SO SUPER EXCITED about this, but the dang thing still hasn’t fruited! I don’t get it. I had just grand plans for Christmas presents! So we’ll see. I’m giving you a chance, luffa.

lemon spacemaster
Cucumbers
Grew this year: spacemaster and lemon
Yes! I adore cucumbers and the ones in the raised bed are producing like crazy. The lemon isn’t doing as well, so next year I’ll make sure to plant all cucumbers in a raised bed with plenty of room for climbing.

Lettuce
Grew this year: Baby greens mesclun mix from Botanical Interests, black seeded simpson lettuce
Yes! But next year I’ll plan it better. This is something else that gets pulled when it gets too hot, and this year it got so hot so quick I really only got one harvest before it started to bolt and get bitter. Next year I will plant earlier and more in succession to get more harvests, and I will also plan for them being pulled up by planting them in the bed with the other spring crops.

Tomaotes
Grew this year: Black from Tula, Eva purple ball, speckled roman, better boy, early girl, sungold, russian rose
Let’s not be silly. Of course! I lost a bunch in the plant fry, but I lucked out and still ended up with a nice selection between stores, family, and plant exchanges. I’ll be doing separate reviews of some of these, but tomatoes will definitely get at least one bed in the garden next year as well.

#wordlesswednesday

luffa

#wordlesswednesday

pumpkin

[hint: search my blog for ‘mystery curcubit’ for more info on this saga.]

#wordlesswednesday

NOTE: Crabs not pictured.

…that problem being that the plant is HUGE and there are no luffas on it. (Yes, it’s the luffa/loofah like the sponge. It’s not a sea creature, it’s a GOURD! I know, amazing, right?)

I had 2 planted on this trellis, and I was kind of glad one ended up kicking the bucket, because this one is huge! It was planted at the same time as the 2 cucumbers next to it and there is no comparison. Well…except for the fact that the cucumber plants are actually making a lot of cucumbers.

cucumber

There are a lot of flowers on the luffa (which I only see in the AM (the flowers not the whole plant)) and there are always ants and other pollinators over there, but I have looked and looked and see no sign of actual fruit.

proof of pollintor

There are just little clusters of things that I assume are to-be-flowers (you can see them in the pic around the flower) at the ends of all the vines where the tendril out. Any ideas why there are no luffas? I was all excited about this plant! I planned to make some luffa sponges for gifts for xmas.

At least it makes pretty pictures...

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