Category Archives: preserving the harvest

The New Superfood Sweet Potato Leaves

Even ornamental sweet potato leaves and flowers are edible. PBH

People eat sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, leaves around the world. While the tubers are a good source of carbohydrates, the leaves are rich in vitamin B, ß­carotene, iron, calcium, zinc and protein. Young, tender leaves are a good addition to green salads. The edible flowers are a beautiful garnish.

Sweet potatoes are the earliest thing I grow. Just impale a sweet potato  with toothpicks or skewers and plunge it into a glass of water.  Soon you will have fresh greens at a time of year when leafy vegetables are in short supply.

Plus, you are growing sweet potato slips ready in time for  planting season.

Checking on a tray of homegrown sweet potatoes, I discovered as few potatoes were sprouting. So, I decided to start growing them in water jars just to see something green.

Found in the storage bin like this. Sprouted and ready to grow ready to grow. PBH

For the past two years, I’ve ordered sweet potato slips from a certified grower.  I recommend that you do that so you can try a variety of sweet potatoes and choose your favorite for taste and compatibility in you garden.

This year, three varieties will grow the full circle. Starting plants from 2017 sweet potato harvest to growing the 2018 sweet potato crop. The complete cycle for my homegrown organic potatoes.

Planting and growing a whole new crop from my own sweet potato.This years crop is White Hayman, Beauregard and, Carolina Ruby. Grown from my stock, but I will be trying more varieties next year.

These companies have delivered strong, healthy starts to my door at just the right time.

Steele Plant Company

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

The entire sweet potato plant is edible: the tuber, leaves, stems and even the lovely flowers. PBH

Timing is everything when it comes to sweet potatoes.  First, takes 6 weeks to get sweet potato slips that are ready to be planted in warm garden soil. Then, it may take 100 days or more to grow a crop.  That’s a long growing season.

When the sprouts are about 5 to 6 inches long, it’s time to remove them from the potato. Grasp a sprout near the base and pull sideways. The sprout will pull away from the potato.

Place all the sprouts in another jar of water. In a very few days you will see little white roots begin to form and quickly grow from the sprouts. In about two weeks, the roots are ready to plant.

Pot them, or plant directly into the garden. Keep them well watered and weeded until established. Vines will grow quickly, smothering out weeds.

Growing my own sweet potato slips saves the cost of buying and shipping. But, I like the idea of completing the full growing cycle and being self-sufficient. It’s assuring to know where my food comes from.

Sweet Potato Greens

the new super food

Stems and leaves can be consumed as you grow slips, or harvested in the garden. PBH

Researchers report that sweet potato leaves are an excellent source of antioxidative polyphenolics, among them anthocyanins and phenolics, and are superior to other commercial vegetables. Harvest the top, tender first 4 inches of the vine for fresh eating raw.

Sweet potato leaves contain as many vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as spinach. The oxalic acid in sweet potato leaves is less than one ­fifth that of spinach. The leaves are not as bitter as chard or kale and they have a softer texture.

Eat sweet potato leaves as a vegetable, in noodles and breads and as a tea. Try cooking them like you do spinach or chard. Harvest greens  about once a month, April through October.

Cooking tips: Saute the leaves with a little onion and garlic. Or, stir-fry and season with a little maple syrup.

Also, consider these sources:

Once giant sweet potatoes are cooked, they can be portioned out to refrigerate or freeze as a fast addition to any meal

Growing car parts: The Toyota Motor Company, in coopera­tion with Mitsui Company, is producing biodegradable plastics from sweet potatoes . Nearly 30 percent of Toyota’s plastic automobile parts will be replaced with biodegradable ones within ten years. Toyota Motor Company also envisions sweet potato use in the future as an energy source, much like alcohol and hydrogen.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff  Cooperative Extension Program. 

What did you grow for dinner?

Aren’t you glad you grew this?

Sun Gold sweet tangerine-orange hybrid cherry tomatoes.

Cherry tomatoes are the first to ripen in the garden. When the full size tomatoes, start to ripen, the little cherries and pears continue to prolifically produce all summer until first frost.

Suddenly you have more tomatoes than you can eat. Time to get out the dehydrator. Halved cherries  make great “sun-dried” tomatoes. The sweet, dried essence of these fruits is a gourmet garden bonus.

Dinner tonight is a Mediterranean style pasta dish made with homegrown sun-dried tomatoes, and colorful bell peppers.

It’s cold outside. My abandoned garden patch looks stark and lonely out there in the single digit weather.

Inside the warm kitchen, I’m cooking up some of the fruits of my labor. Thank heavens I dried the overabundance of cherry tomatoes. They are a gourmet treat too expensive for my budget.

You can grow that! And now is the time. Order seeds for tomato plants. The sun-dried cherry tomatoes make every dish richer, even canned tomato soup.

I ordered Tricolor Cherry Tomatoes, Garden Candy and Heirloom Mini Tomatoes Red & Yellow Pear from Renee’s Garden 

In my zone 6b garden in southeast Missouri, I’ll start tomato and pepper seed in mid March. Start seed 6 to 8 weeks before planting out doors. I start tomatoes under grow lights, Grandmother started seeds in a Dixie cup on the window sill.

To find your plant hardiness zone, simply type in a ZIP Code at the USDA Plant Hardiness web page.

Mini tomatoes are the first to ripen. They will be your first homegrown tomato this summer. As the full size tomatoes come on, begin dehydrating the cherries and pears.

The intense tomato flavor of dried tomatoes is a flavor boost to pizza, salad dressings, and soups.

Tonight’s dinner will have tomatoes and peppers from last summer’s garden.

Pasta salad served hot or cold.

Recipe: Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Main: cooked pasta   (2 ounces dry pasta per person)

Add sun-dried tomatoes, bell pepper, mixed olives. (1 cup of each vegetable)

Dress with Lemon juice and olive oil, you favorite salad dressing, or balsamic vinegar.

Garnish with a handful of fresh, chopped herbs and a tablespoon or two  of toasted nuts or seeds.

Make it your own –  Add meats and cheeses, if you like. Anything you would find on an antipasto plate, could be added. Salami, mini mozzarella cheese balls, canned tuna, giardiniera.

A Black Beauty by any other name

Sweet Bell Pepper Finale

The name of this pepper is Purple Beauty. But I think it should be named Black Beauty. They are so pretty, I’ve left them on the plant until the last-minute. Growing profusely, bell peppers love the cooler days at the end of summer,

The sturdy stemmed plant grew to about 2 1/2′ tall with plenty of leaves to shade the peppers from the sun.

This bell pepper grows on compact plants producing blocky, deep-purple peppers. The mild, sweet flavored peppers are loaded with vitamins C, A and beta carotene.

Purple beauty matures to bright red.

I grew one plant of several varieties this year, including red,  yellow and chocolate-colored bell peppers. The purple beauty was the most prolific. Plant production really picked up after the temperatures cooled.

Bell peppers don’t have to be staked. The stakes are just a precaution because a sudden wind storm can snap a loaded pepper plant.

Purple BeautyCapsicum annuum is thick-walled, mild flavored and juicy like all bell peppers. These shiny dark peppers turn green when cooked. Close your eyes and you can’t taste the difference between green, purple or red peppers.

The purple pepper is so dark it looks black.

All the peppers, large and small must be picked before the first fall frost.

If there are more peppers than can be used fresh, chop and freeze them for winter use. I chop or cut the bells into strips and freeze.

This assortment of frozen chopped peppers are perfect to add to soup, stew, chili and casseroles. Bell pepper strips are perfect to use in fajitas and stir-fry.

I grew these black bells from Peaceful Valley organic seed.

Heaps of peppers, a rainbow of colorful bells and every Anaheim and Poblano had to brought in before the first freeze. There are several ways to quickly preserve those peppers while they are still crisp and fresh.

I canned a couple of half pint jars of roasted red peppers. Most bell peppers are chopped and frozen. Chilies are roasted, peeled, chopped and frozen into ice-cube trays.

Yellow peppers will make a tasty golden salsa.

Roasted red peppers are perfect for pasta dishes and antipasto trays. Chopped frozen peppers, can be dropped directly into pots of chili, vegetable soups and baked dishes. Roasted chili peppers will brighten winter casseroles, enchiladas, stews.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 10/19

Basket of Gold

Pineapple tomatoes, eggplant, golden bell peppers.

The harvest basket is loaded with end-of-the-season vegetables. Four of the tomatoes hover just around the one-pound mark.

One of my favorite heirloom tomatoes. The beautiful yellow fruit with red marbling through the flesh. The flavor is very sweet and fruity; good yields!

Simply replace red tomatoes with yellow in your favorite recipe.

One slice of these big tomatoes will cover a slice of bread. Tomato sandwiches, BLT’s and fresh eating are where these tomatoes shine. The late glut of 1-pound globes will also make a small batch of golden salsa.

 

 

 

 

 

About the Seed

I purchased the original Pineapple tomato seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This year, I am going to save seed. These are beautiful tomatoes, though not always high yielding. Try them.

These are big plants that need heavy staking. Pineapple tomatoes are late season producers, sometimes weighing as much as 2 pounds. While some tomato plants succumbed to blight, this plant remained healthy all season.

Also grown from seed:

Long yellow eggplant is a mild, prolific Asian eggplant. The peppers are sweet Golden Cal Wonder Peppers.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 10/13

Late tomatoes picked early.

Cooler weather slows the ripening process, stretching the season.

One of the reasons I still have tomatoes in October is that the transplants went into the ground in July, ensuring an extended season.

These tomatoes were picked early and green, but with a little color. The only reason to pick them early is to keep the squirrels away from the last of the home-grown tomatoes. Pick tomatoes any time after they have a little color and they will continue to ripen.

In a few days, this tomato will be red and ripe.

I am not a fan of fried green tomatoes, or any fried food. So, picking tomatoes in hope of  home-grown heirlooms is our preference. Later, when the frost warning is posted, I’ll gather green tomatoes for a green tomato salsa as the 2017 tomato finale.

By mid October, garden tomatoes can be long gone, especially in drought years. We are lucky to have tomatoes in the garden, in containers and even a dwarf tomato in planter boxes on the deck. Most  are eaten fresh, but the cherry tomatoes go in the dehydrator.

Dehydrated cherry tomato halves are my version of the too-pricey gourmet specialty, sun-dried tomatoes. The sweet and intensely flavored tomato bits will go into soups, sauces and chili this winter.

It is time to start collecting seed from of my biggest and best tomatoes. The pantry is full of salsa, pasta sauces, tomato soup, and pickled tomatoes for winter use. I have  grown, canned, dried and frozen every tomato our family will eat this year.

Favorite tomato recipes on my pinterest page. Tomato Everything and Canning.

Plus, read Ten tips for the biggest tomatoes.

In 3 days, these yellow-green tomatoes will be as bright orange and juicy as the 4th tomato.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 8/20

A rainbow of peppers both sweet, mild bells and mildly hot Anaheim and poblanos.

Yellow eggplants, chocolate, red and black bell peppers, butternut squash and Anaheim peppers

Today’s harvest basket is full of colorful peppers and eggplant. That means it’s time for ratatouille, a French vegetable dish  hardy enough to serve as an entrée.

I now have all the herbs and vegetables for ratatouille. There are faster but not better ways to make this French peasant stew, but Julia Child’s recipe is simply the best. Find the Ratatouille recipe in her cookbook Mastering The Art of French Cooking.

Try this vegetable dish that has summer squash, eggplant, and bell pepper tied together by a fresh tomato sauce. I add a few more herbs than Julia does but her classic recipe can be a springboard for your own version.

Green, red and black peppers all on the same plant.

All the pretty bell peppers are meant to be eaten fresh or chopped and frozen for winter cooking. I make lots of stuffed peppers and freeze some for quick comfort food this fall. Depending on the degree of ripeness, bell three peppers start out green and color as they ripen.

We always grow more than we can eat fresh so there will be plenty for freezing. Most peppers are chopped and can be added frozen to any cooked recipe. Also, some are cut in strips to use in fajitas and wraps.

Roasted peppers are quickly blistered on the grill, outside.

I’m roasting and peeling the hot peppers, Anaheim and poblanos. What we don’t use fresh, will be frozen in cubes for winter use. Many are going into pint jars of salsa.

Each ice-cube square in the plastic tray holds about the equivalent  of 1 or 2 roasted and chopped chili peppers. The frozen pepper cubes can be added to soups, chili, casseroles.

If you are growing heirloom peppers, it’s easy to save seed. Be sure to let one stay on the plant until big and fully ripe.

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Today’s Double Harvest Basket 6/20 & 6/26

2017  Garlic Harvest in a zone 6, southeast Missouri garden. The bulbs are ready to lift mid to late June every year.  A week later, the garlic harvest has doubled.

Garlic 6/20

Freshly dug garlic needs to dry and cure before storage. The scapes go into white wine vinegar.

Perhaps the smallest garlic harvest I’ve had in years. There is one more little late patch to harvest, but this is the bulk of the 2017 garlic crop.

Pickled garlic mellows to a very mild flavor with time.

The garlic heads are smaller this year. After the garlic cries on the covered porch for a couple of days, I braid the bigger heads. The rest is roasted or pickled.

While cloves of garlic are bound for jars of kosher dills, Small cloves of pickled garlic are ideal for antipasta plates and veggie/pickles dishes.

More Garlic 6/26

Late harvest garlic was much bigger. This harvest weighed about 50% more

There are now 50 to 60 good-sized heads, That’s about a years worth because we use about a head every week of the year. Sometimes less, sometimes more, plus a lot goes into sauces, pickles, and roasted then frozen.

1 week later we’ve doubled the garlic harvest.

Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the spring bonus for growing your own garlic.

The first garlic related harvest of the season is clipping the scapes, or flower heads, from the plants.

Garlic scapes were plentiful because I planted mostly hard neck garlic. One week, I found garlic scapes at the farmers market for $2 a bunch. One of my favorite seasonal meals garlic scape pesto.

I add a few scapes into a bottle of good white wine vinegar. By this winter, it will become a premium herb vinegar. It’s mellowed garlic vinegar is almost sweet.

Sexy Food

Make pesto using garlic scapes instead of, or in addition to, basil. Serve with Pappardelle, broad, flat pasta noodles, similar to wide fettuccine. (The name derives from the verb “pappare”, to gobble up.) This really is OMG food.

If I was served a dish like fresh garlic scape pesto over homemade Pappardelle, it would be unforgettable gold star dish. It’s adult rated food. Once you put it in your mouth, you will know how an Italian dish can be 4 Star And x rated at the same time.

To Make Pesto: Puree the garlic scapes, sunflower seeds, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a food processor until finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil through the opening.

How to Grow and Harvest Organic Garlic

Gently lift garlic and move to the shade.

Growing your own garlic is easy and takes very little space.

Your also get to select the type of garlic you grow, very mild or hot and pungent.

Save your biggest and best garlic head to replant in the fall. Never buy garlic again.

These smaller heads of garlic are roasted. Then, the softened bulbs squeezed into teaspoonful portions and frozen for later use.

Mild, roasted garlic is not over powering or hot to the taste. It easily blends into any recipe. Perfect for pasta sauces or garlic toast. Try it. You will never be with out fresh, local garlic.

I purchased my garlic from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They have a variety of hard and soft neck garlic. While I keep the best variety that I grow, It’s fun to try other types of garlic. I tend select the milder varieties and long keepers.

This fall, plant a variety of garlic. That imported no-name variety purchased at the grocery store will be your last choice.

 

 

 

 

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6 /12, 6/16

Squash blossoms and herbs

No more complaining about too many zucchini. Pick the flowers to prevent zucchini squash overload.

Pick zucchini blossoms in the morning.

Today’s harvest basket is loaded with big yellow flowers, blooms from the zucchini plant.

Fragile and short-lived squash blossoms are pricey, if you can find them at the farmers market. Any kind of squash can be used in this gourmet dish.

Add the flowers to pasta primavera, salads or omelets. Fried squash blossoms are a big restaurant hit. My favorite is baked, stuffed squash blossoms.

There is a monster squash plant in my garden.

By monster I mean, it has completely taken over the 4 ft. x 4 ft. raised bed and is creeping out several feet on all sides of the bed. It is a squash blossom factory.

The monster sized squash plant is a volunteer plant that I don’t recognize from any seed catalog. The new 4×4 raised bed is filled with lots of compost, garden waste and kitchen scraps that I’ve added since last fall. This spring, the monster squash plant appeared.

I have well-behaved zucchini plants growing in containers on the deck. The monster squash plant’s only purpose is to produce flowers. I don’t want more zucchini squash, for heaven’s sake.

Pick flowers in the morning. Rinse and hold in cool water until time to prepare. Freshly picked flowers will stay fresh for a couple of days when wrapped in damp paper towels stored in the refrigerator.

The only purpose of this squash plant is to produce blossoms. I did not grow this zucchini for squash. Collect blooms every day or two.

Oven Roasted Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Remove the stamen from the flower.

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 12 zucchini blossoms, center pistil or stamens removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil, thyme, mint)
  • 2 tablespoons pepitas and/or sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper (optional)
  • olive oil, for drizzling

 

Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of cheese mixture.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Gently remove the stamen from the center of the flowers.
  3. Combine the ricotta, herbs, pepitas, sunflower seeds and egg together. Season with salt and pepper (optional).
  4. Carefully open the blossoms and stuff with the 1-2 teaspoons of ricotta mixture per flower depending on the size of the flower. Gently twist the flower at the end to enclose the filling.Lay stuffed zucchini flowers on prepared sheet pan or baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Bake for 25 or 30 minutes, or until the baby squash is tender-crisp and blossom starts to brown on bottom.

Suggestions. Add 1 Tablespoon garlic pesto or any pesto to ricotta mixture instead of chopped herbs. Serve warm squash blossoms with pasta sauce on the side for dipping.

I grow zucchini from seed in containers. Container Zucchini Astia  from Renee’s Garden. Serve roasted, sautéed, grilled or baked.

Pick squash when about 5″ or 6″long.

 

Too many zucchini? Go To: my Pinterest board Zucchini Everything

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6/4

Last of the lettuce.

Salad and stir fry ingredients

Picked the last of the lettuce today. The lettuce, radish and green onion will make a salad topped with strawberry poppy-seed salad dressing. Sweet local strawberries make the bright pink dressing.

Today’s harvest: kale, mustard, lettuce, peas, green onions, radish.

Fresh, red ripe local berries make this dressing bright pink. It looks like food coloring is added. There is no onion, usually found in poppy-seed dressing.

Strawberry Lime Poppy-seed salad dressing

1/4 cup chopped strawberries
1/4 cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients except poppy seeds and blend till pureed and emulsified. Stir in poppy seeds.

Heads Up

Zucchini plants are loaded with golden blossoms. Zucchini Everything is my collection of zucchini recipes.

Zucchini is on the way.

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Learning to Cook Vegan Meals

I’m a gardener and love my herb garden. My cooking tends to have several meatless meals every week. In summer, vegan meals are practical and they celebrate my home-grown vegetables.

Quinoa-Stuffed Pepper with cannellini salad, pistachios.

After a life time of meat centered meals, sometimes, I simply don’t know what to use instead of ham or bacon as seasoning in vegetables. Thanks to the chef created recipes at Green Chef, I’m learning how to make crunchy stuffed bell peppers and savory stuffed squash without loads of meat or cheese filling.

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed zucchini with sautéed chard & roasted chickpeas, couscous salad.

“A nourishing veggie-centric dish perfect for spring nights. Sautéed zucchini, garlic, and shallot are mixed with a basil cashew cream, then piled into zucchini halves. Sprinkled with pine nuts and breadcrumbs, the stuffed zucchini are roasted to a tender finish. Israeli couscous studded with peas and carrots, plus cooked chard and chickpeas…” – Green Chef

The instructions for beautiful and tasty Stuffed Zucchini is on the Green Chef website. With all the chard and squash about to burst into production, this recipe is a gardeners treat.

In summer, recipes like vegan fajitas, tacos and wraps are going to show off my booming vegetable garden. They are also lighter and faster meals on hot summer days.

Super grain Collard Wraps with sunflower seeds & pepitas, mint, roasted potatoes.

I like the delivered meals and, I’m learning to make good vegan meals that my meat-and-potatoes loving husband will eat. Once I make something like Green Chef wraps or stuffed peppers, I’m confident enough to try my hand using the vegetables I grow.

One of my favorite things about these filling meals, is that they include seasonal recipes with fresh ingredients and herbs. Being a herb gardener, that’s a big plus. The recipes in these photos are on the Green Chef website.

Or try some of these meals for yourself. If you use this link, I get a credit and you get 4 free meals.

I’ve bought vegan cookbooks and pinned a ton of vegan recipes on Pinterest. But, I’ve been using butter and bacon all my life. And learning to prepare a really good meal without those familiar ingredients isn’t always easy.

After working so long and hard to produce great herbs and vegetables, it makes sense to prepare and serve them at their best.

Herb Pasta Primavera with asparagus, artichoke hearts, snap peas, tomatoes.

 One of my favorite meals was Herb Pasta Primavera. After learning to make this vegan recipe, it’s easy to take the recipe and use it as a basis for my garden grown creations.

This is not to say I am a vegetarian. But I’m eating less meat and dairy and my  cholesterol and blood pressure are lower. I’m proud that I’ve lost a little weight and I feel better.

We spend part of the grocery money at the farmers market every week. We don’t grow all our food, but I like to garden and have the time and energy to grow some of our fruits, vegetables and herbs.

My goal is to grow all the tomatoes we will eat this year. So for me, it’s the year of the tomato. Vegan style.

All the photos are from Green Chef.

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