Category Archives: preserving the harvest

Herb bouquets

Include herbs in the Flower and vegetable garden

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Keep a herb bouquet in the kitchen

Trimming herbs will tidy the garden and provide fragrant culinary inspiration in the kitchen. Keep a herb bouquet in the kitchen to inspire using fresh herbs in cooking. A handy sprig of fresh oregano may be just what the tomato sauce needs.

Clip or trim herbs to encourage, healthy, bushy growth. For example, a basil plant will produce more leaves if kept trimmed. Learn more about the importance of Pinching terminal buds for better plant growth.

Herbs and flowers by PBH

Cutting herbs (cilantro) and flowers like zinnias will encourage production. Plants continue to grow, trying to bloom and make seed. to seed will extend the growing season. Herbs and flowers by PBH

Herbs add greenery and fill a bouquet to colorful blooms. A handy supply of herbs in the garden will always brighten any bouquet. Replace filler like baby’s breath and leather leaf ferns with your own home-grown herbs.

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A hummingbird and bees were drawn into admire this bouquet on the patio.

A herb bouquet on the kitchen counter will inspire you to use more fresh herbs. Often, cut herbs will last longer than a floral bouquet.

Later, the lavender will flavor lemonade. The garlic scapes and cilantro will be added to salsa.

Garlic scapes.

Garlic scapes.

 

 

 

 

 

You can never have too much basil.

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Chopped fresh basil and oregano boost the flavor, turning any dish into gourmet fare.

Plant enough to use fresh, to preserve as pesto and in herb vinegar. Keep a pot on the patio or right outside the kitchen door. Read more about basil: Seed starting, growing and storing Basil

Basil flavor is best when fresh. If you keep basil cuttings in a kitchen bouquet, don’t be surprised in the stems form roots.

Discard the rooted stems and use only the leaves in cooking. (Or, plant the rooted cuttings.)

A variety of basil cuttings.

Gather basil cuttings before the first frost to extend the fresh basil for a couple of more weeks.

Keeping basil pinched or cut back will produce more leaves. Keeping a glass or jar of those cuttings in the kitchen makes it much more likely that you will use the herbs at their best.

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DIY Carrot Boxes for raised beds

Grow straight carrots

(Plus, after you grow these carrots, there’s Mom’s Carrot Cake)

I’ve been making mini raised beds. Little one foot wooden boxes without a top or bottom and 8″ tall. It is a little raised bed for the raised bed.

Metal raised bed corners make for quick, easy assembly.

Metal raised bed corners make for quick, easy assembly.

Here’s how: cut four 2 x 8 x 12 wooden pieces. Cedar lasts longer, pine is cheaper. Scrap lumber makes me happy. I call it a Carrot Box because I made it to grow carrots.

Loosen and add organic matter or compost to the raised bed. Set the box in your raised bed garden. Fill with a light soiless mix.

Thinly sow carrot seed. Cover. Firm. Water. Details are on my hub page Grow carrots weeks ahead of the last frost.

For the best results, thin the carrots to 2″ apart.

Using a double-deep container with extra fine soil will be the key to growing carrots. It is critical that you fertilize and water carrots regularly.

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“Sunshine Orange and Yellow” carrots from Renee’s Garden. Wonderful simply oven roasted. photo: Patsy Bell Hobson

Rose Marie Nichols McGee at Nichols Garden Nursery has one of the best gardening blogs, The Gardener’s Pantry and newsletters.

She has good information How to raise carrots without using a spade or hoe

You might like:

How can you make a soup rich?  Add 14 carrots (carats) to it.

Mom’s Carrot Cake

with cream cheese frosting

I don’t know where the original recipe came from, but it is the best.

1 1/2 Cups vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups white sugar
3 eggs
2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 Cups peeled and grated carrots
1 Cups chopped pecans
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple

Beat together oil, sugar and eggs until well combined. In a bowl sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Add to the eggs and sugar. Mix well. Drain the pineapple, add carrots, nuts. Mix well. Pour into 9 or 10 inch tube pan or a 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or check with toothpick.

Cream cheese frosting

2 (8 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 box powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla

Cream cheese and butter together. Add sugar gradually until complete box has been added. Add vanilla. Refrigerate for an hour, then frost cake. Use all frosting.

 

Snowed in with home grown tomatoes

My front yard.

My front yard. Photo by Jeff Hobson

A foot of snow does not seem like a lot if you are living in the east. And we have only had a couple of snows so far. I was delighted to be snowed in, with heat, electricity and my sweetheart. We could have gotten out in an emergency. But it is fun to be snowed in.

Whole tomatoes were frozen while at the peak of ripeness.

I filled the crock pot with frozen tomatoes. It was so full, the lid couldn’t fit firmly. As the tomatoes cooked down, I skimmed off the peels and the cores.

To the thawing tomatoes, add a coarsely chopped onion and a couple crushed cloves of garlic. Add salt and pepper if you choose.

Next, decide where to go with the tomatoes. Mexican or Italian are my choices.

Turn the heat on high, leave the lid ajar to reduce the water content. Break up  tomatoes with a wooden spoon or a potato masher.

Stir two pesto cubes into the sauce.

Stir two pesto cubes into the sauce.

Later, when the tomatoes have cooked down by half, use and immersion to blend as much or a little as you prefer. I decided to go for an Italian spaghetti sauce. As the tomatoes cooked down, I added a frozen cube of roasted garlic* and a couple of cubes of pesto.*

This is where I get creative and make this sauce Italian, by adding herbs and spices.

Rich, slow cooked spaghetti sauce made with homegrown tomatoes, garlic, basil..

Rich, slow cooked spaghetti sauce made with homegrown tomatoes, garlic, basil.

 

*Cube of roasted garlic* and a cube of pesto.* In the summer when we had a huge harvest of garlic, I roasted the cured garlic, mashed it up with a little salt and olive oil. Then, I put the roasted garlic paste in  a silicone tray of mini ice-cube shapes and froze them.

*Homemade pesto, minus the cheese, was made and filled plastic ice-cube trays and frozen.

These little frozen cubes of gourmet delights are stored in ziplock freezer bags, labeled and dated.

 

Tomato triage for too many tomatoes

When there is no time to can tomatoes in the heat of summer, freeze the whole tomatoes individually and store in a freezer. When tomato overload gets too hot and hectic in August, chill.

Slow cooked pasta sauce made by cooking your home-grown tomatoes and herbs on a cold winter day, priceless. 

Apples, pies, sauce

Honey Crisp, big, juicy, crisp.

Honeycrisp, big, juicy, crisp.

Speaking of apples, they are here, every kind you can imagine. I had to take out a second mortgage to buy the first Honeycrisps that arrived in the area. They are big enough to share, crisp and sweet as any eating apple you ever tasted.

Because this young apple has quickly developed such a big following. The Grocer charges more than double the price of other apples.

It takes five to six years for Honeycrisp to produce fruit. They grow best in cold weather states, like Minnesota.

Honeycrisp apple is a cross between Macoun apple and Honey Gold apples. Developed by University of Minnesota.

It will not come true when grown from seed. Honeycrisp apple flowers must be pollinated by another apple variety. Even a crabapple will do.

They are pricey apples. But I love them for fresh eating. For making homemade applesauce, pies, fried apples, I choose a more affordable variety.

Applesauce or apple pie filling are a good idea to start home canning. The weather is cool, the work in your garden has slowed down, apples are plentiful most everywhere.

Apples as a first home canning project

Make it your own by adding cinnamon, brown sugar, ginger

Make it your own by adding cinnamon, brown sugar, ginger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a favorite apple pie recipe for a fall apple bounty.

Sausage and apple pie a fall favorite

Sweet Italian sausage and apple pie.

Sweet Italian sausage and apple pie.

Make it a brunch dish using good breakfast sausage. For dinner, I use sweet Italian sausage. Honestly, I don’t need a reason, the pie is one my fall favorites.

Today’s Harvest Basket 8/18/14

  • Today’s Harvest Basket

August 18, 2014

Squash, peppers, tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

  • Today in the Kitchen

Canning salsa. I made a small batch of golden salsa with the giant yellow tomatoes and a mild red salsa with all the red varieties.

We need a few (NOT many) hot peppers for the salsa.

We need a few (NOT too many) hot peppers and paste tomatoes for the salsa.

We are eating zucchini every day. You might not always recognize it or know it, but we are eating zucchini every day. The summer squash glut is about to come to a halt. Thanks to the squash vine borers.

The cucumbers are finished for the year. Thank heavens they still have plenty at the farmers market. We have 4 jars of Bread and butter pickles and 4 jars of kosher dill spears.

Eight quarts of crushed tomatoes are canned, and we think we need more for all the soups and chili to come this winter.

2 quarts of cherry tomatoes. This is two days worth of picking.

2 quarts of cherry tomatoes. This is what I picked in two days.  Photo: Patsy Bell Hobson

 

These cherries will go into the dehydrator. The food dryer is running 24-7 these days. So, I should have plenty of sun-dried tomatoes.

These are extra sweet cherry tomatoes, so when they dry and the flavor is concentrated – each little tomato becomes an explosion of sweet summer in your mouth.

What to do when the garden explodes: dehydrate

Cherry tomatoes are first to ripen

 

There comes a day

When every flat surface in the kitchen is covered with produce. I need to bake, dehydrate, freeze, and can today. So this is what’s for dinner:

Anti-pasta light supper or party platters is in your fridge

anti-pasta

Anti-pasta for dinner. In Italian, anti-pasta means all your favorite (First course) stuff on one plate.

 

Today’s Harvest Basket 8/16/14

Today’s Harvest Basket August 16, 2014

Tomatoes, squash

A basket full of tomatoes

A basket full of tomatoes. Giant Martian, Arkansas Traveler, Gold Medal.

I planted tomatoes in stages. These tomatoes were planted the earliest.

A month later, I planted a variety of Brandywine tomatoes.  They include yellow and black Brandywine tomato plants. There are green tomatoes on the vines but it will be awhile before they kick into high production.

A few weeks later, I planted six Amish Paste starter plants that looked half dead. These will be the third wave of tomatoes. By that time, I may morph into a tomato zombie. Cut me and I will bleed tomato juice.

Basket of cherry tomatoes. Going straight into the food dehydrator.

Basket of cherry tomatoes. Going straight into the food dehydrator.

 

As you can see we have all the full-sized tomatoes that we can use. I shared some with the neighbors and the rest of the cherries are going straight into the food dehydrator.

I’ve certainly gotten good use from the dehydrator. It’s running around the clock for days.

 

Learn more:

What to do when the garden explodes: dehydrate

Make sun-dried tomatoes to use up cherries

 

 

Gold Medal tomatoes and Mozzarella slices.

Gold Medal tomatoes and Mozzarella slices.

 

Big, sweet, yellow tomatoes are weighing in at about a pound each. I have never tasted a sweeter tomato.

 

 

Todays Harvest Basket 7/21/14

Todays Harvest Basket July 21, 2014

Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, bell peppers

The green and gold pepper (Low Left) was completely gold the next day.

The green and gold pepper (Low Left) was completely gold the next day.

I have a small garden. It has just a little of a lot of vegetables and flowers. But when zucchini starts producing, it does not seem like a little garden.

I hate those waxy, slick cucumbers in the grocery store. ‘don’t even like to touch them. So now we have lots of cukes in the garden and we eat them fresh at least once a day.

Crisp Cucumbers

The crunch that we all love is easy to get in home canned pickles. Use this tip along with your favorite pickle recipe.

 

white cucumber

Cut cucumbers from the vine instead of twisting and pulling.

For crisp cucumber pickles, rinse the cucumbers thoroughly and snip off 1/16-inch of the blossom end. The blossom end of the cucumber harbors microbes that can cause softening. Cut at least a 1/16-inch slice off the blossom end of the cucumber. That enzyme in the blossom end can make the pickles unsafe to eat.

The stem ends of the cucumbers above are on the right. The blossom end is on the left for both of these cukes.  The blossom end is the opposite from the stem end.

Cucumber season is too short. This time of the year, there is always a bowl of sliced cucumbers in herb vinegar in the fridge.

Today’s Harvest Basket 7/13/14

July 7, 2014

Eggplant, zucchini, onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots and, onions

This is my Ratatouille harvest basket. The harvest basket filled with everything needed to make ratattouille. These vegetables, along with the onions and garlic that are curing on the covered porch, make ratattouille.

Julia Child’s Ratatouille is online in a gazillion places. The recipe is from her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking

The Ratatouille harvest basket.

The Ratatouille harvest basket. photo PBH

The cucumbers and summer carrots will go into salads and antipasta. These are the “test carrots”, pulled to see how they are growing and coloring up. The big carrot crop will be planted in the carrot boxes shortly after all the summer carrots are harvested.

This time of year, all I can say, is “What in the world was I thinking when I planted those few “extra” cucumber seeds?” If I made pickles with all these cucumbers,  there would be a shortage of canning jars in Southeast MO.

Basket ingredients and the ingredients for ratatouille are: eggplant, zucchini, onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, parsley.

As a herb gardener, you know I’ll make a few additions. There’s fresh thyme, basil and parsley added to my version of this classic French vegetable dish.

Eggplantseggplants

This is the perfect eggplant for me. They weigh about four ounces each. One patio plant is plenty for me. Eggplant does not freeze well, so fresh eating is best.

These are ccontainer eggplant, “Little Prince” from Renee’s Garden. I grow eggplants especially for ratattouille, and eggplant parmesan.

Stealth garden strategy – In my garden, eggplant is planted in a couple of undisclosed locations. The location changes every year and the plant ideally starts out under ccamouflage ( a bucket or top hat, for example.)

The goal is to slow down the flea beetles that turn the beautiful velvety leaves into what looks like a screen door.

The other thing you can do is stagger planting times, just like the planting locations. Tell no one. This has worked for me. I’ll get a good harvest of small, container grown eggplants growing on the deck.

The one eggplant in the garden was sacrificed to save the other eggplants in undisclosed locations.  By the time the flea beetles discovered the plant on the patio, um, I mean on the deck, the Little Prince eggplant was in full production.

These 3 and 4 ounce eggplants are all grownup and ready to fledge by the time the flea beetles arrived.

Carrots

Usually, fall harvested  carrots are even sweeter than summer carrots.

Usually, fall harvested carrots are even sweeter than summer carrots.

If you ever wanted to grow carrots, fall carrots are planted in August or early September in this neck of the woods. (Zone 6A, Southern Missouri, USA.) This is news you can use: I get carrot seed at Nichols Garden Nursery.

Nichols has a big selection of affordable carrot seed. Check out their online catalog,  there is time to order seed and get carrots growing for a fall harvest. If stored properly, carrot seed can be used for up to three years.

There are a few selections that are under $2. Carrot seed under two bucks and it’s enough seed for at least two years. It only takes 70 to 85 days from planting to eating.

Remember to plant extra for carrot cake and muffins. Plan on about a 10 foot row of carrots per person.

Today’s Harvest Basket 6/25/14

June 25, 2014

Garlic

Harvesting and storing garlic

We might not eat this much garlic in a year, but when we have plenty of good fresh garlic, we eat more of it.

 

Harvested garlic needs to be cured to help it last longer.

Harvested garlic needs to be cured to help it last longer.

Back in the day when we bought it one head at a time, we used garlic less and it wasn’t as good.

When tomatoes and zucchini are exploding in the garden, we eat fresh tomatoes and zucchini almost every day, in one way or another.  Look at all the zucchini tips and recipes on my Pinterest: Courgette (zucchini) Everything Squash

If you want to try your hand at growing garlic read my Hub Pages:   How to grow and harvest garlic  Look for garlic now to get the best selection. Order it now and it will be mailed to you at planting time.

Don’t plant grocery store garlic. It may have been treated to discourage sprouting. Purchase bulbs from mail order or online suppliers, garden center, or locally at farmers market.

Gently lift garlic and move to the shade.

Gently lift garlic and move to the shade.

Harvest garlic in summer

Watch for the yellowing of the plant leaves. When about half of the leaves have turned yellow/brown, stop watering two days before harvesting. Do not pull garlic. Carefully lift garlic out of the soil.

Garlic can bruise if not handled carefully. Move to the shade as soon as possible. Spread out in an airy spot for drying.

If the weather is wet, dry garlic indoors or in a garage. I used the shaded, screened porch and the garage.

Dirt will dry quickly. Gently brush off  the dry dirt. It is important for garlic to cure or dry in a cool, shaded space.

The curing process takes between one and two weeks. Don’t rush, more time is better than less. Proper curing will extend the life of

Drying garlic needs good air circulation. Do not remove the leaves and roots while the garlic cures. The bulb draws energy from the leaves and roots until they are completely dry.

The bulbs are ready to store when the skins are papery and the tops and roots are dry. Remove any dirt and trim off any roots and tops. Look for any damaged or bruised bulbs and discard them.

Garlic bulbs may be stored individually with the tops removed, or the dried tops may be braided together to hang in the kitchen or pantry. Trim roots to within 1/4” of the base.

If braiding the garlic, do this while the leaves are pliable. If  you wait until the leaves are completely dry they will be too brittle to braid.

Snip roots, leaving ¼".

Snip roots, leaving ¼”.

When these little bulblets form, use them for a milder garlic taste.

When these little bulblets form, use them for a milder garlic taste.

I plant garlic in late October or  early November. Work plenty of compost into soil. Start with good soil and fertilizer isn’t needed.

Don’t worry about planted garlic cloves freezing. They are a ok. This garlic was harvested  late June. Last year it was harvested in mid July.

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cranberry relish

Thanksgiving day table was loaded with all the traditional fare. At each place setting was a mini vase filled tiny red roses. I never normally have roses for the table this late in the Fall. But this summer I brought home some miniature roses and tiny vases at each place setting.

cranberry relish

1 medium orange
12 oz. package fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup good quality honey
½ cup water
2 apples, cored, not peeled and finely chopped

Zest the whole orange, then juice and remove the seeds. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large covered sauce pan. Reduce heat and continue boiling for about 10 minutes. Cranberries will pop open. Remove from heat. Refrigerate. Mixture will thicken as it continues to cool. Serve cold.

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