Posts tagged: garden harvest

Around the Garden – July 19th

By , July 20, 2012

Yesterday was a special day. July 19th is the official death date of my best friend Sonja. It will forever be “that day.” It’s been eight years since her death, and finally it doesn’t hurt anything like it used to. That awful pain has released its grip on me. I acknowledge the date with sadness, of course…but the sting of it has largely gone. If I pause to remember that terrible phone call, and the sequence of it all and how I felt, it still hurts very much. Of course it does. I’m sure it always will. But it doesn’t clutch me and drag me to the underworld like it used to; I feel so much more in control of the memories and my emotions about it all.

If you are currently toiling through grief, it is a very hard path. And it will get easier. It doesn’t seem like it ever will, but it will.

When I was in the middle of that searing grief, I was convinced it would never end. It did. You will never be the same person after a journey like that (you’ll be stronger, for one thing), but the pain will let up.

So yesterday I spent my July 19th working in my flourishing garden. What an uplifting, life-affirming way to spend that day! It was very hot, in the upper 90s, but the clouds moved in which made it much more bearable. And my strong, healing body held up so nicely, even in that heat… even through six hours of hard physical work. Instead of feeling miserable in my body, I felt strong and healthy and agile. After more than two solid years of feeling like absolute shite, I had sadly forgotten what “normal” feels like. I’m getting re-acquainted with normal!! It was so enjoyable!

Anyway, here are some pictures:

[left to right] Jaune Flamme, Black Russian, and Black Cherry heirloom tomatoes:

The peach on my 3-year-old tree is getting bigger!

I grew some Black Kabouli bush garbanzo beans this year as an experiment. It was a success, and it told me what I needed to know. They’re very easy to grow, even in areas of lower soil fertility and water levels. I haven’t yet cooked them up, but overall I’d rate them as ‘8.5/10, would grow again.’

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Everybody needs… places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength…

– John Muir

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Soup of the Day

By , July 13, 2012

This was a delicious little lunch for today. I pulled the beef broth out of the freezer, and the rest is from my own garden! With everything cut into little pieces, it cooked up in just a few minutes.

beef broth

scallions (white part)

celery

kale

potatoes

…and at the table, I stirred in some raw homemade sauerkraut with some of its juice, which leant a wonderful brightness to the soup!

And I just remembered I have some soaked & cooked lentils, which I think would also go well in this soup.

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And a Few More…

By , July 12, 2012

Here are a few more garden pictures that I wanted to show you, since I was over there yesterday. It was a brilliant weather day — not too hot, not windy, and just humid enough to make the air delicious and soft. Mentally and physically however, it was a total bummer day, so being in the garden felt vitally important! It’s such a grounding and life-affirming space, that wild and abundant garden. There’s some really intense energy flying around right now to put it diplomatically. Can you feel it? Intense situations, frustrations, and pivotal decisions abound! Nature spaces are the antidote — I’d make time to visit one if I were you.

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So what you have here are the first tomatoes of the year — Black Cherry, and the orange one further down is Jaune Flamme, both heirlooms, and both really awesome. The Jaune Flammes are always my earliest and most reliable tomatoes; Black Cherry is a new one this year, but so far I’m definitely impressed.

I put up this bean trellis on Sunday; I really love it. It creates the feeling of a cozy outdoor room, and maybe if the beans get big enough they’ll provide some welcome shade from the afternoon sun.

And here this is our living room right now. In flux you might say!

As I write you this, I’m eating a beet that I pulled out of the garden yesterday. Steamed whole and eaten plain with just a bit of sea salt, how can something BE so delicious!?

Writing to you!…

Wishing you well on this beautiful, summery night!

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A Walk Through the Garden – May 24th

By , May 24, 2012

Wow, it’s been another full-on week here. I like how Trish says it — “life has been a bit real lately“!

When life gets extra real, it feels extra nice to be in my garden. My garden grounds me back to Earth!

And here’s an interesting phenomenon that I’ve noticed — if I need to take a nap in the middle of the day (usually I don’t like to), I wake up feeling mentally yucky and depressed if I’ve slept inside. But if I take my nap outside, that doesn’t happen — I wake up feeling balanced and happy and content. Nature seems to be magical that way…

So how about a walk through the magical garden? It’s growing really well! My tomato plants are exactly three months old from when I started them from seed, and some of them are blooming! That’s exciting because the past few years have not been good tomato years due to unusually long, wet, chilly springs.

Here’s the garden in the glow of the evening sun. Gardens look best in either morning or evening sunshine, don’t they.

Big turnip. (All the others are still much smaller than this!)

Parsley (L) and Caraway (R)

Broad bean flowers

Homegrown lettuce is just so awesome.

 

My baby peach is growing too!

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What’s up in your yard?

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How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

By , November 4, 2011

I got a question the other day about what to do with green tomatoes… well, let me tell you!

Green tomatoes are always part of the Autumn routine for us. Once picked, most of them ripen over the coming weeks, and some years we’re still eating homegrown tomatoes past Christmas!

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Here’s how I handle all the tomatoes that we pick before the first frost hits:

1. Usually I leave the tomatoes hanging out in an uncovered cardboard box for several days or a week. This is usually because I don’t get around to addressing them, but it also allows the close-to-being-ripe ones to ripen more fully.

2. When I’m ready to deal with them, I gather a few cardboard boxes and some newspaper. I go through the tomatoes, separating ones that are showing signs of ripeness (light blushes of color or softening flesh) from the rest that are still very hard and green.

3. Put the ripening ones in their own box or paper bag, and check them every day or two. Or, leave them out on the counter.

4. I put the rest into boxes — only one layer thick — and then lay some sheets of newspaper on top. Over the years I’ve evolved through several methods of green tomato storage, and this is the one I’ve settled on. It’s my favorite because it’s the easiest, with the fewest tomatoes lost to mold.

Methods I’ve used in the past include:

– I used to cut squares of newspaper and wrap each tomato individually — unwrapping, checking, and re-wrapping them each week, and marking with highlighter the ones nearing ripeness. This is not only an insane amount of work, but it’s also totally unnecessary. There are easier ways to get the same result.

– After I evolved away from that, I would use only one box and put multiple layers of tomatoes in the box, separated by sheets of newspaper. This was a little better, but still involved removing layers of tomatoes and newspaper, checking, and re-layering.

Store the tomatoes, only one layer thick, in boxes.

Cover them with newspaper.

5. Ok, so anyway, you’ll have multiple boxes with tomatoes only one layer thick. For this reason I like to use wide, shallow boxes. The boxes can be stacked as long as they’re supported by the sides of the box below and not resting on top of the actual tomatoes.

6. Keep your boxes in the coolest place in your house. Perhaps that’s a coat closet in your foyer, or in your basement. For us, it’s in the stairwell that leads from our apartment to our outdoor side entrance.

Store the boxes in the coolest part of your house. Check your tomatoes at least weekly.

7. Check your tomatoes at least weekly. It’s as easy as peeking under the newspaper. I like to move the nearly-ripe tomatoes to the top of the newspaper so that I can watch them and grab them when they’re ready.

8. Not all the tomatoes will ripen. Some are just too small and green to hold much promise of ripening, so this year I’m going to pickle them exactly the way I pickle cucumbers, using my trusty pickle recipe.

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Do you have a good way of ripening your green tomatoes, or perhaps a good recipe that calls for green tomatoes?

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This Week: Harvest Time!

By , October 27, 2011

The last of the harvest, not including celery. I'm holding the biggest potato of the year -- 1.2lbs!

It was harvest time this week! Monday was the day; snow was predicted for Wednesday, and Monday was an incredible 80°! How very perfectly the weather worked out this year; usually I’m out there harvesting in the freezing drizzle, my half-frozen fingers moving in slow motion. Not this year! I was prancing around the garden in bare feet and shorts ‘n’ T-shirt, clippers and shovel in hand, the air warm and golden with leaves. It was a true pleasure to be out working in the garden that day.

Here are some pictures from the day:

All in all, it was a below-average garden year. I’ve definitely had much more plentiful harvests in past years, and we missed our usual avalanche of tomatoes, but I felt OK with less because it matched my energy level. I was actually glad to not be overwhelmed with produce; it would have been too much for me this year.

And then on Wednesday, as predicted, we woke up to several inches of snow! How funny, I was cooking quinoa in my solar oven on Monday, and then making snow ice cream on Wednesday!

And tucked in amongst harvest day and our snowstorm, I had a spinal tap. Yuck! It wasn’t exactly awful, but it was a strange experience and I almost passed out a couple times during and after it!

For anyone who has to have one in the future, here’s what I would tell my patient if I were their nurse.

Getting a spinal tap: you could compare it to a blood draw. It’s kind of unpleasant, and it’ll probably be a bit uncomfortable…and it feels weird…but it’ll be over soon enough. It’s important to hold yourself in the right position. The doctor will put you in a fetal position…hold that pose, but remind yourself to relax and breathe.

The doctor will first feel your spine and mark where the needle should go in. Then your lower back will get cleaned three times with iodine. You’ll get two shots of lidocaine — one just under the surface of your skin, the other one further into your back. They don’t hurt much other than the sting of getting a shot. Then the doctor will insert the spinal needle; to me this is the worst part. Try not to picture what’s going on and take your mind to your favorite place if you can. You won’t feel pain, but it’ll be uncomfortable pressure and then a ‘pop’ sensation and a give. You might feel a dull ache down your back at this point. It takes several minutes for the spinal fluid to drip out of the needle into the collection tubes, but the worst part is over. Try to focus your mind on someplace nice, and breathe.

They’ll remove the needle but you probably won’t feel that at all. They’ll put a band-aid on, and probably draw a couple vials of blood from your arm, and have you slowly get up as you feel ready; take your time. It might help to have a water bottle or some juice or a little snack with you.

Have someone drive you home. Plan to take the rest of the day, and the next, to recover; avoid doing anything strenuous. Drink lots of fluids to replace your spinal fluid; they say caffeine helps prevent a possible post-lumbar-puncture headache, but if you don’t like caffeine (I don’t), don’t do it. Just hydrate and hang low.

I felt very fragile after the procedure, and had a substantial backache for the rest of the day. I never got the big headache some people do because of the lowered spinal fluid pressure. I drank lots of liquids and stayed in bed the rest of the day, and the next day too.

And today, Thursday, I’m totally recovered and the spinal tap is a distant memory. Now I want to dig out our DVD of that hilarious mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap, about the fictional rock band!!

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Incredible Homemade Wild Grape Freezer Jam — Sugar-free & Pectin-free!

By , September 29, 2011

Finally, here’s my recipe for the best wild (or “Concord”) grape jam ever! The flavor really is incredible.

I’m not a big jam-maker normally. And maybe that’s because nobody ever told me that jam doesn’t have to be complicated, the way most publications make it seem. This is the easiest jam you’ll probably ever make…because I discovered by accident that you don’t need either sugar or pectin to make it!

And because it’s “freezer jam” (meaning you store it in the freezer), you won’t be sterilizing jars or canning anything. You’ll just be cooking the grapes way down, allowing the natural sugar and pectin that’s already in the fruit to do the job for you. (To give you an idea of how much jam you’ll get, 9 lbs of grapes yields about 1 quart of jam.) Then, you eat it! And if you’re going to keep it around for a while, just pop it into the freezer to extend its life.

This jam is also what I use to make my delicious Concord Grape Fruit Leather. Try it sometime!

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Wild Grape Freezer Jam

Wild, or “Concord,” grapes — nice and ripe. (That’s the only ingredient!)

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1. De-stem & wash your grapes.

2. Put them into a large pot, and turn to medium-low heat. No need to add any water to the pot — they’ll provide plenty as they heat up and burst. Stir frequently to prevent burning at the bottom, and to get all the grapes heated up.

3. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until most grapes have burst. The unripe ones won’t burst.

Cook the grapes until they burst…

4. Turn heat down to low, and simmer, uncovered, until the grapes have cooked down a bit. Turn off the heat and let the grape slurry cool off a bit until it’s handle-able.

5. Strain your slurry through a mesh sieve with holes just small enough to prevent the seeds from going through. A food mill can also be used here; I bought a $30 Italian-made one from Crate & Barrel several years ago to use for this purpose. When it broke, I was actually sort of glad. I went right back to using the circular sieve pictured below, and this continues to be my tool of choice — it seems quicker and more direct, and the irritation of seeds jamming up the mill is not there. I prefer it.

This is the most labor-intensive part of the whole process because you’ll really want to stir a lot and press the pulp firmly against the sides of the sieve to separate all the liquid from the seeds and skins that will be left behind. Really scrape the pulp against the sieve so that you get some of the pulp pushed through the holes into the juice. This seems to help the jam thicken up. This is also a time when you could use a blender. Before pouring the grape slurry into your sieve, pulse it several times in your blender, then pour it into the sieve. You don’t want to blend up the seeds, but the blender does help break up the grapes and pulp, making it easier to strain.

After most of the juice is strained out of each batch of pulp in the sieve, I like to put the spoon down and get my hand in there to squeeze the rest of the juice out of the pulp-and-seeds.

Once this process is complete, you’ll have plenty of soupy liquid and the pile of seeds & skins will be surprisingly small.

Strain your grape slurry through a metal sieve. The large one is nice for big batches, but the small one is my favorite, and what I use even for large batches.

Strained liquid on the right, ready to cook down into jam. The skins & seeds are on the left, ready to be tossed.

6. Now that you’ve got just the liquid, you’re ready to cook it down into jam. Pour it back into the pot and turn the burner back onto low heat. Simmer on low, uncovered, until it’s thick like…jam! This will probably take several hours especially for a big batch. Stir it fairly frequently, especially toward the end when it sticks to the bottom of the pot more readily. And turn the heat down lower when it starts to thicken; you really don’t want to burn this stuff, because of how much effort you’ve put into it. Keep it at low heat. You’ll know it’s done when you can drag your spoon through the middle of it and the track doesn’t fill back in. (EDIT 9/26/16: I have been taking it off heat even before I can see the bottom of the pan while dragging my spoon through it. It has set up well once cooled & refrigerated. So when it’s been cooking down for hours, and looking bubbly and sorta thick, and the volume has been reduced to maybe about 1/3 of the original volume of strained, soupy liquid, try cooling it and it may set up fine for you. I’m going to do more experimentation with this.)

You know it’s done when your spoon track doesn’t fill back in.

7. That’s it! Cool & store in the fridge (it’ll last a couple weeks before starting to go moldy), or in the freezer for long-term storage. You can also can this using the water bath canning method. I have been canning this grape jam for the past several years and it is my preferred storage method. It does, however, tend to crystallize for me (must be the sugars) when it’s canned. I don’t mind, but if you don’t want that, you may just want to keep it in the freezer.

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(Get your family to help you de-stem those grapes!)

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Gazpacho & Garden Shopping List

By , August 30, 2011

I love this time of the year because meals can be made almost entirely out of the garden! Today I made one of my faaaaaavorite dishes, Gazpacho. How can a combination of vegetables taste so good?!

And since the gazpacho used up almost all the produce I picked last week at my garden, I was really tickled to be writing up a “shopping list” for the things I need to get when I go back in the next couple days. Going shopping in one’s own garden is way too much fun!

Late August Garden Tour

These photos are from my visit to the garden last week. It’s definitely not as much of a jungle this year as other years (or more accurately, the jungle isn’t as tall)…it was pretty late in getting going, but that’s all right. At least it’s not the worst year those raised beds have seen! That honor, I believe, went to Summer 2007. 😉

So what’s your garden been up to?

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