This is the first year we’ve really had a rockin garden. We had high hopes for our tomatoes-only approach last year and then late blight set in and we lost everything pretty quick.
This year we tried raised beds and a decent variety of plants and we’ve been happily surprised at the bounty of our 16, 36x18inch beds. The snap peas were a little late and thin but but delicious, the radishes were amazing, the beans were picked clean and have just decided to flower again so we’ll have a second, and completely unexpected, harvest.
(garden picks from the morning of 8/14/10)
The first bed of tomatoes started to ripen last week and we planted in 3 groups so we should have fresh tomatoes through to the first frosts. Carrots and beets are all just about ready to be pulled – some already have been and were declared super yummy. We’ve had lettuces, swiss chard, small onions and japanese eggplants for a couple months along with the summer squash that have just expired. Our potato plants look like they’re waning and the butternuts are slowly turning peachy. Also, there are cucumbers.
(photo from June 2010 – taken by our friend,Kimberly Fletcher Gendreau)
All of this has made me amazingly happy and completely frustrated. I have two daughters and while they are pretty good about eating whatever I set on the table for dinner they are less than enthusiastic about a whole meal of just vegetables. Then there is the husband. The joke in the family is that, “If its green, he won’t eat it, unless its Jell-O!” Although he is just as excited by the yield of our plantings I sometimes have to be creative and conservative with the amount of veg in the meal.
So what is a girl to do with all this produce? Pickles and Preserves!
I have a garage full of canning jars and it was time to put them to use. This past weekend I put up 36 jars of pickles and 2 jars of tomato sauce.
I finally picked up my copy of Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton and what a fantastic copy it is! Pickles, preserves, freezing and drying all kinds of fresh from the garden and wild find foods. Apple butter, pickled asparagus, lemon curd, leather britches, fruit leathers and so much more. She has put together a book that is not only full of great recipes and adaptable at that!, but gives you what other books usually lack, the “Why”. Not only why you need to follow the rules but why you should preserve you own food.
I’ve also been following a few foodies this summer, most notably Eating From the Ground Up and Local Kitchen. I love reading posts from creative woman who not only care about feeding their families but that the process should be enjoyable, adventurous and in the end, delicious. Also, it doesn’t hurt that they both take great photographs This post about pickles is what really got me going and I can’t seem to stop. What do I have that I can pickle?
Cucumbers? obviously. Summer squash? Why not, I watched my sister do it a few weeks ago and tasted the amazing results hours later. Beet Stems? whacka-whacka-what?! You heard me, beet stems. Dude, you can pickle anything.
Dilly sandwich slices, Saffron Summer squash and Sweet Fennel beet stems.
So, go forth! Raid your garden, the farmer’s market, and your CSA share. Get you some vinegar, some spices, some basic canning supplies (or fancy ones), a good recipe and method book(hint* – see above) and try your hand. I think you’ll be surprised and your taste buds will be happy.
I’m planning some Dilly Beans from that impending second bean crop, maybe some more watermelon rind pickles and lots more cans of tomatoes for the depths of winter.