Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard - August 30, 2012

It's been such a crazy week, I posted this on Wednesday thinking it was already Thursday. Needless to say, all this was done before this week started.

I couldn't keep myself out of the kitchen this past week.

First, I harvested the outer stalks of my neglected celery plants and cut them up to freeze in our awesome new freezer with cooled shelves. Everything freezes super fast in this fine piece of machinery (that is, until our 1/2 cow comes and there's no more room on the shelves). I ended up with 2 quart bags full of chopped celery.

Then, I dealt with the green bean harvest that had been piling up. I also took the chance to try out our new FoodSaver. With sales and coupons, we ended up getting it for $30 at Kohl's a few weekends ago. These are frozen in packages that are the perfect size for a meal for the two of us (just over a cup of beans).

Then, it was on to canning. First, I pulled out the "accidental tomato paste" I made last year (that's what happens when you take a nap while you're making sauce) and tried making taco sauce for the first time. It tasted pretty good on the stove - we'll see how it works off the shelf.

I also made fiesta salsa. Although a lot of tomatoes go into salsa, I chose this recipe mainly because it also used cucumbers, and I've been trying to get through the huge pile of cucumbers I overbought when I made pickles. I've yet to find a salsa recipe I like that gets canned, so we'll see how this one holds up.

I also put up about 1/2 a gallon of tomato sauce (frozen in 2-cup portions), but didn't get a picture during the cooking. I used a recipe for "quick blender tomato sauce" that just involves coring and quartering the tomatoes and throwing them in the blender with garlic, basil, parsley, and carrots, then reducing on the stove. It was an excellent way to use the two quarts of canned tomatoes that hadn't sealed during canning the weekend prior, as well as some extras I had sitting around.

I haven't gotten a Kitchen Cupboard post up in awhile, so here are some other things I've been up to:

Mom and I had a marathon tomato canning session on
August 19. I bought 50 lbs of tomatoes at the farmer's market
for $30. She planned to make the trip and I didn't have nearly
enough tomatoes ready, so now I've really got a lot!

I also canned over 40 jars of pickles in July, but apparently haven't taken photos. Perhaps they'll make an appearance in a season-ending pantry photo.

To see what others are doing with their harvest, visit the Gardener of Eden.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Garden Challenges: Zucchini & Cucumbers

Zucchini and cucumbers are supposed to be easy vegetables to grow. If you let them go for a couple of days, both plants give you baseball-bat size fruit that many people end up pushing off on unsuspecting neighbors. While I've gotten a decent yield from both plants this year, I'm also finding some challenges.

In addition to black beauty zucchini (which seems to be growing wonderfully, but my two plants are only giving me 3-4 squash per week), I planted eight-ball and papaya squash. The eight-ball was prolific early, but quickly became infested by what I assume is a squash vine borer. The stems are turning to yellow mush, and investigation finds a lot of small worms eating their way through the plant. I lost one plant completely to this pest a few weeks ago. The papaya took longer to mature, but it also shows signs of damage from the evil worms now. I think I've harvested four squash from three plants.

Both the eight-ball and the papaya squash plants are also starting to get what I assume is powdery mildew (gray spots that look like mold on their leaves). I pulled a papaya plant today that succumbed and failed to produce any fruit. While cleaning up the eight-ball plants today, I found a hidden squash that was the perfect size to harvest. It had somehow managed to find a way to sit on uncovered soil. I brought it in and noticed it was soft. I sliced it open to find a brown mess of rot. I sure hope that was an isolated incident.

Other than a yellowing leaf here and there, the black beauty plants are, well...beautiful. Still, I've mostly been able to keep up with harvests. We've eaten quite a few zucchini-based meals, I've given maybe 8 away to friends, and I've frozen 13 cups of shredded zucchini. I need more, as I have a killer veggie chili recipe that gets thicker (and more tasty) with the addition of zucchini.

The cucumbers also are starting to have their issues. Some leaves are withering and turning gray on the trellis. I feel that I planted too many plants too close together. I followed square foot gardening guidelines and planted 6 seeds per square foot along each side of my A-frame trellis. The vigorous plants (which have already provided many quarts of pickles) seem more interested in tangling with each other than climbing the trellis. I really hope they keep producing for another husband has a strong taste for pickles and I've only canned five quarts - the rest have been refrigerator pickles.

Of course, I'll do some googling, but I'm wondering - what do you, oh gardeners of the internet, do to keep your summer squash and cucumber plants healthy and vigorous as long as possible? I haven't gone to any drastic methods - plant, water, mulch, one watering of fish emulsion, and a few sprays of pyrethrin to keep the cucumber beetles away.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Onion Harvest

I may have jumped the gun a little. I've noticed my onions flopping over for the last week or so, and today when I went out in the garden I realized they had all flopped (well, all but one). Since I had some time (and time is precious these days), I pulled them all except for the lone red onion still standing tall, which I think is going for the Gross Farms size record. I know it seems early to pull onions, but everything is early this year. And...they flopped!

Anyway, after I pulled them I googled "curing onions" just to make sure I was proceeding correctly, and I realized I should have maybe waited another week or two to pull them. Oh well. Even with their small size, I think this might be enough onions to get us through the year. We don't eat them raw; only in cooked dishes.

The yellow onions are Yellow of Parma and Spanish Sweet. My markers are long gone, so they're intermixed, but both are supposed to be good for storage. The red is Redwing, another storage onion. We're not big red onion eaters but I've seen some intriguing recipes with red onions so I figured I'd give it a try.

I sorted the yellow onions by size, which I think can be labeled small, sort of small, and really tiny. The red onions sized up much nicer. It should be noted that I planted these using the square foot method recommendations (16 per square foot) and I don't think I'll be doing that again. They could have used some more room to spread out.

It turns out our garden cart is a pretty great place to cure veggies. The garlic cured better here than in the basement next to the dehumidifier, so I'll give the onions a try on it as well.

The garden is starting to empty of summer crops much earlier than normal. I need to get to work this weekend and plant a bunch of fall/winter crops. I hope they'll make it to harvest, as I'm also wishing for a nice, cold winter so all these stupid bugs freeze to death.