Harvesting and Preservation

As an urban gardener (or suburban, with a small yard) I get small harvests across the season. Aside from herbs, which I grow a lot of and harvest a lot of, I’m not ever going to get massive crates worth produce each time I go to my garden…..like my parent’s do from their huge garden that gets 8-10hrs of sun each day.

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Not only do urban gardens often have sun limits (I get the bare minimum of 6hrs on my sunniest spots), but they always have space limits.

My harvests day to day look more like this.

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I don’t record the herbs and greens I harvest since I got out before each meal and grab a few leaves. There are many sources of fresh produce right now though. I have a great hook up with my family since they give me overflow from their garden but I also go to the farmer’s market because there’s a really large variety of things there.

Harvesting and eating seasonally is one thing but preserving is a great way to have these flavors year round or make things from them that you can’t have any season without doing it now! Pickles, for example….homemade pickles are the BEST.

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My mom came over and taught me her ways (she has the MOST amazing pickles) and after that batch I couldn’t stop giving them away/eating them so I made another ten pints to hold us for a bit.  You can’t buy pickles like these, and most people can’t even make them so I have to do what I have to do to get them! This means pickling, during the cucumber season.

Know your seasons so you can capitalize on deals. August is high season for tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers and you can get large crates at the farmers market for a discounted rate that are perfect for preserving. At our market I can get a twenty pound case of tomatoes for fifteen bucks. Peaches are ending and also on sale right now. Don’t be afraid to get blemished fruits for preserving. The discounts are worth it.

Also, when you plant your urban garden, don’t be afraid to plant a higher producing plant to enjoy a large harvest. I did this with spaghetti squash. It took up a whole garden bed but I got many many pounds of squash.

IMG_20140806_083836This is about 2/3 of my crop with weights ranging from nearly five pounds down to two pounds. It’s fun to get that much of something from a little garden. Also a good idea to plant varieties that have bigger fruits and some with very little fruits. My boys love picking the cherry tomato varieties (which is why I never picture very many at once!) and it’s nice to get huge tomatoes from the large variety plants.

IMG_20140814_131159I’ve had my share of garden issues this year from bugs to rodents to soil and it’s affected my variety of harvests as well as my volume but I’m still feeling incredibly blessed as I go to my garden each morning and still always find produce.

Aside from tomato products and pickles, I decided to do a lot less canning this year than last year because we don’t normally eat canned foods. I buy tomato paste and diced tomatoes but otherwise, no other canned goods. From those I make our salsa, sauces, marinara and such. So I’m going to try and can salsas, sauces and marinara so that I’ll have an easier to access and no BPA option for our diets over the winter. Apart from canning, I am also dehydrating tomatoes since they’re amazing in marinara sauces and soups. Aside from dehydrating tomatoes I am also focusing a lot on drying herbs for medicinal, culinary and tea uses throughout the winter. Quite frankly, it’s taking over my dish cupboard.

IMG_20140821_093414I drink a lot of herbal tea in the winter (daily) and my goal is to make enough so that I don’t have to buy any at the store. The benefits aren’t just flavor and freshness, but also variety!

Of course I’m also freezing things but I currently have limited space for that.

Do you preserve foods in season? How do you choose what preserving project you’ll take on?

 

 

 

 

 

Pregger Pic Take 3: Weeks 29-31

Don’t judge me for my lack of updates. The biggest reason, as sad as it sounds, is because this pregnancy is so uncomfortable I don’t really have anything good to say except that time is actually passing (however slowly), and she’s growing and doing fine.

Otherwise, I’d just be whining on here every week and nobody wants to hear that.

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If I look tired, it’s because Eli gets up early and I hurt too much for quality sleep.

Weight: Well I blew it, you guys. I had my midwife appointment this morning and I HAVE gained weight now officially despite all my attempts not to. So I’m four pounds up from my huge pregnancy weight. I suppose it’s to be expected. I’m going to blame ice cream more than pregnancy though.

Aversions: We don’t really need to get into this, right? I don’t like a lot of food and drinks. So that’s that.

Cravings: Beer, wine, refreshing alcoholic beverages of all kinds. Also any sort of cheese that pairs well with any of those things. I could live on that right now if I wasn’t allowed to.

Exercise: Last week I didn’t go to the gym because of all the gardening. My quads were so sore most days because of all the digging and squatting. That’s coming from a gal who make different kinds of squats a priority in all her work outs. Pretty sure I don’t ever do a work out without lots of them.

We’ll skip the symptoms category. You don’t want to know. It’s not pretty.

So some day in the next two or two and a half months I’ll have a baby and I hope it goes super duper fast. Like lightning speed please.

The Foods

My appetite isn’t fantastic right now because of the baby currently consuming 90% of my stomach space but I’m still making a point to put garden goods in every or almost every meal (excluding some breakfasts).

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This one was a lunch where I reheated some leftovers (rice with veggies and Romano cheese) and cooked it with kale, topped it with tomatoes and of course slathered it all over with hot sauce. It was exceptional. Notice how I’m using a small plate.

 

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I made these calzones and Shane grilled them! He’s quite the pro with grilling foods this year. He experiments with times before flipping and after flipping and all of a sudden we get perfectly grilled foods. It’s so fun. Oh and of course the calzoneswere delicious. I made a sauce with garden tomatoes and filled the crust with onions and peppers from the garden as well as some prosciutto and mozzarella cheese.

 

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Another rice and veggie leftover meals with kale. This time, MOAR KALE. Because I love it. I know some people really aren’t huge fans of kale but there’s something about it that I really and sincerely love. I understand that people don’t like it because when I was a teenager I remember trying to fathom loving greens as crazy as kale and arugala but simply couldn’t. So now I’m a weirdo to a lot of adults and teenagers. It’s cool, I’m confident in my green loverness.

 

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Here we have a flat bread I made that has green olives, capocollo, red onions and Romano cheese which you can’t see because I chopped up tomatoes (tossed them with some balsamic vinegar, salt and garlic) and covered it. Oh, and a large side of green beans from my dad.

And finally, an awful pic of a delicious meal.

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Green beans and onions cooked until tender and tossed with fresh cherry tomatoes, roasted potatoes and a cheesy bun.

ALL veggies (including potatoes) from these meals are from my garden and my mom and dad’s gardens. So, that’s like, a LOT of fresh, local, and organic veggies. Pretty awesome.

Sometimes cooking with your garden produce isn’t super glamorous but trust me, not only will your body thank you but so will your taste buds. That food is so freaking tasty. I hope you’re enjoying local veggies too!

Wiped Out

A few garden updates here. Firstly, in a fit of pregnancy nesting I redesigned my garden. I just felt like there was a lot of negative spaces that were being completely wasted and so I fixed that. Which means I basically increased my square footage quite a bit. This is great and also more efficient but means I’m short on fall crop seeds! There is nothing wrong with that. I’ll just pick some more up next week when I’m done planting the ones I have.

Speaking of fall crops. I got started on those today. Yesterday I pulled my spaghetti squash plant. It was mostly dead and there were quite a few very large squash and some smaller, not quite ripe ones, we’ll see if they cure up a bit on the counter. My largest is almost five pounds!

IMG_20140806_083922Most of them were more like three pounds though. I have a couple more plants on the side of the house that are still going so I should have some more later. I needed to pull that vine and harvest a few herb plants so that I’d have the entire top bed for fall crops.

So I cleared the plants out and am currently dehydrating all the herbs.

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Then I had to turn over all the soil to see what condition it’s in. I’ve mentioned before that I have high clay content in my soil and so it’s hard and compacted. I’ve been adding things and trying to plant plants that will help this season. It’s my first season and I recognize the need to improve my soil as I go. Adding some of my own compost to this bed when I extended it in my redesign was a good addition and I was pleasantly surprised to find that about half the bed’s soil was in great shape and the other half was much improved. This is a big deal since some of the fall crops I’m putting in are soil builders which will add matter to help loosen the clay.

I spent a lot of this morning turning over the soil and working on the herbs and finally it was ready to plant.

SAMSUNG CSCI scored the lines with my shovel and got the seeds ready. I’ve learned that I’m super sloppy if I’m using the seed packet so I pour the seeds into little bowls to help.

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Obviously make sure you know which seed is which.

In this bed I wanted to plant a soil builder (diakon radishes), a nitrogen fixer since this will be a tomato bed next year (fava beans), and a few fall crops between (beets, spinach and regular radishes).  At first I thought I’d just do a row of each and repeat but then I realized I’d like to concentrate the soil builders in areas where the soil was rougher and use the areas with the best soil for the fall crops I’ll actually be harvesting. So I catered the sewing to exactly what I wanted from each area.

Then I had to deal with the issue of squirrels. They like digging in fresh, loose, soil and as I may or may not have (bitterly) mentioned, they decimated my previous beet crop because I was unaware of this. So I knew I’d have to cover my beds to prevent them from digging. So I used some hardware cloth a friend gave me.

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Originally this bed was two smaller beds so I kind of had to mish mash the pieces but it’ll do. I kept the comfrey plant there because it’s a nitrogen fixer that I’d like to do a leave harvest of later in the season.

After all that it was time for Eli’s nap and I am also WIPED out.

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I want to be like this right now.  Instead, I’m snuggling with Avery a bit and enjoying our quiet time.

I’ll have to plant the other beds another day. They have soil in much worse shape than this bed so I’ll be adding my compost and planting crops to help make it better and prepare for next year’s spring/summer garden.

Here are some things going on around the garden.

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Tomatoessssss. They’re all nestled in there waiting to ripen, safely behind netting to protect against squirrels.

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My jalapeno plants are loaded again. I’ve already had a solid harvest on them and now they’ve each got a bigger second load. The fresnos too. I even have some poblano peppers getting big!

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I planted one bell pepper plant and it was hidden behind some overgrown herbs so I forgot about it until this happened!

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My comfrey plants are blooming. Some are purple and some are white. I love it!

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We had a pretty massive storm last night and I noticed a lot of blooms had been blown off.

The borage is blooming for a second time all over the garden!

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Herbs are insane of course. I’ve been drying, eating and drinking them in juices and smoothies. I have a lot more to deal with before I’m done! I haven’t even touched the mint which I grew specifically for drying and making into herbal tea.

I’ll do a post on my growing spice pantry soon.

Now I’m gonna relax and let my poor pregger bod recover from all the digging, squatting and planting I did this morning.w

 

 

Usage

Okay, so you have a garden, or maybe you want to shop at the farmer’s market or perhaps you have a friend or family member that gardens and you find yourself with seasonal produce and don’t know what to do with it.

I’m here to tell you, the usage is the easiest part and it can save you money. For example. Green beans, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and so much more are at a surplus right now. Here’s a meal I made that had bread….but otherwise, it’s all from the garden.

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Steamed green beans, roasted potatoes (from my dad’s garden) and a bruschetta made with cherry tomatoes and basil from my garden. The only thing I bought for this meal was actually the Parmesan cheese for the bruschetta since I was given the bread. Pretty cheap, eh?

Maybe you’re more into grilling in the summer and that’s cool too. The next meal is fajitas where I used tomatoes, peppers and onions from my mom and dad’s gardens.

SAMSUNG CSCThe store bought additions were tortillas, chicken and a bit of sharp cheddar. I made the tomatoes into a salsa with homegrown jalapenos and cut up onions and peppers for grilling. These were actually incredibly tasty. We agreed they were possibly the best fajitas we’ve ever had. You really can’t beat that seasonal flavor!

One thing I have a major surplus of around here is kale! I have probably more than I can eat in my own garden and my parents have these GIANT plants they’re trying to eat/preserve/give as well so it’s coming out my ears. I decided to not let a meal go by without using it! Kind of hard for breakfast (since I can’t seem to stomach smoothies in the morning with this pregnancy thing) but I managed and this is like the BEST breakfast ever.

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I browned a huge leaf of kale in butter on the stove top, put it on a half a bagel with cream cheese and topped it with a couple fried eggs. Avery is a sucker for skillet brown kale too and I’ve been making huge batches (really cramming it full) and we split them for a snack.

I’m trying hard to remember to photograph all these meals with produce. My lunches are usually all raw. Like chopped cabbage, tomato, onions and peppers or even basil/tomato salad. They’re pretty much always the same so I don’t go crazy taking pics of those.

I plan every meal around how much produce I can use and how little outside groceries I might have to use. Last grocery cycle I spent almost $40 less, which is nearly a third of my biweekly budget. So if that’s not motivation enough, I don’t know what is!

What sort of produce do you have around?

 

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