Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cucumber Juice

I had a ton of cucumbers in the fridge. I had more to pick outside, but no place to put them. So today I decided to deal with the excess. I have plenty of pickles in my fridge and pantry. One of commenter suggested juicing them. I don't own a juicer but I figured it couldn't be too hard. I just washed them and sliced them up and tossed them in the blender with a touch of salt. It worked well. I strained it with a piece of muslin. I have a stack of muslin squares in my kitchen because I've never been a fan of cheese cloth. Muslin is easy to wash without destroying.

As I was making it, I was wondering if other people cooked it to make juice. So I looked up what others did and no they don't cook it. But they do peel it and sometimes even seed it. Why in the world would you take out the most nutritious part of the cucumber when juicing? I know there probably isn't a lot of juice in the peel and not much would go into the final product. But it seems like a lot of work for no benefit.

But it sure made the final product green, green, green. I was a bit surprised that cucumber juice is opaque.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with it. I doubt I'll just drink it as is. I'm a water girl and I rarely drink flavored drinks for quenching my thirst. I can see it could be a nice addition to some soups. But I'm most excited about trying it with gin in different combinations. Maybe with some dried celery leaves (too bad I can't eat tomatoes as those would go well with this). Or maybe with lime. Or lime and mint. A cucumber margarita might also be nice. I'll probably freeze most of the juice as ice cubes as it would be a better serving size for drinks. And I can have it all winter long.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Harvest Monday 25 August, 2014

I had to pick the rest of the peaches last Monday as they were starting to fall off the tree. This is half of them as the other half goes to the townhouse mates. I slowly worked my way through them eating and canning. I still have two left in my fridge that will get eaten up today. It has been a phenomenal peach season, with my one peach tree (the second one died after never giving us a single peach and was replaced this year) giving me a total of 51 pounds. The peaches weren't huge. I'd say it was about 130-140 peaches all told. Now if they would just ripen over many weeks instead of them doing it all at once it would be better. But I suppose this makes canning easier.

Have you ever looked at my sidebar tally? Well the fruit section (which means the landscaping fruits) was put in to see how long it would take to pay pack putting in a bunch of trees and bushes and such. I'm nowhere near paying it off. And I keep spending more money on it every year. But this year marks the first year where I had more in harvests than I paid out. So maybe it marks the start of my fruit finally paying for itself.

Like last week corn was a big producer this week too. Those photos are just the tip of the iceberg. My husband has been eating two to three ears a day. I can only handle one to two. I've been feeding the townhouse mates and today gave some to a neighbor (over the fence so it never got weighed - it happens). And I've been freezing. It has been a great corn season. Really great. I'm already 10 pounds over last year and I still have a lot more to pick. Though I do have 25% more space in corn but even taking that into account production has been good and the ears have been very very sweet, so true to the name - Honey Select. It also doesn't have that grassy flavor that I'm not all that fond of in corn.

I picked my first kohlrabi. And I've been picking cukes and beans as I have for the last month. The cukes are finally starting to slow down as wilt is taking over. But the beans have picked up since I got rid of the Kentucky Wonder. It is giving the Golden Gate a lot more sun. They have responded by putting out a new wave of blossoms and beans.

Whoohoo! Melon season! Yeah yeah, broccoli, zucchini, beets, and such. But the baskets are really about melons.

I picked two Halona melons. The first was over ripe as you can see, but still sweet as candy and worth eating. I kept watching it. I pick them when I can pull the stem off easily. Well this one never pulled off. I finally yanked it off and it took a bit of the melon with it. The second one slipped off like it is supposed to. I think the taste this year is the best ever. I will forever grow them in the circle garden as the surrounding bricks really keep the heat for them. I do alternate them with the sweet potatoes. One gets the east bed in this garden one year, one gets the west. The next year they switch, but this year the melons the best side. The east side is surrounded by brick path on three sides instead of just two. And oh it makes a difference for the flavor of the melons. Yum!

The other two melons are Sensation. I'm not sure how to describe them. Maybe a cross between a cantaloupe and a honeydew. But I don't like honeydews and I do like Sensation. It is a very sweet and mild melon. I ate this one for breakfast on Sunday. I ate the whole thing in one sitting.

I'm actually growing three varieties of melon. The last is Alvaro Charentais, but it is still green and shows no sign of ripening. Which is actually good as all my melons ripened at the same time last year. One that waits a couple of weeks is a good thing. I'll appreciate them more when I've finished with all these melons. Not that the melons in the baskets are the last of their kind on the vines. I've got a couple more of both that are ripening up. As long as we don't get any rain in the near future they will be just as wonderfully sweet as the ones I've already picked. I've already stopped watering the patch. It makes for much better melons that way. Though I'm contemplating watering the Alvaro as it hasn't started to ripen yet and might need the water if it takes a while.

  • Alliums: 2.05 lbs
  • Beans: 0.78 lbs
  • Broccoli: 1.11 lbs
  • Corn: 16.76 lbs
  • Cucumbers 5.66 lbs
  • Greens: 0.86 lbs
  • Herbs: 0.51 lbs
  • Melons: 16.01 lbs
  • Roots: 0.43 lbs
  • Squash, Summer: 1.19 lbs
  • Weekly Total: 45.35 lbs
  • Yearly Total: 383.33 lbs
  • Yearly Tally: $515.45

  • Fruit
  • Raspberries: 0.40 lbs
  • Peaches: 33.90 lbs
  • Weekly Total: 34.30 lbs, $106.34
  • Yearly total: 61.87 lbs, $208.46

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Zuccini Fritters

I'm always looking for a good way to use my zucchini. I used to love it with tomatoes in the summer - zucchini lasagna is especially good, but now that I can't eat tomatoes, I've been trying other ways. You would think someone that has grown zucchini for so many years would have tried every way by now, but not so. This is the first year I've tried fritters.

I first tried Dave's recipe, but I thought the texture too soft. It was more like eating pudding. I wanted a bite to my fritters and a crunch on the outside. I tried a couple of different ways, but in the end I used a recipe I had made before - Salmon Patties - and just substituted zucchini for the salmon. And I do love them that way. Now occasionally I make a batch for lunch.

I like to use whole grains as much as possible so I start with making bread. Yes really. Though I only have to make bread once to make an awful lot of fritters. Then I whizz the bread up in the food processor and dry it out. If you haven't guessed, you need breadcrumbs for the recipe. I often just make crumbs with leftover bread, but I had run out. I hadn't made whole wheat bread in a long time, so all my crumbs were gone. All I had were store bought white crumbs which I use in an emergency. You know the kind I mean. The "Oh my god I'm in the middle of a recipe and need breadcrumbs" kind of emergency. You don't have those? White bread crumbs keep forever in the cabinet. Whole wheat bread crumbs do not. So they are my emergency go to.

I've found that I really like the tooth of the recipe with one cup of grated zucchini, but it still works with 1 1/2, though it is softer. I tried it with that range because that is the size of a normal zucchini out of my garden. So it is convenient.

Daphne's Zucchini Fritters

  • 1-1 1/2 c zucchini grated
  • 1/4-1/2 t salt
  • 2 T onion minced - any kind - I've even used green onions
  • 1 egg
  • T mayo
  • 1 1/2 t Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 t lemon juice
  • T fresh parsley minced
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1/8 t old bay seasonings
  • 1/2 c whole wheat bread crumbs or cheat and use your emergency stash
  • extra virgin olive oil

Put the zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle it with salt. Mix and refrigerate for an hour. Then squeeze the living daylights out of the zucchini to get as much water out as possible. My hands always hurt after I do this. I hate having a million kitchen gadgets that just do one thing as they take up too much space. But I might buy a zucchini squeezer if they made one. I'm sure a potato ricer would work, but I've never owned one of those. I might have to get one though. I'm not as young as I used to be.

Add in everything except the bread crumbs and oil and mix well. Add breadcrumbs. You can refrigerate this for a half hour. I'm usually too hungry and just make up the patties. I typically make six, but six is not a magic number. Heat some extra virgin olive oil up in a frying pan and fry them up until they are nice and crisp and brown on both sides. Drain on a paper towel.

And remember when I told you I make my own seasonings. Well the old bay seasonings are one of the mixes I make. Most of the seasonings come from the store as they don't grow well here, but old bay has paprika in it. And I can't eat paprika. So I have to make it myself if I want to eat it. And I wonder. It is a very American spice mix. Can you even buy it in Europe or Australia? Maybe not. I do love the taste of bay though and ground up bay and a bit of celery is probably good enough.

Have you noticed that each of the photos of the fritters shows a sauce? I like to eat the fritters with a horseradish mustard sauce. I throw together four ingredients. I'm not sure the exact amount because I don't measure, I just taste, but I'll give you want I think might be the amounts. 1 T mayo, 1 T horseradish, t Dijon mustard, a dash of lemon juice.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Flowers and the Bees

I like to plant flowers every year for the bees. I have lots of sweet alyssum, but one of my favorites is the zinnias. Even when I don't deadhead them they will continue to bloom wonderfully. But now the zinnias have no bees around them. I didn't see one there this morning. There are two reasons why.

The first would be this plant. It is a 9' tall Lemon Queen sunflower. I don't plant sunflowers anymore. I did the first year and after that they just come up. This spot is in my rock wall garden along the road. I never even had a sunflower close to this before, but I suspect a squirrel stole a flower from somewhere else and ate it on top of the wall.

Bees love these as much as the birds and the squirrels do. Yesterday when coming home I stopped in front of the driveway watching the goldfinch eat.

The other reason the zinnias have no bees are these yellow mustard flowers. I'm growing them for seed, but you would think I'm growing them for the bees.

The honey bees swarm the plants and one of my favorite things to do is go outside and stand right near them and listen to their buzzing. I know lot of people get freaked out by buzzing bees, but to me it does the opposite.

Now I tried to take photos of the bumblebees, but none of them came out well. So I'll show you a flower that doesn't seem to attract any bees. It is in the morning glory family - a sweet potato flower. Most don't flower for me, but the Garnet always puts out some pretty pink flowers that hide in the foliage. That was something I forgot when I put the a Garnet into my front door planter. I have other orange flowers in there and the colors clash badly. If my potted sweet potato experiment works out I'll have to do a pink or maybe a blue flower in there next year. But not orange.

I'm supposed to cut off the garlic chive flowers as scapes to eat, but I never seem to get around to it in time. And I really don't mind as it attracts a lot of different kinds of wasps. Above is a Great Black Wasp. They get pretty big at maybe an inch and a half (4cm). They have the prettiest iridescent blue wings. They don't often land anywhere. Mostly I see them hovering around the garden but they seem to love these flowers and it is the only place I can get a photo. They feed katydids, grasshoppers, and crickets to their young. And lord knows I have a lot of crickets around for them the feed on. I do love my wasps. Most of them are smaller wasps that eat caterpillars. And who doesn't like fewer caterpillars eating their veggies?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It Started Off Bad

Peach Rum Sauce
It all started with yesterday, which I might point out was a good day. On Monday I picked the rest of the peaches on the tree and had about 15 pounds of them on my dining room table. Yesterday I decided I'd can one thing a day to reduce the pile somewhat, but not feel like I was spending all my time canning. So I made the above Peach Rum Sauce. Oh it tastes good. I used the Ball recipe, except I left out one cup of sugar. Really it didn't need it.

Before I went to bed I sliced up another batch of peaches for a slow cooker vanilla peach butter. When I got up in the morning it didn't smell right. It had burned. I've made slow cooker butters before and I'd never had that trouble. On closer inspection I saw my trouble. I make the butter by turning it to high for an hour or so to get it going. Then before going to bed I'm supposed to turn it to low. Well that never happened. So instead of wonderful goodness, I had a mess to clean up.

I figured I had enough to make one more batch of something from the peaches, but if I added something I might get two. I had seen a blackberry patch on one of my morning walks with lots of blackberries in it and I thought blackberry peach preserves sounded really good. So I took my morning walk with the dog. We jumped off the boardwalk to the tall weeds below. I let the dog off the leash so he could have fun. I went into the patch. What I found was a mass of moldy berries.

After braving all those nasty thorns - and boy do blackberries have vicious thorns - I found just one that was ripe and not moldy. What a waste of a bunch of blackberries. Not even the wild life got to eat them. If I lived close I think I'd go in and prune the brambles in early summer so I could harvest regularly. However it is about a mile from my house, so I'll just regret the waste of good berries. At least the dog had a blast running around the area and rolling in the wet weeds.

Back home I decided I'd just make some plain chunky peach butter/preserves. It really is half way between them. A preserve like this won't hold together like a jam does. Jams need sugar, acid, and pectin to set and I was lacking the sugar. So the results are very soft, almost like a butter except for the chunks. I don't really use a recipe for something like this. I wanted just peaches at this point. No vanilla, no blackberries - well OK maybe I wanted the blackberries but I was going to make it plain. Not even some lemon juice. And very very little sugar. Each cup it made has less than a tablespoon of added sugar. I wanted something I could eat that I didn't have to think about how bad it was for me (like a jam which is pretty much flavored sugar). I really am trying to cut my sugar down and I've done a pretty good job.

There are several ways to make preserves. 1. You can just chop up the fruit and boil it down. 2. You can do the really slow way, which is to heat it up for 5-15 minutes and then let it sit and cool down. Repeat until it is thick enough for you liking. 3. And the last way, the one that I used, is to macerate the fruit and the strain it out. Boil down the liquid fast to 220F. Add the fruit back in and cook for a short time until it is ready.

The last method keeps more of the nutrients of the fruit as it isn't hot as long. It also preserves the shape of the fruit more. But I wasn't after the last one. After adding the fruit I used a stick blender for just a couple of whizzes. I didn't want big chunks as I wanted to be able to eat it with almond butter (I miss peanut butter but sadly it is a legume) on a sandwich. I also had to modify the first step of macerating the fruit. Usually you just pour sugar over the fruit and the liquid comes out. I only used a 1/4 cup of sugar for the whole thing. That wouldn't work. So I poured the sugar over it and heated it up to boiling. That got the juices to start flowing. Then I scooped out the fruit. As more liquid came out of the fruit I continued to add it to the boiling pot. I think it worked pretty well. And it tastes delicious. Much more tart than a typical preserve, but full of peach flavor. Yum.

At least the end of the morning was better than the start. Each of the four jars pinged as soon as they got out of the hot water. I don't think anyone who cans can keep from smiling when she hears that sound. Oh and that last jar with the black lid is for the fridge. I'm going to have that sandwich for lunch tomorrow. As for the peaches. I have sixteen left on the counter. I want to eat the last of them fresh. I'm hoping they last for 4 days as I've been eating about 4 a day. One in the morning in my smoothie. And three in the afternoon for a snack. No matter how good peach preserves are, they don't beat a fresh ripe dripping peach.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What It Takes to Plant Some Bok Choy

This morning I decided the bok choy and choy sum had to get into the ground. But the spot that I wanted them to go into was filled with a lot of scallions. In other years I've used them up much earlier as I would make things like Peking raviolis (the Bostonian name for a gyoza). I no longer eat soy sauce and to me the ginger soy sauce is what makes a gyoza, without it, I was no longer inspired to make them. So my scallions sat there all summer long. Occasionally one or two would be used up. Mostly they just were happy forming bunches and getting bigger as they tend to do. I picked all the ones in the middle and left the ones on the sides. I even moved a few to another location in the garden.

Whole Wheat Scallion Pancake missing a bite - I was hungry

That morning I still hadn't gotten around to planting my seed. The scallions were calling me. What do you do with a couple of pounds of scallions? I figured scallion pancakes were in order. I'd never made them myself before. Sadly one serving, which is all I made, only uses a quarter of a cup of scallions and only the green part. I really have my work cut out for me trying to use those up. I'd make a scallion soup, kind of like a leek and potato soup, but I can't eat potatoes either. I'll eventually figure out what to pair with it. Worse comes to worse, I'll caramelize them a bit and toss them on a pizza.

Stomach full I went out to survey my spot. I cleaned it up and added a bit of fertilizer. Then I tried to find some netting. I couldn't find any that had been used before in the shed. I didn't want to cut a new bit just to keep the butterflies off for a couple of months.

Beautiful kale losing its light at the end of the row even at midday

So I liberated what I had protecting my kale. I don't like to keep the cover on the kale for very long. The aphids like to take it over too much in the fall. I need to let the good bugs in as much as possible. I was going to wait for a week or two more to let the plants get a bit stronger before risking caterpillars. Usually my kale isn't bothered that much by the caterpillars, but one year they ate the seedlings down to nubs, so now while they are seedlings they get a bit of protection.

Finally my bok choy was planted. I alternated rows of bok choy and choy sum. The choy sum won't be in as long I think. So it will free up some elbow room when it gets pulled.

I really like the view of it through the holes of foliage that I cut down on Sunday (though some gardener really ought to close her shed). It was a really beautiful day. Usually I have to wait for late afternoon to admire the light on the garden. But I guess the sun is now low enough in the sky now for it to be lovely even at high noon.

Making Seasonings

Once a year I redo the herbs in my spice draw. I toss out the year old ones and dry some new ones. Often the last ones to get tossed are my onion and garlic powder. I could have dried the garlic powder much earlier, but I didn't seem to get to it until now. And making it was desperate as I ran out of my seasoned salt and needed to make more. I don't dehydrate either onions or garlic in the house as it would be a bit too much to take. I pick a nice day and plug it in outside. Once it is well dehydrated I grind it up in a coffee grinder that I only use for herbs and spices.

Once the garlic and onions were done, I could do a couple mixes that I use all the time. One is seasoned salt and the other is Italian seasonings. Though I do have recipes for them, in general I tend to change them each year to suit my current tastes.

The Italian seasonings is from an Allrecipes recipe. But I don't like as much marjoram as it calls for so I use a third of what they call for. I also add a teaspoon of both onion powder and garlic powder. One year I think I added lavender to the mix. I like making this mix as everything in it come from the garden.

Seasoned salt isn't quite the same as less than half of it comes from the garden (I certainly don't grow salt,sugar, or turmeric), but I find it useful for some things, like making rice when I don't want plain but I don't really want a real seasoned rice. I don't remember where I got my seasoned salt recipe from, but in general I can't have the commercially prepared ones as they tend to have paprika in it (and I can't eat peppers). I was going to add some celery leaves to the mix this year, but forgot to put them in. I might have to go and fix that now. I just wish I had more space in my drawer so I could make more mixes besides the basic ones. I used to make a chicken spice mix that was good. I know I can't have the same one anymore as I'm sure it had paprika. But I could make one similar if I tried. Or I could play around with other people's mixes. Do any of you make your own spice mixes or do you just use the individual spices when you cook?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Harvest Monday 18 August 2014

I have so many of the typical harvest baskets. So I'll give you a very unrepresentative sample. Usually it is cucumbers, beans, basil, and sometimes chard or broccoli. This one has some root crops - turnips and beets. Though I took photos of them all, I'll spare you the repetition. Even I'm bored of them at this point and that is saying a lot since I never get bored of seeing the fresh veggies even if it is just beans and cukes.

What I will show you are the things I'm really loving this week. That would of course be corn. We eat it fresh most days. Oh it is so so good. My husband is constantly raving about it. The top basket is mostly the last of the first section of corn planted. The second basket is the first of the second planting of corn. There were more baskets this week as I pick it fresh everyday just before dinner, but those were the biggest.

I have to show off the peaches. I harvested over 14 pounds of them last week and I probably have the same amount left on the tree. I do have to split these with my townhouse mates as they are part of the landscaping for our yard. But I still have enough to do some preserving. Though I'm doing my best to eat a lot of them fresh with juice dripping down my chin. That really is the best way to eat a peach.

The last harvest I'll share is the last batch of onions. They were finally cured and dried so I could braid them and store them in the basement. I've been really shocked by the harvest totals this year. Especially when I look at last year's totals.

Variety20132014
Ailsa Craig16.2817.30
Redwing7.5211.89
Copra17.6435.94
Total41.4465.13

All of the onions had about the same amount of plants in the same set up as the year before. With the same fertilizer and treatment. There was only one thing different. I put netting over the onions to keep the onion maggots out of the patch. I can't believe how well it worked. The Ailsa Craig obviously isn't much affected by them, but the Copras, which are my main storage onion are obviously seriously set back by them. I know I've mentioned it before, but my Copras are really the best I have ever seen them. They show no signs of rot either. Any of them. Unlike in previous years. Then I'd make sure to eat the questionable ones first. Needless to say, I'll continue with the netting every year.

And though the yield of the Ailsa Craig onions aren't really different, they taste better this year. I was thinking of switching to a different variety because I wasn't fond of their taste as much as other sweet onions. But this year they all tasted great. So good in fact that I've been eating them constantly. As a sweet onion they don't store well. Though they are one of the best keepers for sweet onions. They last about 2 months in storage. In the past I often lost onions because I couldn't finish them up in time. But I only have a handful of them left. They will be gone way before the end of September this year.

And if you wish to compare onion varieties. The AC and RW onions have the same number of plants and the same conditions. There are exactly twice as many Copra onions, but it is hard to compare because I put the Copras closer to the path, which means they have more sun. Even with that though I'm surprised that the Copras out performed the AC onions (by a hair). The AC onions are a large sweet onion. They can get just huge. They got big, but none of them were huge.

  • Alliums: 26.73 lbs
  • Beans: 1.20 lbs
  • Broccoli: 0.96 lbs
  • Corn: 11.23 lbs
  • Cucumbers 12.68 lbs
  • Greens: 1.17 lbs
  • Herbs: 0.20 lbs
  • Roots: 1.85 lbs
  • Squash, Summer: 1.21 lbs
  • Weekly Total: 57.23 lbs
  • Yearly Total: 337.98 lbs
  • Yearly Tally: $425.98

  • Fruit
  • Raspberries: 0.33 lbs
  • Peaches: 14.34 lbs
  • Weekly Total: 14.67 lbs, $46.87
  • Yearly total: 27.57 lbs, $102.12

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.