I can stop complaining about the lack of vegetables now:
This was a lot of stuff to come in all at once. It looks very impressive, posted on Facebook. I had several offers to, “….take some of that off your hands.” So kind of those folks! Where were they when I was on my hands & knees for four hours, weeding?
In the end, we put up 5 jars of pepperoncini peppers:
I found a great recipe for pickling them on Food.com. Our first batch tasted a little mushy, probably from the length of time they sat in the canner until I was able to finish stuffing all the jars and bring it to a boil. This time we stuffed the jars, filled the brine, removed the air and then put them all into the canner at once. We’re hoping this makes them crisper. The ones available commercially taste too bitter to me, so if they are just a little crunchier, they will be perfect.
We’ve got some beans coming, too:
We grilled these with a little bit of olive oil, lemon juice and dill and they were fantastic. We’re enjoying the beans more than normal, given that just three weeks ago we thought they were a total loss. Something was getting over our fence and eating the bushes. We suspect a woodchuck, and so we set up the electric fence around the wire one. Problem solved.
After picking all those tomatoes, we parboiled, peeled, seeded and diced them into 2-cup quantities and froze them. We ended up with 2 bags of Krim, 3 bags of Kellogg, and a bag each of Brandywine and Roma. But we didn’t freeze all of them:
That is a Tomato Stack Salad with Corn & Avocado. It is delicious. We used Krim, Kellogg and Brandywine, plus corn, fresh chive and basil from the garden in the dressing. We have been waiting all season to make that stack of deliciousness. It was worth the wait.
In a fit of optimism, I planted 191 Knight peas in the back 40 yesterday. Average time to harvest? 56 days. That puts us somewhere around October 12, give or take depending on how warm fall is. I may have wasted $1.50 in seeds if we have an early frost. This is my idea of living dangerously.
Today I ate the last dozen or so Sungold tomatoes. I would like to note that it is November, and this is amazing. I would have documented the occasion, but I was at work and forgot my camera. The garden kept going all the way through the second-to-last week of October, finally succumbing to a hard frost somewhere over the nights of October 23rd and 24th. It was a fantastic run. I can only tally what we canned or froze, but here’s where we stand in our first large-scale effort to preserve our harvest for later use:
22 jars dill pickles
5 jars bread and butter pickles
12 jars sweet banana peppers
4 jars green tomato chutney (hurrah! A use for unripe green tomatoes at the end of the season!)
56 cups of diced tomatoes
8 bags of beans
1 bag of peas
3 bags of corn
3 bags of peppers (jalapeno & Fooled You)
It was not a stellar year for either the peas or the corn – although we did eat some fresh – but it was an amazing year for tomatoes. We boiled, peeled, seeded & diced those suckers in 2-cup increments and froze them for use in cooking. We’ve already used about 9 bags so far, and the taste is so much better than even the canned organic tomatoes I normally buy. However, all these frozen vegetables take up a bit of room, as you can see:
There’s no way to really calculate what we harvested and ate fresh – over the long weekend of Columbus Day, J harvested about 15 of our Bride eggplants, fire roasted them, and turned them into eggplant dip. We ate one container, and froze the other two for future consumption as the recipe calls exclusively for Asian eggplants and we can’t get them around here unless we grow them. So we’ll defrost that container, maybe for New Year’s, and think longingly of fresh summer vegetables. It’s just about enough time to have forgotten how hot and backbreaking it is to weed in the middle of summer.
The tomatoes keep coming – every week we are filling a large bowl full of Roma, Mortgage Lifter, Brandywine & Kellogg tomatoes:
This particular bowl full is just Roma, Brandywine & Mortgage Lifter. I have done some extensive reading on the internet about canning tomatoes, but I have a high degree of fear about botulism (who wouldn’t?) for anything that does not involve vinegar, so I have been opting to freeze the tomatoes. But first I have to prepare them. Step one, plunge into boiling water for about a minute to loosen the skins:
Step two, drop into ice water:
Step three, drain and place into a separate bowl:
Steps four, five & six – peel, seed and dice the tomatoes. (Infinitely too messy to do and use my camera, so no photos.)
Step seven – measure out into two cup increments, put in Ziplock bags, and prepare for freezer:
Step eight – repeat weekly, sometimes twice in a single week.
I know this winter when I am pulling them out for soups or chili or some other recipe that calls for diced tomatoes I am going to be so happy I put all this effort in, week after week, preparing and freezing these tomatoes. But right now I’m on step nine – pray for an early killing frost.
I am pleased to report we might actually be winning the war with bugs and weeds. I know this was a pressing concern for all of you.
This past weekend I harvested an entire mixing bowl of banana peppers and cucumbers. And promptly canned all of it, with the help of Old McDonald. We have three jars of sweet banana peppers and three jars of bread & butter pickles. There will be plenty more coming, as we are about to be buried in tomatoes. Our Roma plants are producing like nothing I’ve ever seen. I see a lot of sauce in our future. And everyone else’s.
We finished planting this weekend, in some of the hottest weather we have seen this early in June. It felt unspeakably hot to be out there yesterday, but we persevered. The tally:
125 Mr. Big Peas
120 Sweet Peas
100 Royal Purple Bush Beans
48 Pole Beans
2nd planting of Sweet corn
7 Sugar Baby watermelon plants
4 Moon & Stars watermelon plants
8 Dill’s Atlantic Giant pumpkins
9 Amish pumpkins (those mysterious pumpkins from the purchase 2 years ago in upstate NY at an Amish farm stand)
8 Jack-Be-Little pumpkins
7 Orange Smoothies
And it look like this:
…..which doesn’t look like much at this point. It joins the sweet potatoes, first corn planting (of a brand called Quickie; we’ll see if it lives up to it’s name) and sunflowers. No edible value to sunflowers, really (well, except the seeds) but we’ve always wanted to grow them so this year we finally got around to planting some.
This year we’ve fenced the entire garden. Last year we only fenced the peas, beans and corn, which worked out fine, but once the pumpkins, watermelons and winter squash had matured, something came through and sampled a little bit out of quite a few of the fruits. Plus, this year we have a turkey. We think it’s a female, but who can tell? (It could be a juvenile male. Only time will tell.) This turkey enjoys walking across the corn, and snoozing in the dirt mounds we created to plant the watermelons, squash and pumpkins. So up went the fence. Which works, because as I was finishing up the watering yesterday she walked out of the brush and right into the fence. Someone unhelpfully pointed out turkeys can fly. We’re hoping the dirt isn’t that appealing to her that she’ll fly over and end up stuck. Or knock the fence over.
The Chinese Zodiac features various animals, each featured in a single year – Year of the Dragon, Year of the Rat, etc. I decided that if our garden could best be classfied this year it would be Year of the Pest.
First we lost the cucumbers to cucumber beetles:
The plants do this, which is extremely depressing:
Then the squash died, courtesy of this guy and his friends:
His cousins were over visiting my lillies, eating the blossoms, leaves, stems…….
We sprayed the lillies, sprayed the leaves of the squash and cucumber plants and then eventually gave up and pulled everything up. And it had been quiet for a few weeks, so we thought we were doing okay, and we were looking forward to harvesting what was looking to be a banner year for corn.
And then, we were visited by these guys:
So gross. I don’t love beetles, but worms of any sort (except earthworms) literally make my skin crawl. The corn borers hatch from eggs layed by moths and they immediately burrow into the corn:
You really can’t treat for them because it will get into the ears, so we solved the problem by harvesting every single ear, checking them and separating them into buckets, then cutting down all the cornstalks from the first planting in an attempt to to try and save the next planting, which is both healthier and currently without any ears of corn. We won’t know for a while whether it worked.
We were able to save about 2 dozen very small ears of corn, which we blanched and cut off the cob. We got about 5 cups of corn, which I froze. So we might have won a round against these bugs.
J has a line on some rain barrels for the back 40. We have discussed running a hose back there, although we estimate we would need about 400 feet to do it, and he’s concerned about water pressure that far from the house. I think he just likes the idea of rain barrels.