Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Strawberry Freezer Jam and Green Beans

Another weekend of canning and definitely many more to come.  A week or so ago, we canned 7 pints of green beans and this last weekend, we purchased around 4 pounds more and got 12 pints out of that.  We followed the guidelines from PickYourOwn.com for canning green beans and got all 19 jars to seal successfully.  We put salt in our beans since the last time we canned these we quickly realized that we love salty canned green beans!  This many cans means we can have a pint every 2 weeks, hopefully that will be enough (we both are quite fond of canned green beans).  Our green bean liquid did seem to decrease quite significantly in the canning process, which concerns me a little, but since they all sealed, fingers crossed the beans will be okay.  clip_image002

We lucked out and got 4 quarts of strawberries at market.  One quart I froze whole after cutting off the tops so we can make at least one batch of strawberry breakfast bread.  The rest went into the strawberry freezer jam.  We tried the recipe from CDKitchen, which like the raspberry freezer jam doesn’t call for pectin.  After eating this jam, I would definitely try adding the pectin because it behaves more like a sauce than a jam and I would probably cut back on the sugar a little because it is VERY sweet.  With our 3 quarts, we ended up getting 14 half pints of jam, so we are doing quite well on our jam stock.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Peaches and Blueberries


On August 8, Jacob and I tried canning peaches for the first time with relative success.  We purchased a half bushel of peaches and after sacrificing a few to mold and a few to stomachs, we ended up getting 11 quarts of peaches out of the batch.  It probably should have been less than that, because once we filled and sealed them, the peaches floated and since we used a light syrup, we are thinking it was because we didn’t pack them densely enough.  We followed the instructions from PickYourOwn.org for canning and making the syrup (we did the ‘very low calorie’ option).  We had an entertaining time peeling the peaches – some needed to boil a little longer so they were hard to peel – but it’s always really satisfying when you get a peach that the skin just falls off of.  Cutting the peaches into slices was a very juicy mess (we had some lemon juice left in the fridge that we sprinkled on the peaches to keep them from turning brown) and we had some issues with our syrup because a lot of it had evaporated by the time we were ready to boil the peaches AND we had too many peaches for the darn pot!  That was quite tricky and I’m not sure if they all got enough boiling in…We packed the peaches and sealed them in the water bath canner – all sealed successfully!  Hurrah!  We will have a can of peaches per month! 

We also got 5 pounds of blueberries (again some of them went to stomachs before they could be frozen).  We washed them and put them in freezer bags.  We got 12 cups of berries out of that batch, which is enough to make three blueberry pies or some other concoctions. 

We also picked our first watermelon and tomatoes this weekend.  Unfortunately, the watermelon was not ripe…a sad waste that goes to the compost bin.  The tomatoes are beautiful heirlooms that look like big Romas which I am very excited to try!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Watermelons and Green Beans


After ripping out the diseased plants, we put in seeds for plants that should not be affected by wilt (basically  no squash, melons, tomatoes, or peppers).  We stuck in some leeks, lima beans, green beans, and lettuce.  We still have one cucumber plant (on the right) hanging on and producing – we got 3 cucumbers yesterday.  We also have one crenshaw melon plant DSCN3006(on the left) that is trying to produce something, so fingers crossed it can pull through.  The peppers are struggling.  We have only had a few hot peppers and no sweet peppers.  The plants just seem to be burning or just failing to thrive, I’m not sure which.  We have also had something going on with a few of the strawberry plants where they seem to get burnt and dry up even though we give them water.  Thankfully it hasn’t been many – mainly confined to one bed, but it’s still disturbing. 

The second seeding of peas is poking up, which is exciting.  We are currently harvesting cucumbers, green beans, carrots, onions, and raspberries.  We are about to harvest watermelon!  I was DSCN3003watering last night – admiring my stylish pantyhose slings that are supporting the vertical melons as you can see on the right – when I was startled to find a  bowling ball sized melon hiding underneath the vines on the garden bed floor!  I love how the garden can surprise you like that!  Of course,  I’m afraid of picking it too early now.  I know they say to pick it when it sounds hollow, but they always sound hollow to me, so I’ll give it a little more time.  We have lima bean pods filling up and the dry beans have been producing a lot of pods.  However, the garden still only produces enough to supplement what we eat instead of being a main portion, which is a little disappointing considering how much we planted.  The potato plants are dying off DSCN3004which means they will be ready for harvest soon.  The cauliflower (left) doesn’t seem to want to produce.  We got these plants to grow big and beautiful but no head!  Not sure why…  We decided to harvest some carrots and the onions from the raised beds and felt like we had entered a miniature world.  The carrots were all about as fat around as an adult thumb and probably just about that  length!  Then, the onions were about the size of ping pong balls.  I had been skeptical about these two plants since the space is so limited in the beds and I really am not sure what the Square Foot Gardening author was thinking when he said we could grow these.  Lesson learned!  From now on, root veggies will not be grown in the beds (we’ll see what the potatoes did).  The tomatoes are starting to turn red and the plants are taller than me!  As you can see in the photo below which shows the main tomato and lima bean bed, the garden is starting to feel more like a jungle each day, but I can’t say that I mind – better a jungle than a desert!       DSCN3007

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Sad Day for Our Garden

Yesterday was a very destructive day for the garden.  We were on vacation for a week and in that time we lost a battle with cucumber beetles and bacterial wilt that we didn’t even know we were fighting.  Before we left, we had noted that the cucumbers were struggling, so we sprayed them with an organic insecticide, but it was too little too late.  Apparently, the cucumber beetle is a carrier for bacterial wilt.  When they munch on a leaf, the wilt is transmitted and once a plant is infected, there is nothing that can stop it.  The entire plant dies.  Unfortunately, the cucumber beetle is not a picky eater.  They will go for pretty much anything with a yellow flower – zucchini, muskmelons, tomatoes, squash, etc.  When we returned from vacation, all of the cucumbers AND the crenshaw melons had bacterial wilt.  Yesterday, I removed the infected plants (I left one cucumber and two crenshaws that looked like they still had a little strength in them but it’s only a matter of time before they bite the dust).  After that, I realized that at least one of the zucchini plants was swarming with beetles so they were doused with the organic insecticide.  I am anxiously watching over the other two zucchinis and our tomato plants (which are officially taller than me and I am very protective of them).  I am afraid that I am going to have to turn to more conventional insecticides just for this year for this battle simply because we have lost so much already and apparently you need to do the integrated pest management against cucumber beetles from the start of each plant, so it’s too late for a more natural approach.  We were happy that we got so many cucumbers already, but the melons are such a disappointment because we had picked the crenshaw, which are not typically found in farmers’ markets.  No crenshaws for us this year….