Saturday, June 25, 2011

Under $2/lb!

After harvesting 4.75 oz of beans, 15 oz of lettuce and 2 lbs of cucumbers I'm at 41.66 lb harvested for the year and $1.97 cost/lb!

Those beans are sitting in the fridge waiting for inspiration, the lettuce is for lunch & dinner side dishes and the cucumbers are destined for pickles.

Recipe: Dill Bean Pickle

I'm a lover of all things vinegary and salty.  If it's a bit garlicky and a tad spicy, all the better!  Thus, I've been really wanting to try pickled green beans for awhile now.  When I was faced with a pound of unneeded green beans from the garden, pickles it was!

For me, these are the perfect pickle, but you can add/subtract any dried spice (remember, though, it will get stronger as it sits) or leave out the garlic.  Just make sure to keep the water/vinegar/salt ratio the same (this recipe is tried & true from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving).  You can also just store these in the fridge instead of doing a boiling water bath if you're going to eat these relatively quickly. 

Dilled Bean Pickle (makes 6 pints)
3 tbsp pickling or canning salt (*not* kosher or table salt)
3 c distilled white vinegar
3 c water
4.5 lb of green and/or yellow wax beans trimmed & cut into jar-length pieces
18 whole black peppercorns
6 cloves of garlic
dill seed
crushed red pepper flakes

1. Prepare jars & lids.
2. In non-reactive pot combine salt, vinegar & water.  Bring to a boil over medium, stirring to dissolve salt.
3. Add green/yellow beans.  Return to a boil & then immediately remove from heat.
4. In each jar put 1 clove of garlic, 3 peppercorns, a scant 1/2 tsp of dill seed and 1/4-1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes.  Pack in beans, leaving 1/2 in headspace at the top.  Pour in liquid (keeping the headspace).
5. Wipe rim, place lid and ring and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  They are best if they are let to sit for at least a week (ideally more) to absorb the flavors.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lots of Basil (and More Beans!)

I really need to get better at using the garden produce.  It always comes as a surprise to me when something needs to be used & it really shouldn't be.  I vow from this point forward to take stock in what will likely be ready to harvest *before* I go grocery shopping and meal plan accordingly!

The big disappointment is my onions.  I think it's a little too shady for them & I planted them too close.  They haven't really bulbed much and the leaves are dying back.  The same story with my garlic!  Alliums, what's with the hate?!?

Luckily, I have basil, beans & cucumbers to cheer me up!  My cukes are taking over despite having a 6' tall trellis.  There are probably a dozen or more baby cukes just on the tee-pee trellis.  Pickles here I come!  The beans are also doing well.  I can't believe how much they produce.  Of course, the lettuce & Swiss chard makes it hard to find them which means they are often a little too mature (but still edible).  Oh, well.

The real hero, though, is basil.  Good gracious, the basil!  It was like 2' tall and definitely time to do a hard harvest (taking 2/3 of the plant).  It ended up being over 10oz!  I'm freezing most of it for winter use as there's no way we could eat that much basil in a few days (I need a break from pesto).

Totals for the past week are:
Basil 10.75oz
Cukes 4oz (not all pictured)
Beans 7.25 oz (not all pictured)
Onions 7.5 oz (not pictured)
Lettuce 2 lbs (!!! and there's still more...not pictured)
Kohlrabi 3 lb (this is all of it. not pictured)

Grand total for the year: 37.55

Not too shabby!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Garden & Harvest Update

The garden is looking awesome right now.  The cukes and pole beans are filling up their trellises, the lettuce hasn't bolted yet and the tomatoes seem to be growing a foot a week.  Oh, and the zucchinis!  The zucchinis!  I think at least 1 plant is going to need to go.  I planted a bunch b/c I didn't label & I was concerned one could have been a winter squash.  I'm just one person...that can't eat the output of 5 zucchini plants.

Also exciting?  I realized that some green beans need harvesting.  So I picked.  And picked.  And pickled.  Over a pound!  There were also 2 cucumbers (weighing over 5 oz total).  This brings my harvest this year to over 30 lbs.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Strawberries and Roses

I came across a recipe for strawberry and rose geranium flowers in the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, it inspired me. I have a rose-scented geranium (note that I'm talking about the bedding plants...these are different) but it's not yet big enough to produce enough flowers.  Instead, I shoved a few leaves in some sugar to infuse.  The result?  Delicious, mildly rose-scented sugar.

After a hot day of strawberry picking, I threw a handful of fresh berries, a teaspoon of the rose-sugar, a tiny bit of water and a few ice cubes all together in a blender.  The result is a refreshing way to use a lot of berries!  Adding a splash of rose water (available in the middle eastern aisle of most grocery stores) just intensified the rose flavor.

All fortified now, I went on to make 2 batches of strawberry-balsamic jam!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Climbing out

I know this has been a trend this season, but it's true: I've been unbelievably occupied.  I've been, essentially, working 3 jobs: one at a plant nursery, one as a stay-at-home mom and one freelance job.  Plus, I'm taking classes.  Don't get me wrong, I love all these things, but it barely leaves me enough time to keep up with the garden, let alone post about it.  If you haven't deleted me from your Google Reader yet, you're a saint.

So, here I am, climbing out.

I'm happy to report that garden harvests have been epic in my blogging absence.  EPIC. I've harvested 5.7 lbs (!!!) of lettuce and 9.4 lbs (!!!!!!!!!) of kohlrabi.  Can you believe it?  Those this harvest alone is about half the total harvest of last year.  Yay for spring gardening!

Thus far, I've harvested 29 lbs and my cost per pound is $2.82!  I'm already under my goal of $3/lb!  SQUEEEEE!!!!  Plus, one bin of my compost is "finished" so I won't have to buy any of that for the rest of the year.

I apologize for the excessive use of exclamation marks in this posts, but it's taken me basically 3 years to get to the point where the garden is really paying for itself...even the fixed costs.

I promise to do a proper garden update (the plants are so big already) and post ideas about what to do with 16 lbs of this:

Recipe: Mulberry Jam

One of the great things about being married to my husband is benefiting from his youth climbing up trees. When most people walk by sidewalks dotted with purple crushed berries, they think "What a mess!"  Instead, my husband swings open the door and announces "It's mulberry season!"  At my job I noticed a tree loaded with berries and watch the horror on the faces of my coworkers as I walked over and put a few in my mouth. These trees are definitely thought of as a nuisance and not a food source for humans.  Silly humans.

I am a mulberry novice.  I wasn't entirely sure what a mulberry tree looks like (when they aren't fruiting), which is why I count myself fortunate that my husband does.* These are quite delicious berries; I can see why the birds adore them too.  They are intensely sweet and have an almost watermelon-y taste. And, now that I know what to look for, I feel like I'm seeing these trees everywhere. I'd be a fool, though, to tell you my favorite mulberry foraging spots...I get enough competition from birds!

*Please verify the ID of any berry before sampling.

Mulberry Jam (makes 6 half-pints)
(From Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

3c crushed & stemmed mulberries
1/2c lemon juice
1 package of powdered pectin
6 c granulated sugar

1. Prepare canner, jars & lids.
2. Combine mulberries & lemon juice.  Whisk in pectin.
3. Boil over high heat.  Add sugar & return to boil.
4. Boil hard for 1 minute.  Remove from heat; skim off foam.
5. Fill jars/wipe off rim/tighten lid; process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes

Mulberry hands.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

May Local Eating Challenge: Recap

The Last Few Days
The last bit of my Local Eating Challenge left me with these thoughts: "Just a few more days to go!  I'm craving tomatoes so badly.  And watermelon."

I didn't buy much at the farmer's market because I went to the McLean one which is smaller and I went without a very coherent plan for the week.  I just needed to make it to Wednesday.  I spent $46 at the grocery store and $35 at the farmer's market (asparagus, 2 bunches of onions, a few cucumbers, ground lamb, 4 zucchini, 1 bunch radishes).  We also went strawberry picking so we're all set on fruit.

Plan for the rest of the challenge:

Saturday: Leftovers

Sunday, Tuesday: Burgers with grilled vegetables (lamb or beef, lettuce from the garden, asparagus, zucchini)

Monday: Neighborhood BBQ

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: Black bean tacos (lettuce, onion, radishes)

My lunch: Quinoa & black bean salad (onions, radishes, cucumbers, parsley from the garden)

Husband's lunch: Pasta carbonara (leftover bacon from last week...don't was put in the freezer)

Where the last Local Eating Challenge left me feeling encouraged & uplifted, this one left me exhausted and frustrated.  Part of it certainly was the less interesting, IMO, produce for much of the challenge.  Greens of all sorts are indeed delicious, but one can only endure so many stir-fries, pestos, salads, braises and soups.  Add to the fact that greens take a lot of time to clean and prep as well as are relatively expensive (several bunches cook down to nothing) and aren't terribly filling left me constantly annoyed that I couldn't buy things already washed & prepared.  Another part of the picture, of course, is that I'm working 3 jobs and have less free time to search for recipes and cook.

I'll certainly stick with the next challenge month (August), but if I wasn't blogging about this experience, I would have bailed after the first week.