Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Kitchen Garden in July: Preparing

The Kitchen Garden: July 2021

Pictures of my kitchen garden are helpful to me in spiritual ways. I see such a difference week to week in change, in growth, and it feeds my soul knowing I had a part in this. Yes, there's a lot of work and planning, but the payoff is sweet.

One of my major goals this year was to grow food my family could and would eat, and to put some of it up through canning, dehydrating, or freezing. I believe food security is a real issue facing us. Last year's struggle to source food and basic supplies was a lesson to many of us, and should not be wasted on those who think it's past. The supply chains everywhere are fragile, and each of us should think in terms of what we need or want to be comfortable in our homes. How do we maintain our lives in case of future shortages and scarcity? It wouldn't be the first time in history people have had to ask this question, but perhaps in many of our own short lives. This is what I'm doing.

I'm helping a friend grow. In addition to my kitchen garden, my neighbor has also planted in a shared plot with her in-laws. We are growing potatoes in bins as a trial, and the regular trench method here. 

Onions, peppers, more tomatoes, and squash that need room to sprawl are here, too. It's so interesting how things react to where they're planted as well as how. Some of the same plants I raised and planted in my garden do better or worse here just a short distance away. 

Purple Graffitti cauliflower is a novelty, but also delicious! It stays purple when cooked, but the Japanese beetles love it too. Neem oil spray has helped, but not eliminated the constant pests. They should be gone soon, though, so I pick them off and drown them in soapy water.

Stir fry is a common dish here during the summer. Chinese cabbage, snow peas, carrots, and onions all from the plot. I love that!

I do succession planting. When one crop is more than 50% over, it comes out so another one can be planted as soon as possible. These are the last of the pea vines. I sorted for good peas, and some that had already dried, and turned to pea seeds to save for another planting. 

The Jam Pot

I love blueberries! I hate jelly. I like jam or simply preserved, syrupy fruit. Pectin is the ingredient that makes the fruit gel, but not an artificial additive I want in my preserves. By macerating the fruit overnight--mixing with sugar and allowing it to form naturally, you bypass having to add boxed pectin. You won't achieve that jelly-like consistency, but it's quite thick, in our opinion, and actually more versatile to use over pancakes, ice cream, and toast.

Making jam is a kind of zen thing. I love that it requires attention, and watching for nuances. 

The pot goes from 1/4-1/3 full to rising up to nearly the top in the first part of the process. Never overfill your jam pot! Then the boil changes in appearance from tiny bubbles to nickel-sized glassy bubbles over the next 15-25 minutes. You test, and test with a plate in the freezer to see what consistency it will be when cool, and woolah, it's there!

Packing into half-pints is like a science experiment, but canning itself is simple. This is a water bath method, and these little jars only need 10 minutes of boiling to be ready to seal. 

Once on the counter, they pop-pop-pop, and you are aware the lids are sealing. All ready for a cold morning in December to eat with your pancakes.

Note: Canning supplies were in high demand a year ago, and I started sourcing about January of this year. I'm trying some lids imported from China, and also Canada. A local company has gone into the manufacturing business, and we shall see how theirs hold up too. 

The Question Mark Butterfly

Interesting little butterfly called the Question Mark is brilliant above, but drab under its wings. When the wings fold up, it's barely visible on this wall. 

What Else Can I Do?

I have considered what I could do to make things at home that I normally buy from a grocery, things to give as food gifts, and so on. A friend of mine started me on a no-knead bread recipe, and I took off from there. I can put together a recipe with bread flour, salt, yeast, and water while cooking supper, and bake it after breakfast the next day. We will never be without delicious bread again! Let me know if you want the recipe.

*As someone with gluten problems, I don't often bake with regular flour. This recipe is easily stirred together, and there is minimal chance that I wind up with flour in the air. If in doubt, I have mixed it outside on the porch. 

Also, did I have other resources or appliances that I'm underutilizing because I hadn't figured them out?

Food Dehydrator: I use this almost every week, and am trying to more. There are so many herbs I've dried this summer, and they will go into soaps, salves, oils, etc. Those are easy gifts to give to friends and family, and something that is useful. Also, and I think is important to mention, receiving a small, homemade gift feels more personal. You realize thought and care has gone into it, but the giver didn't break the bank to accomplish it.

Candied Pecans: A not-so-difficult method to making these yummy pecans is the Instant Pot. They're quite expensive to buy, and fill the need of something sweet instead of candy.

Sauerkraut: Here's my big fail, but not really. My jar developed mold after about 2 weeks, and I threw them both out. I don't think the mix was acidic enough, but I learned about the process from doing it. I love fermenting, and am a fan of making my own kombucha regularly so I'm sure there will be another try at some kraut.

Vintage Jars

This is a lesson and a warning to those of you with beautiful vintage canning jars. They may no longer be able to withstand high temperatures. Keep them for dry ingredients only. I tried to use one for iced tea, and you can see what happened.

I'm heading back out to the garden to cut more cabbage, and plant beans. The carrots were lovely, and I'll plant more for fall. If you haven't planted anything, and think it's too late to have a garden of any kind, think again. This is the perfect time for lots of cool weather vegetables! You just have to plant a seed. If you have any questions, let me know. There are loads of resources available for free. I'd be happy to direct you.

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sow.



Shelina (formerly known as Shasta) said...

It is so lovely to see your garden. My busy season at work is in the spring and with my allergies and aversion to heat, I don't do much gardening. I tend to just have flowers to have less labor intensive garden and help the birds and insects.

Barb N said...

Oh my goodness, this is more impressive than making a quilt! Everything looks wonderful! And you seem to have mastered the canning and preserving part. I take you don't need to irrigate your garden? We have to here in the high desert. Plus the deer are already eating my roses, chives, strawberries and some other flowers and bushes. We'd have to build a fence and set up a sprinkler system if I attempted to duplicate your efforts. Well done!

Mary Ann said...

Yes please, I would like the bread recipe. Bread is my weakness!!!

Angie in SoCal said...

When my kids were little we had a plot in a community garden. My husband grew them, I cooked and preserved them. We loved to make jam, pickles canned green beans, and pies from all the black berries - Yum. Now with this long drought, I'm lucky to keep a few perennial flowers going. It is really a serious drought.

Nancy Fratz said...

Congratulations on your heartfelt giving of homemade and handmade gifts to the special folks in your life. Do you make your own yogurt? It’s much more tasty than most grocery store brands. I was introduced to Lebna (middle eastern strained yogurt cheese) 2 years ago and I love it. It’s easily made at home and I spread it on toast or eat it with fruit. I googled how to make it and it’s quite fun as well as delicious.
I support your decisions to change your lifestyle and diet. Good job setting examples for others too.
Nancy Fratz

Linda Swanekamp said...

I can appreciate all your garden and food production. I rely on local farmers as I have 55 x 140' lot with a house and double garage. I grow flowers and shop at the farmer's market. My husband has celiac and we have also cut out sugar and carbs, so I am making most of our meals and not buying anything pre-prepared. I wish I lived in your area so I could get even more of my food from the farmers. Your garden looks humming with goodness.

Ann at Batting in the Belfry said...

Your garden is lovely. I would also love to have that bread recipe. I love that you bake it in a casserole. We're in the process of moving and i've packed all my bread pans. :)