Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Final Sweet Potato Harvest

We have had some rain, so I decided I better get into the sweet potatoes before we get any more.  Oh boy, did I find some monsters in there!!  These three were the biggest, coming in at 6 pounds:

A little frightening aren't they?

The majority were super-market sized, with a good lot of babies in there as well.  I stacked them in this bag from largest to smallest, so the tiny tubers are seen on top of the stack.  
The bag weighed in at over 10 lbs.

All together I harvested over 23 pounds of sweets.  I am so pleased with this harvest and hope that it will repeated again in the coming garden years.  The soil in this bed is gorgeous, as a matter of fact I dug up a bog old toad while digging for potatoes.  (It was a bit of a shock, I didn't realize they would completely bury themselves in search of worms etc., this stinker is about the size of a baseball, and it is never amused when I find it in the garden.)  I did 'lasagna gardening' in this new bed, layering cardboard, straw, dog food, amendments, and I can't remember what else.  Then I made some hills with a soil/compost mixture, and covered it all with black mulch.

The tomatoes appear to winding down, here are today's tomato and pepper picks:

My garlic has shipped and it on its way.  I better get my act together and figure out where the onions, garlic, and cold-frame are going in the coming weeks, once again I don't seem to have enough room.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Preserving Herbs

I really hate to see all the garden herbs go to waste when cold weather arrives.   I was able to winter over sage and rosemary last year with some straw and row cover, but there was nothing to harvest for the coldest part of our New England Winter.   If I wanted fresh herb flavor it was coming from the plastic containers in the produce isle.

Many sources recommend freezing herbs as an alternative to drying for preservation, and some are actually preferable this way due to their hight water content (like sage for example).  This will be my first year preserving them in this manner though I have purchased and cooked with frozen herbs in the past with good results.   So far it is going very simply, I have put up chives, rosemary, and sage to date.

Sage leaves were frozen whole, the chives and rosemary were snipped and chopped before being frozen. It is best to lay them out in a single layer before popping them in for the freeze treatment to prevent a clump of solid 'whatever' being the final outcome.

I have some small freezer containers (Tupperware used to make some special for this purpose, and they probably still do) that will barely take up any space for long-term storage.  The sage leaves I prefer to keep whole for things like seasoning the cavity of a roasting squash or chicken, so I left them this way as they can always be chopped up prior to being added to a dish.  They are being housed in a canning jar once frozen since they require a bit more space.

I dried some basil in the oven earlier in the season, and the dill and cilantro are sadly long gone.  I need to continue to add to my current stash and should also think about adding oregano and mint to the list.  I think this freezing thing will be a big hit this winter when we have fragrant sage for roasts, and zesty chives for topping potatoes, eggs, and nachos within quick reach in the freezer.  Anyone else out there freezing herbs for later use?


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Get Your Cran On

I have something to confess.  I, until now, this very week, have always bought cranberry sauce in a can.  Are you gasping??  Maybe.  But maybe some of you are smiling, because you too are guilty of canned cranberries.  This is a horrible thing considering I live in the land of cranberry bogs.  Horrible.  Now that I have stopped being intimidated by the raw cranberry I never want to eat canned sauce again.  I want to try bread with chopped, whole, FRESH cranberries inside.  Are you in?

Last night I made oven-baked cranberry sauce and it could not have been easier.  It involved a 350 degree oven, a bag of cranberries picked over for twigs and unripe berries (mine weighed about 14 oz. when done), one cup of sugar, cinnamon & nutmeg to taste, and 1/4 cup of Brandy.  This was mixed together in a pyrex dish (something similar to an 8x8) and baked (covered) for about 45 minutes.  Stir, mash, enjoy.  (I also added a little water once it cooled as I found it to be too thick.)

Now I need to bake a turkey.  Until then my sauce is off to the freezer.  It is soooooo good.

Go ahead gardeners and cooks, get your cran on while the fresh ones are here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

(Almost) Fall

It sure feels like Fall here in my little corner of the world, and well, it almost is.  We have been decorating:

I love Martha Stewart crafts almost as much as I like Halloween.

We have been picking and perusing the farm stands.

Since my Long Island Cheese seeds never took, I picked one up this week. 
 It is more than a little intimidating, not sure how to go about tackling this sucker once I am done enjoying it's decorative qualities.  That right there is A LOT of pie!!

We have also been hunting for a 'school' bookshelf.  Finally I found just what I was looking for at Target of all places.  Why did I waste my time in over-priced furniture stores?

Pie making, sauce making, and general enjoyment of the crops of the season will be underway this week.  I love Fall.  Hope you all will be enjoying the new coming season as well, and maybe getting a few more garden chores done than I am.  My poor, poor garden.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stupid Dogs, Sweet Potatoes, and Relish

I know I have complained of my dog eating anything she has access to in the yard.  She is a classic example of being smart and stupid at the same time.  In reality, she is wise to help herself to all things edible, but in my anger I mutter how stupid she is all day long.  She has figured out how to get the gate open in the garden if things are not aligned properly.  Leeks have been trampled, uncountable numbers of tomatoes have been gorged on, and then thrown up.  Ewe.  She is constantly coming in the house with a big green tomato in her mouth.  So thanks to my stupid dog and her appetite for both ripe and unripe tomatoes I had to make a pathetically small pot of sauce yesterday.  This pathetically small pot even has some freezer tomatoes from last year in it.  A shame.  (Insert mumbles about the 'stupid dog' here.)

There is barely an inch of cooked-down sauce in the crock-pot.

I also decided to be a bit proactive and take some of those green tomatoes for myself.  I have a recipe for Green Tomato Relish that is quite tasty on a hot dog, at least that is how I first came to sample it at a birthday party.  I promptly asked for the recipe.

I hope it is as good as I remember it, because even after halving the recipe I have eight 1/2-pint jars of it sitting on the counter.  By my calculations that is two years worth after gifting a few jars to family.  For anyone that might be interested in away to use up those green tomatoes at season's end, or just to spite your 'stupid' Labrador Retriever, here it is:


3 qt green tomatoes (5 lb)
4 lg onions, chopped
2 sweet red peppers, chopped
2 sweet green peppers, chopped
1 qt vinegar
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 T mustard seed
2 T celery seed
3 C white sugar
2 T salt

Put green tomatoes through chopper, strain, and measure.
(I took this to mean that the 3 qt or 5 lb of green tomatoes
 should be post chopping and straining.)

Add chopped onions, peppers, and spices.  Boil 1 hour.  Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.
(I also assumed the vinegar and sugar were to go in the pot for the 1 hour boil.
I left over a 1/4 inch of head space (but less than 1/2 inch) and boiled for 10 minutes.)

Now back to the subject of those sweet potatoes from yesterday!  Sweet potatoes are said to double in size (or was it weight??) every 2 weeks.  Either way the "babes" will mature if given another couple of weeks, but the "big daddies" of the bunch don't need any bulking.  I initially thought I could root around for the larger tubers and leave the smaller ones intact, but this was next to impossible.  So I harvested about half of the bed and will leave the others for a week's time or so.  We had some more sweet potato greens last night with dinner, and I gave some to my neighbor that so kindly shared a fig tree with me.

The sweet slips were planted in a 4 x 4 raised bed, in mounds which were covered in black plastic to help retain heat.  Initially a dozen were planted but I lost at least three or four in the early weeks.
This is looking in from outside the fence.

Here is another view, the tomatoes have gone over into the potato bed, 
and the potato vines have in turn made their way into the tomato jungle.

I harvested 6 lbs of sweets yesterday (and one dahlia tuber), and they are curing in my bathroom.  
Odd I know, but they like warm temps and humidity so I figured that was the best place for them to hang out for the next couple of weeks.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sweet Potato Dilemma

Ok kids, so I was nosing around out in the sweet potato patch today after going out to cut some leaves for sauteed greens.  I couldn't help but to reach in and start digging.  Initially all I found was roots and I was getting a pouty face.  But then I came across these two honkers, and another wee one nearby.  See honkers below:

I showed you it's pretty side here.  The not so pretty side is pretty cracked.  On both of them.  So now here is the dilemma- do I yank out the vines to keep the big ones from getting any bigger, or do I leave them so that the baby taters continue to develope?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Garden Update

Well, it is about time I do a garden update.  Luckily a few things continue to produce despite my severe neglect.  Tomatoes, peppers, and cukes continue to ripen despite the cool night temperatures.  Raspberries and green beans are still producing, and then there are those leeks that I will be harvesting in the months to come.  Almost all greens have been eaten by creatures, only the carrots under plastic protection remain from my many, many sowings in recent months.  Thank goodness the chard from spring is 'cut-and-come-again' or I would have nothing green and leafy to harvest.  Ever.

I am dying to know what the sweet potatoes will give this year.  They are vining like mad, but the last time I peaked in there was not any tuber formation to speak of.  I am behaving and staying out of there for now, and desperately hoping for some kind of harvest in October.

The Yellow Potato Onions arrived (and there they sit in their box).  These are multiplying onions.  Think shallots...only onions, and that about sums them up.  I keep telling myself they are all I will grow for onions next year, but who am I kidding?  I just need a bigger plot.  These babies will need a few years to get established and start providing more than seed.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


We were so delighted to catch this lady monarch emerging from her chrysalis.  Yes, I called her a "fellow" in the video, but after closer inspection it is in fact a gal.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September is here!  Sheesh, seems like it was just the Fourth of July doesn't it?  The hurricane that was Earl completely missed us, leaving us all to wonder why there was so much fuss about nothing.  But, that is life when a hurricane is tracking in one's direction I suppose, we were all quite relieved to have prepared in vain.

I don't have much going on out in the garden right now.  Most of the greens I sowed pooped out in the heat of recent weeks.  I am left with only a  half row of mesclun and 2 tiny heads of red leaf.  I am trying to motivate myself to go sow spinach, lettuce, etc. AGAIN.

I dug the remainder of the fingerling potatoes yesterday.  The plants were still putting out spuds, but the rodents were beginning to enjoy tunneling in the mess of straw, probably thanks to the cool nights, so it was time.  I ended up with just over 40 pounds total, off of 10 pounds seed.  Not a great harvest by any means, but I will take it just the same.  Speaking of great harvests, we came home after a night of strolling the beach to find a special delivery:

I don't think this picture I snapped is doing it any justice, this melon weighs more than my 3 year old.  I am guessing it was close to 40 pounds!  I shouldn't say "was"considering I still have considerable amounts of it left.  :)

The cool weather is bringing nice sleeping weather, and the old dog is back to harassing the young one.  In the heat of the summer he hides out in his new favorite spot, under the shed.  How he gets his old body under there is a mystery to me.

Lastly, I will leave you with a shot or two of today's harvest.  Not much, but it is still appreciated- especially the berries.  (Confession:  I have not picked the tomatoes yet.)

(P.S.- My potato onions arrived over the weekend, more on that to come!)