The Backyard

The Backyard

Friday, August 31, 2012

Green Bean City

Earlier this year, our area experienced a quazi-drought and while everything continued to grow, it was a slow process.  As the blossoms were appearing on the beans, the dryness came and it stunted their growth.  My harvest at that time was about 14 pounds.  I thought the beans were about finished.  Then the rains came.... and a month later the beans decided to go wild and already at another 14 pounds with possibly that many more to go have been picked.  Hubby loves beans.  So this year I'm learning new ways to use up the green beans.  We've made many fresh and gobbled them up, and I froze a couple bags but am not a fan of frozen green beans.  I'm not canning them because of the need for pressure canning (and I don't have a pressure canner).   Earlier this week, I found a recipe in the Ball Canning cookbook for Pickled three bean salad.  Bingo!  I used two beans and subbed the kidney beans for the limas since my limas aren't quite ready yet (they too are experiencing a re-growth and I may be overrun with lima beans in another two weeks also).  The results were incredible.   I told hubby I found a new way to use up green beans.  Last evening, while picking the beans, I decided to make ham, green beans and potatoes today and thought why not make a BIG pot and freeze some?  So that's what's on tap for this weekend.   Oh the mighty green bean... and everything else in the garden.  Love it!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Harvest Monday - August 27

Just at a time that I'm wishing for frost, the garden is experiencing a regrowth. I had a flush of tomatoes and green beans about a month ago after the first rain following about a month of dryness, then they sort of diminished, NOW they are coming back. At least the green beans are right now, and the tomatoes are not far behind judging by the amount of green tomatoes on the bushes. No sign of late blight here. Wow... just lush, green, viney, non-stop tomatoes. Holy tomato-picking.  Peppers are in full swing and the freezer is getting very full of bags of peppers.  Red raspberries are also a daily picking from now until frost.  I'm averaging about 3/4 of a quart a day.   My total poundage is tapering off for the week with only 63 pounds of goodies, but I know that will kick pick back up once I start digging up the potatoes and sweet potatoes in a few weeks, not to mention the second flush of tomatoes and all the peppers yet to be picked.  Come on frost!  (really!).
Harvests this week:
Watermelon:  20 pounds
Red Raspberries: 4 3/4 pounds
Celery: 2 pounds
Green Beans: 5 3/4 pounds
Peppers: 10 pounds
Red Beets: 1 1/2
Sweet Potatoes: 3/4 pounds
Tomatoes: 18 1/4

Total for the week:  63 pounds

Nardello red peppers

Corno di Toro Rossi Peppers.  Beautiful.

Traditional bells for mother dear.  She got about 10 pounds so far.

Beets are still in the ground from May/June. 

Tomatoes everywhere... especially peach tomatoes which I found are best eaten like fruit.

The regrowing green beans. 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard - Finished Chow Chow

Three days in the making, the results are in:  it passed the mom test.  You can't imagine the joy when the words, "mmm... tastes good"  rolled off mom's tongue.  And when I asked if the texture was good of each vegetable and did I cut them up to the right size, she said yes to the texture and that I cut mine a little smaller, but that's ok... she doesn't like the bigger pieces.  I was elated.  My first experience with chow chow was truly a learning experience.  I had no idea what  I was getting myself into and realize now the work involved over a multi-day period.  First is the harvesting, then the preparing: cutting up, cleaning, shelling the lima and kidney beans, cooking until al dente and in some cases, not cooking at all.  I had vegetables stuck in every corner of the refrigerator and almost forgot the celery until I looked over the recipe one last time before assembling everything in jars.  I pondered over the brine... was there enough?  My grandmothers recipe called for only 1 1/2 cups of vinegar which is hardly enough for two gallons of vegetables.  My mom couldn't help me on what to do.  Luckily, the Ball canning book had a recipe very similar and I used that measuring of liquid.  It still didn't completely cover the vegetables, but I'm told they will still be fine other than the vegetables not covered my discolor with time.  I have a feeling we'll eat it all before that happens.  I ended up with 11 pints and 1 quart.  And the better part?  I'll be making it again... possibly even this year yet.  It was a big hit in the family.  We're all thrilled to be eating Chow Chow again.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Harvest Monday - August 20, 2012

Crazy busy!! Very quick harvest post this week:

Kidney Beans - 1 pound
Celery - 1 pound
Cucumbers - 2 1/2 pounds
Green Beans - 2 1/4 pounds
Peppers 7 1/2 pounds
Sweet Potatoes 4 1/2 pounds
Tomatoes (pick of the week): 43 1/4 pounds
Watermelon 7 pounds
Cantaloupe - 20 1/2 pounds (about 7 melons)
Red Raspberries 3 3/4 pounds

93 pounds total for the week.

774 for the year!  I'm fairly certain at this point I'll hit the 1/2 ton marker.  I never imagined.  (This was the first year I weighed my harvests).  Holy heavyweights.  We eat that much!?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thursday Kitchen Cupboard - One Recipe, Two Week Post

First, thanks to The Gardener of Eden for hosting Kitchen Cupboard Thursday.  I'm getting bunches of tips and ideas from fellow gardeners on what to do with the harvests.   I'm feeling the same pain as everyone else right now and am super-busy trying to keep up with everything.  This week starts the process for something that hasn't been made since my grandmother passed away many years ago and everyone in the family is eager to taste it again:  Chow Chow.  This is a pickled vegetable recipe that the old-timers came up with (I think) to use up too much produce from the garden.  It has numerous variations world-wide and cultures adapt a recipe to their growing and eating habits.  This recipe, is Pennsylvania Dutch style and includes lots of cucumbers and cabbage.  I'm finding out it's quite the task; thus, it gets the honors of a two-part posting.  This week, you get the recipe and next week, you get a picture of the finished product.  Yesterday, I harvested everything I need (proud to say I had it all except the cauliflower and cabbage) and today I'm starting the cutting up and preparing process.  Some, not all, of the vegetables need pre-cooked and that's part of the art (IMHO) of making good Chow Chow:  finding the perfect cooked texture for all the vegetables, yet have them all ready to go into the jars at the same time.  So some require pre-cooking, keeping in mind they will be mixed with all the other vegetables and heated for 20-30  minutes additional cooking time.  You also don't want mush, so the cooking is minimal. This is truly a challenge (for me).  So here's the recipe and I'm headed back to the kitchen to continue the prep. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Harvest Monday 8-13-12

I don't know about you folks, but I'm beginning to get that annual "ok, I'm growing tired of this now" feeling. Don't get me wrong, I adore growing my own food but it does get busy at this time of the year and the first frost is always welcome.  But this year, the harvests have been bigger than ever; thus, more tired than ever.  And starting this morning, I'm heading back to my desk job two days a week so I've been working overtime trying to get as much put away as possible before I lose those two days.   So here it is... another banner week with an 111 pound harvest for the week.   That brings the yearly total thus far to 681 pounds.  I miscalculated last week and forgot to include the fruit... that added another 60 pounds to the totals.   Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes are jacking up the weigh-in.  Heck, one tomato was nearly two pounds - wowzers (my first year growing "Pineapple Heirloom" tomatoes and they can get as big as two pounds each).   A couple cantaloupes and a watermelon or two helped a little bit too.  The corn is finished (yeh!) and the green beans are winding down.  I'm about done canning tomatoes as I feel I have enough to last a year, so I may just give the remainder away.  I'm not sure yet on that (they are sooooo scrumptious).

Corn - 6 pounds
Green Beans - 1-1/4 pounds
Potatoes - 9 pounds
Tomatoes - 42-3/4 pounds
Peppers - 9 pounds
Radishes - 3/4 pound
Red Beets - 2 pounds

Total Vegetables:  70 - 3/4 pounds

Watermelon - 22 pounds (3 melons)
Cantaloupe - 17 - 3/4 pounds (5 lopes)
Red Raspberries - 1 pounds

Total Fruit:  42 - 3/4

Total weekly harvest:  111 1/2 pounds

This is my table most of the time these days.

There always seems to be tomatoes lying around somewhere

Friday, August 10, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard - 8-9-12

A day late and a dollar short... busy, busy, busy -- just like everyone else right now. I'm trying to get as much done as possible this week because I'm heading back to work temporarily and part-time on Monday. It's just a couple months for 2-3 days a week, but it will keep me hopping here at home. Thanks to The Gardener of Eden for hosting Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard. I love reading what folks and doing and it gives me ideas too. Yup, I'm busy with tomatoes too and canned some salsa to use up the tomatoes, peppers, and onions. I canned 8 pints of salsa, 5 quarts/2 pints of tomatoes. I dried a lovely quart of tomatoes last week AND dried a quart of celery.  We also froze about 6 1-pound bags of sweet corn.  It all turned out beautiful and I'm thrilled with the results. I'm about to can peach tomatoes which are just lovely and I'm anxious to see how they look in a jar.

All 8 trays yielded 1 full quart of dried celery



Monday, August 6, 2012

Havest Monday - Hitting a Quarter Ton

Thanks to Daphne's Dandelions for hosting Harvest Monday. It's SUCH a delight to read everyone's harvests -- thank you all! This week is a mile-marker for Backyard Chili: I hit 510 pounds with this week's 205 pound haul. What really kicked up the weight was 86 pounds of onions. They are now all weighed and stored. The tomatoes also are rolling in and reached 41 1/2 pounds this week. The biggest glut is yet to hit; although, I'm slightly concerned they'll continue to split due to the heavy rain we've been experiencing (yes... after a month of dryness) and the harvest will be lessened. Will have to wait and see how that goes. I now realize how too much rain is worse than none in many ways. The harvest of the week must be the celery. I'm so excited to have celery this year... my first year of growing celery. It was difficult to start from seed (small) and a loooonnnggg time growing, but the result is worth it. And the watermelon!  I fretted for the past two weeks if they were ripe and ready to pick.  Low and behold, it was perfect timing.  I have another 6 that should be ready shortly also.  I haven't bought a melon yet this season because I'm too cheap to pay the going rate of $5 bucks.  So this is a big deal for us to have watermelon from the backyard.   And the first batch of tomatoes were dried, thanks to the idea from Dave's Garden.    I was pleased with the turnout.  And we have lima beans!  This is another first.  When I was a kid, my mom made me shell limas and I absolutely hated it and vowed I'd never grow lima beans.  This year I ate my words. But I didn't shell them yet.  Maybe I'll take them to my mom and let HER shell them. :)   Fun times. 

This week's haul:
Lima Beans:  1 3/4 pound
Celery: 6 pounds
Sweet Corn: 20 3/4 pounds
Cucumbers:  6 pounds
Green Beans:  5 1/2 pounds
Onions 86 pounds (all stored now)
Peppers: 6 3/4 pounds
Potatoes: 1 pound (a few were at the top of the ground and I didn't want them to turn green)
Radishes: 1/4 pound
Butternut Squash: 20 1/2 pounds (dissappointing crop this year.  Probably because of the weather)
Spaghetti Squash: 9 pounds (dissappointing).
Tomatoes:  41 1/2 pounds

Total for the week in vegetables:   205 pounds
Watermelon!:   8 1/2 pounds

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Peachy Kind of Tomato

While ALL heirloom tomatoes, in my humble opinion, are delectable in their own unique way, there are a couple standouts. Today, it's the Garden Peach Tomato's turn for some attention. It technically falls under the "yellow" heirloom family tree and is a small fruit, barely larger than a big cherry tomato. Yes, it's slightly fuzzy like a peach, but slightly smaller than a normal-sized peach. The flavor is very, very sweet -- like a peach! If you shut your eyes and imagine, you can even taste hints of a juicy peach. This one ranks high on my favorite list. It matures nicely with few spots or deformities and is fairly prolific. And the flavor... oh-so-sweet.  More to come on those favorite heirloom tomatoes. There are soooo many and I'm just getting my feet wet trying them.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Storing Onions 101

After 20 years of growing onions, hubby and I feel like we've finally mastered the process of growing, harvesting, and storing the great harvest.  Last year I posted on our success and you can read it here.  This year, we've had the same success with possibly even less rotting.  Yesterday, I went through ALL the onions (that's part of the storage process: routinely going through them all to make sure none are going bad)  and found one -- only one -- rotted fruit that ended up in the compost.   Each year, I plant  about 400 plants.  That's the first step - I found plants to be better keepers than sets.  The onion variety is important too and my choice for Central Pennsylvanina is Sweet yellow or white Spanish and Torpedo Red.  I had little luck with Walla Walla which is supposed to be a great keeper.  This year I'm trying Candy too, so we'll see how they hold up to storage.  I buy from Dixondale Onions and they have nice charts to help you pick the best storing onion for your region.  Onions like a wet, cool spring and a hot dry early summer when they are bulbing up.  The past two summers in Pennsylvania were perfect for onion growing.  When to pull the onions was always the not-sure part for me until the past two years.  I used to pull when the tops completely dried and let the onions lay in the garden for 2-3 days as noted in a 2008 post.   I stopped doing that two years ago and have had much better luck by pulling as soon as the tops fall over and immediately laying on the screens under the shade canopy.  I then let the tops completely dry and when I can easily pull them off, its time for storage.  It usually takes about a month of curing.   I also make sure there are no soft spots.  Then it's basket time.  The onions are weighed, then stacked in wire baskets for storing.  Our cement cellar averages temperatures between 55 degrees on the coldest winter days and 70 degrees on the hottest summer day.  The onions seem to like that range and will keep until after Christmas.  If I notice some going bad, I cut out the bad parts, cook the remainder, then freeze the cooked onions.  The frozen onions are perfect for soups, pierogies, and other recipes.  We've learned to not waste an onion.  This year, I'm up to 78 pounds of harvested onions with possibly another 100 pounds to get to storage yet.  We noticed onions at the local big-box store were $1.79 a pound.  Based on those numbers, we have about $322 worth of onions in storage minus the investment of $20 for the plants (I can't include the shade canopy and homemade screens in the expenses because they were purchased/built for another use).  I'd say we are saving money on growing onions, which was the ultimate goal of having such a huge garden.  We'll always be onion growers - we love the onion.