Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Chervil, Sunchokes, a Sea of Pumpkin and Sweet Potatoes, Beans, "Spinach", Ginger, Eggplant & Jam Bread

Dear Folks,

The other day I posted a picture of my Cilantro sprouting.  These are volunteer re-seeding from last season's plants.  Well, the next day I found my Chervil has also voluntarily re-seeded. WIN!

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Artichoke, aka Sunchokes, are flowering.  That means when the flowers fade in a few weeks I can harvest this healthy and delicious potato alternative.  The beauty of growing these in the Valley, is we can get harvests twice a year.  Now and again in the spring.

The Upper Ground Sweet Potato Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Vine share a raised bed and you can see, a "sea" of leaves.  Looking forward to harvesting for Thanksgiving or earlier, IF the baby pumpkins thrive.  Fingers crossed!

The Blue Speckled Tepary Bean I planted on July 1st is starting to put out pods.  It is sharing a space with the back of the Roselle, but does not seem to mind, yet. :-)  I really need to plan for success better next year!  Something I preach often, but don't always apply to my gardens where I want to just "tuck" some extra things in and then bingo, everything loves the spot but then competes a bit for sun etc.

My friend Jacq Davis over at Epic Yard Farm, introduced me to Egyptian Spinach for salad leave substitute during the summer.  Wonderful option along with my sweet potato leaves for sandwiches, and in soups and salads.   Egyptian Spinach aka Molokia, is not spinach but Corchorus olitorius, C. capsularis, the leafy green part of the fiber plant Jute. The plant is in flower and producing seed pods, while still producing tasty leaves for us.  I am really looking forward to harvesting the mature seeds for re-sowing next spring, to have more fresh "greens" options during the heat.

The ginger I planted August 20th are really happy in their new, best location.  I now have another sprout on each piece I planted.  I wrote about this before.  I have been growing ginger for a number of years, but as we had to remove and replace trees the sun exposure increased on their former happy place and they did not like it.  So this new area is mostly shaded with good indirect sunlight.  Hoping they good a good growth streak going before soil temps cool in the winter. Then looking forward to them jumping up in the warming soil in spring.

I got my eggplant seeds in very late this year, so I am just now getting fruit coming on.  Looking forward to harvesting for marinated eggplant and maybe some ratatouille :-)

Preserving The Bounty!

If I have a good harvest of some of this bounty from the garden, I will probably can some of it.  I've been canning for a number of years and the WONDERFUL thing about gardening year round here is you are not restricted to canning in a mad rush all at once in the fall.  I can as the various produce ripens through the year.  I also sun dry a lot of my bounty and store in canning jars.  I've been trying to get away from using plastic containers as much as I am able, and the canning jars are perfect for storing.  TIP 1:  Remember when storing dried herbs etc. the mantra is:   cool, dry, dark!  This also applies to your canned foods.  There was a very good reason why Grandma stored her canned goods in the cellar.  Better food color retention and less exposure to temperature variations.

Speaking of preserving.  Even with canning in short spurts I can wind up with a lot of canned jams/preserves.  Wondering how to make room for the newest batches, I developed My Jam Bread recipe a while back.

Most folks are familiar with quick breads, aka sweet cakes baked as a loaf.  Many of them are filled with fruits and nuts, like the Christmas Fruit Cake.  The usual recipe calls for chopped fruit, dried or fresh and some liquid and sugar.  I got to cogitating on exactly what the ratios of the typical recipe were and realized my jams/preserves were 3 ingredients combined: fruit, liquid, sugar.  Bingo.  It took two tries to get this right and now everyone enjoys these sweet, fruity, nutty breads.  Here is the link to my post on the Jam Bread.  I would add one extra tip.  Add a 1/4 cup more flour if you think your batter is too loose.  Adjust cooking time if you double the recipe and make two loves.  Just use the toothpick test to make sure they are cooked in the center.

Pictured.  I made and canned Blood Orange Marmalade and used it to make this Jam Bread.  Speaking of Marmalade, I found a wonderful recipe idea for making REAL marmalade - not that jelly with a few pieces of zest in it.  Real, honest to goodness preserves using the whole fruit (except the seeds).  If you have citrus growing check out my recipe for marmalade from any citrus.

I do use and recommend Ball/Kerr canning jars.  When they started introducing their heritage colored jars a couple of years ago, I had to start getting them for use with my dried herbs and other non-canned storage like grains, pasta and beans.

TIP 2:  My first year of canning my jams quite a few years ago, I made the mistake of choosing the wrong size for much of the peach and apricot jams.  I chose to use quart and pint jars.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  Wrong, because unless you can use the whole jar after opening, with no preservatives, the jams have a short life in the refrigerator - plan on 1 month tops.  For us it is just the two of us and my guy likes to have variety which means multiple jars open in the frig.  The first year and a half I had to toss a lot of jars after they molded.  My new recommendation is to use 4 or 8 ounce jars for your canning purposes.  By the way, my Jam Bread recipe uses 1 1/2 cups of jam for one loaf.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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