Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

This Is Not An Olive, But It Might Be a Really Nice Option!

Brined and cut baby peaches.
Dear Folks,

I posted about thinning our peach tree (it is that time of year), and it has always been a sad thing just because of discarding all that potential fruit.  The point is to have bigger resulting fruit and to ease the weight on the branches.

I mentioned discovering, several years ago, that these thinned baby peaches can be pickled, after reading about the tradition of Liguria, Italy to pickle baby peaches, baby almonds and similar immature fruit.  Here is the thinning and recipe post from several years ago.

This works because the pit is not fully formed when the peaches are thinned when they are 3/4 of an inch or smaller.

I tried the recommended sweet / spicy pickle and it turned out good.  I am just not a huge fan of sweet pickles.

Since I have been doing my own home lacto-fermentation (brining) of various vegetables, I thought, why not try this with the baby peaches.  It worked wonderfully well with my caper berries last spring/summer.

I am here to tell you this is going to be one of my new favorite additions to all things I would add olives or capers to!!

I have started to keep brine ready for just this kind of opportunity.  It keeps well, just remember to use a plastic lid on the glass jar because it is corrosive, it is only salt and water but still can pit any metal that is not stainless steel.

The baby peaches are bitter.  The brining removes the bitterness and makes them a salty, crunchy olive-like vegetable.

To make the brine:

1 cup of water
2 teaspoons of kosher or sea salt (NOT iodized salt)

Bring the water to boil or very hot and dissolve the salt in it.  Make sure the salt is completely dissolved.  You can use immediately after it is cooled or just store in your pantry for later use.

The easiest way to brine is to have two mason jars of different sizes, example:  one quart jar and one 8 oz jar.  The smaller jar will fit into the larger one to weigh down the peaches.  This is important at they need to be kept under the liquid at all times while fermenting.

Mine took 5 days.

Make sure the jars are very clean, have a dish towel or piece of plastic wrap handy (this will keep the dust out while it is fermenting). [PICTURED is a jar of my sauerkraut to illustrate the jar-in-a-jar with plastic cover..]

1.  Rinse the baby peaches and remove the stem.
2.  Fill the jar with the peaches, up to the shoulder and cover by a 1/2 inch with the brine. Fill the smaller jar with about 1/4 cup of water (for weight) and insert into the brining jar.  Place on a plate in case any liquid spills over.  Lightly cover with the towel or plastic   Place on your counter away from drafts and the stove/oven - this keeps the temperature constant.

You may see bubbles of gas escaping - this is part of the process.  Taste after 5 days, if you still detect bitterness let them sit longer.  Once they are were you like them, remove the small jar and cover, cap with a plastic lid label and store in the refrigerator.  They will last for months and months.

If you have to thin your trees I hope you give this a try to make removing all those baby fruit your gardening skills helped grow, a win/win -- bigger resulting juicy peaches and a tasty addition to your pantry.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Around the Garden - St. Patrick's Day

Dear Folks,

The path in the garden between two Navel Orange trees is a covered in a confetti of orange blossom petals, and the heady fragrance surrounds us when we walk to the deck

Today I will pull my home corning beef out of the refrigerator where it has been brining for 2 weeks and toss it, potatoes and carrots into the big crock pot and cook up dinner for this evening.

This year I am going to cook the cabbage separately, sauteing it on the stove to keep a little crunch in it, before adding to the corned beef dinner serving bowl.   I've posted about home corning beef before - here is a link to one post.  If you want to try this you need to five yourself 10-14 days (I like 2 weeks) for the beef to brine.

Back to the garden . . .

For Christmas a dear friend sent me a live Dwarf Alberta Spruce Tree  in a pot.  For years I have been saying I want to try growing a Christmas Tree (I was thinking Fir) for the wonderful fragrance.  Well now I have an opportunity.  I chose a spot in our gardens which has shade a good portion of the day,  After enjoying for the holidays, we planted it on January 2, 2017.  And now about 2.5 months later it has new growth!!  So pleased at this point.  The real test it going to be the intense summer heat.  We shall see.

Did you know many of these types of trees are edible?  The tips are the part of pine, spruce and fir which are enjoyed.  In my picture here you can see the bright green tips mentioned in this blogger's note.

The key to cooking with the tips of evergreen trees is to harvest them when they first begin to emerge from their brown papery casings. At this stage, spruce tips are very tender and have a fresh flavor that tastes lightly of resin with hints of citrus.

I may try a couple of the tips to experiment with, but since I am hoping the tree does well here, I don't want to take too much of the new growth, it is going to be the parts that will hopefully adapt to my gardens.  I picked a few this morning to try with the cabbage for today's dinner.

I am trying tomatoes and the wonderful Bradford Watermelon in two new spots this year (I have tomatoes and basils in another area as well).  I started seedlings in December in my greenhouse.

The Bradford is an incredible heirloom with flavor so sweet it goes all the way to the rind.  The skin is so tender it was too fragile to ship and the watermelon was "lost" until a food writer searching for it was contacted by descendants of the original grower.

My plant last year put out about 20 feet of vine and several truly memorable fruit.  This year I'm trying several plants in a different location with a different watering pattern.

The two tomato types are a cherry a yellow pear (I think - I did not mark which ones :-)

Two of my Elephant Garlic plants have scapes, which I will cut off and use.  Elephant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) while a member of the onion family is actually related to the Leek (think leek on steroids and a Leek is a Scallion on steroids :-)  Anyway the Elephant Garlic which produces a huge head of cloves is actually milder than the true Garlic (Allium Sativum).  I am growing both, but the Elephant is producing scapes first.

While checking the garden this morning and taking pictures, I stepped over to the Pink Grapefruit tree area.  If the Navel Oranges decorated the path under them with flower petals, the grapefruit decided to drop most of its old leaves!

This is great because I need leaf litter/mulch to top my potato bed (to keep the growing tubers in the dark).

And I now have 3 sets of Banana Bunches!!!!!

I am thrilled as all of these are ripening at the right time for maximum flavor and harvesting.  It will be 1-4 months before they begin to turn yellow. (From flower to ripe is usually about 4 months.) This is the Ice Cream Banana variety Musa acuminata × balbisiana (ABB Group) 'Blue Java'.  The ice cream reference is to the creamy consistency of the fruit and the mild vanilla flavor (yes to both although not everyone tastes the vanilla).

I've grown the plants for many years and we have enjoyed the fruit in limited amounts mostly because the ripening began going into the cold fall and winter.

The first bunch flowered sometime in December and we spotted the fruit in early January,  The second one flowered in February and the most recent one early March sometime.

Needlesstosay I need to figure out how to enjoy all the fruit as it ripens.  Besides fresh I may have to make homemade real banana pudding!

I hope you enjoy a glimpse of my gardens and that it inspires you on your own edible garden journey.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, March 13, 2017

April Planting Tips and More.

Dear Folks,

The weather is just plain gorgeous, so much is in bloom, wherever I turn there is something colorful and either here for a little while or promising fruit later.

There there is another "where there is a will there is a way" surprise in our gardens.  I let Johnny Jump-Ups freely reseeding in the gardens.   Sometimes I have to remove them if they get overly ambitious in some beds, but for the most part this completely edible darling little plant can be wherever it wants to be -- including the side of our dump trailer!!

Deane spotted this Sunday morning and no that is not growing from debris inside the trailer, the seed lodged into a chink in the rusty side.  Don't you just love nature!

As we move into higher temperatures there are still many edibles which can be sown or transplanted.  IF YOU are transplanting with purchased seedlings and shrubs you need to harden off (help adjust to sun intensity) by introducing to full sun gradually over the coarse of several day.  Day 1 - 1 hour in the sun then back into shade (not inside);  day 2 - 2 hours, then back into the shade, etc. until the plant(s) have been in the sun 4 or more hours.  Then transplant in the evening, give them a good watering (even if you already watered the area) and the plant should be-good-to-grow.

One of the single biggest mistakes in transplanting in the heat is a greenhouse-grown plant is not ready for both the intensity of our sun AND the heat.  If it is struggling with that intensity, while trying to grow roots the plant may die from the stress.  It is not just about watering properly.  Also SEE my note about Flower Mulching below to give you an soil canopy option to mulch.

Speaking of Mulch - it is a great "tool" in the garden, keeping the soil moist, minimizing evaporation and weeds and also keeping the soil and roots of plants cooler.  It is also a subway tunnel for pests to tender stems.  Keep mulch at least several inches away from the base of any transplant.

Use cardboard tubes cut into 3-4 inch sections to protect seeds and tiny seedlings from those pests and you can lay mulch down 1-2 inches outside the tube for the additional help.  The tube degrades into the soil.  Bury the tube about half way into the soil.  [Pictured are Roselle Seeds sprouted in place - these can be planted in April or May - they love the summer heat!.]  Roselle is another all edible plant, the leaves, flowers but mostly the swollen Vitamin C rich flower calyx.

Artichoke, Jerusalem; Bean, Snap; Beans, Soy; Cantaloupe; Caper plants; Carrots; Cucumbers; Garlic, Green; Jicama; Melons, Musk; Okra; Onion, Green; Peanuts; Peas, Sugar; Peas, Black Eyed; Peppers; Radishes

Impatients Wallarana; Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii); Portulaca; Purslane; Scented Geraniums; Sunflower; Sweet Alyssum, Roselle/Jamaica Sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

FLOWER "MULCHING":  Soil canopy (shade) is necessary to protect young plants.  Purchase 6 pack of flowers, surround transplanted herb or veggie with 3-5 flower plants - "think" 12 inch diameter circle.  Why? This cools the soil surface and shades the sides of the primary transplant, without encouraging pests near tender stems.

Grilling Time!

Nothing says get-outside-and-grill like gorgeous weather.  I had a turkey in the freezer and I love the ease of thawing and butterflying it, covering with a butter and herb/or seasoning mix, setting up for indirect heat on our webber kettle and 2.5 hours later - give or take 10 minutes - it is done!  And delicious.

I gather the 'leavings' and toss in the crock pot with celery, carrots, onions and some black pepper corns and cook down to a broth. 

Thinning Deciduous Fruit

If you have not thinned your peach etc trees it is time now for most of the peach, followed by apricots and plumes.  Thinning does two things:  if allows the remaining fruit to get bigger and eases the stress of too much weight on the branches.  You want to thin when the fruit is 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch or so.  Watch my short youtube video on thinning.

It has always been a sad thing for Deane and I to thin the peaches, but you can save the removed immature fruit and pickle them.  This year I am trying a fermentation brining - I will let you know how that turns out.  I am looking for a taste something like a crunchy olive.

But you can try this "sweet spicy" version of the pickling I did several years ago.  It turned out well.

Have a great day in the garden and kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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