Happy Friday!! We have started a baby garden. Like my mom, I really like to eat veggies out of my own garden. There is something amazing about seeing where your food comes from. My dad built me these garden boxes about a year ago and they have been waiting to be used all that time!! We decided, now that the weather is cooling off, to go ahead and get everything set up. Our yard is slightly sloped away from the lawn so we had to dig one side of the box down a little bit to level it out.
Then we added organic raised bed soil and amended it with mushroom compost to feed the plants.
After the beds were ready we just had to decide what to plant. The obvious choice is things we actually like to eat. Then it is important to consider what time of year it is and what will do well in this season. Phoenix in fall is still pretty warm so our growing season is off from everything you normally see on the internet. With that in mind I am taking a chance with a few more traditionally summer plants; tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant. Then I also planted more fall plants; peas, carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach and kale.
We also have an herb bed that we can hopefully keep year round as we have such great weather here!! The separate pot is for the mint as it will take over the entire box if not contained. We also have rosemary, parsley, cilantro, sage, thyme, oregano and lemon balm. Herbs are awesome because not only can they be used in food, a lot of herbs can be used for medicinal purposes as well!!
Lastly, we have a nest in the bird house. I have been seeing a little bird family go in and out of there for a while now, super exciting!!
I might be one of the very last people to watch Game of Thrones. The idea that Winter is Coming is throughout the first season and a few of the characters are paying attention but most are not. Of course that has nothing to do with the garden but seems more interesting than the old ant and grasshopper story.
In the garden we are aware that winter is coming so today was all about harvesting and “putting up” for winter. There is nothing that I like better than to be able to make chili, soup or spaghetti sauce on a cold winter day with tomatoes I’ve saved from the garden. We are so used to having plenty of tomatoes all winter that we forget how yummy they are until someone is here for a meal and reminds us that those tomatoes we saved from the garden make an ordinary meal something special.
I just wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. I cook them on low heat until they start releasing juice and I turn them up to medium-low. I mash them every ten minutes or so and cook until everything is soft. I put the cooked tomatoes and juice through a food mill to got rid of most of the skins. I put about 3 cups of cooked tomatoes into a plastic container and freeze. A day or so later I remove them from the containers and put them I a bag that can be vacuum sealed. This saves that fresh garden flavor.
We also harvested Anasazi beans. They are yummy and we like them better than pinto beans. After they are shelled we spread them out on a cookie sheet to dry. It only takes a few days and then they go into a jar in the pantry.
Squash and okra went into the freezer today too. We are happier with the texture of these two vegetables if we don’t blanch them first. The general rule of thumb is to use them within 6 months. We use a vacuum sealer so we don’t have any problems. I cut the okra first since this is how I will be using it. I put it on a parchment lined pan in the freezer for about an hour and a half. This helps it not get crushed in the vacuum sealer. The squash just goes in the bag freshly cut and then vacuum sealed.
Paul even made pickled peppers. He says they are very tasty but hot. I don’t do hot so I’ll let him enjoy those.
Paul’s Pickled Peppers
Makes 2 pint jars.
1 3/4 cup white distilled vinegar
3/4 cup water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, sliced vertically In half
1 T sugar
1 tsp sea salt
Heat ingredients until sugar and salt dissolve. Liquid should be very hot but doesn’t need to boil.
While this heats, put 5-6 jalapeños in each clean pint jar. They should fit as tightly as possible. Pour hot liquid and garlic into jars. Each jar gets one of the cut pepper pieces. Don’t be surprised if the peppers start to float. Put on the lids. Let the jars cool a bit and store in the refrigerator. These are not processed in a water bath so be sure to keep them in the fridge.
Loving my garden,