1 hour ago
June 30, 2012
I have been doing a lot of harvesting and saving this week. The extreme temperatures in Colorado have sent a lot of my veggies into stress mode. I have three various plantings of spinach and it was time to pull the first harvest out. I missed the window for tender leaf spinach so I decided to blanch and freeze this harvest to use in fall stews, spinach and artichoke dip, and chopped into various dishes.
I always harvest my lettuces early in the morning before the sun ever hits the plant. I believe that it gives you the best flavor and texture. I usually harvest the leaves leaving the base of the plant behind. If the plant is healthy it will sometimes produce a second harvest. Many of my plants had already bolted and were looking pretty tired so I left the good ones and pulled out the rest.
The most time consuming part of this preserving process is the cleaning. I go leaf by leaf rinsing and cutting off the woody stem. I know this sounds monotonous, but you would be surprised on what you can find hidden on the underside of a spinach leaf.
Once all the leaves are cleaned I set up a system like the picture below. One pot for blanching, one pot for cooling, and then a storage bowl for the spinach ready to be bagged.
Blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time) is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen. It stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture.
Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. It also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack.
-National Center for Home Preservation
I found this chart on the National Center for Home Preservations website and thought it was very helpful for the novice blancher. Click on this Link to be directed to it.
My process for blanching spinach is as follows:
1. Clean spinach and cut off woody stem
2. Bring large pot of water to a boil
3. Have a ice water bath located next to boiling pot for quick cooling
4. Submerge a large handful of spinach in boiling water. Let the spinach boil for three minutes before taking it out and placing in the ice bath.
5. Once the spinach is cooled squeeze out extra water and place in the “ready to be bagged bowl”.
6. Repeat this process until all of your spinach is blanched.
***You will have to add more ice to your ice bath to keep the water cold. I have also heard that you some people only blanch veggies in the same boiling pot 5 times before they change out the water. I never do that, but I wanted you to be aware of this.
Once the process is done, I separate my spinach into equal amounts and place in freezer bags. To cut down on opportunities for freezer burn I create my own “foodsaver”. I really need to invest in one of those contraptions that suck all of the air out of the preservation bags, but for the time being I am the one doing the sucking. It is really easy to do… just squeeze all of the air out of the bag, seal the top leaving just enough room for a straw, manually suck the rest of the air out through the straw and then seal! Presto…DIY Foodsaver.
This process is really very easy. Once you get the hang of blanching you will find it an easy, quick option for putting up your garden harvest. If you don’t grow spinach then head to your local farmers market and get some there. There is nothing like garden spinach thrown into a tasty fall stew. The taste can not even be compared to the hard blocks of frozen spinach you buy at the grocery store.
As always, thanks for stopping by and happy blanching!
June 28, 2012
I love taking summer vacations but I hate leaving my gardens. Although I make sure that my plants are well taken care of, I still am very nervous not having a watchful eye on them everyday. I just got back from my week long trip to Ohio. I had a great time with my family and the boys loved living at the pool everyday, but I came back to Colorado on fire.
While in Ohio, I checked the weather everyday and knew that the extreme temperatures were not going to be kind to the lasts of my spring plantings. Colorado is a semi-arid climate, so temps over 100 with no humidity are pretty tough on everything besides peppers! I had planned on harvesting the last of my lettuce and peas before I left, but life took over and that did not happen. These temperatures and high winds also created some extreme wildfires only 25 miles from my home. The past couple of days we have been waiting to see if we were going to be evacuated, but so far we are safe. Please keep those who are fighting these fires and the families who have lost their homes in your thoughts and prayers. Also pray that Mother Nature slows down her winds and opens up the heavens with some rain. We need it!
Before I left for Ohio, my lettuce was lush and crunchy….after the extreme heat the majority of the tips were burnt and the bases of the plants were starting to rot. I was still able to get a decent harvest, but I hate the waste. I should say, it is not really a waste because I am going to compost the remainder, but still it makes me sad.
My beets and cabbage are doing great…
My tomatoes needed some pruning but overall are doing well. My peppers love the hot weather!
This spinach patch is ready to be harvested. I think I will eat most of it this coming week and freeze any that doesn’t fit into our stomachs.
My sugar pumpkins are starting to blossom….pumpkin pie here I come!
When I left a week ago, my squash was about 1/4 of this size. I am always amazed at how fast squash grows! I am slowly ripping out the last of my lettuce and peas to get ready to amend the soil with compost and prepare for fall plantings….more on that tomorrow.
I was able to save a bunch of my French Breakfast Radishes and I am going to try some new recipes this week. David Lebovitzs’ recipe for Pickled Radishes is on the top of my list as well as this Czech Radish Cheese Spread. I will let you know how it goes.
After an hour of cleaning, separating the good from the bad, and spinning off the extra water, I was left with a decent amount of produce. This will feed my family this week, but I still mourn the amount that will be composted. Live and learn I guess. I should have done my final harvest before I left for Ohio, but I will have more lettuce very soon. New, heat tolerant varieties go in tomorrow and should be up in a month.
I hope that everyone’s garden is flourishing! If you live in the Colorado area I hope that you and your family stay safe and out of harms way. Time for me to get back out to the garden for some major weeding and rain dancing. I am not sure if that actually works, but I am willing to try anything! Have a great day!
June 18, 2012
I would like to give myself the award for World’s Worst Blogger. My computer crashed two weeks ago and I finally just got it back from being fixed. With that being said, I leave for Ohio tomorrow and will not be bringing my computer with me. I had big plans to have all sorts of blog posts pre-written before my vacation, but that did not happen. I wanted to give you a quick update on how my garden is growing before I took off to the Buckeye state. I promise I will be better once I get back!
While on my forced blog vacation I dodged a serious bullet. Colorado was ridden with tornadoes, flash flooding, and massive hails storms. Unfortunately, many of my gardening friends had their garden destroyed and are slowly in the process of rebuilding. The storms literally missed my home by one mile. It was a nail biting experience and I am so grateful that Mother Nature was kind to me. Here is a picture of my garden protected the best that I could…
With that behind me I have been able to really enjoy the garden and how much it has taken off. Take a peek….
I think that beet leaves are gorgeous and also very tasty! Don’t throw away your beet thinnings. Saute the greens up with some butter, garlic, salt, and pepper for a delicious side dish.
Remember my Backyard Potatoes post….well they are growing like crazy and I have to bury the plant every other day. I have my fingers crossed for a decent potato harvest. You can see potato plant below right before I covered it with some more compost and peat moss.
Mr. G and Big C begged me to put in a small pumpkin patch in the corner of my yard. They have dreams of Halloween Jack-O- Lanterns. Hopefully, I can make those dreams come true..
The back medicinal/perennial bed is growing. I can’t wait to see it in a couple of years.
I have more lettuce and radishes then I know what to do with. Luckily, my neighbors appreciate fresh greens.
Thanks for stopping by Throwback Road! Again, I am sorry for the lack of posting. I miss the blog world, but I have also been enjoying the extra time in my garden and with my boys. Time to get packing….Grandpa and Grandma await us in Ohio!
June 5, 2012
Summertime is here and I am sure your gardens are starting to burst with veggies. An important part of gardening is not only knowing how to grow all of the amazing fruits and veggies, but also what to do with them once it is time to harvest.
This creation is my new favorite veggie dip. Perfect for dipping or also serving in a crudité platter at your next dinner party. I also love to drizzle it on some fresh greens as a salad dressing. I love that I can make it from various ingredients from my garden and it is not loaded with sugar like many of the commercial dressings. Enjoy!
Cool Avocado Veggie Dip
1 cup plain Greek Yogurt (I use my raw yogurt from the local dairy)
3/4 cup ripe avocado ( feel free to use leftover guacamole for an extra kick)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste
-Mix all ingredients in a food processer and combine until smooth
-Store in fridge for up to one week
***You could spice up this dip by adding some chopped green chilies and tobasco to the mix
I have a small container herb garden right outside of my kitchen and the fresh cilantro makes this dip taste like summer. I also made a salad yesterday for lunch with greens from the garden, grilled chicken, and a drizzle of this dressing. A delicious, light lunch.
My two favorite cookbooks loaded with amazing ideas for cooking your harvest are:
Tender by: Nigel Slater
The Kitchen Gardener's Handbook by: Jennifer Bartley
These books are beautiful, well written and full of inspiration. In my opinion, they are must have cookbooks for your collection.
As always, thanks again for stopping by Throwback Road and have a wonderful day!
What is your favorite recipe for the veggies in your garden?
June 1, 2012
I started a little side project this week in the garden. While waiting for my tomatoes and peppers to harden off, I decided to play dress up with my flagstone walkways. Mr. G and I installed flagstone around my raised bed garden to cut down on weeds, mud, and to make the overall effect of the garden visually pleasing. The problem with me, is if there is a spot on the earth where a plant could grow I figure out a way to make it happen. I researched plants that tolerate full sun, are fairly flexible on water needs, and ones that could be walked on. The final winner was Wooly Thyme, Creeping Thyme, and Elfin Thyme.
I headed to my favorite local nursery and found that they carried all three types. I decided to pick up some Wooly Thyme and see how I liked the overall effect in the garden. These plants will spread approximately 18 inches. They do well in rock gardens, between flagstones, sandy soil, and feel great on the feet. I love how it looks and I will be heading back to the nursery this weekend to pick up some more.
This project will probably last throughout the summer because this product is not inexpensive, but I hope that with a little patience my flagstone pathway will go from looking like this….
To something like this….The purple is Creeping Thyme, the chartreuse is Elfin Thyme, and the silvery green is Wooley Thyme. I still have a long ways to go, but in between weeding this should be a fun project for the summer. I love how the colors work together and I am excited to see the results.
Are you doing any fun decorative projects in the garden this summer?