Firstfruits

I’m blogging from the Audio/Video booth computer at church while I’m waiting for service to start, so no pictures yet [UPDATE: Pictures Added], but we enjoyed the first gleanings from the garden yesterday for dinner.

Everything is coming along well, but the spinach is doing especially well.  While I was out pulling weeds and cultivating yesterday, I clipped some spinach leaves and we made a nice spinach salad to go with the Curried Chicken Salad sandwiches my wife made.

 

Still a long way to go for tomatoes or beans or any of that stuff, but spinach starts making leaves as soon as it starts growing.  I’ve just gotta be careful not to clip so many leaves that I kill the plants.  If I do it right, we’ll be eating nice, fresh spinach salads all summer.

This is my favorite time of year

The birds are singing, the sun is shining, it’s not oppressively hot or humid yet…

…and the garden is beginning to spring to life.

Ain’t they cute?

Just starting to get their roots underneath them.

Still so uncoordinated and unsure of themselves.

But, almost before we know it, they’ll be all grown up and making little ones of their own.

That we’ll rip from their grasp, hack to pieces and devour.

Yum.

I’m still figuring out this whole photography thing.  It’s easy to just put it in automatic mode and take snapshots, but using manual settings to control depth of field while still maintaining good exposure and color quality is interesting.

Definitely not award winning shots, but I’m learning.

Ready to plant

But I’ve gotta tell ya:

I am out.of.shape.

Turning over that little bit of garden only took maybe two and a half hours, but it just about did me in.

Now I need 8 hours of sleep and a bowl of Wheaties.

(100 extra COACOO bonus points to the first person who can identify the origin of that last sentence)

The Garden Sentinel

My son and his wife and daughter came over for dinner tonight.

I rotisseried a chicken on the grill, steamed some green beans and made some garlic and butter mashed potatoes.

MMmm.

I decided to see if there were any tomatoes ripe that I could slice up to go with it.

Click pix to make bigger

At first glance, everything appeared just fine.

Notice anything unusual (other than the fact that the tomato plants are going crazy)?

Me neither.

Until I got a little closer.

Now you see it? Notice the nice, red, juicy tomato that it was guarding down in the corner?

Have I ever mentioned that I HATE spiders?

Ok…let’s be honest here. I have a deep-seated, admittedly irrational but no less real, fear of spiders.

Knowing that the fear is irrational, I do my best to overcome it and don’t let it keep me from living my life.

Let’s just say that we did have that tomato with dinner tonight and it was GOOD.

BTW: Perspective is a little difficult in photos sometimes so: including legs, that thing was about three inches across.

I’m very proud of myself that I overcame the chills enough to get close enough and get a couple of good shots of it. [shudder!] And I didn’t even kill it. I just knocked it down so I could get to the tomato. I realize that they’re useful creatures who get rid of other bugs that really are a nuisance…I already admitted that my fear is irrational didn’t I?

It’s probably out there right now, busily rebuilding its web [shudder again!]

Whew!

All I can smell right now is vinegar and dill.

I just canned six pints of pickle spears (3 hot, 3 not).

I haven’t made pickles in over 20 years. Apparently, the procedure has changed and gotten much easier. It seems no one ferments their pickles any more. Everyone just cans them with the dill, mustard seed, garlic etc. and lets them go.

I’m giving it a try. We’ll crack one open in a week or so to see how they taste. if they don’t hold up to expectations, it will be time to break the pickling crock out of the attic and do it the old fashioned way.

I can’t imagine that you can get the same consistency and flavor by just canning them in the juice and not fermenting first. I’m trying to keep an open mind about it and hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised…but time will tell.

BTW: I took the plunge the other day and bought a cheapo aluminum pressure canner at Walmart.

I’m going to can some of the smaller potatoes and I can start canning things like Chili and stews to save for later meals. This is a good thing for me because I tend to cook too much so being able to can the extra will be awesome.

Next year, I’ll be certain to plant enough beans, peas and carrots to can some of them too.

I’m actually enjoying this quite a bit. My mom used to can everything…actually, she still does, but I’m not there to enjoy the fruits of her labor any more…that’s where I initially learned the concepts; so I’m kind of getting back to my roots with this stuff.

Besides, with the way the economy’s going, growing and preserving food could become a very valuable skill to have.

What I was doing last night:


Canning Jalapenos.

8 pints…all sealed perfectly.

I’ve still got enough babies still on the vines to do at least that much again when they’re ready.

I also picked 5 good sized cucumbers with many more still growing. If we get enough, I may make some hot pickles this year. I haven’t done that since I was in high school.

Green beans are ready to pick again so we’ll have them either tonight or tomorrow night for dinner, some carrots are finally looking big enough to pick and we still have plenty of potatoes.

There’s a cubic butt-ton of tomatoes ready to pick. I want to make one batch of “mild” salsa for the wife and the rest will get canned. Corn’s still growing…maybe ready to pick next week.

Gardening is rewarding in so many ways.

Look what I did tonight…

SALSA!!!

About 2/3 of this will get canned, the rest we’ll eat. It’s gooooood. Too bad you can’t taste it over the internet (heck, even smell it for that matter, it smells great too).

I’ve probably got about enough peppers in the fridge to can 2 or 3 pints tomorrow, plenty more still on the plants not quite ready to pick yet, and the plants are still blooming so we should still have more to come.

The tomato vines are starting to wilt so I doubt that we’ll get any more than what’s out there right now. There’s probably enough starting to turn red to get maybe three quarts canned by the end of the week, and plenty more green ones to harvest as they ripen in the next couple of weeks.

Should have more beans by the end of the week to eat and the few ears of corn out there are growing nicely.

I dug another hill of pototoes tonight and baked the two biggest for dinner. We had a leg of lamb roasted on the grill rotisserie, a beautiful, juicy, ripe sliced tomato from the garden and the baked potatoes for dinner. I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it.

You forget how much better truly fresh food is until you start growing your own again.

Apparently…

…It’s time to make some salsa.

Still lots of green tomatoes and baby peppers out there…and the pepper plants are still blooming so they’re going to produce at least one more crop.

Beans are blooming again too so I should have more beans soon.

I wish I had grown my own cilantro but I just didn’t think about it in time. Oh well…next year. Too bad the onions didn’t come up this year…I’ll have to buy them too.

I haven’t gardened in several years so I’ll have to get back into the swing of it over time. I made several mistakes that cost me crops this year that I’ll have to alleviate next year so I’ll have a better selection. Pretty much all I’m getting this year is tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, some cucumbers, a couple of ears of sweet corn, a few green beans and a few carrots. But it’s a start and anything is better than nothing.

As far as yield: I’ve already frozen a couple of pints of chopped peppers. Based on what I’m seeing right now, I’m guessing I’ll be able to can maybe ten pints of peppers and 5 quarts of tomatoes and still have enough to eat through the summer and make a few pints of salsa for immediate consumption and canning.

I haven’t completely lost my touch…just need some refining of my technique.

Oh…the potatoes we’ll eat. I don’t have a pressure cooker yet so I don’t have a way to can them. I intend to get one so I can can foods that require it, but haven’t gotten a round tuit yet.