GARDEN NEWS – IT’S ONLY BEGINNING!

 

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Jack’s Beanstalks?

Last year, our Smoky Mountain garden saw very little rain. The whole region suffered from a drought. But this spring and now into June, the rains have been frequent and steady. We left on our trip to Michigan hoping the rain would continue so our friend didn’t have to come over every other day to water. She came three times over a two-week period, but only to pick vegetables.

 

A few days before we returned, she hauled home a bag of beans, several green peppers and onions and a batch of peas. The day we arrived home, my husband went out and picked five plastic bags of vegetables, including a large bag of broccoli from plants that had already put forth heads. My well-heeled and prolific gardener husband had never seen such a thing.bowl

Yesterday, our first full day home, I spent in the kitchen. I blanched and froze fourteen bags of beans and seven bags of broccoli. There’s still a bag of beans in the refrigerator waiting to be steamed for three bean salad (see my recipe below).

Last night, he began digging up the garlic. This is the first year that we really have a crop. We’re letting it dry out on the porch now and before it rains this afternoon, Bob is outside digging up the rest.

20170619_105222Here’s a warning to family and friends we’ll see this summer – expect plenty of bulbs for your summer and fall garlic needs. I’d love to braid them, but haven’t a clue how it’s done. Anyone out there who knows how to do it?

Here’s the process for blanching and freezing both the beans and the broccoli.

20170619_105117Beans

  1. Wash and break into two-inch pieces.
  2. Place in boiling water and blanch for three minutes.
  3. Remove and immediately and drop into ice water for three minutes.
  4. Remove from water and put into freezer containers.

Broccoli

  1. Rinse and remove stalks and leaves. Cut into serving size pieces.
  2. Place in one gallon of salt water (1 cup of salt) and let soak for thirty minutes. This will make sure all the bugs are gone before blanching.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. Place in boiling water and blanch for three to four minutes (depending on the size of the pieces).
  5. Remove and immediately and drop into ice water for three minutes.
  6. Remove from water and put into freezer containers.

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Pat’s variation on a marinated green bean salad

From Seed to Table by P.C. Zick with Robert Zick

4 cups green beans, steamed for about 7 minutes

1 can black olives, chopped

1 can garbanzo beans

1/4 lb. Swiss cheese, cut into small chunks

onion, chopped (use amount to your taste – I used two small onions from the garden)

fresh dill, parsley or other herbs of your choice

1 red pepper, chopped (you can use green or banana peppers too)

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

2 TBSP olive oil

juice from one lemon

Mix together all the vegetables and herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Whisk together the rest of the ingredients and pour over the vegetables and herbs. Chill before serving. This salad is even better on the second and third days.

green bean salad

Seed1

Available on Amazon – Kindle and paperback versions.

#Gardening – Spring Means #Spinach

Spinach ready to pick

Spinach ready to pick

This warm and wet spring weather means lots of big leaves on the spinach plants. It also means we’ll have it longer before it goes to seed, if the heat of summer stays away for a few weeks.

Robert picks the spinach after it’s been watered or after a good rain. . .after it’s had time to dry. He then puts it into dry plastic bags and stores in the refrigerator until I can find the time to start cleaning, blanching, and freezing. He actually does the washing part while I chop, blanch, and bag. The other night we managed to put up eighteen bags containing two servings each.

spinach1

blanch for two minutes

We’ve been eating it every other day in various forms: raw in wraps and salads, sauteed briefly in olive oil, garlic, and silvered almonds, in lasagna, omelets and just plain steamed.

Medical News Today reports the breakdown of what is contained in one cup of raw spinach: It “contains 27 calories, 0.86 grams of protein, 30 milligrams of calcium, 0.81 grams of iron, 24 milligrams of magnesium, 167 milligrams of potassium, 2813 IUs of Vitamin A and 58 micrograms of folate.”

bags ready for freezer

bags ready for freezer

We might get one more big picking before it’s done. But that’s thirty-eight meals of spinach for the winter and a few more meals with fresh spinach before the season ends. Then we’ll start on the peas, which are now climbing their chicken wire fence and reaching for the sun.

I’d love to hear from you on what’s going on in your garden or what you’re eating from the local farmer’s markets. Ours, filled with lots of local food grown in western Pennsylvania, are just opening for the season.

 

Click on cover to purchase

Click on cover to purchase

Our book From Seed to Table provides lots of gardening tips and recipes. Here are the steps I follow for blanching and freezing bags of spinach (in two-serving bags):

Blanching and freezing spinach

Note: The blanching steps below may be followed for most vegetables with variation in the time the vegetable is in the boiling water. The recipe below preserves as much of the vitamins and taste as possible. Our frozen spinach is green and tastes “almost” like we’d just picked it.

  • Wash the leaves – Put the leaves in a sink of cold water and carefully wash off all dirt and grass. Put in colander to drain.
  • Chop the leaves – I didn’t do this last year, and I was sorry. While the spinach tasted great, it was a bit stringy. I chopped them into about 1-inch squares.
  • Blanch – Bring a big pot of water to boil and place one colander full of leaves into the water for two minutes.
  • Ice water bath – Submerge in ice water for another two minutes.
  • Place in colander in a large bowl or pot and let drain for a few minutes.
  • Put into freezer bag that is labeled and dated.

One colander full equals two servings and fits perfectly into a freezer sandwich bag. It’s fine if some water is in the bag – it’s probably better for the spinach.


 

The Ecstasy of Corn Awaits Another Year

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Missing from my gardening book is anything about sweet corn. This year as I prepared to freeze corn, I went directly to my Kindle and opened From Seed to Garden. But I didn’t have a thing in there about God’s greatest gift to summer in northern climates. Corn on the cob is the pièce de résistance for any summertime picnic or barbecue.

However, we decided when we moved to our house three years ago not to put in a sweet corn patch. My husband, Robert, has grown corn in the past, but he spent much of his summers trying to outsmart the raccoons that only bother a garden for its corn. They aren’t dissuaded easily. I think Robert hit his breaking point the summer he rigged a radio in his fenced garden and left it blaring all night long. Those corn-scavengers still found a way into the patch.

It’s also a lot of work to grow corn, and it takes up a large chunk of the garden. We leave that to the farmers and buy corn from a nearby farm, the farmer’s market, or local groceries selling local food. We’ve been sampling all the area’s corn since the beginning of August. None of the ears did what they should do when fresh and plump with juices and natural sugars.

If you’ve ever eaten fresh corn on the cob, you know what I mean. It’s the taste that makes me “yum-yum” all over the place. I close my eyes, juice and butter dripping on my chin, and I say, “I could eat this every night.”

This year we haven’t had that moment. The corn isn’t bad; I’d classify it as “good.” We haven’t once closed our eyes and moaned in culinary delight.

Now it’s mid-September, and we don’t have any corn put in the freezer for winter. Earlier this week, we finally decided to take what we could, so we called the local farmer and asked for a bag of ears – approximately five dozen – at the cost of $25. We also bought a few ears from a local market we passed on the way home today. The new corn was about the same as what we’ve tasted this summer.

With nearly six dozen ears of corn, unhusked and waiting in the fridge, we began the work of freezing corn for the winter.???????????????????????????????

Here’s the process for freezing corn kernels and corn on the cob. Both must be blanched before freezing and take about the same time. While Robert husked, I started working in the kitchen.

Equipment

  • Several large pots/bowls
  • tongs
  • freezer bags or freezer containers – quart size for kernels and galloon size for whole ears
  • sharp knife

Process

  • Fill a large pot of water (I use a 12-quart pot) and start it boiling
  • Fill a large bowl with cold water halfway – later put ice in the water
  • Put six ears of corn at a time in the boiling water for six minutes
  • Immediately remove to the ice water bath bowl for another six minutes
  • Place ears of corn (3 or 4) in a gallon freezer bag and date the bag
  • Holding the ear of corn upright on a cutting board, slice the kernels from the cob
  • Place kernels in quart-size freezer bags – quantity is based on your family’s needs
  • Make sure all bags/containers are dated and place in freezer to enjoy during the cold winter months

The corn tastes great when thawed out – nothing at all like the frozen corn from the grocery store. Even if this year’s corn didn’t make us stop and rhapsodize about its quality, we’ll still enjoy the thirty bags of kernels and six bags of ears we put in the freezer last night.

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