#Gardening and #Raspberries

We’re getting a steady influx of vegetables these days, but nothing much to preserve yet. There are a few tomatoes ripening on the kitchen windowsill.firsttomatoes Last night I grilled zucchini and green peppers. Cucumbers are trickling in, but not enough to turn into pickles and relish. Usually this waiting period occurs in late June, but here in western Pennsylvania, we’re about three later with everything.

raspberriesI did manage to pick more than a quart of raspberries this past week and made my very first batch of jam. Two cups of raspberries made two 1/2 pints of jam. I bought six quarts of blueberries from a local farmer this past week and froze four of the quarts. One quart I used to make three 1/2 pints of jam. Raspberries and blueberries generally follow the same recipe so I made the jam all at the same time.blueberries

I searched the Internet for recipes with low or no sugar added. My husband and I prefer the tartness of fruit without the added sweeteners. I finally settled on Ball’s recipe using their pectin calculator.

I used Ball’s RealFruit Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin. Basically for two cups of berries, the recipe calls for 1/3 cup unsweetened fruit juice or water. I used apple juice. 1 1/2 TBSP pectin, and 3 tsp bottled lemon juice. Two cups of berries equals two 1/2 pints.

First I carefully washed and picked through the berries. Then I put them in a shallow, rectangular dish and mashed them with my bean masher.RaspberryMash I could have mixed the raspberries and blueberries into one jam, but since this was our first raspberry crop, we wanted those in their own jam.

From there, I put them into a large container and added the other ingredients. I also added 1/4 tsp butter to each pot to alleviate foaming. All the while, the 1/2 pint jars were boiling in the canner, and the lids and bands were simmering in a pot.

blueberryboilI brought each pot of berries to a boil and let them boil hard for one minute. The mixture must be stirred constantly to avoid sticking. Then I removed them from the heat and ladled into hot, sterilized jars. Processing time is ten minutes for altitudes under 1,000 feet. Since we’re at 1,100, I always add five minutes to the processing time when I’m canning.

I had a bit too much of the blueberry mixture, so I put that in a glass container and stuck in the refrigerator, where it will last approximately three weeks. The blueberry jam tastes wonderful and it set up perfectly. I look forward to opening one of the jars of raspberries very soon.jars

What’s growing in your garden these days?

Click on cover for Amazon page

Click on cover for Amazon page

Slow Start to Garden

It’s been a slow start here in western Pennsylvania after a tough winter. My husband has been preparing the soil and raised beds for a few weeks. The seedlings are growing under grow lights. He puts the trays outside each day for a few hours of sun, if possible.

Peas under cover

Peas under cover

This weekend, he finally put the peas in the ground. And spinach seedlings will be put in the raised bed next to the peas later this afternoon.

Two years ago we put in raspberry plants and asparagus. My husband spent a few hours this weekend pulling the raspberry roots that invaded the asparagus bed. So far, we can’t see any asparagus coming up. Let’s hope the raspberries didn’t invade too far. We didn’t realized how invasive raspberries can be, but perhaps this is why most folks put their raspberries in a separate garden.

Where's the asparagus?

Where’s the asparagus?






How’s your garden growing?

Click on cover

Click on cover


Here’s an excerpt from From Seed to Garden on raised bed gardening.

Raised Beds
Robert has been gardening using the raised bed method for several decades. I’ve come to appreciate its benefits as well. He rakes the soil into eight-inch mounds in three- to four-foot wide rows. He forms the raised bed from soil raked into a mound. The space left forms the paths between the raised beds and is an excellent place for mulch application.

raised beds

raised beds

The mulch we place on the garden serves as its own compost bin. We use straw from a local farm—we buy six-eight bales total in summer and fall. They cost approximately $7 each. I use them as decorative items in the yard until Robert’s ready to pull them apart for use as mulch. We also use mushroom manure, grass clippings from our lawn, leaves from our trees, compost from the bin, plants that have bolted, remains of vegetables, such as cornhusks, pea pods, or bean ends and strings. This material goes into the valleys between the raised beds to form a path between rows. It’s very easy to reach all the plants in our garden from the mulched paths.

When we first married, I was cautious about going into Robert’s sanctuary because I didn’t want to do something wrong or step on anything. After the first year of working with him in the garden, I realized his way of laying out the garden made it extremely friendly for me to go out and pick vegetables. Also, with the heavy layers of mulch between the rows, there’s very little weeding to do in the garden.
Raised bed gardening provides several benefits over regular garden beds. Because the plants are above the ground, drainage from the beds is very good. It also helps in aeration of the soil and the plant’s roots. It increases the depth of the bed. And my personal favorite, it provides excellent demarcation of the plants and the walking paths.

More Than Two Hundred Thanks

Assateague Island, Maryland

Assateague Island, Maryland

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Happy Labor Day to all of you. When I taught high school, this holiday was always bittersweet. It definitely meant the end to my summer holiday, and the start of a new school year.

It’s different now, especially living in the north. This holiday means the demarcation of a new season. It means we can take a few days off and enjoy nice weather and no crowds at campgrounds, parks, and on the rivers. It means that the summer green turns to a cornucopia of colors before falling to the ground.

The garden holds our winter beets, potatoes, and butternut squash.  Tomatoes are giving up the last gasp. Raspberries finally are producing a crop.

Kayaking on Keystone Lake

Kayaking on Keystone Lake

It’s been a good summer. We visited Maryland’s coast, camped on a lake in southwestern Pennsylvania, and attended a family reunion in Michigan. In a few months, we’ll return to my former home in Florida for a nice long visit with family and friends.



And today when I opened my email, I saw a notice from WordPress. I reached two hundred followers for this blog. Thank you for following me. Now that the busy summer season draws to a close, I’ll be back with posts on a more regular schedule. It’s almost like being back in school again.

Summer fades into fall

Summer fades into fall






Garden Loves June

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

We shelled peas on Saturday night. Then I blanched them for two minutes before putting away in nine freezer bags. I love those peas on a cold winter night. We’re not halfway through the pea season. Last year, our peas didn’t produce very well. My husband believes he put mushroom manure to close to the seedlings and they were overwhelmed with fertilizer. He didn’t do it this year, and we have a fantastic crop.DSC02585Tonight we picked our very first zucchini. We have to watch those plants because when they hide, we end up with bats. I’m going to grill these small beautiful wonders.

The spinach is done for the year. I managed to freeze twenty-one bags. I’m going to steam the last of the leaves tonight and make Greek pizza. The recipe is included in From Seed to Table, but here it is just for you.

Greek Pizza


Phyllo dough – use half of a box

2 cups of cooked spinach

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 cup fresh basil leaves

¼ pound feta cheese, crumbled

1 cup cottage cheese

1 ½ cups of mozzarella cheese, grated

2 TBSP butter, melted

Spray oil (olive or canola)

Saute the onion, garlic and basil in olive oil. Prepare the phyllo dough, following the instructions on the box. Layer half the sheets of dough on a cookie sheet, spraying each layer with oil. Layer the ingredients: saute mix, spinach, feta and cottage cheeses (mixed together), and top with mozzarella cheese. Layer the remaining sheets of dough on top, spraying each layer. Brush the top sheets with melted butter.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven. The dough should be a golden color.???????????????????????????????I hope your garden is producing. If you’re not gardening, I hope you’re able to enjoy some of summer’s bounty from your region. I bought five or six quarts of local strawberries and froze three gallon-sized freezer bags full. I’ve eaten my fair share. I can’t wait for blueberries. We do have raspberries but they seem to be slow to ripen. We bought some very think Remay to cover the tops so birds can’t eat those luscious beauties before us.

I look forward to hearing what’s happening in your local food department.

cover - lst draft

Spring Garden Update


Garden on April 27, 2013

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

As I sit on the balcony writing, my husband passes by on the tractor, pulling a wagon filled with the compost bin and some manure, and garden tools. He stops near the raspberry plants desperately climbing higher and higher to catch some of the sun that’s been playing hide and seek for the past month.tractor

Robert trims their tops as careful as a barber does with his clippers. He tenderly pulls dead branches and leaves back away from the base of a plant.

He planted these bushes last year with different varieties that will produce from spring to fall. Last year, we only had fruit from the late-season variety. How lovely it will be to have raspberries from May-October. I hope they produce enough for jam.

Raspberries are the heart for one of my best childhood memories. We had a raspberry patch in our side yard. Every summer morning, my mother and I went to the patch before breakfast. We’d pick enough for cereal. Raspberries atop Rice Crispies® evoke a feeling of warmth and safety. It also represented a time of peace between my mother and me.???????????????????????????????

My mother’s gone now, as are those raspberries. My daughter will be here when the first raspberries are ready this spring. We’ll continue the tradition, and I’ll stock up on the Rice Crispies® – although most likely I’ll  make granola instead.

The tomato plants wait patiently in trays in the den. The leaves are lush and large. As soon as possible, they’ll go in the ground. Robert started saving seeds from the best tomato varieties two years ago. This year, for the first time, all the plants came from our seeds. Let’s hope they produce as well as their ancestors.



In the garden, the peas, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage plants are growing every day. I can’t wait to shell my first pea pod of the season.

We’re still eating the produce from last year’s produce. This morning I made zucchini bread using shredded zucchini I froze last July. We had spaghetti this week using our canned sauce. Tonight I’m trying out a new recipe for quinoa burgers that uses shredded zucchini along with the quinoa, goat cheese, and eggs. I’ll share the recipe, if it turns out, in next week’s blog, along with some information on quinoa. I also froze cole slaw last summer. I used vinegar as the base sauce, but when I unfreeze it, I add a small amount of mayonnaise to hold it together. We had some a couple of weeks ago, and the flavors are outstanding, although the cabbage isn’t quite as crisp as fresh, but it was worth using up the extra cabbage this way. I also made tomato sauce from the tomatoes I froze in September when I just couldn’t face anymore canning. It makes an excellent sauce.

Last night, we picked a few of the asparagus peeking out from their bed of straw. This is the second year they’ve been in the ground and most recommend waiting until the third year to eat. But how could we resist these beauties? They melted in our mouths.???????????????????????????????

All these recipes and more are a part of From Seed to Table, which I plan to publish as an eBook in May.S2T-6

Here’s my recipe for making sauce from frozen whole tomatoes.

10 frozen whole tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

1 chopped onion

several chopped peppers – I use both sweet and hot peppers

fresh or dried herbs in any combination and to taste: basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon

salt and pepper

Remove tomatoes from freezer and put in refrigerator for 4-5 hours. Rinse under hot water for a few second until skins peel off easily. Let skinned tomatoes sit for an hour or until core can be cut out easily.

In the meantime, sauté onions, garlic, peppers (or anything else you’d like to add such as mushrooms, carrots, or olives) and herbs.

Chop tomatoes, even if they’re still partially frozen, throw pieces into pan with sautéed mix.Bring to boil then put on low for several hours, stirring occasionally. When sauce is reduced enough, it’s time to use sauce in your favorite Italian dish.

I always love to hear about your gardens or ideas for using produce throughout the year.

In the Garden July

By P.C. Zick @PCZick

It’s beginning to look a lot like summer and the living is not quite as easy as you might think! Despite our lack of rain, the garden is still doing its thing. We’re watering about twice a week and hoping for the best. Here’s a glimpse for today, July 7.Who’s that lurking in the garden behind the tomato stakes?It’s the man responsible for all this! He’s picking beans.Tomatoes getting ready to explode!It’s very odd that we’re getting peas now in this hot weather. They just started producing in the past two weeks. We’re eating them every night. I’ve frozen a few bags (nothing like last year), and I hope to put up a little bit more before they say, “Wait, a second. . .we’re not supposed to like the dry, hot weather.”I thought this was a banana pepper plant, but it’s not turning yellow. Anyone know what it might be?This is the first year for our raspberry plants. I don’t think we’ll get many on this round. Also they don’t taste very sweet. A couple of the plants may produce in the fall. My husband assures me next year they’ll taste like the raspberries of my childhood!

That’s it from here, reporting live from Raccoon Township, PA. How’s your garden growing?

Raspberries and Spinach

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

We spent Memorial Day weekend trying to get all the plants in the ground. My husband started all the plants from seeds beginning in February. Some of those original seedlings traveled from Key West all the way back to our home near Pittsburgh encased in wet paper towels and held in plastic containers in our luggage. All survived the journey.

Today, I put out all the plants we were unable to get into the ground, including tomatoes and zucchini ready to bust out of their pots. Our mail delivery woman decided she would take them all.

We froze another 16 bags of spinach on Saturday (bringing total to 28). You can read about my freezing process in my blog from last week. That’s probably about all I’ll freeze this year. Many of the plants have already gone to seed. But some of the older variety of flat-leafed spinach are resisting our heat and dryness and still putting food on the table. Last night we had a big pot of steamed spinach. We may have another couple of weeks to enjoy those fresh treats.

Robert created a 25′ x 4′ spot to plant 11 raspberry plants. We have several varieties and five of them may be providing fruit by June.

Four more tomato plants went in bringing total to 14. He saved back four more from the give away table, which he’ll plant this week.

It’s been back-breaking work in the heat, but we’re hoping it rains today. The thunder is rumbling outside as I write this blog.We’ve been recycling all our water to use on the plants, but we’re still having to water (sparingly, of course).

Joyce, our mail deliverer, offered to pay for the plants. I told her our payment was giving these plants to a good home. It’s good to eat local even if the seeds sprouted in the Florida Keys!