Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Thyme, mint, and Basil OH MY! ….. (but mostly Basil)

 

 

 

We survived hurricane Irene without a hitch. It was the first time our area had been threatened since Max was born and truth be told I was very anxious. We prepared as good as we knew how and hunkered down. I am so thankful that we had no real damage, nor did we lose electricity. We were truly blessed.

What was left of my garden fared nearly as well, the peppers are still standing and promising to give me a few more before calling it quits for the season. I had grown basil between my tomato plants and when the tomatoes were finished and removed, the basil took over. It was waist high and resembled a shrubbery rather than an herb. It did not weather the high winds quite as well as the rest of us. Upon going out and assessing the damage I found the basil laying on its side. I had meant to harvest it for some time so now was as good as any.

Have some basil....

Preserving herbs is very easy and very rewarding during those winter months when everything outside is brown and dry. The more hardy herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano) do well tied into bunches and hung to dry. Once all the moisture is gone seal them in an airtight container and they will keep for up to a year. The more delicate herbs (basil, mint, tarragon) do best frozen. You can place whole or chopped leaves in a ice cube tray, cover with a little water and freeze. Once frozen pop out of the tray and place in freezer bag, thaw as you need.

My favorite way to preserve Basil is homemade pesto. I love being able to add that summertime freshness to meals in the dead of winter.

All the measurements are approximate. This recipe should really be adapted to you personal taste. Remember, I was working with an ungodly amount of basil, so you may have to adjust the portions according to however much you have.

Homemade Pesto

yummy

8 cups washed basil leaves, stems removed. (makes about 2 cups chopped basil)

1/2  cup pine nuts

1/2 cup Olive oil

1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese

4  medium cloves Garlic

salt to taste

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulse basil and olive oil in food processor until coarsely chopped.

Add Pine nuts, Parmesan, Garlic, and Salt.

Process until desired consistency.  If it seems dry, add more oil.

At this point TASTE, TASTE, TASTE. Make needed adjustments, I always end up adding more salt and cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spoon into ice cube tray and freeze.  When frozen, remove and place in freezer safe bag.

Now you have homemade pesto in convenient portions that will be approximately 1 oz. each.  Ready to used to season chicken, accompany pasta, or spruce up sauces.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bet you’re wondering what I did with all the left over basil (yes, there was left over basil). Turns out it makes a very fragrant, if not colorful centerpiece!

Thanks for reading:)

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HOT today CHILI tomorow

Wow, what happened to the summer?!? Can you believe it’s the middle of August already? With the temps reaching record highs over most of the country I’m sure there have been thirsty gardens everywhere. Between my sad tomatoes and my lettuce bolting and dying, this year has certainly been a learning experience. However, there is one member of my garden family that has produced leaps and bounds over previous years.

CHILI PEPPERS!

so many chilis so little time

Hot, sweet, bell, it didn’t matter they did wonderful! Leaving me scratching my head wondering what to do with these mounds of green and red gems. Different chilis, require different preserving methods. Some are best dried or smoked, some frozen or canned.

Lets start with old faithful Jose Jalapeno (not on a stick;).  I found a fantastic salsa recipe that is easy enough for a beginner and will last all year long.  It’s adapted from a recipe found in the Ball Blue Book of  canning.  (For those of you unfamiliar with home preserving it is important to familiarize yourself with a few techniques.  Find the basics here.)

This recipe makes about 3 pint jars, however, my three jalapeño plants produced enough peppers to double the recipe, and make it twice!

Hot Jalapeno Salsa

3 cups tomatoes peeled, seeded, and chopped

3 cups jalapeño chopped (I removed the seeds and membrane from about half of the peppers and it is still quite spicy)

1 cup chopped onions

1 1/2 Tbs minced garlic

1 cup vinegar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp rosemary

2 Tbs fresh cilantro chopped

1/2 tsp cumin

WARNING! When preparing the peppers, WEAR GLOVES AND DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE!!!

After seeding the selected number of peppers, place them in food processor and pulse until desired size.

Note- some of my jalapeños had turned red on the vine. I don’t know if that makes them hotter or takes away some of the heat, in my opinion they add nice color to the salsa so I left them in.

Combine ingredients in large pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes till all flavors are melded together.

Processing

The basic water canning necessities are a large stock pot, wide mouth funnel, magnet (on a stick;) for removing lids from boiling water, and tongs for placing and removing jars from water bath.

Fill hot jars with finished salsa. Wipe rims clean with damp cloth and assemble 2 piece lids.

Place in a “Granny bath” with one inch of water covering jars. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove and leave undisturbed till cool. Check lids for seal and for the tops to be concave.

They can be stored in a cool dry place for up to a year and must be refrigerated after opening:)

ENJOY!

My little Garden

Thanks to my father-in-law, who drove down from WV to help me get my plot ready, I was able to start my garden around April 25’th this year. Because it seems to have a high clay content I amended my soil with some local compost, I would have added peat and Vermiculite but at the time cost was an issue. So with fingers crossed I planted away.
This year, I made the plot a few feet wider and longer because last year sometime around mid July it went from tidy little garden to untamed jungle. My cucumbers kept trying to eat the tomatoes, I lost half a row of romaine to some savage zucchini that didn’t know when to stop growing, and don’t get me started on the wildlife!

This year was going to be different! I will not get carried away! I will stick to my garden plan! I will…….. I will…….. *sigh* I will recognize that I have absolutely no self-control. After all, the more space I have the more I can cram more into it right? Besides what’s so bad about having a bit of suburban jungle in the backyard anyways.
So this years lineup includes tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet bell peppers, banana peppers, cauliflower, radishes, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and lettuce. I do my herbs in pots so that they’re close to the house when I need to grab a handful. Of them I plant the usual suspects, basil, parsley, chives, dill, tarragon, and thyme (you can never have enough “thyme” in the garden. hehehe).
So far so good, I have only had two casualties. The romaine never sprouted and one of my tomato plants needs put out of its misery (I just don’t have the heart to do what must be done). Not to bad considering the dog dug up one of my squash plants, and I clotheslined another with the garden hose (the later is still under observation). I’ve sown some red leaf lettuce in place of the no-show romaine and have already had a small harvest of radishes. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed!

Thanks for reading:)

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