Vegetable Garden, June 27, 2011

I’m reviving an oldie but goodie.  I am always so amazed by how fast a garden will grow.  So I will do my best to take a picture every Monday and post it that night.

This is currently my Garden for 2011:

Tomatoes

Copia – slicing tomato named after the now defunct COPIA center in Napa.  Developed in their gardens (which were AWESOME!)

Juane Flamme – French orange fleshed globe tomato – tons of tomato flavor

Yellow San Marzano – this might be a new strain, from right here in Sacramento!  Let’s hope that out of the three that I planted that one stays true to the fruit!  They were gorgeous San Marzano tomatoes – just a bright yellow!  A little more acidic too- which I liked in sauce that I made with them last year.

Red Zebra – Oldie but a goodie heirloom

Hartman’s Gooseberry – Yellow cherry type tomato – good for eating right off of the plant

Beam’s Yellow Pear – Yellow pear type tomato – great for salads

Then I have my Ajicito Plants in the front purple pot (aka Aji Dulce, Cachucha Pepper) that I overwintered in my home, since they are so special to Puerto Ricans!  Looking lovely and sprouting tons of flowers.

Crecer Hijo de puta! Crecer!

My strawberries are doing very well too- their second set of fruit should be ready in a week or so.  And the Rosemary bush completely hacked back to allow as much light to the tomatoes as possible.

And then in the black tray in the front, I am trying to grow more Ajicitos, my favorite eggplant: Listada de Gandia, and just some extra herbs like oregano and cilantro.  I know it is very late to grow from seeds, but I figured, why not?  After all the craziness of this growing season, I think anything is possible.  So I am crossing my fingers for the peppers and eggplants, but prepared for nothing to happen.

Well that about covers it- excited to see if by next week the seeds will sprout in these high temps.  Also, Whitney’s Gladiolus and Lily bed sent up its first flower spike.  If you know anything about Whitney, of course it is purple!

Purple? Surprising!

Vegetable Garden, June 27, 2011

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How to can Seville (Bitter) Orange Juice

Well as Spring is finally warming up, one of California’s best and most valuable assets is winding down: Citrus.

When the lilies start growing, Spring is in full swing

One citrus that I think a lot of Americans don’t completely utilize is the Seville Orange.  It goes by a myriad of names, including: Bitter Orange, Sour Mandarin or Naranja Agria in Spanish.  This is the citrus that marmalade (great recipe for marmalade is here) is made out of.  The British have on lock the whole sour/sweet/bitter thing that is a staple on many a breakfast table.  But many cultures use the fruit in other ways.

Puerto Ricans use this fruit in marinades and sauces as well as making “Lemonade” out of them (even though they aren’t lemons).  It is kind of difficult to keep up with being local and organic with some of the Puerto Rican ingredients (How about Achiote!)- but I have now kicked another one out!  Adios Goya Naranja Agria marinade- you are out.

It is super simple to can your own citrus juice, but there seems to be some contention throughout the interwebs about the flavor of canning your own.  In my experience, I have never had an issue or off flavors.  But as always, results may vary.

First, find some primo fruit.  I was lucky enough to be gifted a HUGE bag of Bitter Oranges by my friend’s Aunt and Uncle.  Their tree was loaded with them and I happily took some off their hands.

Extract/Squeeze the juice.

Heat the juice until it boils and keep it there for 1 minute exactly.  You don’t want it longer or else it changes the flavor profile.

Pour into jars and process for 5-10 minutes for half-pints and pints or 15 minutes for quart jars in a water bath canner.

If you don’t thoroughly strain your juice through cheesecloth, filters, etc. there will be cloudiness and some settling.  I have no problem with it; my canned juice isn’t being entered into any beauty pageants.  Store out of direct light in a cool, dry place and you can easily store for over a year with no refrigeration until you open.  Enjoy!

Vegetable Garden, August 20, 2010

Posting kind of late- but ya know.  That’s what happens!

A sea of peppers. Mostly heirloom bell peppers and italian frying peppers.

Thai green eggplant. They taste just like Chinese/Japanese eggplant, but are just green when ripe.

My cubanelle peppers are doing awesome and changing color currently. Another week or two of hot temps and they should be ripe!

Vegetable garden, August 20, 2010

Vegetable Garden, August 9, 2010

So all is well in the Land of Milk and Honey. Well, actually I have neither of these. I actually sort of want a miniature cow, though I am sure Whitney would be more than a little disappointed (read: fucking livid). The “Panda” breed mini-cows are so cute, and able to be pastured on rather smallish acreage. I just want the milk to make fresh, unpasteurized cheese, but you know, the FDA knows better than I on what I should put in my body… But I digress. Damn, I’m sort of grumpy today.  Here are some pics from the garden…

Eggplant flowers are so pretty. But not more beautiful than okra flowers. I will try to get a pic for next week.

The eggplants are getting into high season now!

One of my cubanelles starting to turn color

The first crop from the garden. Tomatoes, squash, eggplant, melons and more tomatoes!

Vegetable Garden, August 9, 2010

Vegetable Garden – Day 36

Everything is going well. Most of the initial seedlings need to be transplanted to their final containers or the garden bed. I transplanted some of the carrots this weekend, into one gallon containers as they will be harvested before they reach full size. Speaking of containers, I am hesitant to grow a lot in the raised garden bed this year due to the constant need for water last year. I could water in the morning and the bed would be bone dry by the early afternoon, which is when the Sacramento heat really sets in. Even though I got a pretty good crop of tomatoes and eggplants, the peppers suffered greatly for this. I have added spagham moss to the bed and some of the native Sacramento clay soil in hopes to up the water retention. The bed has lots of organic matter from the compost pile and worms from around the yard during the excavation of the patio and a flower bed.  

Actually the most success I have ever had in a garden was on my 3rd story apartment balcony, where I grew everything in containers. I got more bell peppers, jalapenos, onions, cilantro and tomatoes than I knew what to do with! And that’s saying a lot for a Puerto Rican! The 100 square foot balcony was even northeast facing! So I am really hoping that the containers will be more successful this year. I plan on trellising most of the tomatoes against the back fence, and being heavy-handed with pruning so that should help with a healthy albeit smaller crop. 

Planned on transplanting most of the plants throughout this week, except there is a “huge winter storm” coming (can you tell how skeptical of the “weatherman” I am?). So hopefully it will pass quickly and I can get to transplanting this Wednesday or Thursday. This weekend is out for gardening, because we are having Easter again this year, so I need to be focused on preparing for that on Friday and Saturday. 

Carrots (Minicor) and Onions (Evergreen Bunching)

 

Brought in for the forecasted storm

 

Nosey Nathan Dog during phototaking

 

Puerto Rican Culantro (not to be confused with cilantro!)

 

Puerto Rican Gandules (a.k.a. Pigeon Pea)

Vegetable Garden

So I have been thinking of how I should share and document the process of my vegetable garden this year.  I am going all out and there will be a lot of info.  I decided in order to keep my sanity that I am going to post at least weekly about what is going on…  So here we go.

We are now into Day 25.  I started everything from seeds or cuttings this year and it has been working out very well.  I purchased a massive quantity of seeds from only two companies this year:  Seed Savers Exchange and High Mowing Seeds.  Both offer a diverse selection of heirloom, mainly organic seeds.  Seed Savers Exchange is just absolutely amazing with their selection and history and they are a mainstay in the seed world.  High Mowing Seeds (HMS) came as a referral through a pretty strange avenue.  Emeril Lagasse has had a show on Fine Living Network about “green and sustainable businesses” and HMS was showcased.  I really liked what the owner had to say and how they had their whole set up, so I got some info and ordered from them.

I am growing a huge assortment of vegetables this year.  My main goal is grow enough vegetables so that Whitney and I don’t have to buy our food from farmer’s market except the stuff I can’t grow or raise (mushrooms, chickens for eating, pork) for most of the year.  And then I kept adding more stuff until I came to the hope that I can sell or trade the surplus this year.  A quick, but not all-inclusive list:

  • Tomatoes (17 different varieties)
  • Melons (11 different varieties)
  • Peppers (7 different varieties)
  • Squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Beans
  • Okra
  • Puerto Rican vegetables (Culantro [a.k.a. Recao], Gandules, Aji Dulce, Cubanelle, Callaloo)

Well I think that is enough info for now… Time for some pics: