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Dragon Fruit

November 14, 2014

The Gardener grows a plant that produces this fruit.

The plant seems to be called a selenicereus and the fruit is a Dragon Fruit.  The flowers that lead to this fruit and the fruit itself are quite beautiful.  The Gardener has about five plants, and we get about one fruit from each plant each year.  Not much harvest to manage.  Maybe that’s a good thing, as I’m not sure the fruit is as tasty as it is lovely.

Feel free to discuss.


An Unusual Summer in the Garden

November 5, 2014

For the first time in recent memory, the Harvest Manager has had a relatively quiet summer with little harvest to manage.  Save the Harvest readers have noticed a similar level of quiet on the blog.  When the crops don’t come in, well, there just isn’t much to say.

For some reason this year the tomato harvest failed.  The Gardener brought in a smattering here and there.  On occasion we had enough to fill a few freezer bags.  The Squeezo never saw action during the summer of 2014, and the rows of canning jars stand empty on the shelves.

The Squeezo Strainer during busier times.

The Squeezo Strainer during busier times.

Oh sure, there were a few pickled peppers to be packed and some grape jelly to be jarred, but no tomato sauce, no canned whole tomatoes, and no roasted tomatoes.

Well, there’s always the winter garden.  The garlic is in, the lettuce is peeping above ground, and the seed flats full of broccoli and beets are under lights in the garage.  The future looks bright.

Seed Libraries?

September 29, 2014

Yes indeed!  A Tulsa Oklahoma library now offers seed packets to check out.  You take them home, plant the seeds, enjoy the harvest, and save a few seeds to return to the library.  The library even rates the seeds for beginning gardeners to advanced.  In the interest of full disclosure, I confess that in addition to being a harvest manager, I am also a librarian.  I love the Tulsa librarians for creating a seed library!

This program has benefits at so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin.  Maybe I’ll keep it simple and just offer a list.

  • Get fresh food close to home.
  • Put unused land to good use.
  • Learn self sufficiency.
  • Learn science.
  • Give back to the community in the form of seeds.
  • Get some exercise and fresh air.
  • Teach kids where food comes from.
  • Find good books while you’re in the library picking up seeds.

Don’t you wish your library had a seed program?  It could you know.  The article in Tulsa World (linked above) says to go to Tulsa Library Guides or contact Johanna Burton at 918-549-7423 or email for more information.  Go for it!

Pick Beans Daily

August 4, 2014
Pile o' beans

Pile o’ beans

This what happens when both The Gardener and the Harvest Manager leave town at the same time.  Green beans mature quickly, and for the tastiest, tenderist bean, one must pick daily.

This pile represents about 3 1/2 pounds of beans.  (The pen on the counter gives you an idea of the size of the pile.)  Once I sorted the edible from the compostable, we had about 1 3/4 pounds.  Half of the harvest ended up in the compost pile.  That’s good for the compost, but not the best yield for the kitchen.

How to manage the harvest?  Bring a pot of water to boil and toss in the trimmed beans (I pinch off the ends) for four minutes.  Drain, cool, and drop in a freezer bag.   Beans preserved this way will last for a few months in the freezer.   Cook as you would fresh or frozen green beans.

Pickling Peppers – The Quest for Crunch

July 8, 2014

Since the beginning of time (or so it seems) The Harvest Manager has sought the illusive crunch in the pickled pepper.  Over the years I have tried pickling lime, alum, grape leaves, and cold pack with refrigeration (thus avoiding the wilting properties of boiling).  I can’t say that any of these methods yielded the crunch we find in commercially pickled peppers.  So far, the most successful method (in this case applied to the pickling of green tomatoes)  was submitted to the blog by reader Michael Brawer.  Buy a jar of pickles, eat them, and put your own produce in the leftover brine.  Refrigerate for a couple of weeks and voila!  Crunchy pickled tomatoes or pickles or in our case peppers.  Michael was kind enough to share his secrets with Save the Harvest readers back in December 2011.

Pickling peppers

Banana Peppers ready for pickling

Pickling peppers-secret ingredients

Secret Ingredients – Calcium chloride for crunch and latex gloves for handling peppers

Adopting the “Never Say Die” approach to pickling, this year The Gardener has tracked down a tried and true approach to the crunchy pickled pepper.  Calcium chloride.  You will find this ingredient mentioned on the label of many commercial pickles.  According to Oregon State University Extension Service (scroll down to the document about Pickling Vegetables, PDF), it’s the way to go.

I used the OSU recipe for “Pickled hot peppers” on page 16 of the aforementioned PDF on Pickling Vegetables, adding 3/4 of a teaspoon of calcium chloride to each pint jar. I processed them in a conventional boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  I’m going to wait a week or two before tasting, so I don’t know yet how they’ve turned out.  I can say they look promising.  Stay tuned.


Where to Buy Calcium ChlorideKitchenKrafts

I got mine from Kitchen Krafts, but sometimes craft beer makers also use calcium chloride.  If there’s a home brewer’s supply near you, give them a try or order from Home Brew Mart in San Diego.

Apple Harvest

July 1, 2014
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Yes, you read that right.  Here in the inland valleys of  Southern California we’re picking apples.  In the mountains just east of us, the crop comes in the Fall when one might expect it.  Being the Harvest Manager, I don’t question these wily ways of nature.  Mine is not to reason why, as they say.   The Gardener has delivered about 10 pounds of apples to the kitchen.  This is an interesting figure, as it’s too many to eat out of hand before they spoil and too few to employ the Squeezo in applesauce production.

Sounds like a job for the dryer.  So, last night, quicker than you can say Doc Martin, the Harvest Manager loaded up the dryer with apple rings.

Apple drying

It’s a pretty straight forward process.  Wash the apples.  Core them.  I use a corer for this task, but a thin knife could also work.  Slice the cored apple into 1/4″ rings and place onto the dryer.  I do not peel the apples, largely in order to save time.  I also do not “prepare” them with sulpher, ascorbic acid, or syrup.  These methods reduce the tendency of apples to turn brown.   My strategy is to get them from whole apples to drying slices as quickly as possible, thus minimizing the opportunity to brown.

The dryer starts at 150 degrees for the first couple of hours then down to 130 degrees until the slices are dry.  I proof them in a sealed container for a day or two after they come out of the dryer.  This evens out the moisture content.  These particular apples are likely to see a bit of backpacking this summer as well as a few training hikes in advance of the trip.   Yum.


The Leeks Win

June 24, 2014
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Astute and curious readers may remember back in April 2014 when The Gardener took up arms (the Black Hole) against a ravaging gopher.  The gopher had violated the leek bed.  It wasn’t pretty (sad, sad, gophered leek top below left).   The game was on.

In the end, The Gardener won.  The remaining leeks grew to maturity and the harvest is in (above right).

Now the Harvest Manager steps into the fray.  Beyond the ever-tasty potato leek soup, I welcome ideas for the highest and best use of hard won leeks.  Anyone, anyone?

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