Is it possible to have TOO many pictures of strawberries?

NOPE!

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Is it really the “end” of the season?

Because looking outside, you’d hardly know it. Granted, there are leaves on the ground, but, frankly, everything still looks pretty darn green! Okay, maybe not everything. Some plants, even the flowers, are starting to look a tad less green than they were even a month ago. And even though we’re still getting tomatoes, especially the bright orange Sun Sugar hybrid cherry tomatoes, they aren’t nearly as sweet as the ones from the height of the summer, which is to be expected.

You’ll see in the picture above the additional of some rather remarkable peppers! We’re pretty sure that the larger ones top right are Sweet Chocolate peppers, which are supposed to turn a rich, dark brown. However, seeing as the outside temperatures are due to drop later on in the week, and sunshine will likely be in short supply, we decided to pick them before it was too late. The other peppers are Rellenos. All of them will be quite tasty in a few cozy meals of fajitas and quesadillas!

Inasmuch as the Sun Sugars won’t quit, this latest harvest was the smallest one since they first started ripening. But the hardy plant has plenty more fruit on it. We’re pretty sure that even in the event of cool rain and cool temps, the plant will keep going for awhile. And even if the tomatoes aren’t super sweet, they’ll still be great to have around…for sauce!

Okay, okay. So cherry tomatoes aren’t sauce tomatoes. But, roast enough of them, and they work just fine! In fact, these tomatoes probably make up the bulk of the four bags of sauce we’ve made so far this year.

With our latest batch of tomatoes, we got to sauce making again. From roasting (with spices) and cooling…

…to pureeing…

…to straining…

…to the final product, ready to be bagged!

The resulting sauce, which is mild and sweet, is such a wonderful thing, as it’s great on it’s own, or it can be easily used as a base for soup or a more complex sauce (with the addition of vegetables, meat, cream, and such). We’re really looking forward to utilizing it over the winter months.

Rounding out this post, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention the pole beans, which show no signs of quitting either. 🙂

Looks like it’s time for another shelling party!

 

The Amazing Technicolor Harvest

It’s amazing!

This was a good week in the garden.

After surviving another heat spell (okay, okay, it was only one day…haha), the weather turned almost fall-like. Not only has it been a joy to be outside lately, but the tomatoes in the garden seem to be okay with the temperature change as well. At least, our most recent harvests said so, as evidenced by the picture above! It looks a little like fall, right? This represents about half a week’s-worth of tomatoes. Let’s see…here we have the yellow-orange Sunpeach Hybrids (some of which might be Yellow Gooseberries, but we’re not sure), red and green streaked Chocolate Sprinkles, little red Baby Boomers, a number of Yellow Pears , at least one almost-ready Rutgers Hybrid, and a few medium-sized purplish Gypsy tomatoes. And no, you’re not imagining things if you think you see peppers – there are a almost-ripe mini orange bell peppers, as well as a handful of green (and one red) chilies. It’s a veritable rainbow of goodness!

As you can see, we’ve had the best success this year with small tomatoes. We’re sure that if we had gotten the plants on the ground sooner that we’d have had a good harvest of larger tomatoes by now. As it stands, most of the larger tomatoes that are growing are still quite green. But we certainly don’t mind the smaller ones, as they are incredibly versatile.

This past weekend, we roasted the larger tomatoes (which included a few others that had split and were being stored in the fridge), and made a delicious sauce. We then split a ton of the smaller ones and dehydrated them.

This grouping of dried tomatoes represents five trays-worth of split cherry tomatoes! It’s rather incredible that that many tomatoes are little more than a small pile right now, but they sure are. If all these tomatoes weren’t already varying degrees of sweet, now they are super intense! Sweet and super tomato-y. They’re wonderful in salads or thrown on top of hot pasta drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. And as long as we keep them cool and dry, they should last for several weeks. Well…if we don’t eat them all first!

Judging on how things look outside, we should be in for some pole bean harvesting soon. And hopefully we’ll have more tomatoes to come!

 

 

More beans than you can shake a stick at

Over the past few weeks, warmish temperatures and a steady dose of rain have helped our beans — bush beans, pole beans, and string beans — proliferate like mad! The beans have been growing far faster than we could ever eat them, and this past weekend, we found ourselves with a definite surplus.

This was our most recent harvest – a nice selection of purple and wax string beans, along with hearty Rattlesnake pole beans (the large green ones with the red streaks). Oh, and also a couple cherry tomatoes for good measure. 🙂

We also made our first harvest of shelling beans!

A couple varieties, still in their pods.

These turned out to be Tiger Eye beans (a bush variety) and Fort Portal Jade (a pole variety).

On the left are the extremely pretty and green Fort Portal beans – dried at top and raw at the bottom. On the right are the Tiger Eyes – raw ones at the top and dried ones, with their distinct maroon markings on gold, at the bottom. The ones in the middle are also Tiger Eyes, but they turned out all maroon for whatever reason.

While there are more Fort Portal beans to come, it looks like the Tiger Eye plants have had their say. As with beans, they might be done, or they might re-blossom later in the summer.

But, back to the busload of string beans. A much as we’ve been enjoying them simply steamed with dinner, we decided to do something a little different this past weekend, and make them into a light and delicious salad. We regularly make a Three-Bean Salad, but we wanted something a little different, so we turned to our trust Betty Crocker recipe book and found a little inspiration in the form of a “Tangy Vegetable Salad.” But we didn’t have everything on hand for that particular recipe, so we improvised. Here’s our version, which we’ll call “Simple Vegetable Salad (That’s Mostly String Beans).”


Simple Vegetable Salad (That’s Mostly String Beans)

Ingredients
  • 2-3 cups of coarsely chopped fresh string beans
  • approximately 1/2 cup (or so) each of chopped onion, carrots, peppers, and squash (we used a red pepper and summer squash, but any varieties could work)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Instructions

1. Gather all vegetables together; gather together ingredients for dressing.

Veggies, check.
Dressing ingredients, check.

2. Boil a little water (about 1/2 cup or so) in a large saucepan, and dump in the vegetables. Cook in boiling water for five minutes.

So pretty. It’s a little sad that the purple beans have to turn green when cooked.

3. After five minutes, drain the vegetable and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

See…no purple. Still delicious, though.

4. Place dressing ingredients into a small screw-top jar and shake vigorously to combine.

More shaking needed…

5. Place drained vegetables in a large bowl and pour over dressing. Stir gently, cover bowl, then place bowl in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Delish!

5. While salad is chilling, stir occasionally until ready to serve. When serving, use a slotted spoon.


This is an excellent summer salad – light, filling, and refreshing. And it’s super quick to make! (Who wants to turn on the oven in 100 degree heat, anyway?!) One thing to note is that you could also used white wine or red wine vinegar for the dressing. And really, you could use just about any combination of vegetables. The original recipe called for cauliflower and the addition of sliced olives at the end. But our results turned out to be simply delicious. And that’s what’s important. 🙂

 

 

 

 

One can never have too many strawberries…maybe

If there’s one thing that we’ve wanted to do ever since starting strawberries, it’s make a strawberry pie.  Okay, so maybe it’s not the most groundbreaking goal, but it’s a goal nonetheless.  And as trite as it might sound, it really comes down to the true goal: get enough strawberries to make a pie. Well, this year, the strawberries haven’t disappointed.

Last week we lamented a bit on how much critters, like slugs and squirrels, like strawberries too. (And we swear we saw a shrew in the strawberry patch the other day, too.) Last week, we were also dealing with a bout of grim, wet weather.  So far this week, not only have we had clear skies,  but it’s been sunny and hot. Like record-breaking H.O.T., which stinks for the humans, but is great for the strawberries.  In fact, it’s possible we might have too many strawberries…

…nah.

Anyway, back to the pie. The recipe for the pie we had in mind came from our trusty Better Homes and Garden cookbook: Berry Glacé Pie. It sounds fancy, but it’s super simple, requires no cooking save for a baked pie shell, and as it turns out, totally delicious. (As much as we’ve wanted to make a strawberry pie, the worry remained that a baked pie would result in mushy, nearly non-existent berries, which is pretty unappetizing.  Because this is a chilled pie, the berries stay nice and firm, softening up only slightly over time.)

Berry Glacé Pie

 Ingredients

1 baked pie shell (homemade, store-bought, your choice)
8 cups fresh strawberries (the smaller, the better)
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

(Yes, 4 ingredients; that’s it!)

Instructions

  1. Prepare you pie shell in whatever manner is necessary.
  2. For strawberries, remove stems and leaves. Cut any large strawberries in half lengthwise and set aside in a bowl.
    (Note: since all our strawberries have to be vetted for anything that might have burrowed their way inside [yuck], we cut all our strawberries in half. The prettier version of the pie, as listed below, contains whole strawberries that are neatly arranged with their pointy ends up. We just layered our berries as they seemed to best fit.)
  3. For the glaze, in a blender container or food processor bowl combine 1 cup of the strawberries and 2/3 water. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Add enough additional water to the mixture to equal 1 1/2 cups. In a medium saucepan combine sugar and cornstarch; stir in blended berry mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. (Optional: stir in a few drops red food coloring.) Cool for 10 minutes without stirring.
  4. Spread about 1/4 cup of the glaze over bottom and sides of pie crust. Arrange half of the remaining strawberries, stem ends down, in pastry.
  5. Carefully spoon half of the remaining glaze over berries, making sure all berries are covered. Arrange remaining berries over first layer. Spoon remaining glaze over berries, covering each. Chill for 1 to 2 hours. (After 2 hours, filling may begin to water out). Garnish with whipped cream.

The most surprising thing about this pie, and maybe it shouldn’t be surprising at all,  is how refreshingly bright it tastes. Because our berries are a little tart and the glaze is very sweet, the pie is perfectly balanced, neither too sweet nor too tart. It’s also kept pretty well over several days, despite the recipe’ s warning that the glaze might become watery. Ours hasn’t, though it has congealed, darkened, and become a little cloudy. It’s probably best, indeed, that the pie is eaten sooner rather than later, but as much as we could probably eat a single pie in a day, we probably shouldn’t.  Probably.

Take one baked pie shell…
…and some strawberries…
…top with glaze and chill. Voila!
Presently, the strawberry crop is slowing down a little, though new growth is appearing, as are new flowers. Right now, we’ve got enough berries for another pie, but maybe we should aim to make jam or something. We’ll see.
Meanwhile in the garden, things are doing okay.  It’s looking like the majority of tomato seedling are starting to really take root. Can’t say the same about the peppers, sadly. Looks like another slim year there. But the cucumber, beans, and squash are all taking off, as are some of the radishes. Peas are another story. (Maybe we’ll get to that lament week.) And we’ve got greens for days. Delicious!
So many delicious salads!

Berry Good

Despite the fact that we got the garden started later than usual this year, the strawberries are right on time! June is strawberry month round these parts, and we were heartily rewarded this past week with a host of ripened and ripening berries.

So far, we’re on track for our largest harvest yet, and that just from looking at all the berries to be that are still outside. In the past, not only was our strawberry spread not as large, but it always seemed as though the birds and squirrel got to them before we ever did. This year, the rainy weather has kept most of the critters at bay. Plus, we’re picking the berries just before they get to their sweetest points, and then we’re ripening them indoors. The results aren’t perfect – the berries remain a little tart – but we’d rather get a sizeable harvest than a totally perfect harvest.

Unfortunately, the rainy weather has has its downside for the berries in the form of slugs. Ick. There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing what looks like a perfect berry only to turn it around and find it either half-eaten or worse, with a slug still in residence. Bad berries with slugs get tossed; bad berries without them get squished back into the soil in the hope for more berries in the years to come. Interestingly, bugs in general haven’t seemed to bother the berries. It’s really only the slugs that have been a problem. Because of them, all berries get thoroughly washed and checked before any eating happens. Biting into a bad berry…well…that’d be no fun.

:::shivers:::

But enough talk about slugs. The point is, we have strawberries, and they are delicious! We hope to have strawberries spread into the garden bed that sits right on the side of the house. Because the more strawberries we grow, the better our chances are of getting good harvests. After all, it’s not like the slugs or birds or squirrel can eat ALL the berries, right?

RIGHT?

🙂

Happy Pi(e) Day!

Well that’s an odd title for a post here, now isn’t it? But it isn’t if you consider that today, 3/14, is Pi Day! Y’know…Pi? As in 3.14 etc. etc.? High School math class, and such? For whatever reason, perhaps because there’s a dearth of Springtime holidays, people started celebrating “Pi Day” some years ago. And because people are people, it was easily transformed into “Pie Day” for some. Be it fruit pies, or custard pies, or pizza pies, every March 14th is all about the pies!

Why are we talking about pies? A few reasons.

  1. It is Pie Day.
  2. We don’t have much of an update on the seeds. We have a number of seedlings now, and they’re doing very well. We’ll catch up with them next week.
  3. We really don’t want to talk about all the ice/sleet/slush that’s outside. (Thanks, Winter Storm Stella.)

As great as just about any pie is, we decided to celebrate this Pie Day with pumpkin pie…Long Pie Pumpkin pie, that is. At the end of last season, we had a number of Long Pie Pumpkins left in the garden — these plants were incredibly prolific! We rescued a whole batch of them, and slowly, over the winter, we used them to make pies, breads, and even pumpkin soup (which was as little sweet but very good). After New Year’s, we were left with four of the smallest ones, and most of them were still ripening. We had read that these squashes could be kept indoors for many months after harvesting. We almost didn’t believe it; but sure enough, by the time March rolled around, three of the four Long Pies were bright orange. We decided that Pie Day would be the perfect time to use them. (The fourth squash remains very green and doesn’t show any signs of becoming orange, so we’re not sure what’s going on there. It might be a dud. It might be a different type of squash entirely!)

Simplest pie ever? Maybe!

Over the weekend, we roasted and prepped the Long Pies. It took a good hour in a 350 degree oven to complete the roasting process. After that, all the squash bits were pureed in the blender – we were careful to make sure none of the skin got in as it turns extremely tough when cooked. Then we strained out any stringy bits.

Dual pies – ready to bake.

After that, making the pie was the easy part. We ended up with a little more than 2 cups of puree — plenty for the pie. Mix with that eggs; sweetened condensed milk; ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon,; and then pour it all into a frozen pie crust (or a homemade single crust, if you’re not lazy like us 🙂 ). Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, and then lower the oven temp to 325 degrees and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour, until the center of the pie has just set.  Cool, cut, and serve with whipped cream.

This time around, we made enough filling for two moderately-filled pies. (Which sounded better than one overly-overstuffed pie. Bonus: there’s plenty of pie to go around!)

Golden brown and surely delicious!

Happy Pi(e) Day!