Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Weeknight Canner

Last night after getting home late, I embarked on a mad canning adventure. Earlier this week my mom had dropped off several flats of homegrown tomatoes from their garden. Last year's canned whole tomatoes are long gone, so I wanted to put away quite a bit more this summer. While the tomatoes she dropped off were a little under-ripe earlier this week, they quickly turned ruby red and by last night were at THAT point - can or die.

So at about 8:30pm I started blanching, peeling, packing, and canning 14 pints of whole tomatoes. I was tired, hungry, and ready to veg in front of the TV for the night, but there was no waiting for these beauties. I ended up finishing around midnight, which wasn't so bad for a weeknight I suppose.

Today I surveyed the finished product:

The tomatoes were gorgeous, even with the blight problems we've had this year. I noticed a blight spot on one of my Black Krim's this week - rats.

The peppers are starting to turn - I've had to restrain myself from picking a Red Marconi while it's still green:

I made dinner for the in-laws last weekend and for the appetizer I made a balsamic marinated roasted red pepper crostini. When I roasted the red bell peppers, I threw in a couple whole Fish Peppers to add a little kick. It's safe to say that Fish Peppers are as hot if not hotter than jalapenos. Zesty!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I'm finally starting to just accept the fact that this year hasn't been the best for Cincinnati gardening.

Reluctantly I've been pulling some of the plants that are limping along, like the melon, zucchini, squash, and last of the lettuce. I'm really disappointed to not have any zucchini or squash this year. The plants just never got big, and at no point were they nice and leafy green. There are several blooms right now but barely any foliage - no chance that they will ever pull through. Better luck next year.

So I've pared things down to the plants that are succeeding - I was starting to get tired of seeing a half-haggard garden every day. I'm left with the staples now: tomato, peppers, eggplant, and herbs.

The herbs seem to like the side of the house - sunny but not brutal. I have one mature eggplant and another on the way. Both types of peppers are loaded with goodies.

The tomatoes have been quite interesting this year. I've never grown this many varieties before and have never had experience with heirloom plants. I'm quite excited to see how certain types are fans of the Cincinnati climate while others are missing a little something.

While the Gold Nugget was the first to ripen, I've been blown away by the Black Krim this week - he gets the "Sleeper Award" of the summer. He was off to such a slow start that I thought he might not even fruit, but out of nowhere he has come from behind and is loaded with more fruit than any of the other plants!

On the opposite hand, the Pink Brandywine isn't as happy as he could be. I'm convinced that these plants are meant to have more room than I'm able to offer - they're meant to be grown in the ground so they can spread out and access all the nutrients possible so those huge fruits can grow. He still has several squatty tomatoes though.

The Black Cherry is tall and a little leggy, but dotted with little green globes.

Lastly, the Green Zebra has several tomatoes starting to swell and ripen.

At this point everything still looks like a bunch of green tomatoes, but if you are familiar with the nuances of the varieties, you can tell them apart - something for me to work on.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

First Heirloom Tomato

Gold Nugget: citrusy, bright, and light

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Take a Good Look...

...this will probably be the biggest (and only) melon you're going to see from my garden this year:

Whatever it is that's been eating away at my curcurbits has finally claimed the last of my Minnesota Midget plants. I'm pretty bummed; I was hoping to have something completely new and exciting this year. I still might give it another shot and re-seed, I'm just not sure what to do with those bugs. Oh well.

In other news, my first ever Brandywine tomato has started swelling. He's got that Brandywine-characteristic bunchy folded pucker look:

Also, my first Japanese Eggplant is getting some purpley color:

In the garden you take the good with the bad, I suppose.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Less Working, More Canning

I took another day off of work today in the further pursuit of berry goodness. I'm starting to like this taking-time-off-work thing; maybe I'll make it a summer tradition to play hookie and pick fruit. My quest for the day took the form of two things: blueberries and black raspberries. I had planned to visit two different pick-ur-own farms: Hidden Valley Fruit Farm for the blueberries and Stokes Berry Farm for the black raspberries.

Hidden Vally Fruit Farm is located in quaint Lebanon, OH, about a 40 minute drive from our house. I had called earlier this week and they promised they'd be open for u-pick blueberries, but when I got there this morning I was informed that due to slim pickings, they had shut down the u-pick. They did have quite a bit of already-picked blueberries from their patch, so I acquiesced and bought several quarts. I wasn't planning on making blueberry jam - more just for fresh eating and possibly some freezing. For dessert tonight I ended up making an old-fashioned blueberry cobbler that was AMAZING:

(Thanks mom for passing down this recipe!)

The first stop on my journey completed, I then headed 20 minutes east to Stokes Berry Farm. I can't seem to stay away from this place. Today was much cooler than my previous trip - perfect weather for picking. Let me say this, I don't think I've ever seen black raspberries so nice as they were today. All it took was some tough skin to push aside the brambles and the plump clusters of raspberries were right there, nestled quietly.

I ended up picking a little over four quarts, just enough to make a batch of black raspberry jam.

When I arrived back home, I immediately started doing up the jam. Same procedure as a few weeks ago. I ended up with 15 half pints of deep, winey, lush blackberry jam. I'm waiting for the jam to set up over night and will be taste testing tomorrow.