Crop Fatigue

I’m approaching crop fatigue. 

See, you never know how things will turn out with gardening.  As you may recall, I had multiple attempts at growing cucumbers because I really wanted to make good pickles this year.  Well, the seeds didn’t seem to take, so I picked up some transplants.  Eventually, some of the seeds/seedlings that I had given up on came back to life.  Some plants have barely given me anything — we’re talking 1-2 pickles max.  Other plants have given me dozens.  This all amoungs to many jars of pickles. 

The problem is, I think the kind I like the best are the refrigerator pickles — not the kind you leave on a storage shelf for a year.  I didn’t count on that — and I certainly don’t have the fridge space to put up my entire crop (A TON).  The result is a lot of pickle jars being strategically stashed as gifts at various friends’ and family houses.  Likewise with pickled green beans.

The tomato plants have been producing at a steady pace, but I haven’t had such a glut yet here it made sense to make a bunch of sauce and put it up.  So, we’re basically just using them as they become ripe — if we get to them before the bugs do.  Max seems to be sick of tomatoes.  I used to save the grape tomatoes for him so he could pick them straight of the plant.  As he seems to be taking a break for a while, I figure they are fair game for us to eat.

Here’s a tip on a great new recipe I tried this week.  Inspired by the TV show “Cooking for Real.”  Take grape or cherry tomatoes.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme.  Cook at 375 for 30 minutes or until the skins burst.  It’s like candy!  We served it as a side dish to Salmon.  Next time I may add garlic.  (BTW, Max is a salmon junky — he yells “Oh Boy, Fish!”  when he sees it and it makes me happy)

It occurred to me that we’re only two months away from introducing Ginger to solid foods.  How fun!  Hope she takes to it.

All Hail the Kale

A couple of years ago, I think I bought kale at the farmer’s market and cooked it for one of the Dark Days Challenge Meals.  I came away with an “eh” reaction, finding it a little too fibrous for my taste, though it did have a nice smokey taste.  However, when my friend told me that she had an abundance of Kale from her backyard garden, I thought it was worth giving it another shot with a different preparation.  I’m so glad I did!

We worked out a trade where I would give her some of our green beans — which are now producing like mad.  Imagine my shock when I pulled up to her house with my sad little bag of beans, only to find out that they had pulled the entire kale plant!  No joke, this thing took up the entire passenger seat of my car (see photo).   I knew a google search was necessary to figure out several varieties to use up this amazing bounty that I was trusted with.

Meal one:  Sausage Kale Lasagna.

Meal two: scrambled eggs with sausage and sauteed kale

Meal three: raw kale salad

 

I would eat any of these again in a heart beat!

It warms my heart to participate in such a barter among friends.  Thanks Emily and Backpacking Dad

Ickle Me, Tickle Me, Pickle Me, Too

Today I cracked open one of the fermented pickle jars I started last week from our very own cucumbers.  It was amazing!  It reminded me of the pickles my dad used to make when I was a little girl in Israel.

I based it on the recipe here.  The innaugural use of the pickle today?  Topping a homemade salmon burger with dill mayo on a brioche bun.  Best salmon burger ever!

The only bummer is that I wish this wasn’t a fridge-based recipe because I’d want to make enough for the whole year — and I don’t have a second fridge.  These are massive jars!

When preserving feels like a crime

I am growing way more food than is possible for a small family to eat at one time.   I did this with the full anticipation that I would be “putting up” some of the food for later in the year when we don’t have these in fresh supply on the Almostima ‘farmette’.  

So often we let food rot because we optimistically think we’ll get around to eating it while it’s still good — but life gets in the way.  I’m determined not to let that happen this year.  I know that a fresh tomato or a fresh cucumber is amazing — but there’s only so much of it I can have in one sitting, and one of my plants just exploded with tomatoes.  I’ve already had salad, salsa and bruscetta a few days in a row, and I know many of these will meet a sad fate if I don’t use them now.  (Keep in mind I have 7 other tomato plants that are still largely green.) 

Cucumbers are a trickier item.  I planted a ton of them because I so enjoyed making (and eating) relish last year and wanted to make a lot more pickles this time around, that I was calculating for a big  so that I could eat both fresh cukes and pickles down the road.  But, the plants are under-performing.  The thing is, I crave pickles more than cucumbers, so I went ahead and prioritized the pickling, hoping that more cukes will come my way as the season progresses.  My parents were a little offended that I used two of the cucumbers they gave me from their plants for relish.  Sorry, but I already ate a half-dozen fresh cukes from their plants, and those hot dogs aren’t gonna dress themselves. 🙂

I love how excited Max gets to go produce picking with me in the yard every day.  How many 2 year olds know the word ‘basil?’  I also love that he will eat way more tomatoes directly from the plant than he will if I just put it on his dinner plate.  I remember once last season he commented that  tomato I gave him was too cold to eat — because he was used to tomatoes that had been warmed by the sun on the plant.

Here’s what I’m enjoying preserving:

  • Pickling green beans — love them on their own as  a snack or on sandwiches in place of regular pickles.  Would also be good in a bloody mary, but haven’t actually tried that yet.
  • dehydrating green beans (will put in soups in the winter)
  • dehydrating tomatoes – trying this tonight for the first time.
  • the aforementioned relish (YUM!)
  • fermented israeli-style pickles.  (don’t have a batch ready yet, but will post more on that in a few days/week when I can comment on whether it worked)
  • plum bbq sauce
  • Haven’t done too much jamming lately – but that’s always fun
  • Still to come: tomato sauce!

 Here’s the thing:  preserving, at least as a beginner, requires faith.  I could eat this fresh, nutritious cucumber now, when it’s a known quantity, or I could undertake a complicated process so that I could enjoy it in a different form sometime down the road.  But what if I screw it up?  What if the process fails?  I will have wasted this gift for the sake of imitating something I could have bought at the store for a couple of bucks.  But if I don’t get to eat it and it rots, it’s equally wasted.  Also, let’s face it, our taste buds get bored! 

So, hopefully I’ll master these pickling/preserving techniques and this won’t be such a leap of faith next year.

Compare and Contrast

One thing I can’t help but do is compare my children to each other.  Or, is it that I’m comparing my experiences with each child?  For instance:

  • With Max, I was chained to the pump and afraid of changing poopy diapers on the road, so I basically never left the house.  Compare with: just got back from a 7 hour road-trip out of state with Ginger (courtesy of 100% formula diet and ditching the cloth diapers).
  • With Max he didn’t sleep through the night till 18 months.  Ginger has slept through the night a few times already! (woo hoo)
  • Max was consistently in the high 90s for percentile on height and weight.  Meanwhile, my parents think I’m starving Ginger because she’s in the 40s and 50s. (BTW, I’m not!)
  • Today Ginger had her 2 month well baby visit with vaccinations.  When Max got his shots, it was so traumatic for me to hear him cry like that, that I probably cried as much as he did.  Now, knowing what was coming, I was calmer during the appointment, but had much more anxiety leading up to it because I knew what we’d be facing.

My gut tells me that it’s not healthy to compare the kids.  Each one is entitled to have their own life experience without constantly being measured up against the sibling.  But I’m not sure how to stop.  Either the comparison serves to mark celebration that something is going better this time around or, anxiety about whether something’s wrong because it’s different from before.  And then there’s the whole fuzzy memory issue — I doubt that I remember everything about Max correctly, so a comparison may not be fair on that front alone. 

Any tips out there?

In other new:  I’m proud of the dinner I cooked up tonight.  Having been out of town for a few days, we didn’t have a chance to buy fresh groceries.  Ginger was quite grumpy from her shots, so I thought I’d stay home instead.  I made a soup that is my take on minestrone, and all of it was from stuff scrounged from deep in the freezer, the garden, or the pantry — even though I casually thought there was no food in the house.  Here’s what I did:

Last night, I started chicken stock from a leftover frozen chicken carcass (we should invent a nicer word for this when it comes to cooking… ‘carcass’ is not too appetizing), left over carrot salad (our carrots), bendy celery, and our front yard torpedo onions.   Today I diced up some pre-cooked chicken apple sausage that I had in the freezer and some slightly overgrown green beans from the front yard.  Also from the freezer was a baggie of our snow peas from the winter garden.  I added a couple of tomatoes from our back yard, leftover shredded cheese from making a lunch quesadilla, and the dregs of a corkscrew pasta package (too small for a serving of pasta on its own).  Threw all of this into a pot (though at different stages based on their need) and served with chives as a garnish.

Sometimes I feel like a crazy person given all the random stuff I have in the freezer– from carcasses, to jars of stock, baggies of home-grown veggies, crushed egg shells, tops of leeks, breadcrumbs, what have you — and none of it organized particularly well.  It makes me feel like I have it somewhat figured out when I can pull together a meal that tastes as good as that did!  (The irony is, that when I had a diet of mostly processed foods, I felt more organized, because everything came in a box and lined up all nice in the freezer).  I feel like I need another freezer — but I have to organize the garage first.  Don’t get me started on that…