Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The garden is quickly maturing

Its hard to believe how quickly the garden is growing and maturing in just weeks.  The weather has been rather odd (to say the least) with swings into high humidity and cool nights with brisk winds and overcast skies.  So what does one do?  I planted more beet and carrot seeds a few weeks ago when the first cold front moved in and within hours, the rains fell.  It meant that I did not have to cover the garden against the typical heat of summer and helped to extend the time for lettuce (cool weather plant).  It also kept the tomatoes and peppers growing.  This weekend will be a tomato, pepper and onion harvest in time to make salsa.  I have already made relish from the pickling cucumbers that are now growing like crazy!!!

I had to make room for the new plantings of carrots and beets so I removed the two kale beds.  I gave one full garbage bag away and processed the other one to freeze for use in soups, stews etc.

Freezing and storing Kale

1.  Since I needed the Kale beds for other vegetables (I have some Kale plants in the lettuce bed), I simply pulled out all the plants and cut off the stalks just below the beginning of the leaf on each stalk.  If you want to keep your Kale bed, simply cut the plant a few inches above the ground and it will regrow.

2.  While you are prepping the Kale and rinsing it under cool water, put a large pot on to boil.  Putting the lid on will help to boil the water faster.

3.  You will only be blanching the kale - in other words, not fully cooking it but heating it up and stopping the cooking process to allow it to be able to be frozen for future use.  You can do this with spinach and Swiss chard (one of my friends uses Swiss chard as a wrap for cabbage rolls instead of cabbage).  Once the water is boiling, place the kale into the pot for 3 minutes (time this).

4.  Fill the sink with cold water while you are blanching the Kale - I always add lots of ice to immediately stop the cooking process.

5.  Use a serated spoon or sieve to remove the Kale and immediately put it into the cold water.  The Kale will be a bright green and limp.

6.  Use a salad spinner to try to remove as much water as possible.  I use this and I also use a number of layers of clean cotton dish towels to gently roll the kale in to remove the water.

7.  I use a Food Saver TM to evacuate air and to seal the bags.  The problem with using this method is that the remaining fluid in the Kale will be pulled out to the machine and will not allow for a proper seal. You can continue to use the vaccuum until most of the moisture is out and then use a paper towel to dry the inside of the bag to allow for a proper seal.  My mother used to use a ziplock freezer bag and insert a small straw at one end.  She would suck the air out using the straw and seal the bag up to the straw then quickly remove it while completing the zipper seal to the end.  This takes practice getting it right but it works great.  You do not want freezer burn on your produce so make sure you get as much air out as possible.

8.  Using your frozen Kale is easy.  You can boil the bag or leave it on the counter to thaw.  This will store well for about 6 months in your freezer and will get you through the winter until you can harvest your early spring Kale.

Tomatoes are just ripening

The tomatoes are just ripening on the vine and by the looks of it, I will be very busy after the long week end making salsa.  By then, the peppers and some onions will also be ready.  I am also a big fan of fresh salsa and will make some with my sister when she visits.

Beefsteak Tomatoes

jalapeño Peppers


Some Visitors to the Garden
These are just a few of hundreds of daily visitors to the garden.

Clearwing Sphinx Moth - This moth looks just like a bee.  It hovered and then landed on a leaf near our snowflake virbunum bush.  This moth's larvae will eat the leaves of a number of different bushes but according to what I have read, it is not a pest.

Common Red Soldier Beetle - this beetle was photographed on 'Hatties Pin Cushion' plant in my side yard.  They feed on aphids and slugs so you really want these in your garden.

Spiders - are in every garden and are beneficial by catching all kinds of bugs.  The one below was rescued from our pool with about a hundred little babies on its back.  What a neat experience watching these little ones collect themselves on the back of its Mom

Butterflies - these nector lovers provide beauty to a garden so provide them with colourful places to visit. The marigolds throughout the urban garden along with echinacea and other blooms attracts many varieties.

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