Yesterday I harvested our first batch of arugula microgreens. They are D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S. But they are a pain in the ass to harvest. Tiny trims with sharp harvest scissors, just a couple shoots at a time. I have a new-found respect for microgreen farmers, and could totally get behind the microgreen union raising the prices for these tasty superfoods. The process made me happy that our family are subsistence farmers and the community-at-large isn’t relying on me for microgreens. But like I said: tasty. I can feel their superpowers surging through me now. So thank a farmer, and find a microgreen farmer in your community to support. You’ll both be happy.
My husband started keeping bees early this spring because, thanks to quarantining and no business travel, he suddenly had the time. I jest, but I’m happy to report many good things have come from staying at the meadow. One of them is our garden–both vegetables and flowers!
We’ve had a little more rain than usual, the summer has been hotter, our beds are more established … all of these things are true. But I think we can really attribute much of Mother Nature’s success to honeybees. I did a little digging. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service states that “Roughly one of three bites of food is dependent on the work of honey bees and other pollinators, mostly wild native bees.” And according to the American Beekeeping Federation, “Many of the country’s crops would not exist without the honey bee at bloom time. Crop yield and quality would be greatly reduced without honey bee pollination.” I concur.
Perdue University’s horticulture program has an informative guide on the use of bees with vegetable crops, and according to them, our cucumbers and squash greatly benefitted from the bees. Our okra and pepper “set fruit without bees, but bee activity has shown to increase yields.” And our snap beans and tomatoes apparently got nothing from the honey bees other than having their pollen and nectar collected. But I don’t believe that, because my tomatoes have been more productive than ever this year.
So whether you’re relying on wild native bees, or are a practicing beekeeper, keep on providing a safe space for honeybees in your area. Their direct and indirect hard work pays off. Check out today’s tomato haul: 20!
Last summer I couldn’t get any of my tomatoes to ripen, and this summer we’ve got tomatoes out the wazoo. I’m not complaining, mind you, because there’s nothing better than fresh field tomatoes. But we can only eat them so quickly. I decided to put some up for the winter, and am super surprised at how easy it was.
I used what we’ve got: Roma, early girl, and big boy. I tried one batch with citric acid, at the suggestion of my friend Karla. And I tried one batch like Vivian Howard, with lemon juice, salt and sugar. Both were super easy, so I think I’ll stick with Vivian’s because we always have lemons, salt and sugar on hand. I borrowed a large 16 qt gumbo pot from some friends down the way, but am going to get one to have on hand. The process was the same either way, and because it uses a hot water bath rather than a pressure cooker, you can consider me a forthcoming regular practitioner of canning.
Sterilize your jars and lids, either in the dishwasher or in the pot where you’ll be canning. Wash your tomatoes, then score them on the bottom. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then submerge your tomatoes for 30 – 45 seconds (I typically put them the water, then roll them around a couple times with my strainer spoon) and shift them over to a water bath. Peel, core and then quarter them. Add the quarters to your sterilized jars — I filled them to the top and pressed just a bit to make sure they were nicely filled. Run a knife around the edge to make sure you get out any air pockets. Then sprinkle 1/4-tsp of the citric acid over the top — or, if you’re using Vivian’s recipe, add the lemon juice, salt and sugar to the bottom of the jar before you add the tomatoes. Screw on the lid and place them down into the hot water, making sure you’ve got an inch or two above the top of the jars. Karla said to keep them at a low, rolling boil for 75 minutes, which I did, and it worked. Use jar tongs to remove the jars, and place them on drying racks on the counter. Leave them for 12 hours, and then move them to the pantry. I like an easy recipe, and this was definitely easy.
For more information:
- Vivian Howard’s Tomatoes in Jars
- Canning Crushed Tomatoes
- Canning 101
- She Loves Biscotti: Canning Raw Pack Whole Tomatoes -a step by step guide.
In this week’s Chatham News & Record, I talked about tomatoes. I’ve been reading Max Brooks’ latest novel, Devolution, which is why I mentioned I’d be willing to arm wrestle a sasquatch for the last tomato. That opinion stands yesterday, today and tomorrow … because even if the sasquatch eventually does me in, I’ll die happy with a belly full of tomato yumminess.
I also mentioned Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. If you’re a child of the 70s and 80s, you know what I’m talking about. I grew up on an Army base in Germany, and we didn’t get the same shows in the mid-70s as American kids did in the states. I love Sesame Street, but didn’t see that until we got back state-side. Before that was the Electric Company, which I’m certain heavily contributed to my ADD. Because, HEY YOU GUYS!
But I digress … we’ll blame it on the Electric Company effect. Back to tomatoes! I always ask my community gardening experts about fertilizing and pest control, and Kathryn Robinson said, “Early on, I use an organic tomato plant fertilizer every few weeks.” She’s also the unicorn of farmers because the Japanese beetles in her garden “don’t seem to like the tomato plants.”
If there are any tomato-whisperers out there, hit me up. I’m always looking for ways to improve my tomato game.
For More Information:
- The Chatham News & Record | You say toma-toe, I say tomat-ah
Our son and I could both eat our weights in blueberries. Last spring I added a blueberry bush to our Victory Garden, and last summer we got, maybe, eight blueberries. I didn’t even bring them inside to share; I just ate them right there in the rows. Guilt-free.
This summer, however, we’ve already pulled off about three dozen, and there’s as many still ripening. Maybe next summer we’ll have a whole pint that comes off at one time, that we can use to make blueberry muffins. Who knows!
Our arugula is coming to its end, so in a bid to spark one last surge of growth, we trimmed it back substantially. Over coffee and the morning newspaper, I picked the leaves from the stalks and fought the urge to eat them as I went along. As a result, we’ll eat like kings tonight.
I’m a big believer in sharing the bounty. Our Victory Garden isn’t big enough to take and sell stuff at the farmer’s market, but there’s enough for us and to share with family and friends. In the spring, I plant lettuces (arugula, romaine and Bibb) and radishes, and in the summer I plant silver queen corn, tomatoes, okra, green beans, peppers, cucumbers, and squash. This fall I’m going to put in some cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. I figure anybody can share stuff, but it takes an artistic mastermind to do it with style. So I had some stamps made up that I can use to zhuzh up some basic brown lunch bags. It helps that I’m a graphic artist, but anybody can find fun stamps to personalize their stuff.
We’ve had a bumper crop of arugula lately (YAY!), but I’m happy the romaine and Bibb are catching up. They should be ready by the weekend. This is the first year I’ve used my raised bed on the back deck, and boy does it make a difference … no unwanted nibbles from the bunnies.
Yummy goodness this spring: arugula, Bibb lettuce, and thyme.