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A Sweet Harvest

September 28th, 2011

On Monday, I harvested my first fruit from my ‘Hardy Chicago’ fig tree. I’ve been keeping my eye on it for a while, watching and waiting for it to come ripe. Since I’ve never grown figs before, and my eating of them has been mostly reserved to the dried kind, I wasn’t exactly sure when it was ripe.

Somewhere, I read that once they start to droop and crack you know they’re ready to harvest. Mine was turning a beautiful shade of purple and was slightly soft, I figured it was time.


I took it inside and cut it open to reveal it’s beautiful jeweled interior. It was perfectly ripe. Mr Chiots and I each enjoyed half, the typical crunchy seeds reminiscent of the fig newtons I ate as a kid, but much less sweet and so much better. I think this may be the first ripe fig I’ve ever eaten, I cannot recall ever having one. There are still 4 or 5 figs on this tree, and a few on the fig tree I purchased at Monticello last summer. I hope these still ripen with the weather turning colder.

Figs are such a wonderfully exotic fruit, they remind me of many of the different fruits I ate during my childhood in Colombia, especially guava. I certainly miss the tropical flavors I became accustomed to during my youth, it can be tough to find a good mango, papaya, maracuya, or guava here in Ohio.

What’s your favorite fruit that’s not native to your area? Do you grow any exotics?

A Taste of Summer

June 1st, 2011

Yesterday we picked our first three strawberries. As you can imagine – we’re super excited about the flush that will follow most likely next week through the end of June. I see a lot of strawberry shortcake for dinner in the coming weeks!

I have five different kinds of strawberries growing in my edible gardens.

‘Yellow Wonder’ – a yellow alpine strawberry that produces small yellow pineapple flavored berries all summer long. Compact, about 8-10 inches tall and very lush, perfect for edging gardens. Do not produce runners. (source: started from seed a few years ago originally from Baker Creek)

‘Sparkle’ – The best berry for jam and freezing, Sparkle has been known for flavorful, high-quality, attractive fruit for over 60 years. Do not allow the bed to become too thick, and you’ll be rewarded with a nice crop of tasty, medium-sized berries. An extremely vigorous variety, Sparkle is an excellent choice for home gardeners and PYO operations in northern climates. (source: plants from Nourse Farms)

‘Allstar’ – Allstar produces a good crop of very large, light-colored, sweet berries. Glossy, firm fruit makes this variety excellent for fresh eating. This widely adapted variety has performed consistently well from the East to central Midwest. It is highly resistant to red stele, with intermediate resistance to Verticillium wilt. (source: plants from Nourse Farms)

‘Earliglow’ – “Wonderful strawberry flavor” is this variety’s trademark. Earliglow’s fruit has a very firm, glossy skin, firm flesh, and medium size. Its sweet flavor makes the variety excellent for fresh eating and freezing. Fruit size tends to decrease as the season progresses. Earliglow plants are very vigorous and runner well. This variety has good resistance to red stele and intermediate resistance to Verticillium wilt. Recommended for beginners. (source: plants from Nourse Farms)

‘Tarpan’ – Starts producing abundant, 1-1 1/2″, deep rose flowers in about 85 days. Plant in a hanging basket, container, or in the ground. The bright red, small to medium-sized fruit are plentiful, tasty, and will produce from midsummer to frost. Produces runners. (source: seeds from Johnny’s)

I’d also love to add some ‘Tri-Star’ berries to my gardens someday. I’ve heard good things about them and I like that they’re everbearing. I’d love to have a few strawberries to add to my salad every so often.

Have you been harvesting strawberries yet? Do you grow June bearing or ever bearing varieties?

The Promise of Deliciousness

May 14th, 2011

Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables.
They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.

~Elizabeth Berry

Our strawberry bed was one of the first things we installed here as part of our edible garden. My parents always grew strawberries when I was growing up. You simply can’t get any better than freshly picked strawberries! I can’t eat the ones from the store, they’re giant, hollow and taste kind of watery compared to the small red jewels that we harvest from our patch.

While I was out working earlier this week I noticed that our strawberry patch is blooming profusely. I see a delicious red berry where every bloom is. Looks like we’ll be able to enjoy a lot of strawberry shortcake in a month or so. Since we only freeze a few and eat the majority of them fresh, we indulge while they’re in season.

If you have room, I’d definitely recommend putting in a strawberry patch. We’re currently adding a few everbearing varieties so we can have a few berries all summer long for salads. I also need to thin out our patch as they have sprawled into the walkways around the raised beds. I’ll be noting which plants produce the best berries and we’ll take those out and start a new patch in the new garden area.

Do you have a strawberry patch in your garden?

Making Prunes

September 21st, 2010

I prefer dried fruit over canned fruit for many reasons, the main one being the ease of making it. I love that there’s no sugar syrup, jars, or boiling water. All you have to do is provide some dry heat and you’ll end up with some lovely fruit that will keep in the cupboard for months. So far this summer I’ve been able to dry 2 gallons of dried cherries, one gallon of dried pears (pearsins we call them) and I’m currently working on drying some prunes.

I was able to score a bushel of plums at the local farm store and they’re quite tasty. They’re not prune plums, just regular old plums, but they still dry beautifully into delicious prunes. I have a small dehydrator, but I prefer to use the bread proofing setting on my oven as I can do a huge batch at once. It does take a while, but the reward is quite wonderful. I usually put them in the oven overnight for a few nights.

I pitted them this year, which I didn’t do last year. I think next year I’ll leave the pits in as I prefer the way they dry without the cut, they seem to be softer. Mr Chiots is excited as he loves dried plums. I enjoy them, but I much prefer dried pears or dried cherries.

What’s your favorite dried fruit?

Drowning in Cherries

June 18th, 2010

Yesterday afternoon we went out to my sister’s plot of land and picked cherries from two giant sweet cherry trees. The old trees are huge and they were polluted with cherries. My sister picked, I picked, my mom picked, and Mr Chiots picked as well. We picked and picked, not wanting any to go to waste, but finally we had to call it a night. My sister took home 2 one gallon buckets, my mom took a few home and we ended up with a ton. After picking all afternoon the trees didn’t even look like we’d been there.

We got home late and I’ll be processing cherries all day. I’ll be making maraschino cherries for my Christmas chocolate covered cherries and I’ll be dehydrating lots of them for snacking. I may make some jam, and I may freeze some as well. We also picked tart cherries at my mom’s house and peas that need shelling. Here’s to a busy day filling the pantry with fruit for winter eating.

Are you drowning in anything that’s in season at the moment, filling up the pantry for the winter?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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