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Summer Saved

September 9th, 2015

I don’t do much canning, but I do put up a few jars of tomatoes every summer. There’s nothing quite like cracking open a jar of crushed tomatoes in the middle of a snowstorm. The smell brings you right back to summer.
canning_tomato_soup 2
Last night I worked late into the night getting 8 quarts and 4 pints of crushed tomatoes put up. Earlier this week I made 20 pints of tomato soup. I’m hoping to at least double this if the tomatoes hold on and the weather continues to be nice. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for no late blight and sunny days.

Do you jar up tomatoes? What’s your favorite recipe to use them in during the winter?

Friday Favorite: Vegetable Soup

August 28th, 2015

Since the garden is bursting with fresh vegetables, I’ve been making pots of vegetable soup. The soup gets ladled into wide mouth pint mason jars and tucked away in the freezer, ready for quick meals come cold weather. We eat some in the summer too, last night I made a pot of minestrone and we will be enjoying that this weekend. It was filled with: potatoes, cabbage, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, garlic, celery, green beans, and herbs from the garden.
curried broccoli soup
I make soup with whatever vegetables are ready to harvest, curried broccoli, tomato, vegetable, etc. It’s nice to know that there are instant meals ready for fall days when I’d rather spend every drop of sunlight working in the garden. I also love using up all those bits of vegetable peels to make vegetable stock for all these soups. I feel like I’m making the most of the bounty of summer.

What’s your favorite kind of soup?

Pucker Up

August 12th, 2015

Sour cherries bring back memories of my childhood. My maternal grandmother had a big sour cherry tree in her back yard. When the cherries were ripe, my grandpa would erect scaffolding around the tree and we’d go down and pick cherries. We’d spend hours pitting them, then my mom would make a pie and the rest went into the freezer to make sauce for ham and maybe another pie or two.
sour cherries 1
I planted a few sour cherries trees in Ohio, but they didn’t produce much before we moved. I haven’t planted any here yet (not sure why). Lucky for me, the neighbors have a tree that produces much more than they want or need. Thus I am able to head down and pick cherries at their place.
sour cherries 2
They can’t remember for sure which variety it is, I’m fairly certain it’s a ‘Montmorency’. I’m happy to have a few pints of cherries tucked into the freezer to be made into scones when the snow flies outside. Personally, I much prefer sour cherries to sweet cherries. I have plans to add a few trees to the garden, in fact I saved a handful of these pits and they’re tucked in the fridge in a container of peat moss hoping they’ll sprout.

Do you grow sour cherries? What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?

Making the Most of Each Harvest

July 21st, 2015

One of the things I find myself doing is trying to maximize what I can grow in the garden. I don’t like to waste anything, particularly things I grow. The result has been a lot of creative ways to use up things that might otherwise go into the compost, like broccoli stems.
broccoli stems 1
broccoli stems 2
I used to peel them and cut them up, then I started putting them in my mini food processor and dicing them finely. Then I make slaw with them or blanch and freeze them to be added to soups or sauces. I really love doing this because it essentially doubles my broccoli harvest. These shredded bits are particularly good in the curried broccoli soup I love to make.

Do you have any great tips for maximizing your vegetable harvests?

Curing Winter Squash

February 11th, 2015

Several of you asked yesterday about how to cure winter squash so it would store for many months. First off you need to start with the right kind of squash. Different varieties of squash will store for different lengths of time. In general acorn, delicata and spaghetti squash will store for a few weeks to a month, winter squash and pumpkin will store for 4-6 months, butternuts will store the longest up to a year. I have stored squash for 18 months with success. In fact I cooked a pumpkin from last year just before I harvested my crop from this past season.
squash harvest 5
Squash must be cured if you want them to last a long time in storage. It’s fairly simple, just store them unwashed in a warm sunny place for 2 weeks. A greenhouse works well, as does a warm back porch. I like to put mine on the back porch which gets the afternoon sun and stays nice and warm.
squash harvest 1
Store squash in a cool area of the house, generally between 50-60 degrees works best. Squash are not like potatoes, apples, and other vegetables, they appreciate warmth. Make sure they have good air movement. My squash are often laid out in a corner of a cool bedroom and they store very nicely. I have also simply kept them in a corner of the dining room.
stack of pumpkins
There are a few other things you can do to ensure your winter squash will store for ages.

First, make sure they are ripe at harvest. They have a long growing season, select varieties that will ripen in the amount of time you have. Those of us that live in shorter season areas should select shorter season squash. Most seed companies will give you length till harvest, use these as a guide. Allow the vines to start to die and the skins to toughen before harvesting.

Second, cut, don’t rip the squash from the vines. You want to leave a nice piece of stem on the squash to help protect them. Avoid carrying your squash by the stem to make sure they remain attached.

Third, harvest squash before frost. Squash that has been left in the garden during a frost will not store as long as those harvested earlier.

Fourth, do not water or manure too much. Squash that was overwatered or over fertilized will not store as long. Feed and water them, but don’t get carried away. It’s better to have smaller squash that store longer.

pumpkin-in-the-oven
There you have it, a few tips to keep your winter squash fresh in the pantry all winter long.

Do you have any tips to share on growing, curing, and storing winter squash?

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About

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 moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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