Category Archives: Gardening

What to do with sad, old tomatoes . . .

Give them a new life!  Many weeks ago we harvested the remaining green tomatoes on our plants before our first freeze of the fall.  To get them to ripen we wrapped them individually in small pieces of newspaper and placed them in a single layer in a cardboard box in our basement.  According to my grandfather-in-law, the ripening process happens at night; hence the strategy of wrapping in newspaper.  This is the second year in a row that we’ve done this and as far as I can tell, it works pretty well.  The only problem is that I forget about them down there and they overripen sometimes.  C’est la vie.  So, I threw out about 9 tomatoes and about 4 pounds of Black Krim and Beefsteak remain.  Now, what to do with them?

These tomatoes ripened nicely, but they did acquire wrinkly skin.

Inspiration can strike at any time.  For instance, I finally got tired of looking at the huge black canning pot staring at me from behind my kitchen sink.  What did we need to do to get rid of it, I asked T.  He reminded me about the tomatoes ripening in the basement and said that once we canned them, we could give the pot back to its rightful owner, my mother-in-law.  Not at all looking forward to canning at this time, I figured if I could use them all in one recipe that would be just as good.

Not up to the task of canning and knowing they’re not worthy of topping a fresh salad, I decided to try a tomato cobbler using a recipe from the Martha Stewart website.  Like almost every recipe I reference, I adapted it a little.  Here goes . . .

Prepping the tomatoes with salt, pepper, and cornstarch.

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Ready to go into the oven.

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Tomato Cobbler

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Yum!

Well, I’m delighted by how this turned out!  The comments on the MS website about the recipe were not exactly positive, but I really like how mine turned out.  I can see how adding some basil, garlic, or oregano to the tomatoes or drizzling the cooked dish with high quality balsamic would kick it up a bit, but I like to think that my delicious Black Krim and Beefsteak tomatoes were the trick to making this dish so tasty.  (What would life be without homegrown tomatoes?)

What sorts of recipes do you employ to “use up” your garden harvest?

~R

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Making Marinara

Heirloom Black Krim Tomato

It all starts with organic Beefsteak and volunteer Black Krim seeds in March. Thank your husband’s grandfather for the bell peppers, use some of your LPO onions and garlic, and you’ve got most of what you need to can marinara sauce to last you all year long.

Tomatoes are skinned before cooking

Last year we made enough marinara that even today, I still have one more jar on the shelf.  We make our marinara thick and usually use canned or frozen tomatoes to stretch the marinara when we prepare it for dinner.

According to T, the marinara sauce needs to simmer for a good four hours to make a nice sauce.  He found the recipe on the internet and you can certainly modify whatever you find to suit your own palette.

The big pot should fill a few of these quart-size jars and give us a good start to the tomato season!

Of course, sometimes we do just skin and freeze our surplus tomatoes.  Alas, T is motivated and I credit him for all the delicious marinara suace.

What becomes of your homegrown tomatoes?

~R

Picking Pears in San Patricio

For me, wine festivals aren’t much fun when I can’t partake in all the tastings.  So, this weekend I skipped the Bernalillo Wine Festival and headed south to San Patricio, New Mexico (Lincoln County) to my parents’ family “farm” to pick pears with T and my lovely dogs.  The weather was perfect:  overcast, cool, and a little breezy.  Although it’s been dry down south, this area of the state had received some rain lately and everything was green.

The pears in my family’s orchard begin to ripen right about this time of year (late August, early September).  They’re perfect for picking right now and will be ripe enough to eat in a few days.  The apples (old fashioned varieties) will be ready closer to the first weekend of October.  We plan to can most of our harvest and let you know how that goes.

Handy Fruit Picking Basket

There are plenty of Pick-Your-Own Fruit and Vegetable Farms around the state.  Check here, here (La Union Maze), here (Heidi’s Raspberries), and here (Salman Raspberries) for your options.  One such farm is San Patricio Berry Farms.  Their berry season is just about over.  They have Gala and Fugi apples too (which are ripe in early August).

Picking your own fruit and vegetables is rewarding and fun.  Kids love to help and it’s a very relaxing activity for adults.  Plus, you get to see exactly where your food came from and can talk to the farmer about his growing practices.

If you’ve visited such a farm or plan to please tell us about it!

~R

Small -ish Carrots and Ego-Boosting Bush Beans

Cute little carrot (planted in late March). Carrots are great because they can be harvested on an as-needed basis.

Carrots and bush beans are two new crops that we tried this summer.  The carrots are delicious, but sort of puny.  Part of the problem may have been the soil, but I think they were a little too shaded by the larger broccoli plants.  I got the seeds from Urban Store and they were supposed to be multi-color – alas I ended up with all orange.  At least this way I’m sure to get all the carotene I need!  This was not an overly plentiful crop, but we did get some carrots out the deal.  T tells me he will tell our future kids to “go pluck a carrot out of the ground” if they whine for a snack.  I think this is reason enough to grow carrots.  Try it with your kids and let me know how that goes.

Carrots in June (planted in late March)

Bush beans (seeds also purchased from Urban Store) are somewhat unruly but easy enough to grow and these babies produce!  If you feel like a loser gardener because your stupid tomato plants won’t flower or your onion bulbs looked the same after 3 months in the ground, try some bush beans.  They’ll make you feel like a champ. 

2 bush bean plants (planted in July). I used tomato cages to keep them contained.

They are good enough fresh, but if you’re not a vegetable lover you’ll probably prefer them sauteed in butter and bacon grease or gently steamed, slathered with butter and topped with bacon bits.  I’m not too picky so I’ll take them fresh or with butter and bacon.  Either way.

Robust Bush Beans

The beans are very easy to harvest and replant too.  Simply let a few pods overripen and the beans get darker and harder.  The two plants pictured above were planted from beans taken from the first set of bush beans that I planted in March.

Got any mid-summer crops you’d care to brag about?  Tell us about ’em!

P.S.  My lazy tomato plants – ahem, started from seed – are finally producing not-quite-ripe tomatoes.  However, if last year is any indication, we’ll still have enough canned marinara and canned tomatoes to carry us through the year.

~R

Organic Heirloom Mesclun

Using iceberg lettuce for your salads can get a little boring. This summer I tried mesclun. It’s tastier, more nutritious, easier to harvest as-needed, and just looks a whole lot prettier on your plate! I planted seeds around the end of March and was able to begin harvesting by late April.

We’ve been experiementing with a drip watering system and I credit the regular watering for the success of the mesclun. It’s still going strong three months after we planted it. (This is surprising considering the hot temperatures we’ve had in Albuquerque.) For harvesting, I just clear cut one or two inces from the base of the plant.

Aside from salads, mesclun is perfect in wraps or chopped and used to top off your tacos and enchiladas.

Bon appétit!

~R

my garden of eden

gardening, sun sail

my garden being shaded by our sun sail

My garden has officially started to look like a jungle!  I have already harvested lettuce, spinach, arugula, eggplants, tomatoes, green beans, and snap peas.  My green chili and zucchini are about 3 inches long and my corn is about 6 inches.  Our garden has been pretty successful this year and we haven’t run into any problems yet this growing season.  However, we had to buy a sun- sail to provide some relief from the scorching hot sun.  It seems to provide some relief to our tomato and eggplants while also looking somewhat stylish.  What do I have in my garden you may be asking yourself?  Well, I have a variety of vegetables including carrots, beats, zucchini, corn, green chili, jalapeno, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, and a number of different herbs.  This is our largest garden we have ever planted but I’m hoping by the end of the season it will be well worth the work.  We started our plants in March and by the last frost day they were well established.

my brussel sprouts

We haven’t encountered many pests yet and I have two fat lizards living in there along with a bunch of lady bugs that have taken refuge.  I believe that both of those inhabitants are good for my garden.  How is your growing season going?

S

CSA: Los Poblanos Organics

 

About one year ago my husband and I signed up for the weekly harvest box available from Los Poblanos Organics.  My vegetable intake skyrocketed and I tried produce that I’d never tasted before like rainbow chard, tatsoi and kohlrabi.  I learned that many of the greens and stalks of common vegetables are edible too – just sautee on their own or add to taco meat, marinara sauce, soup, or vegetable/beef/chicken stock (e.g. beet greens, radish greens, and peeled broccoli stalks).

Compared to conventionally grown produce, this stuff seems to have an earthier, more palpable taste.  Like one of Plato’s prisoners, I felt like I had been eating just a shadow of the actual tomato or orange.  This stuff is the real deal.  The celery is hardy and and the strawberries are sweet.  Tomatoes are deep orange-red and taste home-grown.  Why did I wait so long to start eating in-season?

A harvest box is basically a box of vegetables and fruits pre-selected and available on a one-time, weekly, or bi-weekly basis, pick-up or delivery.  It’s supposed to be enough per week for a family of four.  Since it’s just the two of us, that means we’ve decreased our consumption of meat and grains and we hardly ever have to go to the grocery store. 

The produce is all organic and most of it usually comes straight from LPO farms in Albuquerque.  To supplement the harvest box, LPO partners with other organic farms (out of state) for items like tangerines, grapefruit, and strawberries.

I know you think this might be nice, but I’m probably paying a premium for organic produce.  I think it works out to a pretty amazing deal: 

  • the box is $28 if you pick-up,
  • it usually contains about 10 different types of produce, 
  • I don’t have to scrub away chemical sprays found on conventional produce (especially potatoes where I prefer to keep the skins on),
  • I avoid the hassle of lines, baskets, and impulse buys at the store, and
  • I get to support a local farmer. 

During the summer, a box often contains 4 or more organic avocados – conventional avocados can easily cost $1.50 each.

There are other options for CSAs (community supported agriculture) all around New Mexico.  Check out the Farmers Markets of New Mexico link on the left for other options.

~R

Being Water Conscious is Easy!

At our house we are always trying to conserve water and reduce our use.  We have purchased several rain barrels and put them around different areas of our home, but we felt like we needed to do more.  So, in an effort to help reduce our water waste, we purchased two 3 gallon buckets and have placed one in the sink and one in the bathroom.   You may be asking yourself, what is the purpose of that?    Whenever we are ready to bathe we fill up the bucket with water until it gets warm.  It is amazing to actually see how much water is being wasted.   Our hot water heater wastes about 3 gallons of water while trying to reach our master bedroom.  Our son’s bathroom wastes about 2 gallons and our kitchen wastes only about ½ gallon.  All of these gallons of water throughout the month and year really add up.  I came up with a figure of how much water our family was wasting by letting it go down the drain just by showering alone.  Here is what I found out…

2 adults and 1 child taking a shower/bath everyday= 8 gallons of wasted water a day at our home.

8 gallons wasted x 30 showers per month =240 gallons of water wasted a month

240 gallons wasted water per month x 12 months= 2,880 gallons of wasted water a year!

That is right, 2,880 gallons of water going down the drain a year for showering!  This is unacceptable and appalling to me, so in an effort to rid me of my guilt, we now keep a bucket in the shower and take the water outside to our plants.  This has reduced our usage and our water bill, while granting us the opportunity to have a beautiful garden and lush yard while conserving water.  It is amazing to see what is literally ‘going down the drain’, (pardon the pun).  I bet you could water your garden or at the very least, your potted flowers with the amount of water that is wasted while waiting for your shower to get warm.   Please try out this experiment and let me know what your findings are.  I think you will be surprised!

S

Gardening: Spinach Bordeaux

Spinach Bordeaux sounds so much fancier than regular Popeye spinach, doesn’t it?  Anyway, that was my basis for trying to grow it this year.

Refined maybe, but not fussy. It’s the most productive crop we’ve had so far this year.  I planted the seeds (Botanical Interests Spinach Bordeaux, a hybrid) in our planter boxes back in early January.  I planted 2 rows about 7’ long.  They sprouted and were hardy enough to survive that ridiculous cold snap in early February even though I only covered them with old sheets and plastic containers.

Harvest:  I’ve been harvesting since mid-March. I tried harvesting leaf by leaf and also by cutting the whole plant at about 1” above the base.  Frankly, both methods seem to result in equally productive re-growth.  After the first couple of harvests, the birds gained interest and so the crop became a little scraggly.  We’ve since installed a homeade pvc/chicken wire lid to keep the birds away.

Taste and Eat:  The leaves are gorgeous with burgundy stems and veins.  They taste great and seem to have less oxalic acid than store-bought spinach – although this is only based on my personal observations.  (Oxalic acid is the stuff that can cause your teeth to feel like there is a film on them after eating spinach.)  Spinach Bordeaux is good raw or cooked.  I quickly sauté the leaves with olive oil and serve with sautéed onions on a bed of farro or quinoa.

Succession Planting:  In early March we planted 2 more rows about 3’ long and the plants are producing.

Next Year:  I wouldn’t change a thing, but I’d like to add another variety.  Suggestions?

Aside

I was inside my house wondering when the wind would subside and the brown dust that surrounds our city would settle, when I looked out my kitchen window to my backyard and saw that my beautiful Saturn peach tree was … Continue reading