Jessica’s Garden: A Days Harvest
I love this time of year. After a few months of hard work, maintenance and a healthy dose of patience the garden is in full swing. Now the real work begins. Every morning, I head out to the garden to check on what’s ripening and coming in. Essentially every day my garden rewards me with at least a bucket of bounty to lug back up to the farmhouse.
This year, I acquired 25 heirloom tomato plants from the Master Gardener at my local agriculture center. She had such a wide variety available that I walked away with hardly any duplicate varieties. I love heirloom tomatoes. Although they are a little more finicky to grow than hybrid tomato varieties, I prefer them. I always feel that the prettier the food, the better the taste. And the heirlooms never cease to amaze me with their unusual and sometimes-so-ugly-its-beautifulness.
I tried my hand at seed saving some of my new heirloom favorites for next year’s garden. My husband Chris and I have been canning tomatoes all week. Over the years, I’ve been slowly roping him into canning with me. With the abundant harvest this year I’ve definitely appreciated the late-night canning help after our little guy goes to bed.
We’ve made Spicy Tomato jam, a couple batches of crushed tomatoes and a double batch of bruschetta topping. My mother and I cracked open the first jar of bruschetta topping for lunch yesterday on a piece of crustini with a shaving of parmesan – amazing. I made a second batch to reserve for Christmas and hostess gifts.
My herb patch has also been thriving prolifically and required a little attention in order to keep them producing through the first frost. I spent some time drying them to preserve them for later and Winter use. Depending on the hardiness of the herb and my mood, I either dried them low and slow on a baking sheet in a 225 degree oven (turning frequently, they dry quickly!) or the old fashioned way by tying them and hanging them to dry naturally.
It’s so rewarding to pull homegrown herbs out of the cupboard long after the plant has shriveled. In fact, I was able to use my homegrown dried herbs in the canned bruschetta topping. I ended up being able to harvest four basil varieties, pineapple sage, lemon verbena and lemon grass.
In addition to drying, I also whipped up a couple jars of one of my most favorite and refreshing summertime drink; Lemon Verbena infused gin.
Concoction: Infuse one bottle of gin with two generous sprigs of Lemon Verbena and one lemon sliced thin. Gently turn to mix ingredients. Store in a cool dark cupboard; turning once a day for two weeks. After two weeks, strain and discard solids; the gin will keep for a couple months in a cool dark location. I also infused red currant and thyme with gin this Spring, which was equally delicious.
With the help of my pint sized picking assistant, I saved up enough pickling cucumbers through the week to make a batch of bread and butter pickles. The most delicious and only kind of pickles as far as I’m concerned. The jalapenos have also begun to start really producing and I was able to can a batch of Candied Jalapenos.
The candied jalapenos are very easy to make and would be a great recipe for someone new to canning. Always wear rubber gloves when preparing hot peppers!
This week was certainly productive and bountiful. I hope you enjoy the pictures. And please take note of my latest and greatest yard sale find (the enamel farmhouse basin). I’ve been ogling them in antique stores for years but I can never justify the expense. It always pays to be patient and frugal.
Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford