Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Garden Huckleberry Time

The black raspberries are almost done and now the garden huckleberries are starting to ripen. The early ones I threw in the berry mixes I use for bumbleberry spread. Today I got about a cup and a half and put them into the solar dehydrator. I'll use them like raisins or currents over the winter.

Some seed catalogs call these ground huckleberries. They are of the tomato plant family. I got my first seeds from Baker Seeds, a Missouri company. They didn't do well for me. I didn't plant any last spring. But late last summer I noticed a volunteer garden huckleberry in my lettuce patch, seeded there from the compost I fertilized it with. In September I picked the handful of berries it produced because they were larger than the berries I had gotten in my first planting.

In the spring I crumbled the dried berries and got out enough seeds to start about twenty-four plants. I've got them in three different locations. The ones in my front garden have turned out the smallest, but I'm still getting some berries. The others have done very well and I'll have berries for several weeks.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Preserving Food Without Heating the House

Well, 20 mm of rain in the rain gauge this morning, but no real break in the heat -- and it's supposed to be hot all through the week (with possibly more rain on Thursday). The rain barrels are full again -- it's how I've been keeping my kitchen garden (lettuce, tomatoes, basil, cukes, celery leaf, broccoli) going.

I've be religiously watering the main garden on the odd dates of the week (we can water only every other day) with city water. So with the heat I've been getting harvests: green beans, snap peas, black raspberries, greens, herbs. How to keep up with preserving it without superheating the house?

I had a couple of cool mornings with a good cross breeze so I did do some canning early in the morning (all done by 8 am!). Two batches each morning with 10 or 15 minute boil times; and I could use the preheated water to heat the jars for the second batch. One morning I canned pineapple and fruit salad; the second morning I canned black raspberry syrup and black raspberry butter.

The clear, hot days are a boon for the solar dehydrator: basil, oregano, garlic chives, yarrow, lavender, soup greens, celery leaves. I've been converting all my leftover fruit spreads (chiefly bumbleberry: mixed berries with rhubarb pulp) to fruit leather.

I froze some snap peas for stir fries while my second planting gets going and refrigerator pickled a quart of them. The excess green beans went into a fermentation pickle jar this morning. I froze some excess black raspberries (along with other berries just starting to come along: yellow strawberries, ground huckleberries, and red raspberries) for future bumbleberry spread (and possibly future fruit leather). One jar of black raspberry vinegar is steeping now and I just started a jar of blackberry liquor.