Tag Archives: peppers

Photos from the last week of August.

My daughter reaches for a tomato, later I turned this bowl of garden goodies into dinner.

Three giant fennel are the last to be harvested. I kept them in extra long because they attract butterflies and beneficial insects.

I pulled the beets. They weren't the largest beets, but they were packed with flavor.

Look, a square tomato!

The 'Green Zebra' tomatoes are ready to pick when they turn Packer green and gold.

Aha! All those purple peppers on the 'Chinese 5 Color' pepper plant are now turning different colors. So pretty!

Here is a peek at the corn.

A 'Delicata' squash. It doubles in size every day.

Photos from the last week of July.

Colorful peppers. These are the Chinese Five Color, but apparently we are only going to get purple ones. They are lovely though!

Beans hang from their vine, ready for pickin'.

A look at my monster cherry tomatoes through the trellis.

Rose of Sharon puts on a nice show.

My attempt at growing the Three Sisters--corn, beans, squash--has been semi-successful. Very few corn survived my planting conditions and children trampling on them.

The first eggplant begins to take shape.

I put the chair there to show the enormity of these cherry tomato plants. From left to right: Tommy Toe, Black Cherry, Sun Gold. These are in regular potting mix--no added plant food of any kind. I believe they like the heat that radiates off the house.

It's been perfect weather for basil, which means pesto is for dinner tonight!

Gathering Greens & A Few Other Things

Washed, bagged salad greens are perhaps one of the greatest inventions of our modern times.  Sort of.  It’s completely convenient and easy to dump them into a bowl and dress them for a salad, or into a skillet to saute for dinner.  They are clean and crisp, and relatively inexpensive.  But when I think of the gross amount of water and energy used to bring those greens to my table, I cringe a little bit.

Somewhere out in California or Mexico, depending on the season, those greens were grown, washed, bagged, loaded on a refrigerated truck, driven to Wisconsin, kept cold by refrigeration until they made their way to my house and ultimately my mouth.

It seems ridiculous because it’s so easy to just plant a few seeds out in my yard and eat fresh(er) greens anytime I want (as the season permits) using virtually a fraction of a fraction of the amount of energy used to bring me those bagged, washed grocery store varieties.

Don’t get me wrong: I do occasionally treat myself to box or bag of grocery store salad in the dead of winter.  I’m not a purist by any stretch of the imagination.

But I am thoughtful about my greens, and thankful I can grow ’em myself 7 months out of the year.

I like to grow spinach, arugula, head lettuce, leaf lettuce, swiss chard and will be adding kale to the lineup this year.  In addition we also eat the tops of our radishes and beets.

When I’m ready to make a salad or saute something green, I head outside.  Using a kitchen scissors I make quick work of gathering what I need.  As I cut, I put everything directly into my salad spinner.

I take the salad spinner insert outside to harvest greens.

Arugula fresh from the garden, prior to washing.

Once inside I use the salad spinner to bathe the greens in very cold water… this perks them right up and brings them to the perfect temperature for serving.  At the same time they are getting nice and clean without the use of machinery or bleach or anything else those big salad growers out West are using.

I spin them dry in the spinner and we are ready to use them.

When I want to prep the greens in advance of using them or I just have more than I can eat at one time, I store them in a plastic bag with a paper towel in it.  This seems to keep them crisp and they usually last at least a week in the refrigerator, sometimes longer.

Bagged arugula is ready for the refrigerator.

If I discover a more earth-friendly way to do this that doesn’t involve plastic or paper towels I’ll be happy.  But for now this works marvelously for me.

Now on to a few other items.  This time of year tomato plants are growing very quickly and putting new leaves, branches and blossoms every day.  I am in the habit and pinching off the “suckers” that grow between the stem and branches.  It helps to develop a stronger plant.

"Suckers" grow at the point where the stem meets the branch. At this size they are easy to pinch off.

We’ve also had some excellent bird viewing around the garden these last few days.  Our robins have been carefully guarding their eggs.  I’ve noticed that they take turns, one of them tends to sit on the nest most of the time and when it’s the second one’s turn to be on guard duty he prefers to sit on the edge of the nest or in a nearby location.  The fence that hides our air conditioner seems to be a favorite location.

This nest is so sweet. It's getting more difficult to see and photograph it as the honeysuckle has filled in.

Mr. Robin on his favorite perch at night. He's noticed me taking his picture.

Here is Mr. Robin in the background and the trellis where the nest sits in the foreground. He never lets the nest out of his sight and is quick to run other birds such as cardinals out of the yard.

Mrs. Robin dutifully sits. I wonder if these lights surprised her the first night they came on.

A yellow finch stopped by for a drink at the honeysuckle. I've also spotted hummingbirds here.

And finally, I’ve been very busy putting all the starts and seeds into the garden beds this last week.  I’m happy to report that (for now) everything is in!  There will be some successive planting and late season planting later on, but the big spring dig is done and I’m very pleased with how it’s come together so far.

Herb bed and trellis with honeysuckle.

Vegetable bed with the grid still in place. I've planted using a square foot approach this year.

Chilly Chilis Bring the Heat

I will never purchase another shriveled up grocery store jalapeno again. Not when I can pull out one of my own, organically grown jalapeno out of my freezer anytime I need to add some heat to my dishes.

Jalapenos chillin' in the deep freeze.

It’s so simple. When the peppers are ready to pick, I put them straight from the plant into a freezer bag, zip and pop them in the deep freeze. Days, months, over a year later they are still holding the heat. I just give them a rinse and chop them up for the recipe. Brilliant! (Wish I could take credit for this idea, but my father-in-law is the one who told me about it.)

Husband chopping frozen chilis. Wearing a glove because these peppers are hot!

Here I’m using several frozen jalapeno to liven up a very large batch of chili. Once this chili is done it will be frozen in serving sizes to be used for lunches and the occasional quick dinner.

I love the idea of preserving the summer harvest for later use.  Of course, this idea is as old as time.  But for me, it’s fun to find new ways to save things and new uses for the things I’ve saved.  Throughout the winter, I thoroughly enjoy using items from the garden to freshen up dishes.  It also adds a personal touch.  After all, I could have easily purchased those jalapeno at the grocery store like I did the red bell peppers.  But it’s more satisfying to know–and especially to tell others–that those chili peppers were grown in my garden.  I also know that I spent a lot less to grow those peppers than I would have to purchase them.

Frozen jalapeno can be used in any recipe that calls for a chopped fresh one.  I have never used a frozen pepper in a recipe in which a whole pepper would be stuffed or deep-fried.  Perhaps this works, I honestly don’t know.  I make those recipes during the season when the peppers actually are fresh.

Here is a recipe to try, where a frozen jalapeno can bring real personality to the finished product:  Spicy Cabbage Soup