Sunday, November 29, 2009

This Week's Harvest - From Fall to Winter

carrot harvest 3
Carrot (Nantes) harvest.

As I collected the last of November's harvest this past weekend, I began to realize that the next few weeks will serve as a kind of transitional period - my fall garden is slowly developing into a winter garden. Saturday was a particularly windy day. The northeasterly wind brought with it a rather ominous chill unlike what we've encountered so far this fall. For sure, I will have to add another layer of protection inside my mini-hoop houses sometime soon, maybe even this week.

rouge dhiver lettuce
Some Rouge D'Hiver lettuce grown in a pot. The slug responsible for the slight damage was found and quickly dispatched.

As I did a bit of work in the garden today, I wondered, when would be an appropriate time to start referring to your garden as a winter one? The obvious choice would be around the time of the winter solstice (December 21-22). However, this seems rather late to me (maybe because our winters tend to start early here in New England). I think the first of December would make much more sense since I hope to be well into spring garden planning/planting mode by March.

Clockwise from top: young pea shoots and pods, flowering Chinese kale, Easter-Egg radishes, baby Red Detroit beets.

It's not uncommon to feel as you through you're "scavenging" or "salvaging" rather than "harvesting" this time of year, which is partly what I did this weekend. In addition to the carrots and lettuce that I harvested, I pulled some baby-sized beets that I had growing in one of my carrot beds. Since I hadn't bothered to thin them so they never developed proper bulbs. Nonetheless, I'm sure they will be tasty. I also picked the remaining young pods and shoots (both were a bit frost damaged) before pulling up my pea plants. I had a surprisingly decent radish harvest as well this weekend. They were completely unblemished and the best tasting so far this fall - with only a hint of spiciness and none of the bitterness, which is just how I like them. I'm happy I decided to giving this late sowing a try. Finally, I picked some flowering Chinese kale that I had growing under one of my quick hoops.

Chinese Flowering Kale
As I was harvesting my Chinese kale, I realized that I had not discussed them at all up until this point. At first glance, they look almost identical to the Chinese broccoli that I had growing earlier this fall. However, the leaves on this veggie are a bit larger, meatier, and more round. I added these to a Chicken soup I made on Saturday and it tasted pretty good.

If you'd like to see what others are harvesting or would like to show off yours, visit Harvest Mondays at Daphne's Dandelions.

That Time of Year - 2010 Seed Catalogs

SSE 2010 catalog
It's HERE! The first of many to come I hope. And this is a goodie. I love the cover. It's quite fitting since Seed Savers Exchange is well known for its selection of heirloom tomatoes. I purchased my garlic from the company/organization and was really impressed by the quality. I may order my potatoes from them as well.

For those of you who are unaware, SSE is also a network of individuals who save and exchange heirloom seeds. I'm considering becoming a member not only because I appreciate their cause but also because it's a great outlet to source unique and hard to find seed. Are any of YOU a member? And if so, do you enjoy being one?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

November Garden Update - Hoop House Tour

I thought I'd do a quick update on some of the veggies I have growing under cover at the moment. Looking back on these past 3 months, despite some snow flurries in early October, our fall weather has been very much on the side of the gardener this year. I'm amazed that I still have healthy looking veggies growing this time of year. Some have fared better than others, but all in all, I can't really complain.

winter greens
In one mini hoop house, I have some Red Russian kale, Swiss chard, Tango lettuce and Rouge D'Hiver (red romaine) lettuce. The kale had suffered some slug damage but is on the rebound. When I harvested all of my tatsoi from this bed, I think I ended up harvesting all of the slugs as well. Since then, I have not noticed any further damage.

swiss chard
My Swiss chard is growing pretty slowly. I think I'll harvest a few leaves of chard and kale in a week or two but really, the focus now is on overwintering them.

tango and red romaine lettuce
I need to thin my lettuces, which I'll do next weekend. I sampled the Tango lettuce a few days ago and I have to say, it's pretty tasty - like traditional green leaf lettuce, but with much more of a pronounced flavor. My goal is to have mini heads of tango lettuce ready for Christmas.

winter greens 2
In another mini hoop house, I have some mache (not pictured), minutina, more tango lettuce and some potted greens. I sowed the seeds in this bed pretty late (in early and mid-October) and as you can see, germination has been pretty sporadic. I'll have to work on my soil fertility. Anyhow, I'm hoping to harvest the minutina around mid-winter and this sowing of tango lettuce sometime in late winter/early spring (that is, if it survives).

potted veggies
From left: wild arugula, Rouge D'Hiver lettuce, (sorry-looking) Swiss chard

I have found all of my greens covered in frost in the early morning, only to rebound a few hours later without displaying the slightest bit of damage. I'm hoping that the hoop houses will continue to protect my winter veggies as December descends upon us. I'll have to write an update on my other hoop houses in another post. How has your fall garden treated YOU this year?

Planning Next Year's Plenty

seeds for next year
While running errands this past Monday, Marc and I decided to stop by Lake Street Garden Center in Salem, New Hampshire to have a look around. During my first trip this past summer, I was amazed to find a HUGE selection of flowering plants, shrubs and trees. In particular, I was surprised by their rather large display of fruiting plants - espalier apple trees, alpine strawberries, cranberries and Arctic kiwi vines to name a few. And while their huge lot is pretty much empty this time of year, their greenhouses are still packed with healthy looking holiday plants and exotics. Wandering around a plant nursery has to be one of my favorite ways to escape from the daily grind. Needless to say, we took our time.

Seeds for next year
I was hoping to find some BTK and organic slug control, but alas, they were all out of both. I did, however, pick up some seeds for next year's garden. I know it's a bit early, but once I laid my eyes on the beautiful Botanical Interests seed packets, I just couldn't resist. (Some people are addicted to shoes, I prefer seeds.) Many of these varieties are your standard heirlooms and certified organic. I think I'm off to a good start here, but I'm quite sure I'll be adding many more veggies to this list in the next few months. If there are any varieties here that you particularly love, let me know!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Greatings from Perkasie, Pennsylvania - a town of family farms, stone farmhouses and open green spaces. We are here visiting my siblings and extended family. Later on today, we will all sit down to feast on a traditional Thankgsgiving dinner. Each time we make our yearly pilgrimage down to this beautiful state and drive around the countryside, Marc and I fantasize about one day purchasing one of these old farms, bringing it back to life, and living a self-sustaining lifestyle. One can dream.

Hopefully, I will have some pictures to post. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you all have the chance to spend some time with YOUR extended families!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dakota Bread...With a Twist

Dakota Bread
A few days ago, everyone's favorite blogger, Annie's Granny, posted a recipe for Dakota Bread, one that I'd never heard of before. Her bread looked delicious, easy to make, and amazingly, I had all of the ingredients in my kitchen to make it. So I thought I'd pour myself a glass of red wine, proceeded to get tipsy and gave it a go! I got a little carried away and added a swirl of cinnamon, brown sugar, honey, raisins and chopped almonds to it. Jonathan had a thick slice and scarfed down every last bit.

Dakota Bread Dough 2 Dakota Bread Dough
Dakota Bread 3
Even without the swirl, this bread is really tasty. I can't believe how easy it is to make. I might have to make this my sandwich bread of choice. Thanks, Gran!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This Week's Harvest - Spinach and Carrots

lettuce and spinach harvest
In addition to the usual lettuce (I gave this batch to my neighbor), I harvested a good amount of spinach this past weekend (the first of the season). My fall spinach has been affected by slugs, but to a lesser extent than the brassicas. I am very happy with the variety I'm growing this year ("Space F1"). I've found it in the early morning covered with frost only to bounce back a couple hours later without the slightest hint of damage. If anything, lately it seems as though they prefer the unprotected environment outside of the hoop houses.

carrot harvest 2
I've also started harvesting my fall carrots (Nantes). I pick a few each day to snack on raw. They measure between 4 to 5 inches long and are delightfully sweet tasting. It's amazing how different they are from packaged store-bought carrots, which seem almost unnaturally orange and relatively bland. Jonathan loves my homegrown carrots. Whenever we go outside, he will head straight for the vegetable garden and ask for a carrot. I love watching Jonathan as he grips a carrot by its stems and munches on the root while he goes about his play. One of the joys of being a gardener/parent.

spinach harvest
The spinach was washed, spun dry and destined for Saturday night's dinner. From garden to fork in a matter of a couple hours. Does it get any better than that?

Pasta Shells Stuffed with Ricotta, Sweet Sausage and Homegrown Spinach

If you'd like to see what others are harvesting or would like to show off your own, visit Harvest Mondays at Daphne's Dandelions.

Three Pies for the Holidays

"Three pies for the Holidays" - as posted on Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op on November 23, 2009.

Posted by Thomas, from A Growing Tradition Blog

Pie 3
The Egyptians may have invented pie in 2000 B.C., but it wasn't until a couple hundred years ago that Americans began transforming this culinary wonder into an art form (no offense to my British friends). A lot has changed since the first pilgrims landed in the new world, but our passion for pie has remained constant, which is why to this day no American Thanksgiving feast would be complete without one (or 10). And with the holidays fast approaching, I thought I'd share three traditional fruit pie recipes that I like to make this time of year.

Pie Dough
It's true what they say, a good pie recipe starts with a great crust. Here is one that has never let me down:

Perfect Pie Crust Recipe

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
2/3 stick of unsalted butter (chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
3/4 cup of vegetable shortening (chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
1/2 cup of ice water

In a large shallow bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Using a pastry cutter/fork, incorporate the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (you should still have rather large bits of butter and shortening when you're done). Slowly drizzle in the ice water and mix with a wooden spoon. Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface, and fold it together using your hands. The dough should come together easily but should not feel overly sticky. Cut the dough in half and shape into balls. Wrap each in cellophane and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Traditional Apple Pie Filling Recipe- (No American Thanksgiving holiday would be complete without at least one apple pie. I have tested and tweaked many apple pie filling recipes over the years and this happens to be my personal favorite.)

7 large firm apples pealed, pitted and sliced (for a more interesting pie, I use 4 Granny Smith and 3 Fugi apples)
2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of apples)
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pie 1
Pie 2
Autumn Fruit Pie Filling Recipe (The best version of this pie is the local one. I tend to make this pie in late-August to mid-September when all of these fruits are available at our farmers markets here in New England. However, I will freeze some local peaches and wild Maine blueberries in order to make this pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas.)

2 large peaches pealed, pitted and sliced
2 large pears pealed, cored and sliced
3 large apples pealed, cored and sliced
1 cup of blueberries or raspberries (fresh or frozen)
2/3 to 3/4 cup of sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of corn starch
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
grated zest of 1 small orange

Wild Blueberry Pie Filling Recipe (Fresh wild blueberries are available here in New England during the month of August. I tend to freeze a good amount of blueberries during this time for use throughout the holiday season.)

5 cups wild blueberries (fresh or thawed-frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Pie 4
Directions for all three filling recipes:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until the sugar and cornstarch (or flour) are thoroughly distributed. Remove the dough one at a time from the refrigerator and roll each into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Lay the first crust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan and fill with the fruit mixture. Dot the top with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Beat together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of milk and brush the edges of the crust with some of this mixture. Place the second crust on top and lightly press along the edge of the pie pan to seal the two layers. Cut the edges of the crusts to within 1/2 to 1 inch of the pie pan and then fold the edge of the top crust over and under the edge of the bottom crust, pressing lightly as you do so. Cut 3 slits onto the top crust (to vent steam), brush with more egg mixture and sprinkle some sugar on top. Bake at 425 degrees F for the first 30 minutes, then lower to 350 for another 25-40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the pie pierces fruit that is cooked yet still slightly firm (except for the blueberry pie). Cool for at least 4 hours before serving.

Fall Garden Surprise

winter radishes
In early October, I did a post on sowing radishes using Annie's Granny's homemade seed mat technique. I haven't written an update on this because for a long time it looked as though the radishes weren't doing much of anything (as you can see from the picture above taken yesterday). In fact, I've been ignoring them mainly because I thought they'd be killed off by frost long before producing a crop.

easter egg radish
easter egg radishes
However, I decided to take a closer look yesterday, and low and behold, they are starting to bulb up. Very strange. I've been gauging their growth by the amount of green foliage they've put on but I guess they don't need much in order to produce a crop. I haven't offered them any sort of protection from the weather thus far but am considering it now. If we don't see a hard frost within the next couple of weeks, I might be able to get at least a partial harvest. I love when plants surprise you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fall Blues - Garden Update

I have to admit, I'm not quite sure how I feel about my garden right now. For some reason, I thought I'd be a bit more excited than I am about the fact that I still have things growing. Not that I'm disappointed by how my fall garden has turned out this year, I'm just feeling a bit ambivalent about it all. Does anyone else get the fall blues this time of year?

I'm taking some much needed time off from work this upcoming week. Maybe all I need is a full day in the garden (which I haven't been able to do in ages) to get me out of my doldrums. I still have to dig the remaining half of my garden for next year. There's really not much to report right now, but here are a few random tidbits:

pak choi flowers
Our wacky weather caused my white stem pak choi to bolt. I never thought that this would be happening this late in the year.

making leaf mold
Here is my attempt at making leaf mold this year. As the piles pack down, I'll continue to add more leaves. I wanted to chip these leaves first to speed up the process but alas, I think my wood chipper is permanently on the fritz. Any ideas on how long it will take for these leaves to break down? They are mostly maple.

green manure
I have some fall green manure growing in a couple of my beds. I wanted to clear the remainder of my plot and sow green manure in preparation for next year, but unfortunately, I never got around to it. As a result, I have a ton of seed remaining. Hopefully, they will remain viable for next fall.

The mache that I sowed back in early October hasn't been doing much of anything. At this rate, they won't be ready to harvest until early Spring.

garlic shoots
Garlic shoots! It's nice to know that they are alive underneath all of that straw mulch.

fall peas
Ever since I harvested my pea shoots, the plants have been pouring their energy into making pods. I've been harvesting them young and they are quite delicious.

fall spinach
Finally, I will start harvesting some spinach leaves either this weekend or the next. I noticed that some of the older outer leaves are starting to turn yellow. I'm wonder if this is normal or if the temperature inside my hoop houses get too hot during the day. Everything else seems to be enjoying the added warmth. I think I'll devote an entire bed to spinach next fall and not cover it until very late in the season.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Family - Honest Scrap Award

A couple weeks ago, Di from Voice in the Garden, Vrtlarica from Moj Vrt, and GrafixMuse from GrafixMuse's Garden Spot kindly hammered me with the Honest Scrap award. Thank you! If you haven't already done so, please check out their wonderful blogs!

So according to the rules of this award, I'm supposed to list ten personal truths about myself...hmmmm...But if it's ok with everyone, I'd rather share a bit of good news and say a few words about one particular social issue that has greatly affected me and my life during the past couple of years.

Marc and I have been married now for about two and a half years. Even early into our relationship, I knew that we would one day settle down and start a family together. About a year and a half ago, we started the process of adopting through the state of Massachusetts. We attended adoption seminars, completed the mandatory adoptive parenting course, took part in a home study and then waited. We figured that it would be six months to a year before we would be matched with a child. Somewhat unexpectedly, however, about two months after our home study was completed, our wish came true. It happened like this (as described in an email to close friends and family on March 28, 2009):

Hello Friends and Family,

It's about three in the morning right now and I can't seem to fall asleep (I feel like I won't be able to sleep for a long time). I think all of you know by now that Marc and I are now foster parents to a beautiful 18 month baby boy named Jonathan. I use the term "foster parents" because we can't legally refer to ourselves as his parents until the adoption is finalized, which can take as long as a year, maybe more. Anyway, I wanted to keep you all posted on our progress thus far.

On Wednesday, our social worker, Brook, called us to let us know that she had submitted our home study to a state social worker handling a very special case. By "special", I mean more like "emergency". Jonathan had been removed from an incredibly bad situation and placed into emergency foster care earlier this week. Brook had called us because unlike most child placements, the facts of this case would require that the Department of Children and Families (DCF, formerly the Department of Social Services) place Jonathan with a family within days (not weeks or months) and she needed to make sure we were on board for the ride. We told her that we were.

On Thursday morning, Brook called us to let us know that DCF had narrowed down the pool of perspective parents and that there was a good chance that we would be the one chosen. YIKES! She couldn't give us a definite answer but nevertheless we were both on cloud nine and scared sh*tless. (I have to admit that I'm still operating in a state of shock). However, Brook had sent out our home study several times before with no luck so we weren't exactly hopeful.

Friday morning, Brook called us to let us know that DCF had in fact made its decision, that they wanted to meet with us this afternoon, and that Jonathan would be packed up and ready for us to take him home. Needless to say, we were in scrambling mode. Marc left work to get a pack-and-play from his sister along with random blankets and toys. I ran to CVS to get some munchies for the 2-hour ride home.

We drove to western Massachusetts and met with Brook and the DCF folks. As we learned more about the facts of Jonathan's case, I became angrier and angrier at how innocent children are oftentimes treated in this world. Towards the end of the disclosure meeting, they asked us if we wanted to meet Jonathan. Five minutes later, there was a knock at the door and Jonathan walked into the room holding the hand of his baby-sitter. We had been told that he had a cold and was suffering from an ear infection. My first sight of Jonathan - he had flush red cheeks, wavy-brown hair slick from sweat, glassy eyes, and he was wearing a filthy polo shirt that exposed his belly (because he had outgrown it months before). He looked soooo exhausted and fragile, I can't begin to explain how I felt at that moment. The second he caught sight of everyone in the room, he began to cry. I broke down too, uncontrollably. Up until then, I had no idea what my reaction would be. I had no idea that I would connect with him so instantly.

Surprisingly, Jonathan stopped crying before I did. He was a little wary of us at first but then started accepting the legos I offered him. We played for about a half hour and then it was time to leave. The baby-sitter gave him a hug good-bye, then placed him in my arms. He started to cry but miraculously stopped after about 10 seconds. He went into the car-seat effortlessly (well, it took me a couple minutes to figure it out) and during the car ride home, he started to open up more. I offered him various toys and we both ate out of the same cheerios box (at one point, he started feeding me little 0s). We also had a couple of "firsts" during the ride home as well...he smiled and then laughed with us for the first time. I got him to drink from a sippy cup for the first time (the agency had been feeding him with a bottle). He threw food at me for the first time.

By the time we got home, he was definitely itching to get out of the car seat. As we walked him into our apartment building, he started to cry again. I guess the unfamiliar setting unnerved him. I picked him up and again, he stopped crying. When we got into the apartment, he was wary at first but then started to explore. I held him up to the window to look at the ocean (again, a first in his life) and we stared at the seagulls for a while. Brook showed up...she was kind enough to pick us up a pair of pajamas and a few other things from Target on the way back.

Fast forward a couple hours later, we were making a list of what we needed to get for Jonathan and from the grocery store immediately. The next thing we know, our friends Rachel and Brando showed up with bags and bags of baby stuff. They had gone to Costco and Babies-R-Us and had seemingly cleaned out the stores...I'm talking booster chair, first aid kit, bath kit, plates/cups/silverware, 20 different outfits, a mountain of toys, enough creams and cold medicine to fill a pharmacy, diapers, and a HUGE box of baby-wipes. We were completely overwhelmed and grateful. As it turned out, my only errand was to the grocery store tonight.

The duffel bag that DCF had given to us contained an old bottle with almost all of the paint chipped off, a baby blanket, a few items of worn out clothing- all of which no longer fit him, and the filthiest baby jacket I have ever seen. Needless to say, we will be getting rid of everything but his baby blanket, which we hope to give him one day when he is older).

To end a loooong story short, Jonathan has slept pretty quietly tonight....I hope I can find it in me to get a couple hours of sleep too.

To end this story on a happy note, last week, in one of many courtrooms in the state of Massachusetts, we sat and listened as Jonathan's biological parent agreed to relinquish all parental rights. Soon, his birth certificate will be changed legally to list Marc and I as his parents, and he will forever be our son. These past seven months have been by far the most challenging yet at the same time, most rewarding period of my life. Everyday, I learn something new about my son, and ultimately, about myself. And like Jonathan, Marc and I are also starting a new chapter in our lives.

Me and Jonathan
Going trick or treating with Jonathan the giraffe.

Everyday, there are on average 600 children waiting to be adopted in the state of Massachusetts. To learn more, visit the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Making Meyer Lemon Marmalade

meyer lemon marmalade 4
As I'd mentioned earlier, I harvested 3 Meyer lemons from my potted tree this past Friday. I did so in part because they had shed their last bit of green a few days ago and felt soft to the touch. Their shade of color was not quite the deep golden yellow hue that I'd associated with Meyers I've seen in photos. I guess I could have let them ripen for another week or two to see if they would reach that shade of perfection but alas, after 10 months on the tree, I couldn't resist any longer and had to taste them finally.

This is my first citrus tree and I have to admit, it feels really good to be able to grow something that is normally shipped in from 3000 miles away. I also like the fact that I've grown a variety that cannot be found in most supermarkets in our part of the country as Meyer lemons do not ship well. I guess you could say that for me, this is a small lesson in sustainability. And by preserving these Meyer lemons, I can hopefully savor their goodness all year long.

meyer lemon harvest 3 meyer lemons
These lemons were pretty hefty. The marmalade recipe I was using called for 6 Meyer lemons or an equivalent of 1.5 lbs. I had 3 and collectively they weighed 1.7 lbs. I began to wonder whether or not the plant nursery had given me the right variety of tree. Their color and size deviated from what I'd been expecting. However, like Meyers, they did lack the "nipple" found on conventional Eureka lemons you find at the supermarket. My concerns were put aside when I finally sliced one open and took a big whiff. I wish I could adequately explain to you the deeply wonderful scent associated with this lemon, a citrus fragrance unlike any other I'd come across before - maybe best described as sharply mandarin with hints of lemon and lime. These were definitely Meyers. I hadn't been this excited in the kitchen in a long time.

sliced meyer lemons
sliced meyer lemons 3 sliced meyer lemons 2
To make this marmalade, I began by halving the lemons to remove the seeds, which were deposited into a small bowl lined with cheesecloth. I quartered the halves and cut the sections into thin slices, which were then placed into a large non-reactive stockpot filled with 4 cups of water. Also, I tied the cheesecloth into a little pouch of seeds and placed it into the pot as well. I left this mixture to stand covered at room temperature for 24 hours.

Before doing so, however, I did manage to taste a couple of lemon slices. The juice was sour, but not nearly as sour as conventional lemons. What I found most surprising was that the outer white membrane was not bitter at all, again unlike conventional lemons. I could see how Meyers would be an excellent ingredient in many recipes. If you've ever made chicken picatta, you'd know that if you left the lemon slices to cook in the sauce for too long, you might end up with a dish that tastes incredibly bitter. Meyers, I'm sure, would make for a interesting substitute in these types of recipes.

meyer lemon marmalade
Twenty-four hours later, I brought the lemon slices to a boil and simmered the pot for approximately 45 minutes until the mixture was reduced to about 4 cups. I then added 4 cups of sugar and brought the mixture back up to a boil. Maintaining the heat at a moderate temperature, I skimmed any white foam that surfaced and stirred the pot occasionally. When the mixture registered 212-214 degrees F on my candy thermometer, I tested a bit of it on a cold plate to make sure it jelled (which it did). I then ladled the hot marmalade into sterilized half pint jars and processed them for 10 minutes. (If you'd like more information on water-bath canning, click here.)

meyer lemon marmalade 2
I ended up with 5 jars of marmalade, which I left to cool at room temperature overnight. Since the stockpot I used to process the jars could only fit 4, the 5th jar went straight into the refrigerator after it cooled. Also, I noticed that according to the recipe I used, I was supposed to end up with 6 jars of marmalade. I guess I'd reduced the lemon/water mixture for too long.

So how did the marmalade taste - really really good. It doesn't have any of the bitterness that the English love in their Seville orange marmalade, but the Meyer lemon flavor definitely makes this marmalade extra special. I'm planning on making another batch to hand out as Christmas gifts. I guess I'll label it, "Thomas' New England Homegrown Meyer Lemon Marmalade." :)

As far as first canning experiences go, I found the process to be relatively straight forward and quite fun. Since my canning kit had not arrived yet, I used a stockpot lined with a towel. I'm happy to say that all of my jars sealed properly. Hopefully, this will be the start of a very long canning career!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This Week's Harvest

meyer lemon harvest 2
YES! I bit the bullet this weekend and harvested 3 of my Meyer lemons. These are destined to become marmalade (which I will get into in another post). I am very pleased with how my little tree has performed thus far. I now have about a dozen tiny new lemons from flowers that bloomed a couple of weeks ago. Though I'm expecting at least half of them to fall off the tree in the coming weeks, I'm hoping that some will make it through the winter and continue to grow.

meyer lemon
Just to give you a sense of how big these lemons are, this particular lemon was 4 inches tall. Collectively, these 3 lemons weighed 1.7 pounds. That's quite a feat for a small tree to accomplish. The remaining 6 lemons that I'm expecting to harvest this year are slightly smaller than these 3. I think they will be ready in a couple of weeks.

tatsoi, lettuce, pea pods
On the veggie front, I harvested all of my tatsoi, some young pea pods, and more lettuce mix.

I'm beginning to realize that in order for me to have a successful garden this time of year, I have to have a strategy in place to deal with slugs, which seem to be the only major pest in the garden right now. It's amazing how they can seem like a minor annoyance one day and then become a major problem a week later. I must have lost about 40 percent of my tatsoi harvest to these buggers. They are doing a number on my Red Russian kale and spinach as well. They don't seem to be bothering the lettuce. I will have to make a trip to the garden center to pick up some Sluggo.

I played it safe and harvested all of my crop of tatsoi. While cleaning them in my kitchen sink, I found 6 or so slugs clinging to the leaves as I was cleaning them in my kitchen sink. I will admit it was gratifying to run them through my garbage disposal. :)

fall carrot
Finally, my fall carrots (Nantes) are finally starting to fatten up. I'm guessing that they will ready to harvest in a week or two. I had sown these carrots in early August. It has taken much longer than I had expected for them to reach this size. However, I am very pleased that they have made it to this point, are showing no signs of pest damage and are tasting pretty good. Hopefully, they will really sweeten up as they mature and we get a few more frosts.

If you'd like to see what others are harvesting or would like to join in on the fun, visit Harvest Mondays at Daphne's Dandelions.