Adventures in ketchup

Summer 2012 was a tomato year for the garden. Hot and dry, hot and steamy, hot and drenching rain, and hot again for another week – and we have oodles of tomatoes. All the varieties I planted did well: cherry, plum, modern and vintage beefsteaks. The only heartbreak will be all the fruit still green on the vine as we approach the inevitable frosty nights of October.

green tomatoesMaking ketchup requires a lot of tomatoes and a long cooking time. I had bushels of tomatoes ready to go but I don’t like keeping steaming pots brewing on the stove for long periods of time. Our small house heats up easily, especially when the weather turns hot and humid, so I decided to haul out my big cast iron pots and cook a batch over a wood fire in the yard.

I suggest using the Blue Book recipe for ketchup. I started with two gallons of thick tomato puree and doubled the recommended amount of spices. In the two cheesecloth bags below are whole spices including: coriander, celery seed, cloves, stick cinnamon, yellow and black mustard, bay leaf and dried Chipotle peppers from the Fruit Basket in Grand Junction, CO. (These peppers are incredibly fragrant – thanks, CherieBeyond! You’re also my proof that we’re not actually stuck on this island because you made it to Colorado – and back.) The recipe also includes good cider vinegar, brown sugar, salt and anything else you feel like throwing in to make it distinctly your own. Why yes, I did add a cup of bourbon, funny you should ask.

spice bagsThis was my first experience using cast iron over a wood fire and wow, that’s a lot of energy. I loaded a gallon of puree, the additional recipe ingredients, and the spice bags into the pots and the mixture came to a rolling boil almost immediately. I could have started with a lot less fuel and ended up adding much less wood to keep it going than I thought I’d need. It took a little over two hours (stirring occasionally) for enough water to steam off and leave a nice, thick batch of ketchup with a distinctive smoky taste. This is how I’ll make my end of season tomato sauces from now on.

pots over the fire

 

2012 garden winners

Autumn is here. I can tell because I’m spending more time stacking firewood than picking tomatoes. It’s time to cull the seed order for 2013 by picking winners to repeat, and losers (not many of those, really) to drop. Descriptions are from the Fedco Seed catalog, online 2012 version.

Winners include: Minutina

minutina Minutina (50 days) Open-pollinated. Also called Buckshorn Plantain. “Good in a buttered frying pan with fresh snipped chives and a fresh duck egg cracked on top,” informs Jan Sonstrom. Morse Pitts of Windfall Farm brought this spiky green to our attention. As it comes up it looks like little blades of grass. As it matures, it resembles mizuna leaves, only much narrower, less leafy and more succulent. Crunchy with a mild nutty flavor. Slow grower, will regenerate from cutting, but we recommend succession planting. Extremely cold hardy

I love this green – it provides texture, flavor and a lovely bright green accent to salads and stir fry and grew beautifully all summer through drought and torrential rain. I found it energetic enough to “cut and come again” with no problem.

Aromato Basil

aromatoAromato Basil OG Dramatic bicolor ornamental. Broad bushes of mottled purple and green grow to 2-1/2′, providing a focal point. Starts purple and takes on a greener coloration. Pleasing anisey flavor and scent intensify when it is dried. Makes a great herbal vinegar. AGRIOR-certified.

I don’t normally dry basil, preferring to freeze small containers of pesto to retrieve as a fabulous quick dinner on dark February days, but Aromato has convinced me to dry at least part of the harvest. This basil has such a spicy floral scent that I’m tempted to use it in the closets as a sachet. Oh, and it also makes wonderful dark and mysterious pesto.

Dakota black popcornDakota Black Popcorn OG (100 days) Open-pollinated. Outstanding in our observation plots two years in a row. Compact plants with one ear each. Our tasters rated the popcorn “Oh, so scrumptious.” In addition to their popping qualities, Dakota Black’s 4-1/2″ dark maroon-black ears with 15 rows are extremely decorative, a must for the fall roadside stand. 4′ stalks. ICS-certified.

The ears are still drying on the stalks so I can’t tell you how it tastes. It’s so beautiful that I don’t even care if we never pop any.

Blue Gold

Blue Gold or Peter Wilcox This goldie was our best seller at the Portland Farmer’s market, and an easy one to wholesale, too. The twin sister to Red Gold, and practically an early-season potato. Trialing it last year, we had great germination, a high yield, and delicious hash browns. You could dig it later too, as it stores durably. Sets tubers in a wide hill.
Wonderful taste, great texture, easy to dig and perfect skins – my new favorite potato. Harsh drought and high heat with no watering does not seem to have impacted the yield.
Dakota Black Popcorn OG (100 days) Open-pollinated. Outstanding in our observation plots two years in a row. Compact plants with one ear each. Our tasters rated the popcorn “Oh, so scrumptious.” In addition to their popping qualities, Dakota Black’s 4-1/2″ dark maroon-black ears with 15 rows are extremely decorative, a must for the fall roadside stand. 4′ stalks. ICS-certified.

Poppyseed Cake

Ziar breadseed poppyseeds

This year I planted Ziar Breadseed poppies. They were easy to grow, made a beautiful display, and now we get to eat them! Collecting enough seeds for this recipe was far easier than I thought it would be – each seed head contained several teaspoonsful and this variety is bred to eliminate the vents that would normally drop the seed all over as you picked it.

Aunt Beatrice’s Lemon Poppyseed Cake

2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 to 3/4 cup poppy seeds

Glaze

2 C confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 half and half, 1 Tbs lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325°F Butter and flour an 8-inch fluted Bundt pan* (I use baking spray).  Butter the dull side of a 10-inch piece of foil.

Beat the sugar and eggs together in a large bowl. You can go the whole route with a stand mixer and beat for 8 minutes until bright yellow and fluffy, but I never have the time and the cake (while possibly a little bit more dense) is just fine. And delicious. Beat in the lemon zest. Dump the flour and cornstarch over the egg mixture and fold in along with the  salt, then mix  in the butter and the poppy seeds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover tightly with the buttered foil. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the foil and let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. When fully cool mix glaze ingredients together and drizzle over cake.

lemon poppyseed cake

*You can also make this into a loaf or layer cake, but it doesn’t make good muffins. I think that’s because it really needs that top layer of foil, and that’s hard to manage with a muffin tin.

Raspberry season

 

August has arrived with crowds of houseguests (ours and other people’s), green beans, and 140 tour boats between now and October. And raspberries.

purple royalty raspberriesThere’s too much to do in the garden to be sitting around making a blog post, but sometimes the temptation to record the beautiful chaos of fruit and bloom is just too much. The purple royalty raspberries (above) are abundant and showy. The everblooming variety “Anne” is more subtle in taste and color, and the berries are hidden in the leaves.

Anne in handWe also grow Liberty, which is a plain red variety that taste exactly like red LifeSavers. I picked a mixed quart and made this jam tart from Smitten Kitchen with half jam, half fresh berries.  It was wonderful – pictures later!  Next up, blueberries. . .

Patriot blueberries

Surround crop protectant

mix it up

Surround WP is my favorite pesticide. Surround and the occasional small dose of Bt is all I need in a good year, and in a bad year I add in some Serenade for the cherry trees that are particularly prone to brown rot.

Surround is 95% kaolin clay, sold in powder form to be mixed with water and sprayed, as explained in the Fedco Organic Grower’s Supply catalog:

Surround™ WP Crop Protectant Forms a particle film which coats the surface of leaves and fruits, creating a barrier which acts as a broad-spectrum crop protectant, reducing damage from various insects, mites and disease-carrying pests. Recommended for controlling European apple sawfly, plum curculio, Japanese beetles, leafhoppers, CPB, thrips and other maleficial insects on fruit crops and field crops, effective against cucumber beetles on cucurbits. 95% kaolin clay, Surround’s layer of white particles creates an unfamiliar environment for the attacking insects, prevents them from recognizing their target, and, if they land, the particles rub off on them causing irritation and excessive grooming. The white surface also reflects sunlight, preventing sunburn and heat damage. Michael Phillips at Lost Nation Orchard estimates that one 25# bag is sufficient to treat 10 trees for one season. Begin application before petal-fall. Apply 2–3 times the first week to build up a good coating and then every 10–14 days or as the film weathers or new growth appears, more frequently in rainy weather. Maintain a good coat until plum curculio season ends, around June 30 in central Maine.

seckle pear with Surround WP

Agricultural Solutions also has an informative entry:

Surround W. P. is made from 95% kaolin clay, a naturally occurring mineral. When applied to fruit trees, crops, and other plants, it forms a white film. Surround suppresses a wide range of pests, especially those which damage fruit crops including pears, apples, grapes, berries, and some vegetables. The manufacturers use a super-magnetic centrifuge in Georgia to refine the impurities out of raw kaolin and then filter the clay particles to a critical 1.4 microns in size.

I really like the part about the centrifuge.

The best technique I’ve found for my 2 gallon hand pump sprayer is to mix the 2 gallon dose of powder into a quart mason jar of water and shake well for at least 30 seconds, then dump the mixture into the full (minus 1 qt) sprayer. Agitate the sprayer during use. Several sources comment that hand sprayers are a good way to apply this agent because you can really pay attention to coverage. The best thing about Surround is that I don’t have to closely monitor what it falls on under the trees: it is rated for vegetables, it won’t harm the grasses and wildflowers, and it washes off the occasional Adirondack chair (although that takes a few days – move furniture and cover paving stones if you don’t want them temporarily decorated with faint white patches).

I also find that a good coating of Surround reduces deer predation. Perhaps it limits the aroma of an attractive plant? Here I’ve sprayed some mallow growing outside the electric fence – normally a tempting target and they’ve left it alone all season.

mallow with Surround coating

The weekend is forecast to be sunny and not too breezy – time to apply another coat!

 

Fedco Seed Order 2012

Just finished my order over at Fedco Seeds, Maine’s agricultural co-op seed house specializing in cold hardy varieties for the unforgiving climate of the New England growing season. Fedco has five orders: Seeds, Moose Tubers, Organic Growers Supply, Trees, and Bulbs, and sends out three catalogs. The seed division alone does about $3mm annually.

Completing the seed order is the way I mark my own personal start of the new year. Yes, the canning cupboard is full of glass jars of produce, the Rubbermaid boxes of potatoes and carrots sit ready to eat on the cold cellar floor, the garden is still holding parsnips, kale, and leeks, but all of that is just so 2011. Selecting seed varieties is my first foray into the new year and a snapshot of Garden 2012.  Here’s the list (in no particular order) and some highlights of my favorites from the catalog:

225 – Royal Burgundy Bush Bean OG ( A=2oz) 1 x $1.90 = $1.90
297 – Multicolored Pole Bean Mix ( A=1/2oz) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
338 – Marfax Bean ( A=2oz) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
658 – Silver Queen White Sweet Corn ( B=8oz) 1 x $7.50 = $7.50
678 – Dakota Black Popcorn OG ( A=2oz) 1 x $2.60 = $2.60
818 – Oregon Giant Snow Pea ( A=2oz) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
842 – Mammoth Melting Sugar Snow Pea ( A=2oz) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
1035 – Halona Muskmelon ( A=1g) 1 x $1.90 = $1.90
1311 – Boothbys Blonde Slicing Cucumber OG ( A=0.5g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
1409 – Raven Zucchini ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.90 = $1.90
1457 – Costata Romanesca Zucchini OG ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
1635 – Sunshine Winter Squash ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
1718 – Winter Luxury Pumpkin OG ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
2058 – Red Cored Chantenay Carrot ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80
2068 – Atomic Red Carrot OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
2073 – Shin Kuroda 5" Carrot ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80
2099 – Over the Rainbow Carrot Mix ( A=1g) 1 x $2.40 = $2.40
2186 – Bulls Blood Beet ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
2267 – Green Meat Radish ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2306 – Andover Parsnip OG ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
2376 – Gold Ball Turnip ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2425 – Bleu de Solaize Leek ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.70 = $1.70
2504 – Bordeaux Spinach ( A=1/4oz) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
2555 – Giant Winter Spinach ( A=1/4oz) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
2738 – Antares Lettuce OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2983 – DeLuxe Lettuce Mix OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
2984 – Freedom Lettuce Mix OG ( A=1g) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
2992 – Mesclun ( A=1g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
2993 – Greens Mix OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
3034 – Perpetual Spinach or Leaf Beet ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
3075 – Speckled Friz Chickendive OG ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $2.30 = $2.30
3122 – Minutina ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
3740 – Sweet Pimiento Sweet Pepper ECO ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5210 – Tanagra Lavatera ( A=1g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5263 – Mignonette ( A=1g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
5280 – Alaska Nasturtium Mix ( A=2g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
5320 – Ziar Breadseed Poppy OG ( B=0.3g) 1 x $3.00 = $3.00
5331 – Flemish Antique Poppy OG ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5421 – Selma Suns Mix Sunflower OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5441 – April in Paris Sweet Pea OG ( A=2g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5455 – Mrs. Collier Sweet Pea ( A=2g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
5506 – Hopi Dye Sunflower OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5960 – Purple Majesty Millet ( A=0.05g) 1 x $2.30 = $2.30
5970 – Duborskian Rice OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
6333 – Beneficials Mix ( B=7g) 1 x $7.50 = $7.50

Subtotal: = $80.20
Maine Sales Tax: + $4.01
Adjusted Total: = $84.21
Shipping: + $0.00
Grand Total: = $84.21

I did not include the prices last year and had to field a lot of budget questions later. My biggest costs in the garden are seeds and trees, and the seed portion averages right around $80.00. Trees/shrubs/perennials go about twice as much (in a good year when I can afford that), and equipment costs are another $50.00. This year I have to replace my 20 year-old shovel for instance, and in 2010 I replaced my sprayer.

Two items that I think will be fascinating additions to Garden 2012:

3075CO Speckled Friz Chickendive OG (70-90 days) Open-pollinated. Chicorium intybus x C. endivia Unique, chic greens from master breeder Frank Morton who crossed Wild Garden chicories with frisée, curly endive and escarole to develop this colorful flock of individuals, more tender than chicory, more cold hardy and ornamental than endive, with a mixture and flavor range that goes well beyond either and the sweet bitterness of a good endive. This gene-pool has variation, some plants open, others semi-headed, others with full heads. Has overwintered and been permutating at the MOFGA garden for the past six years.

2984FO Freedom Lettuce Mix OG An inspiring mix with plenty of surprises, this gene pool was created by Morton in what he called the “Hell’s Half-Acre lettuce trial” identifying those varieties most disease resistant and crossing them with his best-tasting varieties to select and recombine for excellent traits. Contains exceptional material including some experimental forms that would stand on their own as named varieties. Morton invites growers and breeders to work with this mix to create new varieties for their farms or for the general public, while stipulating that nothing derived from it may be patented or protected from others’ use in any way. This strategy, originated by software developers, is now known as copyleft (as opposed to traditional copyright). Morton has adopted it to keep his varieties and their derivatives in the public domain as a protected commons. Seeds as nature’s software! See wwwgnu.org/philosophy/philosophy.html. for more information on copyleft. These days freedom is a rather slippery concept and many things are being done in its name that I don’t approve, but copyleft has the potential to return to free use such shared resources as our plant heritage that rightfully belong to all of us. As Morton proclaims, “Adaptive breeding cannot occur under a system of restrictive ownership.” Open-pollinated.

And finally, today’s garden photo: Fedco Harris Model parsnips still green on January second.

 

2984FO Freedom Lettuce Mix OG An inspiring mix with plenty of surprises, this gene pool was created by Morton in what he called the “Hell’s Half-Acre lettuce trial” identifying those varieties most disease resistant and crossing them with his best-tasting varieties to select and recombine for excellent traits. Contains exceptional material including some experimental forms that would stand on their own as named varieties. Morton invites growers and breeders to work with this mix to create new varieties for their farms or for the general public, while stipulating that nothing derived from it may be patented or protected from others’ use in any way. This strategy, originated by software developers, is now known as copyleft (as opposed to traditional copyright). Morton has adopted it to keep his varieties and their derivatives in the public domain as a protected commons. Seeds as nature’s software! See wwwgnu.org/philosophy/philosophy.html. for more information on copyleft. These days freedom is a rather slippery concept and many things are being done in its name that I don’t approve, but copyleft has the potential to return to free use such shared resources as our plant heritage that rightfully belong to all of us. As Morton proclaims, “Adaptive breeding cannot occur under a system of restrictive ownership.” Open-pollinated.

Windfall

Last Friday I picked apples at an abandoned homestead on my commute home from work.

The tree is big by Maine standards, about 40′ tall and 20′ around. Deer have pruned the branches back to 5′ above the ground by eating all the fruit they can reach. I used my walking stick to knock down enough to fill a canvas tote – about 15 lbs. of hard red, conical apples with minimal insect damage and no fungus. I haven’t looked up the variety yet, but the combination of large tree with that shape fruit hanging on a  tree past first frost is fairly uncommon and I should be able to find it in my loaner copy of “Apples of Maine”. Thanks, Agnes!

We don’t eat much jelly and jam, and space is scarce in the chest freezer downstairs. When the grapes came in (and in, and in some more) I made quarts of thick, sweet grape juice concentrate and we used that up very quickly indeed. I’d never made apple juice but honestly, how hard could it be?

You can see where this is going, right? I followed the directions in the Blue Book; cutting the stem and blossom ends off the fruit and then coarsely chopping the rest. I added a pint of water and a little lemon juice and cooked the apples down to “mushy”. Then the recipe says to drain the mush through a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth and after an hour I had about half a cup of juice. Very nice juice, but half a cup seemed unrewarding. Compared to the huge amount of apples in the strainer, ti also seemed stingy. I added more water, switched to a colander instead of cheesecloth, and generally made everything in the kitchen sticky sweet with apple residue and got 4 quarts of very thin applesauce for my trouble. Again, very tasty (those are good apples) and a pretty color, but not what I had in mind.

I think the next painting I sell will turn into a steam juicer.

 

 

Peach nectar night

This will be a very short post, because there are a lot of peaches waiting on the kitchen counter that aren’t going to can themselves.

Last year I experimented with a few different ways to preserve the bounty from the Red Haven and Red Baron peach trees in the front yard. Of the 15 bushels (yikes) that we didn’t give away or eat fresh I froze some in white grape juice, made plain and brandied canned whole, canned pie filling, jam, and conserve. Summer 2010 also produced a tremendous harvest of Beta grapes and I eventually gave up on making grape jelly and canned them as juice instead. We really enjoyed the juice, and making concentrate was an efficient way to store vast quantities of produce. It also made killer popsicles.

Tonight I decided to make peach nectar and it was so successful that I think I may just turn everything into juice concentrate for the foreseeable future. Home made V8! Pear nectar! Harry Potter pumpkin juice – well, maybe not.

I pitted and then cooked the fruit lightly in a cup of lemonade and 1 C of sugar, just enough to soften it and bring out the juices. Then I put it, skins and all, through the food mill. The mill strainer that I chose made a fairly clear juice, although you can see that the amount of waste is fairly small. Next batch I’ll use a slightly larger hole and see if that produces a thicker “nectar”.

This was a successful experiment. Very tasty, and the entire process took less than two hours and only a cup of sugar. Now – Bellinis all around!

Peaches vs Irene

The Red Haven peach tree is in full production mode, weighted down to the ground with nicely colored, but still ripening fruit. We’re having a huge rain right now and the winds are expected to continue through the night but I can’t really think of any way to protect the branches. Weighted by line and cinder blocks? Tied in bundles to each other? I’ve decided to let nature take its course and see what there is to pick up off the ground tomorrow morning. Best case scenario seems to be that we’ll lose fruit, but not too many branches.  Stayed tuned.