Thursday, August 16, 2012

See How My Garden Grows

One of the things that keeps gardeners coming back year after year is that you never know what you are going to get.  Each spring, when you are preparing the soil, sowing your seeds and planting your little sprouts, you never know what the rain, sun, temperature, bugs, chipmunks - all the variables for the season will be.  Last year may have yielded fantastic cucumbers but this year it is the greens that are thriving.  You just never know.

A combination of factors have given me a completely different outcome this year.  The extreme weather and the monumental growth of the trees around the garden have brought me far less of the cucumbers I crave and gigantic early season collards, kale and Swiss chard.  Usually at this time we have tender greens and the large, harder leaves come in the fall.  Lord knows what will come of these super plants by October.

I am going on vacation in a week and I had picked three good
sized cucumbers over the weekend.  We ate one and when I looked in my refrigerator yesterday I panicked.  Between the
vegetables I had gotten at the farmers market on Saturday and
harvest from my own garden I felt certain we couldn't eat it
all before going to Maine.  I love to can, or as my grandma
used to say "put up", veggies and condiments.  I don't make jellies and jams but I like to pick things from my own garden and preserve them for the winter.  This, however is  really
time consuming.  When I first started canning I found a recipe for freezer pickles, tried them and loved, loved, loved them.  They require no cooking and you can make them in very small quantities.

First, you peel and slice your cukes with a small red onion or shallots into a bowl.  Sprinkle about half a tablespoon of salt for every 2 cukes over your veggies, and let them rest for a couple of hours to extract excess moisture.  Drain and rinse well, pat dry and return the onions and cukes to the bowl.  Mix 1/2 cup sugar (this is for 2 cukes - multiply for larger amounts), 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1/4 tsp. turmeric and 1/2 Tbs. whole mustard seeds.  Mix until the sugar is dissolved which can take 5 or 10 minutes.  This is the real work.  I use a canning jar and walk around shaking it until it is mixed.

Pour mixture over the cukes and onions.  Put everything into a clean freezer container or Ball jar(s) leaving 1" of what is called head space, which is space between the mixture and the lid of the container to accommodate expansion when it freezes.  These will keep up to a year in the freezer.  When you are ready to eat them thaw for about 4 hours in the fridge.

I certainly don't depend on my garden for all of the food for my family but when I am interacting with my garden I like to pretend that we do.  It causes me to see the food in a different way.  Food is a precious commodity.  We take it for granted sometimes.  Cultures all over the world, bless their food, thank their food for being there for them.  Gardening reminds you to be grateful.

From top left:  zucchini blossom, Japanese eggplant, edible nasturtium blossom, eggplant flower

Neely from Nells Belles


  1. This is great Neely! I've been wanting to learn more about canning, this is a great start!

  2. As always, I love your writing Neely. I am going to have to try the cuke recipe.
    It's a shame that people in our country take our food supply for granted. I'm happy to say that in our family, we are raising the children to verbally express their thankfulness for the food on the table at meal time. We do this and it's kind of a shock to us to eat at someone's home that doesn't do this now. In that case, we say a silent blessing and thanx :-)

  3. Great article Neely, I too will try the recipe it sounds yummy. I have been experimenting with many new veggies since trying really hard to be vegan. (Eggs and cheese are hard for me to stop but I have cut back.)Anyway I am always on the lookout for a new recipe!

  4. Yum! That cucumber recipe sounds delish. I love the idea of growing veggies, but the best I've been able to manage so far is herbs. I definitely don't have a green thumb, but not quite black either. I like to say I have a purple thumb :)

  5. great post, Neely! we don't grow our own vegetables any more since we have the CSA so close - but I love being out there to pick and then to work with the lovely fresh foods when I get home! It IS a lot of work to put things up - but so satisfying, especially in the winter months. I don't do enough to hold us over at all - but like the reminders of the farm through the winter.
    connections to the earth do help us remember to be grateful!