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post produce

Pak Choi in November

Pak Choi

I needed about 10 of my homegrown, late-season pak choi plants to come anywhere close to the amount I’d have gotten from a single commercially-grown plant. Still, it made a great stir-fry.

Honestly, I thought I’d harvested my last of the season. Two or three weeks ago I brought in all the peppers and winter squash. Last week I dug the remaining sweet potatoes. I even buried most of the main planting bed under 18 inches of autumn leaves. And then there was a dinner pinch.

The full breadth of my meal-planning this month has been, “shop from the freezer.” With Christmas nigh, my wife will want freezer space to stockpile home baked cookies so I’ll try to use something from our freezer in every dinner I prepare until Christmas.

Finding a pack of round steaks sparked thoughts of stir fry. A simple beef and vegetable dish would take little time to prepare and it wouldn’t be a problem to zip to a market for some broccoli or cauliflower. But wait! What about the pak choi?

Succession Planting

After I’d pulled the onions in late August or early September, I had planted pak choi seeds in their place. Sprouts appeared quickly, but cloudy, cold weather has kept growth slow. Supposedly, pak choi (also known as bok choy, pak choy, and bok choi) matures in about 30 days. This Post Produce is at least 45 days past sowing and it took about ten of my plants to equal what you’d get from one commercially-grown plant.

Not a big deal. It’s very satisfying to have harvested anything edible this late in November. My pak choi has thrived through the season-killing frost and at least half a dozen below-freezing nights. The coldest night bottomed out at about 24F degrees but the plants look great (except for some holes chewed through the leaves).

The Stir Fry

There’s nothing amazing about the stir fry—except that it tasted great. When I prepared marinade for the beef, I discovered we had no soy sauce (I was dumbfounded); I used oyster sauce to season the dish.

Ingredients:

1 lb beef cut into bite-sized pieces

2 t grated fresh ginger (divided)

1 t onion powder

¼ cup oyster sauce

¼ cup white cooking (or other) wine

½ to 1 t Siracha Hot Chili Sauce

1 large fresh sweet pepper cored, de-seeded, and cut into bite-sized pieces (I used a sweet Italian pepper because I’m still working through what I harvested, but a bell pepper would work nicely)

1 medium onion peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 mature head of pak choi or equivalent cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces (seriously: peel apart the stalks of the plants and rinse them thoroughly.)

cooking oil for frying

1½ cups chicken stock

~1 T corn starch

Procedure:

Combine the first six ingredients in a bowl or zipper-topped plastic bag. Mix thoroughly and make sure all the meat is submerged in the liquid. Set this in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but overnight is better.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or frying pan and tilt the pan to coat its bottom and sides. When the oil is very hot, fish the beef out of the marinade (save the marinade) and put the beef into the hot pan. Stir the beef to keep it from sticking or burning and cook it through—this could take 7 to 10 minutes, depending on how well your stove heats the pan.

Pour the beef and pan juices into a bowl and set them aside. Scrape the pan relatively clean, add 2 more tablespoons of oil, and return the pan to the stove. Tilt the pan to coat it, let it become very hot, and then add the onion pieces. Stir to keep the onion from burning and, when the pieces become translucent, reduce the heat to medium.

Add the ginger, stir it through, and immediately add the cut up sweet pepper. Stir for 3 to 5 minutes, add the pak choi, and stir to coat everything with the hot oil.

Pour the reserved marinade into the wok and stir to coat all the vegetable pieces with the marinade. Cook until the liquid starts to boil and add 1 cup of the chicken stock; bring it back to a boil.

Return the beef to the pan and stir it together with the vegetables until the liquid boils. In the meantime, stir a tablespoon of cornstarch into the remaining chicken stock and stir that mixture into the cooking vegetables and beef. The liquid should thicken rather quickly at which point the stir fry is ready to serve. I served mine with rice.

If we get a few more warm days, I may get another decent harvest of pak choi this year. Seems more likely this was my actual final harve

Now You Post Produce!

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Perfect, Pretty Peppers!

Fully ripe purple jalapenos

I’ve had a terrific harvest of purple jalapeno peppers, though I let most of the peppers ripen to bright red rather than picking them purple. Serious cold in the next two days will quite likely end the pepper season.

October 22, 2013 is nearly done and I’m only now writing my Post Produce post. Life continues to be crazy with periodic travels to Ithaca, but it’s crazier still as the end of gardening season approaches.

Sadly, my tomato plants succumbed to late blight and I lost at least a bushel of tomatoes. While that happened, I harvested and froze beans from my garden, bought grapes from the farmers’ market to make jelly, froze locally-grown sweet corn, canned “bread & butter pickle” pears, put up a few jars of tomato sauce (from tomatoes that hadn’t yet developed blight blemishes), bought tomatoes from a local farmer to make salsa, and seriously enjoyed my pepper harvest.

Peppers Going Strong

My pepper plants have struggled through a rather cool growing season. Still, they’ve managed to grow a reasonable amount of ripe fruit.

Sweet Italian peppers

I harvested seeds from sweet Italian peppers I’d bought last year at a farmers’ market. I gave away most of the seeds, but started several for myself and grew three plants. Those plants have been prolific, and the peppers are perfect.

To assure I’d have a full batch of red pepper relish to give my mother-in-law, I bought a dozen red bell peppers at a farm market. At the same time, I harvested eight perfectly orange bell peppers from my garden. My mother-in-law gets nine 4oz jars of red pepper relish, and I’ve put away six jars of orange pepper relish. I also made bean salad dressing from the same peppers.

I harvested about a dozen sweet Italian peppers and used most of them in salsa: canned 34 8oz jars of the stuff. I also used about eight red-ripe jalapeno peppers in the salsa.

There are quite a few more peppers to harvest, and nighttime temperatures are pushing into the low 30s this week. I’ll probably harvest the remaining peppers, and there are lots of lima beans I’ll need to pick, ready-or-not.

Now You Post Produce!

What are you harvesting from your kitchen garden? Post about it on your own blog. Then find the linky widget at the end of this post and create a link to your Post Produce post.

Homegrown orange bell peppers

Success with orange bell peppers this year has me thinking of growing a bell pepper rainbow next season. I’ll have to do some research: how many colors of bell peppers are available?

 

 

Post Produce in August 2013!

marketmore cucumber

One of more than a dozen cucumbers I’ve harvested this year. At least two dozen more are maturing on the plants, so I may be giving some away by the middle of next week.

I hope this month’s Post Produce finds you with an abundance of goodies fresh from your gardens! My tomatoes are slow-going due to very cool nights and little rain, but we’ve had two tomato salads and I’ve worked fresh tomatoes into a couple of cooked dishes as well.

Zucchini hasn’t broken away as it does traditionally. This, I think, is because I wasn’t here to harvest the first squash, and it grew very large. If zucchini is like other fruiting plants, successful reproduction slows further reproduction… if you don’t pick beans as they ripen, bean plants produce fewer beans—that seems to be how my zukes are performing.

On the other hand, cucumbers have come on very strong and I’ll be making spicy bread-and-butter pickles in the next day or two. It’s reassuring to see swarms of pollinators working the cucumber blossoms each day, though I’ve seen no honey bees on any of my vegetable flowers this season.

Carrots and onions are ready, but I haven’t started harvesting them. I have grabbed whatever tomatoes I could, and I’ve harvested a decent amount of wax beans from plants that seeded themselves last fall and have reached maturity weeks ahead of the beans I planted this season.

That’s the story! I love to be eating so much food from the garden, and there promises to be a whole lot more by next month’s Post Produce. What are you harvesting? Post about your own veggies and fruit, and use the linky widget after the last photo in this post to link back to it. I look forward to seeing what you have going on.

blue lake zucchini

This zucchini became 2 loaves of zucchini bread, and two large skillets of sautéed zucchini, onions, and tomatoes. I never much cared for zucchini but last year my kids insisted that zucchini bread is the best sweet quick bread. Of course, you can’t grow just enough zucchini for bread-making, so I’ve made peace with zuke as a side dish — sautéed, slawed, and even stuffed.

kentucky wonder wax beans

These wax beans came from seeds that sowed themselves last fall. They are Kentucky Wonder Yellow beans, which I didn’t know existed until last season. This year I’m growing a different variety of climbing wax beans which are a bit more delicate. Purple bush beans are in bloom, and I look forward to harvesting my first near the end of next week.

indigo rose tomato

Couldn’t resist trying Indigo Rose tomatoes billed as the darkest of the black tomatoes. They’re gorgeous in the garden. Even as they emerge from flowers, the tomatoes have deep purple tops extending about ¾ of the way to the bottoms. They take forever to ripen, but when they do, you notice a delightful red glow extending down from the purple. Sadly, the purple peels away with the skin, so they’re most attractive in applications where you wouldn’t peel them.

 

Now You Post Produce!

Here’s where to link to your Post Produce post! Use the full permalink to your post for this month and share what you’re eating from your garden:

 

Dad’s Fresh Fruit for Post Produce

sour cherries

Sour cherries from my dad’s front yard have gone into pies and jelly and will end up in syrup as well.

When I woke up this morning I realized that today is Post Produce and I hadn’t posted last night! Emptying my dad’s house in Ithaca has me scattered, so my post and linky widget are up quite late this month. Please don’t panic. The linky is live for nearly two weeks (scroll to the end of this post to find it), so if you want to participate, you’ve plenty of time to report on what you’re eating from your garden.

Dad’s Cherry Orchard

My father doesn’t have a vegetable garden, but he’s still intent on keeping his land productive. Ten or more years ago, he planted a sour cherry tree in his front yard, and the tree has been with fruit for three weeks. After our first harvest, I baked a cherry pie, grabbed a slice for myself, and left the rest in the kitchen so he could stop by and pick it up while I visited my family in Lewisburg.

dad picking raspberries

That’s my 93-year-old dad picking raspberries from the brambles he planted two years ago. The harvest has been modest, but for all the fresh canes growing this season, there’s great promise for next year’s harvest.

I’ve since harvested twice more. I made jelly that included cherry juice in the mix, and I stored some cherry juice that I’ll soon make into syrup and can. I use such syrup on pancakes, waffles, and ice cream; in marinades for meats; and in drink mixes. My dad, I think, will use it on ice cream.

There’s one more harvest of cherries on the tree but they’ll have to wait because an afternoon thunderstorm diminished my enthusiasm for picking.

Dad’s Raspberry Farm

My brother, who now owns the family farm, cleared some land a few years back and planted chestnut trees. My dad bought a whole bunch of raspberry plants—both red and black raspberries—and established a modest bramble patch along one edge of the chestnut plantation.

Wild black raspberries

While my dad picked his domesticated raspberries, I pounded underbrush around the chestnut trees and found plenty of wild black raspberry plants producing terrific fruits.

I’ve been out to the farm with my dad twice in the past few weeks to harvest berries with my dad. Considering the number of plants out there, the harvests have been modest. I’ve found more wild black raspberries among the chestnut trees than my dad and I have harvested from the cultivated plants.

So far, I’ve made and canned three cups of black raspberry syrup, and a batch of jelly that included raspberry juice in the mix. Yes. I’m talking about the same batch of jelly that included cherry juice. My brother, also, made a small batch of raspberry jelly.

Raccoon

While picking berries with Dad, I noticed two raccoons amble up a half-fallen tree, spy on us for a bit, and then curl up for a nap. This has nothing to do with celebrating homegrown produce, but it was kind of fun.

My dad’s apartment isn’t well appointed for preserving large batches of fruit, it makes sense that my brother and I take on these tasks. For me, the best part of the story is that my 93-year-old dad continues to plant trees and brambles. He’s really into growing Black Locust and Redbud trees from seed, and has set several young trees out near my brother’s chestnut starts. I hope I’m still around when my dad harvests his trees for the lumber.

Now You Post Produce!

Write a blog post about your homegrown produce. What are you harvesting? How are you preparing it to eat? What’s about to ripen? Return here and use the linky widget below to link to your post.

 

Post Produce, Peas!

pea pods on the plants

Early Frosty pea plants are not a variety that boasts “poor producer” on the packaging. In fact, the vines are merely two feet tall, but I harvested a gallon of pods from half of a 14-foot double row today.

For me, the first great moment of every gardening season is when I roll a handful of peas out of a fresh-picked pod and pop them into my mouth. Today was that first moment!

My peas have been producing for about two weeks, but I haven’t been home to enjoy them. This evening, I finally had time to harvest, and I worked down one side of one trellis. I got a gallon of plump pods. Thing is, there are two trellises supporting pod-laden plants… plants on the third trellis are younger and not yet producing. If today’s harvest is any measure, there are three gallons of pods out there yet to harvest.

freshly harvested peas

My one-gallon colander is going to get a workout in the next few days as there are still at least three gallons of pea pods on the vines.

New Peas for Me

For the past 17 years, I’ve planted Wando peas exclusively. That’s because I often get started late in my garden and Wandos do pretty well even in the intense heat of early summer. This year, I changed my stripes.

I planted a double row of Early Frosty peas, and a second double row of Bolero peas. A week or two later, I planted a double row of Wandos. Both Early Frosty and Bolero claim to be “great producers.” It occurs to me I’ve never seen a pea package claiming that the variety within is a “poor producer.”

In any case, while Wando peas grow as tall as 60 inches, Early Frosty and Bolero plants reach about 24 inches; they aren’t challenging the trellises that I designed for the Wandos all those 17 years ago.

What will I do with this marvelous harvest? As you might guess, I ate several handfuls of raw peas before I finished in the garden. Bu the big event will be a pleasure I anticipate from late July until June the next year: I’ll make New Potatoes and Peas. This simple dish consists of a mild cream sauce coating young potatoes and garden-fresh peas. It is rich but the potatoes and cream sauce are mild enough that they let the flavor of the peas come through.

If you’ve never had new potatoes and peas, please try them. This should be on every foodie’s list of the top 100 finest dishes in American history. My post titled Home Kitchen Garden New Potatoes explains how I prepare New Potatoes and Peas. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

snacking on fresh peas

I quickly lose count of how many pea pods I open and empty into my mouth while I’m harvesting. This wasn’t the first of the season, but the peas were awesome.

Your turn! Post on your blog about what you’re eating from your garden. Then come back here and use the linky widget to link back to your post. If the linky lists other Post Produce articles, visit those articles, leave comments, and post about them on Facebook, tweet about them, and pin photos from them on Pinterest.

Thank you for participating!

 

Rhubarb is Ready for Post Produce!

inside a rhubarb forest

Rhubarb produces huge elephant-ear leaves on the ends of slender stalks. The plants naturally shade out undergrowth, so a rhubarb patch can do well with little more than occasional feeding. I try to rely on mulch to keep the soil rich, but rhubarb is happy to receive a generous helping of fertilizer in mid-spring.

Rhubarb is in season! In most of my gardening years, this would be the earliest proclamation I’d make about harvest. Last year, instead, I wrote a sad story about three failures of my rhubarb crop.

This year has been spectacularly “normal” climate-wise and the meager rhubarb roots I started last spring have come on so strong that I’m tempted to harvest heavily—a supposed no-no in a rhubarb garden’s second year.

Rhubarb Sauce for Dad

I’ve neglected my garden a tad because I’m spending a lot of time in Ithaca, making repairs in the family house and emptying it to make way for renters. My dad decided to move into a progressive care facility, and there are 52 years’ accumulation in the house with which to deal.

rhubarb sauce

Rhubarb sauce may look a bit slimy, but it doesn’t feel slimy in your mouth (compared, for example, to soup thickened with okra). I like rhubarb sauce on its own, but it makes a great topping as well for cottage cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.

Dad doesn’t complain about his new accommodations, but it was clear right away some things are lacking. Most obviously, the food service at the progressive care facility is mediocre; the food isn’t terrible, but it’s not particularly interesting.

My dad had rhubarb available most of his life. His dad grew it, and descendents from those plants made it to several places my dad lived through the years. We ate rhubarb sauce all spring when I was a kid, and Dad was always excited to serve up the first batch. Dad’s rhubarb patch has died off years ago. So, on my last trip home (to Lewisburg), I harvested my first rhubarb stalks from my new patch. I cooked them into sauce and packed it with me when I drove back to Ithaca. My dad seems pleased to have it.

Making Sauce

I explained how to make rhubarb sauce in an earlier post. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend that you buy stalks or get some from a gardening friend and cook it up for yourself before you plant any. Even people who don’t care for rhubarb sauce can be enthusiastic for strawberry-rhubarb jam or pie. I posted how to make strawberry-rhubarb pie—both written instructions and a video tutorial.

I hope you’ll try rhubarb if you haven’t. I love that on this Post Produce, I can celebrate such a fine harvest.

Now You Post

Use the linky widget at the end of this post to link to your Post Produce blog entry. Then visit other participants’ blogs to see what your fellow gardeners are eating from their own gardens. Thanks for visiting!

 

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