We are enjoying a great start to the spring/summer gardening season. I sure hope that all of you reading this are at least growing some herbs in containers. This is a great time of year to be outside and gardens have a way of giving you plenty of tasks to make outdoor time a necessity. This is why gardening is America’s favorite pastime.
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Given the financial crisis, the instability of our food supply and other reasons I will not mention here…more and more people are seeing the benefits of gardening at home, even if it means in containers. This year we have all the usual suspects growing, squash (zucchini and summer squash) plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, beef steak tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, Datil peppers, bell peppers, banana peppers, poblano peppers, habanero peppers, cantaloupe, dill, rosemary, parsley, oregano, chives, cilantro, basil, thyme.
I am heavy on peppers as you can see….the good thing is peppers are easy to grow, free from most pests and disease and they are prolific producers. Now I am sure some of you are thinking “what the heck is Keith going to do with all these peppers?” good question…the answer is freezing, drying, and brining. These methods are great for long term storage and perfect to help make your homestead well stocked.
My favorite method is the brining….so simple….I start with a pot of boiling water, I rinse the peppers off well, then drop them in boiling water, stir for 30 seconds, remove and run under cold water to stop the cooking…then I place them in my blender whole (stems removed) I add about 1/2 cup kosher salt and 2 cups cider vinegar or white vinegar. Make sure the vinegar has an acidity of at least 5%. This mixture is whizzed up until a mash or soupy liquid is formed. Then I place it in sterilized canning jars and leave it in the spare fridge until I need a few teaspoons for a salsa, guacamole, pot of chili etc. It lasts for years, even without refrigeration due to the miserable environment of salt and high acidity… nothing can live in there.
I plan on making a bunch of this mash then using it to make some hot sauce and salsas in 8 weeks or so that will be available for sale at Thoughtful Harvest.com Peppers can be used in loads of other dishes like pasta, pizza, soup, chili, relishes etc. making them some of the most versatile crops you can grow. The same is true for tomatoes and herbs…applications galore!
One common and frustrating problem we have are squash bugs. These little bastards (sorry I hate them that much) attack all types of squash from pumpkins, to butternut squash to summer squash and zucchini. These pests are insipid and highly destructive making them not only a problem for home gardeners but also commercial gardeners. I cannot tell you how much valuable produce has been lost here on our farm to the afore mentioned little bastards.
Controlling them is not easy, especially when you garden organically. In commercial applications they use a powdered glass product, essentially recycled glass bottles that are ground to a powder then applied as a liquid spray that coats the vegetables with a white coating. Then when bugs eat the plants they ingest the glass and it tears up their insides. A human can touch the powder because it is so finely ground it will nut hurt us..but for bugs it’s devastating. Often times when you buy organic collard greens they will have this white residue on it. It takes several washes to remove it. I have not seen this for home use but if it were available I would use it as it is approved for organic gardening..although I freely admit it does not sound very organic.
This year’s tomatoes are looking really great with the exception of a few in hanging planters…they just do not seem to enjoy hanging upside down. My bucket planters are doing a great job and my San Marzano tomato plants are really healthy so I expect a good crop which will be canned for use later in the winter.
Also this year I have about 15 Datil pepper plants that are doing very well. I started them from seed and realized that they take many weeks to establish from seed and need a constant warm (75degrees) and moist environment (I use a yogurt maker) to thrive. The last two years I thought the seeds were bad because after 10 days I had no seedlings..this year I waited and every last seed emerged healthy. If any of you would like some seeds I will mail seeds to anybody who asks me (at my expense so you too can enjoy growing this unique hot pepper. (keith@harvesteating dot com )
Also of note, my lawn and landscaping are doing nicely and looking much better then in previous years making the farm an enjoyable place to call home.
With that I wish you happy gardening and a bumper crop. Be sue to email me with any questions at keith@ harvesteating dot com.