Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A colorful harvest

It's a little early for root crops, but I decided to thin out my carrot and beet beds. Instead of pulling out little starts and throwing them away, I wait a bit. Then I pull out the biggest ones and eat them when they are baby-sized and tender.

The Vidalia onions I planted from seed had stopped growing tops. So I think they are done. Maybe I'm supposed to save these pearl onions and plant them as sets next year. Nope, I'm going to eat them.

I planted a different variety of rainbow carrots this year. Last year I used Burpee's rainbow mix. It was the seeds of several varieties mixed together in one packet. This year I found an interesting offering in the R.H. Shumway seed catalog. All the carrots are the same variety, but that one variety produces many colors of carrots. The babies I pulled were light yellow and orange.

The beet patch was looking crowded, so I pulled a few of the larger ones. They're chioggia beets and feature a bullseye inside. So I had to cut one open. So pretty!

It's the height of bean season, and I've got lots of pretty varieties - Cherokee wax, dragon tongue, contender, and blue lake pole beans.

I only have two eggplant plants. With the large, dark varieties I don't usually get to harvest until late August or September. But I've already had about ten of these smaller lavender ones. I'll be stuffing these babies with tomatoes, onions, basil and bread crumbs for dinner with a veg-aholic friend.

I have so many cucumbers I don't know what to do! Yes, I do. Pickles, of course! I react to something (maybe tumeric) in store-bought pickles. So I'm trying to make enough homemade pickles to last until next year's cucumber crop comes in. Here's a rerun of my pickle recipe, with a few new tips.

Kay's Dill Pickles

2 C water
1 C cider vinegar
2 T sea salt (non-iodized)
1 bunch of dill for each jar
1/4 t mustard seeds for each jar

This recipe makes enough brine for about three pints of pickles. If you have lots of cucumbers, double or triple this recipe. For my last batch, I tripled it. It made six pints and two quarts.

Boil the first three ingredients for five minutes. Sterilize jars in boiling water. Cool and dry the jars. (Or just run the jars and lids through the dishwasher, like I do.) Put a bunch of dill and 1/4 t mustard seeds in the bottom of each jar. Fill with (room temperature) cucumber slices. Really pack them in! Pour the hot brine into the jars over the cucumbers. Leave leftover brine in the pan. Let the jars of cucumbers and brine stand for 10 minutes. Pour the liquid from the jars back into the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil for 10 minutes.

Fill a Dutch oven or large pot half-full with water. Bring it to a boil while your brine is cooking down.

Pour the reduced brine back over the cucumber slices, to 1/4 inch from the top of the jar. Clean and dry the jar threads and seal with lids. Set your boiling water off the heat. Set the sealed jars into the pan of water. Water need not cover the jars. It's fine if the water comes 1/2 to 2/3 up on the jars. Do not process or cook. Let the jars cool completely in this pan of water.

Here's what I do next: go to bed! When I wake up the next morning, the jars have sealed and cooled down. These pickles are tasty if you eat them right away, but they're better if you wait a week or so.

Use ONLY stainless steel or enamel coated pots for making pickles, and plastic or stainless steel utensils. Since I have a well, I use bottled water in the brine. I reuse old pickle jars. The rubber seals on the lids will hold up for two or three picklings. Glass quart mayonnaise jars can be reused. You can buy metal rings and lids in the canning section of most grocery stores.

I use the brine without fresh dill or mustard seed to pickle asparagus, using the same method. Then I use the pickled asparagus in place of artichokes in my Greek salads.

Last week I bravely ventured out of town for the first time since going gluten free. I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. Because my body is still VERY sensitive to some foods, I took all my meals with me. The kitchen staff was great! They let me store my food in their refrigerator and reheat meals in their microwave. They also prepared gluten free meals for two other workshop attendees.

I am REALLY glad I went! I got to meet Bill Fitzhugh, a favorite (funny!) mystery author, and get good advice from lots of authors and agents. I feel like I'm finally ready to write fiction, just as soon as I get a break from the gardens.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I love the harvesting part of this farmin' thing! My basket is full every morning. Those puny little plants I stuck in the ground six to eight weeks ago have grown like crazy!

Here's my little bean patch. The pole bean towers are as high as I can comfortably reach. The pole beans have just started to bloom. The bush beans are giving me more beans than I can eat!

I've made a few pickles, and some jellies. My shelves are bending under the weight.

Here's what's ripe today - or almost ripe. I wish those tomatoes would hurry up!

Chilis, tomatoes, gypsy peppers, blackberries, yes, that's a honey bee in my cleome, eggplant.

My chigger bite count stands at about 1000. Sheesh! I'll put up with those itchy critters so I can enjoy my good bugs. No chemicals here!

The winged creatures in the bee balm are hummingbird moths. I had three moths and one real hummingbird in the bee balm at once! I clicked about 30 (mostly blurry) photos. These two were the only decent shots.

Good thing I've got photos, because I'm too busy to write much!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Morning chores

I needed a basket to gather all my ripe produce this morning. I picked my first green and yellow beans, my first lavender eggplant, and my last asparagus. Also my last black raspberries and gooseberries. I pulled a couple of baby beets. They need a few more weeks, but I wanted an early treat. The cucumbers have been ripening two at a time for a week or so. I picked a dozen yesterday! I'm ready to tackle that sweet gherkin recipe that requires daily maintenance.

I wasn't the only one to discover the cucumbers. The wascaly wabbit has helped himself to four of my crisp beauties. I planted bush cukes in the back garden, because I thought they wouldn't vine. Wrong! I have vines galore! They're already five feet long - and still growing! I may have to set up a make-shift trellis. The cukes on the ground are too accessible to my short, furry friends.

After three weeks of constant cherry picking and pitting, my cherry season is over. I picked all the cherries I could reach on my tree. There were only a few very high branches that I couldn't get to. The birds stripped those branches clean in 24 hours! My friend, Richard, reported that there were still MANY cherries left on his tree. So I picked four more gallons at his house. I have a wealth of cherries in my freezer. I've made a couple of batches of jam, and several cobblers.

I even dried some in my dehydrator. I split them in half and sprinkled them with sugar. They are still very tart. They may be good in a sweet oatmeal cookie.

This little gem will grow into a dragon tongue bean. That's a flat yellow bean with purple stripes. I like them because they are tender and hold on the vine well. Don't you love baby pictures?

I have two patches of bee balm behind my pool. The purple patch blooms first, and then the red patch takes over. My hummingbirds love the bee balm. They visit every day while I'm floating on my raft. They are speedy and fearless.

And here's the day lily of the day. Many varieties are in full bloom now. I have a rainbow of yellow, oranges, reds and maroons.

I didn't post my Monday Menu because it's the same as every other week's menu. I filled the oven with some chicken, some pork, and a peach cobbler. I'm sticking to basics. Even so, I managed to poison myself somehow. I've been puffy and itchy and groggy for eight days now. I'd really gotten used to feeling good every day. I'm anxious for this to pass.

I'll be leaving town (eek!) for a writers conference next week. I'll be taking all my food with me. So I'm trying to plan and prepare carefully. It's my first trip since going gluten free. I'll miss the (relative) security of my own kitchen. I love my house and my big yard, but I don't want to be captive here. I need to figure out how to travel. This is my first baby step.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hope you can join us!

Kate over at Gluten Free Godsmacked is throwing a virtual barbecue! Thanks for the invitation! Just click on the title of this post to link to the shindig.

I signed up for the letter T, so I could bring my Tomato Pie. It was one of my favorites before going gluten free. And it was a big hit at my farmers market booth last summer. So I wanted to find a way to make it gluten free. I've given up a lot of former favorites for my health.


The crust was the biggest challenge for me. I think this dish would be great as a crustless casserole, but I didn't want to chicken out. I hadn't attempted pastry, and was a little intimidated by the challenge. So I tried a rich crust that can be pressed into the pan instead of a rolled crust. You can use any crust recipe that works for you. And if you have a good one, please share it with me!

Kay's Tomato Pie

3 or 4 large tomatoes
1 medium onion

First, cut your tomatoes into 1/2" cubes, and dice your onion. Put them in a colander, over a bowl, and salt them like crazy. Really, use more salt than you need for taste. The salt will pull out some of the moisture, so you don't get a soggy pie. Let them sweat while you make and bake your crust. You will discard the salty tomato plasma that collects in the bowl.

1/2 C brown rice flour
1/2 C tapioca starch
2 T arrowroot
2 T sorghum flour
1/8 t salt
1 stick cold butter, sliced
2 T goat cheese
1 t vinegar

Mix dry ingredients in your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Add the butter, cheese and vinegar and beat on medium until creamy. Press it into your pie pan with your fingers. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until crust starts to brown.

While your pie crust is in the oven, mix up the creamy topping.

1 1/2 C mayonnaise (I used homemade. Hellman's light works great.)
1 1/2 C grated sharp cheese (I used aged provolone. Extra sharp cheddar works great.)
Stir them together.

Cool your baked pie crust for 5 minutes. Then cover the edges with foil strips. Add a handful of chopped fresh basil and a generous shake of ground pepper to your tomatoes. Stir to distribute the flavors, and place them in your baked crust. Spread your cheesy mayo all over the top. Place your pie on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. The top should have some browned spots, but should not be all brown. Cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting. May also be served at room temperature.

I can't wait to see what everyone else brought to the barbecue! Kate will post links to all 26 recipes (one for every letter of the alphabet!) on or about July 7.

Y'all come!