I had harvested a ton of basil from my garden two days ago but only this morning found the time to turn it into pesto. Some of the leaves had wilted a bit, but overall, storing the basil wrapped in dry paper towels in a produce bag in the fridge worked very well. I just washed the leaves and dried them well and then processed them with olive oil and salt using my stick blender. As usual, I did not add garlic, cheese or nuts to my “pesto”. I find it more versatile this way. And it also keeps better in the freezer.
Today I processed my garlic. It has been almost three weeks since the harvest, and it has been hot and very humid here in Boston. I had a total of 21 heads of softnecks (Transylvania) and used 16 of them to make the braid above, which is now proudly displayed in my pantry. The remaining 5 heads, which I am keeping as seed garlic, include the largest head I harvested plus four heads that had started to split. Those four were still large heads, and I hope they will store well until October/November when I can get the cloves in the ground. Softnecks store well, so they will be used after all of last year’s harvest and all of this year’s hardnecks have been used up.
I also had harvested 17 heads of hardneck garlic (Red Russian), of which I kept the two largest as seed garlic. I left a longer stem for the rest of them because I noticed that they were not fully cured. For now, I will store them in a single layer in my kitchen so they can continue to cure.
I scaled down my garlic-growing operation for this year, because starting September, I will be an empty-nester. 31 heads will be more than enough to get me through next year.
I decided to experiment with preserving more of my herbs this year. I always have been making the base for basil pesto by simply chopping freshly harvested basil with olive oil and freezing it in ice cube trays. I sometimes add kale or arugula to the mix. This basil “pesto” is then used throughout the year in pasta dishes, on pizza or focaccia, and for chicken, fish, roasted vegetables and other dishes. I find that leaving out the nuts, cheese and garlic makes it more versatile, and I can always add those later.
I also have been making Thai basil pesto (with sesame oil, rice vinegar and peanuts), but I have always used it fresh or kept it in the fridge for a few days. I just made my first batch this week to use for these crispy pork noodle bowls. So good! I always use a different recipe for the pesto though. This year, I am planning to experiment with freezing Thai basil in a similar way as my regular basil, so I can make fresh Thai basil pesto throughout the colder months. I have five plants in a big container on my porch and expect to get several harvests out of them.
This year, I am trying to find ways to preserve my parsley. I have two huge plants on my porch and one in my plot. Parsley is probably the herb I used the most in the kitchen, from Moroccan meatballs to fish dishes to soups to simple garnishes. I harvested a big handful, washed it and chopped it up in a food processor. I then froze it with a bit of water in ice cube trays and later moved the cubes to a ziplock bag. This first batch turned out quite crumbly, so next time, I will add more water and even freeze some of the parsley in olive oil.
I turned the garlic scapes I harvested a couple of days ago into pesto: just store-bought basil, garlic scapes, olive oil and salt, homogenized with a stick blender and frozen in ice cube trays with a thin layer of olive oil on top. I then stored the cubes in a Ziplock bag in the freezer. They will last for several months. I am still using pesto I made last year. I find that leaving out cheese and nuts makes the pesto more versatile, for instance if I decide to use it on fish or shrimp. One cube packs a punch. I also used rosemary from my porch to make rosemary focaccia, which I had for dinner with a big home-grown salad.
My tomato and basil seedlings have been living on my kitchen table for the past few weeks. I rotate the tray so they grow evenly. The tomatoes are getting a bit leggy, but everything looks good. I have 9 tomatoes, 4 regular basil and 2 Thai basil cells.
I have a few of the seedlings outside on the back porch now to harden. I will transplant them into my plot in the next couple of days. We still don’t have water in the community garden, so I want to wait until it is turned on. I have a bunch of leeks and Swiss Chard, 4 kale plants and 8 head lettuces. I will transplant some of the head lettuce into containers on my porch and the rest will go into the community plot.
Today, I started my cucumbers and squash. Each in triplet, I planted two pots Tokiwa, three plots pickling cucumber and two pots Mexican sour gherkins (cucamelons). I also planted one pot of Delicata squash (I sadly only had three seeds left), two each Butternut and Honeynut, and one zucchini.
Last night, I pickled my green tomatoes. When they cool down over night on the counter, the color goes from a bright green to a pickle-greenish-brown. I am looking forward to using these on sandwiches (my favorite combination: sharp cheddar, grainy mustard, apple slices, arugula), or on burgers. Yum!
Over the past few days I have been preserving some of this summer’s harvest. I oven-dried tomatoes, and pickled cucumbers and peppers. My cucumber harvest this year was pathetic. I got about six cucumbers from as many plans. The tomatoes are very strong though. I guess it is the heat. The peppers are “Pickling Peppers”, a gift from Sand Hill Preservation Center, and I followed the instructions and pickled them. Looking forward to trying them in a few days.
I made red currant jam. I picked 500 g from our red currant bush and made jam by adding 250 g of sugar and a bit of vanilla extract. I also added Gelierfix, a pectin-based gelling agent, according to the instructions to help the jam set. I canned the jam in a water bath for ten minutes, so it is shelf-stable. Looking forward to eating the jam for breakfast or using it for baking in the winter months.
I made a small batch of garlic scape pesto with about half the scapes I harvested (15) and home-grown basil leaves (the basil leaves from the porch are huge!). I just pureed all of it with olive oil and salt. No cheese, no nuts. More versatile this way. I froze the surplus for future use. This pesto is so great on pasta, pizza, roasted veggies, or mixed into a pesto mayo for sandwiches …
Every garden is only as successful as its soil. Healthy, rich soil is the foundation of a productive garden. Today, I prepared part of my garden plot for spring planting. The city provides its community gardens with free compost in the spring, but the compost it typically delivered in April, which is still a few weeks away. That compost comes from leaf collections in the fall and spring and therefore is almost entirely “brown matter”, so it lacks organic components, which I dug in today in the form of, yes, aged chicken poop. I like to use chicken “stuff”, as it is easy to use, cheap and organic. But, yes, it smells a little. At least according to my husband, who likes to complain about the smell when he fixes his bikes in the basement next to our garden supplies. I dug the matter under my soil and was careful to turn only about 6-8 inches of the top soil, which is plenty for my crops. I garden in the city and when our community garden was established, it was all filled up with new top soil. Since I amend it year after year and have a lot of help in the form of tons of earthworms, I can be sure that my top soil is in good shape. But I am not sure what lies underneath and do not care to find out. I have my soil tested from time to time, every three to four years, to make sure it is free of heavy metals and also to see if it lacks any nutrients. Ready to plant peas!