Sunday, February 21, 2010

Peas Planted

Unlike most of the nation, the weather here has been exceptionally fine. I finally got the last of the veggie beds cleared of winter weeds yesterday, and in digging around in the dirt, I realized that the soil was warm and not soggy.

What the hey? Warm soil in February? Even though we had frost last night, we've had sunny days, almost 60 degree weather, and most importantly, no rain for quite a while. So the soil was dry enough and warm enough to plant. And although I'm not thinking tomatoes or even lettuce just yet, it's fine pea-planting weather.

So yesterday I scratched a 24 foot double row for the peas, scratched bone meal in the bottom of the furrows, and planted my Maestro seeds. Then I tamped it down, and an amazing thing happened - I actually put up the pea fence! I NEVER do it at planting time and I ALWAYS get it in too late and wind up damaging the poor peas, or try to rig up some other system that never works. Woo-hoo for me!

Now, lettuces can be planted quite early, and I actually have a gazillion volunteers where the lettuce was last year, so I know it's warm enough for germination. However, they're not exactly growing speedily, despite the warm weather. I think there's just not enough daylight for growth yet, which makes them susceptible to slugs right now. Maybe next week when I plant out the lettuce I started indoors, I'll try a little trial sowing of lettuce outdoors. If the weather holds.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tigress' Can Jam - Carrots in February

So here it is, February, and the Can Jam Challenge has thrown carrots at us this month. So the decision I faced was "sweet or pickled?" Looking into my pantry, I saw a gazillion jars of sweets, and only one jar of pickles. AND I'll be making more sweets (strawberry jam) before I'll make more pickle (cucumbers). First decision made - it was going to be pickled.

Pouring over all my recipe books, I discovered that most of the recipes for pickled carrots also had other veggies that certainly aren't in season right now, especially cauliflower and cucumbers. So what was a person to do?

Then I came across a recipe for pickled carrots and daikon radish. Hey! we're on to something here! Asiany flavor and colorful, it's just what we need. So, from Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving,

Vietnamese Carrot and Daikon Pickle

3 C water
3 C white vinegar
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp grated gingerroot
2 lbs carrots, julienned 2 in x 1/8 in *
2 lbs daikon radish, julienned 2 in x 1/8 in

Recipe says it makes 6 pints, mine made 7 pints

In a large non-reactive pot (at least 4.5 qts, I think), combine water, vinegar, sugar, and gingerroot. Bring to a boil. Add the veggies and stir for a minute. Remove from heat.

At this point, if you want to, you can add a star anise to your jars. Very pretty, but since I'd rather lick my shoes rather than taste anything even remotely licorice-y, I left it out.

Fill hot PINT jars with veggies up to a generous 1/2 inch headspace, fill with pickle liquid up to 1/2 inch headspace, remove air bubbles, wipe rims, put lid on, screwbands on, the ususal deal.

Process in boiling water for 10 minutes, remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes before removing from canner.

* Warning: julienning this many carrots took me almost an hour. The daikon went fast, but the carrots took forever. The book recommends using a mandoline, but after almost taking off a chunk of my thumb last year with one, I wasn't about to use it for such fine work. Also, they say that you can go up to 1/4 inch on the size of the carrots, but I think that's way too big.

It'll take 4-6 weeks for the veggies to pickle. Then I'll serve them with stir-fries and Thai food. If the pre-pickled tasting is anything to go by, these are going to be incredible!

I will post a photo when I get my new computer (which has now been pushed back to March 1. Thanks, Dell.) because you really need to see the bright, cheery color and stark contrast of the carrots and daikon.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Why So Quiet?

Why has it been so quiet on the blog? My computer crashed again, this time fatally. As it was about eight years old, I guess it was time for a new one. So the only computer I currently have access to is Thing 1's, and he doesn't like giving it up for long. I've been able to check my email, and that's about it. My new one arrives the 24th, so until then, it'll be pretty quiet around here.

I just picked up some carrots and daikon for the Can Jam, and will be posting that soon, albeit without photos. Lettuce, cabbage, onions all started and under lights. Well, the onions aren't under lights - they have yet to emerge so are still sitting on top of the refrigerator. Almost finished with clearing out the last veggie bed. This is a good thing as the shotweed is starting to flower. It's been so warm, I keep considering planting the peas. Then I remember a saying (no idea where I heard it) that goes something like "There is nothing more I fear than a farmer in shirtsleeves in Februeer," which reminds me that we can get frigid blasts in late February and early March.

Last night we had yummy Penn Cove mussels for dinner, and all the shells will be crushed and used for slow-release calcium in the veggie beds. I used a first cutting of chives on the mussels - such a harbinger of spring! Thing 2, who loves chives on his potatoes, was very excited to see me bring some in from the herb garden.

On the things-to-do-this-week list: Bloodmeal on the garlic and chives, finish weeding the veggie beds and clean out the strawberry bed, start more lettuce indoors, carrot and daikon pickle, try and get to the perennial bed out front.