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Thursday, September 16, 2021

My Week, Kitchen and Garden


This past week centered around and kitchen and garden. 

We did indeed finish picking blackberries. (Remember that pillow-sized bag of frozen blackberries?) I have since moved on to the plum tree. The plums ripen over a couple of weeks, so I harvest and process over this whole period. This past week I made prunes, plum jam, plum pie, as well as served a lot of fresh plums in compotes, yogurt, and out of hand. I also make chutney every fall, using plums, apples, raisins, and onions. I'm out of onions for the time being. So the chutney-making will have to wait until I can get another grocery order placed. (Gee, I miss those days when I could just run out and pick up 1 thing when I needed it.) Our fruit bowl currently has fresh tomatoes, plums, and a couple of bananas. Once I finish harvesting the plums, I'll move on to digging potatoes. I hope those did well!

This is the perfect time of year to be using our electric dehydrator. Our cool September house benefits from the heated air spewed into the kitchen by the food dehydrator. In addition to drying plums I've also been drying herbs this week. It looks like this will be the last oregano and sage harvest for the year. I cut both plants back as far as I dare go. I now have about 3 cups each of loose-packed dried oregano leaves and sage leaves. Our oregano harvest was not as good as previous years. I'll be working on that part of the herb garden next spring, weeding and mixing in some compost in hopes of getting the output higher again.

This has been about the most frustrating gardening year in terms of dealing with critters. The other day I noticed something had been on the deck and in the raised trough planters. Whatever "it" was, it didn't do a great deal of damage. Then Thursday morning I caught a squirrel in one planter digging up the turnip plants. I replanted those turnips, and I hope they'll take hold again. Then I put a stick fence all the way around the trough. Afterward, I checked the kale trough and found several severed leaves and some half eaten stems. I assume it was the little squirrel doing the damage. I salvaged what I could to use in a couple of meals then built another little fence around that trough. The weather turned chilly earlier than usual and I think this squirrel is looking for food as well as burying spots for his winter stash. I do wonder if the squirrel knows something I don't know about this coming fall and winter.

With the cooler weather I've also been harvesting tomatoes. I've picked all of the orange to red ones and am moving on to the green tomatoes. In my area, tomatoes typically die from blight and not frost. Blight usually develops after a cool rain long before we get a frost. So I pick them as soon as the weather cools like it has this last week. I let some stay on the vine a little longer, so they can grow just a bit more. But I also hedge my bets and pick some now to ripen indoors, even if they're on the small side. In another week or so, I'll use the tiniest green tomatoes in pickle relish for this next year (another reason I need some onions).

I also made the last of the tomato salsa for the year, using up most of the garden cilantro. So, for the year, I made 28 pints of salsa. My family can really plough through it quickly. I'll keep my fingers crossed that this supply lasts a while.

My potted lettuce has been growing so slowly. I don't know if this is the low-light conditions from this time of year or from the cooler nights. Anyway, I moved 2 pots of Romaine into the house and under lights. I hope I can revive them and get more salads for the family.

I came across another World War 2 British series on youtube this week and managed to binge the whole series in a couple of evenings. It's titled Wartime Kitchen and Garden. There are 8 episodes, each about 23 minutes. The series was produced in 1993, predating the series Wartime Farm by nearly 20 years. Wartime Kitchen and Farm is perhaps not as polished as Wartime Farm, but it contains a lot of interesting and sometimes helpful information. Two of the "stars" are people who lived through WW2 and personally understood how challenging the war made cooking and gardening. The real benefit I find from watching these series is a sense of camaraderie with other folks who have needed to be resourceful, make-do, and resist wasting food. Here's the link to episode 1, Wartime Kitchen and Garden. Enjoy!

I placed a Walmart order to be shipped to my house this past week, stocking up on canned tomatoes, tomato paste, instant mashed potatoes, imitation bacon bits (we like them on baked potatoes and in green vegetables), and a giant tub of black licorice for October. Everybody likes a treat now and then. I also picked up an order with more meat, milk, and a couple of pantry items that I can't get shipped.

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers

Meals this last week continued to be humble but tasty. We prepared everything at home, using a lot of garden produce and making as much from scratch as possible, including scratch flour tortillas, scratch biscuits, scratch bread, scratch yogurt, and scratch desserts. My job is all about providing food for my hungry family while staying on a budget.

Friday
pepperoni pizza, sautéed kale, tomato-cucumber salad, rhubarb-blackberry crisp

Saturday
lentil tacos, rice, tomato wedges, carrot sticks, leftover crisp

Sunday
peanut noodles, sautéed cabbage, tomatoes, plums

Monday
beef and bean burritos (in homemade flour tortillas), fresh tomatoes, sautéed kale, canned corn, plum pie

Tuesday (repeat of Monday)
more beef and bean burritos, fresh tomatoes, carrot sticks and dip, leftover plum pie

Wednesday
pancake and sausage roll-ups, Swiss chard and scrambled eggs, tomato-cucumber salad, sautéed cinnamon apples, scratch brownies

Thursday
chicken and dumplings (using 1 chicken breast, sage stock, garden kale, carrots, and scratch biscuit dough), fresh plums

Breakfasts included homemade yogurt, last of the fresh blackberries, chopped fresh plums, toast, oatmeal, eggs, juice, coffee, milk.

Lunches and snacks used the leftover refried beans and rice, a pot of Italian garden vegetable and lentil soup, scratch biscuits, bread, cheese, peanut butter, fresh plums, fresh tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, brownies, and popcorn.

Extra Post


Just one extra post this week -- using the stems from homegrown, dried herbs after removing the leaves. Chore Chart for Daily and Weekly Chores, Personalize Name and Co


I hope you all had a wonderful week. What were your highlights? Have you watched either Wartime Kitchen and Garden or Wartime Farm? How have shows like those benefitted you?


Using the Stems From My Dried Garden Herbs

a quart of oregano stock
If you grow and dry your own herbs, you may be like me and think that the twiggy/woody stems might be useful for more than just compost additive. 

This past week I harvested more sage and oregano, cutting stems with leaves on. After washing the herbs, I dried them in the dehydrator. Once fully dried, I removed the leaves from the stems and store them in airtight containers. Remaining is a pile of twiggy or woody herb stems. 

Not wanting to waste even one little bit, I made a broth with each batch of herb stems. In one saucepan I placed the stems from the dried oregano and into another saucepan I placed the stems of the dried sage. I added about a quart of water to each pot and brought them to a boil. I simmered the herbs, covered, for about 2 hours, then strained and refrigerated the resulting stocks to use in cooking later during week.

sage stock to use in chicken and dumplings
The oregano stock is very mild and added a nice flavor to an Italian vegetable and lentil soup. The sage stock was more highly flavored. It was used as the liquid in a pot of chicken and dumplings.

Using the stems from my dried herbs helps stretch my winter herb supply. I use a lot of both oregano and sage in winter cooking, often depleting my supply before spring growth begins again. Anything I can do to maximize what I grow is a savings, as it reduces the chance I'll need to buy commercial herbs come April or May. I still compost my herb stems. I just now do that after I make stock with them.


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