Fire Mountain Garden Exchange

September Musings by Editor
September 23, 2009, 3:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Well, we are in the dog days of summer. My garden looks pretty tired, what with the extreme heat and the cut backs we have made in the watering, things are not looking their best.

That aside, I had a killer tomato crop this year. I managed to make a lot of frozen sauce and my new favorite, dried tomatoes, using a Ronco food dryer. Try putting newspaper under your melons, squash and pumpkins to keep the bugs off.

This is a great time to prepare parts of your garden for fall planting, weeding, and removing spent vegetables and adding organic components to your soil.  If you haven’t looked into the concept of mulching, this is a good time to study up while it is too hot to work outside. If you are using less water now, it is critical to get the most out of what you do use.  One method I have had good success with is placing newspaper (flat, several pages thick around plants and between rows, I then cover it with straw. October is great planting months, so get ready.

The paper keeps the weeds down and the straw keeps the moisture in and the paper down.  I use the LA Times as the ink is soy based, NCT is petroleum based. You can get a bale of straw for under $10 at farm feed supplies like Grangetos or Country Feed.


Planting Suggestions for September by Editor
September 3, 2009, 3:37 am
Filed under: Flowers, Fruits, Vegetables

As ever, I am using Charles Ledgerwood’s 1994 “Reliable Seeds” pamphlet for my reference.

Best bets are in all caps.

For September: Bush beans, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, CARROTS, Corn, CELERY, Cauliflower, Endive, Kale, Kohl rabi, LEEK, Peas, Mustard, Lettuce, Bunching onions, Parsley, Parsnip, Radish, Turnips, Swiss Chard and WINTER ZUCCHINI.

I really suggest beets for the local garden; they grow so well here, the greens are absolutely delicious in salads or steamed like spinach. They are great in quiches. The best part is canning the beets for winter consumption, It’s very easy and very rewarding.

For the flower garden we have: Calendula, Centaurea, Cineraria, Cosmos, Delphinium, Dimorphotheca, Foxglove, Gypsophila, Hollyhock, Larkspur, Linum, Lunaria, Nasturtium, Nemesia, Pansy, Phlox, Petunia, Poppies, Primula, Salpiglossis, Snapdragon, Stock, Sweet Peas, , Viola, Verbena and Wildflower.

Please refer to Sunset Western Gardens for plant descriptions and water requirements.

Can It! by Editor
September 2, 2009, 3:59 am
Filed under: Fruits, Vegetables

Wondering what to do with all of those amazing fruits and vegetables you’re harvesting?

This month offers the opportunity to plant a few items that can be canned or put up very easily and they are such a treat in the fall. I enjoy pickling, beets, green beans and cucumbers. They are pretty simple to do and the rewards and compliments will keep you going ‘til you have eaten everything. There are myriad methods of canning, all of which can be found on the web. I have chosen pretty basic vinegar, sugar and water no-cook mixes for beets with outstanding results, green beans I have water bath processed but check the web, ask your Mother or better yet your Grandmother.

Another wonderful recipe that will repay you 10 fold for the time spent is making pesto out of the greens in your garden. Most store bought pestos are very heavy on cheese and nuts. I think the ‘Silver Palate’ cookbook had a 1 part basil, one part cheese, one part oil, one part nuts and garlic recipe that pretty much hits your stomach like a bowling ball.

I modified mine to be:

2 parts greens
½ part parmegano/regiano
½ part nuts (cashews or pine nuts are best)
Lots o’ garlic (to taste)
Juice of two limes
a couple of tablespoons of virgin olive oil.
All go in a Cuisnart in no particular order; you can adjust the oil/lime juice to achieve the viscosity you want. I recommend a thick pancake batter consistency.

The result is a clean light pesto. I usually freeze it in Ziploc small freezer bags, putting in only enough to make a 3/8” layer when the air is pushed out. That way you can break pieces off as needed without having to defrost the entire bag. If you want to be very cool and have the freezer space, clear a shelf and place the bags of pesto so that the ribs of the wire rack in the freezer are perpendicular to the bag opening. That way when the pesto freezes you will have ‘fingers’ of pesto that you can snap off. I make pesto out of basil, Italian parsley, parsley and cilantro. Don’t be afraid to try any leafy green, you never know what you will get.

Since we are talking preserving foods, let’s talk tomatoes. I have never been able to work up the nerve to can tomatoes, but I have found several other alternatives which enables us to save every single tomato we want to. I have blanched and strained tomatoes using a small Italian made seeder/skinner, I like the results, but it is a lot of work and you have to have a ton of tomatoes to simmer down into sauce. I have cut up tomatoes and boiled them down, seeds and skin intact into a concentrate and then frozen the product in Ziploc bags like the pesto and I have frozen tomatoes whole. All in all the boiled down tomatoes are great and make a wonderful base for any Italian recipe, but unless you really cook it down it can be thin, the frozen whole tomatoes totally collapse as the cell walls give up the fight in the freezer, so all you really get is essence of tomato.

My favorite method is drying the tomatoes. A few years ago a friend of ours who was an aficionada of late night TV was cleaning her house and asked me if I wanted a Ronco fruit dryer, never been used, I said what the heck. Last year when I had a bumper crop of tomatoes I thought I would give this puppy a whirl. This one was the ‘el cheapo’ 5 rack model with no fan, but it really turned out a fine dried tomato. They are so sweet and they freeze really well or you can put them in olive oil to preserve for a couple of months. They can be rehydrated or simply chopped and used in salads or as topping for pasta. Look for the dryer at garage sales or on line, I think you can get a ten rack, model w/fan if you are hard core. They are also available new.