Archive for the ‘drying’ Tag

07-21-2016 Garden Issues!   Leave a comment

The garden is once again fast becoming my top priority. As usual at this time of the season the herbs are out of control. I spent some time this week pruning the oregano and catnip for later drying.  I did a general cleanup of the dehydrator in anticipation of a heavy work load this summer.

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It holds a great deal of material as you can see.  This week I filled it with diced jalapeños, cayenne’s, and two pounds of habaneros.  After six hours the peppers were ready for grinding. Unfortunately my reliable old grinder failed to work and I was forced to make a quick trip to Walmart to purchase another.  The peppers were ground into a fine powder and stored for future uses.

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Hot, Hotter, and Hottest

Then it was back to trimming and photographing some of the newly blooming day lilies.  These pictures are of the early bloomers with more colors and variants expected within a few weeks. I love these colors.

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It was a garden and yard work day all around.  I spent some time paying attention to my compost area. I needed to wet down the piles and add a compost accelerator. I’ll be needing as much of it as I can get to add to the garden this Fall.

The better-half and I also began the process of redesigning the garden for next Spring. We’ve decided to discontinue growing vegetables in one of the large frames and to devote it entirely to growing culinary herbs.  It’ll be something of challenge placing the correct herbs near others that are compatible. We’ll also be placing herbs in the vegetable frames to keep out assorted pests and varmints that the herbs do naturally. Hopefully we’ll be able to agree on the final design of the garden before Spring arrives and the purchasing and planting our selection of herbs begins.

IT SHOULD BE GREAT FUN

 

 

 

 

09-05-2015 Journal – Kale Day!   Leave a comment

I finally was able to motivate myself yesterday to begin the process of collecting and drying herbs from the garden. It’s one of the sadder things I have to do every year as Fall approaches.  I’m forced to admit to that Winter is closing in on us and that my garden is beginning to fade away.

My better-half has been threatening to restart her daily regime of drinking healthy but unappetizing smoothies and wants some of the ingredients fresh from the garden.  Today was kale day.

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I started out with a trip to the garden and harvested two large baskets of freshly cut leaves. I then spent almost an hour cleaning and cutting the leaves   and making sure no little critters were hanging around. We occasionally have slugs attacking some of the plants but I found only a few and they were disposed of (I hate slugs).

Then it was upstairs to wash the leaves, blanch them in boiling water, and then drop them into an ice bath.  This kills any bacteria and gives the leaves a vibrant green color.  Using a Salad Spinner I removed the excess water to prepare the leaves for dehydration.

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I spread the leaves on a series of shelves and placed them into the dehydrator for four hours at 140 degrees.

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‘In’

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‘Out’

After the dehydration was complete I removed the leaves from the shelves and ground them into a fine powder with an herb grinder.  Here’s the end result of all my efforts.  Approximately 3/4 of a cup of clean and healthy smoothie ingredients. Drop a half teaspoon of the kale into any smoothie and you’re good to go.

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‘Done’

I do have to admit I’m not a big fan of healthy smoothies. Give me a good old-fashioned, high calorie, sugar loaded, milkshake made with ice cream. You can bet I won’t be sprinkling kale on that.

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‘Oh Yeah!’

10-05-2014 Journal Entry-Garden & Yard Work!   Leave a comment

With the weather slowly but surely changing from Fall to Winter the final work to harvest the last of the herbs and to compost the garden needed to be done. My better-half had the day off and we both knew we had a few hours of hard work ahead of us. It was the last of our major tasks for the Fall.

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It was hard labor for a while as we shoveled compost into our small trailer and delivered it to the garden.  Not only does the compost reenergize the soil but it also helps to refill the frames with much needed soil.

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We filled the trailer three times which allowed us to cover the entire garden with approximately three inches of compost.  We took special precautions with the rhubarb and asparagus because they require additional protection from the coming snow and cold weather.

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In a day or so I’ll add some lime to the compost as well as a general fertilizer.  Then I’ll rototill  the entire mixture thoroughly and let it sit until Spring.

I wanted to dry and store more herbs but a surprise hard frost last week killed off ninety percent of my basil plants. Fortunately I harvested some of the plants before the frost but it still irritates me to see any of them go to waste.  Mother Nature always seems to get her fair share of things whether we like it or now.

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It’s difficult here in Maine for cold-sensitive plants to survive the winter but I’ll never stop trying to find a way.  Instead of harvesting all of the Rosemary and Parsley I decided to compost the plants heavily and then later in the season cover them with a thick layer of leaves.  I’m hoping that for once I can have a Rosemary plant that survives the Winter and is able to get larger and stronger each year. Probably just wishful thinking but we shall see. 

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‘Harvested, Cleaned’

Only about fifty percent of this parsley was harvested  in the hopes that it would retain enough energy to regrow in the Spring.  I cleaned and washed the parsley, removed the stems, and placed everything into the dehydrator.  In four hours it will be dry enough to crush and place into air tight jar for later use.

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‘And Dried’

Our harvested black beans have also been dried and stored. There seems to be more than enough for a few good meals.  It was our first year growing them and we haven’t decided whether to plant them again next year.

Once all of the days labor was completed we sat down to relax, have a drink, and discuss possible improvements and repairs of the garden for next year. One of the most interesting possibilities is the construction of a much larger cold frame that will be eight feet long and two feet wide.  This would allow us to grow a variety of lettuces and radishes well into late October and even early November. Anything we can do to extend the growing season is well worth the effort.

We’re almost ready for that damn snow.  Bring it on…..

08-29-2014 Journal Entry– More Garden News!   Leave a comment

As the summer continues to wind down we’re slowly preparing for the end of the garden and this years growing season.  We still have a few tasks that need to be completed before I take it down for the last time. We have what seems to be an endless supply of cherry tomatoes this year which we’ll be eating steadily until the first frost.  My better-half has taken steps to can a few quarts of those tomatoes and they’ll be delicious during the upcoming Maine winter. Even though they’re canned they taste better than those hot house selections available in the food stores.

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This is the first year we’ve grown black beans and I have to say they grow fast and in great numbers.  We spent a hour yesterday shucking the beans and delivering them to the dehydrator.  We can store them for a longer period of time once they’ve been sufficiently dried.

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We also planted three varieties of kale which are in need of processing in some fashion. Earlier in the summer we blanched a quantity which went directly into the freezer.  I harvested what I thought was a large quantity of kale leaves yesterday thinking I would dehydrate them and store them in jars much like dried parsley.  Then they could be used in soups or sprinkled on almost any food as a flavor enhancer.  I really do love the smell and taste of kale and look forward to using it as often as possible. Unfortunately once dried and crushed my large pile of leaves turned into a single quart jar full.

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‘Picked’

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‘Blanched’

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‘Iced’

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‘Finished Product’

I’ve been maintaining  a fairly accurate record of what our garden has produced thus far and I’ll be posting that list within a week or so.  I feel the need to brag a little because this garden has produced more than we could ever have hoped for.

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As you can see the concord grape wine has taken one more step towards final bottling.  It looks and smells wonderful and I managed to sneak a taste and it was excellent. A few more weeks and this batch will be finished and bottled.

07-31-2014 Journal Entry–Herbs ‘R’ Us!   2 comments

This Summer continues and of course the garden related tasks keep right on coming.  With a break in the rainy weather I thought I should begin harvesting and drying some of the herbs from the garden.  This summer’s abundance of rain has caused the herbs to grow like never before. 

I learned a lot of what I know about herbs from my later mother who had a world class green thumb and could grow damn near anything. Herbs were no different.  Over the years I’ve collected a small library on growing herbs and their many uses both culinary and medical.  I’ve always maintained an herb garden and use them in almost every dish I prepare and eat.  I realize that many of you recognize the names of herbs but have never actually seen the growing plants.  Here’s a shot of what Oregano looks like in bloom. The blossoms are beautiful and can be used to enhance the presentation of any kind of pasta dish.

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I’ll guide you through the drying process as best I can so please don’t get too bored.  First I cut a collection of chives from a number of areas in the garden as well as an armload of Oregano for drying.

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The part of this task I dislike the most is cleaning weeds and other debris from the herbs. It’s a pain but must be done meticulously.  I do meticulously really well especially when it’s concerns something I’ll be eating.

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A quick blanching and a dip into ice water helps kill bacteria and maintain the bright green color.  A quick chopping and then it’s off to the dehydrator for drying.  Tomorrow I’ll remove it from the dryer and package the herbs in airtight containers for storage.  This should supply us with excellent flavors for our meals in those cold and nasty months of January and February.

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I’m sure that by the end of the summer I’ll complete this process at least three more times with the Tarragon, Sage, and Parsley.  The entire house smells of fresh herbs when their drying and I love that.  Someone should come up with a room freshener like that instead of the everyday run of the mill vanilla and spice.

I’ll continue this posting in a day or so with a few photos of the finished dried herbs and the veggie mix the better-half is preparing for canning later today. This pace will continue for another four weeks or until every thing is dried and canned. Then we can kick back and enjoy the late summer and Fall activities. It’s the best time of the year here in Maine with dozens of festivals being held on the weekends. We  Mainer’s do our best to make the most of the Summer and Fall  seasons because they just don’t  last very long.