Weeks 19-20: September 24

Putting the Garden to Bed

The evenings have been a race against nightfall, as the sun is setting earlier, the reality of an ending growing season is setting in as well. The past two weeks at the garden have been consumed by harvesting the fall crops and preparing the garden beds for the winter. The picnic table in the center of the garden fills with tomatoes, fall bearing raspberries, cabbage, eggplants, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, leeks, root vegetables, onions, dry beans, and some winter squash.

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As some of the beds are slowing down on production, or all of the crops have been harvested, we pull the plants, add them to the compost, turn the soil with a garden fork, and lay down a cover crop. These cover crops will store nutrients in the soil, prevent erosion from the rains, and also remediate the pesticide contaminated beds, so that our soils will be healthy for the next season of community gardeners!

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Week 18: September 10

 

The Potato Harvest

After the season of tender care- from hilling the soil to hand picking the potato beetle larvae off of the leaves, the time has finally come to reap the benefits of our labors. You know that potatoes are ready to harvest when the plant dies back. Using a garden fork, very carefully (as not to stab any potatoes) loosen the soil along the row of planted potatoes. And then come the fun part; harvesting potatoes is a bit like digging for gold. Your hands are the best tool for finding all of the potatoes, which grow out of the roots of the plant. Each plant will have five or six potatoes, clinging onto the small root. Ideally, you will leave the potatoes on the ground until the soil dries on them, and then once you brush the soil off, allow them to cure dry in a cool dry place for 2 weeks. Potatoes will store for months if properly stored.

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However, if you are impatient as I am and want to try your potatoes sooner, this is my plan for this week:

Potato Leek Soup Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large leeks, cut lengthwise, separate, clean. Use only the white and pale green parts, chop.
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian option)*
  • 2 lbs potatoes, peeled, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • Marjoram – dash
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Tabasco sauce or other red chili sauce
  • Salt & Pepper

*If cooking gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free broth.

METHOD

1 Cook leeks in butter with salt and pepper in a medium sized sauce pan. Cover pan, cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Check often. Do not brown leeks! Browning will give leeks a burnt taste.

2 Add water, broth, and potatoes. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Scoop about half of the soup mixture into a blender, puree and return to pan. Add marjoram, parsley, and thyme. Add a few dashes of chili sauce to taste. Add some freshly ground pepper, 1-2 teaspoons salt or more to taste.

Yield: Serves 4-6.

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/potato_leek_soup/

 

Stay tuned!

How to make Lacto-Fermented Sodas

Soda is a word that is often associated with the sugary processed drinks produced by Pepsi and Coca-Cola, but there is another way of creating fizzy and refreshing drinks that is actually beneficial to your health. At the garden we had a workshop to learn how to make lacto-fermented sodas. We made a ginger ale, blackberry fizz and mango lemonade spritzer.

The main ingredients that promote the fermentation process occurs through whey, a ginger bug, or water kefir grains and sugar. These ingredients are added to juices and teas to make a fizzy, healthy and refreshing drink.

First, here are the steps to make whey and a ginger bug:

How to Make Whey

Place 1 quart whole-milk yogurt with live cultures in a colander or strainer lined with cheesecloth and set above a bowl or pot. Let drip for about 8 hours (can be done on the counter or refrigerator). You will collect about 2 cups whey in the bowl. Pour into a glass jar with a lid and refrigerate.You will also have about 2 cups yogurt cheese, which you can use as you would cream cheese. Whey lasts up to 3 months in the refrigerator; yogurt cheese lasts about 3 weeks.

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How to Make a Ginger Bug
In a 1-pint, wide-mouth glass jar, put 1 cup of water. Add 2 tsp. of white sugar and 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger, put on the lid, and shake it up. Set the jar in a warm spot. The next day, add the same amount of ginger and sugar and shake and return to the warm spot. Repeat each day until it starts to bubble and come alive, 3-4 days or up to 1 week depending on temperature.

This ginger ale recipe is one of my favorites. I learned it from a City Market workshop.

1 “hand sized” piece of ginger, sliced thinly

3/4 cup sugar

2 lemons

filtered water

1 cup ginger bug

Bring 6 cups water, sugar, and sliced ginger to a boil in a medium pot. Simmer for about 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool to body temperature in either a pot or a 1/2 gallon mason jar. Add the zest and juice of two lemons. Add the ginger bug. Stir well and allow to sit on the counter for 3-7 days, or until bubbly and becoming tart. Stir on occasion. Strain the ginger ale into a clean 1/2 gallon jar or 2 liter bottles. Refrigerate and enjoy!

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Additional Resources

Here is a tutorial on how to make blueberry soda: http://www.learningherbs.com/soda_recipe.html

This is the City Market recipe, where I first learned about lacto-fermented sodas: http://www.citymarket.coop/blog/content/lacto-fermented-sodas

Keep an eye out for this class, offered by City Market, it was incredibly informative and there were lots of tasty samples.

These two books are bibles for fermentation enthusiasts:

Wild Fermentation, or his newest The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

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Week 17: August 28

 

Pickling and Canning Workshop

This week gardeners gathered at the end of a brisk, almost-autumn day to learn a new technique to preserve the harvest: pickling and canning! This is a great way to make use of the surplus that gardeners often experience at this time of the year, as well as putting away some fresh produce so that it can be enjoyed in the cold winter months, when daydreams of gardens seem so distant. Canning can be done with most produce, in the savory forms of relishes, pickles, chutneys, salsas and sauces, as well as sweet forms, such as fruit jams, compotes, and preserves. The concept of canning refers to the process of putting the prepares foods into jars, and boiling them so that the jars become airtight, denying the possibility of rot, so that the foods can stay good on a shelf for a year or longer.

Pickling is the process of preserving food by means of an acidic brine, usually a combination of vinegar, water and salt, with other spices and herbs for flavor. In class we learned two techniques of pickling: refrigerator pickles, which does not go through the canning process, and must be refrigerated, and will last for a month or several months in the fridges, and dilly beans, which are a pickled green bean that we canned.

Dilly Beans

Beginning with a huge box of green beans that we purchased from New Farms for New Americans (who are currently selling green bands for $1/lb, cheaper than Costco- find them at the Tuesday Old North End farmers market) the class prepared to make pickled green beans. We trimmed off the tips of the beans and washed them. Meanwhile, we sterilized the mason jars by bringing water to a boil and submerging the jars in the water.

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Next, we filled the jars with green beans, a stem of dill, about a teaspoon of pickling salt (kosher salt works too, but avoid using iodized salt), some peppercorn, chili flakes, chopped onion, and crushed garlic. Another tip is to add a grape leaf, whose tanins will keep the vegetables that you are canning more crunchy.

Then, we filled the jars with a brine, which was 50:50 water to vinegar ratio that we brought to a boil. The last step is the canning process where we bring a huge pot of water to a boil and submerge the jars in boiling water for ten minutes. There are some important tools that will aid in the process such as canning tongs, and a wire bracket that allows you to set the jars in the water, which you can buy at a hardware or garden supply store. While it is possible to do it without these tools, you may suffer from some burns and spilled brine (writing from experience).

Allow these canned beans to sit in a cool dark space for two weeks before eating them. They should be able to store for a year or more.

For recipes, more information, and better more specific guidelines, here are some great resources:

http://www.foodinjars.com/

The Ball Blue Book for Preserving

The Art of Fermentation (Sandor Ellix Katz)