Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pssst...Killer cuke returns...

I'm hot!  It's 105 and it will be for the next week or so and I am sick to death of it already!  Last summer was awful, so hot and it burnt everything up in the garden.  Please don't let that happen again.  In the meantime, the killer cucumber seems to be thoroughly enjoying this horrible heat.  Vines are going everywhere.
I have found two very large, one you would almost call huge, specimums hanging up underneath the foliage.  It truly is like Audrey...kind of scares me to go looking for things.  It took two hands to pull one of them off the vine.  If you notice in the pictures, the vines are crawling right up the fence, taking little notice of the very nice and new trellises I purchased for them at Home Depot.
I will admit both of the monsters were quite tasty.  I was a little nervous peeling the first one but the flesh beneath the skin was snowy white...couldn't believe it!  No green cast, whatsoever!  My next fear was that I would find a big, pithy hole running the length of the fruit but once again, I was proved wrong.  Juicy and completely beautiful through and through.  I know, I've been a bit hard on my cucumber plant and I'm kind of starting to feel bad that I've made fun of her.  I guess as long as she keeps producing, I'll let her run all over the place.  Now...where did I put that pickle recipe?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pssst...Money can't buy you love or...homegrown tomatoes

In today's Sunday paper (I know, I'm showing my age by confessing that I read the newspaper), there was an article in the editorial section that waxed poetic over homegrown tomatoes.  Understandably so, there is nothing so sad as those pale, pathetic tomato wannabes that overrun the produce sections during the off season...which is most of the year.  Consequently, during tomato season, people go nuts for the vine ripened, blood red beauties that we have the good fortune to have in Oklahoma.  The newspaper article was about Arkansas tomatoes and I'm sure their growing season will be just as robust as ours but I'm sticking to Oklahoma 'maters, thanks very much.
A bumper crop is predicted for this season and I have no reason to think otherwise.  You will see from my pictures that the tomato garden is going crazy but I am also going to offer up some tomato close ups.  I have already harvested (and it continues) yellow and red cherries and the thick skinned and quite small Juliet Romas.  I made a wonderful tomato and Vidalia onion salad with white balsamic and olive oil to grace the top of a juicy grilled rib eye a few weekends ago.  There is nothing quite like the acid of that homegrown salad against the rich, fatty (fat is flavor, you know) beef of a rib eye.  You really should do it sometime AND only season your meat with salt and me on that one, try it and let me'll never use another marinade or dry seasoning mix again!
But back to our with a bumper crop, you will need to "put up", can , preserve, whatever you like to call it, this luscious bounty!  If you don't, they'll go bad and then you'll be sad!
Canning is not hard but it can be time consuming.  I promise this, you will be happy you took that time in the winter when you have jars of ripe, red tomatoes staring at you from your pantry shelves.  And, you don't have to can bushels and bushels of fruit.  Years ago, people did that because they didn't have grocery stores and the abundance of food that we have now.  So although we are very lucky to have the availability, it's the quality of the summer crops that we lose during the winter.
Canning can be as simple as pouring cooked sauces, jams or jellies into sterilized jars and sealing the lid; no water bath processing needed.  But if you are canning fresh fruits or vegetables, you will need to process them.  This can be done (and this is the time consuming part) in a very large pan with simmering water or you can use a pressure cooker which can shorten the processing time by two-thirds or better.  I'm not going to bore you with the intricacies of canning tomatoes because you can usually get a canning pamphlet along with a box of canning jars.  I still have the one my mother used from 1945!  I recommend canning your tomatoes fresh and then processing them.  That way, in the winter, you can have tomatoes for salads, sauces, just about anything.  And, in the winter, money cannot buy you homegrown tomatoes but you can sure have them waiting for you in the pantry and you will LOVE that!
Next week...the killer cucumber returns!  Be very afraid!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

New additions...what?

Yes, I've been showing you how great my garden is growing and there shouldn't be anything new added but...the radish bed was empty and was looking kind of forlorn so I had to do something!  The answer was three new tomato plants and aren't they precious?  Another beefsteak, a golden heirloom and a Cherokee purple...can't wait to see that purple one! 
Farmers have rotated their crops for years and when one bed is finished, well, in goes something else.  That way you have veggies coming up all summer and into the fall.  So we'll have some late summer additions coming on as spinach, more arugula and cabbages.  These tomatoes will be about 2 -3 months behind their brothers and sisters that are growing like wild fire and here's the proof of that...
On the left, in the back...yes, 13 tomato plants are rocking and rolling and have green fruit and blossoms all over them.  There's going to be some serious canning going on in August! 
The bushy, low plants are carrot tops on the right...beautiful!  Then, the killer cucumber is behind them crawling up the fence after latching on to two trellises that we put up on Saturday.  And, yes, I admit I didn't listen to my guy who said that I would need a lot more trellis than the cute little ladder that I bought initially.  In fact, you can't even see the ladder anymore or how cute it is. It may have been eaten, who knows?  I see cucumber pickling in my future as well.  But all is not well in the little garden in spite of Hooty watching over the proceedings.  Critters in the form of bunny rabbits are picking and choosing which close to ground treats they want.  They've tried some of the Roma tomatoes but I think the skin is so tough even the rabbits don't like them.  They've eaten the tops of some of my beets and are obviously skipping through the beds, apparently trying to decide what to eat next.  I guess I'm going to have to get some rubber snakes since Hooty can't seem to handle the job.  Just so you don't think I'm making this up, I came across this guy as I was walking out to the garden this morning. 
I know, I know he looks cute but don't let that fool you!  He and his family will ravage your garden in a heartbeat!  No, I won't do anything mean to him, other than shoo him away when I catch him but I am going to try some of that liquid, invisible fence or whatever it's called and see if between that and the rubber snakes I can keep Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail at bay!  Next week, we'll take a closer look at the carrots and the beets, have a tomato update and another peek at that killer cuke!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Everything's coming up tomatoes!

Yellow cherry

It's hard to know where to begin...the vegetable patch is so happy; it truly is hard to single out one veggie over the next but I promise each will get proper recognition.  This week it has to be tomatoes.  And, there will be more on the tomato family because there's so gosh darn many of them!  I have everything from red cherry to yellow cherry to Beefsteak and Beefmaster and then there are the heirlooms that are really going nuts.  So I'm just going to share the pictures with you now and suffice it to say...when they're ripe, better get in line!  Just sayin'.

Early Bird