September 21, 2009

Putting the Veggies Up and Other Lessons My Garden Has Taught Me

My garden, though planted late, has been flourishing. And I have been learning many things as a result.

I have learned how to freeze squash and zucchini and beans. Tomorrow I am going to attempt to freeze tomatoes. Perhaps one day this week I will make tomato sauce. I have many new talents.

Weeding is not among them, but thankfully, we are nearing the end of weeding season.

Freezing squash and beans and zucchini (oh my) is actually pretty simple. It's just warm and time consuming. Basically, you get everything ready the way you want to cook it and then you drop it into boiling water for three minutes and then stick it in ice water for six. Remove it from the water and drain the water off it. Measure it into freezer bags (in the amout you want to use later), and freeze. Super easy. Easier if you have a blanching kettle. I am working on getting one. I am currently using a pasta scoop.

Another thing I've learned is that sometimes it helps to follow the directions. Now, I grew up on a farm, so I have a basic idea of how to plant a garden. You read the directions on the little packet and sort of follow them. Except that if you follow them, it actually works!

So, next year, I'm going to do these things that I learned from this year:

1) Plant your tomatoes in cages; otherwise, they go to vine. Your mom, like my mom, might have said, "Pshaw, cages." This is probably why she's not very successful at growing tomatoes. Cages keep the tomatoes from crawling all over the garden, dying prematurely (at least I hope so--perhaps that was blight), and getting awful spots and bruises. Seriously, cage the tomatoes. Or suffer as they cause you great pain.

2) Don't plant part of your garden behind a tree. No matter how much you hate to kill a living thing, chop down the tree. Things can't ripen behind a tree. Especially yellow peppers.

3) If your plants aren't labeled, but they are in a certain section of the nursery, but you think that they look like something other than what it says, don't buy them. They've probably been abandoned there by someone who doesn't know the difference between cherry and banana peppers. Pick one that looks less pretty but has a label.

4) You can never have too much basil. Especially if you intend to make pesto from scratch. And you do. Trust me, you do. Especially with cashews instead of pine nuts.

5) You probably don't need to weed as much as people say you do, but you do need to weed a little.

6) Give things enough room. Maybe your cucumbers won't die like mine did, but they could, so give things enough room.

7) You really only need one zucchini plant. Really. And you probably don't need five or six squash, either. I'm glad two never came up.

In general, it's been a lot of fun. I love love love going out every day to look at my garden and see what's growing, and I love putting up the vegetables for the winter. I love seeing them stacked prettily in the freezer. I can't wait until next year when I actually plant it on time. I have frozen salsa for the winter, and I love it!

I very much enjoy the garden. I did not enjoy it when I was a kid on the farm, but I did follow a few simple rules. I didn't plant anything I don't like to eat. I didn't worry too much about weeding it. If I think it might work, I try it. And that's it.

I've purchased three cookbooks, one of which is here. I currently have The North End Italian Cookbook. The Buca cookbook and 660 Curries are on their way to me. I got inspired by Julie and Julia. :) We'll see if I accomplish anything.

In case you were wondering how I have time to be so domestic, for the first time in like seven years, I'm only working 40 hours a week. I'm not going to school. I'm not working overtime. I'm not working two jobs. I'm not doing any special projects. And I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I really like the free time. On the other hand, I feel pretty useless, especially because Ben is working again and going to school. And because I'm not busy every waking hour like I have been for the last seven (and four before that) years.

So, on the whole, it's been a change of events. And I dig the garden. And I dig in the garden. ;) And I do dig the free time even if it means I have to develop a new set of skills (i.e., keeping house because I have no excuse not to). If you need any tips (or have any tips), let me know in the comments, kids.

Posted by LoWriter at 08:45 PM | Comments (2)