Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How Did My Garden Grow?

In The Garden:  Well, it's that time of year, the days are getting cooler (High of 92, anyone?), the nights are getting longer, the garden is shutting down.  So how'd we do?

Overall, it was a good year.  A great year for some veggies (okra!), a bad year for others (tomatoes & peppers).

As always, zucchini and squash were great producers.  The peppers were a disappointment. I finally harvested our first bell peppers a week or two ago. That hail storm we got the end of May really hit them hard - it was difficult for them to bounce back. The heirloom tomatoes and tomatillos were a big disappointment - no harvestable tomatillos. The only great tomato producer was the yellow pear (those tiny, yummy tomatoes).  Baby Girl LOVES any tomatoes - but especially ones she can pick right off the vine and eat!

We only got about 4 Cherokee purple tomatoes.  So sad.  We even tried a hormone spray that is supposed to help set fruit.  No luck. I guess next year it's back to the ol' faithful "Celebrity."  Yes, it's a hybrid, but it produces.  My aunt gets tomatos by the dozens. She brought me a 5-gallon bucket full (1 day's pick from her 24 plants).  It inspired me to learn how to can.

My aunt has been canning for years and brought over her tools and we got to work. I'm not going to give specifics here because canning is something that needs to be done according to specific direction - I don't want to be responsible for giving you or your family botulism!

The fruit of our efforts:

Canned tomatoes for soups and homemade Rotel!
After she left, I attempted to can by myself (talk about scary!).  Total count:  7 pint jars of Rotel and 18 pint jars of tomatoes.  Success!  Without her 5-gallon bucket, we'd be tomato-less and I'd be stuck buying them from Sam's.

The okra was prolific!  This was our first year to plant okra.  My grandma loves it, so I thought I'd plant some for her.  Well, little did I know, okra will put on like CRAZY!  I don't see Granny much - about once every 3 weeks, so the majority of okra I had to put up.  My Love doesn't really care for okra unless it's fried.  So what did I do?  I made up 3 gallon bags FULL of pre-breaded okra.  Now, that's a LOT of okra!  When I got tired of putting up breaded okra, I decided to try my hand at canning. 

I love pickled okra, so thought I'd give that a try. I used the recipe in the Ball Canning book and so far, so good!  You have to wait 6 weeks before trying them to make sure the pickling has had time to work...I'll let you know how it goes!
As for sweet corn - we didn't try it this year.  It takes up a lot of room for a one-time crop.  We were able to harvest several tote bags full from a friend - the best way to "grow" it!  We spent days on end shucking, cutting and freezing sweet corn. But it's so worth it to have sweet corn in December!
We also have the opportunity to harvest peaches free from another friend - my mother-in-law harvested about 5 bushels of peaches this year.  The next week or so was spent putting up peaches before they ruined.  My Love and I also hit the road-side stands outside Fredricksburg each year on our way home from a Farm Bureau conference in San Marcos. We usually bring home about 1/2 bushel to put up.  We save these peaches for special occasion cobbler!
It was a busy year, but oh-so-worth it!  If you've never gardened - give it a try!  You don't need much room - try container gardening or even window boxes!
Total grocery count from our summer harvest: (not counting food already consumed!) 
15 quart bags of steamed squash & zucchini
3 loaves frozen zucchini bread
2 dozen frozen zucchini bread muffins (and rapidly dwindling!)
100 onions
6 pint jars pickled okra
3 gallon bags of frozen breaded okra
18 pint jars of tomatoes
7 pint jars of Rotel
36 pint bags of frozen sweet corn
15 quart bags of frozen peaches
1 (measley) quart bag of frozen sliced bell peppers
There's still a little life left in the garden - the tomatoes are putting on again (now that it's cooled down) and the zucchini and squash and okra are still producing. Last year our garden froze the first week in October, but I'm hoping for continued harvest until at least November. We're also considering some fall veggies like butternut squash and lettuce - some things we've never planted.  Maybe we'll give them a try!


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