Let's Get Dirty

A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.

Send stories and pictures of your horticultural adventures to letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.

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September harvest is great

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

There’s so much happening in our gardens right now that I haven’t had time to take a few photos and write about it. I did, however, snap this pic of some beautiful tomatoes in my basket on the kitchen counter.
In this photo, there’s a combination of black pineapple, banana legs and Virginia sweet tomatoes, as well as some of the mini-chocolate bell peppers that are producing like crazy. I made sure to plant various peppers in specific places so I actually know which ones are which, and while this mini-chocolate bell is prolific, it’s also thin-walled and not as tasty as some of the other ones I’m growing.
I love this time of year in the garden. Every day, I go out there and pick a basket of something. Dinner menus are all based around whatever I pick from the garden, and I haven’t purchased much produce from the grocery store since mid-summer. Yes, gardening can save a person money!
My garden is going to keep on producing until it freezes, and I have several spagetti squashes that are ripening on the vine, a couple of summer squash plants that are continuing to produce, all the kale any one family could ever want, cabbages, tomatoes, carrots, beets, Swiss chard, broccoli, peppers, tomatillos and probably a few other things out there that I've forgotten about. 


Experimenting with kale sauerkraut

By Penny Stine
Friday, September 25, 2015

My mom has an awesome garden and she grows a bunch of cabbage that usually ripens before mid-summer. When we visited over the 4th of July, she made sauerkraut with it, using just a large bowl and salt.


I have two heads of purple savoy cabbage that still aren’t quite ripe, but I have lots of Portuguese kale, aka beira tronchuda kale or cabbage.Here’s a couple of heads that I’ve been steadily picking since July and that are well-spaced. The leaves get large, but not gargantuan. The taste is mild, although I prefer it cooked to raw.




Here’s a bunch of plants that probably should have been thinned,but I left them all crammed into that one space in hopes that the smaller leaves would taste better than the ones that get enormous. And, truth be told, because I'm a lazy gardener who doesn't make the time to thin plants. 



Here’s a plant that I thought was a cabbage. It kept getting bigger and bigger, with more leaves, yet it wasn’t forming a head. I finally noticed that the leaves looked just like the ones on the plants that I knew were Portuguese kale. No wonder it wasn’t forming a head of cabbage.


So I cut the a few of the leaves to freeze last weekend. Then I decided to experiment and see if I could make sauerkraut out of all the kale I have in the garden, so I cut almost all of the upper leaves off the plant. I left the bottom leaves on it because they were thick and dirty. I figured they would taste extremely strong.
After I cut all the leaves off, I noticed that it looks like little tiny heads of cabbage are forming at the juncture where the leaf stem juts out from the stalk, which is what Brussels Sprouts does. So, while I’m 85 percent sure this plant is Beira Tronchuda kale, it could also be Brussels Sprouts, since I started the season with some Brussels Sprouts seeds and not sure what happened to the seedlings.

I also picked some leaves that I knew were Beira Tronchuda, then more or less followed my mom’s instructions and a recipe I found online.


After chopping all the kale, I put it in a large salad bowl, then sprinkled kosher salt on it to draw out moisture, 

which would start the fermentation process in a natural brine. I added more kale when I realized how much it was all wilting. I also added on large cayennetta pepper, just to give it a zing. A large cayennetta pepper is only about three inches long and maybe half an inch in diameter. They're pretty tiny peppers.

After about 40 minutes in the bowl, I packed it into a canning jar and covered it. The recipe I included a link to above said to leave it in a jar on the counter for seven days or so, so mine is covered with a cheesecloth that's secured with rubber band.





I did all that last night.This morning, I packed down the kale and discovered that the brine covered all the kale (which is what it’s supposed to do) and the kale had wilted down to less than a quart.

I’ll be curious to see what this tastes like. I’m sure my hubby will think it’s too hot, thanks to that cayenetta pepper, and I’m a little worried it might be too salty.

I will let you know in a week or two.  


Tomatillos: The gift that keeps on giving

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I don't have as many tomatillos as in previous years, probably because I was better about yanking out the volunteers that have a tendency to grow wherever I've spread my homegrown compost. I have them growing in two different areas in my garden and probably have a grand total of about eight plants. I freeze most of them in gallon bags to use all winter in soup and Mexican-inspired dishes. Last night, a friend came over to can tomatoes, and we decided to do one batch of tomatillo/tomato/green chile sauce. 


I had picked every tomatillo I could find the night before, but decided to go see if I could find a few that I may have missed. That's how many I got the second night, which is about the same amount I picked the night before. Those little suckers have a tendency to hide... they also ripen quickly this time of year, which means that with as many plants as I have, I'll probably be albe to go out and pick this many tomatillos two or three times a week. 


Unusual melon isn’t a big producer

By Penny Stine
Monday, September 21, 2015

 I grew unusual melons this year just because I was curious. Unfortunately, melons like more sunshine than what they get in my yard. I had a lambkin melon plant in my front flower bed and it gave me a grand total of two melons, one of which was pretty tiny.
I read that you can tell when they’re ripe because they turn yellow and practically fall off the vine, which is what these two did when I checked on them.
We ate the smallest one on Sunday. It was white on the inside and tasted similar to a honeydew. Pretty good, but I probably won’t grow it next year. I’m on a quest to find a melon that will grow with the limited amounts of sunshine I get and will produce more than two melons.  


Harvesting and freezing

By Penny Stine
Monday, September 14, 2015

I haven’t been blogging lately because my garden is keeping me too busy to take photos. On Saturday morning, I made myself spend at least an hour pulling weeds. I filled my five-gallon bucket at least six times, pretty much filling my trash can, since I don’t want all those weed seeds in my compost bin. The only good thing about pulling weeds this time of year is that they tend not to sprout again until next season!

As a reward for pulling weeds, I picked a boatload of grapes, Portuguese kale and other goodies. Since I had way too much to eat in the next week or so, I froze everything.
I’ll use the frozen kale in soup, casseroles, egg dishes and in anything else that looks like a likely candidate for greens.

I don’t like the Portuguese kale as well as blue dwarf or Russian red for roasting, so I’ll freeze a lot of that. The plant’s are going into hyper-grow mode right now.



These grapes would make lovely juice or jelly, but since we don’t drink a lot of juice or eat much jelly,I opted instead to freeze them whole to use in breakfast smoothies. They’re a concord-style grape with seeds, but my blender does a good job of liquifying the grape, the skin and the seed.






They’re really good grapes, and this year, my grapevine has grown and produced like crazy. Yes, this is one grapevine. I didn't prune it at all this year, and while the master gardener in me says "bad gardener!" I've never had so many grapes on the vine, so I may not prune it next year, either. 




These little onions are the walking onions, which I’ve been picking and using since March or April. They’re starting to go into their regrowth stage, where they sprout new green tops and the bottoms turn mushy.

I also picked these little hot peppers I’m growing called Cayennetta. I got the seeds from Park Seed, and I’m really pleased with the peppers. They’re spicy, but not ridiculously hot, and they add a nice flavor without making food unpleasant. I decided to include a few peppers with the onions before I chopped them and froze them in little bags together, since when I’m adding onions to something I’m cooking, I often want a little spice, as well.



The plants are supposed to be good for containers, but in my garden, the ones in this bed are doing much better than the one I have in a container out back. I’m anticipating that I’ll have enough from these two plants to make a little red pepper ristra in late October or November, which will give me home-grown cayenne pepper to use all winter.

Page 8 of 142


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