Thursday, September 11, 2014

Everbearing Strawberries - Living up to their name

Everbearing strawberries, also known as day-neutral strawberries, produce sweet red berries from early summer to autumn. We picked our first berries on June 4th, which you can see on the ‘Bees, birds and berries’ blog. We have had an incredible harvest throughout the summer and although production has slowed down a bit, we are still picking sweet berries every day.

We expect to pick berries until we get a hard frost since strawberries are fairly cold hardy. They seem to be loving these cooler September nights and sunny days. 

Although the plants are starting to show signs of Fall, we are still seeing new blossoms and new green berries. We will start thinning the plants in the next few weeks and giving starts to anyone who wishes to start a patch of their own. 

To still be picking fresh ripe strawberries on September 11th is beyond our expectations. We are grateful for this bounty. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blanching celery

I found transplant celery back in June on the sell-out table of a local retailer. Although I thought I was rather late getting it into the ground, it has done quite well. In order to avoid tough, bitter celery I blanched it earlier this month. To blanch means to whiten or prevent from becoming green by excluding light. Blanched plants lack the dark green color, as the light source of celery is blocked out.  Blanching celery also gives it a sweeter taste and plants are generally more tender. To blanch celery, you just need to cover the celery stalks. You can cover the stalks a week, ten days or even longer before you want to harvest. There is no need to blanch the top leaves. 

After cutting off some of the low, small stalks and leaves I covered the tall stalks with brown lunch sacks tied with twine.  

I had tied the stalks together when they first started to grow to keep the celery shape similar to what you see in the grocery store. If you don’t do this, the celery spreads wide with low leaves, making it more difficult to blanch.

I plan to leave the covering on for a few weeks. Then I’ll check them for color and taste. 

It looks like these are all wrapped up and ready to take home from the market. Celery is one of the dirty dozen foods which contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving. These are believed to be most susceptible because they have soft skin that tends to absorb more pesticides. If you're eating non-organic celery today, you may be ingesting 67 pesticides with it, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group. I usually try to buy organic celery when I buy it, but this year I should have enough to last me through the winter.

Celery stores really well - you can keep it for many weeks with no trouble. You dig up the plants carefully, disturbing the roots as little as possible. Replant them in boxes of sand in your root cellar or set them close together in a trench in your cold frame where you can keep them from freezing. As long as the roots stay moist and the stalks dry, they'll really keep. Temperatures in the range of 35F to 40F are best for good storage.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How many onions fit into a pair of pantyhose?

The answer is - it depends. You can store twenty to twenty-four onions in a pair of pantyhose, depending on the size of the onions and the size of the pantyhose.

If you are looking for a great way to store all those onions you grew this year and you are looking for a use for all those unused pantyhose you no longer need – here is your answer. Instead of tying knots between the onions, I tied twine between the onions. This will let me release a single onion without having to cut the onion out, destroying the pantyhose. If this method works, I may want to use the pantyhose next year. These days’ pantyhose are harder to come by than they were 20 years ago. I rarely ever wear them, but I received a good supply of clean pantyhose from an anonymous source.

I was able to store about 60 onions using this method. I’ll hang them in the garage during the winter and I’ll always have an onion when I need one. I’m anxious to see how long the onions will last using this method versus the paper bag method I mentioned in a previous post. This year I am testing both methods. 

Nothing seems to go to waste around here. I have a dear friend who is a fiber artist. Patricia should be able to use the excess onion skins for dyeing fibers and fabrics. You can see Patricia Patterson's work on her website, The Quilter Exchange and Fiber Art Studio