Archive for the ‘Storage and Preservation’ Category

Squash Sans Stem Spoils in Storage

Friday, October 5th, 2012

We had a pretty decent crop of  Butternut squash this year. I planted them in a new part of the garden, which I’m sure helped boost the yield. Plus, we had very few insects on the squash. As a result, we now have plenty of Butternut that will go into storage straight from the garden — unprocessed.

If you keep winter squash under the proper conditions, you can enjoy them well into winter. The most important thing to keep in mind is to leave the stem on the squash. This is true of all varieties of winter squash and pumpkins.

A broken stem leaves an opening for the organisms that cause spoilage to enter the squash.

 

If you plan to use them in the next week or two, then it really doesn’t matter if the squash has a stem or not.

Sometimes you can find farmers selling stemless winter squash at a deep discount. Other than cooking them for a meal, you can freeze or can those bargain farmer’s market squash to use later on.

If the stems are breaking off  your squash as you pick them, use your pruning shear to cut the stems from the vine. You’ll find it’s worth the extra effort.

Store your best, unblemished squash in a spot that will stay around 50 degrees F with about 50 percent humidity. You should be able to enjoy your home-grown squash into early 2013.

Bob

Too Many Watermelons

Friday, September 28th, 2012

One of the best investments I made this year wasn’t in stocks or bonds. It was buying a $1.89 pack of watermelon seeds from the hardware store.

I forgot to order watermelon seeds in my regular online seed order so, I bought them locally. They had only one pack of one variety left so I bought it. I mentioned these melons in previous posts.

This week I needed to harvest all of the watermelon since they were all ripe and ready to go.

That one pack yielded 32 full-sized watermelons! What do you do with 32 huge watermelons? After friends and family got their melons, there were still plenty left.

One thing I always wanted to try was dehydrating watermelons. That’s exactly what I did.  About 2 – 1/2 watermelons — minus their rinds —  fit into my food dehydrator. It took almost 20 hours to dry them down so they were no longer moist and sticky. I filled up four quart food storage bags with that batch.

Once dried, the watermelon slices are about the size and thickness of a nacho chip. They were about a half an inch thick going into the dehydrator.

The dehydration process concentrated the sweetness so much that they taste like some kind of exotic candy.

My dried watermelon will be a real treat this winter when the snow is flying. I still plan juice a few melons and try out watermelon wine with some others.

Bob

Bitter tasting carrots

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Not long ago,  I came home with a bag of carrots from the grocery store. It was disappointing; every carrot in the bag was bitter tasting. This reminded me of the experience I had many years ago as a new gardener.
Back then I had a plan to grow enough fruit and vegetables to last through the winter. I grew carrots, cabbage, onions, apples and some other produce I wanted to put into storage. I built a small storage space and carefully put my produce away.
All of the fruit and vegetables I was storing had similar storage requirements. They needed a temperature around 32 F and fairly high humidity. It made sense to me to store them all together in the same space.
Later in the winter I took out some carrots to use. They all had that bitter, almost soapy flavor. Later I learned that apples give off ethylene gas. The ethylene caused the carrots to form chemical compounds called terpenes. Those terpenes were the source of the bitter flavor.
Somewhere along the line, the carrots I bought this week must have been exposed to ethylene; probably from apples in a cooler.
That’s a good reason why you shouldn’t store apples and carrots together in the same refrigerator drawer; especially if you don’t plan to use them right away.

Bob

Blackberry Jam

Monday, August 16th, 2010

We”ll be finishing up the last of our wild blackberry jam this week… making it not eating it.

One batch of blackberry jam.

Our blackberries have been producing quite well for a number  of weeks now. We only have a few plants but as long as we keep picking them, it seems like they keep on producing.

You need to pick this many berries for one batch of jam which will give you ten half-pint jars.

In our little corner of the township we have been experiencing a mini-drought, so the berries are not as large as they usually are. Even so, we’ll have nearly 50 half-pints of blackberry jam made up to give out as Christmas presents this year.

If you or someone you know is out of work and out of money and is worrying about what they’ll give for Christmas to all of the extended family members, I suggest you think about making some jam or jelly to give away as gifts. It really doesn’t take much of an investment in cash, it just takes some time.

Perhaps you don’t have  berry plants of your own, ask around maybe somebody has a berry patch that they will let you pick from.  There are also pick-your-own farms within reasonable driving distance from anywhere in Michigan.

Blackberries are winding down in our part of the state but blueberries are still going strong and we have raspberries and grapes to look forward to as well.

Never made jam or jelly before? It’s pretty easy to do all you need is fruit, sugar, pectin and a few jars from the grocery store. Then just follow the simple directions that comes along with every box of fruit pectin.

Even if money is tight, by making jelly or jam, you’ll have much of your Christmas list taken care of early this year.

Bob and Judy

Squash Storage Experiment

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

I never used to like squash.  We never had it when we were growing up. I don’t know what it was, but something happened in the last couple of decades that made me appreciate squash and now we eat it regularly.

Squash is a very nutritious food and is easy to prepare.  Most of the time I just cut one in half, take out the seeds and bake it in the oven until it is soft and tender.

What  I’m talking about here is winter squash as opposed to summer squash such as zucchini.

This past fall I started an informal experiment to see how the different varieties of winter  squash hold up under our storage conditions.   The place I keep our squash ranges in temperature from 40F to about 50F depending on the outside weather conditions.

I don’t do anything special to them.  I just put them into a crate and take one out when I want one.

I have in storage eight different varieties of squash, four crates in all.

Back row L-R: Spaghetti, Blue Hokkaido. Middle row: Baby Hubbard, Butternut, Hybrid Acorn, Acorn. Front row: Kabocha, Buttercup

After going out the other day to get a squash to bake,  I thought “h-m-m-m-m  some people might be interested in the results up to this point”.

Now we are into the third week of February and I see that the Kabocha squash has deteriorated the most.  It has areas of deep spoilage.  These spots can be cut out and some of the squash can be used.

The Buttercup appeared to go down hill fairly quickly. Last month I noticed that most were starting to get a little rotten right in the “cup” of the but the rest of the squash was perfectly fine.

The Butternuts are getting shriveled and some have very soft spots.

The Acorns are firm but have some isolated bad spots that can be cut out, the rest of it is usable.

There are  some surface spots on the Spaghetti Squash but they are otherwise OK.

No spoilage is evident on the Hybrid Acorn.  I haven’t tried to eat one of these yet.

Neither the Baby Hubbard nor the Blue Hokkaido show much in the way of loss of quality.

One thing has to be done if you want to keep these for the winter;  pick unblemished squash.  Be sure they are not bruised, cut or have any other suspicious marks on them.  If they do have spots on them, eat those first before spoilage sets in.

For flavor, my favorite is Buttercup.  They are so flavorful that you think they already have butter and sweet spices mixed in.

So, there you go, lots of great food stored through winter with no canning or freezing.  Now if anyone has any recipes….

Bob

Fresh Memories of the Garden

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Now it feels like November.  Cold, rainy and dreary.  Gone are the Indian Summer days. Summer’s garden seems long past.

But with a little bit of effort a few weeks ago, I am able to make a pot of chili today using fresh tomatoes!

The day before we had that really cold night (not just the first frost when we covered our tomatoes, but this time it was going to get below  freezing so we knew the covering up wouldn’t do much good) it went to 28 degrees where my garden was.  I had picked all the tomatoes I could.  This was just a few days after that total day long rain that made the tomatoes start cracking , they swelled up so much.  I picked the red ones with a little cracking and all the green larger ones, some with a tinge of red and some that were totally green but otherwise perfect with no blemishes.

My goal has been for many years to have fresh tomato salad for Thanksgiving dinner. Some years a few tomatoes make it, some years they don’t .  So the perfect green tomatoes are wrapped carefully in newspaper and put gently in a cardboard box, then placed in a cool dark place.   They need to be checked every week or so. Take out any that show mold or black spots.  Put them on a sunny window sill and they will redden up after a few days. Cut out the bad parts of the tomato and use the good .

So, today I sorted  the tomatoes I kept in the garage and made a pot of chili with them.  This is the second time this fall that we have sorted through them . There’s still 1/4 to1/3 of them left for Thanksgiving.

Well, the tomatoes are simmering nicely.  I’d better get back to my chili making…  it smells delicious!

bye now, Judy