Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Joys of Community Gardening!

It's true that I long to have my own backyard garden someday. And it's true that I get tired of walking 2 miles (round trip) just to see if anythings ripe or the garden needs watering. And carrying all my supplies with me. I could drive, but that seems to defeat the purpose and objective of this other-wise earth-friendly hobby. It also bothers me that I have to wait for the garden to open on a certain date and I have to deal with my neighbor's unweeded and overgrown plots. These things I won't miss. But there are many many benefits to the community garden, which I may have mentioned before, but are worth mentioning again.

Talking with other gardeners is extremely valuable. And it's reassuring to hear that, for example, everyone had trouble with eggplant this year or that everyone's tomatoes got wiped out by insects. I also enjoy when someone walks by the garden and starts asking questions. I've started offering these folks a sample of a handful of grape tomatoes or a sprig of rosemary and then explain to them how to acquire a plot for themselves (also some current gardeners are so cliquey that it'd be nice to have some fresh meat to break up the cliquey old-timers). I also enjoy sharing my surplus with people that appreciate it. Even better, I am benefitted when other gardeners have surplus. Last night I left the garden with 5 HOT peppers (I think they're serrano peppers) from a neighbor. In return, I offered her her pick of anything she wanted from my garden. Also, and this is just a suspicion, I don't have any problems with squirrels or birds eating my crops. I'm guessing it's because with so much to feast on, no single garden is decimated. I also suspect we have the best fed squirrels in all of Nassau County and they're actually quite full, but I never notice my veggies getting eaten. One other benefit: lots and lots of flowers and plants, so there's no shortage of bees and beneficial insects to help the plants.

I'll definitely miss the community garden and the community gardeners!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tomato Tart

What to do with so many tomatoes? Make a tart! This one looks a little burned...that's because it was my first time using our new oven. I tried the broil feature as per the instruction to get the chèvre browned. As you can see, it didn't brown the chèvre, but it sure burnt the crust. It still tasted great. And it was an easy recipe, even making the crust from scratch. My only complaint was that it only used 3 tomatoes.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's been a few weeks...

I've been away, but before leaving I canned several pints of Roma tomatoes. I was afraid of botulism and didn't even know what I would do with canned whole tomatoes, but once we returned I made use of all of them as the sauce for various homemade pizzas. Because of the natural acidity of tomatoes (and I added lemon juice according to a recipe), they could be canned in a water bath rather than a pressure cooker. And no one died from eating them! But I now own a pressure canner and hope to put it to good use (one night when Morgan's home to help).

While I was away I asked a family friend to help herself to anything in the garden. I wasn't sure who was doing who the favor, honestly. I was thankful she stopped by, watered, and helped herself so nothing rotted and she enjoyed the abundance of cherry tomatoes and whatever else she found. A perfect arrangement if you know someone who likes fresh veggies (who doesn't like fresh veggies?). She even made great use of our resident rosemary plant - she dried a bunch in her dehydrator and gave me a container filled with fresh dried rosemary! What a great gift idea!

When I returned I picked several banana peppers and pickled some in jars. It didn't need to be water bathed or pressure canned because it's in a vinegar solution (apparently). Then I had an abundance of green beans (2 weeks in a row) from my CSA so I made canned dilly beans! Yay! The dilly beans I processed in a water bath for 5 minutes according to the recipe. It's also in a vinegar solution, so hopefully won't have any botulism risks. It's important to use legitimate recipes and not get creative. This is science, not art!

Below is a picture of the dilly beans in the canner and also a picture of the banana peppers. It's a beautiful thing this canning!