Sunday, December 29, 2019

January 2020 Edible Garden Planner

It's seed catalog season!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

January is the time of dreaming and planning for your spring garden.  All the seed companies begin sending out their catalogs for seeds and plants in December and January.   It is an exciting time for browsing the magazines and making the garden plan for the upcoming year!

Grow what you love!
The easiest way to fall in love with gardening is growing what you love to eat.  There is nothing like strolling out to the garden to see what's ripe and tasty for dinner.  If you have ever wanted to plant a kitchen garden, but weren’t sure if you had the space, you may be surprised.   

It is common for Italians and French to have a small kitchen garden where they grow herbs, greens and vegetables year round.  It is amazing the amount of food you can grow in a very small space!  How to decide what to plant for small spaces?

If you have only a 6’ x 6’ space, a Mediterranean kitchen garden could include the following:
Herbs (1 each)-thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and flat leaf parsley 
3 basil plants (for pesto and seasoning)  
2 tomatoes-1 small fruiting and 1 slicer type 
2 sweet pepper plants  
1 zucchini (look for “bush” types as they are more compact)  
1 eggplant 
8 red bunching onions 
8 garlic plants 
Arugula, spinach and lettuce scatter sowed  

For more details on a compact French garden:  Small space French kitchen garden
For an Italian garden:  Heirloom Sicilian kitchen garden  To entice the little ones, an Italian garden can also be called a "Pizza or Spaghetti Garden"!  Pizza garden for the kids

If you also have room for pots on the patio, you could grow the zucchini, eggplant, and cucumber in pots  (only 1 plant in each pot) and add 3 bush or 6 pole bean plants in the garden bed.  Traditional bush beans would be lentils, Romano, Capitano, Cannellini, fava; pole beans-Roma, Helda, Supermarconi.  Personally, I would stick with the beans you eat whole as shelled beans you do not get as much food per plant, and less food per space in the garden.

If you have more room, you can add almonds (yes, they survive Midwest winters), beets, chard, fennel, chickpeas, figs (grows well in a pot), asparagus, cardoon, chicories, radicchio, endives, broccoli, cauliflower, or annual artichokes.  A word of caution, don't go overboard the first year!

If you are just beginning a garden, do start small.  You want the garden to be fun and relaxing, not overwhelming.  Don't be afraid to begin.  The force of life is strong and really doesn't need much from us.  Buy a few plants in the early spring and just put them in the ground with a natural fertilizer and you will be amazed at how they just go to town all by themselves!
Vintage WW2 poster
For seed catalogues, the best to order from are those that do their trials in your region of the country.  The seeds and plants they carry are the ones that have performed the best for them in their trial gardens.  Baker Creek is fun because they specialize heirlooms and rare seeds from around the world.  Territorial Seeds has a good summary in each section of growing tips.

Catalogs I love are the ones that the links are on the right.  I have ordered from them all and been happy with their selection and how well the plants did.

Still having trouble deciding?  Well, you have some time before the season starts.  Heck, you can procrastinate all the way to June..........  It is not too late to start a garden in June!  You can use this time to make your plan based on what you eat this winter.  Use this winter to figure out what to grow in the ...

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Growing fennel

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Fennel dates back to Roman times.  Pliny (23-79 AD) wrote about it.  He believed serpents ate and slithered up against the aromatic herb because it improved their eyesight after shedding their skins.  He used the herb to treat 22 ailments.  Fennel was a staple in royal households in the 1300's and came with the Puritans to America.  Fennel was used as an appetite suppressor, to stave off evil spirits, its tea a treatment for weight loss, insect repellant, an antidote for poisons and mad dog bites.  The list goes on!

Fennel is grown like and resembles dill.  It has a licorice taste.  All parts of the plant is edible.  Fennel grows a large bulb at the base of its stem that is eaten as a vegetable, very popular in Italian cooking.  The tops are used to flavor dishes.  The seeds are used in seasonings and its oil extracted to used for its fragrance in soaps and perfumes and to add an anise flavoring to food, candies and liquors.  It is a very versatile plant!

Cultivated fennel grows to about 3' tall like dill, with long stems and lacy foliage.  Their flowers are tiny yellow clusters.  There are green and bronze varieties.  The bronze fennel is a striking plant.  Adds a bold accent to the garden.
Pic from of bronze fennel
Like dill, it can be direct sown in the garden in mid-spring, 1/8" deep, 1-2" apart and thinned to a spacing of 6" after sprouting.  Can be sown 2-5 weeks before the last average frost date, but after danger of a hard freeze (28 degrees F) is over.  Plant in fertile soil, well amended with organic matter, and keep well watered for the biggest and sweetest bulbs.  It takes 7-10 days for the seeds to sprout.  I sometimes see fennel plants in big box stores and local nurseries.

Harvest when the bulb is about the size of a tennis ball.  Cut leaves 2" above the bulb.  You can dry the seeds and foliage to use as seasoning.  Depending on the variety, fennel is ready to harvest in 75-100 days from when the seed is sown.  Bulbs can reach 1 pound in weight and 1' tall.
Fennel flowers
You can eat either raw or cooked.  It has a sweet, anise type flavor.  To me, it has a licorice taste.  It is very common to use the leaves and seeds for season fish.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Growing Brussel sprouts

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Brussels sprouts are Old World cabbage relatives.  They are grown for their tasty flower heads/buds.  They are similar in taste to cabbage and kale.  Brussels sprouts originated in the Mediterranean region and refined in Belgium.  They were perfected as early as 1200AD.   As with cabbage, they are a cool season crop and a biennial.  They thrive in cool temperatures.  

If you live in a warm winter zone, you would plant to harvest in the winter.  Grow when temperatures range between 30 to 75 degrees F.  For the rest of us, you would start indoors 4-6 weeks prior to last frost. Plant 1/4" deep with soil temps 65-75 degrees F for the fastest germination time.  Seedlings should sprout in 3-10 days.  Fertilize every 7-10 days with a liquid fertilizer.  If direct seeding, sow 1/4" deep in late spring.  Transplant 18-24" apart.

You can typically find transplants at big box stores or a neighborhood nursery, too.

Brussels sprouts are heavy feeders so plant them in well composted, well drained soil and side dress a few times during the season.  Time to harvest varies on the variety, from 85-120 days.  

To harvest, you pick from the bottom up when they are firm and about 1" in diameter.  Cut off just below the sprout. The sweetest sprouts are the ones that go through a few frosts.  You can also harvest the plant at one time by cutting off the top at the growing point when you have sprouts up and down the stalk and the bottom sprouts are 1/2" in diameter.  They will mature in a couple of weeks.

Store your harvested sprouts at 36 degrees F and 100% humidity.  Brussels sprouts wilt quickly.  I would blanche and freeze immediately after harvesting.
Freezing the extras for winter

My favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts is to slice them in half longways, coat with olive oil, salt and roast in the oven until soft.  This really sweetens the flavor.

Brussels sprouts have the same diseases and insect pressures as cabbage.  To prevent disease pressure, do not plant in same location for 5-7 years.  Insects that are partial to brassicas are aphids, cabbage worms, loopers and root maggots, flea beetles and in some areas symphylans.  For aphids, use ladybugs, a hard spray of water, Neem oil or pyrethrin.  For cabbage worms, look for white butterflies; they lay yellowish colored eggs on the undersides of leaves.  For light infestation, use Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.).  For heavy infestations, bait the worms by mixing B.t., bran and molasses together and spread around the base of the plants.  For flea beetles, you can use floating row covers or Pyrethrin spray.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Jazz up the Christmas feast with herbs from the garden

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Here is just one potential Christmas feast maximizing flavor from the herbs still providing in the garden at Christmas: 
Fig preserves with rosemary cheese for appetizer
Quick herb almond bread
Rosemary inspired rack of lamb
Garlic and herb roasted vegetables 
Fresh greens with hot bacon dressing 
Topped off with cranberry mint sorbet

Fig preserves and rosemary cheese 
To make the rosemary cheese, combine 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 3  ounces softened goat cheese, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, and 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper.  Blend until smooth.  You can serve in a beautiful crystal dish or go for a mold.  For a molded cheese, put the mixture in the mold, chill for 2 hours, unmold onto serving plate (you can run warm water over the top of the mold to get it to release easier).  You are now ready to cover with fig preserves and serve with your favorite crackers. 

Figs are super easy to grow in pots.  I bought a Chicago hardy fig that survives in our Zone 6 garden.  I do bring it indoors each winter as a pot lowers the effective zone by 2.  If given a large pot, they will produce many fruits over the summer and fall season.  
Growing “exotic” figs

If you want to make your own preserves, simply cook in a medium sauce pan 1 pound of fresh, ripe figs (washed and stem removed) with 1 cup of sugar for 30 minutes, uncovered.  If keeping in the refrigerator, you can pour directly into a sterilized quart jar or 2 pint jars, leaving a 1/8 inch head space.  If you want to store in the pantry, you will need to “process” your preserves.  This is really easy.  Just put in a large stock pan, covered with water.  Heat until boiling and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove using tongs, allow to cool, and store in a dark, cool place.

I put my hot jars on a kitchen towel so they are not “shocked” by the cold counter top.  I also use Weck canning jars since they are all glass, including the lid.  
Lowest toxic options for canning  
If you have a large pot, you can can!

Low carb, quick herb bread
I found the perfect low carb, microwave almond bread recipe that I jazz up with my dried herbs.  Simply mix together in a small glass container 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter, 3 tablespoons of almond flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of herbs.  Pop the container in the microwave for 90 seconds and you have hot, low carb bread for dipping, preserves, cheese, meats and more!
Make your own "Herbes de Provence"

Rosemary inspired rack of lamb
Stop by your local meat market and get a French cut rack of lamb. Remove the fat and gristle, coat the outside with olive oil then cover with a 1/2 cup crushed rosemary and 1/4 cup sea salt mix.  Roast fat side out at 425F for 35-40 minutes in the oven or on the grill until the interior temperature reaches 150F.  Let stand 10 minutes before slicing so that the juices won’t be lost during cutting.  If you prefer garlic, here is another rub option-2 cloves garlic, 3 tablespoons parsley, 2 teaspoons chives, 2 teaspoons thyme, 2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt,  and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Mix together and coat the rack of lamb and cook as above.

Garlic and herb roasted vegetables
This recipe works with any really firm vegetables you like.  Here is one variation.  Cut 4 sweet potatoes, 3 medium turnips into 1.5 inch cubes, and 2 large onions into 1.5 inch wedges.  In a gallon plastic bag, place 12 cloves crushed, peeled garlic, 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or marjoram, 2 teaspoons salt, 6 tablespoons olive oil.  Mix thoroughly.  Add your cut veggies and squish them around until they are coated on all sides with the herb mixture.  Place on a cookie sheet in a single layer.  Roast in a 450F, preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until soft.  
Quick tip-”peeling” garlic  
Quick tip-make dried garlic into garlic powder  
Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......

Potatoes, turnips, carrots and onions are all veggies that can be stored over winter if kept in the proper conditions.  Be sure to keep potatoes covered or in a dark place as when they turn green, they are toxic.  Sweet potatoes will keep for a month if kept in cool dry conditions and bagged with an apple to keep from sprouting.  
21 no tech storage crops

Mixed greens with hot bacon dressing  
An old Southern favorite is hot bacon dressing.  Cook 4 slices bacon until crisp, reserving 2 tablespoons of the drippings (grease).  Crumble the bacon and set aside.  In a small sauce pan, combine 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon grated onion, 1/8 teaspoon dried mustard, bring just to boil and add bacon.  Remove from heat and whisk before serving.

There are greens still growing in the garden that are a perfect pair for the sweet hot bacon dressing-chard, sorrel, spinach, mustard greens, cultivated dandelions and even some winter hardy lettuce.  
Fall and winter greens  
Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter
Homemade salad dressing recipes with garden herbs

Cranberry mint sorbet
I am not a huge fan of the gelatin cranberry sauce.  This is a great way to include the traditional cranberry in a totally new and refreshing way.  

Combine in a medium sauce pan 3 1/4 cup water and 3/4 cup sugar, bring to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, add 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, 2 tablespoons fresh mint and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.  Allow to cool and strain.
Combine another 3/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup cranberries in a small sauce pan and bring to boil.  Cover, simmer for 8 minutes or until skins pop.  Cool completely.  Use food processor, process until smooth.  Strain out solids.

Combine orange and cranberry mixture and pour into 9x12” pan, cover and freeze.  Reprocess in food processor, half at a time and refreeze until ready to serve.

With this warm winter, straight from the garden herbs are an easy way to have dishes bursting with fresh flavor.  

I love giving my own herb mix as presents.  An herb garden is so easy and such a great value!  Most herbs are perennials so you only have to buy and plant one time and they come back year after year.  
Start a kitchen herb garden!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Winter wonder edible veggies

Salad burnet in winter
Saturday, December 7, 2019

Winter producing varieties are the really hardy cold crops that thrive in the cool temperatures of spring, fall and winter. To get the longest harvest possible, look for varieties that say “cold hardy”, “early winter”, “overwintering”, “winter-hardy”, “cold tolerant”, “bred for winter production.”  

With cover, the following will allow you to harvest all winter: arugula, beets, chicory, corn salad, lettuce, mustard greens, parsley root, radicchio, radishes, spinach, sprouting broccoli, sorrel and Swiss chard.

The following don’t require covering: brussels sprouts, winter harvest cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, bunching onions or Egyptian onions, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, salad burnet.

Your perennial greens and overwintering varieties are the first up in the spring.  Want a vegetable and fruit garden that you only have to plant once? Try perennials!

Winter hardy varieties
*Asparagus (planted in fall for spring harvesting)  
*Beets  All about beautiful beets
*Sprouting broccoli Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav
*Brussel sprouts  
*Cabbage  Cabbage is nutritious and easy to grow
*Carrots (can be pulled all winter)  Grow crunchy, colorful carrots practically year round
*Overwintering cauliflower  How to grow broccoli and cauliflower
*Celery  Give celery a try, an easy to grow garden staple
*Chard (will survive winters if placed in a sheltered area)  For year round steamed greens, grow chard!
*Claytonia, Miner's Lettuce  Fall and winter greens
*Collards  Collards and kale in your garden
*Corn salad (also called Mache)
*Cultivated dandelions  Grow Cultivated Dandelions
*Egpytian walking onions (harvest all winter)  Egyptian walking onions
*Garlic & shallots  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......
*Kale (may survive all winter into spring)  Grow one of the super greens this year-kale
*Lettuce (can germinate at temps as low as 40 degrees F, does well in greenhouse)  
Everything you need to know about growing lettuce
*Mustard greens  Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter
*Bunching onions  Everything to know about growing onions
*Overwintering onions (all onions can be left in the ground in Zone 6)  Perennial onions and other alliums
*Overwintering peas (like Austrian)  Time to plant peas!
*Radishes (can be pulled all through winter)  Easy to grow crispy, peppery radishes
*Salad burnet (a perennial)  Salad burnet-a great herbal salad addition
*Spinach (many survive the winter to mature in early spring) Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green
*Turnips All about turnips

Miner's lettucet and cultivated dandelions
If you are growing your veggies in pots, be sure to move them to southern exposure and protected against the wind when the temps start to drop.  Up against a wall is best as the wall will absorb the heat during the day to release overnight.  Putting a portable greenhouse over your pots will also provide extra protection. Prepare for hard freeze 

Seeded pots and perennials getting ready for cover

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Top 10 Nutrient Dense Veggies & Fruits

Wild watercress
Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention did a study on nutrient density of 47 vegetables and fruits to determine which ones were the top sources of 17 vitamins and minerals.

It was not possible to include phytochemical data in the scores so total health benefits are not inclusive in the ranking scores.

Leafy greens were in the top half with other veggies in the next grouping.    For the fruits that qualified as a “powerhouse” source of nutrition, they were in general at the bottom of the ranking.

Like Mom said, “Eat your vegetables.” 

Here is the table of the ranking:
Item                    Nutrient Density Score
Watercress            100.00
Chinese cabbage    91.99
Chard                    89.27
Beet green             87.08
Spinach                 86.43
Chicory                  73.36
Leaf lettuce            70.73
Parsley                  65.59
Romaine lettuce     63.48
Collard green         62.49
Turnip green          62.12
Mustard green        61.39
Endive                   60.44
Chive                     54.80
Kale                      49.07
Dandelion green     46.34
Red pepper            41.26
Arugula                 37.65
Broccoli                 34.89
Pumpkin                33.82
Brussels sprout      32.23
Scallion                 27.35
Kohlrabi                25.92
Cauliflower            25.13
Cabbage               24.51
Carrot                   22.60
Tomato                 20.37
Lemon                  18.72
Iceberg lettuce      18.28
Strawberry            17.59
Radish                   16.91
Winter squash        13.89
Orange                  12.91
Lime                      12.23
Rutabaga               11.58
Turnip                   11.43
Blackberry             11.39
Leek                      10.69
Sweet potato          10.51
Grapefruit (white)   10.47

Here is a link to the report: 

As you are planning your garden for next year, you can add some of the top powerhouses!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Homemade wings sauce

Fall potted pepper and zinnias
Sunday, November 24, 2019

Fall is the time to make wings and watch football.  It is easy to make your own wings sauce using your homegrown hot peppers and garlic.

I grow my peppers in pots.  I have tried them both in the ground and pots.  They just seem to do better in pots.  The other advantage is that I can easily overwinter the best performers in the garage so they get a jump start on production next spring.  Peppers are for every taste and garden

I have plenty of cayennes and jalapeƱos in the freezer.  What to do with my spicy friends?  I decided to make hot sauce!  I took the cayennes, splice them in two and placed them in organic apple cider vinegar.  After a couple of months, I go ahead and put the pickled peppers in a food processor so it becomes a hot ‘sauce” ready to use in cooking.  Make your own hot sauce!

A while back when I went to make hot wings with sweet potato fries, I was out of store bought hot sauce so decided to give my homemade hot sauce a whirl.  I mixed up a 1/2 cup of my homemade hot sauce, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 stick of butter, and a couple tablespoons of bacon grease.  Throw in some minced homemade pickled garlic for some garlicky taste.  Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!

I grill the wings to give them a smoky flavor, then throw them in the pot with the wings sauce, letting them simmer for about 5 minutes, and serve.  Yum!  This has become our wing go-to recipe. 

One other tip I have learned doing this for a while, if you want a thicker sauce to have more stick to the wings (and ratcheting up the heat), whisk a little corn starch (about a tablespoon) mixed with cold water into the sauce.  Once it comes to a boil, it thickens.  I used to use wings.  I now use boneless chicken thighs.  All the same great taste, just not nearly as messy!  

Saturday, November 23, 2019

December 2019 Edible Garden Planner

Early December garden; chard in the foreground, herbs in the background
Saturday, November 23, 2019

December is a time of digging in and staying warm.  It may appear that everything is dead outside, but there is still life in the garden.  In the beds, kale, cabbage, salad burnet, sorrel, rosemary, oregano, garlic, onions, lettuce, leeks, chard, dill, celery, sage, carrots, spinach are all still green in December.

Fresh herbs are just steps away from the back door.  Most Mediterranean herbs are perennials so you get to enjoy them almost year round.  You can also grow many herbs indoors as well like chives, oregano, rosemary, parsley, chervil, and basil.  Rosemary and bay are two to dig up and bring indoors to guarantee survival through the winter.  Just place your potted herbs in a sunny window.  I keep my bay in pots and bring into the garage for the winter.  They are getting huge after 3 years in a pot.  
If you are using a greenhouse, your kale, celery, mustard, lettuce, chard, spinach, cabbage, sprouting broccoli are still happy under cover.  They will not grow much until sunlight gets back to 10 hours per day in late January.  Be sure on sunny, warm days to pop the top on your greenhouse or you will scorch your greens.  It can get 50 degrees warmer inside a greenhouse on a sunny day than the actual temperature outside.  
Cultivated dandelion in a pot
All cold crops are at their sweetest during the cold weather.  Frost brings out the sugars in cold crops.  Hardy greens like chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens, cultivated dandelion greens, and collard greens make great salads and are tasty steamed or braised.

Make sure if you have any potted veggies to put them on the ground if they are on coasters and move them to a sheltered area on the south side of the house to extend their growing time.  Placing straw bales around them or mounding mulch provides extra protection.  I also move them up against the wall.  This does double duty-southern exposure gets the most sun and warmth.  Pots left exposed creates a micro climate that is a zone lower than the ones planted in the ground.  If you are in Zone 6, be sure that plants left in pots are hardy to at least Zone 5 if you want them to come back in the spring.  If they are not, put under cover or bring into the garage for the winter.
Extend the season with protection for plants

Veggies like your favorite tomato, pepper, eggplant, or celery that you potted and moved indoors will continue to produce indoors if provided warmth and enough sunlight.  My Chiptelin pepper is one I bring in every year.  I also bring in lemon verbena, lemon grass, citrus, bay and goji berry plants for overwintering in our attached, unheated garage.  We place them in the sunniest spot in the garage and supplement with 4 foot fluorescent grow lights.
Chives in front, sage and rosemary in back
The Fresh Produce Buying Local Option
You can check on line to see if you have a farmers market in your area.  Many have farmers markets year round where you can get fresh produce, canned, baked goods, eggs and meats locally grown.  Many that aren't open regularly will have hours before Christmas so you can get fresh, local ingredients for your holiday meal.  A great place for finding what is near you is the on-line resource

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It is where you invest in a local farmer in January when they have to purchase their seeds and supplies for the upcoming gardening season.  You then get a weekly share of the farmers harvest typically from May through October.  There are even some winter CSA's now!

Before I started our own edible garden, we joined a CSA.  It was great.  We got lots of super fresh produce, our weekly grocery bill was significantly reduced as our meals were planned around the vegetables, and it was an adventure getting to try new recipes with veggies we had never ate before.   
Eat well, be healthy

A CSA shows you what grows well in your area.  You can find out the varieties you like and when they come into season.  You can even save the seeds from the varieties that you want to grow in your future garden if you partner with an organic CSA that grows open pollinated and heirloom vegetables and fruits.
What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

To advertise as “organic” you have to be certified.  Many farmers cannot afford to do this.  Some farmers participate in the "Certified Naturally Grown" program.  This is less expensive than USDA organic, but also relies on inspections by other CNG farmers, non-CNG farmers, extension agents, master gardeners and customers instead of USDA certified agents.  If you are interested in produce grown without pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals, ask if the farmer uses organic practices.  Go visit them to see the garden for yourself before you commit.  You can also check out reviews on line. 

Where to find a CSA?  Again, a great resource is the web site at www.localharvest,org 

Many sell out by January so don’t delay if you want to join!

Preserving the harvest
It is easy to store winter squash in your pantry to pull out anytime.  We have eaten butternut squash from the garden all the way into June of the following year.  21 no tech storage crops

If you put garlic in your pantry and some have dried out, make garlic powder.  Just process the dried garlic in a coffee or spice grinder.  Now you have great flavor to add to burgers, sauces, or steaks. Quick tip-make dried garlic into garlic powder 

I take the herbs I had drying in paper bags and remove all leafs.  I store my herbs in quart canning jars.  I mix them all together for a homemade “Herbes de Provence”.  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"  I use it on everything!  It is great in sauces, on meats, in dressings.  

Tarragon, thyme, sage, rosemary and chives
If you threw your extra tomatoes into the freezer and are now thinking it would be nice to have tomato sauce, canning tomato sauce is simple and easy to do.  I use Weck’s canning jars.  They are all glass so no worries about what is lining the lid.  And they are a really pretty shape.  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty

All you need to can tomato sauce is a large pot, canning jars, a funnel, and canning tongs.  A pressure canner is not needed for acidic foods like tomatoes.  Always follow the recipe as written to insure food safety.  If the food is not acidic enough, it can allow botulism to grow.

I throw the entire tomato (de-stemmed) into the food processor.  Most recipes say to remove the peel and seeds so you don’t have a bitter taste, but I have not noticed any issue with bitterness.

Here is the recipe from Ball’s “Complete Book of Home Preserving” for tomato paste:
9 cups of pureed tomatoes, 1½ cups of chopped sweet bell peppers, 2 bay leaves, 1 teas salt, 1 clove of garlic.

I put it all into a large pot and let simmer until it is the consistency and taste I like, about 2.5 hours.  Remove the bay leaves and garlic.  Boil the jars, lids, and seals as the sauce is close to done.

Add 3 teas of lemon juice to each hot pint jar, fill with the hot tomato sauce to within ½ inch of the top, and seal the lid, following the instructions for the type of jar you are using.  Place all the filled jars in a large pot, insuring they are fully covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 45 minutes.  Be sure that the pot is at a steady boil for the entire 45 minutes.  Remove from canner.  Let cool for 24 hours.  Remove the ring and test the seal after the jar is completely cool by gently lifting the jar by the lid.  It should not lift off.  That’s it!  

Other high acid foods you can using a water bath are jams, jellies, condiments, salsas, pickles, and relishes.  I pickle my garlic harvest so I have garlic whenever I need it.  Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!  Consult with a canning book for more tips and always follow the recipe exactly as written to insure the right acidity for safe canning.

Winter is time to savor the fresh herbs from the garden along with what you have preserved, browsing for canning ideas, and planning next year's garden.  A potential Christmas meal using what is growing in the garden in December, Jazz up the Christmas feast with herbs from the garden

I use Christmas break as the time to finalize my garden plan for the spring.  I look back on my notes from last year's edible garden and this year's seed catalogs to decide what new varieties to add to my standbys.

For tips on choosing seed catalogs:  New seed catalogs are here!