How To Shuck Corn In Your Microwave

how to shuck corn
I spent the day making tomato sauce and preparing fresh corn for the freezer.  I decided to use the microwave to shuck corn, remove the silk and husk, while I prepared the sauce for the water bath canner.  This method is heaven sent and I wanted to share it with you.  It’s great way to prepare it for dinner when you’re short on time too or when you’re trying to juggle canning activities at the same time.
microwave corn husking
I husked 4 dozen ears today for the freezer.  Using fresh corn in chowder, mixing it with my fresh green beans, or in soup in the winter is big in my home.  So, I pack it in quart size bags, which is just right for my dishes.
 
Step 1 – Place 5 – 6 ears of corn in your microwave, depending on size you may be able to only fit 4 – 5.  I had 6 ears here, but I had to remove 1.  The ears were pretty large.
 
Step 2 – Heat the ears on high for 4 – 5 minutes.  If you’re going to eat it immediately, the rule is 4 minutes for each ear, so it would be 16 – 20 minutes.  Again, depending on how many ears you place in the microwave.  When I’m preserving, I use 4 minutes for the entire batch so I don’t over cook.
gardening, preserving garden food, shucking corn

Step 3 – Remove the ears from the microwave carefully.  They will be hot.  Cut the stalk end about 2 inches from the end of the corn with a chef’s knife or whatever large, sharp knife you have on hand.  You’ll lose a few rolls of corn, but it’s a time saver.

 

Step 4 – Squeeze the corn through the husk from the top, silk end.  The corn should slide out of the husk virtually silk free.

I packaged 4 quarts today and will probably put up another 4 quarts this week.  This is a combination of white and yellow grown by a local farmer and it is so good.  I had to stop myself from eating it so I could have enough for the freezer. Did I mention that it’s great fried with a little butter and red peppers.  Yummy!  My grandchildren love fresh corn.

If you’re a preserver or need to better utilize your time preparing dinner, this is the way to go. You may also like How To Freeze Corn.  What’s your favorite dish using corn?

 

How To Dry Kitchen Garden Herbs

garden herbs, vegetable gardens, preserving garden herbs

I pulled the remaining herbs from the garden today so I can dry them. I’m writing this post, so you can grow and dry your fresh garden herbs too. They’re really easy to grow and adds wonderful flavor to sauces and chili.  The top picture is Greek Basil. I actually dry and freeze my fresh basil.  

 I remove the leaves from my plants and wash them thoroughly.  I than place them on a paper towel to allow them to air dry.  I do the same with my parsley as shown in the picture below.

 

Image-Drying-Basil

 After the herbs have dried, I mark lunch bags with the names of the herbs as shown above. I place the herbs inside the bags and seal them with tape.  Any tape will do, as long as it will hold the bag closed.  I used scotch tape for these. Set the bags in a cool, dry place until they have dried and can be crumbled.  It will take several weeks for them to thoroughly dry, but you should check them to ensure they are drying as expected.  

This is dry dill (below) that has been removed from the bag. Be sure to remove all stems from the herbs before storing.  I use jelly jars from my canning stash to house my herbs.  You can use plastic containers, zip lock bags or any other container that is airtight. You want to keep them dry so they will remain fresh.  

how to dry dill. dill,

 

This is parsley that I have dried.  It’s great on potatoes. It is now airtight and stored in one of my jelly jars.  These are nice to give as gifts too. I add a label and place into a gift basket along with salsa, chips, jam, pickled peppers and cookies for Christmas gifts.

 

preserving gifts, garden gifts

I also freeze my basil. I leave the basil leaves whole so I can crush them into my dishes while cooking. I just grab the bag from the freezer, take out a handful of the leaves and crush them directly into my sauces and chili. Fresh basil smells wonderful and taste even better in dishes.   
Grow a few herbs next season.  You don’t need a large space, small pots in your kitchen window will suffice.  Grow what you use.  Basil, parsley and dill get plenty of use in my house. Happy Gardening!  

 

Home Grown Cantaloupes

 

cantaloupes


My second favorite item in the garden is home grown cantaloupes. My garden is winding down and I’m feeling a little sad.  So, I sooth myself when I’m closing the garden for the year by planning my garden for the next season.  I spend months deciding what I want to plant and that usually cheers me up. Yesterday, I pulled my last squash and cantaloupes. I have tons of tomatoes and green beans left.  As a result, I will can and freeze those next week-end.  I see tomato sauce and salsa on the horizon too.  Great way to use some of my garlic, basil and oregano too.  Check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips before you leave.

Back to my harvest, this was my first year planting cantaloupes, and I’m so glad that I did.  These are Hale’s Best, which is an Heirloom seed, and they are delicious.  I’ll be having fresh cantaloupes for the next few days.  I started the cantaloupe plants under grow lights in mid-March and moved them into the garden in June.  However, you can direct the seeds when the soil warms up.  I mulched around the plants and left about 6 feet of space for them to spread. I harvested eight cantaloupe from 2 plants. Not bad for a pack of $1.00 seeds. I’ll be saving seed from these melons to plant next year.

 

I’m a frugal gardener, I put my garden in for pennies by purchasing Heirloom seeds and than saving the seed from year to year. Purchasing plants from garden centers can get expensive.  I choose what I want to splurge on, and groceries is not one of those things. If you plan to save seed from your garden, make sure you don’t purchase or use Hybrid seeds or plants.  You want the same characteristics of the parent plant versus inbreeding/cross breeding. Heirlooms are the way to go.

I planted Belle peppers, which performed nicely.  After picking them off the plants, I chop and freeze my peppers. I like to get them into freezer bags as soon as I pick them off the vines. The sooner you lock in the freshness the better. Did you know that orange, red, and yellow peppers are green before they turn into these beautiful colors.

Yep, they start out green.  Patience is a must if you want then to reach the red, yellow or orange stage.  Additionally, there are also male and female peppers.  Check out how to determine and use male and female peppers here.

10 Reasons I Preserve My Garden Vegetables

I

preserving garden vegetables

 

There’s nothing like fresh veggies and fruits that have been preserved for winter use.  Gardening is hard work, but oh so worth it.  I just chopped 2 quarts of belle peppers for the freezer.  Yes, you can freeze peppers.  Here’s how:

  • Wash peppers thoroughly and dry.
  • Remove the core and seeds.
  • Place peppers in a quart freezer bag. Be sure to remove the air from the bag.  To keep the peppers from freezer burn, double bag the peppers.
  • Write the date on the bag with a permanent marker.

I love using fresh belle peppers in my dishes.  The best way to preserve vegetables and fruits is to freeze them. I just place the peppers on a cookie sheet.  Place the sheet in the freezer so the pieces can freeze before placing them in the freezer bag.  However, you can just place them in a freezer bag as shown.  Just give them a good whack with a kitchen mallet to break them apart when I needed.  Check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips too.

To prevent freezer burn, I double bag them.  You can place them in a quart size bag, and than place the quart size bag in a gallon size freezer bag.  Make sure you get all of the air out of the bag.  Most importantly, make sure your peppers are dry before you freeze them.

Gardening gives me a sense of fulfillment.  Being able to serve organic, fresh veggies and fruits to my family is a blessing.  Each year I preserve herbs, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, corn, green beans, peaches, apples, jams, applesauce, and cobbler filling.  Here’s why I preserve my harvest:

  1. Fresh vegetables and fruits are more flavorful than grocery store purchases.
  2. I use fresh tomatoes in chili, pasta sauce and salsa during the winter.
  3. Fresh peppers are available for omelets, meatloaves, spaghetti sauces and casseroles etc.
  4. I have fresh garlic available for spaghetti sauce and other dishes.
  5. Fresh apples and peaches available for warm cobblers during the winter.
  6. My vegetables and fruits are all organic.  I don’t know what’s on the vegetables and fruits in the grocery store or where they were grown.
  7. I save hundreds of dollars on my grocery bill.
  8. My family raves about my dishes. It’s the herbs and other fresh vegetables and fruits, but don’t tell them it’s a secret.
  9. Fresh vegetables and tomatoes make the best soups on those cold winter days.
  10. Nothing like fresh herbs to toss in dishes during the winter.

Finally, preserve garden vegetables and fruits too. Planting a tomato plant on your deck or patio, and you will be able to freeze them for winter use.  Not interested in vegetables, how fruits or sunflowers.  So, preserve garden vegetables and fruits for a welcome winter treat.

 

How To Blanche Tomatoes Before Freezing

It’s one of my favorite times of the year.  Harvesting the garden and canning/freezing tomatoes for chili and soup this winter.  Most of the tomatoes that I grow are Heirlooms.  They’re not the best looking tomatoes, but they have a great variety and the best taste.  So Heirloom it is.   My favorites are Cherokee Purple and Paul Robeson.  Yum.  I love slicing them and spreading a little mayo over them with a little pepper.  It just doesn’t get any better than a fresh tomato from the garden.  

When I harvest enough veggies, I get the blanching basket and my Ball Canner out.  The tomatoes taste as good during the winter as they do when I pick them from the vine.  I freeze some of the tomatoes and can others.    


I purchased a blanching basket that fits perfectly into my stockpot.  It’s great for blanching tomatoes, green beans and squash before freezing.  Blanching tomatoes is easy and a necessary step to remove the skin before freezing or canning.  It locks in the flavor and here’s the steps:


1.  Choose tomatoes that are not bruised or cracked and rinse them thoroughly to remove any dirt. 


2.  Full your stockpot half-way and bring to a roaring boil.  Do not fill completely, immersing the basket will cause the water to rise.  


3.  Fill a large bowl with ice water.  This step is important, it will stop the tomatoes from cooking and cool them down enough to remove the skin.  


4.  While you’re waiting for the water to boil, remove any stems and make an x on the bottom of each tomato.  Making an x on the bottom of the tomato helps loosen the skin during the cooking process.  (This step is optional.  I have blanched tomatoes without the x).  


5.  Once your water is boiling, place the basket inside the stockpot for approximately 30 seconds – 1 minute. Do not cook your tomatoes longer than the 1 minute time frame.  Some of the skins on the tomatoes may start slipping off the tomatoes during the boiling process and that’s fine.  You’re going to remove the skin from the tomatoes, this is the goal.  


6.  Remove the basket from the stockpot after 1 minute and emerge the tomatoes into the ice water with a slotted spoon for about 5 minutes.  You can see the skin slipping off a few of the tomatoes in the picture below.  


7.  Remove the skin from the tomatoes, the skin should easily slip off the tomatoes.  


8. I recommend slicing large tomatoes before placing them in quart or gallon freezer bags.  Smaller tomatoes can be left whole.  If you have a sealer, now is the perfect time to bring it out.  I like to use quart bags for storage.  It’s a sufficient amount for my dishes down the road.   


9.  Write the date on the freezer bag with a permanent marker and freeze until ready to use.  


10.  If your bags are sealed properly, your tomatoes should not sustain freezer burn and should be good to use through out the winter.      

Stay tuned for my canning session.  I usually put up 15 – 20 quart jars of tomatoes each season.  I use the canned jars in chili, soup, salsa and other recipes as well.   What are you harvesting from your garden?  


Leaning Tower Of Pole Beans

green bean trellis support, how to support a green bean trellis

I stepped onto my deck to take a look at the garden and thought my eyes were deceiving me.  Was the pole bean teepee trellis was leaning?  Shielding my eyes, I squinted to get a better view.  I was still unsure, so I headed toward the garden.  I found the leaning tower of pole beans.  The weight of the vines was pushing the teepee trellis forward. It looked as if it could tumble anytime.  


I had to find a quick remedy, oh what to do.  I noticed the extra t-posts leaning on the wood fencing and ran to grab one and stuck it in the ground inside the teepee.  Now how do I tie this baby to the t-post.  I notice a lone tie on the gate of the garden and ran to grab it.  My strategy pays off, I leave a few ties scattered around the garden just in case I have to tie up a plant.  I pushed the teepee back praying that it wouldn’t fall apart and tied the t-post to the back of the teepee.  

 

It is saved, and now stands erect.  Thankfully, it looks just like it did when I imaged it being covered with the vines and beans exploding on the plants.   

The weather in my area has been quite cool for July.  If we don’t get hotter weather soon my garden may end up being a display of greenery with no produce.  We are barely getting into the 80’s here in zone 6B.  I have tons of tomatoes, but they’re not very big and ripening slowly.  I have only harvested 1 tomato, 1 cucumber, a few squash and that has been the extent of it.  

This time of year, I’m praying for somebody, anybody to take zucchini off my hands. I have tons of cukes for pickles and salads, but not this year.  I’m now praying for 100 degree days in August so I can produce tons of fresh veggies.  

Check out this post on how to build the pole bean teepee, and be sure to incorporate this remedy into your set-up before the vines add weigh.  

Sunflowers and Finches In The Garden

sunflowers

I love sunflowers.  They make me happy, look at their beauty faces.   They dance in the garden and add brilliant color among the greenery.  This is a my second year growing sunflowers, and I’m in love.  The first year, I didn’t have one seed germinate.  However, I changed my method of growing them, and bam!  I use bottle greenhouses to germinate my seeds now, and than transfer them to the garden.  I have had great success using this method.  Check out my other sunflower gardening tips too.

Below are some of my favorite sunflowers.  I plant them every year. The Gold Finches love them too.  I love sitting on my deck watching them feast on the seeds.  Unfortunately, the lens on my camera doesn’t capture the beauties in the garden.  I guess I shouldn’t blame the lens, I need to learn how to use it, lol.

 

Autumn Beauty

 

sunflower varities

                                                                                           Mammoth

 

sunflower varieties

        Lemon Queen

 

So, my favorite sunflower is the Lemon Queen.  It’s smaller compared to the Mammoth, which grows 10 – 11 feet and the Autumn Beauty.  The Lemon Queen grows to about 5 feet. In a few weeks, the centers will be filled with sunflower seeds and the American Gold Finch will have a new feeder.  Right now they are enjoying the Nyjer Seed.

American Gold Finch

 

Furthermore, when the sunflowers mature, the finches will eat every seed on the stalk.  However, they’re so beautiful, I just let them eat until their heart is content.  Take a close look at the pictures, because there’s 2 males and a female in this picture.  Additionally, the female is the dull colored finch at the top.  However, the males turns the same dull color as the female in the fall/winter.  They color up in the spring and summer to the brilliant color shown.

Also, this feeding station is outside my bedroom window.  Unfortunately, the finch preferred the $1.99 sock.  Had I known, I could have saved my money on the tube feeder.  So, lesson learned.  They will feed from the tube feeder if the sock is completely occupied with feathered friends, so I guess it isn’t truly wasted.  I enjoy watching them feed upside on the tube feeder.

Finally, next year I hope to add additional varieties of sunflowers to the garden.  Do you grow sunflowers? What variety do you grow?

Planting and Harvesting Garlic



I finally have garlic!  I planted garlic last year and had no success.  I decided to try again in the fall and look at these nice healthy garlic plants.  I planted onions in this space last year and they did great, so I decided to amend the soil with my homemade organic compost and plant the cloves in the same spot.  They loved it.  






I finally harvested the plants this week, and I’m quite pleased with the size of the bulbs.   Harvesting the bulbs required a little muscle.  The roots at the end of the bulbs run deep, so you must dig the bulbs out.  You can’t pull them out like onions.  Since this was my first year planting garlic, I didn’t realize how much muscle would be required.  


To avoid damaging the bulbs, I decided to remove the dirt until the entire bulb was exposed and I could get to the bottom of the bulb.  I used my garden shovel and my hands, please wear gloves, to remove the dirt until the bulb was exposed.  I than placed the shovel under the bulb and worked it until it became loose and than pulled it out.  Nice way to get an upper body work-out, lol.  


     
It’s amazing what can happen in 2 – 3 week in the garden.  I harvested the bulb on the right 3 weeks before the other plants.  You can see how much smaller it is than the other cloves, but it cured beautifully.  It’s ready to use.  I just need to cut off the roots and stem.  Some people braid their harvest, but I’m just going to store mine in a dish on the counter since it’s a small batch.  


I will allow the newly harvested bulbs to cure for 3 – 4 weeks.  Once it turns white and the covering is like paper, I’ll shake off the dirt, remove the roots and stem and than store it.  Some gardeners leave their harvest in the garden to cure, but I brought mine in the house and played them in a spot in the kitchen.  Stay tuned for a post on what it looks like after it has cured.  Do you plant garlic? How do you allow your plants to cure?

Guide to Companion Planting Book Review

I am now a book reviewer for Crown Publishing, a subsidiary, of Random House.  I will be reviewing various books published by their company.  I jumped at the opportunity to become a member, I love to read and I also love to have reference books around if I need to refresh my memory on a particular subject. As you know, I’m a home gardener.  I received a copy of The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting by Josie Jeffery to review.  This book was heaven sent, as I companion plant my kitchen garden.  


I was impressed with the book when I opened the package. The cover and binding of the book are beautiful.  It would be easy to wipe off dirt or accidental spills and the illustrations as you see are just lovely.  It’s a hardcover book with a strong binding.  You won’t have to worry about this book falling apart, it is quality.  


The book is very detailed, but not to a point where you would loose interest in the details.  For example, it gives the history of companion planting and how it is used around the world.  It provides information on soil preparation, manure, composting, and setting up rain barrels to help water your garden.  This is information that you truly need to know if you want to become a sustainable gardener and do it efficiently and at minimal cost.  I have been composting for years, added manure, have devised a method to keep weeds down, but have yet to add a rain barrel.  I hope to add a barrel this summer for next year’s use.  


Lets move to the content. I love how the book is designed.  The book is set up with 2 cards, for a lack of a better word.  One card has the name of the vegetable/flower along with information on when to plant, where it should be planted, growing tips and when to harvest.  Opposite the first card is the second card which shows a beautiful picture of the plant.  The content is set up with three sections, which is great if you want to hold your place to make notes on a particular plant, but still want to browse another section or find a particular plant in another section.  


In the back of the book is a place to make notes.  I think the books to beautiful to write in, so I would make notes elsewhere.  It also contain an index in the back of the book, which will help you find a particular page for the plant you wish to research.  


I have this book a thumbs up and 5 stars.  It’s actually one of the most beautiful and informative gardening books that I have come across, and it’s an easy read. The book retails for $17.99 in the states and $20.99 in Canada. I would encourage you to purchase a copy, especially if you’re a beginner gardener.  It’s a great reference for the advance gardener as well.  I’m grateful that I now own a copy.  


Note:  I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  



How To Pickle Peppers

Do you like peppers on sandwiches, nachos, in beans, salads, dips ?  They’ll be as fresh months from  now as they are today if you pickle them.  I thought I would share this recipe so you can plan to pickle some of your harvest this season.  My children love them.  My daughter actually called to ask if I would mail her a few jars through the mail.  Imagine a jar breaking and the post office smelling like pickled peppers.  I declined that request, but I do take a jar when I visit her.  My grandchildren love them too.

 This batch is a combination of:    

  •  Hungarian Wax
  •  Sweet Banana
  •  Chilies
  •  Jalapeno
  •  White Bell

I throw whatever peppers are ripe in the bowl.  Some people prefer to use jalapeno peppers only, but I like to broaden my horizon.  I make a pickling broth to cover my peppers.  Here’s what you will need for the broth.  You may have to double the recipe depending on how many jars you will be canning:


  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups of white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of Kosher salt

I brought it to a boil.  Next,  I placed a teaspoon of pickling spice to the bottom of 1/2 pint sterilized jars.  Pack the jars with peppers and pour the pickling broth over the peppers. Prepare them for a hot water bath by removing the bubbles with a plastic knife.  Take the knife around the jar a few times and ensure the peppers are packed tightly.  Wipe the rims of each jar with a clean cloth.  Place sterilized lids and rims on each jar.  Water bath for 15 minutes.  They are delicious.

*Note – Do not use blemished peppers when canning your produce.