Friday, July 18, 2008

Dehydrating Peaches

When one tree produces more than 300 peaches, you have to be creative on what to do with all of those peaches. I've dried or dehydrated tomatoes before and they were really good, so I thought I would try drying or dehydrating peaches. I got my dehydrator several years ago at a department store. I'm starting with about 16 medium sized peaches, juice from 4 limes, a small strainer, a mixing bowl filled with water, a cutting board, and a paring knife.

red haven peaches
The peaches should be ripe, but firm. I washed the peaches off, just to get the dust off. I don't use any pesticides, so there is no unwanted residue in that category. I slice the peach in half and remove the pit. Then I slice the peach in half again and holding the peach quarter in my right hand, I take my left thumb and peel off the skin. I am growing Red Haven peaches. These peaches are wonderful because not only do they taste good, they have little to no fuzz, the skin peels off readily, and they are freestone, which means the pit can be removed very easily from the fruit. Cling peaches don't do this, which makes it hard to remove the pits for canning, drying or freezing.

Persian limes
Pour the lime juice, or you can use lemon juice, in the mixing bowl with the water. If you don't have any lemons or limes, you can use ascorbic acid found in the canning section of your local grocery store. I happened to be at the 99 cent store the other day and got a whole bag of Persian limes for, yes, just 99 cents. Make sure the stainer is submerged in the water when it is placed over the bowl. Now take the pitted and peeled peaches and slice them again which means they are now cut into eighths. When you get two peaches pitted, peeled and cut up, place them in the strainer and submerge into the citrus water for no longer than 5 minutes. Soaking the peaches in the citrus water prevents them from oxidizing in the air, turning brown and helps retain the vitamins. After soaking the peaches for a short time, drain the water over the bowl, letting most of the water fall back into the mixing bowl (for the next batch of peaches). Now arrange these peaches in rows on your dehydrator rack close together, but not touching. You want to leave a little space between each peach slice so the air can circulate around and dry them out. Now go back to pitting, peeling and slicing two more peaches and so on till you get all of your dehydrator racks filled.

peaches on drying rack
Dehydrate on 135 F till dry. I put the peaches on at 11 am. You'll have to wait to see how long it takes them to dry. I also want check the electric meter to see how much energy dehydrating takes. The amount of time to dehydrate will vary depending upon the variety of the peach, how ripe and juicy it is, and the brand of dehydrator utilized. To be continued...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Judy's Block Bins & Curried Okra

block bins with rice hull compost
Today I went to visit my friend Judy to see her new method of growing vegetables. Judy read about building raised block bins and using rice hulls to amend the soil. Judy says her vegetables are twice as big as they were last year and attributes their health and size to using the rice hulls. That's the light colored stuff you see in the soil. Judy constructed the bins by stacking the block and overlapping the seams. It wasn't necessary to use any mortar as the block is strong enough to hold back the soil.

okra growing in block bins
Judy's also has bent PVC pipe and inserted each end in the block. She uses the PVC pipe to place plastic over the bins if a frost is threatened or can put up some shade cloth if the weather gets too hot. I could even see some vines climbing up the PVC pipe.

wood raised vegetable bin with potatoes
Here's Judy's potato bin. She ran out of block, so she built this one out of wood. The beauty of a raised bin with rice hull, lightened soil, is digging for the potatoes is going to be super easy.

Judy made some scrumptious lunch too and the main course was curried okra, um um good! That's Judy's okra patch shown in the second photo. As the summer winds on, Judy said the okra gets over 6 feet tall and keep producing. We also had rice, summer squash and I brought some of my minted eggplant. Lunch was like dinner. I never eat that much for lunch, but I recalled visiting my grandmother in Arkansas when I was a child and remembered we always had a big meal for a late lunch and then something light for dinner.

Here's Judy's Curried Okra recipe: 1 pound young okra pods, stem-end cut off and discarded, chopped into 1/2 inch sections. Begin stir frying okra over medium heat in a little olive oil, stirring frequently. After about 10 minutes, add 1 red onion, finely chopped, and 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp curry powder, 1/4 tsp ground turmeric, salt and pepper to taste. Stir fry another 5 minutes, until onions are soft. Serve hot as a vegetable side dish, a main dish, or cold on bread as a sandwich. Even if you don't like okra, this is one recipe you have got to try, it is simply delicious.

Thank you Judy, for a wonderful visit and a super lunch.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

No Sign In To Make Comments !

You can now make comments on my blog without signing in. I have updated my blog comment section, changing the requirements to make comments so anyone can make comments. Several people mentioned they can't remember sign in names and since our world is so busy I am hopefully making life a little easier for you.

Another online blog recommended not requiring a sign in on blogs to increase blog comments. So in the interest of sharing and increasing comments, which is why I started this blog in the first place, I am putting myself out there. If you wanted to make a comment about a previous post, but decided not to because of the sign in hindrance, please do so now. I'd love to hear from you.

I hope I'm not deluged with a ton of spam.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Minted Eggplant

beautiful eggplant I grew
I found three ripe eggplant this morning. I've grown eggplant before, but my plants never did that well. At this location they seem to do well. I think they are getting the heat and humidity they need to thrive. Eggplant is one of those vegetables that takes on the flavors you add to it. Most people have heard about Eggplant Parmesan, but have you heard of Minted Eggplant? Well, here's the quick and easy recipe, perfect for a hot summer day.

2-3 large eggplant
4 tablespoons of minced garlic
1 cup very finely chopped mint leaves
juice from 5 limes

Slice eggplant about half an inch thick,
leaving the skins on. Steam eggplant
in a vegetable steamer till just tender,
but not falling apart. About 12 minutes.
Quickly remove eggplant and immerse
in an ice water bath to stop cooking process.
Drain eggplant well. Put one layer of
eggplant in the bottom of a casserole dish,
layer with minced garlic and finely chopped
mint leaves, making sure you get some mint
and garlic on each eggplant slice.
Continue with another layer until
you run out of eggplant.
Drizzle with fresh lime juice
over the entire casserole.
Let marinate for about two hours.
Serve room temperature or slightly chilled.
Very refreshing.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Floral Arrangement From Our Gardens . . . Bee Balm, Black Dahlia & Shasta Daisy

Black Dahlia shasta daisy and bee balm floral arrangement
I finally got some wet floral foam yesterday, so I could take advantage of some of the flowers blooming in the garden and a few floral arrangements. Here you see a footed round milk glass vase arranged with Bee Balm, Black Dahlia and Shasta Daisy. I used Modesto Ash for greenery. All of these items are growing in the gardens here. As soon as I am caught up, I plan on having a floral arranging demonstration and class here in the gardens. If you are interested, please give me call. Happy Fourth of July weekend to you all.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Blooms in July

Rudbeckia hirta 'Autumn Colors', Brown-Eyed Susan
Rudbeckia Autumn Colors or brown eyed susan
Achillea millefolium 'Paprika', YarrowAchillea millefolium paprika or yarrow
Kniphofia uvaria, Red Hot Poker or Torch Lilyred hot poker
Hypericum androsaemum 'Aubury Purple', St. John's-worthypericum Aubury Purple
Gallardia 'Torchlight', Blanket Flowerblanket flower or torchlight gallardia
Leucanthemum 'Agalia', Shasta Daisy (fringed)shasta daisy agalia
Echinacea 'Primadonna Rose', Purple Cone Flowerpurple cone flower or echinacea