Carrots out the Wazoo – Now What?


On the heels of last nights awesome rainstorm across the Houston area, close to 2 inches overnight, I decided it was time to pull up the carrots. Some have just exploded with growth. See photo below.

Exploded/split carrot....they taste OK but my wife refuses to let me cook them.

Exploded/split carrot….they taste OK but my wife refuses to let me cook them.

I am in the process of prepping for cucumbers and squash plantings in the next week. The sugar snap and snow peas are still producing but the heat that disables them is just around the corner. My early planting of Yukon Gold potatoes is off to an amazing start. I am using a barrel, a big tub and of course – some planted in the back bed.

Yukon Gold Plants needing to be hilled up a little deeper!

Yukon Gold Plants needing to be hilled up a little deeper!

The Brussels Sprouts are still forming, I hope well enough to harvest before the heat sets in! Good looking plants, not sure what to expect as this is my first attempt at growing them. I found a good recipe and cooking advice over on – http://promenadeplantings.com/2013/04/11/brussels-sprout-cheddar-and-apple-salad/

The freezer is full of strawberries waiting to made into wonderful jam. As they fade in the garden I am loving the evidence of a potentially great blackberry harvest! I enjoy them fresh but he low sugar jam I make helps extend the enjoyment into the fall or if lucky….till 2014 arrives.

I added more strawberry scraps to the top level of my worm bins. I am now on level five and the migration up towards the top bin is underway. They seem to be a little chubbier than usual…..could it be the abundance of strawberries in their diet? – Quite possibly – they have been binge eating strawberries for many weeks now! I still recycle….lots of scraps going into my compost bins.

I need some variety in recipes for Swiss Chard – at the moment it is an abundant ornamental in the garden. I can only eat so much fresh in with salads or wilted like spinach….Help!

Carrots and more Carrots

Carrots and more Carrots

A look down the garden path toward the back beds. The poles in the foreground arch up over the entrance and soon will be covered in 3 varieties of pole beans.

A look down the garden path toward the back beds. The poles in the foreground arch up over the entrance and soon will be covered in 3 varieties of pole beans.




Strawberry Jam – It’s As Easy As……..Well, Jam


I finally gathered up enough of the misshaped and odd looking strawberries that did not become treats for my wife…and yes, me too – to make a batch of strawberry jam. I keep a gallon sized freezer bag in the freezer(duh) and add to it as the consumption allows. When the gallon bag is bulging full it is time to make jam. So today was the day.

I use the “Sure-Jell” low sugar/no sugar pectin and I always default on using sugar, only 4 cups per batch vs. 6 cups for the regular recipe. It takes 6 cups of mashed up strawberries to get started…accurate measurement is critical to making successful jams and jellies. I still have a cup or so in the freezer bag for the next batch. Once measured and mashed up – see below – you add the pectin mixed with ¼ cup of the sugar (from the original 4 cups measured out) into the mix and begin cooking…another key is to follow the recipe…..I know it’s not a man thing to follow recipes or directions but I have learned many good lessons the hard way!

6 Cups of mashed up strawberries with the pectin/sugar mix stirred in.

Now – when it boils vigorously foam tends to build up on the surface of the jam…even when adding a dollop of butter in an effort to keep the foam down. The foam is not a bad thing….it just not aesthetically pleasing when viewed in the jars….. ewwwww, what’s that stuff floating in the jam? So, I just scoop it off, put it into a little bowl for immediate consumption. Today Kathy was making her special breakfast treat – 3 tbs. of quick oats, a 4 tbs. of egg whites, some cinnamon and topped with any sort of fruit compote…. Cooks two minutes covered in a very small fry pan, flip and add the fruit…today was the strawberry jam foam – must have been good because I got a real kiss as a thank you……nuff said.

The foam starting to show up on the surface of the mix….close to boiling. Keep stirring Bishop – you don’t want to scorch the jam….also, stirring is clearly stated in the recipe/directions!

Then into the sterile jars, processed for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath and now wait until cooled and probably at least 24 hours to make sure it jells well. I already tested it…the utensils used in the process pick up and hold lots of jam…if it jells well more sticks to the utensils and I get to clean-up the tools……yes I do use my tongue….it’s only me and my germs…..I don’t share. I hate to waste any of that precious sweetness!

A nice little bounty to stash away in the pantry. I still have a few jars of strawberry jam from the 2011 season so I may have to gift some of it or eat a lot more biscuits & jam, toast & jam and maybe try Kathy’s egg white concoction with strawberry jam lathered across the top! Yum!

The bounty….all in reused jars. The hexagonal jars get used up first as I don’t trust them to reseal with previously used lids. The rest of the jars get new sterilized lids. That’s what the recipe/directions tell me to do…….




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I think my wife really does love me. I was out of town on a job in the Midland and Lubbock areas of West Texas and unable to tend to my gardening chores. I flew home early last Saturday morning and she surprised me with a big basket of my home grown strawberries. Wow, what a gal!!!! I finished filling one of the 1 gallon freezer bags already partially filled in the freezer and started a new bag. I need to make another batch of jam this week and may fill the next bag by the end of the week….. I will be swimming in my heavenly strawberry jam – Yum!!!!

Today was a partial day in the garden and I only sweated through one T-shirt. I weeded, watered and finished pulling up the last of my Detroit Red beets. I still have a very beautifully leafed beet variety that I forgot the name of yet to harvest. Very nice looking tops and we will see about the beet taste soon. I made a pickled beet recipe today to eat like a cold salad – it is pretty tasty.

 I used about 3 + cups of skinned and sliced up roasted beets. FYI – drop the hot roasted beets in ice water and the skins nearly remove themselves. I boiled ¾ cup of cider vinegar and ¾ cup of beet juice….. I poured almost a cup of hot water over the beets in a bowl to make the beet juice. Once that mixture was boiling I added 2 tbs. sugar, 2 whole cloves, 3 whole black peppercorns, a bay leaf, about ¾ tsp. of sea salt and about a cup of chopped red onion. Brought it back to a boil and poured over the beets. Refrigerated for a couple of hours and man, they are pretty darned good! Recipe is almost exactly like one I found in allrecipes.com. Great recipe resource!


The Mason Bees. They are rapidly depositing eggs and filling the tubes. I have about 11 of the tubes filled and sealed. Should have quite a few more next season.

The worms. I checked on the poor guys Saturday when I returned and they were trying to escape. I had neglected both the food they need and the bedding necessary for their comfort. I was able to feed them a big a big batch of strawberry parts and tops – see the comments about my lovely wife above, some old bread, beet cuttings and other veggie scraps….. They seem to be back to work and not complaining now.

My Green Beans. The Kentucky Pole beans are leaping and now blossoming. The bush beans look to be on the same time table.

Asparagus. Slowing down and will let them fern out. I put some Martha Washington in a few weeks ago and they are sprouting.

Tomatoes. Slow but setting fruit….except my Brandywine – I do have a few blossoms on one but I have my fingers crossed. The Juliet tomatoes and Creole tomatoes are doing well.

Cucumbers. I put up twine to let them climb this morning….part of the sweaty shirt stuff. My cucumbers in my friends backyard ( I put a 4×4 patch in his yard) are blossoming and way ahead of mine! Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Enough for now, hopefully blackberry news soon!


Jammin’ with my Jam

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Over the first few weeks of my strawberry season I have been able to gather and freeze enough of the berries that weren’t eaten fresh to make some jam. The first picture show the beginning of the process – the thawing of the berries. I just love how they smell as they begin to thaw and give off the wonderful aroma of “real” Strawberries.  They may not look quite as pretty as those in the store but they make up for it in flavor.

Last night – Friday the 8th of April was my canning night. It takes 6 cups of berries to make the jam and I had thawed a bag containing about 7.25 cups. It is very important to accurately measure when making jam so I scooped out the excess and added it to the bag in the freezer being held for the next batch. Can’t hardly wait to make more jam!!!

  I use “Sure-Jell’ powdered pectin labeled for less or no sugar jams. I use the” less” sugar  recipe, 4 cups of sugar vs. 6 used in regular jams. Not a lot of difference in sweetness but a noticeable improvement in the fruit taste. It gels nicely and is oh so good on my toast in the mornings. I may get frisky on the next batch of strawberry jam and try using a complimentary spice for some variety ……. any suggestions …… drop me a note and I will give it a try.  Look for  report back in a future installment.

A peek at the future – my blackberry vines are beginning to set berries. I have 3 varieties and the season should be a good one. I should start picking at the end of this month and stop near the end of May…… Blackberry jam is my favorite!!!!



Jamming and Jelling – no not like Dr. Scholl’s – that would be Gelling

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I have been catching up on the canning – two batches of my home grown blackberries, one batch of my strawberries and now a little treat.

I made a batch of Shiraz Rosemary jelly. What a wonderful pairing of flavors. I can't wait to try it over cream cheese as a dip and maybe on some lamb as a glaze while grilling. The last batch is a Port jelly with orange, cloves and cinnamon sticks blended, soaked and strained through cheese cloth to help keep the jelly clear and flavorful.

Hmmmm,. how about some Chardonnay Jelly with a little orange zest and a dash of cloves. Send me a suggestion…. I love to experiment. The best suggestion gets a jar and a surprise treat…. help me out.

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