Between taking care of the garden, summer business and harvesting the insane amount of produce we received, it’s been hard to share updates. So, here is a quick one.
For the most part, I think I can safely say all that crazy work we put into sheet mulching our 700 sq. ft. garden space paid off. As you can see, we had an abundance of vegetables of multiple varieties. I was really glad the cucumbers took off this year, as last year we had none.
It was slow going at first. The weather was abnormally hot early in the season and so I was sure all of our effort would be for naught. The photo to the right was my initial picking. Also, depressing. Fortunately, the rains came, the humidity rose and the garden exploded. Resulting in the photo at the top. Some of that is from picking at my in-law’s garden while they were away, but the majority is ours.
With an abundance of produce, comes a need to use it. Last year I felt like we canned tomatoes forever. But this year, with so many tomatoes and peppers, I didn’t think it would ever end. Our first go around resulted in 11 quarts of pasta sauce. Think about this: when you go to the store and you look at the shelves of pasta sauce varieties, it’s simple to believe it doesn’t take much to produce all of those jars. So when I say we canned 11 quarts of sauce, it probably doesn’t sound like a lot. What you’re missing is the process and sheer quantity of tomatoes required to get those 11 quarts. We used roughly thirty pounds of tomatoes, peeled and cored. If you’ve ever peeled a tomato, you can appreciate that.
We canned whole tomatoes too, which is a little easier, but still went through about ten pounds in that process. I made habanero jelly, that was 6 pints. We made homemade salsa, which was ten pounds of tomatoes and five pounds of peppers. Several quarts of green beans, five pints of black raspberry jam, and I took another stab at making hot sauce.
Now here’s something that’s worth trying if you have extra peppers. They don’t have to be hot, but that sort of defeats the purpose of making “hot” sauce. I might have posted about this before, here is one website I go back to for easy referrals. It’s really easy, so long as your brine is the correct ratio. The rule of thumb is 4 tbsp of salt to 1 quart of water. I always make sure to use distilled water because I just don’t trust tap water for this process. Three quarts of fermenting peppers reduced to about six pints of hot sauce.
Eventually we got to the point where we had been canning for seven days straight, and we were done. In an act of near desperation to save all the food we produced, I started tossing peppers into the food processor with no regard for seeds. With the help of a little olive oil, I divided up the peppers by color and type, blended them down to a fairly manageable size, and started filling freezer bags. Ten, sandwich size bags are now sitting in our freezer. It will be nice when we need them in the winter for chili, etc.
Despite what might appear as frustration, I’m really happy with the results of the garden, and have already started to consider changes we will make next year. The blackberry bushes will need to be moved to a new area, as they are taking up way too much space. Also, I’m not very good at managing those, so need to learn how to prune them so they produce more. Our tomato plants are, well, just too big. As much as I love the aesthetics of the obelisks that currently support them, we may have to try something else.
All in all, these are great problems to have. We’ll definitely appreciate all of the work in February when we’re not buying produce from the other side of the world.