March 12, 2012

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Mmmm...I can still taste this delicious rainbow chard from the last garden, which loves to be doused in balsamic vinegar, by the way.  We successfully grew this in our square foot plots and had enough to share, which is always a worthy goal for gardeners.  I bunched it together and took it to a church potluck that had a "Fall Harvest" theme.

And I had better explain this little bit of abundance since I previously said that our tomatoes were a bust last summer.  The big exception was cherry tomatoes, and we could barely keep up with them.  But as far as the lovely slicing/canning tomatoes that we count on, no go.  The weather was a factor, but the biggest issue was the fact that we were out of town so much last May.  Gardeners should really not leave in May - it's the crucial season for getting things off to a strong start!

 These happened at the end of the growing season of course.  We had fun giving some of them away too.  I love growing pumpkins because they just do their thing, and one day you go out and spy a flash of orange and get excited like a little kid! Then you start searching under more and more of the huge pumpkin leaves and discover treasure everywhere - love it!

Peppers were abundant in our garden too, which was odd because we knew a number of people who couldn't get their peppers to take off at all last summer.  You can amass all the education you can on gardening, and many things just remain a mystery.  Even many of our lecturers for our Master Gardening program, through ISU, attested to the same thing!

I made a new relish last fall in light of the pepper abundance. The recipe is from the good old Ball Blue Book, which has all the classic home canning recipes and instructions.  This is simply called Cucumber Relish, but has as many bell peppers as it does cucumbers. It's taste is a cross between sweet and sour and is fantastic!

The relish made a big enough batch that I had some to give as Christmas gifts. I topped the jars with Ball plastic caps (put on over the sealed lid), and then decorated them with buttons so that the jars could be used as a catch-all in the kitchen once the relish was gone. The tags are made from recycled Christmas cards and I like the look of common kitchen twine on these kinds of gifts too.

This was another kitchen gift for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I did use our own carrots for this Carrot Cake jam. It's also full of pears, pineapple and spices - so good!  The recipe is from another Ball canning book that I'll feature soon.

Now for the looking forward part!  The beets pictured here on the left were generously shared with us by a friend last fall.  They are called Chioggia - aren't they gorgeous?!  Last night we were scanning the seeds at our local hardware store (yes we scope out seeds wherever we go!), and lo and behold there were these fantastic heirloom seeds.  Looking forward to harvesting our own, along with all the hopeful little seedlings that are popping up under the grow lights - stay tuned.


  1. I don't believe I've ever had chard before. Love the look of those beets! And of course I love the buttons you added to your giveaway jars!


  2. Holly we've tried so many new vegetables since we started gardening here. I think the catalogs entice us to try them out. I knew you'd like the buttons since you are the crafty queen!