Sunday, July 21, 2013

Another Gardening Update (Like we need another!)

It seems I've been a bit lax in posting again.  Everything seems to be a bit late in  the garden this year and I have been staying pretty busy with things around here.  Funny but it seems like by this time last year (I'd have to look back and see) what little hadn't already burned up had been canned, dehydrated or frozen.  I'm not fussing though.  I'm happy to even get a spring garden in this year!

Some of the peppers are still not producing while others are going gangbusters. There are several different kinds of peppers out there, most of them hot.  Thanks to that deal I got at the Feed Store it looks like we are going to be eating peppers in all sorts of ways!  Most of the plants from the Feed Store were pretty stressed when I brought them home.  They were all root-bound and tall and leggy.  Most of them are looking pretty good now and I'm hoping they'll start producing soon.  The jalapeno's, cayenne and bell peppers are doing ok, but the star of the garden right now are the cayenne plants.  They are covered with both blooms and peppers and are probably three and a half foot tall.  Anyone care to share what they know about putting up/ using cayenne peppers?  I mean other than drying them for the seasoning?  I'd love it if you'd leave me a comment with suggestions. 

I've picked another couple of buckets of black-eyed peas this week.  Shelling takes so much time but I've found a little secret that has really helped.  Rather than shelling them the day I pick them I'll wait till the next evening to shell them.  It seems that once they dry just a little they are much easier (read faster) to process.  Yeah, yeah... don't ask how I figured that one out.  But since we are on the subject of peas I have another question for you guys.Let me explain first.  Last year when I was canning the peas and other "shell beans"  I would fill the jar with the beans and then add my water and process. Once they came out of the canner, no matter what I tried, they would always end up with twice as much "head space" than I started with.  The very top layer of beans were dry and kind of yucky looking.  They tasted fine when I opened them, they were just ugly.  So.... this year I asked a friend what she would do to have them come out right.  She suggested I soak the beans/peas overnight before I canned them.  They turned out better but I still have more head space than I want.  Anyone have any suggestions?

The tomato's are coming in like gangbusters now with no sign of giving up anytime soon. With the lower temps we had a couple of weeks ago I've even got some new fruit set.  I've been keeping my fingers crossed that all the stuff for making salsa would come in about the same time.  I kind of ran into a minor snag though because of the peppers.  The jalapeno's are just now starting to get going (and they aren't hot at all) and the tomato's are piling up so after kicking around the problem for a little bit I decided to go on and make a batch of salsa with the few jalapeno's that are ready and using some of those prolific cayenne peppers in their place.  I'm happy to say it worked out fine.  You just have to roll with what you are given and trust that it will all be ok.  Kinda like life, yeah? 

I put up a canner load of my version of Rotel tomato's yesterday.  I need to do another one soon.  Basically it's just chopped tomato's, onions and (this time) cayenne peppers.  We really like to cook with "rotel" type tomato's so the plan is to put up enough for the coming year.  Oh, I almost forgot... while I'm on the tomato topic.... all the skins from all the tomato's have been put in the dehydrator.  This worked out so well last year that I just had to do it again.  What do I do with the tomato skins?  Once they are dry I put them in jars and vacuum seal them.  When I need tomato paste or tomato sauce I just grind up some of the skins, add water till I have the consistency I need and don't have to buy either tomato sauce or paste anymore!

I've got a ton of cucumbers to do something with in the next couple of days. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do with them yet though.  We aren't big pickle eaters here.  Shoot, I've still got a few quarts of dill and bread and butter pickles from year before last in the pantry.  I have to do something with them in the next day or so (the sooner the better) and I'm still trying to figure out how to put them up.  A friend of mine was telling me about some relish that she did that I might have to try.  I really liked the idea.  Chop cucumbers, onions and hot peppers up and process them like pickles.  She did her's with a bread and butter mix.  Mars doesn't care for bread and butter pickles so I'm thinking about "tweaking" this one and making sort of a hot dill relish. 

So there ya have it. What I've been up to this past week.  Get up, drink coffee, feed critters and head out to the garden to pick whatevers ready.  Fire up the canner and dehydrator and go from there.  Then there's the weeding and prepping for the fall garden.  I've planted more beans as it seems the green beans aren't going to produce like I had hoped.  We'll try squash again even though I don't have much hope for it.( $#(!# squash bugs) and who knows... maybe... just maybe we'll be able to win this time.


  1. Assuming you are using a spatula to coax out air bubbles trapped between your veggies before you put the lid and band on, the simplest explanation I can think of for your heads pace issue is this: the gases (O2, CO2) inside the vegetable tissue are being displaced-- moving from inside to outside the vegetable.

    I'm clueless as to why the lop layer is mushy, though, except that the tissue itself is degrading.

    Have you tried diatomacious earth for the squash bugs?

  2. Neat idea with the tomato skins. Our garden was a bit late producing this year as well but seems to be kicking in good now. The squash bug battle as well has been brisk and we delayed them by a good amount but as usual they will win in the end. You just can't find them all once the squash really gets going too many hiding places.

  3. Sci,

    On your black eyed peas, I find when I leave to much headspace when processing some of the air bubbles remain causing the top of the jar to change color and sometimes dry out. I don't if this will help you but change your headspace on a few of the jars the next time you can and see if that makes a difference.

    I'm still waiting on my tomatoes and peppers to produce fruit (because of the delay of planting due to weather). I worry because it's getting hot and I'm afraid this year I won't have the peppers and tomatoes like I would like.

    When will you be starting your fall garden? In August?

    Give Mars a hug, have a good Sunday.

  4. Hi Marica - Can you repeat that in a slow southern drawl? LOL!
    As for the D.E. Yes Ma'am, I've tried D.E., soapy spray, spray with hot peppers and soaps, handpicking them off and several other things that haven't worked either. I DID hear something interesting on a gardening show I listen to every weekend though that I found intriguing. The caller had put a BT (regularly mixed) into a syringe and gave the stems an injection. I doubt it would work for the squash bugs but it just MIGHT work on the squash bore's. It's worth a "shot" (pun intended) :o)

    PP if you get a chance to try drying your tomato skins, I can promise you will see the benefits right away. Pretty awesome actually. As for the squash bugs "I want them ALL DEAD!!!" And as you said, you just can't get all of them no matter how hard you try.

    Sandy, I'll keep trying to figure out just wth is going on with the headspace. I've tried several different ideas and so far I'm still coming up with that dried out mess on the tops. < sigh >
    Hang in there and don't give up on your tomato's and peppers. Especially the peppers as they will thrive in the heat and can go pretty far into the fall season and still produce. Did you know that if you are growing your peppers in containers, as long as you protect them from the freeze they will produce again come spring?
    As for the fall garden, we've already started with a couple of things. We've planted some more green beans and some pinto's. The one's that are growing now haven't really even put out any baby beans yet, so I'm trying to hedge our bets! More stuff to be planted toward the end of August and the first part of September.
    Hugs to you and yours!

    PS I apologize for not answering individually to everyone, but WILDBLUE SUX has slowed down our net speed yet again. It's always something!

  5. Sci- gurl, there is no such thing as too many garden updates! i have no idea why you are having headspace issues??? as for the squash are still such tiny plants that i don't have that problem either! however, i will brag about all of the peppers that i already have - woohoo! and a bunch of baby tomatoes too. we kept one pepper plant last year...all of the others had died but he hung on. we put him a pot. kept him over the winter, he flowered and then grew one pepper over the winter - teehee. he is out in the greenhouse now with a full-red coloured and 4 more babies - they will live in pots and keep flowering. oh, btw, he's a cayenne pepper.

    your friend,

    1. You are lucky not having to deal with the dreaded squash bugs. They are terrible. You might even rethink things dying once they've decimated all your squash for a couple of years... hehehe

      I'm so glad you're garden is starting out on such a good note. And have I told you just how much I love ya'll's greenhouse?

  6. I grew up with Black Eyed Peas and really miss them.

    1. Same here Mr Hausmann. I would miss them terribly.

  7. I agree with sandy possibly less head space. No peppers this year for us, all my plants died.Tomato's are super slow but starting to turn...picked the first tonight! Squash bugs and borers got mine again this own fault for not changin wheRE i planted them...lets hope for a good fall garden right?

    1. Gurl, I've even tried leaving no more than 1/4 inch of headspace and are getting pretty much the same results. I know it must be something pretty simple, I just need to track it down. Wooo hooo on your first tomato of the season!!!
      As for changing spots to fool the squash bugs/borers, I think it only slows them down a bit. They seem to have some sort of squash radar or something.
      I'm looking forward to a fall garden this year. We haven't been as hot this year as in the past two. More like "regular" summer weather so I'm hoping that a fall garden will be gangbusters!! (Of course there was that little problem I had last year when we got our first freeze the First of October instead of the last.)

  8. Great idea for the tomato skins! I usually - reluctantly - give them to the chickens, but this is even better! I've had the same problem with canning beans - I'll check back to see if anyone solves it. You're having a lot better luck than I have with peppers this year.

    1. Susan, I really think you will love this use for tomato skins. I didn't have to buy a single can of tomato paste OR sauce. It's easy to just powder it up and make your own. And you know exactly what's in there too.
      I'm glad I'm not the only one with this bean problem. It just about drives me nuts!!

      As for the peppers, it does look like it just might be a banner year for them. Just today I took 8 trays of Cayenne peppers out of the dehydrator. And there are a ton more where those came from. It didn't hurt to have found those pepper plants on sale a few weeks back either!

  9. Um, babe, we SO need another gardening update. Don't stop. Seriously.

    I am living vicariously OVER HERE! giggle

    Anyhoodle - the cayenne? If you like hot sauce [the Tabasco brand or Texas Pete, you know what I mean, right?] I would use those suckers in that. I think it a basic cayenne and vinegar mix - perhaps a little sugar and onion, but you can find it on line. We use some serious hot sauce here, especially with all the beans and south western food we eat.

    And I can-NOT wait to tell my beloved Inlaws about your use for tomato skins. I will give you full credit [of course] but they are going to love me forever on that one. As do I love you. What a fabulous tip.

    And yes, keep these posts coming. I may not have a garden this year [temp living] but I am enjoying the Inlaws largesse and I can't get enough of your tips and hints.

    Still need me a dehydrator tho'. Sigh.

    xo Skip

    1. Good idea on the hot pepper sauce for some of the cayenne! I was thinking about trying to put some up in olive oil too. Pepper oil? Don't you know that would be good to saute up some veggies in!

      I'm so happy that your In-Laws will "love you long time" Especially over the tomato skins. I can't believe I hadn't done this ages ago. I just read it in a forum somewhere and decided "What the heck, I'm just gonna feed 'em to the chickens anyway"
      It's great that you still have access to garden goodies. Nothing tastes as good as it does when it comes out of the garden!

  10. I had the same problem with my purple hull peas that canned last year. They soak up a lot of the water. I did a raw pack and decided this year I will blanch them to help get some of the air out of the actual peas before I put them in jars. I know it's an extra step, but I'm curious to see if it will keep them from absorbing so much of the water while in the canner.
    I've also wondered if putting less peas in the jar and more water to make up the head space would help in the raw pack.