Summer is rolling along, and with it the kind of daily chores that mostly involve putting up food for winter. I'm so glad I've had this month off of work, as it really helps to have extra time to process the harvest.
I'm doing lots of odd jobs that, by themselves, don't really make for an entire blog post. For instance, I noticed almond trees blooming this past spring up the street near our neighborhood pool, so I put a note in my calendar to check them again this time of year and see if I could harvest some. Sure enough, I was able to reach a dozen or so and bring them home. They haven't cracked open yet. As I understand it, on big farms, they wait until the outer shell cracks open, then use a specialized piece of equipment to shake the almonds out of the tree. I didn't want to wait until they cracked, because by then the squirrels would have gotten them all. So I brought them home and put them in our outdoor drying rack and we'll see what happens.
I've been using this same drying rack to dry hot peppers (Piccante Calabrese), almost constantly. As soon as a handful of peppers become ripe, I slice them in half and pop them in the dryer. The jar of dried peppers is growing. Unfortunately these peppers are about the size of quarters, so it's going to take a lot of peppers to fill up this jar. Oh well. We don't eat all that many red pepper flakes. (Except for Adam, he really likes them on pizza.)
It's been quite warm, and I decided I wanted to protect the tomatoes from the late-afternoon, western sun pounding on them. So I clipped up some row covers to give them just a bit of shade on that side. These particular row covers block out 10% of light, so the tomatoes are getting plenty of sun. I've noticed the leaves looking a little crispy, which isn't unusual this time of year, but anything I can do to help the tomatoes keep producing is a priority.
There are always a lot of tomatoes ripening on the piano. This batch is going to be made into tomato paste, or BBQ sauce, I haven't decided yet.
I took out my food mill in order to start on this project...
... and promptly broke the plastic thingy that torques the base down to the counter and suctions it, so that it won't move when you crank it. It is unfixable. I was pretty mad. So I have to wait until the new one I ordered arrives (hopefully tomorrow). I decided to go with the old kind, you know with a crank at the top, the kind that's been used for a hundred years. Hope that one lasts longer than one year.
I've been saving some tomato seed. I don't know why I was so intimidated by this in the past, it's really quite straightforward. You just squeeze the tomato into a jar, juice and pulp and seeds all together, then let that sit on your counter for 4-5 days until mold grows on it. That means the seeds have fermented a bit (which removes an anti-germination coating) and are ready for drying. Scrape off the mold and carefully drain the liquid. Good seeds sink to the bottom. Give them several rinses of water and then spread them on to a paper towel to dry. Easy.
It's also time to start thinking about the winter garden. I won't be actually putting anything into the ground until October, or even early November, depending on the weather (our first average frost date is December 15). I've got the seed packets and plans out and it's fun to figure out what will go where.
You may remember that last year I had a little trouble with 'heading' vegetables, like broccoli and cabbage. I think what I'll do this year is start those seeds indoors (or maybe even outdoors under the shade structure) in early September. Then they'll be ready to go in the ground in October.
So, yes, trucking along here, just preserving as things come ripe - tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers. Our first ripe cantaloupe went to a pregnant friend who is craving melon. :) The next one is mine, though. Watermelons are not far behind!