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Monday, October 31, 2011

First foray into canning

2011 marked our first foray into the world of canning. The scare of "botulism" has kept us away all this while. After reading up a lot on the topic we figured it was the right thing to do considering we grow our own Tomatoes and would much rather place our trust on home canned stuff (the right way) instead of the pricey, store bought, sodium laden, BPA laden canned tomatoes.

I picked up a pressure canner because I knew that my prime target was Tomatoes and because of their low acidity, it wont be safe to put them through a simple boiling water canner. I also made sure I got all the tools, and they were well worth the investment and make the entire process much more easier to manage.

We made sure we stuck to all the rules and requirements, boiling sanitizing and careful handling. (Reminded me of the days I helped my mom make Jams and Juices, growing up in India)

This was one of our first batches

So we were very motivated to skin the Tomatoes (as it was suggested in the books)

My favorite are the yellow Brandywines which were extremely sweet.

It was a lot of work, and yes it was the middle of the night by the time they got into the canner.

We had pretty good success rates with the seals, but we forgot to add vinegar in the water (hence the water stains on some of the Quart bottles). But hey it is just cosmetic.

The bigger Quart bottles contain either whole or pureed Tomatoes. (I have about 21 of them stocked up now). Hopefully they will last me all winter.

The smaller half pints have Tomato pickle (seasoned with sesame oil and Indian spices). The green colored ones are Tomatillo Salsa (Seasoned with homegrown green chili peppers).

Curry Leaf propagation experiment

The small bunch of regular readers of my blog know about the "Curry Leaf" plant that is my prized possession. (Read about it here, here and here)

This is the first year that our "Curry Leaf" plant is in the ground. For those skeptics who are against putting them into the soil, I know I am taking a big risk this winter. The plant is still fairly small and would need a nice protective jacket to help it get through winter. (We are working on that)

This is also the first year that our little plant yielded some fruits. The key is to have the freshest fruits to ensure good success rates for the propagation. We sowed the healthiest of the lot in flat trays so they can be moved inside. The only tricky part is that it is winter and I have serious doubts about their viability.

Stay tuned.

A new herb garden bed

It has been a while since new posts were updated in a timely fashion. The summer of 2011 has been pretty hard on us. Many a times we forgot to take pictures, and in the off chance that we did, the picture never got downloaded from the camera for many months.

Here is one such update about our new "herb bed". (Read the Prologue to this story here). We added a nice seating area and some finish trim to the herb planter bed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Exotic Gourds

The past couple of years, I have had a pretty bad time growing exotic asian gourds. The only exotic gourd I manged to grow was the Luffa Gourd in 2010 (Read those posts here)

I don't give up easy, so in 2011 I pledged to grow these exotic asian gourds yet again. But this time around I succeeded, but it has been bitter sweet.

The gourds I tried were- Bitter gourd (Indian and Chinese), Snake Gourd, Ridge Gourd and Bottle Gourd.

I have had great luck with the Bitter Gourds this year, too much good luck actually. I grew two varieties, the one on the left are what i call "Chinese Bitter Melon" as those are the ones I find in the local Ranch99. The ones on the right are the Indian variety (the ones I ate growing up in India and they are available at the local Indian grocery stores.

As much as one might be obsessed over Bitter Gourds, it is difficult to consume a lot of these. So I shared the bounty with the extended "Namakkal clan" and my Asian colleagues

Snake Gourds are a precious commodity here in the US, and I hear even in India these days. One typically finds the fat variety in the store. We gladly consumed all those lovely Snake Gourds (and shared some with friends too).

The Ridge Gourds though fairly common sight at the local indian grocer, the store bought ones look pretty worn out and tired (like me). My homegrown Ridge Gourds were very tender and kept well for over 3 weeks in the refrigerator even after harvesting. I made a couple of classic dishes and a few new ones. Need I say more- the Ridge Gourds were a grand success.

The Bottle Gourds are some of the most easiest to grow and the plants typically take over the planting area and the surrounding places too. They are typically shaped like bottles, i.e. cylindrical. My Gourds this year turned up in this shape instead and made for some cutesy gifts.

The Tomatoes of 2011

Here are the lovely Tomatoes i grew in 2011. The few Brandywines that didn't succumb to blossom end rot ended up ripening into the most sugary sweet Tomatoes of the year

The second best award went to the "Black from Tula" Tomato.

The Razzleberry Hybrid was the most firm and well rounded Tomato

The "Cream Sausage" were the most prolific

The "Red Siberian" had the most lovely Calyx

The "Prudence Purple" was a gorgeous and beefy pinkish red Tomato

And one of the entire bounty