2020 Veggie Gardens!

So interesting about the color change! I remember a Vivian Howard episode on okra where she shows purple okra turns green when cooked, and it blew my mind a litte!

1 Like

Thanks @bogman - I was trying not to invest in a machine that will only be used this year - my tomato glut situation is likely a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic-related event :joy:

That said, I did buy the juicer attachment for the FP here, which appears to do a great job of straining out the skins and seeds. Was going to buy a hand crank food mill, then decided I would be kind to my arm (after having pressed about 20kg through a strainer manually in two rounds). Also bought a splatter screen for the sauce reduction.

More here.

Harvested some capsicum / green peppers this week. So cute.

2 Likes

Not sure, maybe soups or mixtures. I have such a big crop and have frozen some but space is tight so dehydrating is for the rest.

I wonder if you could grind them and use the powder for something. Mushroom powder is a thing,

1 Like

Dehydrated snap beans, green beans, yard-long beans are good rehydrated and seasoned while cooking. Either some smoked meat, such as bacon, or a small amount of Morita pepper plus a very small amount of brown sugar in the cook water works well. The texture will not be like fresh. Even frozen snap beans lose their crunch. Plan on soft. If you want crunch, mix in some toasted slivered almonds or water chestnuts.

Alternately, casseroles and soups, stews are easy ways to use the beans. One of the old-time methods of drying split beans on a string to make “leather britches” was very common in the US.

The dark, dried color will likely return to green upon rehydrating. For best storage, use an air tight container such as jars with a good seal, vacuum bags or mylar pouches. Many vacuum sealers have jar hoods to pull a vacuum on mason jars. Ideally, you want to remove oxygen on thoroughly dried products. I use all of the previously mentioned storage containers and typically add an oxygen absorbing packet.

Oxygen absorbers, which I get from Packfreshusa, are inexpensive ways to get oxygen out of stored food. Not only can they greatly increase storage life, it helps keep the quality and food value, since there is no oxygen to degrade vitamins, color, etc. Rancidity in foods with oil or fat is greatly delayed. Since the oxygen absorbers come in packs of 10 (typically) and are vacuum sealed, it’s good to have a vacuum sealer on hand to reseal any unused packets.

Oxygen absorbers are great to keep bugs out of stored grains, dried peppers, etc. No oxygen = no insects. Be sure to store preserved foods in a cool, dark place. I even put brown paper bags over jars that are maturing hot sauce, so color is not affected by light.

In case you’re wondering if there’s some noxious chemicals going on in those O2 absorbing packets, relax. The secret ingredient is powdered iron, with a sealed-in trace of moisture. The iron powder absorbs oxygen to create rust, pulling oxygen out of the container.

Removing oxygen should only be done on thoroughly dried or freeze dried products! Removing oxygen from moist foods can encourage growth of Botulinum bacteria, which is responsible for Botulism.

2 Likes

That was a great answer! Much appreciated.

Every time I get to instructions that include “cool dry place” my heart sinks. Where does one find such a place in the summer?

Thanks bogman for all the tips! But the last paragraph is a bit worrisome. How can one be sure of a thoroughly dry state. Just seeing the word botulism with dehydrated items gives me pause. I keep my dehydrated foods in mason jars in a dark cabinet. Never seen any signs of spoilage. Does botulism appear or is it invisible?

Shrinkrap, dark and dry may be your best option in a hot climate. Sunlight can really ruin foods, and beer! A spot lower in one’s home tends to be cooler than a high cabinet .

Elsieb, as long as the food is crisp or does not get moist/soft in the jars, it’s fine. There is a step called “conditioning”, where one takes the dried products, puts it in a tight jar(s) for a few days and then puts the food back in the dehydrator for 4-8 hours. The thinking is, if some parts have a bit of moisture left, the moisture will spread out over time, into the other bits of food. Then, when re-dried, it is thoroughly dry.

This is not always needed, but some things, like tomatoes with skin, often have a few areas where trace moisture is left.

Bacteria need moisture to reproduce and live. If the food feels dry, snaps when bent and does not have damp areas, it should be fine, as long as it’s tightly sealed. Tightly sealed is important so the food won’t absorb water from the air over time. That’s more of an issue in humid places like where I live. It’s often 90-100% relative humidity in the summer. Chips go flabby in no time if left uncovered!

If you want to be really sure, there is a scientific way to tell if something is dried out. Take a sample of the dry food and weight it with a precise scale or balance. Then, heat the sample to 230 degrees for half an hour or so. Weigh it again. If the weight is the same, there was no moisture. If it weighs a bit less, there was water in the original sample. (LOL, unless you burned the sample!)

I don’t bother with that! Absolute dryness is not required for safety. Trace amounts of moisture will spread out throughout a package, resulting in a state too dry for microbial growth. What is always important is to check out the food when opened.

Does it smell OK? If not, pitch it.
Are there traces of mold, weird color, off taste? If yes, pitch it.
Did the food somehow get damp in storage. If yes, pitch it.

Botulinum bacteria can only make the poison/toxin if the food source is not acidic and there is no oxygen. There must also be enough moisture for colony growth, damp to wet. Canned foods and improperly made sausages have historically been the main culprits for botulism, especially undercooked canned meats, fish, potatoes and beans. Dried foods are very unlikely to support bacterial growth.

Just in case: when I examine dehydrated foods and they appear done, I leave them in the dehydrator for another 4 hours or so. While drying, it’s good to rotate trays and move shelves around so everything dries evenly. Also, do not overload a dehydrator with very wet produce. If there is too much water to get out, it can lead to slow drying, blackening tomato slices or spoilage. This may mean spacing sliced food out more, loading every other shelf or otherwise filling about half way.

There are a bunch of good books on making and using dehydrated foods. Those go into detail for each type of food, blanching times, pretreatments, etc. Generally, the process is pretty easy and common sense. Some things are not obvious, like parboiling potato slices so they do not blacken.

1 Like

Bogman, Thanks for the info. I did once have the blackened tomatoes and got rid of that batch. Hadn’t known why.

Dark and dry I can do!

Yesterday’s harvest. Some of the tomatoes will end up as crushed in purée, then canned. The others will be made into a different kind of sauce, and canned. They’re coming on very fast now. Hope it continues for awhile.

3 Likes

Gorgeous @Lambchop!

My plants went through another round of near-death thanks to some stupid fungus, but several are coming back after snipping and feeding.

I’m still getting several big bowls every week ( maybe 5-10lbs?), but my family keeps giving them away before I can make sauce :rofl: I guess it’s nice to have something from the garden to gift people. I wouldn’t be bitter if other people harvested them when they wanted to give some away… right now I’ve harvested, sorted by type, and trimmed off the stem ends with the intent of preserving… and each step takes a while. Anyway, it’s nice to have something I grew to share.

I just got my juicer attachment for the food processor - in lieu of a tomato mill. I’m excited about that, because most of my tomatoes are very seedy.

3 Likes

Beautiful!

1 Like

Blissfulness!

1 Like

Finally, some Floriani Red Flint corn is coming in. Here, it’s surrounded with Blue Lake Pole green beans, which were Freeze dried.

The kernels are very pretty, reddish with yellow tips.

Once dried, the whole grains will get stored and small batches will get ground for polenta. This very old Italian heirloom makes the best polenta I’ve ever had. I bought some ground polenta corn meal of this variety, which was expensive, and was surprised how much better it was than other commercial brands. The downside is a 3 hour cook time. I’ll experiment with pressure cooking and soaking, see if that can be reduced.

I’ll use what’s left of the polenta meal I bought to determine what size sieve to use, how finely/coarsely it should be milled. I have two different hand mills, which can produce pretty much any product desired. A cast iron Estrella mill has had the burrs worn down, broken in, so it does a great job making everything from fine masa to cracked corn.

Because rancidity and storage life are considerations in many commercial polenta meals, parts of the corn grain get removed, changing the flavor and nutritional value. Whole grain keeps for years, as these are living seeds.

About half of the corn is still in the field, which is worrisome. It’s has been raining a lot, since August, so I have to pull ears to finish drying indoors. Also, there’s always the threat of squirrels, raccoons and other riff-raff stealing it.

4 Likes

Those corn and beans looks great, and your plans sound intriguing!

We are having another heat wave an more fires here, although still a county away, and not a local threat. At least not today. The damage around here is heart breaking, and includes several small, family, agricultural businesses and wineries. Some big wineries too.

1 Like

Beautiful! And your efforts are so inspiring. I’m sure the polenta with this special corn is amazing!

I harvested another big bunch of kale today.

Got to use this adorable new toy to strip the leaves, then sautéed the (diced) stems and cut the leaves into ribbons for salad. Very effective tool, btw.

A friend gave me a tip (courtesy her late mom) to deal with the horrible cabbage worms that have been thriving off my poor kale (lots of white butterflies flying around) - chilli water! I’ve been heating chilli powder in water, letting it settle, and then using the water as a spray on the plants. This bunch of kale was virtually untouched, quite a miracle compared to the last lot that I basically got the stems from, after they had enjoyed the leaves.

Now to figure out what to do about the kale in the pest-infested back. I think I may break down and buy floating row cover fabric.

2 Likes

That’s a great tip, thx!!

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold