Friday, August 22, 2014

Tarahumara Popping Sorghum * Make half your grains - Whole Grains! #GardenCuizine

Popping Sorghum is blooming!
So far I'm really enjoying growing this interesting whole grain in our garden. Sorghum stalks grow tall like corn. The leaves have a distinct white stripe down the center. The plants bloom a tassle-like top, which reminds me of wheat, but it's wheat-free. 

Sorghum's white seeds can be harvested, dried and ground into gluten-free sorghum flour or popped like popcorn. Sorghum flour as an ingredient works well combined with other grains; it's especially good in recipes for pancakes or bread.
Photo Copyright (C)2014 Wind. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Today in Our Garden: huge yellow heirloom tomatoes! #GardenCuizine #gardenchat

Today in Our Jersey Garden
Well, I took my eye off our ripening huge heirloom tomatoes for a day and two whoppers got over ripe. Harry sliced into our biggest one before I had a chance to weight it. It may have been 2 pounds! The other shown in the photo above, weighed 1 lb. 8 oz. - wow! This breaks our record of 1.2 lbs. from last year. 

Needless to say we've been enjoying tomatoes on everything you can think of. For lunch today, we ate tomato sandwiches while watching hummingbirds visit Coronado Hyssop* and their feeders. This morning, we enjoyed Harry's heirloom tomato and cheese omelets for breakfast. Last night, we had tomatoes in salad at dinner. Tonight, I'm sure we'll add tomatoes to something, perhaps a simple tomato basil salad or tomato peach salsa. 

Try growing your own organic fruits and veggies for quality nutrition and fresh food, all which make gardening such a worthwhile adventure. We grow all our tomatoes from collected seeds from the largest tomatoes. The huge yellow heirloom shown in the above photo is most likely Yellow Brandywine.

Photos Copyright (C)2014 Wind. All rights reserved.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Processing Grapes * Making Grape Juice for Grape Jelly #nowinediamonds #GardenCuizine

Homemade 100% Pure
Grape Juice 
for making Grape Jelly

Yesterday we harvested 5 pounds, 10 ounces of organically grown grapes for jelly. We've learned from experience that to make the best homemade grape jelly, it's best to allow two days: one day to crush and blend the grapes into grape juice and a second day to make the jelly.  

Letting grape juice rest overnight in the refrigerator allows 'wine diamonds', otherwise known as potassium bitartrate crystals, to precipitate out. The crystals are easily removed by filtering the fresh juice through cheesecloth.

Potassium bitartrate crystals 
Potassium bitartrate crystals are GRAS approved by the FDA (Generally Recognized As Safe). The first time we made our own grape juice for jelly, we didn't know about potassium bitartrate crystals and some crystals did form in our finished product. I noticed them while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The harmless crunchy texture in our homemade jelly was undesirable because the crystals resembled bits of glass. 

If your homemade grape jelly is planned for company or intended as a gift, it would be a good idea to plan ahead and allow two days to prepare it. It's worth the extra day.
Putting it all together
Homemade Grape Juice Recipe
1) pick grapes (ours are organically grown)
2) pull grapes off stems (discard stems in compost)
3) weigh grapes
4) rinse grapes to wash - then strain
5) place washed grapes in stock pot
6) mash grapes directly in stock pot using clean hands or potato masher. (note: acid in grapes can make hands itch - some wear plastic gloves)
6) add water: for 3 to 4.5 lbs. of grapes add 1/2 cup water. We had 5 lbs., 10 oz. so we added about 2/3 cup water. You only have to add a little water.
7) bring to boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 10 minutes. Mash again with potato masher to release juices.
8) collect juice by straining contents into a cheesecloth-lined pot or china cap (tip: wet and squeeze dry cheesecloth first so it doesn't absorb and waste juice).
9) squeeze out as much juice as you can as the pulp cools, then discard the used cheesecloth and pulp (pulp can be composted).
10) transfer the strained grape juice to a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate overnight. This allows natural crystals to develop and precipitate out.  

The next day, you should notice small wine diamonds about the size of silver glitter floating on the surface (see photo above). Strain the juice a final time in a double layer of cheesecloth to remove any crystals.

Enjoy your pure and natural antioxidant-rich juice. Homemade grape juice can be used in homemade wine, jam or jelly recipes.

Food science note: Potassium bitartrate crystals are a byproduct of the wine industry and are gathered from the sediment in the barrels. They are ground to make Cream of Tartar for the baking industry.

Related Links
Homemade Reduced Sugar Grape Jelly
Blog post and photos Copyright (C)2014 Wind. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Today in Our Garden * Grape Jelly time! #GardenCuizine #gardenchat

Today in Our Garden
South Jersey
USDA Zone 7a (formerly zone 6b)
August 9, 2014
Harry picked a colander full of organic red grapes this morning. We plan on making grape jelly. Also, we finally spotted a few more swallowtail butterflies this morning. This year we haven't seen as many butterflies as we usually see - have you?

Hummingbirds are more active at the feeders now, and flowers are blooming all over the place, except for dahlias and goldenrod. We noticed meadows of yellow goldenrod blooming now in the Adirondacks, which is further north. Here at home, even Mom pulled out her cell phone camera to snap a few flower photos this morning.

Some of our NJ blooms include:
  • Buddleia (the few we have left after die back from last winter)
  • Sunflowers (from bird seed)
  • Limelight hydrangea (shown next to Harry in top photo)
  • Green-Headed Coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata (yellow blooms shown)
  • Coronado hyssop (my new hummingbird favorite! check out my Dave's Garden article Hummingbird favorite: Coronado Hyssop
greeter at the garden gate

  • Four o'clocks, Zinnias, red Cannas, Cosmos
  • Hostas, Hibiscus
  • Apple mint, Phlox, Black-eyed Susans
  • Salvias (including lady in red, Yvonne's, black and blue)
yesterday's harvest
The veggie garden is full of heirloom tomatoes, basil, potatoes, chia and both sweet and hot peppers. 

We have the BIGGEST TOMATO that I've ever grown or seen ripening on the vine now. It's a gigantic yellow heirloom tomato. An award winner for sure. All our tomatoes were grown from saved seeds from the largest tomatoes of the previous year. Guess it works!

We're looking forward to seeing the actual weight of our largest heirloom tomato ever along with large, dinner plate dahlia blooms - all coming soon.

Hope you are having a happy and healthy summer

Related Links
Homemade Reduced Sugar Grape Jelly
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Photos and blog post Copyright (C)2014 Wind. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hiking with Harry in the Adirondacks #ADK #Keenevalley #wildblueberries

Blueberry Mountain
4.8 miles round trip day hike
Hiking Adirondack mountains will surely get you back in shape within a few days, assuming that you start off somewhat prepared to hike by eating right and keeping yourself as fit as possible during the year. This year I planned to be better prepared than last year and worked out weekly at a gym. It did help. You don't think of it when you're young, but can't help but notice that as you get older - the climbs get tougher!

Most trail books accurately describe Blueberry Mtn. as an easy short hike with a beautiful view of Keene Valley. Harry and I left from Marcy Airfield to Blueberry Mountain, 2.4 miles: 4.8 miles round trip. The trail also lead to the summit of Porter Mountain, but we only wanted to climb Blueberry: 2,890 feet, which was enough for us for the first hike this trip. 

The August weather was comfortable and cool; not unseasonably hot like summer of 2013. And, yes, there were lots of blueberries and shrubs on Blueberry Mtn. Wild blueberries are noticeably smaller than commercial blueberries. 

RIP Pat Quinn who passed away May 2012. Her family closed the Bed and Breakfast 'Mountain Meadows' located in Keene Valley. She always gave us advise on good hikes and was an inspiration. I loved her cottage gardening style. Harry says it was like "going home,"  which it was. We miss her and the hospitality of her family. I think of her on mornings that I refill our hummingbird feeders and especially when we visit Keene Valley.
Trail-head located center of Keene Valley
Harry taking a photo of wild blueberries
Photos and blog post (C)2014 Wind. All rights reserved.