Tuesday, September 21, 2010

collectress of seeds; preserving & preserving; some solutions; last of summer

“collectress of seeds”--sounds better than “seed hoarder,” right? all summer i’ve been squirreling away little seeds i come across out in the world. every walk i take is also a hunt for seeds; every piece of farmer’s market produce is mauled for its seed contents before i eat it. quite a few plants in the garden are going to seed now, too, so it’s time to start packaging and labeling my stash before i get confused and forget what everything is.

gayla trail’s book “you grow girl” contains a template for making these seed envelopes.

first i made a few using wrapping paper, hand-writing the labels.

then i made some using pages of two mid-90s, victorian-themed magazines i found at the library book sale. (the library is the best place to get magazines for craft projects—huge variety and most are only 10 cents).

i typed out labels on the new typewriter.

so far i’m mostly using the gross, smelly, fermentation method of saving tomato seeds. white currants are the easiest and most fun to expel seeds from--i just pinch them over a jar and they puke their seedy guts out. i saved a surplus of those. if anyone reading this is interested in some white currant tomato seeds, leave a comment with contact info and i’ll send some your way.

jason and i took a class together on canning and preserving, through neon (north end organic nursery). that nursery has some wonderful class offerings, most of them free of charge--this one had a $10 materials cost to cover the awesome preserving book they gave us.

they did a demo for raw-pack, water-bath canning tomatoes, using fruit picked fresh from their parking lot. it was kind of crazy, they didn’t wash their hands, didn’t wash the tomatoes, didn’t sterilize utensils properly...i was like *o* and jason was like *o* ...they verbally covered all the scary parts of canning, botulism and all the other things that can go wrong, but their demonstrated methods seemed slapdash and unsanitary. so, i feel pretty confident now. if these people can preserve for years using these methods, eat their own preserves and not be dead, then my meticulous, can’t-get-things-clean-enough, don’t-even-breathe-near-what-i’m-canning methods should be more than adequate.

the class really was empowering and informative, just slightly cringe-inducing. a few days later i did my first pint of raw-pack homegrown tomatoes and i’ve done two more since. i think it makes more sense to preserve tomato sauce, though, rather than whole tomatoes--takes up less space and is probably a bit easier to do.

next month jason and i are taking two community ed classes: “reiki: rest, relax, heal” and “fun with fermentation.” the latter teaches the basics of fermentation and how to make kombucha. it’s something i know very little about, and despite being just a pinch repulsed by the concept of fermented food, i’m pretty interested, too. i wonder if they’ll be kind enough to give us some starter culture for making kombucha...that’s probably too much to hope for.

the neon class instructors demonstrated another method i love using dehydrated, small tomatoes.

you cut the tomatoes in half, dehydrate them at 105 degrees until they’re dry to the touch but still pliable, then jam them into a jar and drown them in olive oil. no need to process. supposedly they stay good for six months at room temperature this way. and they look so beautiful. (edit: i don't trust this method anymore, after reading that this is a really fabulous way to give yourself botulism. the oil creates a nice oxygen-free environment for the bacterium to pump out their toxin. i'm using this jar for display only.)

a few weeks ago i made currant tomato raisins, dehydrating them whole. i didn’t cut or score them at all so they took forever to dry and turned brown in the process. the cut-in-half method is much better.

i’ve started dehydrating summer vegetables for a soup mix (another tip from class). so far i have carrot, red pepper, squash and sweet corn. some vegetables need pre-treatment for this type of drying, which i didn’t know before--steam blanching, for instance. they take different drying temperatures, too--most are 125 degrees but some take 145. obviously they’re not raw after that, but since i’ll be cooking them in soup anyway it’s not a problem.

it’s such a good idea to dehydrate corn right now when it’s so inexpensive and delicious. next time i go veggie shopping i’m going to fill a whole bag with corn and toss it all in the dehydrator immediately.

good time to dehydrate herbs, too. this oregano bush had grown so huge it killed part of the lawn.

all season i’ve been having trouble with plant labels, and i know i’m not the only one. popsicle sticks are the quick/cheap/easy method but they break, get lost, fade, etc...so here's a cute solution:

painted rocks. regular acrylic paint with sealant so they won’t wash off, peel or fleck. they’re easy and fun to make and cost nothing, but it does take a lot more time than writing on popsicle sticks. permanent marker on rocks would probably work just as well and be much faster.

i made a few with typewriter labels. quicker, but i like the look of painting best. i think these will make a good project for early spring when i’m itching to do something (anything!) garden-related.

i was picking apples by the river and couldn’t reach most of the good ones, so i had this impulse to run to a hardware store and buy a telescoping fruit picker. then i stopped and wondered where the hell that came from because obviously i could make my own.

i went to a thrift store and found everything i needed: a swiffer and a plastic dinosaur egg. i decapitated the swiffer, attached it securely to the bottom of the egg, then taped two nails at the top for grabbing stems. (any lightweight, long stick would work—curtain rods, ski poles, broom handles, golf clubs, etc—but i chose the swiffer because it’s sturdy, lightweight, and can be taken apart into foot-long segments for easy transport and storage). as far as the dinosaur egg component, use your imagination...a small plastic bucket would work. a modified lacrosse stick would take care of both those components, if you’re lucky enough to find one cheap.

my freaky-looking fruit picker works but is not so great for apples--the stems are too tough, they don’t release easily from the branch. i got a few but it wasn’t easy. i’m sure this contraption will work great for things like apricots, plums, cherries, etc., though.

i picked another few pounds of crabapples today, probably to make pie.

last week i made another batch of crabapple butter. it’s delicious, but now that i’ve seen this wonderful slow-cooker method i wish i’d done it that way. next time, definitely.

hyde park street fair was last weekend. it’s the last summer festival here. hard to believe summer ends this week...

jason’s knitwear booth:

he shared a booth with boise co-op, so he was able to put them in charge and come wander with me for a bit.

i bought a dress...this is the first piece of *new* new clothing i’ve bought in i don’t know how long. i seriously can’t remember the last non-underwear piece of clothing i bought firsthand.

my harvests for the last few days:

first yellow crookneck squash...these two plants sent up lots of male flowers early on, then looked dead for a while, then came back and sent up lots more male flowers. only one female all summer. i don’t know what their problem is.

yesterday was a big day for large tomatoes.

i stuffed some of them with crumbled firm tofu, fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, chives and sage), sautéed bell pepper, onion and garlic, then baked at 375 for about 15 minutes.


Amy said...

What bounty! I'm still a little afraid of canning, but the thought of all those summer preserves ...mmm. Love the diy seed packets and painted rocks as plant markers.

Kim and Victoria said...

Good grief, you've been busy!
Love those seed packets. My word, they're lovely.

GoneferalinID said...

Another wonderful post! I love the tomato seeds photo, and the stuffed tomatoes look amazing. Oh, and fruit picker = :)

Shari said...

I love your creativity! You are certainly inspiring.

I would love some of those seeds you are giving away! Would you e-mail me at shari3139@yahoo.com with your e-mail address? I will send you my mailing address in reply.

I believe I may have some spare seeds around here that I could send back to you if you'd like.
Thanks again for another wonderful blog!

Emily said...

amy--i was afraid of canning too until i started doing it. it helps a lot to get hands-on instruction, if you know anyone who could teach you. even if not, you should go for it!

kim and victoria--thanks so much! yes, i keep myself pretty busy.

goneferal--glad you like the fruit picker, haha, it's so funny-looking i got a little self-conscious using it down by bsu the other day. just the act of picking fruit in public draws a lot of attention and questions/comments from passersby, and using a swiffer with a dinosaur egg...yeah...

shari--i just sent you an email! i'm glad you're taking me up on that because this tomato is seriously cute and delicious, i think everyone should grow them.