Psalm 67:6 The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. NIV
Hello Little Bend Friends! Well it is getting on to the end of October and Halloween is right around the corner. We have had a couple of light frosts and I am happy to say harvest time is finally complete here at Little Bend. I hope everyone is done as well and you find your shelves stocked with many stores to last you until next harvest season.
With that I thought I would chronicle our harvest for 2015. We were blessed to have a perfect planting year with the right amount of rain at the right time and the right amount of sunshine and warm days. So I will start with all the vegetables and then the fruit that we harvested and the methods we used for preserving them.
Potatoes – We planted both red and white potatoes this year and we had a bumper crop and some of the largest potatoes I have ever seen! Check out the picture of some of them below. We harvested approximately 150 pounds of potatoes to which we stored most of them in our root cellar packed in sand to eat throughout the winter and we usually have some leftover that we will let “eye” out so we can replant them next spring in the garden again. Some other potatoes we canned and the rest we dried into potatoes slices to rehydrate them in things like beef stroganoff or soups this winter.
Carrots – We harvested 50 pounds of carrots and we used the same method as the potatoes to store them. Also, we dried some of them as it is particularly easy to dry carrots and they reconstitute very easily in soups and stews. The other method we used to preserve them was freezing and canning. We use the frozen carrots for eating on your plate and the canned and dried carrots we use in soups and stews as I am not a huge fan of canned carrots unless they are in stews.
Green Beans – We harvested approximately 15 pounds of green beans which we canned about half of them and froze the rest.
Peppers – This year we planted bell, jalapeño, habanero, serrano, tabasco, and banana peppers. We harvested about 10 pounds in all. The preserving method of the peppers was freezing, drying, pickling, and pepper jelly. The frozen peppers we use in stews and soups. The pickled peppers we use as garnishment on burgers. The pepper jelly we like on with cream cheese on crackers or is a great topping to put on pork and beef roasts. The dried peppers we also use in stews and soups but I like to use dry peppers when we make our beef and turkey jerky as it adds a spicy kick to the jerky. If I have any leftover dried peppers come springtime I mix them in some water with a couple drops of Dawn dish detergent and use as a natural bug repellent for the garden vegetables.
Cabbage – We planted both red and green cabbage to which we got about 10 heads of cabbage. We made sauerkraut out of the green cabbage and the red cabbage we just consumed all summer long. We made coleslaw with it but we also roasted it either in the oven or on the grill (which is my favorite)!
Tomatoes – Oh tomatoes! What can I say about tomatoes; only that they are the most versatile and easiest vegetable there is to have in your winter stores. You can make tomatoes into almost everything; and we did! We harvested over 150 pounds! We canned them (stewed), we made salsa which used tomatoes, peppers, onions, and the herbs; we made spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, and we even sun dried some in our solar oven.
Onions – We planted both red and white onions and we allow them to dry until the tops are dry and then we use them throughout the coming months in cooking and the rest I will dry into onion flakes which is best done in the garage as they can smell up the house!
Leeks- One of my favorite vegetables from the garden! I love the mild onion flavor and I generally just eat these straight on the plate although we do roast them as well on the grill. Growing leaks up here in Minnesota it is best to start them indoors in the winter and transplant them in the spring so that they grow large enough. Leeks do well in cold weather and they do survive a frost so I usually just leave them in the ground and harvest until the snow falls.
Fennel – This was the first year that we grew fennel and I will admit I was very surprised by this vegetable and how good it was. Fennel has a licorice taste and you can eat every part of the fennel plant. We roasted the bulb when we grilled out this summer we used the leave fronds on our salad and I harvested the seeds this fall to be used in cooking this winter.
Salad Greens – The kind of salad greens that we eat are kale, spinach, mescaline mix, and arugula and it is something we grow year around. We grow them in the garden by planting a small row every week or two so that we can continually have salad. I let some of the salad go to seed and I collected seeds in the fall. When it becomes too cold we grow it from the seeds in the house in small flats under a florescent light. I love salads greens as they are very good for you but they can be quite expensive in the store. Plus I have found that the store bought salad greens do not last very long as they tend to wilt and get mushy.
Parsnips – Sometimes called the white carrot parsnips are very sweet and a staple in our household and we grow them here at the farm. We sauté them in butter and enjoy them all year long. Parsnips do very well in the cool northern climate and you can even leave them in the ground all winter and harvest them in the spring as they are that hardy. Keeping them in the ground over winter actually makes them sweeter. We generally harvest them all in the fall and then we blanch them and freeze them to have throughout the year.
Broccoli – Broccoli is a cool weather plant that does fairly well up here in Minnesota until it gets too warm then it tends to flower out so we generally pick it and eat it early in the summer and then we blanch and freeze some before it flowers out to be used in stir-fry recipes this winter.
Cauliflower – I really enjoyed cauliflower so we grow some of that as well to eat with our salads during the summer and then we blanch and freeze some to either eat it straight off the plate or we use this in stir fry as well.
Brussel Sprouts – Brussels sprouts is another vegetable that we love here at Little Bend and these we roast in the oven or on the grill which is my preferred way of eating them. However they can be steamed in the microwave and eaten with some butter. To store them we blanch them and freeze them.
Herbs – This year some of the herbs we grew were Sage, Lemon Balm, Oregano, Thyme, Parsley, Cilantro, and Basil. We use these fresh herbs in our cooking throughout the year and then in the fall we dry them so that we can use them in our cooking throughout the winter. Some of the herbs listed are perennials so they grow back every year. The perennial herbs we grow around the house as some of them help repel mosquitoes and other flying insects. This way we always know where the herbs will be as well every year. I think this winter I may have to have a small indoor herb garden as there is nothing better than fresh herbs for cooking!
Apples – As many of you know we do have an orchard here at Little Bend which consists of many different fruit tree varieties. However since it was only planted four years ago we have yet to see any apples. Luckily, my brother-in-law’s family has many mature Apple trees and they graciously let us harvest some of their apples. This year we harvested a whopping 300 pounds of apples! This equated to about thirteen 5 gallon buckets of sweet red delicious apples. We preserved the apples in many different ways which was by making apple juice, apple cider, apple pie preserves, dried apples chips, and apple butter. We well certainly enjoy these fruits of our labor this winter (pun intended). I will tell you there is nothing better on a cold winter day then a warm glass of apple cider with a cinnamon stick!
Peaches – This summer we bought boxes of peaches that were on sale. When peaches are in season they ship them up here in 25 pound boxes and you can usually get a pretty good deal on them. This is the one thing we didn’t grow here at Little Bend but I wanted to try something different. We preserve these by making peach pie preserves and the rest we dried into peach chips. We use the peach chips in making our granola as it adds a wonderful unique flavor. The peach chips can also be reconstituted and used in pies and cobblers as well.
As you can see we have been very busy here at Little Bend this fall and I hope this blog posting gives everyone some incentive to try to put away some fresh stores for yourself for you to enjoy in the future. I think everyone has the capacity to do this. Most of us have a back yard to which to grow some vegetables and with a little bit of equipment you can preserve most of them to have for later. Even if you don’t have a back yard for the garden you can grow the vegetables in pots even indoors if you have to! To be honest we did most of the canning and preserving in the evening after work instead of just watching the television. As I always say always observe the 3-P’s – Plan, Prepare, and Practice! You may not decide to go in on such a large-scale as we did but I invite everyone to do some canning and preserving in whatever scale you feel comfortable with. Not only is it better for you than what you buy in the grocery stores you will find that it is not very hard to do and it is truly rewarding to be self-reliant.
Now that the harvest of the fruits and vegetables is done we turn to the next endeavor here at Little Bend which is getting the turkeys ready for the Thanksgiving season! So with that I will sign off to everyone with…..
“God Bless friends and we’ll Gobble at ya later!”