Welcome to Arizona Edible Gardening.  Here in Maricopa County we have been able to grow just about any fruit or vegetable we have attempted to date.  As our garden grows and we continue to learn we will post information here, along with photos and recipes using what we harvest and encourage others to share their knowledge by leaving comments on posts.

Note: Photos in header and on blog posts are taken by me from my Arizona garden or kitchen, unless otherwise stated.

Aw Shucks! What to do with pecan shells

Feb 28th, 2014 by The Gustatory Gardener | 1

Pecan trees do very well here in the valley of the sun.  Unfortunately, I am not one of those lucky people who have a pecan tree growing in my yard (yet). But I have been fortunate to have received pecans from people who do.

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So, faced with several pounds of delicious pecans to shell and no fancy mechanism to do the job, I did a google search and found this great video.  This works!  I’m sure there is probably an easier way, and if I had a tree (I mean when), I would invest in some sort of pecan shucking machine, but for now I am happy with this.

Okay, now I am so excited to have all these tasty pecans.  I will freeze them to keep them fresh so I always have a fresh supply when it’s time to bake my famous Southern pecan rum cake.

But I also have all these shells.  What to do?  Throw them away?  Not me.  Easy answer – break them up and toss them in the composter.  This isn’t a bad choice, but not the only one.

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My choice is to bag them up and keep them handy for barbecuing.   I can toss them in the grill to add that sweet pecan flavor to whatever I am cooking.

I have read that you can break them up a bit and add to your mulch around plants you are having issues with slugs.  Those sharp edges from the pecan shells help protect your precious produce.

So, next time you are shucking pecans, don’t just toss those shells put them to work for you whether it be adding flavor to your grilling fun or being a garden guardian against those pesky slugs.   It makes all that work shucking the pecans even more worth it.

 

Lots of Tomatoes? Try Oven Roasted Spaghetti Sauce

Feb 2nd, 2014 by The Gustatory Gardener | 0

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This recipe uses 13 lbs of tomatoes, so it is great when you have an abundance in your garden.

A few weeks ago I posted how to freeze whole tomatoes.  This has two main benefits: 1. It is easy to do with virtually no prep time.  2. It makes removing the skin from the tomatoes quick and easy.

So, now that I have time to process the tomatoes, I was looking for a recipe for spaghetti sauce that would make a large quantity and was fairly easy to do.  The following recipe, given to me by a dear friend who is an expert canner is a real winner.

I have made a few adjustments /additions to the original recipe she provided, which ended up being additions she liked to make as well.

Enjoy.

Oven Roasted Spaghetti Sauce

Makes 6 quarts

  • 13 lbs tomatoes
  • 6 stalks celery, sliced
  • 5 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup oil (I used/ olive oil)
  • ½ cup sugar (I added a little more after tasting as my sauce still tasted a little too acidic)
  • 1/3 cup canning or kosher salt (I will probably add a little less next time, then add more later if needed)
  • 3 6 oz cans tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • Garlic to taste (5 cloves), minced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped (my addition)
  • A couple of glugs (technical term) of red wine (my addition)

Cooking instructions:

  1. Remove skins from tomatoes using blanching* or freezing methods. Cut into quarters, trim out stem and any bad areas.  Place in food processor and puree.    If you use the freezing method, let quartered tomatoes thaw before pureeing.  Pour into large roasting pan.
  2. Place carrots, onion, peppers and celery in processor with enough tomato sauce to puree.  Add to roasting pan.  Add remaining ingredients.
  3. Bake at 250 degrees for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.  Cool and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Heat pan on stove top to a simmer, stirring occasionally to desired consistency. (At this point I used my hand blender to do one last puree to make sure it was extra smooth like my family likes it)
  5. Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps.  Process pints 35 minutes and quarts 40 minutes in a boiling water canner. (I used a pressure canner and processed 15 minutes at 11 pounds pressure)

*To blanch, cut an x through skin on flower end of tomatoes, drop in boiling water a few at a time, for 30-60 seconds, then place into ice water, then pull skin away.

 

Too Many Tomatoes? How to freeze whole tomatoes

Jan 19th, 2014 by The Gustatory Gardener | 1

 

I am sorry to say that I have neglected this blog almost as much as I have neglected my garden over recent months.  As I get back to tending my garden I thought it important to do the same here on my blog.  So, although I have nothing to share that I have grown recently, I thought it would be nice to share a great tip I have recently discovered (and tested) for the time my green thumb kicks back into full swing around here.

As many of us know, it is easy to get carried away when growing tomatoes.  So many varieties to choose from it is hard decide, or when planting even one variety, I always think, well maybe just one more vine just in case one of the others don’t do well.  Next thing I know I have so many tomatoes I run out of time to process them or friends to share them with.

When I read this tip, I thought I just have to give it a try. So, this past week I had an opportunity to get a case of Romas (no, unfortunately I don’t have tomatoes in my garden right now), and I didn’t have time to process them all,  I knew the experiment was ready to begin. CAM01413 This is so easy, I couldn’t believe it worked. First I washed and dried several of the tomatoes. Then I placed them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and popped them in the freezer, making sure the tomatoes weren’t touching each other. CAM01417 Once they were frozen solid, I placed them into a gallon size freezer bag, and back into the freezer. CAM01424 Once I was ready to use some of the tomatoes,  I removed a few at a time, put a small slit just through the skin of each tomato, then one at a time ran warm water over them.  The peel easily separated from the tomato.  They were now ready to chop and use in my favorite recipes. CAM01431CAM01422 I don’t think I’ll ever worry about too many tomatoes again, now that I know I can quickly freeze whole tomatoes and store for future use.  This was so much easier than trying to blanch and peel them all, then either chopping and freezing, or trying to make and can a large quantity of sauce at once, especially since there just was no time in my schedule for that.

Growing Grapes in AZ – 3 is the Magic Number

Jun 30th, 2013 by The Gustatory Gardener | 0

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Grapes are a great perennial for your edible garden.  They are beautiful,  easy to care for, and can add visual interest to walls, fences or arbors.

I planted my little Red Flame seedless grape vine 3 winters ago.  It came in a 1 gallon pot.  First year I got 1 small cluster of grapes.  Last year, just a few more… enough to provide a little snack for the birds.  Finally this year, I was rewarded for my patience.  Now, I am not sure if it was the time or the pruning, or a combination of both, but either way, 3 seemed to be the magic number.

I used the method here, except I did 3 arms instead of 4.  Click here for the instructions.  Three arms may not be a “standard” choice, but I like odd numbers (and I’ve never been good at following rules).

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From what I have read, and speaking to winemakers over the years, grapes don’t need a heavy fertilizing or watering.  So, I basically just relied on the compost I put around all my plants and a dripper at its base so it got watered when everything else did. Nothing extra.  My grapes were a bit small, so I will do a little research to see what I need to increase to improve the size of the grapes.

The birds were enjoying the little grapes, so I was forced to pick them all at once.  Now what?

Since these are seedless grapes, I thought there must be a quick and easy way to make jam.  I decided to put it to the test.  So many recipes out there want you to remove the skin from the grape and cook them separately.  I thought,  1. removing the skins from these small Red Flames would be impossible, and 2. they’re skins are thin, so what’s the big deal?

So, I washed, removed all the stems, put them in a pot with just a little water and boiled away for about 10 or 15 minutes.   Then took my hand blender to them.

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I am thrilled with the results.  Not the prettiest jam I’ve ever made.  But who cares if it tastes this great?

Seedless Grape Jam

Easy Seedless Grape Jam

INGREDIENTS

  • Fresh grapes – enough for 5 cups of cooked pulp
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1 package powdered pectin
  • 1 tbsp butter

1. Thoroughly wash and stem your grapes. I started with about 6 lbs.  Your goal is to have 5 cups of cooked fruit to work with.  You can add organic unsweetened grape juice if you run short or make extra batches if you have more.

2. Put grapes and about 1/2 cup of water into a large pot. Bring to boil.  Boil about 10-15 minutes.

3. Use hand blender  to puree fruit.  You don’t need to totally puree the fruit, just enough to chop up the skins.

4. Measure out 5 cups of juice and return to large pot.  Add pectin and butter.  (Butter helps keep the foaming down and helps yield more jam.)

5. Bring to boil.  Pour sugar in all at once.

6. Bring to rolling boil that can’t be stirred down. Boil for 1 minute.

7. Remove from heat. Stir and remove an foam. Ladle into jars.  Seal.

 

 

 

Zucchini and Chocolate? YES!

Apr 26th, 2013 by The Gustatory Gardener | 0

With so much zucchini, it helps to be creative!

Zucchini has to be one of the easiest edibles to grow.  It grows quickly in all but the worst soil and it only takes a couple plants to provide more than enough zucchini for the family.  In fact, it provides so much that I find myself getting more and more creative with its culinary uses.

I guess since chocolate happens to be one of my favorite food groups, it was bound to eventually be used in one of my zucchini recipes.  I had some doubts, but OH MY, it’s a hit!  Definitely not a pretty cake, but who cares when it tastes this good!  And since they are baked in mini loaf pans it’s easy to share – if you can bring yourself to part with them.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini cake

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup oil
3 large eggs
2 1/3 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 cups grated zucchini (I squeezed out some of the liquid)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 – 5- x 3-inch disposable loaf pans, lightly greased

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat together butter, oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs until blended Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir zucchini and next 2 ingredients into batter until blended. Spoon batter into lightly greased loaf pans, filling two-thirds full. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Spoon frosting over cooled cakes

Chocolate Frosting

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup whole milk or cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

Heat butter and milk until butter is melted. Stir in cocoa powder until well blended.  Beat in sour cream, vanilla and powdered sugar.

Note: Plant zucchini and other summer squash varieties by seed mid-February through Mid-April, and again mid to end of August here in Maricopa County.

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