What got me to the finish line were the dried spices I had stowed away in the laundry room until I had time to deal with them. In the evenings I like to settle down on the couch to watch a show before bed. I like to have something for my hands to do while in front of the TV and rubbing the seeds off dried plants filled that need.
Throughout last summer I collected dill seed heads whenever I was in the garden and spotted some. I stuffed them into paper sacks, which I left open to dry. It took me weeks of rubbing, but I finally finished with a quart jar nearly overflowing.
Last spring I planted cilantro here in Gualala during spring break. By the time we moved up here the place was a weed-veggie jungle and I didn't remember anything about the cilantro. I found the scraggly plants when I was weeding one of the beds. By then it was flowering and the honey bees really liked it, so I left it alone to go to seed. The heads were sort of scattered throughout the plant so I hacked them all down once they had dried in the garden and brought them home. Our kitchen table was piled high with the dead plants for a few days. Dave and I would watch something on the laptop while rubbing the seeds off. We got a whole quart!
In the fall, before it got too cold (not that it ever really got cold this last year), we walked around the neighborhood and collected wild fennel seed heads. The stuff is a weed around here. One of our neighbors asked what we were doing and he commented that he'd never even tasted fennel. I said it was a common spice in sausage and after he smelled some that I crushed in my hand he realized he had eaten it his whole life. I was able to get a pint so I might take a few tablespoons to him so he can try cooking with it.
As I was putting the dill and fennel away this morning I realized just how many seasonings I've been able to grow. Herbs are obvious: the green or "herbaceous" part of any plant like basil. But spices always seemed like something regular people just purchase, rather than grown. Not so: I was able to grow lots of seeds for seasoning.
|Top: serrano peppers from my dad, lemon verbena leaves, fennel seeds, mint leaves, Thai peppers from my dad.|
Bottom: dried onions, coriander, dill leaves, dill seeds, tarragon leaves.
|Some of our dried veggies and fruits from last year. Zucchini and yellow squash, bell peppers, carrots, apples, peaches, apricots, beans, and eggplant. I haven't tried the eggplant yet but I'm not confident that we'll like it. Maybe in lasagna?|
- 12 quarts plum pulp (will make jam or fruit leather later)
- 14 pints no-pectin plum jam
- 12 pints pectin plum jam
- 3 trays dried apricots
- 24 quarts canned apricots (for FIL)
- 7 gallons frozen apricots (for pies)
- 26 cups frozen strawberry peaches (for pies)
- 14 pints pineapple apricot jam
- 11 pints low-sugar apricot jam
- 9 pints low-sugar apricot peach jam
- 4 quarts apricot simple syrup (left over from canning--excellent mixed with champagne or rum)
- 24 quarts canned pears (my dad actually did this for me using pears given to the Bowers by their lawyer...the guy's family operates a produce packing plant and gave them some cases of fruit after one of their meetings...weird, right?)
- 2 quarts canned pear simple syrup (good with champagne)
- 5 dehydrator loads of zucchini
- 4 pints dried onions (grown in Davis)
- 2 gallons frozen blackberries (for jam or pies)
- 30 pounds canned green beans (my dad and Jennifer helped with this)
- 5 gallons frozen green beans
- 10 quarts Gravenstein apples (for pies)
- 6 quarts dried Gravenstein apples (for snacking)
- 14 pints candied jalapenos (canned)
- 12 cups frozen pesto
- 4.5 quarts fermented peppers for hot sauce (jalapenos, peppinos, Hungarian hot wax--will be ready next month)
- 3 quarts fermented cayenne-garlic (accidentally got some yogurt along with the whey inoculate in there)
- 7.5 quarts canned tomato basil sauce
- 11 quarts frozen rosemary pizza sauce
- 9 quarts frozen ratatouille
- 4 quarts frozen chopped chard
- 7 quarts frozen hot salsa fresca
- 15 pints canned chipotle salsa verde
- 18 pints canned salsa verde
- 1 pint dried bell peppers (store bought)
- 1 quart dried carrots
- 1 quart dried figs (from a local family)
- 1 quart coriander seed
- 1 quart dill seed
- 1 pint fennel seed (wild)
We purchased some of the produce from a local family ranch (some basil and tomatoes and beans) but most of it was from our garden. You can see why settling down to write my dissertation was so hard during the summer--never mind the distractions of moving, starting a new job, and my mom's passing. In the next few weeks I'll spend my evenings planting seeds in peet pellets to get our 2014 garden started.