Thursday, October 29, 2020

Some Spring Cleaning in the Garden


Spring finally looks to be coming here in SW Pennsylvania, after one of the longest winters I remember. Cleaned out my herb beds; lemon balm and oregano are coming in good and my transplanted rose bush seems to have made it through the winter. Usually plant basil (pesto!). Had sage and thyme but those died over the last couple of years. This is the year to replace them. Can’t beat sage in stew and thyme with chicken! The rest of the raised beds need a bit of help, but didn’t have time for them today. Think I need to add some topsoil to all of my beds.

Took a look at my blueberry bushes too. Pruned the dead and intruding branches last fall, as recommended. I have done this intermittently over the years and it usually gives a better yield the following year. Problem with my bushes location is the neighboring pine tree is taking up more and more of the blueberry bush area and creating too much shade. Need to prune the pine tree more next.

Said hello to my bees who are busy as….bees! Gave them sugar patties for the winter and went in and fed them some more a few weeks back when I discovered they had made it through the winter. Super excited about their survival! Fed them sugar water for the first time this year. It has been so chilly even in the daytime until recently that I was very reluctant to give them the sugar water as they need to be able to buzz their little wings and draw the moisture out of the hive. Very hard to do when it isn’t getting above 40 very often.

Hope to get in and rearrange my beehive for spring (rotate the top box down to the bottom, so the bees start working their way up again). Not sure what to do with my honey supers I left on top last fall. Meant to take the honey and got delayed. By the time I got back to them, yellow jackets had robbed one pretty good and were working on the second one. So I let my honeybees back in and let them defend the remaining honey. Looks like there is still a bit in there, even after winter. Guess I will be putting a third super on top. Also a bit worried about the bees swarming as there are a LOT of bees in my hive. Not a whole lot I can do about that (my dad used to sweep some out with a wet vac…lol. My luck, I would sweep up the queen and kill the hive).

All in all, a good start to Spring cleanup and regrouping!

Is it Pickling or Fermenting?


So I decided to pickle some garlic. But then I decided that I meant ferment it. Then I decided to look up recipes and got myself completely confused! In the end I ended up pickling the garlic and added some red pepper in, which made it very pretty but I do not like the flavor it added. After all of this, I decided I needed to research what the heck is the difference between pickling and fermenting. I discovered a few things:

1. Not all pickling = fermenting and Not all fermenting = pickling. Pickling involves some type of acidic medium, usually vinegar. Fermenting uses filtered water, salt and your starter. All living things have lactobacilli on their surface. It is this bacteria that proliferates during fermentation creating lactic acid. Lactic acid not only ferments and thus pickles your veggies, but is super healthy. More on that in a bit. Basically though, to pickle you need vinegar or something and a bit of heat or pressure. The products are not fermented though. To ferment, you need starter (with lactobacilli), salt and filtered water, producing lactic acid. These products are both fermented and pickled. I still have to repeat this to myself to keep it straight.

2. For garlic, you want to ferment it. Because pickling often involves cooking the garlic at least somewhat and also sugar, it is not the healthiest choice. Cooking the garlic causes it to lose a lot of its naturally occurring nutrients, while fermenting preserves them.  I am borrowing this next bit from The Healthy Home Economist, a great source of info.

Fermenting has the following benefits:

  • Enhances the vitamin content of the food.
  • Preserves and sometimes enhances the enzyme content of the food.
  • Improves nutrient bio-availability in the body.
  • Improves the digestibility of the food and even cooked foods that are consumed along with it!

Additionally, fermented garlic does not cause you to reek of garlic when eaten every day. Which you want to do because it has amazing health benefits, including boosting your immunity and lowering your cholesterol and improving circulation. I plan to add another article on the amazing powers of Garlic in the near future. For now, I am just learning about pickling it vs fermenting it. Definitely FERMENT your Garlic for the healthiest results.

Freeze Your Extra Herbs!


It is the end of Winter, hopefully the beginning of Spring here in Pennsylvania. I can only grow fresh herbs during the growing season as I have several cats who eat anything green in the house. However, I love having fresh herbs when I cook. Anyone who has bought fresh herbs at the store knows that you almost always have way too much, especially when it comes to parsley. (On a side note, I was super excited to be able to purchase a reasonable sized bunch of parsley my last trip, rather than having to purchase enough to make soup for the French army). Back to the extra herbs – a trick I learned is to chop the herbs, cover them with olive oil in an ice cube tray and freeze. I then put the blocks of herbs into labeled Ziploc freezer bags and they are ready for the next time I need fresh herbs. As long as the recipe calls for olive oil that is. Perfect for pasta sauce and flavoring chicken recipes!