Cucumber Growing Guide

by Heather Stone

Boston cucumber on the vine.

photo courtesy of pixabay

Once the warm weather hits it’s time to start thinking about planting cucumbers. Nothing beats a fresh cucumber straight from the vine. Cucumbers are fairly easy to grow and are an excellent choice for the new gardener.

 

How to Grow

Cucumbers are very frost tender so don’t plant seed or transplant starts until two weeks after your last frost date or when soil temperatures reach at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Your soil should be well-drained and fertile. Work 1-2” of compost into the top 4-6” of your soil before planting.

 

Pick an area of your garden that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight. If days regularly reach temperatures of 90 degrees or more provide some afternoon shade.

 

Plant seeds in groups of 4-6, 1/2” below the soil surface in rows or hills 3’ apart. Most cucumber seeds germinate in 4-7 days. Providing a trellis for the plants to climb frees up garden space and improves air flow around the plants reducing fungal and bacterial diseases. Trellising also keeps the fruits off the ground away from moisture and critters and makes them easier to harvest.

 

Cucumbers are themselves 95% water so moisture is of key importance when growing cucumbers.  Cucumbers need at least 1” of water a week.  If plants inadequate moisture the fruit will often develop a bitter taste. To help retain moisture and keep the weeds down place mulch around your plants.

 

Harvesting

Cutting a cucumber off the vine.

photo courtesy of pixabay.

Pick cucumbers when they have reached their mature length, depending on the variety, and before they begin to turn yellow. Cut or gently twist the fruit from the vine using two hands so as not damage the plant. When the weather gets warm, check plants daily for ripe cucumbers. Pick often so plants continue to produce. Pick fruits in the early morning for the best flavor and texture. Cucumbers will keep for 7-14 days in the refrigerator.

 

Varieties

We carry four varieties of cucumber seeds here at BBB Seed. Each is excellent and deserve a place in the vegetable garden.

 

Spacemaster 80

Spacemaster 80 is an excellent compact cucumber variety. At only 18-24 inches this short but hardy cucumber is a great choice for the small garden or for growing in a container. The dark green fruits reach 7-9 inches in length, have great flavor and are never bitter. A heavy yielder this cucumber is also resistant to mildew, scab and cucumber mosaic virus.

 

Boston Pickling

Boston Pickling cucumbers bear small, blocky fruits with firm flesh and tender skin that are ideal for making all types of pickles. This long-standing variety, first available in the 1800s is also great used as a slicing cucumber when allowed to reach full size.

 

Marketmore 76

Marketmore 76 is one of the finest slicing varieties on the market. A standard for the home garden. These vigorous plants produce 8” dark green, delicious fruits.

 

Suyo Long

An heirloom variety from northern China, Suyo Long grows to an amazing 10-18” long. They are almost seedless, burp-less and incredibly heat resistant. They are great for slicing and fresh eating.

 

 

 

 

DON’T PASS ON PEAS

by Heather Stone

Green Sugar Snap peas on the vine.

Image by Reginal from Pixabay

Peas are one of the first crops we can plant in the spring. As soon as you can stick your finger into the soil you can plant peas. Whether you plant shelling, snap or snow peas this early crop loves the cool weather of spring, producing tender pods that are hard to resist.  More often than not, they are eaten straight off the vine right there in the garden, very few making it to the kitchen. Every year I always wish I would have planted more.

Plant peas as soon as the soil can be worked, about 4-6 weeks before your average last frost date. For best germination, soil temperatures should be around 50 degrees F. Do be cautious of excess moisture. You don’t want your seeds sitting in wet soil.

Before planting, soak your seeds overnight. This will help speed germination. Plant seeds about 1” deep and 2-3” apart in well-loosened soil in a sunny spot in your garden. Peas will also do well in part shade. Give your peas a trellis, as most peas need something to climb on. Keep the area moist until the seeds germinate, on average between 7-14 days.

Peas are an easy crop to grow. Keep the plants moist, especially once they start producing. When they reach 8-12” tall mulch your vines well to keep the soil cool and help retain moisture. Peas grow best in temperatures below 70 degrees F, so plant your seeds early. Once temperatures reach 80 degrees the vines tend to stop producing.  

When the peas begin to ripen, harvest daily and be sure to use two hands to pick. Use one hand to hold the vine and the other to pick the peas. This way you will avoid damaging the tender vines. For the crispiest peas, pick in the morning after the dew has dried. Peas will last about 5 days in the refrigerator (if they make it there) and any extra freeze well.

Like all legumes, peas fix nitrogen in the soil that other plants can use. When your peas are done for the season, remove the vines but leave the roots in the ground. Plant a nitrogen-loving plant in the area that can benefit from the extra nitrogen in the soil.

Don’t wait! Get out in the garden and plant some peas today! Try one of our tried and true varieties such as Sugar Ann, Oregon Sugar Pod or Green Arrow.

Packet of Oregon Sugar Pod Pea seeds. Pea, Sugar Ann Pea, Green Arrow

 

 

Cherokee Purple Tomato

by Heather StoneTomato, Cherokee Purple

What’s your favorite tomato? All true tomato lovers and growers have a few tomato varieties that they just couldn’t imagine not growing and always recommend to their friends and fellow gardeners. One popular heirloom variety that continues to be a favorite among many and consistently wins taste tests across the country is the Cherokee Purple tomato.

 

Cherokee purple tomato is a beefsteak style tomato whose skin is a dusky rose- red color. When sliced its interior is an even darker red. The flavor is described as a “balance of sweet, acid and savory with a hint of smoke.” Cherokee Purple is best eaten fresh on sandwiches or in salads.

 

With a name like “Cherokee Purple” there has to be a story there somewhere. Craig LeHoullier, an heirloom tomato grower, connoisseur and author of the book Epic Tomatoes is who we can thank for bringing this delicious tomato to the masses. In 1990, Craig received a package from John D. Green of Sevierville, Tennessee containing seeds of an unnamed purple tomato. John explained that his neighbor had shared the seeds with him and that her family had been passing along the seeds since the late 1800’s when they were originally received from Cherokee Native Americans. Craig grew the seeds in his 1991 garden and gave this beauty the name Cherokee Purple. Next, Craig passed the seeds on to the folks at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They loved the taste of this tomato and first listed the seed in their catalog in 1993 and its popularity has continued to grow since.

 

Want to try this delicious variety in your garden this year? Grab some Cherokee Purple seeds today!

 

BRING THE THREE COLORS OF MARDI GRAS TO YOUR TABLE

by Engrid WinslowFront of the Mardi Gras Bean Blend seed packet.

Have you ever wondered about the history of the official Mardi Gras colors? Well, we have answers for you. According to mardigrasneworleans.com, the Krewe of Rex selected the official Mardi Gras colors in 1872. In 1892 the Krewe of Rex Parade theme “Symbolism of Colors” gave meaning to the colors. Purple Represents Justice. Green Represents Faith. And Gold Represents Power. According to the website, Mardi Gras colors influenced the choice of school colors for arch-rivals Louisiana State University (located in Baton Rouge) and Tulane University New Orleans is the home for this school). They say when LSU was deciding on its colors, the shops in New Orleans had stocked up on purple, green, and gold material for the Mardi Gras season. LSU decided upon purple and gold, and bought much of it. Tulane bought much of the only remaining color — green!

You can grow our Mardi Gras Bean Blend easily in your garden. They grow best when planted in the early spring (just like peas, many gardeners chose St. Patrick’s Day as the date of planting). For better germination, purchase new bean and pea inoculant every year from your local garden center and sprinkle it in with your bean seeds. They are vigorous climbers so plan on providing some support as they grow. They are also referred to as snap beans and should be harvested when young before the beans inside develop. No matter what alchemy you try, the purple beans will turn green when cooked. They usually only need the stems snipped off before cooking. Beans are best eaten as soon as they are harvested but will keep in brown paper bags in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator for up as long as two weeks.

GREEN BEANS WITH GARLIC              Serves 4-6

Place one lb. of Mardi Gras beans in steamer basket over one inch of boiling water, cover, and steam until crisp-tender (5-7 minutes).

In a small saucepan heat 1 cup of water, 2 cloves of unpeeled garlic to a boil. After simmering the garlic for 5 minutes, remove from the water, peel and mince.

Shock beans in cold water and then drain and set aside. Don’t chill them, but cover to keep them warm.

In a large bowl combine the garlic with one TBL. Red wine vinegar, one TBL olive or (better yet) walnut oil, salt and pepper to taste and toss in the green beans. You can serve at room temperature or warm them briefly in a microwave.

 

You can also use Mardi Gras Blend beans in this classic pot-luck and picnic salad:

MARDI GRAS BEAN SALAD        Serves 8-10

Over low heat in a medium saucepan combine ¾ cup sugar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2/3 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar (white balsamic is also delicious in this), ½ tsp fresh ground pepper and 1 tsp. salt to a very low simmer.

Prepare 2-3 lbs of green beans as directed in the recipe, above. Also, rinse and drain one can of red beans and one can of garbanzo beans. Mix the beans together and pour heated dressing over them. Let marinate for at least 24 hours before serving. This bean salad keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

 

FIVE REASONS TO RELISH THE RADISH

By Engrid Winslow

  1. There are two primary types of radish – one hails from Asia (the most common ones are daikon which is large and white) but there is also the large sweet and remarkably pink Watermelon Radish.Photo of Watermelon Radish packet.

Watermelon radishes are delicious raw and can be substituted for a cracker in crudités and they also make a crunchy addition to stir-fries. They are often used in Chinese cuisines with fish dishes because it adds sweetness and counteracts fishy tastes.

2. Radishes are very easy to grow and can be sown in the garden as soon as the ground can be worked. Cover the seeds with about 2 inches of soil and thin them out once they sprout. They germinate quickly and all at once so, to keep them from getting overly large and fibrous, they should be sown multiple times throughout the season.  They grow well in cooler temperatures which makes them a good spring and fall crop. One that is delicious cooked or raw is Cherry Bell.

Front of the Cherry Belle Radish seed packet.

 

 

 

3. Do you want a taste of France in your radish? French Breakfast Radish is an heirloom variety dating back to the 1800s. It gets its name from a popular and delicious breakfast enjoyed throughout France. Want to give it a try? Just thinly slice the radishes lengthwise, grab a hunk of baguette and smear it with some sweet butter, top with radish slices and a sprinkle of salt. Close your eyes, take a bite and then say “Ooh, La, La!”

 

 

 

4. The White Icicle radish is similar to but smaller than, Japanese daikon. It is another heirloom variety that is easy to grow but is very versatile because it can tolerate warmer temperatures and grow well into summer weather.

Front of the White Icicle Radish packet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try it in this

APPLE RADISH SALADFront of the Carnival Radish Blend seed packet.

2 Granny Smith Apples

1 bunch sliced or julienned White Icicle radishes

Dressing:

Juice from one orange (lemon is also good here)

2 tsp honey

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

 

5. Want to really add some color to your fish or other tacos? Shred this colorful blend from the Carnival Blend radishes and pile it on with a squeeze of lime and some chipotle mayo. All radishes are good in slaw but this one gets bonus points for the interesting colors.

 

Or try this version of a vegetarian radish taco where the radish is the star of the dish. This version is modified from superstar chef Anita Lo’s book Solo.

ROASTED AND PICKLED RADISH TACOS                

Serves 4

3-4 bunches of radishes washed (reserve the tops and 10 of the smallest radishes for later)

1/3 cup olive oil

4 smallish tomatillos, husk removed, cut in half

3-4 small jalapenos, cut lengthwise with stems and seeds removed

1 tsp cumin

One small onion, sliced thinly

3 garlic cloves, smashed (reserve 1 for later use)

6 Tbs cider vinegar

2/3 cup water, divided in half

¼ tsp cinnamon

Juice of one lime

1 Tbs chopped cilantro

8-12 corn or flour tortillas

¾ cup queso fresco, crumbled

Extra lime wedges for serving with tacos

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place all but the reserved radishes, their tops, the olive oil, the tomatillo and half the jalapeno in a bowl and toss with salt and pepper. Remove the tomatillo and jalapeno and place on one side of a roasting pan. Add the cumin and cinnamon to the bowl of radishes and toss again. Place radish mixture (except for the tops) on the other side of the roasting pan. Bake until softened, about 12-15 minutes.

Make radish pickles: Cut the reserved radishes in thin rounds and place in a bowl with the rest of the jalapenos and the onion. In a small sauté pan bring the vinegar, 1/3 cup water and two of the smashed garlic cloves to a boil and pour over radish rounds. Set aside to cool to room temperature and drain.

When the roasting vegetables are soft, remove the tomatillo and jalapeno and blend with immersion blender. Add tops of radishes to roasting pan and roast until wilted. Place the remaining third garlic clove in with the tomatillo, cilantro, lime juice, 1/3 cup water and blend to make a salsa.

Serve roasted radishes in warm tortillas garnished with salsa, pickled radishes and queso fresco. Serve with lime wedg1es.

BONUS REASON TO RELISH RADISHES – All of our radish seed packets are on sale! Whoop! Whoop!

https://www.bbbseed.com/product-category/store/heirloom-vegetable-seeds/

 

 

 

 

TOP 10 VEGETABLES FOR PART SHADE

by Heather Stone

Do you have a garden that gets more shade than sun, but you still want to grow vegetables? No problem! There are plenty of vegetables that will grow well with partial sun. We’ve put together a list for you of vegetables that perform well with 6 hours or less of direct sunlight. Read on to find out how to keep yourself in fresh veggies all season by making the most of your shady spots.

 

 

  1. Mesclun Greens (Needs 3 hours of sun)

Mesclun is simply a “mix” of various greens. All of them doing well with just a few hours of sunlight. They germinate quick and reach maturity in a matter of weeks. Try our Mesclun Mix– a great combo of arugula, mustard greens and Chinese cabbage.

  1. Arugula 3-4 hours

This delicious peppery green is easy to grow and loves the cool weather. Plant in early spring about 1 month before the last frost and continue sowing every 20-30 days until mid-summer. Grows well in containers. Try our Wild Arugula!

  1. Lettuce 3-4 hours

Lettuce is a cool-season green that isn’t a big fan of direct sun. The varieties are endless and so easy to grow in the ground or in containers. Plant in early spring and again every two weeks for a continuous supply of lettuce. Make sure to provide shade for the late spring and summer plantings.

  1. Spinach 3-4 hours

The nutrient-packed leaves of spinach love cool weather and protection from the full sun. Spinach is an easy to grow and productive crop that every garden should find a spot for. Like lettuce and arugula plant in early spring and sow successively every 2 weeks for a continuous supply of spinach. Try our Bloomsdale or Nobel Giant varieties.

  1. Kale 3-4 hours

A powerhouse of nutrition, kale is easy to grow in the ground or in containers. The young tender leaves of kale are great in salads. The mature leaves are excellent sauteed or added to soups and stews. Start in early spring and continue you to sow for fresh greens all season long.

  1. Swiss Chard 4-5 hours

Easy to grow from seed and looks fabulous all season long Swiss Chard’s beautiful leaves are easily planted in the perennial garden as well as the vegetable patch.

  1. Radish 4-5 hours

There’s nothing like a fresh spring radish. They are quick to germinate, fast to mature and come in a rainbow of colors. We carry 5 different varieties! No garden should be without radishes.

  1. Peas 4-5 hours

Peas do fine in partial shade in either the garden or the container. They are pretty quick to germinate and prefer cool weather. So get them in the ground early and you’ll have peas to snack on in early summer.

  1. Beets 4-5 hours

Beets can thrive along the shady edge of the garden. The roots might not get quite as big, but if you keep them well watered they will produce excellent tasting greens and sweet, tender roots.

  1. Bok Choy 4 hours

This cool season vegetable germinates in a few days and can be eaten raw or cooked.  Bok Choy is an excellent addition to the part shade garden.

 

 

AN EASY WINDOWSILL HERB GARDEN

Graphic of herbs in pots.

photo courtesy of pixabay

by Heather Stone

Are you are itching to get your hands in the dirt, but outside the ground is covered in snow? Well, a windowsill herb garden might be just the thing to get you through until spring finally arrives. Every kitchen and every cook deserves fresh herbs. They will help liven up not only your cooking but your gardening spirit too. Check out our herb collections here and here!

 

To get started make sure you have a sunny windowsill that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight. If you get less than that you will want to provide some additional lightening or your herbs will struggle.

Photo of basil growing in a pot on the windowsill.

photo courtesy of pixabay

Next, purchase some small starter plants from your local nursery or garden center or try starting your herbs from seed. Starting from seed may take a little longer, but it’s less expensive. When choosing plants or seeds pick herbs you know you like to cook with. Some great herbs for containers include thyme, basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, oregano, dill, sage, mint and savory.

 

Whether you are purchasing plants or starting from seed you will need containers and quality, lightweight potting mix. If you are starting with plants make sure your container(s) have a drainage hole(s) and are roughly 6-10” in diameter. Start by adding some potting mix to the bottom of your container. Next, place your plant in the pot and gently fill in and around it with more potting mix, leaving around an inch of room at the top for watering. Gently press the soil down and water well. Most herbs don’t like their soil too wet so make sure to test your new herb plants for water by sticking your finger an inch or two below the soil surface. If you find the soil is dry, it’s time to water. Fertilize your new herb garden once a month with a ½ strength liquid fertilizer. Be sure to give your plants some time to get established before you start harvesting.

Photo of Cilantro sprigs in a cup.

photo courtesy of pixabay

If you are starting from seed, you can plant in smaller containers to start and pot up as your plants get bigger. Fill your containers with a damp potting mix. Sprinkle 4-6 seeds on top of the surface. Gently press them in and cover lightly with more potting mix. Cover with a plastic bag or plastic wrap and place them in a warm, sunny windowsill making sure the soil surface stays moist. Once your seeds start to sprout, remove the plastic. Keep your new sprouts watered whenever the soil surface feels dry and watch them grow.

 

Here are some herbs that are easy to start from seed:

 

Basil

The dried version is no comparison to fresh basil. With so many uses and so many varieties to choose from basil is an easy choice for the indoor herb garden.

 

Cilantro

Cilantro is easy to start from seed and germinates in 7-14 days. Use the fresh leaves in salads, sauces and to garnish a wide array of dishes.

 

Parsley

Parsley is both productive and attractive when container-grown. It takes a bit longer to germinate, 12-28 days, but it’s worth the wait. Harvest leaves as you need them once the plant is growing strong.

 

Chives

Chives are another plant easily grown in a pot. The slender grass-like leaves are delicious and make an excellent flavoring in soups, stews, dips and salads. Sprouting in just 10-14 days you will have fresh chives in no time.

 

 

 

Three Types of Vegetable Trellises You Can Build Yourself

Plants climbing up a trellis of twine.

by Sam Doll

Spring is just around the corner. That means that it is time to start getting your garden prepped for the growing season! You’re probably busy cleaning, ordering, and planning your garden before you need to worry about getting those seeds in the ground.

One DIY project you should consider is building your own vegetable trellises! Here are three types of trellises that your plants will love, and you can make yourself.

1.    Teepee Trellis

This is probably the simplest and cheapest type of trellis to make yourself. All you need to make this trellis are three bamboo poles and some twine.

Using the bamboo poles, make a teepee shape and push them into the ground until they are relatively deep and stable. Then, using the twine, lash the bamboo poles together where they meet. Wind the twine around and down the structure until you reach the bottom. To secure the twine, you can twist the twine around the poles where they meet and knot it. You can also use staples or zip-ties if you want.

This type of trellis is perfect for growing climbing squash and cucumbers. We love planting our Organic Delicata Squash under these trellises. The base of each pole should be used as a planting site.

2.    A-Frame Trellis

Another trellis that is perfect for your vegetable garden is an A-frame style trellis. There are many methods to building these. This is a little more involved than the Teepee trellis and will require some woodworking.

As with any garden project, we don’t recommend for splurging on the nicest wood you can find. This will be outside and exposed to the elements, so don’t get too attached to it. You can still seal or paint it to get more life out of it, but these projects won’t last forever.

For this trellis, all you need are some boards, screws or nails, hinges, and a climbing surface. Create a frame using your lumber. We like using 2X4’s because they are sturdy and easy to find, but any flat boards will work. Screw or nail the board together by putting the horizontal boards on the “inside” of the vertical boards. You can complicate this project by making the boards flush or adding other embellishments, but this is the simple and dirty version.

The final dimensions of your frames will depend on the size of your space and how tall you need the trellis to be. The important thing is to make them identical. Once you’ve assembled your frames, it’s time to attach the climbing surface. The most affordable route here would be to create a grid using twine or string and create a grid that attaches to the sides of the frame. If you have a bit more budget, we recommend a chicken wire or metal fencing that you can just staple onto the frame. This saves a lot of time and will last a little longer.

Finally, attach the two frames with the hinges and place them in your garden. These style frames are great for peas and beans. Our Mardi Gras Blend of beans are a great and colorful way to show off this project.

3.    Row Cover Trellis

Many of you use row covers to get your garden through the early and late part of the season. Well, why not make a multi-functional row cover. Our version of this is rather simple. Cut even segments of a light metal fencing and make an arch out of them that covers your row or planter. Stake those into the ground and continue the length of the plot. This is a great easy trellis that can be covered with a floating row cover if needed!

 

How To Make Easy and Delicious Sauerkraut

Photo of Green Cabbage with white text stating, "How to make delicious sauerkraut".

by Sam Doll

Everybody is fermenting! From deliciously tart Kombucha to mouthwatering sourdough, home-fermented foods are the foodie trend du jour. Fermentation projects can be intimidating though. Many require multiple steps, special equipment, and difficult to find ingredients.

Ready for a step up? Check out our guide to making your own Kombucha at home!

So where should you start their fermentation journey? That’s easy: sauerkraut!

What is Sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is green cabbage that has undergone lactic acid fermentation. Lactic acid fermentation is when lactobacillus, a beneficial strain of bacterium, metabolizes sugars in an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment.

The lactic acid created as a byproduct of this process acts as a preservative and can keep homemade sauerkraut fresh and safe to eat for up to six months.

Dive into fermentation with this list of potential projects

What will you need?

Ok! Enough with mumbo jumbo. The beauty of making sauerkraut is how easy it is! You’ll need three ingredients:

  • One head of Green Cabbage*
  • Kosher Salt
  • Caraway seeds (optional)

* We love the Flat Dutch Green Cabbage for making Sauerkraut. It matures beautifully in cold weather and it is super easy to grow! If you don’t have the time or space to grow your own cabbage, many farmers markets have beautiful, local cabbages late into winter.

That’s it! The best part is that all the equipment required is probably already in your kitchen:

  • Cutting Board
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Mason jars with lids

Great! Let’s move on.

How to make Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is super easy to make, but it takes a little time and elbow grease to make it happen at home. Block off at least 45 minutes to an hour for this project (although you can probably get it done in less than 30 minutes if you are a Sauerkraut making machine).

1.      Sanitize Everything

Since we are fermenting, we are creating an environment that is good for microorganisms to live in. The trick is to make sure we are only getting the good bacteria! The good bacteria that will do all our fermentation are already living on the surface of the cabbage leaves, so we don’t have to worry about them.

For everything else, we want to sanitize our equipment and make sure we are working with clean hands. Sanitize your equipment by running it through a dishwasher or washing it thoroughly in hot, soapy water while making sure to rinse off any soap residue. Wash your hands following these CDC recommendations.

2.      Prepare the Cabbage

Rinse off the cabbage in cold water. Remove the more wilted or damaged outer leaves of the cabbage. Save a couple of these for later. Slice the cabbage into wedges and remove the core.

Then slice the remaining cabbage into whichever shapes you prefer. Ribbons will be the easiest to work with, but diced cabbage or even larger chunks can give your different and versatile textures.

3.      Squeeze the Cabbage

Move the sliced cabbage into a large bowl and add the salt. You want to add about a ½ tbs. of kosher salt for every pound of cabbage. It may not seem like a bunch but remember that you’re trying to create a nice home for the bacteria, not pickle the cabbage. Remember, your homemade sauerkraut will be a lot less salty and acidic than the store-bought stuff.

Now it’s time to get your (washed) hands a little dirty! Grab fistfuls of the cabbage in the bowl and begin massaging and squeezing it. Keep at it for about 10 minutes to get the best results. The cabbage will break down and get limp and watery. This water will be the brine that your cabbage ferments in.

If you like the classic flavor of the caraway seeds, add about 1 tbs now.

4.      Begin the Fermentation

Begin to pack the cabbage into your mason jars. You’ll want jars that you can comfortably fit your hand into because you’ll need to tamp the cabbage down with your fist. This releases more juice and helps remove air bubbles.

Add any liquid released from the cabbage into the jar and place one of the cabbage leaves you saved from earlier on top. This will help keep the cabbage submerged, once more juice has been released. Weigh the cabbage down with clean marbles, stones, or specialty fermentation weights (we just used some thoroughly cleaned river rocks).

Cover the top of the jar with a breathable cheesecloth or towel and secure it with twine or a rubber band. This will allow the sauerkraut to breathe, but keep out dust and bugs.

5.      The first 24 hours

Make sure that your baby sauerkraut is being stored in a dark, cool place. Too much light or heat can cause off flavors and the growth of things that you do not want in your sauerkraut. Every so often, check on the sauerkraut and push it down with a clean hand or jar that’ll fit into the fermentation container. This will release more juice from the cabbage and should end up submerging the solids.

If your cabbage isn’t submerged after 24 hours, make extra brine by dissolving 1 tsp. kosher salt into one cup of water and adding that to your fermentation jar until it is submerged.

6.      The Waiting Game

Store your sauerkraut for 3-10 days, depending on how strong you like the sauerkraut taste. Occasionally, a white film will form on the top. This is a normal part of the fermentation process. Just skim it off and continue.

Sometimes, you’ll even find a little mold on the top of the fermentation jar. Most times, this can be removed without it affecting your sauerkraut. However, if it looks or smells off, don’t be afraid to toss it. Trust your senses.

7.      Time to eat!

Once you have your sauerkraut to where you like it, you can go ahead an enjoy it! If you’re not ready to eat right then, seal the jar with a lid and store it in the fridge for up to 6 months.

If you want to store it longer than 6 months, you can go through the canning process. Follow the directions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Grow. Enjoy. Share…the beauty and the bounty!

 

DREAMING OF SPRING

Rows of Vegetables in a Garden.

By Engrid Winslow

Yes, it is still very cold and very dark but nothing fills the heart in the dead of winter than planning for spring. What should you be doing now that will keep those spirits up? Plan your vegetable and herb garden!

1. First of all, take a look at those vegetable and herb beds and decide what and how many varieties you want to plant next year. Do you want to start those peppers a bit earlier this year? Did you plant tomatoes there last year – rotate tomatoes every 3 years if at all possible to avoid depleted soil and issues with many diseases. What do you want to grow more of this year? Anything you want to try that’s new? What did you and your family really love? Want more tomatoes or basil for pesto or tomato sauce? [4 Tips For Keeping Your Basil Productive and Pesto Secrets] Were there any epic fails? Maybe it’s time to move on to buy those at your local Farmer’s Market and devote the precious real estate to something else.

2. Speaking of soil, this is a great time to start adding mushroom compost in a nice thick layer that can work its way into the soil during late winter freeze and thaw cycles and heavy periods of moisture. You can also cover the compost with a layer of seed-free straw that was grown organically.

3. Peruse the seed catalogs and websites. It is so fun to read those descriptions and they all sound wonderful but be aware of your space and climate when choosing seeds. Take stock of any seed that you saved from last year and organize and assess any leftover seed packets. Seed viability goes down over time. Onions, corn, parsnips, parsley and leeks should be refreshed every year, but tomatoes and lettuce can go 4-6 years and still germinate. Check out these charts if you have questions: https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/1999/4-2-1999/veggielife.html/ and http://ottawahort.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Seed-Viability-Times.pdf/

4. Gather up your seed starting supplies and order more if needed. Dust off those grow lights, check the heat mats and make sure they still work and clean any seed starting containers that you plan to re-use with a weak bleach solution. Again, assess what worked and what didn’t in prior years. Did lettuce seeds that were direct-sown in the garden elude you? Try starting them indoors under a plastic dome which helps retain moisture until they are fully germinated.

5. Did friends and neighbors share anything they learned with you? Maybe it’s time to get everyone together for a Happy Hour, swap saved seeds and talk about their gardening experiences.

6. Review past blogs, books and articles that you might have saved for ideas, tips and new information. Here’s a good place to start: Care and Planting of Seedlings, Rules You Can’t Break, and Two Ways To Guarantee Your Seeds Grow