Thursday, May 23, 2013

Urban Homesteading: Putting up Produce (Cherries)

As I have mentioned I am enjoying our little community garden. However, in reality most of us city-folk do not have the space to grow enough fruits and vegetables for our family to eat. And we definitely  do not grow enough to can or put food up for the winter. One of the keys to homesteading regardless of your location is the ability to look around you and use what you have available to you. A benefit of living in the city is all the local markets and ethnic groceries. Here in Southern California we have a wide variety of produce available to us and if I keep an eye out I can get amazing deals when markets are trying to quickly sell large amounts of fresh produce.

I posted about our great deal on zucchini last year. This past week a market in town offered fresh locally grown sweet cherries for 99 cents per pound. How could I pass that up? I quickly picked up about 11 pounds and called a friend to borrow a cherry pitter. I was able to process all the cherries over the course of two days. During the cleaning, pitting, and processing I had lots of little helpers appear in the kitchen. Little Luke would hear the sound of the pitter and come running with his mouth wide open for a fresh cherry.

After eating a bunch fresh for every meal including snacks, I was able to freeze a few pounds for summer smoothies. I also made a batch of fresh cherry jam. The jam was delicious over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum!

One evening as I was finishing up the last of the processing I decided that a fresh cherry cobbler was called for. I did not get a picture since Shane and I quickly dug in when it came out of the oven but I assure you it was the perfect evening snack.

If you don't have a big garden to provide food for your family year round start looking for opportunities to preserve fresh produce for the winter. For the next few months, most fruits and vegetables will be fresh, at their peak season, and at their lowest prices. You may have a neighbor with a lemon tree or an abundance of produce from their garden. Or you might be able to find a great deal at the grocery store this week. With a little extra work now you will be able to provide good, healthy food options for your table this coming winter without breaking the food budget.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Spring Garden Update

Our garden has included lots of learning and some trail and error. We have learned so much in the 7 months we have been growing. Last fall we had a few veggies from the garden we were able to eat but also some plants that never produced something edible. I mentioned some of our plans to grow cucumbers, a variety of peppers, a few types of tomatoes, and some summer squash. Well I am happy to report that we are having a little more success so far this spring. I am still learning a lot about how much water the plants need and how to keep the critters and bugs out of our garden.

Luke's favorite is cucumbers. I have to keep a close eye on him when we are out watering because he will sneak over and grab one to eat. He is super stealth! We tried to grow our cucumbers in a little circle to grow up a round cage. It works ok but in the future I think we will try something a little different that will give the plants a little more room. There are 4 plants in there and they seem a little too crowded.

In the picture above you can see our gigantic summer squash. We have two different types growing: one is a variety of patty squash and the other is a small round summer squash. We choose these two because they are best when picked around 3 inches big so it is a quick harvest. This is perfect for the kids who may get a little restless waiting for longer crops. I would definitely recommend them if you have little helpers in the garden. Just remember to give each plant plenty of space to grow.

Here is what we have harvested so far in the last week or so, minus the cucumbers that are devoured before making it to the house.

The kids are so excited. It is amazing how much more adventurous eaters they are when they get to see the veggies grow. And to be completely honest, I'm very excited too. I may be becoming a little bit obsessed with this little garden of ours. Do you have a garden? Some herbs growing in a window? What are you growing this year for your family?