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Friday, September 30, 2011

Oven Dehyrdration for Your Garden Vegetables

Well my new thing for Fall is dehydration. What I learned so far... low and slow. When you are dehydrating with oven heat, you do not want to cook your vegetables and you don't what to evaporate the essential oils of herbs.

The basic thing to keep in mind is that you will be using your oven for 5-10 hours at a time. So don't have your dinner sitting a waiting for the oven. The general rules are 130 degrees. I have, of course, pushed the limit and found 175 degrees works for cayenne peppers. I will put the pictures up this weekend of the whole process. I needed dried hot peppers for the gallons of frozen sauce I made.

Here are some guidelines to help you figure out what you might want to dry before the frost comes to our gardens.

All vegetables except onions and peppers,and mushrooms should be washed, sliced, and blanched. Dry vegetables in single layers on trays. Depending of drying conditions, drying times make take longer. Dry vegetables at 130-degrees Fahrenheit. This comes from Farmgal
  • Beans, green:Stem and break beans into 1-inch pieces.Blanch. Dry 6-12 hours until brittle.
  • Beets: Cook and peel beets. Cut into 1/4-inch pieces. Dry 3-10 hours until leathery.
  • Broccoli: Cut and dry 4-10 hours.
  • Carrots: Peel, slice or shred. Dry 6-12 hours until almost brittle.
  • Cauliflower: Cut and dry 6-14 hours.
  • Corn:Cut corn off cob after blanching and dry 6-12 hours until brittle.
  • Mushrooms: Brush off, don't wash. Dry at 90 degrees for 3 hours, and then 125 degrees for the remaining drying time. Dry 4-10 hours until brittle.
  • Onions: Slice 1/4-inch thick. Dry 6-12 hours until crisp.
  • Peas: Dry 5-14 hours until brittle.
  • Peppers, sweet: Remove seeds and chop. Dry 5-12 hours until leathery.
  • Potatoes: Slice 1/8-inch thick. Dry 6-12 hours until crisp.
  • Tomatoes: Dip in boiling water to loosen skins, peel,slice or quarter. Dry 6-12 hours until crisp.
  • Zucchini: Slice 1/8-inch thick and dry 5-10 hours until brittle.
Farmgal recommends 130 degrees. You can experiment if you'd like but I wouldn't exceed 175 degrees. One method suggests the higher end range for 1-2 hours and then cut it down to 130-140 degrees for the remainder of the process. Like most recipes, things vary greatly.

Another quote from a source called

Set the oven at the lowest temperature and preheat to 140°F (60°C). Drying vegetables at oven temperatures higher than 200°F (93.3°C) will cook them or possibly scorch them. If you are uncertain of the temperature, put a separate oven thermometer on a rack you can see, and check the temperature approximately every half hour.

Wallums is a Website that Will Decorate Your Walls for the Holidays

I was introduced to a website that really has some amazing wall decorations for the upcoming holidays and just about every occasion you can think of. No more tape or pins in your walls. Wallums wall decals really needs to be checked out as a great option for temporarily decorating your walls for the festivities of Fall and Winter. You can also find permanent wall decorations and designs for every theme you can imagine and they will do customized work too. Don't spend a lot of money on a large picture, get something unique!

I am mostly interested in the Halloween wall decorations. Halloween is one my favorite holidays. You have to check out this huge moon and bats wall decal decoration. The home page is loaded with Halloween decals. The decals are vinyl and are easily removed to be stored and stuck again next year. These aren't tiny wall decorations. They take up a lot of space and really impact your home for the holidays.

The cost is really reasonable too! Just based on pure size for the price, gets you a whole lot more bang for your holiday spirit then going to your standard store for decorations. Get something no one else has! They really have everything you can think of for your house design needs. And what is really cool is you can change themes in your house without having to repaint or paste. While you are there, they are having a sweepstakes give-away. The only thing that would beat their prices would be winning their sweepstakes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Would You Mind Helping Me with some PR for the Rusted Vegetable Garden?

I enjoy blogging. I hope to bring more photos, videos, and information to the blog for 2012. I am working on a way to get a Q & A board active and better organize content. I am peeling off tomato related information to a tomato only blog and garden video to a website. That is my project for the winter.

I was hoping you could help me by spreading the word of this blog to places you visit. I want to reach 50,000 page views and 75 friends. Thanks for the help!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Figs are Sweet and Perfect for Making Dressings with Tomatoes

Figs are actually inverted flowers. They are sweet and easy to grow. You can make all kinds of foods with them. This is just a basic dressing. I picked leeks, figs, heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, and lime basil. I'll show you the process to make a great salad dressing (cold) and fish dressing (warm).

Making a Fig Dressing with Tomatoes: Gary Pilarchik

Figs Close Up: Gary Pilarchik

Dice the Figs and Lime Basil Up: Gary Pilarchik

Dice the figs up into pieces as shown. You do not need to peel them. The basil is a citrus variety. Lime I believe. You want to use a citrus basil, either lemon or lime varieties. The citrus adds greatly to the dressing.  All this goes into a mixing bowl. Add some salt to taste to start drawing the liquids out of the ingredients.

Cut the Leeks Up: Gary Pilarchik

Dice up the Heirloom Tomatoes: Gary Pilarchik

Slice Up the Sweet Peppers: Gary Pilarchik

All the ingredients get put into a mixing bowl. I only used coarse salt, cracked pepper, and garlic powder. Add in 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil based on taste and quantity of ingredients. You don't need a lot of olive oil. Mix everything up nicely and let it sit for 30 minutes to draw out the liquids and flavors.

Layered Figs, Tomatoes, Leeks, and Peppers: Gary Pilarchik

Fig Dressing Seasoned and Mixed with Olive Oil: Gary Pilarchik

I just washed and cut up some romaine lettuce. You want to use a sturdy lettuce like romaine that will stay firm and crisp with the dressing.

Chopped Romaine: Gary Pilarchik

The dressed romaine. Looks great and it tasted great!

Fig and Tomato Dressing on Romaine: Gary Pilarchik
You can also using the dressing on fish. Any basic white fish works great with this fig based dressing.
Here is how it looks in pictures. You can either put the cold dressing straight on the pan cooked fish. Or you could remove the fish and heat the dressing for a minute in the same frying pan. Your choice.

Heat Fig and Heirloom Tomato Dressing on Fish: Gary Pilarchik

Quick Simmer Fig Dressing: Gary Pilarchik

White Fish and Fig Dressing: Gary Pilarchik

Here is the dinner served up. The fig and heirloom tomato dressing is used on the romaine and on the fish. A great meal!

The Meal: Gary Pilarchik

Squash Bugs and Stink Bugs Continue Multiplying!

It is the middle of September and it seems like squash and stink bugs keep laying eggs through the season. I stopped checking on my squash and zukes mid August.  I couldn't eat any more! Powdery mildew and the bugs below took care of the plants.

Sept 15th and Squash and Stink Bugs are Still Hatching: Gary Pilarchik

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fall Lettuce and Greens Container Garden

Much of my garden has died. These containers once held tomatoes. I cleaned them up and I added lettuces and greens to them. I started my greens by seed in trays about 3 weeks ago. I always lose my motivation in late August but fought to get this together last week. I am starting to get my second gardening wind.

You can see the chard I have been growing in the white buckets all year. You might notice some onions growing that I planted with the tomatoes in mid Summer. I planted several varieties of romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, arugula, and kale. They are planted more closely then stated but that is because I will be picking them as a leaf lettuce garden. 

Lettuce and greens can withstand some frost. I should be fine and have some greens through October.

Oh way in the back... peas!

My Fall Lettuce and Greens Garden: Gary Pilarchik

The Aussie Heirloom Tomato Might be Ugly but it is Huge and Sweet!

I just wanted to show another picture of the Aussie heirloom tomato. I really believed I approached 2 pounders. Next year I will take them to my local Giant and weigh them.

The Aussie Heirloom Tomato: Gary Pilarchik

Aussie, Brandywine, Cherry Tomatoes: Gary Pilarchik

Just to give you a little perspective. The Brandywine is the 16 oz variety.  The cherry tomato is a large cherry type. The Aussie is bulky. The Brandywine is a great 1 pounder variety too!

Split Heirloom Tomatoes Aussie and Brandywine: Gary Pilarchik

How Did My Potatoes in a Trash Bag Do? Laughs Deeply!

The concept works. You can grow potatoes in a 30 gallon trash bag. As the potato stalks grow, you add soil and raise the sides of the bag. I had good green stalk growth and one bag worked well, for total stalk growth. Potatoes are a different story.

I did plant two bags. One bag I made a mistake and used cut green grass instead of compost or soil or even dried brown grass. This mistake was for material to add to the bag to cover 1/2 the green growth of the stalks. What ended up happening was the decaying green grass clippings and the hot sun, created a nice oven effect and I actually cooked my green potato stalks and killed the plants.

So, I said the green growth and concept works. I obviously need to work on this. Here is the picture of the potatoes I got from the bag that grew extremely nice potato stalks. Time to laugh!

Potato Green Growth in a Trash Bag: Gary Pilarchik

Above is how the Summer progressed with green potato stalks growing and I raised the bag and tended to it as designed.

Growing Potatoes in a Trash Bag: Gary Pilarchik

The above bag is loaded with composted and material. It is September and the stalks died away as intended. Over the summer as the potato stalks grew, I keep  adding material to cover 1/2 of the new growth. The strategy is to keep covering the stalks to create more potatoes. Each inch of buried potato stalk will root out baby potatoes. Good theory.

Tearing Open a Potato Grow Bag: Gary Pilarchik

I tore the bag of potatoes open or at least what I though would be potatoes. You can see some of the potatoes I found!

My Hand to Give Perspective to Potatoes: Gary Pilarchik

Well, (laughs) that is, above, my production of potatoes in a trash bag grow bag. So, back to work next year. That is the beauty of gardening. I'm not sure what I did wrong but I will spend the Winter learning about growing potatoes. Well at least there is some great composted leaves for next year.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Well I've Been out of the Vegetable Garden a Bit

Like I mentioned, I get a bit gardened out by the end of August. I did manage to plant a full Fall greens garden. I checked out my potatoes in a bag... very funny. I finished up seed collecting and have leeks, peppers, and eggplants to eat.

I'll be pickling and drying out peppers and will record the process.

I'll have lots of pictures up this weekend and will be glad to show you my potato production. It is worth a look.

You still have time for winter greens. Ah... just remembered I never planted radishes. Time to get the 28 dayers in.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Becoming a dorm room cook with my toaster oven

It really is pretty amazing all of the things that you can make in a toaster oven. I mean, it's the next best thing to an actual oven and it's so much easier to clean. Plus it will fit safely in my dorm room! I use mine about every day ad I think that it's the reason I don't just eat things out of the snack machine in my dorm for meals. But there's always room for trying out some new recipes.

I was looking up some new toaster oven recipes I could make in my dorm room and as I was doing that, I ran across the site http://www.getclearwirelessinternet.com/.  I forwarded it to my dad because he's wanted to change our home internet service and he actually switched to a package on there.

I did find some good other recipes to try out to use on my own and I think that I'm going to be really happy with them. Besides, I have to fit all of these ingredients in a tiny little dorm fridge.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

How to Ferment and Collect Tomato Seeds (In Pictures)

How to Ferment and Collect Tomato Seeds

I have collected over 10000 tomato seeds, for the first time, this year. In order to collect tomato seeds, you have to first ferment them. A tomato seed is typically encased in a gel sac. The gel sac prohibits germination. Think about it. The tomato is mostly water and the seeds sit in the tomato at a cozy 80 degrees or more. The tomato itself is a perfect environment for seed germination. The tomato naturally suppresses germination by encasing the seeds. When a tomato rots, it typically is fermenting. The get sac gets dissolved and the seed is now free to germinate. You have to create this process in order to collect tomato seeds that will be ready for germination when you need them.

Step One: Identify the seeds and notice the gel sacs that surround the tomato seeds.

Tomato Seeds in Gel Sacs: Gary Pilarchik
Tomato Seeds and Gel Sacs: Gary Pilarchik

The seeds of all tomatoes will by covered in the gel in some form. Fermenting the tomato seeds in a jar will dissolve the matter that surrounds an inhibits germination. If you don't do this, your seeds will still probably germinate but instead of taking 5-7 days to sprout it can take weeks or longer. 

Step Two: Collect the tomato seeds in a bowl.

Remove the Tomato Seeds into a Bowl: Gary Pilarchik
Collect the Tomato Seeds: Gary Pilarchik

It is pretty straight forward, scrape out all the seeds you can and try and keep excess tomato chunks out of the mix. It is okay if you get some random bits and pieces in the mix of seeds and liquid. The fermentation process will soften all tomato matter.

A Bowl Full of Tomato Seeds Ready for Fermentation: Gary Pilarchik

Step Three: Place the tomato seeds and liquid into a jar with a lid.

Fresh Tomato Seeds in a Jar: Gary Pilarchik
Black Cherry Tomato Seeds Ready for Fermentation: Gary Pilarchik

You can buy mason jars or use pickle and olive jars. When the mixture ferments, the yeast process produces gases. You should open the jar once a day to let the gas out. Fermentation is a process that is started by natural yeast. 

The jars should have enough liquid to fill up about half the jar. You can add about 4 ounces of water to the mix if you need to add volume. I have found the process works with or without the addition of water. Notice how the tomato seeds in the pictures have a lot of volume to float around in. You want enough liquid in there so the seeds have room to settle.

Step Four: Let the tomato seeds ferment 5 to 7 days.

Once you put them in the jar, let them sit out of direct sunlight for 5 to 7 days. The key to success is that fermentation happens. You will notice it happens when gas builds up in the jar and the mixture stinks.  Don't worry if you see mold and fungus. That is nature and that is success. You really don't want go past 7 days. There is no need and the seeds could potentially germinate in the liquid.
  • Ferment 5-7 days
  • Keep jars out of direct sunlight
  • Open the jars 1x daily to release gas
  • Swirl jar contents gently 1x daily
  • If it stinks it is working
Tomato Seed Fermentation: Gary Pilarchik

I put them by the window for the picture. Keep the jars of fermenting tomato seeds out of direct sun light. You will notice your mixtures settle. The seeds that fall to the bottom are healthy and free of the gel sac. This settling occurs around the 2nd day of fermentation. You should swirl the contents 1x daily.  Different tomato varieties settle differenlty.

Swirl the Fermenting Tomato Seeds Gently: Gary Pilarchik

Swirling them helps the seeds agitate away the gel sac. Fermentation would probably work just fine but you just have to do something while the jars sit there.

Step Five: Fully fermented tomato seeds need to be rinsed clean.

6 Day Old Fermented Tomato Seeds: Gary Pilarchik

What I learned is that different varieties do different things in the jars. Seeds sizes vary as do the the gel sacs. Some tomato seeds drop to the bottom the first day. Some stay caught in the matter but are gel free after a few days. Some do both. Swirling them helps with separation. As long as you know they are fermenting and wait 5-7 days, nature will take care of business. 

Rinse the Fermented Tomato Seeds in as Sieve: Gary Pilarchik
Fermented Tomato Seeds: Gary Pilarchik
Rinse the Tomato Seeds: Gary Pilarchik

The contents need to go into a sieve. This is the easiest and quickest way to clean your seeds. Rinse the fermented tomato seeds in cold water. Gently move them around and let the tomato matter rinse away. You will notice the gel sac are completely gone.

Step Six: Place the cleaned tomato seeds on coffee filters to dry.

Dried Fermented Tomato Seeds: Gary Pilarchik

Place the cleaned tomato seeds onto a coffee filter. Tomato seeds will painfully stick to paper towels. I learned the hard way. The best thing to do is place a few sheets of paper towels on a plate to absorb the water. Put the seeds on a coffee filter as in the picture. Make sure you label the seeds. You will forget.

Tomato seeds should dry for 7 days. They need to be dry enough so when you place them in a storage container they won't mold, rot, or germinate. They should be dry to the touch, look like tomato seeds from a packet and be slight hard to the bite or the finger nail. After the paper towels are mostly dry, run your fingers through the seeds daily to move them around and help with uniform drying.

Once dried, store them in a dark place in some sort of air tight container. I find there are plenty of small containers for storage at your local hobby shops. DON'T forget to label them!