Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Autumnal Equinox (a few days late)

Pie Pumpkin Harvest

The calendar says that Fall arrived this past Monday, and I really meant to celebrate it with you by posting these photos a few days ago, but this week has been very busy for me. Right on schedule the nights are getting cooler now, but our days are still quite warm. We have had a lot of smoke blow in from some fires that are burning in the national forests. Some fires they just let burn, while monitoring them, to restore the natural ecosystem of the forest. No fire danger for us, but still a lot of smoke to breathe around here.

I grow small tender Pie Pumpkins each year. They differ from the standard field pumpkins that are used for Halloween decorations in that they are smaller, sweeter and not as fibrous.

I roast them by first slicing them in half around their equator, scooping out the seeds and stringy stuff, and then placing them cut side down on an oiled cookie sheet. Roast them until "fork tender". Probably about 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Placing them cut side down on the cookie sheet allows them to steam themselves while in the oven. When cool enough to handle, carefully scoop and scrape the cooked pumpkin flesh away from the skin and into a storage container to puree and then freeze for baking or to eat as you would any winter squash. Of course, you can use it and eat it right away without freezing it first.

These home grown pie pumpkins make wonderful pumpkin pies and pumpkin bread. They taste much fresher and brighter than the canned pumpkin.

Before I discovered the tender and sweet pie pumpkins, I tried to make pumpkin pie from a standard field pumpkin that I grew my first year gardening. The pie was not very sweet and definitely not tender. I find that the field pumpkins are much better for decoration than cooking. Sometimes I still grow those too, but usually only the small pie pumpkins. This year's harvest was smaller than normal. Fewer pumpkins total and each one smaller than I have grown in the past. I think I need to replenish the nutrients in my soil for next year. Organically, of course.

In the photo above you can see a couple of very small ears of sweet corn nestled in with the pie pumpkins. I grew those this year too. My corn stalks were very stunted. They only reached about half the height that they should have, but they did actually produce many tiny ears of corn for me. Most of the ears were not completely populated (filled with kernals), but some were as you can see in the above photo. I've eaten a couple of them so far, one raw standing right in my garden, and one I steamed and dressed with butter. Both were very sweet. Both were very small.

This photo shows what an ear of corn looks like when you neglect to harvest it on time. All of the kernals are dried right on the cob!

Dried Corn on the Cob

I allowed the corn to dry a little more before feeding it to my chickens. Not sure they liked the whole kernals, my old girls are picky and spoiled. I think they like their corn fresh and not dried and chunky.

It's also apple picking time around here. Most of my apples are still on the trees, but I did manage to harvest a couple of baskets of Gala apples so far. Usually they are ripe and ready to pick in late August, but this year they got ready much later. These were harvested in the middle of September.

Gala Apples

They taste great. I need to get outside and harvest all the rest of my apples before the weather turns cold and before the birds and other beasties find them.

Happy (belated) Autumnal Equinox everyone!

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sage Wisdom

Fresh Sage Harvest

Well, freshly picked culinary sage anyway, if not wisdom. My hands and my kitchen smell like fresh sage right now. I have just come inside (it's getting dark out there already!) from harvesting a whole basket full of fresh culinary sage, salvia officinalis, also known as common sage.

It is a perennial herb that I planted several years ago in one of my herb gardens. I do cover it with a cold frame in winter, as we get snow and cold temperatures here in the foothills, but it survives just fine and comes back to its bushy self each spring and summer. It has purple flowers on tall spikes when I allow it to flower. I've read that it's not a good idea to let your leafy herbs flower as the flowering process takes the energy and nutrition away from the leaves.

I don't use sage as an herb in my cooking very often, as its strong taste is a bit overpowering for me in the foods I eat. Some people like it paired with chicken or in poultry stuffing. I do like it mixed with other herbs in soft goat cheese. I also use it as an ingredient in an herb tea mixture that I create this time of year to have on hand for cold and flu season. Mixed with catnip and some other sweeter tasting herbs and spices like cinnamon sticks, licorice root and citrus peel, it makes a wonderful decongestant and astringent tea. Steep it with boiling water and drink it as hot as you can stand it.

Sage, although not usually culinary sage, is also burned as incense. Some people use the burning sage "smudge" to clear the air, a room or a building of negative energy or evil spirits. I think that another type of sage is generally used for this purpose, but I have been known to burn my common sage from time to time. It does freshen the air, once the smoke clears!

I grow all of my herbs organically without chemicals or pesticides. These perennial herbs are very easy to grow and resist pests naturally.

This bunch of fresh sage will get tied into small bundles and hung to dry on my high tech herb drying line that I showed you this past August as part of my Garden Art post. I will likely use the dried sage in tea as well as in some new herbal bath products that I am thinking of creating for sale around the holidays.

Any of you have more suggestions for how to use a bunch of sage, dried or fresh?

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Is that a Zucchini in your pocket...?

3 lbs!

...Or are you just happy to see me??

Look at what I found in my little garden yesterday:

3 lb Clarimore Light Green Zucchini, aka, "Big Boy"

A beautiful but very sneaky light green Clarimore zucchini hid quietly amongst the big squash leaves and the now crispy green bean foliage to surprise me yesterday. I actually shrieked with delight when I spied him hiding there right in front of me.

These light green zukes are usually sweeter and more tender than the dark green ones, so this will make a couple of batches of very nice zucchini soup or perhaps I will bake this one in the oven since our evenings are becoming cooler now.

So far my little garden has produced 46 lbs of squash this season. 19 lbs of that was this light green variety. I have really enjoyed being creative and using the zucchini to make all kinds of meals, appetizers and desserts. More and more I am realizing that I need my creative outlets to soothe my soul and keep me somewhat sane. This blog is one of those cherished creative outlets of mine. I love writing, and I definitely enjoy the friends I have made through blogging. Thank you all who read my blog, both the known commenters and the "lurkers".

Now to go be creative with this sneaky Big Boy....

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tomatoes, More Tomatoes, Eggplant, Dinner & A Visitor

Freshly Picked Romas in my Garden Scale

So my Roma tomatoes have finally been ripening.

5 pounds of Romas ~ harvested August 31st

Once they start they just keep coming...

5 1/2 pounds of Romas ~ harvested September 7th

I grow Roma paste tomatoes mainly to make tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, fresh salsa and for canning whole. Sometimes I can it or freeze it if I make a lot. Below is some fresh spaghetti sauce simmering in the pot.

Fresh Romas plus garden herbs, garlic, olive oil and some ground turkey meat made this sauce extra tasty!

I had several dinners from this one batch of spaghetti sauce.

Whole wheat noodles + fresh tomato sauce = Delicious & Healthy

Enter the eggplant.

The one lonely little eggplant that I have harvested thus far in this odd weathered gardening season. It's a cute little thing. So sweet, smooth and purple. Hardly bigger than the palm of my hand.

Cute little eggplant

So cute that I figured it would be very tasty sliced up as the main flavor ingredient to another night's dinner of Ratatouille! So when I add the cute little eggplant, to the ripened red Roma tomatoes and the prolific zucchini and crookneck squash, then throw in a lot of garlic and olive oil, I get Ratatouille! Not sure I have spelled that correctly, but you know what I mean. Any way you spell it, it is very good eating. And healthy too.

Ratatouille saute

It seems like the vegetarian meal inspired a vegetarian visitor. See gratuitous picture below:

My Deer, or really My Doe

This doe sat outside my kitchen window for a couple of hours one recent morning. I talked with her through the window and took pictures of her at very close range. I believe she is one of my regular does that hang out around here. I have no dogs to scare them off, so I have many deer friends.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Friday, September 5, 2008


Yesterday I received my very first blog award from my friend Farmgirl DK of Critter Farm. She gave the "I ♥ Your Blog" award to a few of her blogging friends and highlighted their blogs in her post yesterday. I am honored and flattered to receive this award. She said such nice things about me and my Mountain Harvest Basket blog. I really enjoy her blog and read it faithfully. Her photos are wonderful!

I will need to think for awhile before I can figure out to whom I'd like to pass this award. There are so many deserving blogs that I enjoy reading.

Here's the award I received. I am especially flattered because it came from someone whom I admire in the blogging world and in life. Farmgirl DK, you rock!

Today is Farmgirl DK's half birthday, so here's the half birthday cake that I promised her but couldn't get to fit into the CD slot on my computer. I tried to FAX it to her, but that didn't work either. So she will have to settle for this virtual chocolate half cake. I made sure the candles glowed extra brightly just for her. At least it's low in calories this way.

Happy Half Birthday to You!
Happy Half Birthday to You!
Happy Half Birthday Dear Danni!
Happy Half Birthday to You!
And many moooooore...

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket