Green Page - The Farm

This is what we plan to grow this year (2010):

Apple Trees (2) - actually I think we may have three trees. I planted the first one and it was grafted with five varieties of apples. The other two were planted by my father-in-law.

Bean Sprouts – I have grown these before. Nothing that I have grown, grows faster than bean sprouts. I tried using some old seeds I had, but they were too old. Also made some mistakes. I am trying it again. Very simple to grow, place in a large glass jar. Cover with cheese cloth and a rubber band. Rinse off with clean water once a day and leave in the windowsill to get some sun.

Blackberry – We are very lucky where live that blackberries grow wild. I have trained them, cut them back in winter and they produce a lot of wonderful blackberries. These things are so hardy you would mow them with a lawn mower and they would grow back.

Fig Tree – I grew up in Southern California. When we moved in, it was fairly rural. At one end of our street was an open field with a hug fig tree. We used to play in it and throw the green figs at each other. Little did we know you could eat them. How dumb we were. Now I have a fig tree. I love eating them fresh off the tree and this past year (2009) we had enough to make two batches of jam. It is really good. Our variety of fig tree, is a black fig.

Garlic – Haven't grown garlic in a few years, but have had a lot of success. After all we are pretty close (about one hour) to Gilroy “Garlic Capital of the World”. I look forward to growing it this year. We go through a lot of garlic every year.

Grapes – When we moved in there was a Cabernet Sauvignon, Concord and Red Flaming Seedless. All that is left is the Red Flaming seedless, but it has really spread. The other grape vines were very old. Each year we eat grapes, but they ripen at the same time that the apples and pears do, so a lot goes to waste. This year (2010) I am determined that we let that happen. Grape juice? Grape jelly?

Lemon Tree – I got to be honest, we have never had any luck with our lemon tree. Thank goodness, our neighbor has this awesome lemon tree and we can have as many as we want anytime. This tree is loaded with lemons all year long!

Onions – Like Garlic, it has been a few years since I have grown onions, but I have always had good luck growing them. I think they will be great in the salsa. I don't grow these from seeds, but from very small bulbs.

Peach Tree – My father-in-law planted this in the front yard between the house, the fence and a huge Elm tree. I thought for sure that it would not do well. Turns out it gets plenty of direct sun light and is protected by the wind, so even though the tree is young, the fruit does not fall before it ripens. The peaches are not huge, but they sure are juicy. I was really impressed with how many peaches we got from this young tree.

Pear Tree – I planted this at the same time I planted the apple tree and like the apple tree, this one has five varieties of pears grafted on it. Like the apple tree is that one variety becomes dominate, but we still get a some of the other types of pears. Few things are tastier than a ripe pear picked fresh from the tree and then eaten.

Peppers – Have grown a number of varieties of peppers over the years. I like Bell, but never pick them green. They always turn yellow, orange, or red when ripe and have a lot more flavor and vitamins when they do. I will have some Serrano for the salsa.

Plum Tree – Our plums are small, but make good jam. I like using several varieties. Plum jam is really tasty and is often underrated.

Prickly Pear – I'm not sure how they got there, but all of a sudden I saw how big they were. My father-in-law must have planted them. I don't think they were here when we bought the house. When I was a boy scout, a friend of ours introduced me to how you can eat prickly pear. You can eat the fruit and the pads. Last year 2009, I made two batches of jelly.

Pumpkin – We don't grow them. Sometimes they are given to us. We probably should grow some this year. We really love pumpkin pie, bread and even the seeds. Better than sunflower seeds.

Tomato Plants – Every year we grow tomatoes. This year we will be concentrating on Roma. They are the best for canning according to my friend and classmate “Dannette Holland”. She does some beautiful canning. A real work of art. I have known some to not eat them because they were too pretty. Upside down planters are the rage now. I remember telling my grandmother that our tomatoes got hit by the frost in December. She told me to pull the plant out by the roots, hang it upside-down on a nail in the garage and they would continue to ripen. She was right and we had fresh tomatoes through December. Jealous?

The problem with growing fruits and vegetables is that everything tends to be ready at the same time and you can't eat. It is not acceptable for these fruits and vegetables to go to waste, so we do a lot of canning and freezing. We have a big family and a floor freezer in our garage. I am getting ready to try pressure canning. What is the difference? Regular canning sterilizes jars and the contents by boiling them, but this is good enough only for acid foods. That is why many jams require lemon juice. If you want to can beans, peanut butter ...etc, you need a higher temperature than boiling (212 degrees Fahrenheit) can provide. Pressure canning reaches 240 degrees, which will kill Clostridium botulinum, which can be deadly.

Here is a list of what we plan to make this year (2010):

Apple Butter – I made this only once. I made some mistakes and it was difficult to fix. I was surprised but my Dad and a good friend Jennifer June Clark both like it. With three apple trees, I have got to find as many uses for apples as possible.

Apple Pie – This is one of the best ideas that we had. We made apple pies, but instead of baking them, we froze them. Then about once a month we put one in the oven and have a homemade apple pie. It really works well.

Apple Sauce – I love apple sauce, especially with pork chops. I usually use the recipe from the “Joy of Cooking”. Last year 2009, my daughter Lila made the apple sauce with her grandmother, using her recipe. That was wonderful.

Beef Jerky – I learned how to do with watching Alton Brown on good eats. I don't have a dehydrator, but used a box fan to make one. I believe that I have improved on Alton Brown's design. I have sent my jerky to my nephew when we was stationed in Kuwait.

Hot Sauce – I've never tried this before, but figured if I am going to grow peppers, why not.

Pear Jam – We get a lot of pears. They grow much larger than the apples and it turns out that pear jam tastes pretty good.

Pear Halves (Canned) – 2009 was our second year doing this. It is nice to enjoy pears all year long. I usually have some with my lunch.

Salsa – This is my big new project for 2010. Carmen has made salsa for years, but this will be the first time we have tried to can salsa. I will be using a recipe specifically designed for canning and want to grow as many of the ingredients as possible.

Pumpkin Bread – We only had one pumpkin this year at Halloween, but there was so much of it. After 10 pies, I thought how many pies can we eat? So I got the idea for pumpkin bread. Found a recipe and made a few loaves. Ate one, and froze the rest.

Pumpkin Pie (Frozen) – We have a big family and every year at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years we go through a number of pumpkin pies, so why not make our own from the Jack-O-Latern? So we do.