From the Garden: Seed to Pickle

cucumbers

When the harvest comes on fast and plenty, it’s time for pickling! Seen here the Arkansas Little Leaf Cucumber.

It’s the height of summer and our cucumber and bean production is just wrapping up.  These long, warm days are perfect for indoor food-preservation projects, and nothing gets faster results than quick pickling.  The kitchen has been featuring pickled beans, cucumbers, and peppers from our garden in a variety of styles, both sweet and sour. The empty pickle bowls at the end of meals speak for themselves.

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Every good pickle starts with a good brine and includes the freshest produce available.  We pickled two varieties of cucumbers this year, both grown in our garden: the Suyo Long from Asia and the Arkansas Little Leaf.

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Suyo Long Cucumbers

Both varieties work well in this environment. We chose them for their pest- and rot-resistance, which is key in this hot and buggy climate.  Growing varieties familiar to your growing region and climate is a trick of the trade among organic growers.  The Southern Exposure Seed Exchange out of Virginia is where we source most of our seeds. Many of their seed growers are farmers in the southeast.

You do your best growing the right variety, but pests often make an appearance anyway. The pickleworm reemerged this year, but we got an early handle on it with the biological pesticide BT.  (Read more about our history with the worm and the pesticide.) When our kitchen is overwhelmed with cucumbers, I’d say we triumphed!

Here’s our recipe for your own home-made quick dill pickle. The whole coriander seeds and sprigs of dill make for a real eye-catcher!

———-Dill Pickle Recipe———-

  • *1.25 C distilled white vinegar
  • *3 tbsp kosher salt
  • *2 tbsp sugar
  • *2 C cold water
  • *2 tbsp coriander seed
  • *6 large cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • *1 tsp mustard seed
  • *0.25 tsp red pepper flakes
  • *16 sprigs dill
  • *1.5 to 2 lbs cucumbers, cut in spears or sliced in 0.25 inch rounds

Combine vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small, non-reactive saucepan over high heat. (Stainless steel, glass, teflon, or ceramic will work.)   Whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved.  Transfer liquid into a bowl and whisk in cold water.  Refrigerate brine until ready to use.

Place cucumbers in clean 2 qt. container such as a large Tupperware or stainless steel stockpot.  Add coriander seed, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, and dill sprigs, then pour chilled brine over the mixture.  If necessary, add water until the cucumbers are covered.  Cover container and refrigerate for 24 hours, then serve; cucumbers will keep for up to a month.

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Kale, microgreens, and more

Pea shoots! (Photo: Aaron Bell)
We had our first kale harvest this week! The Siberian kale, planted in one of our raised beds, has been an impressive crop to date, growing vigorously all fall and providing us with 5 lbs for our dinner-tables this evening. We are also harvesting flats of microgreens and pea shoots. Microgreens have made a splash in the markets over the past few years with their nutrient-dense nature, quick harvest times and relative ease of growth. We are growing radish, mustard, kale, and peas and will be harvesting flats ever 2-3 days through the fall and again in spring. More info on micro-greens can be found here, and if you are interested in trying to grow some indoors this winter, check out this how-to from Organic Gardening magazine.
Zebra longwing nectaring on some zinnias. (Photo: Aaron Bell)
In other news, we’re battling loopers and other caterpillars as well as a small number of aphids in the raised beds; hopefully, the next cold snap will drop their numbers and give the Lacinato kale a chance to grow. In the meantime, baby lettuces, beets, and radishes should be greeting us in the next week, while the turnips, collards, and Broccoli Raab are all healthy and happy.  
Below is a recipe from epicurious for bean and kale soup which is a regular hit here on the island. It’s an excellent way to use kale quickly during times of heavy harvest. Interestingly, kale can also be frozen for months, making it an ideal crop for areas with little or no winter growing season. 
White Bean and Kale Soup

YieldMakes 6 main-course servings
active time1 hr
total time3 hr

ingredients

  • 1 lb dried white beans such as Great Northern, cannellini, or navy
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 qt water
  • 1 (3- by 2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (not California)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 lb smoked sausage such as kielbasa (optional), sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 8 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb kale (preferably lacinato), stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped

preparation

Cover beans with water by 2 inches in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 1 hour. Drain beans in a colander and rinse.
Cook onions in oil in an 8-quart pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beans, broth, 1 quart water, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender, about 50 minutes.
While soup is simmering, brown sausage (if using) in batches in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning, then transfer to paper towels to drain.
Stir carrots into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in kale, sausage, and remaining quart water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.
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Garden Citrus Marmalade with Olive Oil Cake

Just when we need that extra boost of Vitamin C the winter’s harvest of citrus ripens providing us with a wide array of both sweet and tart citrus for eating, juicing, and preservation.  Citrus was first introduced into the continental U.S. by early Spanish explorers at St. Augustine, FL in 1565.

Here on Little St. Simons Island we are enjoying the first significant harvest from our citrus grove planted 2 years ago (trees are now 3-5 years) in the USDA Organic Garden.

Calamondine Citrus

Citrus is grown by “grafting” (joining) a favored selected variety to the rootstock of a citrus known for it’s hardiness and adaptability.  For our region Trifoliate Orange (Poncirus Trifoliata) is the rootstock to ask for at the nursery.  The first few years of a newly planted citrus need frost protection.  If a tree freezes below the graft it will grow back as the (usually inedible) rootstock.

At LSSI we have planted some of the most cold tolerant varieties that are common favorites for the home garden as well.  For a sweet peeling fruit we have grapefruit, oranges and tangerines.  The Satsuma Tangerine (mandarin) is one of the best for our region with it’s easy to peel skin and sweet fruit.  It is also know to be very prolific.  A favorite variety is Owari.

Tart citrus are great for marmalade, jellies, and sorbets and are a great substitute for limes and lemons in the kitchen.  Calamondine (above) is hardy into the low 20’s and Kumquats can handle temperatures as low as 15 degrees. A kumquat with more sweetness is the Meiwa.  Chef Paula reminds us to always use/eat the peel of these thin skinned fruits since it’s in the peel where the sweetness is stored.

Meyer Lemon and Calamondine Fruit

Fresh limes are a lovely addition to the home garden but that typically been known for cold sensitivity.  A new lime-kumquat hybrid is showing great promise for our region and is next on the planting list for LSSI.

For detailed guidance on citrus planting and maintenance refer to this helpful UGA publication: http://www.caes.uga.edu/publications/pubDetail.cfm?pk_id=7787

Chef Paula has been getting very creative with the citrus harvest this year.  Try this incredible citrus marmalade over some olive oil cake for your next special gathering.

Garden Citrus Marmalade
1 lb. calamondines, roughly chopped         4 cups Sugar
1 lb Kumquats, roughly chopped                3 Meyer lemons Juiced
1 packet liquid pectin
In a large, non reactive pot, bring oranges, sugar, and lemon juice to a boil.  Let it cook for about 10 minutes to give the peels time to soften.  After they have softened a bit add the pectin packet and let the mixture cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  When the marmalade coats the back of the stirring spoon smoothly, it’s done.
If you want to can your marmalade, pour it into hot, sterilized jars.  Wipe rims of the jars off with the edge of a dish towel dipped in boiling water.  Apply new lids and screw on bands (you can always reuse canning jars and and the screw on bands, but you never want to reuse the lids).  Lower the filled jars into a hot water bath and process for 10 minutes.  Soon after you remove them from the water bath, the jars should let you know that they’ve sealed by letting out a pinging noise.  If you miss the signal tap on the top of the jar, if the lid gives at all, the jar did not seal.  Best to stash those in the fridge and enjoy now.
Olive Oil Cake with Citrus Marmalade

Olive Oil Cake
 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour               2 tsp. lemon zest
 2 tsp baking powder                          1/4 cups whole milk
 1/2 tsp salt                                       3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
 1 cup sugar                                       3 large eggs
  2 tsp orange zest                              2/3 cups sliced almonds,
                                                                 toasted and chopped


 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly oil an 8 inch diameter cake pan then coat with cornmeal and remove excess cornmeal.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend.  Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs, and zests in a large bowl until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the milk.  Gradually beat in the oil.  Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended.  Stir in the almonds.  Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.  Place cake pan on the baking sheet to collect any possible spills.   Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes.  Transfer to a rack and cool for 15 minutes.  Remove cake and place on a serving platter, top side up.  Dust with powdered sugar.

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Garden Pepper Chow Chow

   Root -Knot Nematode Resistant Organic Bell Peppers

Organic Garden LSSI

Considering the Extreme challenges we have with the Plant Parasitic Root Knot Nematodes we are thrilled to report great success with our first planting of the RKN resistant varieties of  Certified Organic Bell Peppers: Carolina Wonder and Charleston Belle.

The first of organic seed with RKN resistance to be released comes from the company Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  Check out SESE  for an abundance of great information on heritage seeds and diverse crop varieties for southern gardens.  Their catalog alone is a masterpiece and will no doubt have you dreaming of your grandmother’s garden.

Chili Peppers and Sweet Marconi Peppers

Another sweet pepper we loved this year is the Sweet Marconi.  An Italian Heirloom with tapered fruit that is known to grow up to 10 inches long.  This is a tall, very prolific plant that is great for containers or raised beds. 

Chef Paula has been making a lot of great chow-chow this summer with the LSSI garden peppers.

         Sweet and Hot Pepper Relish:
30 Red & Green Bell Peppers and Jalapenos Peppers to taste
3 cups White Vinegar
3 cups Sugar
1 1/2 Tsp. Salt
7 Yellow Onions

Chop Peppers and Onions in food processor or run through a grinder.  Put vinegar, sugar, and salt into an 8 quart or larger pot; heat to boiling and stir in peppers and onion.  When mixture boils, reduce heat and simmer (stirring often) for 30 minutes.  Pour mix into hot sterile jars.  Fix with hot sterile lids and tighten rings.  Makes 5-8 pints.

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Horned Melon!?!?

Kiwano, African Horned Melon, Exotic Fruit, Organic

This unusual fruit has found a place in the Organic Garden on Little St. Simons Island. Cucumis Metuliferus, a member of the cucurbitaceae family, known as African Horned Melon, Jelly Melon, Blowfish Fruit, or Kiwano, is native to Southern and Central Africa. 

Having a cucumber flavor with hints of melon, lime, and banana it has proven to be a late summer harvest perfect for sorbet.  The fruit is considered a good source of protein and Vitamins C, A, Iron, and Potassium.  

Plus it can withstand the monstrous squash bugs in the garden right now–check out those spines! 
  
These prolific vines provide fruit here from July until the first frost –perhaps December. 

Organic exotic fruit, horned melonOur Chefs will soon begin to harvest the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, growing wild on Little St. Simons Island, to combine with the Kiwano Sorbet.  Served in its frozen spiky shell it makes for an intriguingly delicious desert and for great conversation!
 
Commercially these fruit are now grown in New Zealand and California.  If you can find them at your local grocer try Chef Paula’s Kiwano Sorbet
Kiwano Sorbet Recipe
Print Options
Ingredients
·         10 Kiwano (African Horn Melon)
·         1 teaspoon lime zest
·         1/2 cup apple juice
·         1 tablespoon agave nectar
·         Pinch of sea salt
Method
1To prepare the Kiwano, cut them in half from top to bottom scoop out the jelly and seeds (keep the rind) and put into a blender or food processor and purée until smooth and soupy. Now strain through a fine mesh.
2 Now add the lime zest, agave nectar and sea salt and stir until incorporated.
3 Place mixture in refrigerator for one hour to chill. Also place Kiwano rinds in the freezer. After an hour taste sorbet mixture and adjust sweetness accordingly with agave nectar.
4Process in an ice cream machine via the manufacturer’s instructions. The sorbet will have a soft texture right out of the ice cream machine. Now remove rinds from freezer and scoop sorbet into rinds. Place back into the freezer for at least an hour.
Garnish with a sprig of Holy Basil.
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Pickling Time!

Chef Paula and Garden Volunteer Shelley harvest Coriander Seeds produced from Cilantro plants “gone to seed” to use in summer pickling recipes.  A colander works great to separate the seeds from the stems.
                           

Chef Paula’s favorite “quick pickling” recipe for the summer harvest:

16 servings, about 1/4 cup each
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds pickling cucumbers, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 each sliced 1/4-inch eggplant, Serrano peppers, zucchini
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup slivered onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, slivered
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed,
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • Fresh herb sprigs, dill, rosemary, thyme, or oregano

Preparation

  1. Place cucumber, eggplant, zucchini, and pepper slices in a colander set in the sink. Sprinkle with salt; stir to combine. Let stand for 20 minutes. Rinse, drain and transfer to a large heatproof bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, combine cider vinegar, white vinegar, brown sugar, onion, garlic, dill and mustard seed in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the hot liquid over the cucumber and vegetable mixture; add herbs stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to bring to room temperature.
  3. Prepare canning jars according to box directions.
  4. Ration pickle mixture among jars and seal. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days. You can also use any fresh herbs you like to add more flavor to your pickles.

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    Herbal Bath Salts

    The herbs are thriving this spring!  This winter we transplanted the herbs from the raised beds to a designated herb garden to provide more space for their roots and also to put them on a drip irrigation system.  Many herbs are quite adaptable to the native soils here. In fact we have had to restrain the mint and oregano from taking over the entire garden! 

    It’s been a  bounty of culinary opportunity and also great habitat for all our pollinator friends in the garden.  Bluebirds nested in the bird box this spring to hatch their young.   Praying Mantis are around to help with the aphid control & the Swallowtail Butterflies have been a delight in the flower beds each dawn and dusk!

    Rosemary, Tarragon, Chocolate Mint, Lemon Grass, Sage, Sorrel, Cress, Dill, Lemon Balm, Fennel, Pineapple Mint, Oregano, Holy Basil …..

    Recent “Great Clips” Retreat Guests harvesting to make Organic Herbal Bath Salts. Taking home a bit of relaxation to remember their vacation to Little St. Simons Island!


          Chef Matthew Raiford mixing the bath salts.

    We used 3 herbs: Mint, Lemon Balm, & Rosemary



    Some of the guests brought their salts to the beach for a foot massage and then  took a walk through the tides to rinse off!
    Herbal Bath Salts Recipe: 
         2 cups Sea Salt
      1 cup Olive Oil
     5 drops each, essential oils of Lavender, Rosemary, and Peppermint
                                 1/4 cup chopped fresh Rosemary
                        1/4 cup chopped fresh Mint
                                      1/4 cup chopped fresh Lemon Balm 
     Put salt into a bowl. Add olive oil, mixing well with a spoon.  Add the drops of essential oil and mix thoroughly.  Add fresh herbs and mix until incorporated.  Put ingredients into a jar and then enjoy with a nice warm bath or shower.
         
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