Garden and Preserving Year in Review

We pulled up the last remains of the garden last week giving the kids a chance to really play in the dirt. Overall, it was a pretty good year. The weather definitely played a large role in that but I'd like to think we're getting better at gardening too, cucumbers notwithstanding. A few notes for next year:

On Gardening
  • We did three cherry tomato plants and three roma type plants. And then we had two more cherry plants sprout up on their own after the peas were done. Next year we need to reduce the cherry and increase the cannable type. We had enough to can but it took about a week to gather up enough to make processing worth it. A few more plants would have helped that. And I've got a pretty good canning rhythm now so as long as I'm not pregnant again next summer, I think I could easily handle 5-6 plants worth. If I am pregnant, all bets are off. 
  • Garlic. Garlic is good. We eat a lot of garlic and it's really nice to know that we actually produced enough for us to not have to buy any (we ran out of last year's harvest right before we harvested this years which is pretty much perfect) Yah us!
  • Peas. I'm giving up. We have yet to see any real payout from planting peas. I think we got 3 pods this year. Definitely not worth it. 
  • Green beans. Why did we not try these before? They did great. Again, we need to plant more though since it still took 2-3 days to harvest enough for a meal for our family because the harvest was so spread out but I kept thinking that they must be done but then I'd go look and there would be new ones out there. Next year, we'll be planting more than just a couple rows and maybe even freezing some. 
  • Cucumbers. Try again next year but let's make sure we have good seeds. 
  • Berries. All of our berries (strawberry, blackberries and raspberries) did awesome this year! We even had enough to take some inside whereas last year, the strawberries and raspberries were pretty much outside snack plants. At peak strawberry season we were getting about a pound of strawberries a day! I love getting our blackberries for preserving purposes but I still can't bring myself to "waste" any strawberries or raspberries on jam or cooking because they taste so good fresh. But still, fresh berries are one of life's true treasures.
  • Asparagus. First year we could harvest. We only got to harvest a teeny tiny bit for the long term health of our plant. Everyone but me is probably excited for next year. I don't really like asparagus so I have to pretend for the kid's sake. But they do love it so I'm glad we planted it and it keeps doing well.
  • Rhubarb. I think we'll start over again next year. This was supposed to be it's second year but we only got a couple leaves. 
  • Peach tree. We actually got a few peaches! Our tree is still a baby so we weren't expecting any yet and some small animal ended up treating itself to some of the few we did get but I'm happy the tree is already doing so well. 
On Putting Away:
  • Blueberries. We don't grow any but went with a friend to a local place to pick. I think we picked 7lbs or so and froze most of those but with our latest smoothie obsession they are already almost gone. Definitely need to pick more next year. 
  • Peaches. Planned to pick 25 lbs, actually picked about 40lbs.  Made 12 pints of jam (7 peach, 3 ginger peach, 3 cinnamon peach), froze 5 cobblers worth of filling, and gorged ourselves on as many fresh peaches as a person can possible stand to eat. I'm really looking forward to eating a nice warm peach cobbler in January this year.
  • Apples. Picked about a bushel's worth/40 lbs. Made 16 quarts of applesauce and 6 quarts of apple pie filling (not counting the apple pie we ate). I normally make apple pie from fresh apples so I'm not sure what I'll do with the filling. Perhaps try pie, or use it to fill crepes or hand pies or whatnot. Time will tell.
  • Blackberries. Made 3 quarts of Jam. 2 blackberry and 1 Triple berry (adding in some store bought strawberries and some other kind of berry, maybe raspberries? Its only been a little while and already I can't remember. This is why I write these kinds of posts). We definitely likes the triple berry more than the plain blackberry although the seeds still drive me nuts. I think I might stick to freezing blackberries for use in muffins and smoothies. 
  • Tomatoes. Canned 10 quarts. I only did two batches and one jar broke each batch although I'm not sure why since I did a hot pack in hot jars. Hot + hot into hot shouldn't break, right? Oh well. I will say my end result was much better this year. I had quite a bit of floating last year and while they were completely useable, these jars are much prettier and I think I will be a better equivalent to a 15oz can that so many recipes call for.
  • Notes on jam: My goal was to make my jam without needing to buy additives (like pectin). I tried a couple different recipes, some with added apple and some without - this ended up being my preferred recipe/method so far. I also used both honey and sucanat and organic white sugar as sweetener. Some people swore sucanat/honey ruined their jam, others said it was a nice added flavor. I didn't really notice much one way or the other which is quite liberating actually. I still want to experiment more with recipes and flavors but it is really nice not to be so tied down to a box recipe anymore. 

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