Roasting sunflower seeds

sunflower seedhead

I recently did a post on sunflowers with some great pictures. I grow sunflowers for attracting beneficial insects, feeding birds and because they are beautiful. But there is something else you can do with them—you can roast the seeds from the heads after the flowers fade and EAT THEM!  The biggest sunflowers like Titan, Kong, Giant Gray Stripe and Mammoth which produce big seeds are best. Cut the heads off when the plants are starting to fade and the sunflowers plant yellows. Then let the heads finish drying till they are brown and dry but move them inside as the birds will start to eat the seeds if they find the heads. The smallest flower heads I leave out around the garden for the birds to get the seeds.

sunflower seedhead closeup

After the big flower heads are dried, rub off the front of the flower head to reveal the tightly packed sunflower seeds. Using your thumb, start to rub from the edges and the seeds will release and continue till you get most of them. I do this outside as it is a bit messy with dried parts everywhere. I just sit at my outside patio table to do this. Clean out the dried flower parts from all your seeds before the next step.

Now you’re ready to salt and roast your seeds. The following recipe is provided by the National Sunflower Association—sunflowernsa.com:

Cover unshelled sunflower seeds with salted water, using 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt per 2 quarts of water. Soak seeds in the salt solution overnight. The next morning, drain off the water and pat the seeds dry to remove excess moisture. (You can also roast the seeds unsalted — simply skip the soaking process.)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the sunflower seeds evenly on a cookie sheet or in a shallow pan, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. The seeds often develop a small crack down the center as they roast. Taste after each stirring to see if the seeds are completely roasted. After roasting, remove seeds from the oven and allow them to cool completely. Store the seeds in an airtight container for future snacking. YUM!!

No Giant Pumpkin This Year :(

Courtesy of pumpkin pic_history.org

Pumpkin picture courtesy of http://www.history.org

So disappointing. No giant pumpkin this year-not even a little one. I started with 3 plants. Two died of a wilt. I checked to make sure they didn’t have a squash vine borer in them-which they didn’t. I pulled both by the end of July. I just pulled my third and last giant pumpkin plant and sent it to the State Lab last week to see if they could diagnosis what disease it had. The leaves were weird – they were stiff and broke easily, the stems were weird with galls and the blossoms wouldn’t open or stayed small and dropped off—all of them. I didn’t even have one to pollinate. This is the first time since I started growing giant pumpkins that I’ve had this kind of trouble. Some years I’ve grown great pumpkins, some years not so great but I’ve always had at least one giant pumpkin. Not this year – nada and no annual pumpkin bash! What a bummer.

The results just came in from the State Lab. They had to send  it to an independent lab to confirm their diagnosis. They both came to the same conclusion-CURLY TOP VIRUS!! No. no. I know Curly Top Virus is transmitted to tomato plants via the beet leafhopper but didn’t know it could transmit this virus to giant pumpkin plants as well. And I even had it covered with row cover until July but I guess that wasn’t long enough as it only takes one leafhopper to infect plants. :(

History of Mozzerella cheese

water buffalo

Water Buffalo milk was the original milk for making mozzarella

Mozzarella is most commonly made with cows milk here in the US. It can also made with goats milk as well. But it didn’t start out with either of those. In Italy it is made with milk from a water buffalo which is the richest creamiest flavor of all because it has the highest butterfat in it.  You can NOT buy water buffalo milk here in the states (how the hell do you milk a water buffalo anyways, even if it is domestic?!!) Mozzarella made with water buffalo milk is called buffala mozzarella. Buffala means female water buffalo. I learned how to make mozzarella with cow’s milk and goats milk because I want it for my Caprese salad with my homegrown tomatoes that I’m growing.

The history of mozzarella starts with the water buffalo and how it came to Italy. How and when the animals arrived in Italy is the source of some debate. Some say it was introduced by Arab invasions, others say it was introduced by the Normans from Sicily and still others say that India was the source. What we do know is that they began to be raised in the 12th century, at a time when many peasants, fleeing war and invasions, abandoned their land. That land turned marshy, which is exactly what water buffalo like. “In ancient times, the buffalo was a familiar sight in the countryside, since it was widely used in ploughing compact and watery terrains, both because of its strength and the size of its hooves, which did not sink too deeply into moist soils” (wikipedia). 

References to cheese products made from water buffalo milk appeared for the first time at the beginning of the twelfth century. Buffalo mozzarella became widespread throughout the south of Italy from the second half of the eighteenth century on.

mozzarelaSeveral centuries later, northern Italy became concerned about cleaning up the marshlands, and in 1930, the south began a massive agrarian reform. The herds of water buffalo dwindled. Cow’s milk began to replace bufala milk in the recipe. Then, in 1940 the Nazis destroyed the remaining herds.

After the war, water buffalo imported from India were reintroduced to Italy, but the cheese introduced to North America by Italian immigrants in New York at the turn of the 20th century and in Canada around 1949 was made with cow’s milk probably because they couldn’t get buffala milk.

You can find pre-made buffala mozzarella at Trader’s Joes and I highly recommend you try it for comparison although it is expensive.

 

Fall harvest season is full blast right now!

Harvest season is full blast right now. Started out with our Home Grown New Mexico ‘Jam On’ class where we made a Strawberry-balsamic jam and a terrific Blueberry jam.

Himrod grapes-yum!

Then the grapes ripened-ate lots and dried some into raisins for later.

bread n butter pickles

The cucumbers ripened so fast I was making lots of pickles. First I made bread and butter pickles, then cornichon pickles and then dill pickles-crock, refrigerator and canned. Must have about 30 jars+ and now the 5 gallon crock is full where I am fermenting some with salt brine. After I was bored with pickles,  I made some sweet pickle relish which I haven’t tasted yet. Will probably make more of that with the giant cucumbers I miss when looking for little ones. So far I’ve made pickles with Jody, Nick and Elodie.

peach jam and raisins

Then I bought 20 lbs of peaches from the Farmer’s Market and Mernie and I made 3 different peach jams.

9tomato sauce-finished in bags

Now the tomatoes are coming in and I’m starting to make the raw tomato sauce that I freeze in gallon plastic freezer bags. Later in November after I recover from harvesting, I will take them out of the freezer and make different pasta sauces like puttenesca, marinara, penne alla vodka and good ole spaghetti sauce.

 

Potatoes dug out just in the nick of time!

Potatoes dug out just in the nick of time!

Soon I will harvest potatoes too.

2013-part of the fall honey harvest

and we will harvest honey from the bee hive.

Of course then there is all I take to the Farmer’s Market that I harvest every week-tomatoes, eggplants, shishito peppers, beans, tomatillos and sometimes rhubarb, kale and chard when I have the room on the tables. Phew! Busy time of year!

The best part of it all is I haven’t bought any vegetables in the store since early July and I’ll have a full pantry for winter when harvest season is done.

My tomatoes love the sun and warmth!

tomatoes ready for market

Tomatoes ready for the Santa Fe Farmer’s market

Last week was warm and sunny-just what tomatoes need to ripen. Temperatures in the mid 80s. It’s a little cooler this week but still nice. Suddenly I have all kinds of tomatoes ripening-yea!

tomato lady at Santa Fe Farmer's Market

Up till last week I’ve barely had enough ripe ones to go to the Farmer’s Market much less make tomato sauce but now I have plenty to sell-just get there early as I sell out pretty early even with all these tomatoes. Here’s my booth at the Farmer’s Market. It is located inside the big building. Just look up for a big sign that says, ‘Tomato Lady’ to find me.

I noticed the number of ripe tomatoes have been growing here at my little farm and now they are exploding! Yea! I’m hoping for an Indian summer-that means the rest of September will be nice and warm which should keep them coming.

Sunflowers in the fall

sunflowers sunset

I love sunflowers. Every year I plant many varieties because they are so beautiful in the garden. An added bonus is that many bees both native and honeybees love them too. Being a beekeeper I want to help my bees by planting bee friendly plants. Bees like both nectar and pollen from sunflowers so they are a great flower to plant for honeybees and native bees. Individual sunflowers rarely self-pollinate but depend on the bee to help them. In fact bees are the major pollinators of sunflowers. The bees get covered in pollen when they visit a sunflower and then visit other sunflowers pollinating them. Here are some pictures from the garden of my sunflowers. They are particularly beautiful in the fall.

 

Tomato Disease-more info on Early Blight

Early BlightSomeone replied to my last post on Early Blight, “Will this contaminate the soil (for next year)?” Great question. Here is more info on this subject.

If you have a garden, it’s pretty much in the soil. One key is to provide a barrier between the soil and your plant, hence I add straw as a mulch around them to act as a barrier and use fungicides to catch it early or before it starts.

Some years are better as they are drier but when you have a wet summer, it can be a problem. I’m not sure if you took out the soil if that would help because who can remove all the soil? Unless you put them in pots-maybe that would work.

You should consider crop rotation, not growing in the same spot for 2 years and then coming back to it 3 years later. Crop rotation is used to control diseases that can become established in the soil over time. Changing your tomato crops to a new bed or area tends to decrease the population level of the pathogens.  That is why I have 3 sections in my garden so I can rotate the tomatoes to a new section each year. If you have raised beds, you could rotate the tomatoes to a new bed each year coming back to the original bed 3 years later to get the same effect.

I don’t look at Early Blight as a major killer of tomato plants if we do close monitoring and take action. By using fungicides early on and crop rotation every year, we can usually control it.

Also good clean-up in the fall after the garden is done is important. Do not compost the dead plants but bag them and put in the garbage.

You can read the first post about Early Blight here.