Tag Archives: Garden

Free Organic Gardening Book: How To Grow Onions

Organic onions are easy to grow.

Organic onions & beets enjoying summer.

In my early gardening years, way back in the dark ages when I had a stick and some dirt, I never, ever considered raising onions in my garden.

I didn’t use a lot of onions in my cooking, well to be honest, I didn’t cook much, either.  I was a road warrior and spent most of my life in a plane, on a train or riding in a limo.  There was no dirt under my nails, no canning jars in my pantry and no garden in my back yard.

Besides, my Mom never raised onions or garlic.  But then, my Mom wasn’t married to an Italian.  So when I traded in all my gold credit cards and came home to life on the homestead, I decided to give onions a try.

Getting Onions In The Ground
My first experience with raising them was hilarious. I decided to start them from seed.  One cold and windy day in early March, I went out, worked the soil loose with my hand rake and spread seeds.  I was a little liberal with the amount of seed I put down but I’d never done it before. 

Onion seed is small and dark and disappears right into the soil.  I covered what I thought were the seeds with a tiny bit of soil, covered the bed with a fence section and a sheet, went back inside to thaw out and promptly forgot I’d planted onion seed.

Four weeks later, in the middle of April. I was preparing a bed for beets.  There is no finesse involved in prepping and planting these babies and the seeds are so big, I didn’t need my glasses, I thought.

I knelt down by the bed and was stunned to see a ton of baby grass growing in the bed.  I grabbed handfuls and began madly tearing out what I thought were seeds.  About 3 minutes later I froze; I was tearing up baby onions! I tend to use sets, now.

Seed or Sets
Raising onions from seed is easy as long as you remember that you planted it and don’t rip it out, willy nilly.  Once the seeds sprout and the onion babies get to be 3 inches high, all you have to do is thin and transplant them using the same technique I use for baby beets.

Raising onions from sets is even easier but your choices are limited to what your favorite, organic seed company is growing.

Growing organic onions is easy

Organic onions love sun and good soil.

I prefer red onions so I usually end up with Stuttgart or Candy Red.  Both are good tasting, sweet onions but only the Stuttgart is a long keeper.

FYI onions like cool weather so you can put seed  or sets in the ground as soon as you can work the soil in the spring.  If you’re going for sets, the best time to order your sets is early.  If you don’t order early, you may not get the varieties you want.  Raising onions in the backyard, especially organic onions, is getting more popular and nurseries run out of sets pretty early.

White, Red or Yellow
Onions come in quite a few colors – that would be your first choice.  They also come in long day, short day and intermediate.  Clearly, the names refer to how long the onions take to mature.  And picking the right onion for your zone and growing season is important to how well the onions grow and how big and healthy they are. 

Like many plants, onions grow roots and leaves first then begin to form bulbs but only when daylight hours reach a particular length.  Onions are what’s known as “photoperiodic.”  That means they regulate their growth by the duration of light and dark at the time of year they are growing.

If you try a long day onion in the deep South, you’ll get great tops but very small bulbs which will be killed when exposed to too much heat.  A short day onion that’s planted in the north will try to produce bulbs before the leaves have formed.  Without leaves to supply food, the bulb won’t be able to develop and size of the bulb will be limited. 

Onions growing in July

Onions in July

So, rule of thumb, plant long day varieties if you live north of latitude 36º — roughly the Kansas/Oklahoma border.  Plant short day types south of this line.  Put long day varieties in the ground as early as possible in the spring.  Put short day onions in the ground in the fall to give them a head start in the spring.

Planting Onions
If you are putting onion sets in the ground, most organic companies will ship them to you in the fall and within 2 weeks of the optimum time for you to plant.  When the sets arrive, they may appear wilted but they are pretty hardy and should do well if you plant them quickly. NOTE:  if you cannot plant as soon as they arrive, just put them in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

When you are ready to transplant, simply trim the tops to about 3 inches high and the roots to ¼ of an inch.  I use a sharpened pencil to create a hole for each set that’s about 1 to 2 inches deep – deep enough to cover the white part of the baby onion.   I plant the sets about 4 to 6 inches apart, in rows about 18 inches apart.  

Make sure you plant the baby onions as directed above because they don’t like to compete for foods and fertilizer with each other or other plants, including weeds.  In fact, there’s a saying in the onion business – you can grow onions or weeds but not both.

If planting in the fall, mulch heavily – I use 14 to 18 inches of straw to cover the whole bed. Mulching keeps the plants from sprouting during the January thaw and prevents the freezing and heaving cycle when warmer days play tag with the cold temperatures of deep winter.

In the spring, when forsythia start to bloom, pull the stacked straw off the plants but leave a light layer of mulch.  The mulch suppresses weeds.  Put a light cover over your baby onions if frost is predicted.  I use old sheer curtains.  Water onions regularly; they need about an inch of water a week.  And that’s about it.

Harvesting & Storing Onions
Onions are ready for harvest when the tops turn yellow and begin falling over.  For those that are not quite ready, you can finish bending the tops so they are horizontal to the ground using your hand.  Bending the leaves stops sap from rising into the leaves and forces the bulb to mature.

When the outer skin on the onion dries, remove from the soil, brush the earth off each onion, clip the roots and cut the tops back to 1 inch from the bulb.  Store onions in a cool, dry place and try not to let them touch each other.  If handled properly, onions can last up to 1 year in storage.

Onion Pests & Diseases
Onions are pungent so they tend to repel most pests.  Onions can also be inter-planted to repel pests from other plants, too.  The bigger risk for onions are fungal diseases.  It is also a risk that is very easily mitigated.

Smut, downy mildew and pink root are common problems encountered while raising onions.  The easiest way to avoid all three of them is rotation.  Do NOT plant onions or garlic in a bed where other allium crops have been planted the year before and, preferably, two years before.

In fact, the longer you can avoid planting onions in a bed that was used for raising alliums, the better.

By the way, if you want to find out everything about onions…just visit the National Onion Association read the FAQs and browse the types, colors and recipes.

FYI – Growing garlic is just about as easy as growing onions as I shared in an earlier post.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Recipes
I love raw onions in salads, on the top of black bean soup and on dishes of beans and feta cheese.  But my favorite way to eat onions is caramelized.  A stick of butter in a cast iron pan, toss in about 8 onions and just cook until they are the color of caramel and salty/sweet.  They are good plain, they are great on hamburgers. 

And they are great in Onion Frittata — a recipe that owes a whole lot of its flavor and richness to caramelized onions.

RECIPE:  Onion Frittata

INGREDIENTS:
8 large eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 basil leaves torn in pieces
3 minced sage leaves
1tsp minced rosemary
3 T olive oil
1 or 2 c sliced onions
1 ½ to 2 cups ricotta cheese
Kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400°
Put olive oil in large, cast iron frying pan and heat.
Put onions in frying pan and cook until just turning brown and starting to caramelize.
Reduce heat to low.
While onions cook, whisk eggs, parmesan cheese, basil, sage, rosemary salt a pepper together.
Pour egg mixture into frying pan over onions.
Spoon dollops of ricotta over the top and cook on the stove top until frittata begins to set.
Place frying pan in oven and bake for 7 to 9 minutes until it is set.
Slide frittata onto plate or serve from frying pan by cutting into slices.  Serve hot or cold.

 

Avoid GMO Food – GROW YOUR OWN!

Lettuce, spinach and onions growing in raised truck bed.

Cool weather and cool raised bed of a 55 Chevy truck making for happy lettuce, spinach and onions.

Organic gardening is the easiest, best way to avoid all the GMO foods currently on the market – estimated to be 80% of US food chain.

I know – I wrote the book on just how easy it is to get going and get growing.  And I share tips and tricks on how to raise just about every possible vegetable and fruit you can find in the store (well, no kiwi, avocado or olives – too cold here).

Now, another doctor adds his voice to the growing chorus of educated, intelligent people who just don’t want to eat “frankenfood” that is definitely affecting our health and our children’s health.

Grow lettuce. Try blueberries – in pots or the yard.  20110628_0377

Heirloom tomatoes growing up happy with just sunshine and epsom salts!

Heirloom tomatoes on the vine in my backyard just weeks away from picking!

Add tomatoes and peppers.  And start being sure where your food has been and who it’s been hanging out with.

Share your ideas, your recipes and your success stories with other gardeners – just step out onto your patio or into your yard and start down the path to healthy food, health eating and healthy lives.  It is…oh so easy!

Late Bloomer – Summer Garden Wrap-up – Episode 2.19 – YouTube

I love gardeners who love what they’re doing so much that they take the time to share information, advice and stories with other gardeners, even if it is all about fall clean up.

Kaye Kittrell is one such gardener.  Kaye is a member of my LinkedIn group – Grow Girls Grow Organic.  And Kaye makes the most wonderful videos about her gardening experiences.

Kaye wraps up all the lessons she learned this past year about aphids, powdery mildew and cabbage worms.  One quick tip for her and other gardeners:  to kill cabbage worms, get an old-fashioned flour sifter, put some flour in it and head to the garden early in the morning.

Make sure you get to the worms while the dew is heavy. Sift flour on the plant and worms and watch the sun dry them into papier mache worms! When it rains, the flour washes right off.  My mom’s tip and it works like a charm.

Professionally shot and edited, these videos are fun to watch and always teach this old gardening girl something new. So, I thought I would share!

Enjoy this wonderful, warm weather gardener’s adventures in dirt, especially here in the Mid-Atlantic where we are currently sitting under about 10 inches of snow and 1/4 inch of ice…all delivered in the last 7 days.

Late Bloomer – Summer Garden Wrap-up – Episode 2.19 – YouTube.

via Late Bloomer – Summer Garden Wrap-up – Episode 2.19 – YouTube.

Monarch Butterfly Babies in My Garden

On her blog, this week, A Way to Garden, Margaret Roach asks where all the Monarch butterflies have gone.

I fear I must confess.  I think many of them came to my house for the dill buffet that is growing in one of my raised beds.

Monarch butterfly larvae love dill.

Dill with a side order of Monarch butterfly larvae.

I didn’t raise dill just for them.  In fact, I let my dill self seed.  This year, two big dill plants on the ends of my raised beds came and went and left a ton of seeds on their umbrels. I saved about 5o seeds so that next year, I could plant the dill where I wanted it to come up and never thought a thing about the other 500 seeds that the big plants had dropped to the ground.

Monarchs love to eat dill.

Monarch larvae side by side in my dill.

Then, about 6 weeks ago, I noticed a forest of tiny, soft dill fronds sprouting up in the ground where the old plants had been.  I thought about pulling them up but then I noticed butterflies landing on the plants and I wondered if they were laying eggs.  They were.

On this sunny, September afternoon, there are dozens and dozens of larvae, mowing down dill and contemplating when they want to pupate.   I expect to see a whole bunch of yellow-green chrysillises in the spring.

Monarch butterfly larva feasting in my dill bed.

Monarch butterfly larva in the dill.

So here, in eastern Pennsylvania, I am doing my bit to help Monarchs flourish.  I left the dill and I have planted a bed of milkweed, one of the butterfly’s favorites.  But I know that these butterflies are suffering.

So, here is Margaret Roach’s expert on Monarchs, their plight and what all of us can do to help.  precarious time for monarchs and their migration – A Way to Garden.

Digging in the Dirt With Gardening Apps – NYTimes.com

All right all my gardening friends who are also nerds…

This is an absolutely glorious article on the NY Times site with links to gardening aps for your phone!!

It was posted by one of my LinkedIn group (Grow Girls Grow Organic) members — Cindy Meredith.  Meredith also has a gardening blog and it is packed with great info on all kinds of gardening so I expect great info but this post and link just made me smile!

Happy Easter to all my gardening friends.

Digging in the Dirt With Gardening Apps – NYTimes.com.

via Digging in the Dirt With Gardening Apps – NYTimes.com.

Garden Mulch – FAQs from Margaret Roach

Margaret Roach does it again!

And while I am working on my organic gardening manuscript….
I thought I would share links and articles from some of my most favorite organic gardeners.

This article is really an in-depth FAQ on mulch.  What really constitutes mulch?  How much should I use?  When do I mulch?

Got mulch questions?  Ms. Roach has the answers.

garden mulch: how to mulch, and what to use — A Way to Garden.

Grow So Easy Organic: How To Grow Onions

Red onions

Red onions are my favorite and it’s easier and cheaper to raise them organically, so why not? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my early gardening years, way back in the dark ages when I had a stick and some dirt, I never, ever considered raising onions in my garden.

I didn’t use a lot of onions in my cooking, well to be honest, I didn’t cook much, either.  I was a road warrior and spent most of my life in a plane, on a train or riding in a limo.  There was no dirt under my nails, no canning jars in my pantry and no garden in my back yard.

Besides, my Mom never raised onions or garlic.  But then, my Mom wasn’t married to an Italian.  So when I traded in all my gold credit cards and came home to life on the homestead, I decided to give onions a try.

Getting Onions In The Ground
My first experience with raising them was hilarious. I decided to start them from seed.  One cold and windy day in early March, I went out, worked the soil loose with my hand rake and spread seeds.  I was a little liberal with the amount of seed I put down but I’d never done it before. 

And onion seed is small and dark.  It disappeared right into the soil.  I covered the seeds with a tiny bit of soil, covered the bed with a fence section and a sheet and went back inside to thaw out and promptly forgot I’d planted onion seed.

Four weeks later, in the middle of April. I was preparing a bed for beets.  There is no finesse involved in prepping and planting these babies and the seeds are so big, I didn’t need my glasses, I thought.

I knelt down by the bed and was stunned to see a ton of baby grass growing in the bed.  I grabbed handfuls and began madly tearing out what I thought were weeds.  About 3 minutes later I froze; I was tearing up baby onions!

I tend to use sets, now.

Seed or Sets
Raising onions from seed is easy as long as you remember that you planted it and don’t rip it out, willy nilly.  Once the seeds sprout and the onion babies get to be 3 inches high, all you have to do is thin and transplant them using the same technique I use for baby beets.

Raising onions from sets is easy too but your choices are limited to what your favorite, organic seed company is growing.  I prefer red onions so I usually end up with Stuttgart or Candy Red.  Both are good tasting, sweet onions but only the Stuttgart is a long keeper.

Depending on whether you are planting long or short day, you can put onion seed in the ground as soon as you can work the soil in the spring.  If you’re going for sets, the best time to order your sets is early.  If you don’t order early, you may not get the varieties you want.  Raising onions in the backyard is getting more popular and nurseries run out of sets pretty early.

White, Red or Yellow
Onions come in quite a few colors – that would be your first choice.  They also come in long day, short day and intermediate.  Clearly, the names refer to how long the onions take to mature.  And picking the right onion for your zone and growing season is important to how well the onions grow and how big and healthy they are. 

Like many plants, onions grow roots and leaves first then begin to form bulbs but only when daylight hours reach a particular length.  Onions are what’s known as “photoperiodic.”  That means they regulate their growth by the duration of light and dark at the time of year they are growing.

If you try a long day onion in the deep South, you’ll get great tops but very small bulbs which will be killed when exposed to too much heat.  A short day onion that’s planted in the north will try to produce bulbs before the leaves have formed.  Without leaves to supply food, the bulb won’t be able to develop and size of the bulb will be limited. 

So, rule of thumb, plant long day varieties if you live north of latitude 36º — roughly the Kansas/Oklahoma border.  Plant short day types south of this line.  Put long day varieties in the ground as early as possible in the spring.  Put short day onions in the ground in the fall to give them a head start in the spring.

Planting Onions
If you are putting onion sets in the ground, most organic companies will ship them to you in the fall and within 2 weeks of the optimum time for you to plant.  When the sets arrive, they may appear wilted but they are pretty hardy and should do well if you plant them quickly.

NOTE:  if you cannot plant as soon as they arrive, soak the roots in water and either keep them in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or mound soil around the roots and keep them moist. 

When you are ready to transplant, simply trim the tops to about 3 inches high and the roots to ¼ of an inch.  I use a sharpened pencil to create a hole for each set that’s about 1 to 2 inches deep – deep enough to cover the white part of the baby onion.   I plant the sets about 4 to 6 inches apart, in rows about 18 inches apart.  

Make sure you plant the baby onions as directed above because they don’t like to compete for foods and fertilizer with each other or other plants, including weeds.  In fact, there’s a saying in the onion business – you can grow onions or weeds but not both.

When planting in the fall, mulch heavily – I use 14 to 18 inches of straw to cover the whole bed. 

Mulching keeps the plants from sprouting during the January thaw and prevents the freezing and heaving cycle when warmer days play tag with the cold temperatures of deep winter.

In the spring, when forsythia start to bloom, pull the stacked straw off the plants but leave a light layer of mulch.  The mulch suppresses weeds.  Put a light cover over your baby onions if frost is predicted.  I use old sheer curtains.  Water onions regularly; they need about an inch of water a week.  And that’s about it.

Harvesting & Storing Onions
Onions are ready for harvest when the tops turn yellow and begin falling over.  For those that are not quite ready, you can finish bending the tops so they are horizontal to the ground using your hand.  Bending the leaves stops sap from rising into the leaves and forces the bulb to mature.

When the outer skin on the onion dries, remove from the soil, brush the earth off each onion, clip the roots and cut the tops back to 1 inch from the bulb.  Store onions in a cool, dry place and try not to let them touch each other.  If handled properly, onions can last up to 1 year in storage.

Onion Pests & Diseases
Onions are pungent so they tend to repel most pests.  Onions can also be inter-planted to repel pests from other plants, too.  The bigger risk for onions are fungal diseases.  It is also a risk that is very easily mitigated.

Smut, downy mildew and pink root are common problems encountered while raising onions.  The easiest way to avoid all three of them is rotation.  Do NOT plant onions or garlic in a bed where other allium crops have been planted the year before and, preferably, two years before.

In fact, the longer you can avoid planting onions in a bed that was used for raising alliums, the better.

By the way, if you want to find out everything about onions…just visit the National Onion Association read the FAQs and browse the types, colors and recipes.

Recipes
I love raw onions in salads, on the top of black bean soup and on dishes of beans and feta cheese.  But my favorite way to eat onions is caramelized.  A stick of butter in a cast iron pan, toss in about 8 onions and just cook until they are the color of caramel and salty/sweet.  They are good plain, they are great on hamburgers. 

And they are great in Onion Frittata — a recipe that owes a whole lot of its flavor and richness to caramelized onions.

RECIPE:  Onion Frittata

INGREDIENTS:
8 large eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 basil leaves torn in pieces
3 minced sage leaves
1tsp minced rosemary
3 T olive oil
1 or 2 c sliced onions
1 ½ to 2 cups ricotta cheese
Kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400°
Put olive oil in large, cast iron frying pan and heat.
Put onions in frying pan and cook until just turning brown and starting to caramelize.
Reduce heat to low.
While onions cook, whisk eggs, parmesan cheese, basil, sage, rosemary salt a pepper together.
Pour egg mixture into frying pan over onions.
Spoon dollops of ricotta over the top and cook on the stove top until frittata begins to set.
Place frying pan in oven and bake for 7 to 9 minutes until it is set.
Slide frittata onto plate or serve from frying pan by cutting into slices.  Serve hot or cold.

Growing garlic is just about as easy as growing onions as I shared in an earlier post.

Grow So Easy Organic: How To Protect Tomatoes from Disease & Bugs

Close up of Blossom end rot tomato dissection

Close up of Blossom end rot tomato dissection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomatoes, like every other living thing, can come down with some maladies that are easily recognized.  The bad new  is that once you know what the disease is,  there is often little that you can do about it.  The good news is that most of the fruit can still be eaten if affected portions are removed.

Here are the most common diseases that can afflict tomatoes.

Blossom end rot
This one is very common problem on organic tomatoes. If a brown, spot about the size of dime appears on the blossom end of the fruit, your tomatoes have it.  Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency coupled with fluctuations in moisture. Remove the affected fruit so other fruits on the plant will develop normally.  And if you’re going through a dry spell, start watering the plants to ensure they get 1 to 2 inches a week.

Cracking
Cracking is another problem that occurs when soil moisture fluctuates. Select varieties that are crack-resistant, and keep them adequately watered at all times. Keep in mind that soil drying followed by watering encourages cracking.

Cloudy spots
If you find irregular, grey or white spots just under the skin, you’re tomatoes have been attacked by stink bugs.  The damage can be done at any stage of the fruit’s development so keep a weather eye out for these bugs and crush them with wild abandon when you find them.

Flower drop
Flower drop is a problem directly related to air temperature.  It usually happens when temperatures fall lower than 55 degrees at night but higher than 95 degrees during the day.  It can also happen when night temperatures remain above 75 degrees. The problem usually disappears and fruits set normally after the weather improves.

Sunscald, poor color
Remember I said not to prune leaves too vigorously?   If you remove too many leaves you risk exposing the fruit to too much sun, raising the temperature of the tomato and causing scald and uneven color. Good foliage cover helps prevent sunscald.

Catfacing
I’ve never had catfacing but I’ve heard of it.  Symptoms are badly formed tomatoes on the blossom end that usually have a rough spot that looks like scar tissue. Cold weather at time of blossom set intensifies the deformities. Catfacing is most common in the large-fruited, beefsteak-type tomatoes.

Bugs That Bug Tomatoes
Here is a list of common insects that can cause damage to tomatoes.  I have only had a few problems with insects.  If your plants are healthy and you are vigilant, you probably won’t have many of these problem bugs chowing down on your tomatoes, either.

  1. Aphids – Small, pear-shaped insects that like the top growth and undersides of leaves. Spray insecticidal soap and remove any weeds in the area which may serve as hosts for aphids.
  2. Cutworms – fat gray, black or brown worms up to 1-1/4 inches long, cutworms chew through stems of plants close to the soil surface.  Use a toilet paper roll to make a collar that you place around transplants or around the base of young plants as you set them in the ground.
  3. Flea beetles – Tiny black beatles about 1/16 inch long that attack young transplants and leave them looking as if they have been shot full of small holes.  Crush them with your fingers but move quickly, these babies are Olympic jumpers!
  4. Hornworms – Large green worms up to 4 inches long that eat foliage and fruit. Handpick the worms if only a few – remember the pliers.  Or buy parasitic wasps and let them lay their eggs on the hornworm.
  5. Spider mites – Tiny tan or red mites that are almost invisible to the naked eye, mites cause small yellow specks and fine webs. Forceful water sprays and insecticidal soaps may be used for control.
  6. Stalk borers – Creamy-white to light purple larvae that eat tunnels in the stem, causing the plant to wither and die. Remove and destroy weeds where the insect may breed. Locate the hole in stem where the borer entered, split stem lengthwise above the hole, and kill the borer. Bind the split stem, and keep the plant well watered. Spray to prevent further infestations.
  7. Stink bugs –On my top ten most hated bugs, these babies can be brown, tan, green or black shield-shaped bugs that give off a foul odor when startled or crushed. They suck juices from the plant and cause hard whitish spots just under the skin of the fruit. They fly, multiply fast and eat anything, so find them and their eggs and crush them.
  8. Tomato fruitworm – this is one I’ve never seen but my Rodale book says it’s green, brown or pink  and it eats holes in fruit and buds. If you look at the base of the fruit stem and find a darkened hole, remove the fruit and cut it open.  You should find tunneling caused by the caterpillar and sometimes caterpillar itself.  Kill the fruitworms before they become moths.  Parasitic wasps like the Trichogramma are natural enemies and will use these worms to host their eggs, too.

Recipes
Got a lot of tomatoes and don’t know what to do with them?  Here are two of my favorites for ripe tomatoes and one for all those green tomatoes you will have at the end of the growing season.  Mangia!

Mucci’s Spicy Barbecue Sauce

INGREDIENTS:
24 large peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes
2 c chopped onion (red)
2 c chopped sweet red peppers
2 chopped hot peppers
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 c cider vinegar
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 T dry mustard
1 T smoked paprika
1 tsp salt (or to taste)

DIRECTIONS:

Put all ingredients in a non-reactive pot and stir to mix together.  NOTE:  For milder bbq sauce, hold off on adding the dry mustard, pepper and paprika until 1 hour before jarring the sauce.

Bring to a boil then cook for 12 to 15 hours at a slow simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Sauce should reduce by half during this time and should have the consistency of thick ketchup when it is ready for jarring or use.  If the sauce is still too thin, just keep cooking it but stir it more often as it will burn as it gets thicker.

JARRING:
Pour hot sauce into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch head space.
Cap and tighten by hand.
Process pints and half pints for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Remove from water bath and set on cooling rack.  Do NOT move until jars are completely cool.
Once cooled down, check tops to make sure they sealed.  Remove rings and wipe off the outside of each jar.
Label and store.

Best Ever Homemade Salsa

INGREDIENTS:
30 tomatoes peeled/chopped
8-10 Italian peppers – chopped
10 c chopped onions
6 large cloves garlic – chopped
3 to 5 banana peppers
¾ c brown sugar
2 c cider vinegar
1 T pickling or sea salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 T cumin
2 to 3 T chili powder
2 – 6 oz cans tomato paste – optional – will help make salsa a little thicker

NOTES:
I do NOT add salt – don’t’ think it needs it – but you can taste and add as needed.  You can spice this up using more hot peppers, hot pepper flakes or a prepared spice mix like Ball’s or Mrs Wages.  I would NOT add the entire bag but taste as you go along.

DIRECTIONS:
Put all the ingredients in a non-reactive (not aluminum) pot.
Bring to a boil then cut the heat down and simmer for 2 hours until the liquid in it is reduced a whole lot.
Jar while very hot and process in water bath for 35 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts.
Makes up to 17 pints.
Remove from water bath and set on cooling rack.  Do NOT move until jars are completely cool.
Once cooled down, check tops to make sure they sealed.  Remove rings and wipe off the outside of each jar.
Label and store.

Green Tomato Relish

INGREDIENTS:
2 lb green tomatoes (2 c chopped)
1 lb chopped red onions
1 lb chopped Italian peppers
½ lb chopped tart apples
6 cloves garlic – chopped
1 c organic cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt (add to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
3 to 4 hot peppers – chopped – optional
2 T chopped cilantro – optional

NOTE:  if veggies and apple are chopped into ¼ inch bits, you should NOT have to process in a blender or food processor before jarring.

DIRECTIONS:

Put all ingredients BUT the cumin, hot peppers and cilantro in a non-reactive pot.
Bring ingredients to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens – 90 minutes.
Add cumin, jalapenos, and cilantro and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes.
Ladle into hot jars leaving ½” headroom.
Process in water bath for 15 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.
Remove from water bath and set on cooling rack.  Do NOT move until jars are completely cool.
Once cooled down, check tops to make sure they sealed.  Remove rings and wipe off the outside of each jar.
Label and store.

This recipe makes about 3 pints.  You can double or triple if you want.

Next week, we move to another garden favorite, cucumbers!  Another “easy-to-raise” vegetable that has its own challenges!

Gallery

Grow So Easy Organic: How To Start, Raise and Grow Tomatoes

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Now the fun begins.  This is the first in a series of posts on how to raise various vegetables, how to feed them, defend them, harvest and use them.  We start with one of my favorites and a vegetable that … Continue reading