Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle


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January in the Garden

This isn’t actually about what’s going on in the garden NOW, because that’s a whole lotta nothing. In keeping with my recap/resolutions last week, I’m going to run down the couple of fun things going on in our garden in the last year.

All in all, it was a low key year in the garden. My weekends weren’t spent very productively. But we spent plenty of time hanging out outside, having bbqs and dining with friends.

Thimbleberries on the shrub, in various stages of ripening. You can also see how soft and large these leaves are (I have heard them called - jokingly? - "nature's toilet paper.")

Thimbleberries on the shrub, in various stages of ripening. You can also see how soft and large these leaves are (I have heard them called – jokingly? – “nature’s toilet paper.”)

Thimbleberries galore! Thimbleberry – Rubus parviflorus – is a Northwest native shrub with sweet berries. I picked these as they ripened in July – about a handful a day – and froze them. I ended up with about a cup of frozen berries after a couple weeks. They’re so small, I couldn’t think of the best way to use them so I just ate them. This year I’ll make a plan. Sometimes it takes me a couple years to figure out how to harvest and use edibles.

Desert King figs are green with pink centers. This is the type that does the best in Seattle.

Desert King figs are green with pink centers. This is the type that does the best in Seattle.

We got our first figs off the tree! I am super proud of that. They were delicious! I hope for way more this year, and soon I’ll have enough to make fig jam. Fingers crossed! No fruit on the prune yet, but we’re hopeful for this year.

Our raised beds installed. Here we are checking the level, and adding cardboard at the bottom. We have tons of morning glory in this part of the yard, so we wanted to beat it back as much as possible.

Our raised beds installed. Here we are checking the level, and adding cardboard at the bottom. We have tons of morning glory in this part of the yard, so we wanted to beat it back as much as possible.

Also, we finally built our raised beds! They are installed, and just need soil and we’ll be ready to go this spring. We better get started soon, President’s Day is around the corner.

Saffron crocus - Crocus sativus - flower showing off some of its potential.

Saffron crocus – Crocus sativus – flower showing off some of its potential.

And saving the best for last. The Crocus sativus bloomed and gave us saffron again this year. Last year, I picked saffron but didn’t get to use any of it. I tried to shield you from this painful truth (ie, was embarrassed)… it molded! I thought it was totally dried by the time I stored it, but there was still enough moisture and it went bad. This year I am keeping it in an open container, so as not to trap any moisture. Now I just need to use it. Soon, soon… I have about 10 strands. Does anyone have any ideas for how to use it?

Check back this spring, I hope to have a lot more to report!


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New Years Resolutions and 2014 Recap

OK, it’s been a really long time since I’ve written. Not just for the blog, but anything! I’ve been at my “new” job for 9 months now, so I guess it’s time for me to stop feeling like it’s a temporary schedule. My job (see this post here) is wonderful, but my commute is making it so that I have less time at home, and less energy, to do the things I enjoy. Things like cooking, canning, seeing friends, and writing.

Well, that needs to stop. So what if I’m in the car 3 hours a day? I have time on the ferry to write, and time on the weekends for cooking projects. I need to stop spending my weekends in non-stop “catch up on sleep” mode. The New Year is a classic time to make changes and recommit to the life I want to live. My resolution is to stop letting my commute rule my life. So this post is my first in months. Soon I’ll be starting projects again, but for now I’ll just catch up on what I’ve missed.

Canning Projects

I didn’t make nearly as many canning projects this year as the last – mostly due to time constraints. The recipes I took on were mostly repeats – things I know I like and will eat.

Leeks Vinaigrette, or oil-preserved leeks. Great as a side or on salads.

Leeks Vinaigrette, or oil-preserved leeks. Great as a side or on salads.

Oil preserved Leeks (called “Leeks Vinaigrette” but it is not salad dressing, which I would actually love to make sometime) with the Ladies Preservation Society

Strawberry Jam (here’s a post on this from a couple years ago)

Raspberry Jam

Raspberry jam (left) and strawberry jam (right). I made these a week apart in a very productive moment last summer.

Raspberry jam (left) and strawberry jam (right). I made these a week apart in a very productive moment last summer.

Apricot Jam (this one was new – made with my friends in the Ladies Preservation Society – and was really fun. The resulting jam is a little tart for my taste, but has great apricot flavor.)

Peach Jam – we took a field trip to the Yakima farmer’s market and bought peaches there. Yakima is about 2-3 hours east, and is the heart of farm country in WA. Their farmer’s market is basically heaven.

Bread and Butter Pickles (recipe here)

Concord Grape Jelly – my neighbors have a grape vine that produces more fruit than they can use, so they put out a call to the neighborhood to come take them. 1 hour later I was washing and stemming 9 lbs in my giant sink. I made juice, and the next week made it into jelly. Next year (they say I can use their grapes again next year!) I’d like to try grape jam. I think it’ll be a little more work, but jelly is still kind of weird to me. I think I have enough photos to make this one into its own post, actually. Maybe I’ll do that soon.

Concord grapes picked moments before. These were turned into jelly.

Concord grapes picked moments before. These were turned into jelly.

Geez – is that all I did? I’m sure there were a few others, but these are the bulky items. See what I mean? I’ve really got to get back into the swing of things. I had enough jam for Christmas and hostess gifts this year, but only just.

So, onward, upward, and into the garden! Next week I’ll write about the projects going on in our little garden. Happy New Year!