Thursday, July 10, 2008

Plum Tuckered!

GARDENING GOODNESS: Today I finally tied up every single tomato plant and pinched suckers and leaves along the bottoms of all tomatoes in the ground. I finished off the evening by giving them all a special fertilizer drink (and the rose bush, too! I want more roses outta you, sucker, so I can make my own rosewater!). I pulled a lot of weeds - the kitties even helped by biting on some of them.

I finally broke down and KILLED some tomato plants - that's right. I killed four volunteers so that my heirlooms have space. I also put a volunteer in a little pot for a neighbor, and three other volunteers are in a big bowl with a bit of water, hoping they survive so she can plant them.

Now I'm down to about 52 plants altogether (including volunteers). I also broke down and laid out a black plastic bag on the ground for the peppers to try to generate more heat, and took out my shiny silver hot water tank insulation which I use to insulate my ice chest on desert camping trips -- I nailed it up on the fence on the north side of the garden, and a smaller piece on the east side near the pepper plants.

I'm in so much trouble - there are flowers on every single tomato plant. Even the "late" plants. The "early" plants haven't popped tomatoes yet - but there are about six tomatoes on different plants, the biggest is about the size of a super ball. One of the Principe Borghese plants has a cute little green plum tomato, it's so cute... I had better get going on building a solar dehydrator. What is it about the way new projects pop up all the time?

MORE PLUM JELLY: After cleaning up from the garden, I boiled up the gallon of plum juice - stored in the fridge in two half-gallon Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufactory olive oil jugs... that takes up a lot of space. I did one batch just plain, straight-up plum and the other I simmered with a couple sticks of cinnamon, 8 cloves, 5 white peppercorns, three star anise, and 5 green cardamom pods, and used half unbleached cane sugar (my standard house sugar) with half rapadura for a more molassses/jaggery taste (since I was using chai spices). Guess which version I like better? The version with the simmered spices -- strained out before adding the sugar -- tastes amazing.

And, this time, I followed the instructions on the box of "Pomona's Pectin" from Whole Foods -- I love how the label says "now you are free to use less sugar!" -- which is nice, and healthier. The plain plum jelly tastes a bit tart but that's not a bad thing. I might use all rapadura/demerara in the next batch of fruit jelly (it might be too dark for lavender, basil or mint jelly).

1 - 12 oz
6 - 8 oz
3 - 4 oz

3 - 8 oz
7 - 4 oz
1 - 8 oz pyrex icebox dish with lid for me to eat!

Time to go pick more plums...

MORE BACKYARD FRUIT OPTIONS: The owner of the house next door lives, I discovered today, one street over. She has a big tree with Valencia oranges and a giant Concord grape arbor in her back yard. She promised I could take grapes for jelly and Oranges for -- well, to keep them from falling and making her yard a mess, I suppose. They are still yellow like lemons, but she's got about 500 oranges on this tree and they are all about 8' or more off the ground -- I'm going to have to get a BIG ladder. Or a fruit basket...

Time to go clean up the kitchen so I can get to bed early enough to go swimming at 5:45.

FREE THE LADYBUGS: Released a pint of ladybugs around 11pm -- earlier in the day I found a black beetle had covered a broccoli rab with all kinds of grey fuzzy looking eggy things, so pulled it up and scooped out some of the dirt around the rab. Also found ants in the chard, so the ladybugs should take care of this. I did find quite a few lady bugs in the garden while I was working (and also on the plum tree when I picked plums, and on the bush that I trimmed). I will just keep releasing ladybugs until you can't go into my backyard without seeing them there.


Chile said...

Fruit basket for the oranges, definitely. You may still need a ladder, but a smaller one will be safer to stand on while using your new shiny fruit-picker. :)

The plum jams sound lovely, and I envy you the grapes. My grandfather grew some Concords when I was growing up and I have very fond memories of homemade grape jelly. Divine!

Jenn said...

I still have to find a fruit picker - where's a good place to look?

Well, you do live in the Bay Area... by the time the grapes are ready (they are green, hard and smaller than marbles), the tomatoes will probably be starting to pop.

I can let you know when I make grape jelly and maybe we can make fried green tomato-basil/arugula pesto sandwiches.

Chile said...

Try hardware stores or garden centers. Or, cruise yard sales - that's where I found mine. Maybe try posting a "wanted" ad on craigslist. Or, buy one new from Lehman's or another online source. Hm, I wonder if you could make your own? You could try searching on that...

Green Bean said...

I hear ya on the tuckered part! My parents have a prune (Italian plum) tree that is bursting. We picked and picked and then jammed and jammed and the tree looks the same as when we started.

Hope the oranges are good. Look forward to see what you do with them. I have an orange tree with lots of big oranges but they are tasteless. I'm working on fixing that. ;-)