Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Garden work is finished

For the day at least!
I've weeded a few more boxes, and planted those very same boxes. Today the Zuchinni, more pole beans, more mustard, and finally the cabbage (I'm so late with that!) were planted this morning.

I try to plant things in stages, or 'steps' as I like to call it.
Mustard or beans for instance. Many people down here grow mustard only in late summer, as it's a cool weather crop and the summer heat will make it bolt or 'go to seed'. I do both. The first planting of mustard went in many weeks ago and is almost ready for it's first picking. The second planting went in today. I do this so Im not bombarded with a ton of mustard that I have to tend to all at once.

Since I clean, blanch and freeze it, I'd much rather do it in stages. Of course, we always eat some when it's ready, but we always have enough to put several containers worth in the feezer with each picking. With Step planting, it's much easier to deal with. Especially if you experience a bumper crop for the year!
Can you imagine having to pick, clean, prepare, and preserve ALL of your crop in one day! OHH no...!.
Besides all that, this year, I want to try my hand at some 'real' homemade mustard. Mustard greens produce of course, mustard seed. It takes warm weather to make your mustard bolt and seed. I will probably plant mustard again, in a few weeks. That plot will be for extra mustard seed. :)
I found a good website that shows how to prepare your seed for mustard making. So if your interested, have a look. And even if you don't want to grow your own, you can buy mustard seed in bulk at many places and still make your own. Here's the site with lots of info and recipes for different mustards as well.

As far as preserving mustard greens, it couldn't be easier. I prefer the square plastic containers, made specifically for the freezer. I like them because they take up less room in the freezer. Since they are square, they don't waste any space.

When it comes to mustard greens, you can either cut the plant entirely or pick off leaves that are ready, leaving the center cluster of leaves for a second or third crop from the same plant. That is what I do. Pick the largest leaves, (along the outside) but never let them get huge, they will get 'bitter'. It takes a lot to make a 'mess' so plan on picking bunches!

To prepare them for freezing, clip any big stems at the bottom and place them in a sink of cold water. Rinse to remove dirt, repeat (changing water) till clean.
Get a large stock pot with ohh several quarts of water in the bottom and bring it to a boil. I do this the old fashioned way, and grab two handfulls of greens, (using both hands) and stick them in that pot of boiling water. Start timing. You only need to blanch/steam them 3-5 minutes.
If you've got them completely submerged in water..3 minutes tops. If you're doing more steaming, 5 mintues tops.
Once the time is up, take pinchers and transfer them to the plastic container filling almost to the top. Leave some 'headspace'. Then use the water you boiled or steamed them with and ladle some into the container till the greens are mostly covered, remember to leave that head space. Let them set to release air bubbles and cool a bit. After they have cooled some, tighten the plastic lids down and place them in the freezer. DONE!

That's it for today! Now, get out there and grow some mustard greens! :)

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