Thursday, August 19, 2010

garden 2010-okra

 The okra  has been growing well through our hot, dry spell, and has begun producing like crazy in the last week or so. Most of our okra got eaten by deer last year, so I wanted to be sure and have enough this year, even if they ate a couple patches of it. I have 4, 8x4 foot beds and 4, 2x8 beds of it growing. Three of the beds are just beginning to flower this week and the rest are giving me about 3 quarts of okra per day. I have about 15 quarts frozen so far and am confident that I will get plenty more to get us through the winter.

This year we planted mostly Clemson spineless  along with a little bit of Alabama Red. The red okra is my favorite  of all the okras types I have tried. Big fat, tender pods  that could double as  Christmas ornaments, if Christmas was in  August.

Being the damned Yankee that I am, I had never  eaten  okra until I moved South. The first few times I ate it down here, I found it truly disgusting because of the slime factor. Since we started striving for sustainability, I had to learn to like okra, because it has so many uses on a homestead.  The pods can be eaten  fresh, dehydrated or frozen. The seeds in the pods can be dried and used like a pea, or dried, roasted  and used as a replacement for coffee.  Okra can also be used as a thickener in  some dishes, either in vegetable form or  dried and powdered. The critters all love okra pods and plants too so there is no waste in growing a lot of okra.

I have learned over time that the secret to okra is in the choosing when to harvest, the handling and cooking of  it.  Okra is best at about 3-4 inches in length. If you let it grow larger, it gets tough and tastes like shoe leather. Pick okra the day you plan on using it, if you must  store it in the fridge, rinse it off, pat dry and put in a bowl. Always handle and cut okra with dry hands and on a dry surface, the slime is nasty if you don't.

Many people  believe that okra is only good in gumbo, or coated with batter and deep fried. While  I too believed this for several years, those are my least favorite ways to eat okra these days. Very small pods, left whole, are excellent  in stir fries or steamed. The seeds after dehydration,  are very good in soups, stews, and rice dishes, and are a great way to use  the okra that got away. The "coffee" is my favorite coffee substitute. My favorite dish  for okra is  blackened okra. It is flash cooked,  very good and  can be served with most any  main dish or served over rice as a main dish.

Blackened okra
1lb okra (sliced in half down the middle)
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion (sliced or diced)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 tsp paprika
dash cayenne or fresh  hot pepper
1/2 tsp  black pepper
salt to taste

In large frying pan or wok, heat butter until hot and starting to turn brown. Add all ingredients and fry for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, add salt and serve hot.
not my picture, mine are still stuck on the other comp.

around the homestead-transitions

It is the time of the year that I begin transitioning from summer gardening to fall and winter gardening. This means catching up on all the chores that I neglected to do once it got too hot and the weeds started growing too fast. At least, that's my story, and I am sticking to it. Deciding what is going to go where and when is my biggest challenge with the changing of the seasons, and this year I am having more issues than ever in my decisions, I am trying to keep everything in a more central location. The greenhouse will be planted later on and I am not even thinking about pulling plants from in there yet, because it is too lush and pretty.

I was going to pull the tomatoes in the top garden today but I decided that was altogether too much work and  it could wait until another day. I was also going to work up a terrace or two but it was 85 degrees all day with 90-95% humidity. It is very hard to focus on winter when it feels like you are in a giant sauna so i decided to start in the areas around the greenhouse. Both sides of the Gh and the pacman bed were really overgrown and looking pretty sorry, so I went out and got to work on those and planted them with various greens in the drooling rain this afternoon. It was quite enjoyable, although it made me realize just how much work I have in front of me in the next couple weeks.
 I left the okra, eggplant  and chard as they are all still producing and growing well. The parsley is going to seed  and am hoping it will self sow in time  for the fall season.  I still need to weed eat around the beds and such but it looks much nicer now.
This side is all perennials but they were out of control  and full of weeds. In this bed there is rhubarb, echinachea, feverfew, chamomile  and violas. I just gave them all a really good haircut  and cleaned up the weeds.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

harvesting and drying tobacco

I have now begun cutting the  tobacco. The majority of the plants are as large as they are going to get, and are nothing more than worm and bug magnets. As soon as I see them  growing a sucker near the bottom of the stalk I am cutting them just above the node where the sucker is growing. This will give them enough time to grow all over again, and give us a second cutting from the plants as we still have about 70 days until frost.

We are doing things a little different than we did last year  with the drying as well. Instead of hanging the entire plant to dry, we are pulling all the leaves off and stringing them to hang. Hopefully, this will give us enough room to hang  all of it this year, and make it easier when it is time to cure it as we will only need to cut the strings and throw the individual bunches  in to the box to age.

I know, I said I wouldn't do any more videos  but here is  a short one on how we are hanging it to dry. Excuse the mess please, I have more things drying and curing than I have space for so things are everywhere.