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Every winter, we are the lucky recipients of a bounty of citrus from both family and neighbors.
 
 
My fruit bowls and pantry are full of blood oranges, grapefruit, and lemons.
 
Citrus generally ripens during the winter and the cold snap that we had last week had many people picking the citrus fruit from their trees so that the fruit wouldn’t be damaged by the frost.
 
The problem arises that either I have too many lemons in winter and none in the summer unless I want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on lemons.
 
So, what do you do?
 
Well, I juiced them a week ago and made “lemon ice-cubes.”
 
Then, I promptly forgot about them until I was searching in the freezer for the chicken to thaw out for dinner.
So, I took them out and put my lemon ice cubes into freezer bags.
 
 
I have three freezer bags full of lemon ice cubes, which will last me through the coming year.
 
What do I use them for?  Well, many of my favorite dinner recipes call for a tablespoon or two of lemon juice, and they are great for making ice tea.
 
You can also save the lemon zest, (just before you juice them), and freeze the zest too.
 
 
My kids love grapefruit (I don’t) and have been eating some for both breakfasts and a snack.  They have also been taking the blood oranges to school in their lunch boxes.


My friend, Becky, from Tucson, made ‘Orange Peel Vinegar’ which she uses as a cleaner with her extra oranges.
 
What do you do with an overabundance of citrus?

Summer is officially here.  To be honest, I think it is funny that summer ‘starts’ on June 20th when we have already had temperatures above 100 degrees for weeks.

It may be hot, but my vegetable garden is thriving. 

Here is a snapshot of the past week in my garden:

 My newest vegetable garden is doing very well.  Actually, it is doing better then I had even hoped.  The reason for this is that it receives filtered shade in both the morning and afternoon.  
 The result is that my marigolds and nasturtiums are still thriving even though they normally die off by the end of May.

I am a thrifty person by nature and like to save money when I can in the garden, so I collect the seeds from dried flowers in order to plant them again the following season:


 Hollyhock seeds
Marigold seeds
I save the seeds in regular envelopes.
About 3 weeks ago, I cut back my spent hollyhocks and have been pleasantly surprised to see them come back.
My vegetable gardens continue to produce corn, tomatoes, string beans, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers and herbs.
Before you see the following picture, I need to remind you that I am far from a perfect gardener…
 This is what happens when you are out of town and don’t get to harvest your corn.

You can see that the kernels are sunken and even dried out.

Now if you grew an heirloom variety of corn, you can save the dried kernels for planting next year.  
(Heirloom varieties of vegetables aren’t hybrids and will grow the exactly the same as the parent plant).

OR, you can allow the corn cobs to dry out completely and set them out for the birds, which is what I plant to do since I planted a hybrid type of corn.
(The seeds from hybrids won’t produce the same plant).
Clockwise from top: Basil, Thyme, Sage, Rosemary and Purple Basil.
 
I normally dry my herbs in bunches, hanging upside down.  But my sister has done it by drying them on cookie sheets.  Because we live in a desert, this is a viable option.
I must admit that I haven’t tried this before, so I’m anxious to see how it works.  I set the cookie sheets out in my garage, covered with a dish cloth.  
We’ll see how it works.
Lastly, I have planted some vegetable seeds outside of my garden.  More about that later….
As for the rest of the week – I will be spending much of my time indoors in air-conditioned comfort, viewing my garden from indoors 😉 

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How about you?
What are you doing in the garden this week?

I always think of the week of Memorial Day as the first ‘unofficial’ week of summer.  The weather is getting hot, the kids have their last day of school and it is also a time of harvest.

For the past few weeks, my tomato and bush bean plants have been fruitful.  
Every week, I blanch my tomatoes by putting them in boiling water for 45 seconds, which makes peeling them easier.
Then I remove the green part of the stem and then ‘squish’ the tomatoes to get rid of the seeds and excess liquid.
What remains the tomato, is the delicious part and I put it in a plastic freezer bag (making sure to get all the air out).  Then I freeze it until I am ready to use them to make sauce.
*My tomatoes aren’t flowering any longer, because of the hot weather – but the tomatoes are ripening.  By mid-May, you should put some sort of shade cloth protection for your tomatoes.
I am thrilled with how well my bush beans are producing.  I have six plants and they produce enough for us to eat for dinner once a week.  I take the extra and blanch them for 3 minutes and then place them in ice water before freezing them as well.
The end of May is also time that I start canning.
The peaches at Double S Farms (my mother & sister’s family residence) are heavy with sweet fruit.
The trees are so generous that my other sister and I have plenty to make into jam, even after my mother has made hers.
I made three batches so far and have also tried my hand at making ‘Peach Cider Vinegar’, which I will share later.
Soon, the plums at Double S Farms will ripen and then the apples, which I will can as well 🙂
Last Sunday was my son, Kai’s 10th birthday.  We had a family celebration with his grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins present along with his best friend.
Monday morning, Kai went on a flight in a two-seat airplane based at our local airport.
Kai was excited, but also a little nervous.
His best-friend’s father was the pilot.
Kai was strapped in and all ready to go.
Up in the air and having a great time!
After his flight, we headed to Target with along with his best friend so he could use his gift cards.
Not surprisingly, he used them all to buy more Pokemon cards….his friend also bought some too.
Kai had the best day organizing his cards and trading with his friends.
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I hope you all are having a great week!

Earlier this week, I stepped into my new vegetable garden and was pleasantly surprised to discover that my bush beans were ready to be picked.

I was so excited.  
You really have to look underneath the leaves to see the beans.
So, I ran into the house for a basket and got to work, picking beans.
This will be enough for my family for dinner.
But, instead of eating them now – I decided to blanch them and freeze them.
Why?  Well, so I could show you how to do it 🙂
You may wonder what ‘blanching’ is?
 ‘Blanching’ is the process of submerging your vegetables in boiling water for a short period of time.
This is important to do before freezing your vegetables because:
– it halts enzymes, which decreases the flavor and texture of your vegetables.
– it cleans the surface of your vegetables and kills any germs.
– it improves the color of your vegetables.
– it helps to retain vitamins.
So, how do you blanch vegetables?
Well, the process is pretty much the same for most vegetables with the only difference being the amount of time they need to be submerged in boiling water.
To blanch green beans:
 
Cut off the stem ends.
Add to a pot of boiling water and boil for 3 minutes.  This step varies depending on the type of vegetable (check here for more info).
Immediately scoop out your beans and submerge in ice water.
Keep in the water for 3 minutes until the beans have thoroughly cooled.
Drain off the water.
Aren’t they a pretty green color?
 
Pack into a vacuum-sealed bag or put them in a plastic freezer bag.
It is very important to remove all the air, or your vegetables will get freezer burn.
To do this, close the zipper more then halfway and then carefully ‘roll’ your beans up, pushing out all the air and then seal the bag completely.
You can see all the air is gone and now my blanched beans are ready for the freezer.  They will last up to 9 months in the freezer.
But I’m so excited about my first harvest this year that I think I will serve them to my mother on Mother’s Day.
To cook, I will simply add my frozen beans to boiling water (the same way I cook frozen beans from the grocery store).
I grew Bush Blue Lake 47 Beans.  I bought the seeds from Burpee.  I planted them in late February, although you can plant them through March in our area.
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Guess what??
Only 6 days to go before my road trip with my mother.
I’ll share our destinations next time 🙂
I enjoy growing nasturtiums in my vegetable garden every spring.
They come in a varying colors of orange and yellow.
They also did very well in my containers.
Now that the weather is heating up, they are beginning to fade and it will soon be time to pull them out.
So, I decided to harvest their seeds so that I can plant them next year.
While it can be hard to harvest small seeds from flowers – the seeds from nasturtiums are quite large, which made it easy to pick them off.
I will let them dry and then store them away for next year.
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Although my nasturtiums are beginning to fade, I have other flowers that are just beginning to bloom.  
I can’t wait to show them to you next time 🙂 


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