Canning tomato sauce and okra

 

We’ve been so busy this year that we haven’t done as much canning, but the tomatoes and okra were building up (despite the wretched drought) and I was starting to worry I wouldn’t get to eat pickled okra this year if I didn’t get on it.

 

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When I’m in a hurry, I forego the diced tomatoes, rotel-style tomatoes, and all other options besides tomato sauce, because I can chuck the whole tomatoes into a pot and just run it all through a food mill when it breaks down. This year, everything will become tomato sauce to be turned into soup, chili, pasta sauce, and whatever else we dream up in February.

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My trusty okra pickle recipe from Canning For a New Generation, and the inevitable bit of fruit float I always get. It will still be delicious.

Banana pudding

I didn’t get very good pictures of this, but let me assure you, it was consumed with gusto. I grew up eating homemade banana pudding and have been so disappointed at what passes for that nowadays, which uses instant pudding and instant whipped cream. The real thing involves cooking custard and making meringue or homemade whipped cream, and is rich, custardy, and reminiscent of real bananas. So I finally stopped complaining about it and dug up a recipe that looks like my aunt’s. It’s from Taste of Southern, and when I looked around on this site, I recognized many of the dishes from what I ate as a kid around here. I really look forward to trying more of them – although spaced out for the sake of my waistline, I think.

Maybe next time I make it we can manage to get better pictures before we devour it.

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Summer flowers

 

I got this cockscomb from a Ukrainian baker in Berea (post about that here) who brought it with her to the U.S. when she came. It turned out to be quite easy to grow, and it has come up thickly in all three places I’ve planted it.

A few other things from this week:

 

The okra flowers seem to be only visited by wasps, so I’m thankful I’ve been letting them hang around every year because I’m getting a ton of okra. We’ve had a variety of bees on our other flowers, though, as you can see in the salvia picture. (I think that’s salvia. I planted that area in a frenzy of blue flowers.) The bottom right picture is a sesame plant, which I was very excited to test out. Jefferson grew sesame in hopes of finding a homegrown source of oil, but it’s actually quite a striking ornamental. Maybe I’ll try to harvest from it too, and see if I get enough to put on a meal.

Unaka Mountain summit hike, red spruce

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I found this lovely hike on a blog called Appalachian Treks, which I love. The focus is in my region, and he keeps detailed directions and a customized Google map that is super helpful for me when trying to choose a hike near my current location. Also, his photos are so pretty it makes me want to get outside NOW. So I did.

The interesting thing about this hike is that it doesn’t culminate in a scenic overlook or a waterfall, as most hikes around here. Instead, it’s a beautiful old stand of red spruce (shown in two pictures above). Aside from it being a Monday escape from the world into the cool mountains on a hot day, it was pretty amazing because of all the spring ephemeral wildflowers – spring beauty, bluets, trillium, trout lilies, the works. I’m going to have to bring my wildflower guide next time, and maybe a better camera. You can find the directions to this hike (as well as some gorgeous photos) on Appalachian Treks.

 

Catching a Swarm…On the Ground?!

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I got to go along to try to catch a swarm this Mother’s Day, which is always exciting.

However, this is NOT what a bee swarm is supposed to look like. They’re supposed to be up on a branch or somewhere else up in the air making a big, beautiful, slightly intimidating ball. After much googling all I’ve found is that the queen is either a) injured and incapable of going higher up, which is very bad, or b) has landed long enough to leave her smell there, which has totally confused the swarm following her and they have gathered here to be with her smell. Also not good.

I couldn’t find anything that actually advises one on what to do in this situation, so J decided to just stick a hive box on top and see if they feel like moving into it. We’ll see what happens!

 

UPDATE: The hive did stay around and seems to be doing well. Weird, huh?

 

 

May flowers

Top left is a Banshee rose from High Country Roses. I bought it along with a Madame Hardy (not blooming yet) and a Graham Thomas. The Graham Thomas grew huge, then vining, then bloomed with beautiful pink flowers. Since this is a shrub rose with yellow flowers, I got in touch with the company and they were super nice (and very surprised! We had fun speculating about what my mystery rose is.) They shipped me a new Graham Thomas straight away. I’m looking forward to seeing that next spring, but there are plenty of blooms to count on this year as well.

The chive blossoms came out just before the roses, around the end of April. Every time I see them I think I need more of them. I’ve been reading that some people use them to visually complement their roses, and also as a natural pest repellent. Perhaps I’ll sow a bunch of it around Mme Hardy. She sure takes a beating in that department.

Spring Ephemerals

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My biology class took a wildflower walk on Trout Lily Trail today, a fairly easy path in Panther Creek State Park. It’s a good time to spot spring ephemerals, the flowers that take advantage of our deciduous forests to get a super quick bloom time in the spring before the trees leaf out. This trail is known for being loaded with them. Among the many, many flowers we spotted are the bloodroot above.

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I am such a fan of Dutchman’s breeches. The name really just makes it, don’t you think?

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Spring beauty, tiny little fragrant flowers among the first to pop out.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to go back for better pictures of the twin leaf, bluets, trout lilies, trillium, wild phlox, and toothwort. Also saw a few I don’t know (yet.)