Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bean Counting... Not!

Elderberries! Not beans.
The beans have pretty much quit. With highs near 100 degrees every day for most of the month, I can't blame them for wanting to save their energy. If I water them and just keep them alive, maybe they will start producing again once the temperature ratchets down.

I do have green beans stashed in the freezer now, more than I got in all of last year. But last year's stash was pitiful.

The red raspberries and blackberries that should be producing through to frost also have nearly ceased production in the heat. The cucumbers are doing fine, however, and I have started making pickles (with vinegar). To get us through until the canned pickles are ready to eat, I've been using the extra slicing cukes to make Skillet Pickles, which are a quick pickle for eating right away.
Salt and Pepper Pickling Cucumbers

Pretty, pale pickles
I improved my pickles last year simply by using pickling cucumbers, which are varieties that are denser and more uniform in size and shape than slicers. The Salt and Pepper picklers are giving me a lot of little cukes. They have a greenish white skin that makes lovely pale pickles. The Homemade Pickles variety isn't making much yet, but I remember them being a little slow to start last year. I also am trying another variety, Picklebush, but they are only tiny seedlings yet.

Can't wait for this big boy to ripen!

The melons, which are closely related to cucumbers, are doing well. The Prescott fond Blanc melon (cantalope type) has several melons on it. One is quite huge, bigger than any I have gotten before. If only nothing happens to it before it ripens. When fully ripe, these melons are fantastically fragrant and sweet. Melons usually give me trouble, but this variety has been a reliable one for me.

While I was out watering today, I saw that the Kansas melon also has at least two fair-size fruits on it. I couldn't resist buying seed of a variety named after my home state. It was developed here, so it must grow well here... right?

Kansas melon.
The elderberries (our native Sambucus canadensis) are ripening now, as well. This evening I plucked 6 pounds of berries from their stem thingies. And I've noticed that many that were not ripe when I was out picking this morning are now deep black. The berries will rest in the freezer until I feel like making jam, or run out of freezer space. Unfortunately, elderberries must be cooked because the seeds contain a toxin that is destroyed by cooking. A small amount raw does no harm, but larger amounts can make you quite uncomfortable.
Elder blossoms open in June.

Yet the elderberries are quite wholesome and good for you. So I want lots of jam. And I am now on my last jar from 2010. I also am anxiously awaiting elderberry wine some acquaintances have made from berries they picked here last year after I was tired of making jam. Well made elderberry wine is quite excellent. And if they do as good of a job on the elderberry wine as they did on the fig and dandelion wines, we are in for a treat.
And the tomatoes are turning. These are Black Krim, almost ready.

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