Today is another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. I just returned from a trip to the local farmers market. I went to look at the beautiful produce and actually compare it to my own. I like to keep record of what I spent in the garden and how much if anything I actually saved. I don't count my labor because I like to garden, need the exercise and since I don't have an expensive gym membership I can credit some of my savings to what I would be spending on a gym membership contract.
Some of the items I found today were bags of mixed salad greens complete with nasturtiums for $4.00, cucumbers for $1 a piece, rainier cherries for $4.99/lb, shelling peas $4.50/lb and snap peas for $2.99. There were lots and lots of other beautiful produce items and the colors were spectacular.
Last evening I picked all my snap peas. I blanched them then immediately put them into ice water to stop the cooking process. I froze two large freezer zip backs of pea pods. I figure there had to be at least 3 pounds in each bag. I have already been picking and eating the pods for a few weeks so it is hard to determine the total yield for the year. At $2.99 a pound that is a minimum of $6.00 worth of pea pods I have now frozen. I bought two packages of seed at 50% off so my cost was $1.59. I bought most of my seed at Home Depot at a 50% off seed sale and did use some extra seed I had left over from last year. Sounds like a savings of $4.41 and I am unable to account for the many salads and stir fries I have already made this season. I love to watch peas grow. They are usually the first thing to pop up their little heads in the spring, have pretty fragrant flowers and the leftover plants add nutrients to compost pile at the end of the season.
I picked a wheel barrel full of pea plants and brought them to the patio to shell. My 80 year old mother came to help and the dachshunds cleaned up the drops. We picked about a gallon of peas. Small round green gems that I am sure will be sweet and tender when steamed. I blanched and froze them because there really weren't enough to can and we like our peas frozen. Just think how some homegrown peas will taste with a grilled salmon fillet!
I did ponder how many peas I would have to plant to harvest enough for a family of two for the year. The garden box is 3ft by 10ft and was 3/4 shelling peas and 1/4 snap peas. I planted them in March and have been picking peas since late May. Next year I plan on planting another garden box the same size to double the harvest.
The left over plants and shells were put into the compost pile of course! I would be interested if anyone has thought of something to do with the shells. They are edible if picked before they dry.
So far I have picked two zucchini. There are about 10 more coming along and lots of new flowers. The plants must be at least 4ft high with huge leaves. I planted four plants that are taking up one half of a garden box. Since I added mushroom compost and some rock dust to the garden beds this year, the squash plants loving life and growing abundantly . I paid $2.00 for 4 zucchini starts so I have not saved anything yet. By mid week I will be in the black. Last year I canned zucchini and summer squash and used them in soups and stews during the winter. I also made zucchini bread was canned and frozen. I froze some shredded zucchini for breads, cakes and soups and at the end of the year all the leftover zucchini was added to a large batch of curried relish. See tips for canning zucchini bread and zucchini and eggs.
I was tempted to buy some cherries but something told me not to. On the way home I saw a tree full of rainier cherries growing in someones back yard. I heard that godly music I hear when I am about to find something free. The bold Frugal Fraulein pulled over and I knocked on the door. I very nicely asked the man if he was going to pick the cherries in his back yard. He said, "No, the birds get them and make a damn mess". I asked if I could pick some in exchange for giving some to him. He said, "Sweetie they are all yours for the trouble!". I will return this afternoon with a friend, a couple of step ladders, my picking pole and some buckets. I expect we will get at least 10 pounds of cherries for a savings of $20.
Lettuce and Greens
I have lots of mixed varieties of lettuce in various stages of readiness. I plant it in stages so it won't be ripe all at the same time. I also planted lots of nasturtiums this year for color and eating. I like to see the vibrant yellow and orange flowers in my salads. I am considering picking a couple of bags of mixed greens and knocking on a few neighbors doors to see if they want them delivered this summer for $3.00 a bag. The profit from one bag would would pay for the seed I used. I will have to report back on that venture. One year I had an abundance of greens and sold them to co-workers who were thrilled to have them delivered once a week to the office. That same year I tried putting several bags in a cooler with a sign on top at the end of the driveway. I put a jar for donations. Sometimes I found some change or a few dollars in the jar and to my surprise at the end of the year I found a twenty dollar bill! I smiled the rest of the day and sent a kind thought and blessing to my anonymous supporter.
Finally, I met up with an old friend who has worked at the Farmer's Market for 17 years selling plants and vegetables. I networked with her and will be teaching a canning class to the local Seed Savers group. All in all, it was a profitable trip to the Farmer's Market. I want you to know there are many trips that I buy the fresh produce, baked goods and meat products provided by local farms and always take visiting guests there as a day trip. I suggest you all visit your local Farmer's Market for fresh produce, inspiration and ideas for your own gardens!
The Frugal Fraulein
Tip #3 Canning Zucchini Bread
First of all most governmental run canning sources do not recommend canning quick breads for long term storage. Do not try this, store it for years, open, eat and call me if you get sick. I can zucchini bread and quick breads for use within a short period of time. It is wonderful to take to a friend's when you are going to have coffee or tea or take along on a picnic.
Wash and sterilize wide mouth pint jars and lids. Make up a batch of your favorite zucchini bread mix. Carefully ladle mix into the jars filling to the half way mark. Put on a lid and ring and screw on tightly. Place the jars carefully on the middle rack of your preheated oven and time as directed by the recipe. Take the hot jars out of the oven and place on cooling racks. As the breads cool the lids will clink and seal. There is no need to grease the jars as most quick breads contain oil or butter. The contents will turn nice and brown and may appear moist. Open and run a knife around the edges. Sometimes the bread will come out whole. Other times I simply cut wedges and serve that way. I have been known to eat directly out of the bottle with a fork! Again don't keep these breads around a long time. The breads make excellent hostess gifts and your friends will be astounded at how clever you are. I have also tried most cakes and brownies using this method.