Autumn Shadows

Autumn Afternoon Light, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

October Harvest

October Harvest, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Today’s harvest includes a healthy bunch of semi-ripe tomatoes (and there’s plenty more where these came from).  I’m rooting cuttings from the healthiest vines to see how long I can keep them growing indoors through the winter.

There are also loads of yet-to-be-harvested purple-podded pole beans.  Half of them are still purple, and the other half are now mostly brown.  It’ll probably take a few hours to collect all the rest of the bean pods from the vines!

We have a couple handfuls of small jalapeños and sweet green peppers remaining.  Now that the plants are slowly dying back, I’m finding spring-sown parsley and lettuce that are thriving in the cool weather.

Pictured here is the first (and tiniest) of our pumpkins.  Three others are about two or three times this size, but only one is safely within the fence.  The exposed pumpkins will likely be claimed by the husky once they ripen.  (He’s been pulling and eating the rainbow carrots from of the cold frame, and harvests all the tomatoes that grown outside the fence.  I’ve learned to deliberately plant vegetables he likes around the yard so he can help himself all summer.

Also shown are the honeycrisp apples and a couple bananas from the local farm stand this morning (where I also grabbed some bigger pumpkins, and learned that they will be selling live Christmas trees this season).

The biggest colander is full of counter-ripened tomatoes for this weekend’s pasta sauce.  And the fragrant bunch of flowers include marigolds, peppermint, chives, nasturtiums, clovers, dandelions, lavender, and fireweed curls.

Next I’ll begin culling the tomatoes from the cold frames to make way for cold season vegetables.  My favorite cold weather crops for the cold frame include cilantro, lettuce, spinach, and other greens, as well as radishes, onions, and carrots.  This year I’ll also be including cauliflower and broccoli, and I’m considering an experiment with winter squash.

Late Tomatoes, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Autumn Garden Updates

Sunflower and Honey Bee, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone BlackwaterHappy autumn everyone!

If you’re wondering where I’ve been all summer, the answer is simple: out in the garden.  Autumn is my favorite season, but learning to grow food has vastly broadened my appreciation of the warm, sunny growing months.

Despite my goals to be more a more diligent blogger for 2009, I have instead focused the majority of my time on writing fiction and poetry, and growing food and flowers.

Kind thanks to reader Diana Hunt for encouraging me to get back to business at AppleJade.  To start us off, here’s a quick peek at what I was doing out in the garden during June, July, and August…

Foxglove Blooms, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

In June we were smitten with strawberries.  These plants have been growing here without any help from me for nearly 10 years.  They have happily consumed a sizable chunk of the vegetable patch, and this autumn many of them will be relocating to new beds which are being established in the rockier and less-hospitable parts of the yard.  My reasoning is that the strawberries are so hardy and so happy to propagate that they should make excellent (and tasty) pioneers.

Happy Strawberry Harvest, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The corn plants grew steadily through June and July, and I really should dedicate an entire separate post to what they accomplished this year by creating so much food out of so little soil.  We ate sweet, healthy corn all through the month of August.

Young Corn Plants, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Pumpkins had a slow start, and I think we now have three pie-worthy squash out there which are just beginning to turn orange.  My plan for next spring is to start the squash in the cold frame as I did with the corn, and then transplant when it’s warm enough in May.  This was a successful approach for the corn harvest, so hopefully pumpkins and other squash won’t mind the transplant method.  Pumpkins will definitely have a post of their own so you can see their progress and learn about their flowers.

Young Pumpkin Plants, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Sunflowers dominated the scene all around the yard this year.  We collected almost all the seeds from our Pennsylvania sunflowers, and those seeds waited patiently from 2007 to be planted here in western Washington this year and subsequently bloom upwards of eight feet.  They’re just finishing now.  I managed to get three of the largest seed-heads indoors to finish drying, but the rest have been claimed by the busy blue Steller’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleri).  As with corn and pumpkins, the sunflowers deserve a post of their own to show just how much they accomplished this season.  (And yes, that’s me, standing in front of some of the corn and sunflowers just before the first flowers opened.  The purple-pink blush behind the corn is from the foxglove (genus Digitalis) and fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) two of my favorite local wildflowers, coming in to full summer bloom.)

The Gardener, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Marigolds, lettuce, cilantro, beans, and many others have boomed throughout the garden and pop up just about everywhere.  I moved all the arugula and other greens out of the cold frames when they went to seed, and let the plants finish in the cooler corners of the fenced-in vegetable garden.  They should be dropping those seeds very soon now thanks to the wind and rain, which will hopefully result in a fresh crop.

Marigold Treasure, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Tomatoes grew strong, vibrant, and healthy all season, but left me with a plethora of green fruits.  They have only just begun to ripen, and as a result many of them are coming indoors as soon as they begin to to show yellow or pink where they can finish among the warmth of the kitchen.  I’ll continue to keep them ripening outdoors until the tomato plants finally turn brown – which I’m guessing isn’t too far in the future.

Green Tomato Load, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

For now, I’ll leave you with a nasturtium, another friendly flower which can be found just about everywhere around the garden.  While all parts of nasturtiums are edible, I’ve resisted collecting too many flowers or seeds for dinners in the hopes that the plants will successfully re-seed themselves for next summer.  I’ll let you know my success when they reemerge next June.

Friendly Nasturtiums, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

How to make homemade pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin

Thanksgiving Pumpkin, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

This Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to make pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin for the first time ever.  We grew several varieties of pumpkins in our garden this year, including Sugar pie pumpkins (which are smaller, and sweeter).

I remember how proud I felt the first time I made pumpkin pie “from scratch” using canned pumpkin and canned condensed milk.  At the time, the concept of baking a pumpkin pie with an actual pumpkin seemed completely intangible – however appealing.

I’ve been teaching myself to cook for about 10 years, and I feel good about slowly navigating away from prepared foods and becoming comfortable with cooking in ways that our ancestors from just a few generations back may well have taken for granted.

Making your own pumpkin pie from scratch using a fresh pumpkin is WAY easier than it sounds, and it is loads of fun too.  Below are some simple steps to follow with pictures from my Thanksgiving last month.  (Note: this is a photo-heavy post.  If you have trouble loading the page, please let me know).

Homemade Pumpkin Pie from Fresh Pumpkin

Recipe

The Pumpkin Pie Recipe I used comes from Rebecca Wood’s Kitchen Dakini (an fantastic site – give yourself time to browse).

Wood also includes an excellent article Pumpkin Pie from Scratch, and includes a recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, as well as a simple crust recipe accompanying her Pumpkin Pie recipe.

Directions

1.  Select your pumpkin

Select a fresh pumpkin for your pie.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin with Hand to Scale, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Ours was about 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) in diameter.  In the first picture of this post you can see where this pumpkin grew – on a little dish in the garden next to the bird bath where I like to put seeds and crumbs of bread for the birds.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin on Stove, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

(Pay no attention to the time on the oven – we have a policy in our house that all clocks must never show the actual time).

2.  Prepare your pumpkin

Give your pumpkin a good wash (especially if you picked it at the grocery store).  Using a serrated knife (and possibly a strong friend), slice your pumpkin in half.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin First Cut, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Second Cut, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Third Cut, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Split Open, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin with Seeds, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Seeds Removed, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Scoop out the seeds and stringers and set that part aside (for roasted pumpkin seeds).

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Seeds for Roasting, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

3.  Bake your pumpkin

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cooked Halves, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

I baked mine shell-side down for about an hour at 350 F, although many recipes suggest baking them shell-side-up.  I don’t think it mattered – the pumpkin was still nice and hot and squishy when I was done.  This picture shows them flipped shell-side-up: I pushed on the shell so you can see how soft it became.

4.  Scoop out your pumpkin

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Scooped Out, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

I scooped out the pumpkin with my icecream scoop.  It rolled right out like butter.  I know that many recipes suggest you blend the pumpkin with a food processor at this point.  I don’t own one (and the blender died in a margarita adventure this summer), but I don’t think it mattered – the pumpkin was as soft and smooth as if it had come right out of that can!

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Compost, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

(Remember to compost the parts of the pumpkin you won’t use.  If you don’t compost and want to learn how, check back in the Spring – I’ll be posting easy-to-use compost information here at AppleJade).

5. Prepare your crust and your pie filling per the recipe directions

Crust: I stuck with my usual pie crust recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book 12th ed. (but substituting in one half-cup of whole wheat flour for my own personal taste).

Filling: As mentioned above, I used Rebecca Wood’s Kitchen Dakini recipe for Pumpkin Pie.  During my initial search for pumpkin pie recipes online, I found that some folks needed more sugar in their pies than their recipes suggest.  Since I’m pretty sure my pumpkin was just a small Howden, and not an actual Sugar pie pumpkin (our husky got to the Sugar pies first), I added 3/4 cup of brown sugar to my recipe – the sweetness was just right.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Filling, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

I also did not use quite as much cream as the recipe requested.  If you’ve made pumpkin pie using canned components, it’s easy to gauge by sight whether the consistency is correct.  (By the way: fresh, heavy cream is sometimes called “whipping cream” – thanks Mom for the last minute help on that one!)

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Prepared from Scratch, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

6. Bake and Party

Pop your pie in the oven and bake as directed.***

***Greetings from 2012: over the years many have asked me about oven baking temperatures. Here is the info you need:

The recipe I used for my pumpkin pie blog post at AppleJade comes from Rebecca Wood, Kitchen Daikini: http://www.rwood.com/Recipes/Pumpkin_Pie.htm

Rebecca instructs us to:

a) preheat the oven to 350 F while we make the crust and bake our fresh, halved pumpkin

b) increase the temperature to 425 F just before we mix the pie filling

c) bake the pie at 425 F for the first 15 minutes of baking

d) reduce the temperature to 350 F for the remaining 45 minutes of baking, or until pie is done.

For European ovens, I think these temperatures are:

350 F = 180 C = Gas #4

425 F = 220 C = Gas #7

Remember to cool completely, and for a delicious complement, whip up what’s left of your fresh cream with some confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Baked from Scratch, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Meanwhile, enjoy your holiday, and remember to give thanks (regardless of the celebration) for the fruit of the Earth, the skill of your hands, and the power at your fingertips with an in-home stove and oven.  I might think I’m pretty cool for making a fresh pumpkin pie, but it’s not like I had to gather kindling, start a fire, and keep it stoked while my pie was baking, nor did I have to feed, muck, and milk the cow whose cream blessed my meal.

I think I’ll save that for next Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving Pumpkin, Summer 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Cold Frame: the treasure box

Cold frame vegetables, (c) Copyright 2007, Jade Leone Blackwater

It may not look like much, but whenever I see my cold frame I salivate and think about dinner.  A cold frame is a tool for extending your harvest through the cold months by protecting plants from wind while capturing a maximum amount of the low-winter sun to keep the plants warm.

Cold frame vegetables, (c) Copyright 2007, Jade Leone Blackwater

We built this coldframe in October 2006, and it has been feeding us ever since.  Our design is based on what we learned in Eliot Coleman’s book Four Season Harvest.  (We’ll talk more about this book in the future.)  Cold frame designs can be modified to fit your available space and materials.

Rather than use old storm windows for glass “lights”, we chose to use PVC plastic on our cold frame.  Despite our mixed feelings about PVC, I’m always glad we made this choice whenever I see our husky take a flying leap on top of the cold frame when he’s feeling “defiant.”

Cold frame vegetables, (c) Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

This year the cold frame is filled with the end-of-summer jalapeños, carrots, and a few stray onions, as well as fresh rows of oak leaf lettuce, mizuna mustard greens, and slow-bolt cilantro.  As we explore nutrition, food, cooking, and gardening at AppleJade, you’ll be seeing a lot of our cold frame – and its bounty.

Do you have questions about cold frames?  Contact me with your questions, comments, and ideas any time, and I will try to address them in future posts.