The second pair of hummingbird babies that our Mama Bird has hatched this year.
Posted in Bird Photography, Garden Photography, Garden Wildlife, Sunday Zen, tagged Bird Photography, California, Hummingbird Chicks, Hummingbird Photographs, Hummingbirds, Nature Photography on June 19, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
Posted in Flower Photography, Flowers, Garden Photography, Sunday Zen, tagged Block Island, Blossoms, California, Flower Photography, Flowers, Gardening, Nature Photography, Poppy, Roses on May 29, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Posted in Berries, California, Cooking, Garden, Preserving & Canning, Tuesday's Tips, tagged California, Canning and Preserving Fruit, Canning Recipes, Canning Strawberries, Food, No Pectin Recipe, Orange County, Strawberry Jam on October 26, 2010 | Leave a Comment »
I know, I know, strawberry season is over for most folks, but one of the big perks of living in Southern California is that we enjoy fresh fruit almost year round — even strawberries. The development of the newer day-neutral varieties means that strawberry season has been extended well into the fall in warmer climates such as ours. (Click here for more info on California strawberry varieties and seasons.)
I made a small batch of strawberry jam yesterday and though it sometimes seems like a lot of mess for so few jars — 4 full half pints + 1 almost-full jar, small batch preserving is a great way to do a little experimenting.
Also, keep in mind that just because the season is over that doesn’t mean you can’t whip up some jam if you have a craving. You can always pull some frozen fruit out of your freezer if you’ve stored some of your summer bounty there, or get yourself down to the frozen food section your local grocery and buy some unsweetened frozen berries.
I needed to find a recipe that didn’t use pectin, not because I have anything against it, but because I didn’t have any in the pantry and I was too lazy to go get some. I had strawberries, sugar and lemons. That was it and that was going to have to do. I also wanted to use less sugar than is normally called for.
Since strawberries are low in acid and in pectin you can’t just use the fruit and sugar and call it a day. This why many recipes tell you that you have to use pectin to get the mixture to jell. This is simply not true. So far this season I haven’t used any pectin, only lemon juice which contains a fair amount of pectin and I haven’t had any problems getting my preserves to set. (Another thing you should know is that your preserves will thicken up a bit in the jar.)
Not using pectin does mean that the mixture will need to cook for longer to set, which unfortunately results in cooking out some of the flavor. But I found a great blog post by Stephanie Rosenbaum of Bay Area Bites to help me solve that problem. She suggests cooking the fruit, sugar, lemon juice mixture for a bit then removing the fruit and cooking down only the liquid. It worked like a charm!
Even so, I didn’t follow her recipe exactly. Her’s calls for letting the fruit sit for long periods of time and I wanted to just get it over with. So I compressed some of the steps.
But I do have to add a caveat here. Because I used less sugar (a preservative), I can’t say that this strawberry jam will last as long on your shelf as traditional strawberry jam. As I said this is an experiment, but with the small batch method it doesn’t really matter — this jam will be gone in a flash.
Another important thing to note is that with less sugar in the recipe, I was extra careful to make sure that my jars were sterile, boiling them in water for 10 minutes and keeping them hot until I ladled the jam into them. I’ve used the dishwasher to “sterilize” my jars before, but I don’t think you can be sure that works. Better to be safe than sorry.
Next time I’m going try adding some vanilla bean and using honey as a sweetener. And don’t just use your jam as a spread; add it to yogurt, or use it as a filling in cakes, cookies, or bars. It’s part of the fun of preserving.
4 – 5 pint boxes of strawberries
3 cups of sugar
5 tbs of lemon juice
5 – 6 half-pint jars, lid, and rings – this recipe made a little more than 2 pints.
Posted in Block Island, California, Garden, Garden Photography, Insects, Organic Gardening, Tuesday's Tips, tagged Block Island, California, Flowers, Gardening, Insect Damage, Japanese Beetle Damage, Japanese Beetle Grubs, Japanese Beetle Research, Japanese Beetles, Milky Spore, Organic Gardening, Roses on July 20, 2010 | 2 Comments »
Mary Beth: I just returned from the East Coast where I witnessed the destructive power of Japanese Beetles. They feed on everything in their paths, chewing up flowers, cratering fruit, and skeletonizing foliage of more than 500 species of plants. They’ve just started their ravenous attack on every plant in our Block Island garden, so I thought I’d do a few tips on what to do to control these horrible little buggers.
Japanese Beetles are a problem mostly on the East Coast. They were first detected in the United States in 1916 in a nursery near Riverton, New Jersey. This voracious pest has infested 22 states east of the Mississippi River and is spreading west (hitching rides on airplanes) with isolated infestations in California, Wisconsin and Oregon. The California Drug and Food Administration inspects planes for Japanese Beetles from May to June in their efforts to try to stop them from spreading further west where the California climate and abundant food supply would be perfect for them.
Japanese Beetles mate soon after they emerge from the ground, laying their eggs in the soil. The eggs hatch in about two weeks at which point the grubs start feeding on nearby roots. It is during this period that the grubs cause the most damage to turf grass. The grubs feed all summer then burrow further down in the soil in the fall to overwinter and reemerge in the spring, feeding some more before pupating and turning into adult beetles. The adult beetles live about 30 – 50 days.
When you have Japanese Beetle grubs munching your turf roots the grass dies in big swaths that you can literally roll back like carpet. Crows are sometimes blamed for this damaged grass because they can be seen ripping up tufts to get to the grubs. They are actually helping to eliminate these pests. The grass has been long dead by the time they start looking for a tasty snack of plump white grubs, yum yum!
So what to do?
There is hope for a future without Japanese Beetles. The folks at the University of California, Davis are working on developing a pheromone-degrading enzyme that could help control the beetles by interrupting their reproductive cycle. Interesting stuff — read more about it here. Let’s hope they succeed.
Posted in California, Flowers, Garden, Organic Gardening, Ornamentals, Tuesday's Tips, tagged California, Flowers, Garden, Gardening, Irvine, Organic Gardening, Southern California Gardening on June 29, 2010 | Leave a Comment »
Here again is a grab bag of tips. In some ways I like these posts the best because this is pretty much the state of my brain at any given moment — a jumble of random stuff. Drives me crazy sometimes, but on the other hand it’s always interesting.
Putting a little focus on it, here are some tips on what you should be doing in your summer garden in Southern California in the next few weeks. Next week Mary Beth will provide garden tips for mountain dwellers whose gardens are just coming into their full spring bloom.
These plants are wholly dependent on you for their nourishment so don’t neglect to feed them often during the growing season. Use enough fish emulsion to color the water and your plants will be healthier and your blooms more colorful. (Thanks to locally famous rosarian Bea Grow for this tip.)
This is one of the garden chores that I really enjoy. Wandering through my garden with a pair of snips and clipping off dead flowers is contemplative and will encourage your plants to create more blooms than they would if left to their own devices.
As you are deadheading, keep an eye out for diseased leaves. Strip them off the plant and throw them away. Doing this will go a long way to preventing a full-blown problem down the road. And while you’re at it, give those plants a good spray from the hose. This will wash off bugs and spores. Doing these two things might be all you need to keep your garden relatively disease free.
Posted in California, Colorado, Flower Photography, Flowers, Fruit, Garden, Insects, Wordless Wednesday, tagged Blue Iris, California, Durango, Flowers, Gardening, Iris, Peach, Spider on June 16, 2010 | Leave a Comment »