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OK, so you’ve got a garden – what are you going to do with it?

tomatopasta1OK, so here we are, at what, for us here at Chez Siberia, is well on the way to the prime production time out there in the garden. And frankly, even though we’ve been doing this for (ahem) 35 years, we, too get the shakes when we look out there (and our garden is not that big, truly, folks) and see all that stuff that has somehow been produced through seeds, sun, and water.

It’s humbling, truly.

Today, my eldest notified me that they’d gotten their first tomatoes off the extra plants that I shipped off to them in the spring. I felt very guilty because frankly, once I’d tied up the plants to the fencing, I just moved on to being concerned about other things. Shuddering, I went out there and realized, a) the plants were full of tomatoes, both green, red and stages in between and b) the plants were so weighed down with the tomatoes that the branches were on the ground. If we did not do something quick about that, the slugs were going to have a very good time in a couple of weeks. So, the DH and I went out, scissors and string in hand and oh…so…carefully…picked up the branches and tied them up to the fencing … again. With any luck, they will ripen there and we won’t have to tie them up again before the frost hits.

Funny – these are determinate tomatoes – they are not supposed to get this big, nor need this level of support. We was robbed. But if all the tomatoes ripen (we have at least 6 weeks if not 8 before we get a big frost — I have great hopes), we will have a HUGE tomato crop. Considering how cool and wet this summer has been, I think I can say we have all fingers crossed at this point. If we can avoid some blight attack, I think this might be a good year.

But that is not the point of this post.

We are as guilty as the rest in terms of ending up with too much stuff that needs to be harvested and no place to put it. What to do?

Well, as Weird Al says, “Eat it.” Just get out there, pick a handful of this, a bowl full of that and make dinner with it. One of our favorite things is beans, chinese cabbage or pac choi, some green onions, and a squash. Slice, chop, saute, mix with a little soy sauce and ginger and put over rice or noodles (or shoot, it’s great all alone). I made this the other night with fish and a little Indian spices and it was very yummy.

Remember – this is your on-site grocery store – on the way to work? Jump in, grab some cherry tomatoes and other fresh veggies, throw them in a plastic bag, wash at work and you’ve got great munchies all day long.

Another thing to do is find a local food pantry or organization that has a need for fresh fruits and veggies. Perhaps there is a local church or group that runs a camp that can use your extra produce; perhaps a local school district is offering programs that include a lunch for the kids. No harm in inquiring and better than your having to end up putting things in the compost pile.

You can also put food away for the winter. I know this sounds a bit old-fashioned but it’s definitely worth doing. We make pickles, freeze and can tomatoes, dry veggies, and so on. Certain things, we only eat fresh. I admit that – I don’t freeze green beans. Can – yes, but freeze, no. To me, they have horrible texture frozen so I won’t do it.

kimchi1Something new we have done this year (a real first for us) is we made kimchi (It’s the spicy Korean version of sauerkraut). I grew Chinese cabbage (Napa cabbage) specifically to do this and after a couple of tries, I finally got it to work and it really is not that big a deal. There are a lot of kimchi videos and recipes around. How to make simple kimchi
Now, a couple of notes – I used carrots instead of daikon. I also had seen many kimchi recipes that used chopped apple as the form of sugar to feed the fermentation, so I threw a half an apple, peeled and diced into the spice mix. Worked like a charm. As you can see from the photo, those are bubbles in the jar of kimchi – that shows that fermentation is taking place and that’s what you want. Just to give you an idea of just how simple (seriously, this is easier than making zucchini pickles) this is:
You an use regular cabbage too – or pac choi, or napa cabbage. If you are using your own out of your garden, you’ll need to clean this up. A lot. Peel off the outer couple of layers of leaves and dispose of them. Chop off the bottom of the cabbage and peel off the leaves and rinse them really well.

kimchi-aSlice right the center of the rib, and chop the leaves into pieces about an inch long. You’re going to be going through a lot of cabbage – you’ll need a really big glass or metal bowl. Don’t use plastic – unless you plan to devote that bowl to just kimchi making.

For every couple of pounds of cabbage, you will need a quarter cup of coarse salt. I first tried a recipe that called for a half cup of salt for two pounds of cabbage and the kimchi was basically so salty that we couldn’t eat it – so. No matter what size of cabbage you have – chop it and weigh it.

kimchi-bAnother thing you do for this is that you, as I said before, salt the chopped cabbage and leave it to get limp. I’ve seen recipes that call for you to leave this overnight – this is not necessary. A couple of hours should be enough to get your chopped cabbage looking like the picture here. Then, pour everything into a big colander and rinse. And rinse. And rinse. And rinse. What I did, that worked really well, was to take the drained cabbage and put it into a huge bowl and fit it with cold water, smoosh it around with my hands and pour it out into the colander again, and then do the same thing three more times. Then I tested a piece – if I could taste any real saltiness at all, I rinsed it again. That worked better.

kimchi-cNext, the spice mix. The Korean pepper flakes (gochukaru) is STRONG. Don’t try mixing this into the cabbage with your bare hands. As a matter of fact, I’d suggest using a big metal spoon and have the windows open so that you don’t get hit with any vapors. Mix the spices (and radish or carrot and apple, etc.) in thoroughly and then pack it into a really big jar. I did my recipe with four pounds of cabbage and I needed a half gallon jar and a quart jar. Don’t seal these down tight, but you do want a lid of some sort on it. If you have canning lids and bands, just fill up the jar 2/3 of the way, put on a lid and just put the band on top. Don’t screw it down; the gas from the fermentation needs to get out.

Some people advocate leaving this on your counter. Other people push putting the jars into a cool dark place. I put mind in the basement on top of a piece of plastic…just in case. Now, go up to the first photo where I started posting about kimchi – see the bubbles? That’s what you want to see. Some people say just to leave the jars to ferment for a day; others leave it several days, and so on. I let mine for three days and saw those bubbles in the jars, so I knew the fermentation was going well. Then I opened the jars to let the gas escape and put it all into a container in the refrigerator. This is spicy – you can eat it as a condiment or use it in Korean recipes and as long as it is in the refrigerator, it will keep for quite a while.

So, back to the garden. There are all sorts of ways to enjoy your vegetable garden:
Get creative and try to cook something out of the garden every day.
Get creative and do some preserving – take a risk – do something new to you!!
Find a worthy place and ask them if they’d like fresh veggies from your garden.

You never know.
bon appetit!!

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  1. I’m really happy you posted this – we’re starting to eat kimchi (and drink kombucha) and want to make it. I’m just rather distrustful that the good bacteria will actually do its job. Now, do you keep a portion as a starter for the next batch or it’s no big deal?

  2. Kathryn Rifkin says:

    So I’m trying this today (8/22/2014). Chopped a 2 1/2 pound each red and green cabbage and salted 1/4 salt each bowl. Will pack into an old crock, I think.

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