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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's pepper time!

Yet another nasty and snow filled super snap of cold moving through. Single digits and goodly winds make for a ton of brrrrrrr!!!!! My sister has been kicking ass with keeping the drive clear. I only have helped out a little since I kind of hurt myself doing it by myself last Sunday morning and now I'm being cautious.

So of course it's a day to plant in some heat loving seed! On the first I started a couple pots of 7-pot pepper, and on the 6th I started fatali, devils tongue, hot lemon, and McMahns Texas bird peppers- these are "chinese" cultivars and take longer than "annuum" peppers do. Today was the day to start the rest of the peppers- after last year, I figured I needed to give them a couple more weeks, and since last year was mid-march, this year it's the tail end of February. So today I planted..

2 georgescu chocolate, a sweet
2 Jommy Narvellos, a sweet
2 alma paprika, a sweet
2 tequila sunrise, a sweet
4 greek pepperonchini, hot
and one each of these hots-
black hungarian
martins carrot
costeno amerillo
bulgarian carrot

I'm a little concerned about germination rates since I have more recently learned pepper seed does best in the first two years, and starts to decline a bit after that- and most of my seed is from 2010-2013. So I heavily oversowed the pots- I figure since I'll end up repotting anyway, it's all good and whatever extra I got will end up on the end of the yard for sale. And better to have too many plants than to have zippo for plants, right? And I figure after about 10 days, whatever pots haven't popped at all, I'll just choose more seed to try starting, just in case.

And thought it would be smart to share a few pics of some seedlings!

These are some of the asparagus seeds I started on the first... I thought I was only going to end up with a half dozen tubes, and optimistically up to 15 of them. I had to be patient apparently, because a lot of them have been coming up in the past two days- and now the tally is currently over 20! Not awesome considering I planted in 54 tubes, but not too bad either considering some the disparaging things I have read about starting asparagus from seed. If I end up with a 50% rate, I'll be pleased as punch. Still not enough to make me really think I should rip up a whole bed out front just yet, but for sure to confirm ripping up a bed out back!
And notice those nifty tube pots- those are recycled toilet paper tubes. Excellent for a lot of seed starting purpouses:)

Another happy pic, this time of basil-
I started this seed on the ninth, and a mere four days later they were popping up! This is a pic from today, and they are well on their way. Darn things will probably be a veritable jungle needing much more room well before I can start planting them out. That's ok, we like to use it fresh, I need to restock the pesto in the freezer, and our dried supply is running low enough that I will enjoy dehydrating a ton sooner rather than later. This is just regular basil, I still have oooober tons of time to start up the other flavors- those will come later because I plan on having them outside rather than being a seriously needed stab at some indoor green to lighten up the winter gloom. Spring is indeed on it's way damit.
And the bunching onions have started popping- wasn't too sure about those since onion seed is only supposed to be good for a year, and this was packaged in 2012. And my pot of flat leaf parsley is starting to pop too. Wait, more parsley Bee? Why yes, more parsley. The fenceline bed is establishing in well, but it's a biennial, not a perennial, and it's not that established yet for my tastes. And it never hurts to have a couple more pots of it for overwintering.
I brought in my poor pot of overwintered thyme from the solarium. Darn thing is almost dead, not too sure it will survive till spring planting. But the patio tomatoes down in the library are doing so well I'm starting to think I will need to repot them and not leave them in the big pot I originally put them in. 
I also brought in the pot that the yellow roses and white alba roses seeds were stratifying in from the solarium. And the white soul and yellow wonder strawberries that were stratifying.

With all the horrid weather, it's hard to think a month from now I will be out and about doing spring gardening chores. But I will. I have had a good time looking back over the last couple years worth of entries and I'm feeling pretty good about that. I potted up the eight recycled mushroom tubs worth of mixed color grape hyacinths to plug into the solarium border the other day too. Those will stay in the solarium till it's time to plug them into the ground, but several of the bulbs had little green leafy sproutlings, despite the fact they have been chilling out there in their original bags since I picked them up on sale last fall.

So today with all the chill I figured I would make some hearty favorite foods. Tuna loaf.. and winter squash puree. So not as icky as that sounds, lol. My mom hates tuna, but loves my tuna loaf. And the squash puree is just the pulp I usually use to make soup, only I won't be adding all the stock to make it liquidy. My tuna loaf is a take on a Kosher recipe- and uses tuna in oil, which is extra good for you. It ends up being almost a crabcake kind of consistency by the time it's done being baked, and I use small loaf shaped ramekins so everyone gets their own loaf, and it cooks nice and even all they way through- no dry edges with a gooky center. So the entire loaf is nice and moist with just a little bit of outside crust.

Tuna loaf- makes 4 personal sized loaves

2-5 oz cans of tuna in oil, undrained
2-5 oz cans of tuna in water, drained
1/2 cup minced onion
2 medium carrots, minced or shredded- I use a food processor, it's about 1/2 cup once it's chopped up
3 eggs
3/4 cup matzo meal- I bet you could use other crushed cracker, but I never have
2 t old bay seasoning
1 T parsley
1/2 t each salt and pepper
1 t oregano
1 t thyme
2 t minced garlic

Grease your ramekins/loaf pans. I use butter flavored crisco, but you could use regular shortening. I haven't tried with butter, but shortening does not have a water content, and butter does, which might make the loaves stick- and they should pop right out of their pans when done baking.
Mix all your ingredients together. I tend to dump out my tuna whole chunk, then just keep mixing till all the tuna is broken up and it's a homogenous mass.
Pack your tuna mixture evenly between your greased pans- this is pretty easy, but make sure you get it smushed all the way down and don't leave pockets in the corners.
Put your pans onto a cookie sheet- makes them easier to handle than individually.
Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes, then kill the heat and let them rest 10 minutes. Pull them out and pop them out of their pans, and serve up hot.

Note: I have made this on one loaf pan before, and adjusted the heat down to 325 and upped the time to an hour. But it turns out better if you use four smaller pans than one big one.

I make homemade tartar sauce to go with all my fish. Was utterly pissed off today when I managed to break homemade mayo twice, ugh. But in general, a basic tartar is just mayo, chopped pickle with a little juice (or pickle relish if you keep it in the house), and lemon juice. I also add in some chopped capers and juice, dill, old bay seasoning, and a bit of salt and pepper. And I tend to use some of the true lemon powdered lemon at first, then adjust with lemon juice as needed. Makes for a less runny tartar than using all lemon juice to get to that nice lemony level.

For the squash.. Well, a while back I realized all my squash were getting frozen in the solarium, and I had to prep them up quick for real freezing. So I baked, pulped, strained, and froze off a few quarts of pulp. Today I'm using a couple quarts for tonights side dish. Just carmelizing some onion in bacon grease, pulp, and some sage and thyme really. Cooked up nice and hot.

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