5 Ways to Sink Your Teeth Into Apple Season

apples at market lisa amstutz

Is it possible to have too many apples? It’s been a bumper year for apples on our Ohio homestead. We’ve made enough applesauce for ourselves and our extended family, shared some apples, and they still keep coming. Fortunately, there are lots of other great ways to preserve this versatile fruit and enjoy eating it all winter. Here are a few delicious solutions to try. Continue reading

How to Save Seeds on a Small Scale

seeds in hands

As I plan my garden each spring, I think forward to what seeds I might want to save, and make sure that my garden is structured in such a way that I can do that. I only save easy seeds — I have not yet bothered with isolation tents or hand pollination — so the ones I do save usually come at me pretty easily. Continue reading

Enter to Win Your Christmas – On Us!

NoWorriesNovemberDisplay

Very Cool Customers … and Their Stories

karen g at may daze

Organic Gardener Karen Geiser enthralls a crowd at Lehman’s May Daze Celebration this past spring.

Organic gardener, author, blog contributor, and mother of five, Karen Geiser, is no stranger to country living. She shares her expert advice with customers just as if they have pulled up a chair on her front porch. . . and all the while shelling peas, pitting cherries, or churning butter (depending on what is in season on her farm). 

We always enjoy hearing about fascinating customer connections that happen in our store. And Karen certainly has the pleasure of interacting with many visitors and hearing their stories!

Here are some recent tidbits she reports:

  • Last week I met folks from Colombia, Costa Rica and Brazil (Must have been Latin America day).
  • A fellow from Pennsylvania visits frequently and always tells me about his garlic (which he got from me) that has won several blue ribbons at the county
    Karen Geiser demonstrates our Dazey Butter Churn, which she uses to make butter with cream from her family's Jersey cow.

    Karen Geiser demonstrates our Dazey Butter Churn, which she uses to make butter with cream from her family’s Jersey cow.

    fair.

  • This week there were many good conversations over edible weeds – around the table were an herbalist from New Mexico and a family from West Virginia who really knew their plants.
  • An interesting couple from Virginia who has lived off grid for many years visited the store to finally buy the luxury of a gas refrigerator – mainly to have ice. It’s hard to believe they could live without a fridge for so long, and they described how they can their butter.
  • This week a lady said she was there from Robinson, IL because she heard me speak at the Master Gardener conference over a year ago. She had no idea she would run into me, and we had a good laugh together as she told me about the things she grew because I recommended them (like mouse melons). I helped her figure out other places to hit for her first adventure in Amish country. She said some of her girlfriends have visited Lehman’s after the conference, too. 

Stop by Lehman’s on Thursdays, from April through early November to visit Karen and learn from her wealth of hands-on knowledge. 

Growing Great Asparagus

I’ve been learning a lot about permaculture in the past decade and while I subscribe to asparagus tipsmany of the theories, I do worry that many people who could benefit are turned off by the intensity of people teaching the subject. You don’t actually need classes or certificates nor do you need to dig up your entire backyard. It’s possible to engage in permaculture just by using plant varieties that will provide a source of food over decades.

One of our most productive, perennial food sources is asparagus. We put in bed in many years ago. Each spring we indulge. We eat asparagus steamed, roasted and chilled with a vinaigrette. When we tire of eating it fresh, we dry some (read on for how-to) for winter soups and pickle some, too. Asparagus is also easily frozen.

How to Start and Maintain an Asparagus Bed

A well-planned, well-maintained asparagus bed will produce every spring for decades! Asparagus needs full sun and should begin in a spot with a rich, sandy loam. It gets tall when it goes to seed, so don’t plant it where it will shade other sun-loving plants. You can start from seed (I have a tray of seeds starting right now) but you’ll wait a long time for your first meal. Most people choose to start with roots. They are usually sold in bunches of 25.  Continue reading

Eat Local All Year: Plan Now for Preserving Season

It’s easy to eat local in Massachusetts in August. Sweet corn, vine ripened tomatoes, tender green beans, creamy milk and abundant eggs make consuming local food a treat. canned cherriesBut come the dark days of January, that local diet is a lot harder to manage. That’s what food preservation is all about. You take what’s cheap, plentiful and delicious at the peak of its freshness and preserve it for later use. Preservation is all about manipulating the environment of food so it retains its goodness for months or even years.

Food has a lot of enemies. Microorganisms (mold, yeasts and bacteria) are enemies of food. So is physical damage (one bad apple really will spoil the whole bag). Enzymes that cause food to ripen don’t halt their work when food is harvested. They continue to work until that lovely cantaloupe becomes a sodden mass destined for the compost heap. Food preservation works by controlling the temperature (freezing and root cellaring) removing moisture (dehydrating) or killing mold, yeast and bacteria and then protecting from further contamination by removing and excluding air (canning). You can also change the environment of food by adding salt, sugar or vinegar. Continue reading

Happy New Year!

From all of us at Lehman’s, our very best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

C1408C_FrontCover_v2

Request our newest catalog – with over 100 great new items for a bright new year!

Manage Your Homestead’s Food Supply Successfully

A LOT of just harvested garlic bulbs!

How do you process all this garlic? Dry some, crush some! Click for more info about Lehman’s super garlic press.

When you grow and raise a lot of food, one of the tricks to making it pay is managing the inventory. That means record keeping, not always my favorite thing but necessary if I am going to avoid waste.

Last month we harvested our garlic and it was phenomenal. I harvested 15o heads. That might seem like a lot but we are garlic lovers and I need enough to eat and to save for seed for next year. The biggest bulbs were pulled out immediately. The temptation is to eat those but that would leave me inferior seed. I put those heads away to plant in this month, and dry the rest to use throughout the year.

Continue reading

Tomatoes: Keeping Beyond Canning

Since tomatoes are the number one most popular vegetable for the home gardener, most of us find ourselves with a glut of them before the season is over. Canning takes care of a lot, but sometimes we can’t even give them away fast enough once they get into production mode. When that happens, it’s time to think seriously about what to do with the excess.   There’s always the compost pile, but who wants to waste a good tomato?

Try these ideas

The quality you want from Lodge, in a great preseasoned steel skillet! In stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

The quality you want from Lodge, in a great preseasoned steel skillet! In stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Frozen Green Tomatoes for Frying
If you like fried green tomatoes, it’s a simple fix to freeze them for later. Slice them uniformly just as if you were going to fry them, then dip them in whatever mixture you like. Lay them out on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and freeze until they’re firm. You can then put them in freezer bags or containers and remove them individually when it’s time to cook them. Don’t let the tomato slices thaw before frying, but place them quickly into a hot, oiled skillet. They will taste as fresh as if you just pulled them off the vine – a real treat on a snowy winter day!

Making tomato sauce with Roma

Roma Food Mill in action at Galen Lehman’s place. Get your own at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Frozen Tomato Sauce  If you have a lot of tomatoes and want to can tomato sauce or make ketchup, but can’t stand the thought of adding even more heat to an already hot summer’s day, puree your tomatoes and get them ready to make sauce, then freeze the puree until the warmth from the stove will be welcome!   When you’re ready to can, thaw the sauce and cook it down until it’s ready and that’s all there is to it. If you don’t want to can it, cook it down first and freeze it in one or two cup portions.

cookie sheet

Neutrally non-stick, our recycled steel cookie sheets works hard for you in the kitchen! At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, and at Lehmans.com.

Freeze Whole Tomatoes  But don’t freeze them in a lump that you have to hammer apart when you only want one or two. Instead, remove the skins (or not, if you don’t mind them), core and place on a wax paper or parchment paper covered cookie sheet in the freezer until they’re solidly frozen. Remove them quickly and put in freezer containers or bags, then you can simply use as many or as few as you need.   Since tomatoes thaw and then reheat quickly, just plop them into your stew or soup or leave in a dish long enough to thaw for other purposes.

5 racks, food dehydrator

Electric food deyhydrator works for fruit/veggie leathers too. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com.

Still have more? Sun dried tomatoes are a specialty, but you can make them easily. They are exactly what they sound like: Dried in the sun. A dehydrator is excellent for this, but you don’t even need that. A flat surface that can be protected from insects–a cloth will do it.

Slice the tomatoes thinly and uniformly, place them where they won’t touch each other and leave in the sun, covered by a cloth until they are leathery to crisp. (Keep your cloth in place with clothes pegs or binder clips!) Store tomatoes in a closed container, and keep in a cool, dry place. Check them now and then as they tend to absorb moisture. If they do, you can redry them in the sun, or dry them out again in the oven. Use a very low temperature, leave the door open and watch them so they don’t burn.

You can even dry tomato “leather” to use as sauce in cooked dishes. Make a puree of the tomatoes and cook it down as much as you can to speed the drying process, then spread it on a leather dehydrator sheet. This is a solid sheet, usually of plastic that won’t let the liquid seep through. Use a plastic sheet over a tray in the sun if you need to, but it will take longer than a dehydrator or sun-drying sliced tomatoes.

When the leather is finished, you can store it in sheets, break it up or pulverize it in the blender for a tomato bouillon of sorts. Be aware that if you pulverize it, it will turn hard after awhile. A little cornstarch mixed in well before storing will prevent that.   Don’t waste even one of those precious globes that you worked so hard to grow!