The gardening year that is coming to a close here in northeast Pennsylvania was like no other. More than ever, I am grateful to live on a piece of land where I can grow food. It is not enough to sustain us yet enough to fill a freezer chest and several shelves of canning jars. Continue reading
Last summer slugs decimated the strawberry harvest from my garden. This year I was prepared. Or so I thought. I had a bag of diatomaceous earth stand by, and an old salt shaker to spread it around the plants. But there were no slugs. Instead, chipmunks discovered the strawberry patch and took a bite out of every single ripe strawberry. Continue reading
Today is the first day in I don’t know how many weeks that I dared to carefully walk anywhere else than to the compost bin without the risk of breaking an ankle, or having icicles on my eyelashes after a few minutes out in the cold. Continue reading
It is the nature of gardening that after you have solved one problem the next challenge already lurks around the corner. After we moved the elderberry patch to a new location with moister soil last fall, the bushes are thriving. They developed many blossoms, albeit unusually late in the season, and some of them are still flowering.
The birds would be just as happy about the elderberries as I am so the next question was how to protect them. We looked into bird netting and quickly dismissed the idea as too involved and too expensive. Then I remembered the plastic owl we had not used in years. So up on a tall stick it went. To give it more weight and make it sway more in the wind, my husband filled it with insulation foam.
If the birds won’t get used to the sight of the owl by the time the elderberries ripen, I am slightly optimistic that we will have elderberries this year!
Green bell peppers are an unwanted by-product from my garden. I do not like them and they only land in my kitchen when a stem breaks off, or when I harvest all of them before the first frost, regardless of their color. I have not been very successful in ripening peppers in a brown paper bag or cardboard box; they always soften before turning orange or red.
Yes, I do not like green bell peppers but that does not mean I would ever dump them on the compost. I usually freeze them, hoping that I will eventually find a recipe that uses lots of green peppers. The only recipe I make on a regular basis is Black Bean Soup with Cilantro, however that is only one green pepper down. I have looked for recipes using lots of green peppers but they always ask for so many other ingredients I do not have at hand that making those recipes would defeat the purpose.
Cleaning out the freezer the other day left me with two large bags of green peppers from last year. They had to go, with minimum effort and other ingredients. I decided to try my hands on some sort of mild harissa, hoping for a miraculous green pepper metamorphosis. Worst thing that could happen would be to throw them out after all.
A few hours later I had three jars of a smooth tasty olive-green spread for sandwiches or crackers. A generous amount of ground coriander and caraway gives it a distinct “Tunisian” flavor. And I was able to use up some leftover jalapeños in the process, too!
I am not sure my late Tunisian grandmother would call this a harissa but she was a recycler herself so she would understand.
2.5 pounds cored and seeded green bell peppers
12 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
5 cored and seeded jalapeños, to taste
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup olive oil, more for covering
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place all ingredients in a large cast-iron Dutch oven. Cook in the preheated oven for 2 to 3 hours until the liquid has been absorbed and the peppers are mushy, turning once in a while at the beginning, and more often towards the end.
3. Puree in the food processor or with a stick blender. Fill into sterilized jars with screw-top lids and pour a bit of olive oil on top. Keep refrigerated and use within 2 to 3 weeks.
Makes 2 to 3 medium jars