A Day's Labor: Harvesting and Preserving

Our garden is pretty big, and I try to keep the maintenance doable by working on one section each day of the week. That way everything gets done on a weekly basis, but in smaller pieces. Today I worked on the quadrant by the workshop and chicken coop.

A typical day's work in one section of the garden includes weeding, thinning seedlings, deadheading, and harvesting. In addition to that, I had to pull out the spent row of pea plants and hill up the potatoes again, so this section took longer than usual. There was also a lot to harvest, including two rows of beets and a bunch of herbs that were starting to flower.

Here's what the kitchen looked like when I was done:

From left to right, there is Greek oregano, beets, a couple new potatoes, radishes, Italian oregano, curly parsley, and mint. There was also a spinner full of salad greens, but that went straight into the fridge. I also brought in two zucchini and a bowl of beans for supper, but they were from a different quadrant.

My couple of hours of outside work was done, and just in time before it got really hot. Dealing with the harvest is good inside work on a hot afternoon. 

First up, after getting the salad into the fridge and cutting the leaves off the root veggies, I hung the herbs to dry (except the parsley, which is on cookie sheets, because it's so dry already).

After all that, I still had cuttings of mint left over, so I decided to use it to make some mint extract. This is spearmint that was originally growing wild in our "lawn" when we first moved in, and we saved it to cultivate in the garden. I like spearmint much better than peppermint, but most mint extract that you would by is peppermint. Also, this is totally easy to do.

All you need is mint, vodka, and a jar. Strip the mint from the stem and bruise it by crushing and rolling it around in your fingertips (your hands will smell great!). Fill the jar about 3/4 of the way, but don't pack it in too tightly. Pour in the vodka and give it a swish and some pokes with a spoon to get all the mint under the alcohol — it can't be exposed to the air. Put a lid on it.

This won't be a finished product for another six weeks. Then I'll strain out the leaves and put the lid back on, and it should last on the shelf pretty much forever. In the meantime, we'll give the jar a jiggle every few days to keep the oils and essences moving into the alcohol. 

What can we do with it when it's done?

I'm thinking we'll put my anniversary present to good use for some mint chocolate chip ice cream!


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