Steps to Prepare Your Garden for Winter

Rake with autumn leaves

When the cold weather starts to arrive and you’ve harvested all of the produce from your garden in the fall, the time comes to think about taking steps to prepare your garden for winter and to do what you can to get ready for another gardening season in the spring.

Depending on how much time you have and what the weather is like, you can do several different things to prepare your garden for the winter season, or you can do only the most essential tasks and leave everything else for the spring.

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Sweetened and Dried Tomato Fig Recipe from 1845

Dried tomatoes on plate with green checked cloth and small pear-shaped tomatoes scattered around

This recipe for sweetened, dried tomato figs is an unusual way to preserve tomatoes that I’ve seen mentioned in several old 19th century cookbooks . Despite the name, there aren’t actually any figs in this recipe at all, but the dried tomatoes do somewhat resemble figs in both appearance and taste. 

In the 19th century as tomatoes were gaining in popularity in America, you start to see more and more recipes (or receipts) using tomatoes in 19th century cookbooks, including recipes for ketchups, sauces, and dried tomato figs. For making tomato figs, small tomatoes are simmered in sugar and then dried fully and coated in more sugar for storage. 

I’m not quite sure if the original intention of the tomato figs was to create a more economical way to make a substitute for dried figs (like with using citron melon to make candied citron for fruitcake rather than buying imported citron fruit) or if someone preserved tomatoes this way and then decided that they happened to look and taste reminiscent of dried figs. Either way, though, they really do remind me of figs and they’re certainly an interesting way to preserve an abundance of fresh tomatoes.

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How Often Should You Feed a Sourdough Starter?

Jar of sourdough starter on table with loaf of bread and baking utensils.

Making a homemade sourdough starter is a fairly simple process, but it can also bring up some questions, and one of those questions is how often you need to feed your sourdough starter. It can be a bit tricky sometimes, though, to answer the question of how often you should feed your starter because it can vary depending on a couple of different factors. 

How often you need to feed your sourdough starter will depend on the climate in your home, your schedule, and the amount of baking you plan to do. And since I like to keep my sourdough starter process as simple and easy as possible, the question of “how often should you feed a sourdough starter” really translates for me to “how little can you get away with feeding it and have it still survive and work for baking?”

I’ve tried to find a balance between not having to feed my sourdough starter too often but also having it be active and ready to use for baking. In this post I’ll share the method I use for deciding how often to feed my sourdough starter and some tips for how to tell when it needs more frequent feedings.

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DIY Herbal Salt Recipes to Try

Salt in mortar with pestle with bundle of herbs and pair of scissors on table

Making your own DIY herbal salt blends is a simple and easy way to create your own gourmet seasoning blends and to control the quality of the blends and customize them the way you like based on your favorite herbs and which dishes you like to cook.

DIY herbal salt blends are also a great way to preserve the harvest if you have an abundance of herbs growing in your garden that you want to save for later. Or, if you don’t have herbs growing in your garden, you can also often find good deals on herbs at local farm stands and farmer’s markets during their growing seasons. 

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Cinnamon Maple Peach Jam Recipe

Bowl and Mason jars full of peach jam on table with peaches and spoon.

The changing season between late summer and early fall always gets me in the mood for more fall-ish flavors and for the old-fashioned tradition of putting up the harvest by making preserves. And this cinnamon maple peach jam recipe is one that I think fits perfectly into the change of seasons because of the fresh summer peach flavor and the hint of warm cinnamon spice and maple syrup that feel more like fall. 

This recipe would be delicious spread over warm, freshly-baked bread or rolls, but it’s also great to eat straight from the jar by the spoonful (which is what I usually do). And it’s a pretty adaptable recipe, too, because you can double or triple the recipe if you have more peaches, and you can adjust the amounts of maple syrup and sugar, too, if you want it to be more or less sweet or to have more or less maple flavor. 

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Quick and Easy Ground Beef Stir-Fry Recipe

Ground beef stir fry on blue plate on table

On busy nights when I don’t have a lot of time to cook but I still want a homemade meal, this quick and easy ground beef stir-fry recipe is one of my go-to meals because it’s very simple to make and it’s very customizable based on whatever ingredients you like and have on hand. 

The ground beef in the recipe cooks pretty quickly, and using shredded carrots rather than bigger pieces of chopped carrots cuts down on the cooking time quite a bit. And since the rice can cook in a separate pan at the same time that the other ingredients are cooking, you can multitask to prepare everything all at one time.

I kept this basic recipe very simple with just ground beef, rice, carrots, Swiss chard, and herbs and spices, but you could add in whatever ingredients are your favorites or use different vegetables at different times of the year based on what’s in season where you live.

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How to Grow Your Own Saffron

Saffron threads in a bowl with pile of saffron threads on the table beside it

Of all of the herbs and spices in the spice aisle at the grocery store, saffron is almost always the most expensive one you can find. Saffron’s high price tag makes it a special occasion spice rather than an everyday spice for many people. But since saffron actually comes from the inside of crocus flowers, it’s possible to grow your own saffron for a much, much cheaper price than you could ever buy saffron at the store. 

I decided to try growing my own saffron last year, and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy and simple the process was and by how much more economical it was than buying store bought saffron. Sometimes growing your own food ends up not really being much cheaper than just buying food at the grocery store, but in this case it’s definitely much cheaper.

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