Category Archives: Gardening

Saving your tomato seeds for planting next year…

The benefit of gardening, for me, has many aspects. It’s somehow fundamentally rewarding to spend time working the soil, putting your energy into nurturing something, and watching it grow. After which you get to enjoy the benefits, and finally, putting it to rest until the cycle starts again. It’s very symbolic of life in general and allows me to re-align myself with the slower pace of nature, even if it’s ironically for only a few moments here and there.

Gardening also gives me great joy because I’m able to expose this process to my daughter, who finds amazement every time we go into the backyard and there’s more raspberries to pick, or that the grapes have started to turn purple, or the beans she saved and planted are growing, or that she has discovered, for herself, new cherry tomatoes to pick and gobble up. It teaches her the value and the patience it takes to invest in the important things in life.

My goal has also been to try and supply our home with as much fresh produce as possible to help curb our consumption of far away products, even if just a little. That means trying to grow enough garlic to get us through the winter,(which I’m hoping will happen this year), or jarring enough jam and tomato sauce to last the colder months and keep us away from BPA lined cans. (This last one we managed to do this past year which made me very happy.) The next step is to Continue reading

Picking and storing your homegrown hops…

I’m very excited. I just harvested my massive first year hop crop! OK, I’m totally exaggerating here. I only got 1.5 oz (lol), but I knew I wouldn’t get very much this year so I’m grateful for even getting that. The vines all look very healthy and the hops themselves look great. For a first year, I think we did good. I can’t wait to see what it will be like next year!

So how do you know if they’re even ready to pick? One way to check is to see if there is any browning or tiny brown spots on the cones. The next thing you want to look for is a ‘papery’ sound and feel to the cones. Last, you want to take a look under the petals at the lupin glands and observe the colour. They should be a bright “school bus” yellow (see picture). Give a cone a roll in your hands and smell it. It should have that fantastic hop smell that you should immediately recognize.

Once I had picked the enormous 1.5 oz, I had to decide how I was going to dry them. One way is to evenly lay them out on a window screen and let them air dry in a warm place that gets decent airflow. Another option is to use a dehydrator if you have access to one. Fortunately, we have an Excalibur dehydrator that we use a lot for making raw food dishes, so I decided to go with that.

I set the drying temperature at 85°F (it’s lowest setting). That way I hopefully won’t damage any of the essential oils that we’re looking for. It took about 24 hours or so to dry them. You will typically end up with 30% of your original weight. So for me, the 1.5 oz we started with, ended up being 0.5 oz of dried hops.

Now to store them: I recently invested in the “Vac n’ Store” system that I got from Home Hardware for $19.97. It’s way cheaper than buying an expensive food saver machine. So far it seems to work fine and I’ve been storing my pellet hops this way. Toss the dried hops into one of the bags, vacuum out the air and throw it in your freezer until brew day! That’s it!