Enjoying watermelon in a different way

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I can’t think of anything that tastes more like summer than watermelon (except maybe Sunflower jelly). It’s refreshing, delicious and a great snack. Of course, you can have too much of anything, can’t you? I do this summer.

I was excited when I picked my first ripe watermelon. It was the first time I had successfully grown watermelon. I tried once before but they never seemed to be ripe. Cutting open that watermelon and seeing the juicy red inside was exciting.

I started eating, and eating, but there was still watermelon.

Not wanting it to go to waste, it was time to find something to do with it. I remembered flipping through my book of canning recipes before and seeing something with watermelon. After looking again, I found watermelon jelly, but it was made from the white rind of the watermelon. I still needed to find something to do with the rest.

A little more searching led me to find a watermelon jelly recipe that uses the fruit of the watermelon. That sounded like it would taste better too.

So I gathered the ingredients and created some jelly. It was tasty, but needed a few adjustments from the original recipe. I reduced the sugar a bit so it wasn’t so sweet, and left the pulp part of the watermelon in rather than straining the juice so I created a watermelon jam.

It was an easy process. You begin by chopping up the watermelon and removing all of the black seeds. (The recipe said you didn’t have to remove the white seeds, but I still took out as many as I could.). Then puree the watermelon in a food processor and measure out 2 cups of puree. Combine that with a box of pectin and a quarter cup of bottled lemon juice.

Bring that to a boil for a minute, then add 3 cups of sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minutes and process it in a boiling water bath for 12 minutes. It is not only delicious, but also pretty to look at. My shelves of canned goods are getting much more colorful this year with the watermelon jelly and sunflower jelly.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.

Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

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The taste of Sunflowers

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Driving home the other day I noticed the sunflowers I had been starting to see were now in full bloom. The bright yellow blossoms line the road to my house, as they do on many Kansas roads.

Looking at them I began to wonder. Surely, there is something you can do with those flowers. When I got home, I Googled uses for sunflowers. While I was sure you could make soap or something like that out of them, I was surprised to learn the petals on the flowers are edible, sometimes even used as a garnish on a salad.

Upon further investigation I found a recipe for Sunflower Jelly.

I set out with my measuring cup in hand and began to pick enough petals for my first batch of sunflower jelly. This was a much less painful process than the blackberries I’d picked earlier in the summer. No thorns, no scratches and no bleeding. It doesnimg_3286’t take long to gather enough petals.

Be cautious in your picking though because there also are Black-Eyed Susans in bloom right now and they look a lot like sunflowers. One way to tell the difference is by the leaves. According to Larry Crouse, K-State Research and Extension horticulture agent, the sunflower has heart-shaped leaves, while Black-Eyed Susans are long and slender. In addition, he said the Black-Eyed Susan (rudbeckia) also has a raised black center to the flower; it always has a black, or very dark, center; and it doesn’t develop the big seed load like a sunflowimg_3287er.

Once collected rinse the leaves and put them in a jar. To make the jelly, you pour 2 1/2 cups of boiling water over the 2 cups of petals and zest from one lemon, cover that with a saucer or lid and let it steep for two hours. Then strain the water off of the mixture and put in a pan. Add one box of pectin and a quarter cup of bottled lemon juice, then bring that to a boil. Once boiling, add 3 1/2  cups of sugar. Stirring constantly, bring that to a boil and let boil one minute. You can then fill your sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for five minutes.

* Note: Despite having the lemons, do not use fresh squeezed lemon juice in the jelly. I have read in other methods of preserving not to use fresh squeeze but rather bottled because it has a consistent acidity which is needed for canning.

img_3407-cutout-2After first tasting the jelly, I made the comment that “it tastes like summer.” I look forward to opening a jar when the temperatures are below freezing and there is snow on the ground, just to bring back just a bit of summer.

I also wanted to save some of those sunflower petals, so I collected more and dried them for about 12 hours on my dehydrator then sealed them in baggies for soaps and other uses.

I will research more this winter when canning season is over and I’m looking for something to do.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Enjoying garden-fresh green beans year round

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Garden fresh produce is abundant this time of year. One thing I’m getting a lot of is green beans. I pick them by the bag full every few days.

I love green beans – simply toss them in the steamer for about 25 minutes and you have a fresh and delicious side dish for dinner. But just from one of my raised beds of beans, I’m getting more than I can eat.

One easy way to preserve some beans for later is by freezing them. After picking, wash the beans, snap off the ends, then break into approximately one-inch pieces. I like to have them frozen in bite sizes so I don’t have to do anything with them when using them except toss them in the dish. Once this is done, blanch the beans by dipping them in boiling water for three minutes, then put them in ice water to cool. After a couple of minutes, remove the beans from the water and pat them dry. Fill your bags with amounts you would use in various recipes, seal the bags and freeze. I like to use them in casseroles, vegetable soup and more. For soups, I just throw the block of frozen beans into the pan with everything else to thaw, but for casseroles you can place the bag of beans in a bowl of water to thaw then you can spread them over your dish.

While freezing is easy to do and easy to use, I decided to try something new this year. After following the first steps of washing, snapping and blanching, I then dehydrated a batch.

To do this, place beans on the trays so they are not touching. I dehydrated them at 135 degrees for about 16-18 hours or until brittle. Once dried, store them in jars or baggies. I’ll be looking for some delicious ways to use these dried beans this winter once the fresh ones run out and will share some of those recipes in a future column.

(Note: Canning green beans also is an option but it requires a pressure canner.)
Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener. Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.