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Renee's Garden Gifts

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Besides providing wonderful fresh vegetables and herbs during the growing season, the kitchen garden is the source for great gifts you'll enjoy making and giving to friends and family. Here are some of my favorites for easy cooking and crafting projects:

Cucumbers

Everyone loves condiments and pickles to add flavor and spice to meals, and homemade jars of condiments in beautiful jewel tones are satisfying to both give and receive. For cucumber pickles, plan early to trellis your pickling cukes up short supports. This way they'll grow straight and clean and the fruits will color up evenly. My favorite varieties are versatile "Garden Oasis" and slim "Chelsea Prize." Pick them small and young before they get seedy for best flavor. Cucumbers need consistent moisture and rich fertile soil to grow well and have sweet flavor and crisp texture. Plant 3 or 4 hills so you'll have big harvests to process. Other good pickling vegetables include green beans, baby carrots, button onions, pac choi, kohlrabi, jalapeno chiles, and sugar snap peas. All are delicious when flavored with garlic and aromatic herbs like dill, tarragon, basil, or thyme in a good all purpose vinegar brine. If you like cucumbers, check out my Ginger-Lime Cucumber Chips recipe!

Tomatoes

Bags of dried cherry or plum tomatoes are also colorful presents. To prepare them, just slice cherry tomatoes in half or cut plum tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Spread in a single layer on oiled racks and dry in a 160-200 degree oven until leathery – but not over crisp. While an electric dehydrator is best, good results can be had in a very low gas oven. Modern electric convection ovens also do a fine job of drying tomatoes. Rotate trays several times during the drying process, for even results. Be sure to open the oven door occasionally so moisture can escape. Drying time will be 6 - 10 hours depending on your oven. Bag up the dried tomatoes or mix them with good quality extra virgin olive oil and chopped fresh basil in jars. Keep refrigerated and use as a rich flavored ingredient in pasta, pizzas, soups, or stews.    

Lavender

If you have lavender plants, plan on harvesting their sweet aromatic florets for dried arrangements and sachets. Harvest lavender just as the florets begin to open. Cut off long stems, giving the plants a complete haircut and leaving a neat mound. This kind of harvesting yields lots of stems for crafting dried keeps your plants nicely pruned so they have a compact dense habit.

Harvest the stems in small bunches and tie them snugly together with string or rubber bands. Hang the bunches upside down to air dry for about a week in a dry place with good air circulation out of sunlight. Once dry, you can re-tie the bunches with pretty ribbon and wrap them in lavender tissue paper for gift giving. Their wonderful perfume and soft color will be much appreciated! To make sachets, rub the lavender florets off the stems with your fingers over a sheet, then collect in a bucket. Fill little muslin bags and tie with satin ribbons. Or buy lacy baby socks, stuff loosely with lavender florets and close with a few stitches under the cuff. Lavender sachets are delightful when tucked into the linen closet to softly scent sheets and towels or help protect and freshen wool sweaters.

 

Chiles

To make handsome, decorative chile strings, pick the fully colored chiles off the plants. Using dental floss or fishing line and a big crafting needle, string up the chiles by piercing them through their stem ends and then hang the strings up to dry thoroughly. They make brightly colored Christmas tree decorations to use in the kitchen after the holidays are over.
 

Renee's Garden Seed
Shopping List

To create Renee's gifts from the garden, add these plants to your garden:

Babette Baby French Carrots
Garden Candy Cherry Tomatoes
Pompeii Italian Sauce Tomatoes
Super Sugar Snap Peas
Tricolor Bush Beans
Tricolor Pole Beans
Chelsea Prize Cucumbers
Garden Oasis Cucumbers
Italian Pesto Basil
Sweet Green Basil
Dukat Dill
French Thyme
True Greek Oregano
All Lavenders

 

To purchase these and other
Renee's Garden Seeds, click here 

 

 

Try these great recipes from Renee's cookbooks:

Green Bean Pate with Basil
Lavender Shortbread
Green Tomato Mincemeat 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomatoes

Bags of dried cherry or plum tomatoes are also colorful presents. To prepare them, just slice cherry tomatoes in half or cut plum tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Spread in a single layer on oiled racks and dry in a 160-200 degree oven until leathery – but not over crisp. While an electric dehydrator is best, good results can be had in a very low gas oven. Modern electric convection ovens also do a fine job of drying tomatoes. Rotate trays several times during the drying process, for even results. Be sure to open the oven door occasionally so moisture can escape. Drying time will be 6 - 10 hours depending on your oven. Bag up the dried tomatoes or mix them with good quality extra virgin olive oil and chopped fresh basil in jars. Keep refrigerated and use as a rich flavored ingredient in pasta, pizzas, soups, or stews.    

Lavender

If you have lavender plants, plan on harvesting their sweet aromatic florets for dried arrangements and sachets. Harvest lavender just as the florets begin to open. Cut off long stems, giving the plants a complete haircut and leaving a neat mound. This kind of harvesting yields lots of stems for crafting dried keeps your plants nicely pruned so they have a compact dense habit.

Harvest the stems in small bunches and tie them snugly together with string or rubber bands. Hang the bunches upside down to air dry for about a week in a dry place with good air circulation out of sunlight. Once dry, you can re-tie the bunches with pretty ribbon and wrap them in lavender tissue paper for gift giving. Their wonderful perfume and soft color will be much appreciated! To make sachets, rub the lavender florets off the stems with your fingers over a sheet, then collect in a bucket. Fill little muslin bags and tie with satin ribbons. Or buy lacy baby socks, stuff loosely with lavender florets and close with a few stitches under the cuff. Lavender sachets are delightful when tucked into the linen closet to softly scent sheets and towels or help protect and freshen wool sweaters.

 

Chiles

To make handsome, decorative chile strings, pick the fully colored chiles off the plants. Using dental floss or fishing line and a big crafting needle, string up the chiles by piercing them through their stem ends and then hang the strings up to dry thoroughly. They make brightly colored Christmas tree decorations to use in the kitchen after the holidays are over.
 

Renee's Garden Seed
Shopping List

To create Renee's gifts from the garden, add these plants to your garden:

Babette Baby French Carrots
Garden Candy Cherry Tomatoes
Pompeii Italian Sauce Tomatoes
Super Sugar Snap Peas
Tricolor Bush Beans
Tricolor Pole Beans
Chelsea Prize Cucumbers
Garden Oasis Cucumbers
Italian Pesto Basil
Sweet Green Basil
Dukat Dill
French Thyme
True Greek Oregano
All Lavenders

 

To purchase these and other
Renee's Garden Seeds, click here 

 

 

Try these great recipes from Renee's cookbooks:

Green Bean Pate with Basil
Lavender Shortbread
Green Tomato Mincemeat