Some New Faces

So my lineup of living things is much the same as it was last time… With the addition of some fancy new foodstuffs: dill and garlic!

One of these things is not like the others...

Basil, dill, garlic and syngonium

Like my basil plant, the dill was salvaged from one of those supermarket packages of “living” herbs with the roots & dirt still on.  It didn’t look so hot at first, but luckily I kept babying it and now it’s looking much more robust.  The resiliency of plants never ceases to amaze me!  I always worry when I over or under-water, or make some other mistake, like they’re fragile and delicate.

It mostly survived because I was too lazy to pull it out of the pot

Didn’t have a ton of hope for the dill at this stage…

But for the most part, they’re really, really not.  The dill looks fantastic now!  I’m afraid to harvest any, but maybe I should, if only to encourage branching.  It’s getting pretty tall.  I’ve been chopping off basil pretty aggressively (and putting it in everything, yum!) which is starting to make it pleasantly bushy.  But I’ll just leave the dill alone for now, I think.  It’s been through a lot.

Hard to tell with the trees in the background, unfortunately

Tall & proud, now! And even (mostly) green!

Like my basil, dill, and succulent, the garlic is also a “rescue…”  Can you tell that I don’t like paying for plants?  I forgot about a head of garlic in the fridge for a while, and was startled one day to find this at the back of my produce drawer:

"Plant me!"

This is the Farmpartment version of a “volunteer plant,” I suppose.

I planted eight cloves and let me tell you, they just boosted out of that soil.  They looked like this after I think only 2 days (no more than 3):

So fast.

What is this devilry???

Hit a little speed bump within the past week, unfortunately, and started yellowing and attracting a bunch of gnats.  I suspect a combo of too much water / too little sun, so I set up a nice makeshift grow light (aka desk lamp) and have been crossing my fingers for the soil to dry out a bit.  I probably should also thin them out, but I’m loathe to pull up any of my little volunteers  😦

I'm pulling for these little fellas!

We’ll just see how it goes.

Oh, and my bridal bouquet succulent has put out some new growth!  I’m honestly not quite sure how that works with succulents… will it just get spikier and spikier?  Will the old growth shrivel away?  I could absolutely google it, but I’m having quite a lot of fun just watching it do its thing.

My little baby is growing up! (I think.  Or I'm a plant grandma?)

Oh, the wonderful mystery of life…

Oh, and those papaya seeds from Hawaii?  Yeah, those didn’t work out.  I suppose I shouldn’t have expected much out of $2 souvenier seeds from a Wal-Mart next to the airport… But that would have been so cool!  Guess I’ll just have to “rescue” some sort of fruit seed next.

Do you have a garden, or a “garden” (like mine)?  How’s the harvest?

This post is shared in the DIY Linky at Little House in the Suburbs, and at Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday!

My Kombucha Process, in Excessive Detail, with Too Many Pictures

Do you have a kombucha SCOBY?  If not, go buy a bottle of kombucha and grow one real quick.  I’ll wait.  Find a smallish glass / ceramic container in which to store your SCOBY between batches.  While you’re at it, get yourself some pitcher-sized black tea bags, a bottle of (non-citrus) fruit juice, and a bag of white sugar (gasp!).  And scrounge up a big, wide-mouth glass jar or bowl or… vessel of some kind, some empty bottles (flip-top bottles are ideal if you’re real fancy like I am), and something permeable to cover the top of your vessel.  Optional but helpful, depending on your containers:  funnel and/or ladle.  Wash everything really well, but don’t use antibacterial soap!

Wow, it looks like a lot of stuff all out at once!

No, I did not forget to put out my fruit juice. I did that on purpose.

Ready?  Time to create some delicious, bubbly kombucha goodness!

Step One:  Brew yo’self up some tea, dump a bunch of sugar in it, and then cool it down.

Make enough tea to mostly fill your big glass vessel, following the instructions on the package as far as tea bags/water ratio, and how long to steep it.  

Lots of water!

5:00 for mine

(Pitcher-sized tea bags are key; otherwise you have like 10 strings going)

Take the tea bags out when it’s done, and dump a bunch of sugar in it (1 to 1.5 cup per gallon-ish).

Suuuugaaaaar...

Don’t worry, the buggies eat most of it.

Stir it around to dissolve the sugar.  I use the measuring cup to stir it rather than dirtying a spoon, because I hate doing dishes that much.

I am quite the lazy girl.

Now cool the tea down, so you don’t kill your SCOBY by overheating it.  I like to just set the pot in the sink with cold water around it for an hour or so, because my fridge is usually packed to the limit.  When it’s lukewarm, you’re ready to go.

Chillin'

It takes a while, go read a book… or a blog! (*wink)

Step Two:  Put the tea in the vessel, and the SCOBY in the tea in the vessel.  Cover the vessel.

Check out my sweet pouring moves!

The SCOBY will feel really slimy and gross – but cowboy up, it’ll be over soon.

Ewwwwww...

“Yee-haw!”

Little extra boost

Make sure to dump in the kombucha that the SCOBY’s been sleeping in

Your SCOBY might float, or it might sink, or if you’re lucky it might even do some weird thing where it stands on its end vertically.

Floating!

My SCOBY didn’t feel like performing any tricks this time…

Cover it all up with a little dishtowel or cheesecloth or something that allows air to circulate, but doesn’t allow bugs to circulate (the bad insect kind, not the good microscopic kind that I usually talk about).  I use a coffee filter, mostly because I’ve got a bunch of ‘em lying around from my pre-French-press days.

Step Three:  Ignore it for like a week.

Put it in the darkest, warmest spot you can find in your kitchen and ignore it for like a week.  Some people let it go for ten days; I usually stop it at six or seven.

Look at that sweet setup.

Yup, just ignore it.

The first few times you make it, you might want to take a little taste daily starting around day 5, until you get a feel for how long it should sit in your particular climate and for your particular preferences.  As it sits longer, it will get less sweet and more sour.  If you’re going to keep following my process, you’ll take it through a secondary ferment with juice, so you’ll probably want to stop it when it’s still a little bit sweeter than you’d like.  Protip:  if it turns out tasting too sour for you, you can always dilute it with water or add a little juice to your glass!  I did one of those two things with every single batch up until recently – it takes some time to learn how you like the ‘buch.

There might be a thin film of new SCOBY growing on top of your old SCOBY, or just on the surface of the tea-bucha (it’s kind of in the middle now, so I’m not sure what to call it…) if your old SCOBY sunk to the bottom.  It might look like little spots of mold at first glance, but don’t freak out.  It’s not mold unless it’s fuzzy!  I would include a picture, but mine didn’t make any this time.  You’ll know it if you see it, trust me.  Baby SCOBY is kind of gross.

Step Four:  Switch your kombucha into bottles and put your SCOBY to sleep.

Wash your hands really good (again, no antibacterial soap!) and grab your SCOBY out of its kombucha bath (yes, it’s truly kombucha now!).  Again, it will feel gross.

The switch!

“Yee-haw!”

Place it into its glass /ceramic container with a ladleful of your kombucha to cover it, and stick it in the fridge.

Ladleful to cover...

It’ll hibernate in there until you need it again.

Bedtime for SCOBY

Now pour some juice into your bottle(s), like an inch high.  I used a half cup (I usually don’t measure but I was curious) of straight-up cranberry juice and it’s super strong, so you might need more of a less aggressive juice.

Cranbucha!

Fill ‘em the rest of the way with the kombucha from your vessel and seal ‘em up.  (Sidebar:  I usually just ladle it straight in, but this time I strained it through the coffee filter to prevent the creepy little floaties that usually sink to the bottom of my bottle.  It definitely worked, but it took forever and I wouldn’t recommend it.  Just stop drinking before you finish the bottle to avoid the floaties.)  Wash your vessel and thank it for its service.

Wouldn't recommend the coffee filter thing.

The funnel comes in handy, here!

Step Five:  Ignore it for a couple more days.

Stick your closed bottles in the same place as before, and wait 1-3 days (again, shorter is sweeter and longer is… sour-er).  If you’re impatient like I am, sneak a glass before you put it away!

Same spot!

Patience is a virtue…

Sneaky glass!

…But I’m not all thaaaat patient.

Step Six:  Enjoy!

The best step!  Keep it in the fridge.

Pic was taken before the site redesign... Flashback!

You can figure this part out on your own!

This post is shared in Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, the Little House in the Suburbs DIY Friday Linky, and the Carnival of Home Preserving at Laura Williams’ Musings!