Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

July, 2004
Regional Report


Harvest Tricks
Preserve peppers as soon as they're harvested. Quick-freeze them by slicing or dicing the whole peppers, spreading the pieces on a cookie sheet, and freezing them. Pack the frozen pieces into larger containers and use the pieces as desired. They will lose their crispness when they've thawed, but they're fine for recipes to be cooked.

To dry chili peppers, pick them when they're deep red and hang them in a sunny place until they're brittle. To dry other types of peppers, cut the larger ones in half or into pieces, or slit smaller-sized whole ones. Dry them until they're brittle. Store dried peppers in moisture- and vapor-proof containers in a cool, dry, dark place.

Freeze whole tomatoes for cooking later. After slight thawing, cut out the core and squeeze from the blossom end. The pulp will emerge easily and can be used in any recipe.

Quick, thick, tomato sauce can be achieved with little cooking. Puree whole, unpeeled tomatoes and freeze the pulp in a narrow-topped container, such as a plastic water jug. As it freezes, the clear liquid in the juice will separate and rise to the top of the container. When you're ready to make the sauce, remove the cap and turn the container upside down in a bowl to defrost. The clear liquid will melt before the pulp does, and the longer you allow the liquid to drain, the thicker the sauce remaining in the jug will get. Use this nutrient-rich clear liquid as a soup base.

Make a "sandwich" rack for drying fruit outdoors. Place a second rack on top of the fruit, and flip the "sandwich" each time the fruit needs to be turned. Use a single or double layer of cheesecloth to separate the fruit from the rack.

Local Buzz

New Fuchsias by End-of-the-Year Holidays
You can have fuchsias in bloom for Christmas if you choose the right varieties and take cuttings by early next month. Any fuchsia that does not need long days to set buds is suitable, including 'Angel's Flight', 'California', 'Dollar Princess', 'Elfriede Ott', 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt', 'Golden Anniversary', Hula Girl', 'Kathy Louise', 'Koralle', 'Leverkusen', 'Red Jacket', 'Stella Ann', and 'Trumpeter'. Root 3- to 4-inch terminal cuttings in a loose mix and transplant them into 6-inch pots. Pinch them every few weeks through October to encourage branching. Grow them in a bright window or under fluorescent lamps 3 to 6 inches above the plants for 12 to 16 hours a day until buds are set. Plants will bloom for months. Then cut them back and feed them for rebloom next summer.


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