Random Thoughts

Five Things Friday

Freshly canned balsamic fig jam with black peppercorn

The five little things that made my week…

1. If you’re a canner, you know that little pop! of your lids sealing after coming out of their boiling water bath is music to the ears, amiright?!

It’s been insanely hot and humid this week in Southern California, but I’d promised my friend I’d teach her how to can, so I was so thankful that Ball sent me their electric water bath canner to try. Instead of heating up the stovetop (and the rest of the house) with a huge pot of boiling water, I just plugged this canner in — near the door, where we had a cool breeze — and putting up a small batch of balsamic fig jam was totally bearable in this heat wave.

I liked it so much that I ended up donating my old enamel canning pot and will be bringing the new one to Oregon with us. It’s surprisingly lightweight, and the electric base nests neatly inside the pot (along with all my canning tools), so it’s just one tidy package to store. I’m looking forward to canning in my new backyard when it’s nice out!

Tomatillo plant in the garden

2. Every season, there’s a different star crop in the garden, and this season it’s tomatillos. I had trouble growing them for a few years due to flea beetles, but they finally took off this summer and I just adore seeing the little green “paper lanterns” in my raised beds. (And if you’re wondering what I did differently this season, I can’t really pinpoint any one tactic I tried, but I suspect my new mesh pest control popup may have helped early on.)

Hybrid strawberry plant with pink flowers

3. Most of my strawberry plants have white flowers, so I love this lone strawberry plant in the garden that bursts with pink blooms every season. (The unusual color only occurs with hybrids.)

By the way, did you know that strawberry leaves are edible? Traditionally they have been used for medicinal benefits, and a common way of ingesting them is by steeping the leaves in hot water to make tea. They’re high in vitamin C and said to be a digestive aid, but I honestly cannot tell you much more than that.

However, what I can tell you is since I know the whole plant is edible, I often don’t bother to hull the strawberries before I eat them, and I never do when I blend them into smoothies. Less work + more nutrition = always a good thing in my kitchen.

She loves homegrown strawberries as much as I do

4. I guess I’m not the only one who loves homegrown strawberries! Yep, she pops the whole thing in her mouth, strawberry tops and little stems and all.

Harvesting seeds for Garden Betty's Ark

5. It’s that time of year… seed saving time! (Here’s a guide on how to select the perfect specimens for your seed harvesting, if it’s your first time doing it.) With a big move on the horizon, I’ve been collecting more seeds (and cuttings and plant divisions) than usual around the yard in hopes of growing them up north. I’m calling it Garden Betty’s Ark, and if I can get it together this month with photographing what I need, I hope to have a few posts coming in the fall with how you can start your own “ark” too.

(Any guesses on what this seed head is? I usually let these plants self sow, but I’m gathering seeds for the first time this year to take with me!)

Linda Ly About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »