You wait all year, dreaming, planning, planting, weeding, and finally it arrives — harvest time. Holy cow, where do you start? I’m done with snap beans as I’ve totally run out of room to put more. (Not a bad thing.) Now the peppers and tomatoes are coming on quickly. We’ve had plenty to eat and cook up, now we’re just getting into seed saving mode. Our wonder-girl, apprentice, Alisha, is here for another visit, gung-ho to experience more of everything. It’s fun to teach her as she’s so enthusiastic. Today she picked our Norland fall apples and tomorrow we’ll can up apple juice and applesauce. Norlands are great apples, but don’t store for more than a week or two before going soft. I showed Alisha our apple picker and she was able to harvest the whole tree without using a ladder. I really like that picker! (If you’d like to learn more about adding apples to your homestead, check out my article, Apples on your homestead in Issue #143 of Backwoods Home Magazine or the Twenty Fourth Year Anthology.) Our apple harvest is small this year due to the severe winter damaging and killing off some of our trees, and also killing the buds on flowering trees with two late freezes. Oh well, that happens and we have plenty of other things to can up.

Here’s Alisha with the Norland apples.
It’s easy to harvest those high-up apples with an inexpensive apple picker.

Our peppers are fantastic this year. So much so I’ve had to stake up several plants to keep them from breaking under the weight of their fruit. Our Mt. Etna Italian sweet peppers excel this year. There are more than a dozen large peppers on many of the plants, even some of the extras I planted down in the Sand garden. We picked most of the ripe peppers and spent the morning on the front porch, harvesting the seeds to save. As we were left with a whole bucket load of peppers, I showed Alisha how to make Cowboy candy and then Vaquero relish from the left-over Cowboy candy syrup. It was fast and oh so tasty! I’m making tons of the relish this year and even planted many extra peppers just for it. I make a dip using the Vaquero relish, cream cheese, sour cream, and some grated cheddar cheese that folks fight over. Now we can’t have that, can we? I added a few more Sugar Rush Peach hot peppers as they really have a unique, fruity/hot flavor we really love. The relish is not hot a bit. But you can taste the fruity flavor. Very nice! Every year I try to expand my variety in the pantry, trying new foods to can up. It’s so much fun — and tasty too.

We really love the sweet Mt. Etna peppers that we’re harvesting today.

I promised a picture of our tomato cages, which I’d forgotten. So it’s here today.

Here’s a photo of our tomato cages and stakes on our young tomato plants. Right now they’re two feet taller than the cages!

— Jackie


  1. Donna B., I pack the raw relish in the jars, then ladle the boiling syrup into the jars. I do this several times as it takes awhile for the syrup to ooze down through the relish. So there’s no set amount of syrup per jar; just fill to within 1/2″ of the top of the jar. Check out our seed treasures website for my canning book; shipping to Canada is more than the US but not really awful…..

  2. Sure. Next blog, look for photos. The cages are about 5′ high. They don’t EVER blow over because of the 6′ steel fence post stake inside every cage to hold the whole thing in one place. Wooden stakes broke off at the ground when we had a bad wind. The steel posts; never!

  3. The harvest is on and each night we ease into bed exhausted and aching. Potatoes look great and 1/2 are harvested, tomatoes canned, green beans canned. Dried black beans are a new crop for me. Had fun making a new sausage recipe. I too lost some mature apple trees with the winter-I will plant new but they take time. Our local fair is about over and it was fun to display BWH magazine and container gardening. I actually look forward to winter and the slower time. PS I see huge Hopi Pale Grey squash in our garden (I usually wait for first mild frost to harvest-? is this required?)

    • Tomatoes canned? Boy I wish I was done. But then I make so many different things from them; 4 spaghetti sauces, 5 barbecue sauces, pizza sauce, enchilada sauce, several salsas and whew. Yep, I wish I was done! But I don’t wish for winter. Please God, no frost in sight….. Yes, I usually wait for the first mild frost to harvest so the squash cure in the garden as long as possible as this makes them sweeter. Also I wait a month or more before we eat the first one for the same reason. But it’s hard…..

  4. I am looking for a Vaquero relish recipe also. Have a friend that loves Cowboy Candy. I got the Cowboy Candy for them from another friend. Always looking for ways to use everything. For those that don’t know. A vaquero is a Mexican cowboy.

    • You won’t find a recipe in books as I invented it last fall. As it came as a result of Cowboy Candy and then Cowgirl Candy, I stayed with the cowboy theme and named the pepper relish Vaquero Candy. Okay folks, here’s what I do;
      I make up a triple batch of syrup and then use it to first make Cowboy Candy. Then I use that same jalapeno flavored syrup with the jalapeno seeds sieved out to make Cowgirl Candy, using large dices of sweet peppers of various colors. I’ve still got a lot of syrup left at this point. I use that to make the Vaquero Relish, which is just chopped various colored sweet peppers which have been seeded. I ALSO add about 3-4 seeded Sugar Rush Peach hot peppers as they give the relish a distinctive fruity flavor. I pack the relish in 1/2 pint jars, ladle boiling syrup over it, leaving 1/2″ of headspace and waterbath the jars for 10 minutes. The Cowgirl Candy and Vaquero Relish are NOT hot or even really spicy. But boy are they good!

      • Thanks, Jackie for sharing this information. Your recipes are so good. (I am still hoping that I can buy one of your cookbooks somehow, someday, but they are not available through Canadian book sellers and the one copy on Amazon Canada is $150. While you are worth it, that is way out of my budget and the shipping cost to order through BHM is more than double the cost of the book!)

        One clarification regarding your Vaquero relish. What proportion of syrup to chopped peppers is used? I wasn’t sure if I just pack the jars the same way as I do with the sliced peppers or if I need to measure a certain amount of syrup to the peppers since they are minced and pack down well in the jar.

  5. Vancaro relish? I haven’t heard of that one Jackie? Can you share your recipe? You can put this in the Ask Jackie, if you need to. Thanks!

  6. Can you possibly post a picture of those tomatoes “right now” so we can see what they look like? I don’t know how tall the cages actually are, but it is hard to imagine they are so big! I think the wind would take out anything like that here.

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