My three hori horis: front, hand-forged hori hori by Sam Hibbs; center, original Japanese weeder from Lee Valley Tools; back, Barebones Living hori hori with case behind it.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
Soft, yet heavy-duty leather gloves by Gold Stag are great for handling firewood and outdoor chores.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
Susan's favorite soft and warm work gloves.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
A selection of canning jars are great for the gardener who cooks.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
These Ball and Tattler lids are leakproof and are great for making products with vinegar or alcohol, since the lids will not corrode. The small lid, front left, is a shaker lid that fits a standard-size canning jar. Photo: Susan Belsinger
These new jar shapes are part of the Ball Collection Elite Series. Left: sharing jar, right: spiral jar. www.freshpreserving.comPhoto/Illustration: susan belsinger
Amber glass does not allow the UV rays to come through so these jars are ideal for storing herbs and making herbal vinegars, shrubs and tinctures.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
I particularly like both the aesthetics and the ergonomics of the spiral jars (right).These water kefir lids are available at https://www.masontops.com/products/kefir-cap-kefir-brewing-lids-for-mason-jars-2-pack and make the process a few steps easier--no more burping the jars to let out the fermentation gases.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
Why not give the gardeners in your life a useful gift that they will use and appreciate? Here are a few ideas for gardeners who like to cook and cooks who like to to garden. These are items that I use often.
A few tools of the trade that I could not live without are my hori hori and garden gloves. I actually have three hori horis (which indeed, is wretched excess) though I use all of them. My oldest Japanese weeding knife, a well-worn original came from Lee Valley Tools and is well over 20 years old; it has a flat wooden handle. I have given many of these as gifts over the years.
I also have a newer, high-end version made by Barebones Living, which comes with a sturdy holster. It has a rounded wooden handle rather than flat, which is a more ergonamic grip, though a bit large for a small hand and the blade is longer than my original. Many newer models have longer blades that are marked with one-inch increment measurements. Barebones model even sports a handy, in-blade bottle opener for thirsty gardeners.
Last though not least, my newest acquisition is a hand-forged hori hori created by Sam Hibbs, who is the blacksmith at the Ozark Folk Center. After seeing a garden spade that he made, I took him my hori hori and asked if he could make one–with a longer blade. After a few trials and errors, Sam created a handsome and useful tool that fits my hand nicely, longer bladed and is sharp as the dickens. Holsters are a good idea–although mostly, I don’t keep my hori hori in a holster when I am working in the garden–I carry it around with me and it does tend to reek havoc with my overall pockets.
Good garden gloves are essentials. I wear lighter-weight ones in the summer and heavier lined ones in the winter since I handle a lot of firewood and I do not like my hands to be cold. I don’t much like gloves with seams that I can feel and I don’t like a glove that gets hard and makes it difficult to bend your fingers or hand. I have a small hand and want the glove to fit and not be awkwardly too large, nor tight. I was gifted a pair of blablas a few years ago which are soft, washable and warm and are great for woodwork, weeding and outdoor chores in cold weather; I am hoping for a new pair since these are fairly worn. My gardening friend, Tina Marie Wilcox, has a pair of Gold Stag leather gloves–she works out in the cold and really likes them for handling firewood. If you have a brand of gloves that you love–please share and let me know about them.
As a gardener who likes to cook and preserve food, I love to look at canning and preserving jars, lids and equipment. For years, I have looked for lids which are not metal for my vinegars and alcohol tinctures which tend to corrode lids. They sell white plastic lids, which I tried, however they are not leakproof. Recently Ball came out with a grey, heavy-duty plastic, leakproof lid. The lids work, however they do have to be screwed down good and tight. I am very pleased to have them for my medicinal remedies, shrubs and vinegars. Another alternative are BPA-free lids by Tattler that can be used with the standard metal rings. They work very well and can be processed in a water bath or pressure canner and are also reusable, although I had to order replacement orange rubber rings, which do wear out.
Ball has many new shapes (see Ball collection elite wide-and standard-mouth jars) and colors of canning jars (https://www.freshpreserving.com/). I like having them on hand for gifts and they make attractive as well as handy, storage containers. While the blue Ball jars are pretty, I don’t really use them for canning–though perhaps for storage or gift-giving–and they look nice with a votive candle in them. The amber glass is new and it is ideal for storing herbs and spices and herbal remedies since clear glass allows light, which breaks down the essential oils. You cannot see your products through them; I am wishing for some spice jars made from the brown glass. They do make a new snap-tight shaker lid for standard jars, which is great for sprinkling cut-leaf herbs.
The new spiral design indents in the center of the jar (like a waist) and I find it much easier to grip than the standard, wide-mouthed quart canning jar. I use these for making my water kefir. And speaking of kefir, my daughter Lucie, sent me some really great Kefir Cap Brewing Lids made by Masontops for making water kefir that are comprised of two parts–a strainer lid with small spout–and a cover that slides on and off easily, which can be closed airtight or can open slightly so you don’t have to bother with burping your kefir. They are very handy and useful and make the job easier since it cuts out a step of straining the grains through a strainer. https://www.masontops.com/products/kefir-cap-kefir-brewing-lids-for-mason-jars-2-pack
I am happy to have these jars and lids to keep my garden harvest in and to give as holiday gifts. Most of us don’t need more stuff in our lives–so give a gift that is practical and handy–something that your favorite gardneners and cooks will use.
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