I've raved about my Oxo 11-pound digital kitchen scale before and no doubt will again. It's worth every penny of the $49.99 I paid for mine three years ago from amazon.com, but now they often have it for even less. (April 2011 update: it's currently just $42.34.)
Basil from the kitchen garden on 9/4/10
Realization of the day:
I literally cannot remember life before my kitchen scale. I often use it several times a day.
If you read the question in this post and your immediate answer was no, I kindly suggest you do these two things and then come back:
1. Go to three different places and buy a bunch of Swiss chard or kale—or even parsley or cilantro—at each one. Are they anywhere near the same size? Didn't think so.
2. Ask three people to measure out two cups of basil leaves for you, then lay the piles side by side and compare them.
Another interesting experiment, though it isn't relevant to my yes, you really do need a kitchen scale argument, is to buy a lemon at three different places and compare the sizes. Zest and juice them if you want, too. Yeah, whoa. Huge difference probably, huh? And how many recipes simply call for 'the zest of one lemon,' or 'the juice of one lemon?' That kind of drives me nuts.
But back to the scale. Once you have one in your kitchen, it's amazing how many things you'll probably find yourself weighing while cooking and baking. They're also are great for weighing postage, especially since you need to know the weight of a package if you want to print out a mailing label online and avoid waiting in line at the post office.
If you're a gardener, a kitchen scale can be put to even more good use—weighing all of your beautiful bounty. A scale will give you a real idea of how much you're harvesting. For example, I had no clue how many total pounds of tomatoes I grow each year—until I started buying them from our Amish neighbors a couple of years ago when I didn't have any and realized we managed to eat 25 pounds in a couple of weeks. And they were all consumed fresh! Thank goodness their prices are very reasonable, but I still really need to get back into my tomato growing groove. Next year, next year.
I've noticed running harvest tallies on several garden blogs this summer, and it's been fun to see how much bounty other gardeners are getting. If you want to
feel like a real underachiever be totally impressed, check out Nathan and Aimee's list of harvest totals in the left sidebar of their blog, 2 Acre Farm: The Experiences, Trials, and Lives on a Small Farm in Rural Illinois. Here are just a few of the things on the list as of August 21st, their 16th Farmers' Market Week:
13.35 lbs. Cilantro
29 lb. 11 oz. Purple Top Turnips
46 lbs. Purple Top Turnip Greens
9 lb. 12 oz. Burgundy Okra
4 lbs. 8 oz. Rocket Arugula
121 lb. 9 oz. Provider Snap Beans
A scale is so handy, even if your bounty doesn't weigh anywhere near what theirs does. Thirteen pounds of cilantro? Forty-six pounds of turnip greens? Oh my gosh. I just realized that these might actually just be the harvest totals for that one day, not the entire year to date. There's a total of 49 different vegetables listed. Are these two gardeners amazing or what? Everything is Certified Naturally Grown, and this was their first full season!
I bought my first digital kitchen scale at least ten years ago, and immediately fell in love. So many things to weigh! Three years ago I upgraded to this 11-pound Oxo Good Grips scale and have nothing but good things to say about it. It weighs in both grams and ounces, and the pull-out display, which allows you to weigh big bowls of things, is fabulous. It's no surprise that America's Test Kitchen (the publishers of Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines) voted this scale #1.
It's also small enough that instead of storing it away in a cupboard, I just stand it on end and lean it on the back of my big butcher block work table, so it's always within easy reach. If you're a bread baker, a kitchen scale is great for dividing up dough. For example, my Oatmeal Toasting Bread recipe makes three loaves, and weighing the dough allows you to easily make them all the same size. And portioning out 16 Carrot Herb Rolls is a snap.
I haven't been harvesting much of anything by the pound lately, but I did manage to snip almost 12 ounces of basil from my one plant back on September 4th. After trimming off the stems, I ended up with the 6-7/8 ounces you see pictured above, which I turned into some wonderful pesto. This was the second cutting—remember how I ruined the first one back in August?
Then yesterday afternoon, with the threat of falling temps, I picked another 2-7/8 ounces, some of which will go into some of my easy homemade Italian sausage, which will in turn go onto a homemade pizza (you'll find my simple pizza dough recipe here). I covered the plant with floating row cover and an old bedsheet, but didn't want to take any chances. And good thing, as it's 32° this morning! I left plenty of new growth on the plant and may even get another small harvest from it, depending on the weather—and if I remember to cover it up each night. For more about this, check out my previous post, How To Keep Your Basil Plants Growing into Fall.
Do you have a kitchen scale? What do you love weighing with it?
For those of you who can't wait to hear what my other five worthwhile kitchen investments for gardeners—or anyone with access to a good farmers' market—are (and in case for some reason I never get around to finishing that post), I'll list them briefly here:
—A food dehydrator. My first one quickly paid for itself in dried tomatoes alone—simply slice paste tomatoes in half and set them cut side up in the trays. A few years ago I upgraded to this Nesco 700-watt model and love it. The adjustable thermostat is great. You can learn how easily I dry pear slices in this recent post on Farmgirl Fare: Got Pears? My Three Favorite Recipes, Plus How To Make Your Own Dried Pears.
—A food mill. I use a classic Foley food mill to make my Really Easy Low Sugar Pear Butter and Homemade Tomato Vegetable Juice, but I'm just looking for an excuse to order this Oxo Good Grips food mill, which doesn't cost much more than the Foley and has three different grinding discs, along with some other nifty features. Several Farmgirl Fare readers said they love theirs in the comments section of my Pear Butter Recipe post.
—A Water Bath Canner. Canning is a great way to preserve seasonal bounty. It isn't difficult or dangerous, and the basic equipment is very affordable. I use a canner like this one, and I've found this inexpensive home canning accessories kit to be invaluable.
—A FoodSaver vacuum sealer. We have one of the original models that still works after 20+ years, and have used it to seal everything from green beans to spare chainsaw chains (keeps them from rusting). A few years ago I bought this really nice one, which is still available although apparently discontinued by the manufacturer. You can purchase ready made bags, but it's much more economical to buy rolls of the FoodSaver bag material and make your own. The bags can be reused over and over. (I haven't had good luck using other brands of bag material.) The FoodSaver company also has excellent customer service.
—A chest freezer. We have several. The first tiny one I purchased nearly 20 years ago entirely changed my life. Our newest one is 24.9 cubic feet. Totally worth the initial investment and literally only costs a few dollars a month to run.
Okay, so I guess this pretty much does cover the entire originally planned Six Worthwhile Kitchen Investments for Gardeners post!
Did I miss anything? What kitchen tool does the gardener in you never want to be without?
© FarmgirlFare.com, the hot tea drinking foodie farm blog where it's time to get out there and see how everything in the garden and greenhouse look on this chilly morning, and then start preparing for tonight's predicted frost—12 days earlier this year than our 'official' first frost date. Yikes.