Sunday, October 03, 2010

Is a Digital Kitchen Scale an Essential Garden Tool? I Think So - Plus Five More Worthwhile Kitchen Investments for Gardeners

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, but now they often have it for even less. (April 2011 update: it's currently just $42.34.)

Garden Basil on Kitchen Scale
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?

©, 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.


  1. We do have a scale, and I do use it, but I would probably use it more if it weighed higher than 11 pounds (how heavy IS that prime rib from the meat processing place that doesn't put weights on the labels? I can only say more than 11 pounds) and if I had the space to leave it on the counter. Hauling it out from under the baker's rack is a pain.

    But I wouldn't weigh all the vegetables I harvest, anyway. It'd be fun to know how much the garden produces, but it's all I can do to plant it, tend it, harvest it, and can it, forget the extra step of putting it all on the scale in 11-pound increments.

    I think the most essential vegetable gardening item is something good to haul your harvest into the house with. I have a canvas bucket thing I got with one of our seed orders last year that's great for cucumbers and squash and other non-bruisable stuff. For tomatoes and things, I have been using a really big plastic dish pan, but it's cracked from the weight of so many harvests. I am now considering getting another of the enameled metal dishpans from Lehman's, just for harvesting. Much sturdier, and large enough for the crazy amounts I tend to haul around.

  2. Just wanted to let you know that every time I come to the Kitchen Garden site lately I get a "malware detected" warning. May be malware hidden in one of the ads.

    I love the idea of a kitchen scale but haven't gotten around to getting one yet!

  3. I love my food saver. I keep wanting to get a kitchen scale but I'm not entirely sure how I'd use it (rather for what purpose). I'm afraid it would be like the juicer I asked for (and received) a few years ago that i have never once used. :(

    these are great suggestions! thanks for sharing!

  4. Hey Kristin,
    Ha, that basil in this photo is sitting in a 12-inch shallow enamelware bowl. I discovered vintage enamelware last year and am now crazy about the stuff. It's so durable and useful.

    'Something to haul your harvest into the house with' is a great addition to this list. I've been meaning to write about the many different harvesting containers I use for ages. I use all kinds of things, in all different sizes.

    My current favorite (which I'll write about in a post hopefully soon) is a 12 gallon tote made by Planet Friendly Plastic - you can see it here. These are awesome - and made from 99% recycled plastic. The website says this whole line of products is available exclusively at Lowe's.

    I bought one tote a few months ago, and then went back and bought two more. They're great for laundry and all sort of other things, too. And they were either $6 or $7 each. Such a deal. The last time we were there I didn't see any, but if this is the exclusive outlet, they should get more in soon.

    They would not only work great for harvesting, but also for filling with weeds, compost, etc. Totally durable.

    Hi Katiedid,
    Malware? I'm not even sure what that is, but I know it's not good. Thanks for the heads up. I haven't seen anything pop up when I've been on the site.

    If you - or anybody else reading this - gets that message again, could you please take a screen shot (press PRINT SCREEN button on keyboard, then paste onto something like PAINT) and email it to me?

    farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com

    I've just notified my ad network (and am trying not to panic), but without any more information to go on, I don't know if they'll be able to help me figure out what's going on.

    With or without a screenshot, any other details anyone can give me - is this message showing in a pop up window? What is it saying exactly? etc. would be great.

    I definitely haven't purposely installed anything bad on my blog! :)


    Hey Laura,
    I mostly use my kitchen scale to weigh ingredients - everything from vegetables and herbs to flour for baked goods. Some people swear by weight measurements when baking - and it can make things go a lot faster.

    If you're making my 100% Whole Grain Bran Muffins for example, you just put your mixing bowl on the scale, then add each ingredient directly into the bowl until you have the desired weight, no measuring cups required. The scale has a 'zero out' button you just press after each addition, bringing the weight back to zero, so you can add the next ingredient.

    I'm sure there are plenty of people who buy a kitchen scale and don't end up using it much, but as the years go by, I find myself using mine more and more. It's also small enough that I just lean it upright on the back of my big butcher block work table, so it's always handy to grab. Not having to go get it definitely makes a difference, as Kristin mentioned above. :)

  5. Me again!
    Another thing about those 12-gallon Planet Friendly Plastic totes? On top of everything else, they're also made in the USA. :)

  6. We somehow managed to lose our scale when we moved and still haven't found it after 4 years. Maybe I'll go ahead and buy that Oxo one while it's on sale.

    I am really jealous of your enamelware bowl! I've become obsessed with the stuff lately and I ogle every piece I come across. Every one I've found locally has been ridiculously over-priced, so my collection hasn't really taken off yet.

  7. I'm baaack! : )

    Okay, I just heard back from a blogging friend who is much more technically knowledgeable than I am, and this is what she said regarding your malware comment:

    Have them clear cookies and see if that changes. There is a scam out there, a pop up, that says "malware detected" but it is a scam to get people to click/buy.

    The question to your reader is, what is the source of the warming? If it is their virus software, take it seriously.

    If it is anything else, it is likely NOT your site, even if it seems to appear while on your site.

    So again, if anybody is seeing this warning while on either In My Kitchen Garden or Farmgirl Fare, I would really appreciate any information about it that you can give me.


  8. I don't have a scale but it's on my xmas list of things I want to get! A food mill is also on that list. Thanks for the great tips!

  9. I purchased this scale this summer, mainly for weighing blueberries that we sell,but it has come in so handy!!!! I love the pull out feature when you have a odd or large contaner!!

  10. Ok, so my basil has bolted. I kept cutting it back for a while, but then I went away for a week... Anyway, what are the chances of cutting it back and having it keep going? It's not like we're going to get any freezes until December anyway... (am in So. Cal.)

  11. Thank you for the info about Amazon's sale...I'm getting their digital scale. Poor basil and cilantro...poor farden...hail struck last night as big as wlanuts, garden is shredded! I gathered cucumbers that were spread out like dead fish on a net of flattened leaves.

  12. Would you believe that JUST TODAY!!! we bought a kitchen scale at Walmart--a no name brand for $35. Now that I just read your post I'm considering taking it back and ordering the OXO. We bought it mainly for soap making experimenting but also for postage. Your post lets me know that it can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen, too! Thanks for the links.

  13. I'm with you. i LOVE my scale and i've been weighing all our bounty this year to total it all up at the end of the year. the hardest thing i've found is writing down the tallies in an organized fashion. i probably should have used excel instead of a wrinkly old column pad in the kitchen ;)

  14. I asked for one for Christmas. Wheeee!

  15. Great post! I'm going to weigh my harvest this year - I usually guesstimate.

    My favorite kitchen tool in the garden is a cheap bread knife for root-pruning plants that have become slighly pot-bound before planting. You don't blunt your Felcos (or other good pruners). Just make sure it's a plant that responds well to root-pruning.
    Mel in Melbourne

  16. Yep - bought that exact scale a few years ago based on your recco and have never regretted it. Awesome. It's how I've managed to track my harvests every year and found out that YIKES! 4 Better Boy tomato plants can produce over 200 lbs of tomatoes.

    Also - the only thing I'd add to your list of garden must-haves (since I have them all except the dehydrator and love all of them dearly except maybe the food mill) is a juicer. The $50 Waring one is great and has alleviated my fear of the POUNDS of carrots coming from our farm share. And a citrus juicer is awesome for the lemons, limes and oranges that abound around here. I get to be my neighbors' hero when I harvest a garbage bag full of limes every few weeks to juice and freeze.

  17. My husband and I debated and debated whether or not buy a scale a few years ago and now I don't know what I'd do without it. It makes me feel so proficient and efficient in the kitchen. And like someone else commented, it is fun to weigh the produce I grow and say I can't believe my squash weighed ? lbs! Scales are fun.


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!