mornings are cool and dewy again, optimistic, orange and red marigolds nestled with pink zinnias and gomphrena, the mint trails with one last blooming, the delicata squash have all been harvested, the last of the green beans are picked, we are beginning to gather the first leaves of arugula, spinach, and radishes from the fall garden, peppers are abundant, green tomatoes hang on the vine and we wonder if they will ripen, ash seeds cover the stairs, a few yellow leaves fall, squirrels busily bury walnuts, windows are open and the skies are bright blue, night arrives at 7:30.
Not too much happening in my garden these days. We've got Red Russian kale and collards (a second planting) that are going strong. Those prolific Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes and Mexican Sour Gherkins, still as prolific as ever. Our husk cherries are in a race with the frost. We were spared recently but for how long?
I like the end of the season. Not too much to worry about other than the harvest. There's the surprise of a final dahlia bloom, going outside to pick greens for dinner, the pure joy of cooking with your own produce in late September and possibly even into October. And if the frost comes, the knowledge that I'm just fine with fried green tomatoes or green tomato pickles.
Our harvest hasn't been a good one for preserving. We just didn't have the quantity this year. Lucky for us, we have friends who are also gardeners, and we've been gifted a store of carrots and tomatillos (for salsa verde, which I hope to can this weekend). Nothing beats walking down to the basement and pulling out a jar of homemade salsa verde to serve with chips in the winter. If you're wondering I like the recipe from Canning For a New Generation by Liana Krissoff.
this week i am preparing for a home preserving & canning workshop that i will teach this saturday in northwest arkansas. ozark folkways is an incredible little place that focuses on most skills forgotten in this age of consumerism & quick fixes. i cannot wait to get all of the students together for a morning of preserving apple butter.
the photo above shows my kitchen table in its current state- little scribbles of to do lists & ideas for the big day. i finally perfected my recipe & i am looking forward to sharing it. i hope to make the kitchen a cozy little space for working, jamming & canning. the students will take home a jar of their own jam & a bag filled with supplies for decorating their jars for the holidays. (i wish you all, each & everyone of you, could be there).
i also plan to pass out a packet of information on my favorite blogs, books & publications.
as fall arrives, and the cold air makes its way into our bones, i find myself turning to a pot of tea in the evenings to warm myself up. here is one of my favorite herbal tea recipes, that can be made almost entirely from things you might grow in your garden or find around your neighborhood:
1 part peppermint
2 parts lemon balm
2 parts red clover
2 parts nettle
not only is this a deliciously tasty combination, but has many medicinal properties to keep you healthy through this transition of seasons. Peppermint helps with digestion and eases nausea and stomach cramps. Lemon Balm also helps soothe the stomach, as well as helping with insomnia. Red Clover is really good for respiratory problems, such as colds coughs and bronchitis, it is also high in calcium and iron. Nettle is pretty much the super herb; it is high in many vitamin and mineral and helps with a variety of health issues, from the reproductive system, to metabolism, to the liver.
this year i grew lemon balm and peppermint in my garden, and i foraged almost a half a gallon of red clover from around the neighborhood. i purchase my nettle in bulk at our local food co-op, and I'm pretty sure you could find it (and any of these herbs) at most health food stores, or at Mountain Rose Herbs.
do you have any favorite herbal recipes from your garden?
According to the calendar, today is the last day of summer. Sigh. And today I finished the last of our garden strawberries that we had frozen from early in the season. Sigh again. They were so good. We used them mostly in smoothies and today I blended strawberries with some of our frozen peaches, a bit of vanilla greek yogurt, frozen banana, a dash of milk, about three ice cubes, and a splash of lemon juice for jazziness. Yum.
I think freezing is so easy. Last year we had a surplus of tomatoes and decided to freeze them for use in spaghetti sauce, chili, etc. If you've never tried freezing, simply wash the whole fruit well and remove any mushy spots. Then lay them out to dry on a towel. Once dry, spread the fruit onto a cookie sheet and put in the freezer. When they are frozen through, you can store them in containers or gallon zip top bags. We didn't even bother to remove the skins prior to freezing. I find it just as easy to remove the skins when I am ready to cook with them. All you have to do is dunk the whole frozen tomatoes into hot water for about a minute then off slide the skins.
okay, i'll admit it. i am guilty of neglecting my gardens. i know i'm not alone, which is why i feel comfortable admitting this here. clearly taking on my most ambitious gardening efforts the same summer that i was planning a wedding [mine] and that my full-time job was extremely demanding was not the best idea. but still, i do not regret it. i know i could have actually pulled out the peas once they dried up back in july. and i know i could have planted some fall crops in their place, and in the place of the garlic i harvested months ago. but i didn't. and you know what? it's okay.
as much as i may have neglected my gardens these past two months, it is still producing. still making me happy every time i pick a tiny little cherry tomato off those volunteer plants wedged between the chard and beans. still surprising me when i pulled up over a dozen small onions that i thought were dead and shriveled [even if they're not much larger than the starts i planted back in the early spring, i will still eat them with pride].
so. even though my garden could have been better, more productive, more lush, more organized. it's not. and i am still so very grateful for what it produces. because of my efforts, or in spite of them.
although it is not quite officially fall yet, i can feel it coming.
this time of year always brings a new flurry of activity into our lives. and i find myself stepping back and observing more than doing in the garden.
some observations: -the song of the cricket -sedums in bloom -the changing light -seed heads, and pods -the rustling of grass heads -ripe crab apples soon to be eaten by the squirrels and the birds -beautiful brown eggs -the slowing down of the harvest
some additions: -two new critters -and a rock wall
i hope to finish a few more tasks and projects in the garden before the cold weather really hits.
but i too find myself slowing down a bit and going to seed.
This is the first year my husband and I have planted delicata squash. Last year we bought a couple regionally grown squashes from the grocery store and really liked them. They reminded me so much of sweet potatoes which are one of my favorite autumn foods. So this spring, we planted two mounds at the back edge of the garden with about three plants (from seed) in each mound. Thankfully, the plants spread and flourished all through the hot summer. Now that some of the older leaves are dying back we have just begun to harvest them. (I believe M. said he counted about forty squash out there!) Two nights ago we ate one that he stuffed and grilled, so good. Today I picked these three, along with zinnias and gomphrena. (I'm still all about the gomphrena.)
Anyway, the little research I've done on harvesting and storing delicata squash suggest a few things:
Use a serrated knife to remove the squash from the plant. Leave part of the stem attached to the squash, it is supposed to store longer that way. The stems do snap off easily so if this happens as it did on one I picked, eat that squash first.
To cure or not to cure: I have read different views on this. What's your take on it? Are the squashes sweeter tasting if kept at room temperature a few days after picking?
For the long term, store the squash in a cool dry place, around 50 degrees.
Have you grown delicata squash before? What have you learned?
we had such issues with soil fertility this year that we decided cover crops were a must for us. if we're lucky, the cover crops will help take care of our weed problem, too.
i love organic grower's supply handy dandy chart, which tells you all about the cover crops available. we selected two for our two gardens.
and morton oats.
we simply sprinkled the seeds in all of our raised beds, even if there were still vegetables growing. a great place to use a cover crop is in your garlic bed, as soon as you harvest. broadcast your seeds, watch them grow, and then turn the cover crop under the soil before planting your garlic in october. cover crops definitely give your soil a boost, which in turn gives your vegetables a boost. win-win.
after amy's post about pickled peppers on friday, i've been thinking i'd share with you some of my favorite pickle recipes. let me just start by saying that i love pickles. seriously love. give me a jar of sour pickles and i'm set. in my few years of making pickles, i've mostly stuck with cucumbers, with a slight [and delicious] foray into dilly green beans last year.
my stand-by recipe is for spicy polish dill pickles. these are the perfect sour dill pickles with the added bonus of a nice spicy kick. i discovered this recipe a couple of years ago and have adapted it a bit.
3 1/2 lbs small to medium cucumbers, sliced in quarters [the long way] will make approximately 5 pint jars. i prefer wide mouth for pickles so the jars are easy to pack.
while you are sterilizing your jars, make the brine. for 3 1/2 lbs cucumbers, heat up 3 cups water, 1 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup canning/pickling salt. heat until just before boiling [so it's bubbling around the edges]
once the jars are sterilized, pack each jar with:
1 grape leaf [this is key to keeping your pickles crunchy]
1 fresh dill head
1 whole jalapeno pepper
1 whole garlic clove
1/4-1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
pour hot brine over packed jars, leaving 1/2" headspace at the top of the jars. put on lids and bands and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
since i had so many cucumbers this year, [after making 3 batches of these pickles] i wanted to try something new. last week, i made 2 new pickle recipes. the first was these quick refrigerator pickles. i'd always avoided refrigerator pickles, thinking they wouldn't be sour enough for me. i put these together on friday [almost 36 hours ago] and tried one today. while not as sour as i prefer, they are quite tasty, and definitely not sweet. i think they'll only get better with time. [side note: that jar in the top is the only thing i could find to weigh down the cucumbers that would fit within the opening of this half gallon jar. looks weird, but it works!]
the third batch of pickles i'm currently experimenting with this year are these kosher dills. i started these on friday evening as well and haven't tried any yet. i'm going to put them in the fridge tonight and see how they progress.
so, any other favorite pickle recipes out there we should be trying?
a few weeks ago we made nachos. as we were munching away, we all agreed that they needed a little something. a little heat maybe? yes. some pickled hot peppers. the next day we picked some jalepenos and serranos and got pickling. we are all set now for our next batch of nachos.
pickled hot peppers
jalepanos or serranos whole or sliced 1 sweet red pepper sliced 1 cup apple cider vinegar 1 cup water 1 tbsp peppercorns 3 cloves of garlic, lightly pounded 2 tbsp coarse sea salt 1 tbsp sugar
pack the peppers in a glass jar. in a saucepan, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 5 minutes. pour the hot pickling liquid over the peppers and let it rest for a few hours. shake it up a bit so that the peppercorns are evenly distributed. for a crunchy bite, you can start nibbling on them within a few hours. for a softer texture, let sit for 4-5 days. keep refrigerated for up to two months or can it according to jar manufacturer’s instructions.
This has not been the best year for tomatoes. In fact, most of our tomatoes (with the exception of Cherokee Purple) have experienced some serious cracking due to a dry July followed by heavy rains. We've also been contending with septoria leaf spot, watching as it crawls up the base of our plants. After reading up on septoria, I think we are partially to blame. We often plant our tomatoes a little closer together than is ideal, due to lack of space and our desire to plant many varieties. Have any of you been dealing with this fungus? It is quite common.
Still, the tomatoes are coming in (finally!) and I have my eye on a few ways to preserve them for winter eating:
i love following the palate of the season. there is a real connection made with farmers & the landscape when enjoying in-season foods. tonight's dinner was just that & delicious, too- acorn squash stuffed with sausage from the farm, carrots, yellow squash & garlic. paired with frozen peas, this meal was quick, which allowed for a few more hours spent outside enjoying this cool relief.
stuffed acorn squash adapted slightly from simply in season serves 4
2 medium acorn squash cut squash in half. remove seeds with a spoon. place cut side down on a greased baking sheet. bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes until soft. remove from oven & set aside.
1 lb. sausage 3 cloves garlic (minced) 4 carrots (shredded) 2 yellow squash (cubed) 1 stale slice of bread 3 tbsp. brown sugar
saute sausage until cooked through. mix garlic, carrots, & yellow squash in bowl. add to pan with sausage, cover & simmer for 15 minutes. stuff filling into acorn squash. tear up bread & place on top. sprinkle brown sugar on top. bake at 375F for 10 minutes. add a dab of butter on top when serving.