Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gardening Midsummer

Greetings all! I have many deep and insightful things to write about, of course (not least of which is my fury at the most recent Batman movie), but today is not the time for that. I am outside for the first time in weeks. We finally had some rain last night, at last some moisture, and it is now below 80 degrees. Also for the first time in weeks. I'm sure most of you noticed the heat wave, though.

We are now smack dab in the middle of gardening season. I'm harvesting a lot from my plot, and starting to think towards what I can plant in the fall for a last little hurrah. For sure I will put in garlic to overwinter, and plant some more greens just for fall salads. I think spinach is a viable fall crop in these parts, too, but I wasn't very happy with my first experiment in growing it and might leave it alone.

Sadly, one of my last squash plants succumbed to the squash bugs earlier this week, making two years of failure in the squash growing department. Apparently I'd have to use pesticides if it were meant to be. I need to investigate my organic options before trying again. The unrelenting heat didn't help, either.

I harvested my first cucumber yesterday and am on board for another few today. They are not as happy as they could be, between the heat and the cucumber beetles. The sweet potatoes appear to be developing properly. The peppers are still alive, which is about all one can expect given the drought.

But the tomatoes are so very, very, very happy. I can't walk through the tomato jungle without smashing some poor little one underfoot! If I forget to harvest for just one day, they're rotting off the vines the next. And they have knocked over most of their wholly inadequate cages.

Yesterday I cooked this recipe with my glut of cherry tomatoes (canning, freezing, eating off the vine--nothing puts a dent in them. These suckers are PROLIFIC), and I have to say that roasting them is the best. The particular heirloom variety that I planted is almost sour if eaten raw, but sweetens fantastically with a bit of olive oil and a half hour in the oven. These guys would be delicious dried--maybe I'll have to look into a dehydrater.

We've been eating a lot of gazpacho and pizza, too. Anything to make use of the delicious tomatoes. But I think that Saturday will be another canning day, based on the rate this next round is ripening. Canning continues to be very effective, and I've almost filled up a self in our pantry two deep with tomato sauce, salsa, pickles, and jams. My canning recipes mostly come from the book "Canning for a New Generation." This particular book is neat because it has a lot of herbal additions to jams and jellies, a lot of pretty pictures, a low-sugar approach (more work but quite fun regardless), and recipes for how to use the canned products. I have tried:

  • Strawberry Jam
  • Strawberry Jam with Thai Herbs
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
  • Pickled Beets
  • Spicy Carrot PIckles
  • Nectarine Jam
  • Classic Peach Jam
  • Peach Jam with Lemon Thyme and Almonds
  • Cardamom Plum Jam
  • Hot Cumin-Pickled Summer Squash
  • All-Purpose Tomato Sauce
  • Charred Tomato and Chile Salsa
And I still have several others to try (Tomato and Basil Jam, Red Onion Marmalade, apple butter, pear and ginger preserves, and perhaps Pickled Greens with Fresh Chiles, Grapefruit Marmalade, and the Cabernet Sauvignon Jelly). If you can't tell, canning is my new crochet--all absorbing, totally enjoyable, and a welcome product at the end of all the work. Also, it fits into my general effort to reduce consumption: I have bought almost no new clothes this summer, because canning fills the same place as retail therapy for me, but with less expense and a more useful product. Canning food from my garden is unalienated eating at its finest!

Finally, my dear husband has gotten into the preserving spirit. I got home from a trip to find that he had frozen kernels from a half dozen ears of corn from our CSA! I was so proud of him and grateful he took over a task I couldn't do! If the apocalypse hit now, we'd probaly have enough calories stocked up for, like, two weeks!

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