It’s hard to believe it is already mid-September. On one hand it seems like the garden has been in for years. On the other it seems like we just got to the good stuff. I think both are partly correct. The garden has been in for years now and there is never a time we can’t harvest something, even if it is just herbs, and in just a couple of months I will have to organize seeds, evaluate what worked and what did not, and start planning next year’s garden so I can order seeds and start planting.
The last couple of weeks have been peak harvest for us. The tomatillos came in three weeks ago and we made a lot of salsa verde. We now use ghost peppers to spice it up a bit as they seem to be the only pepper we grow that cuts through the sweetness. We also roast 1/3 of the tomatillos, smoke 1/3 in the smoker, and leave the remaining 1/3 raw. This combo gives us a nice final flavor. I got very nervous when tomato fruit worms (different than the tomato hornworms that attack the tomatoes) invaded the plants. I got even more nervous when the plants started wilting. I think the later was caused by them cracking under their own weight.
The tomatoes have been going strong and far surpassed our ability to eat. This prompted us to find a canned tomato sauce recipe. We also froze a lot of a fresh pasta sauce and tomato based salsa for winter. I even had enough extra tomatoes to smoke some while I was making salmon jerky (why not use up the smoke and extra space in the smoker). When they were done a few hours later I removed the loose skins and whizzed them in a food processor. I want to try the smoked tomato juice in gazpacho and in a Bloody Mary. While I think the peak harvests are over, the tomatoes should go strong another couple of weeks.
The cucumbers mostly performed admirably this summer, despite some becoming pumpkins and one side of the plants not producing many. Nonetheless, we have made a lot of bread and butter and half-sour pickles. This past year we ran out of pickles and we don’t want that to repeat.
What we won’t have much of is pickled beets. However, we might have discovered what was eating the small shoots. I knew we had a few snails and small slugs. What I didn’t know is that we really had a lot of snails and slugs. After a couple of evenings searching for them we relocated, or so it seems, most of the snails. We now sprinkle coffee grounds around affected plants and have cups with beer in them to capture the slugs. So, while I might not get many beets this year, we will be better prepared for next year.
I try to compost a fair amount of the vegetative matter from the garden and kitchen. The problem I run into, especially this year, is that it does not get hot enough to kill seeds. This results in volunteer plants in non-optimal locations. The plants that take the “non-optimal location” award this year are a bunch of squash/ gourds/ pumpkins that sprouted up in a new flower garden. There just isn’t the space available that they want. To be fair, one of the vines, at least I think it is just one vine as I really can’t follow its meandering through all the other plants, is about 20 – 30 feet long. It stretches down the garden, around a stand of hollyhock, then back up the garden, taking over part of the garden and walkway. There are about 10 squash growing on this one vine. From a pounds harvested perspective, this vine will outstrip every other plant in the garden. Luckily, we know what the squash is and we know we like it. We just don’t know what to do with the 125 pounds plus of winter squash I expect to harvest. What we have is a banana squash vine and one of the squash is pictured to the left. I have not weighed it yet and I think it is still growing. The yard stick in the photo is not one of those wily fishermen use to exaggerate their catch; it is a real yard stick. Any guesses on the final weight?
We have a few new recipes for some of the harvest we are working on that will hopefully make it up on here in the coming weeks. As the crush of the harvest and manic preservation subsides I should have a little more time and energy. Until then, eat well.