Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The End of Summer: Harvesting and Canning

Pasta with homemade pesto & homegrown parsley & tomatoes
Yesterday I took the last big batch of basil that I had harvested from my kitchen garden and whipped up some pesto. I had meant to freeze some of the pesto in ice trays but then couldn't find the ice trays because they had been stored somewhere I can't recall when we had the kitchen remodeled this summer. My son-in-law, whose recipe for pesto I mostly followed, freezes his pesto in a small jar to use as needed. For last night's dinner, I mixed the fresh pesto with warm pasta, Sungold tomatoes and parsley that I had gathered that day in the big garden and in my kitchen garden. What a yummy dish that was.

Adam adds arugula to his pesto, and I have done that, too, as well as making an all-arugula pesto. The last time I made arugula pesto, however, the pesto was so bitter that I threw it out. Perhaps the leaves had been too old and tough, or maybe I need to do what Adam does: include a small portion  of arugula and a larger portion of basil in the recipe (Adam also substitutes spinach for the smaller portion of arugula).

What is the best thing about gardening? Is it the winter planning, the leafing through gardening catalogs or, these days, scrolling online through gardening and seed source websites?  Is it watching those first seedlings magically appear? Or going out every morning to check on the ripeness of tomatoes? Or is it harvesting the produce, eating it fresh, or canning it for later?

This past weekend, in the middle of tomato canning, Tom said, "I love doing this!" The tomato canning continues over weeks as tomatoes ripen on the vines in the big garden and in the greenhouse. We grew a lot of yellow tomatoes this summer (Lemon Boy, Golden Jubilee, Big Rainbow) that Tom canned separately from the red tomatoes.
On the left, Tom's canned tomatoes; on the right, his canned beets
After we returned from our daughter's wedding in Georgia, I gathered grapes from the large vine that we've trained to grow on the chain-link walls of my Secret Garden room (a dog kennel left by the previous owners that I decorated as an outdoor room). Birds had eaten quite a few of the grapes--I often startled a juvenile robin among the grape vines this summer--but there were enough grapes left for sixteen half-pints of what I labelled our Lavender Blue Grape Jelly. I suggested to Tom that he add some lavender blooms from my kitchen garden to flavor the jelly.
a bunch of grapes on our grapevine
more grapes than apples this year (late freeze killed the apple blossoms)
Here at the foot of the White Mountains, an early freeze can take out a garden with tomatoes still green on the vine. Several days ago we had a couple of nights of predicted freezing temperatures, so I gathered all the peppers and many of the tomatoes, leaving a lot of green tomatoes, hoping that temperatures wouldn't drop so low as to kill the vines completely. We are still in the process of freezing and drying the bumper crop of poblano peppers. Tom has put to good use the dehydrator I bought for him a few months ago.
an anxious harvest before a freeze
a tomato galette I made with Sungold and Indigo Ruby tomatoes
My aunt Lynelle Sikora suggested that I make chow chow out of the green tomatoes, so we did a test run of a small batch this past weekend.  I knew I liked chow chow as I had grown up eating it as a side dish, but I wanted to make sure that we both liked it well enough to make several pints instead of a few half-pints. The end result was tasty, so I have decided to can more of the sweet tomato relish this week.
The tomato mix (green tomatoes, red and green peppers, onion, pickling and canning salt) stands in the fridge overnight. Then the mixture is drained before cooking it with spices.

green tomato relish mix cooking in the spices (light brown sugar, yellow mustard seeds, whole cloves, minced garlic, celery seed, red pepper flakes--I used three red peppers from my kitchen garden rather than dried pepper flakes)
a small batch of chow chow

After the next round or two of tomato canning, it will be time to clear the garden in preparation for next year. I will then clean out the chicken pen, raking up all the straw, chicken crap, and vegetable matter remaining from the scraps I and my neighbor have thrown to the chickens this summer. I'll fill up a wheelbarrow with the yard waste as well as the waste from inside the henhouse and spread it all on the garden. Winter's snow will pack it down, and in the spring, Tom and I will dig the composted chicken waste into the soil to feed another summer garden.

I still have a few herbs I hope to dry for the winter, and then my gardening for this year will be done. But our firewood gathering for the winter has just begun.

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