I am freaking out. My camera is broken. O M G.
When I came downstairs the other morning my camera bag was suspiciously on the floor on it's side. We've been leaving our dog Frankie loose in the house here and there on trial runs as she's usually kenneled up if we aren't home. She has been doing the usual; eating anything left on the counter including (but not limited to) loaves of bread, the boy's chewing gum, rendered fat from an entire pound of bacon, and a TON of raw tomatoes awaiting canning. She's been a real olfactory joy to hang out with afterwards. What in heaven's name enticed her to mess with my camera I'll never know. Suffice to say, the auto-focus is kaput. Luckily I have a huge backlog of photos from August that need sharing. It is somewhat depressing out there right now anyway with everything making it's last desperate attempt to prolong it's species by going to seed so let's just forget that for a bit and revel in SUMMER!
It was an abundant and full summer and the garden just keeps on giving. No one has told my tomatoes, eggplants, or peppers that it's fall anyway, and they better not anytime soon as my 'Tabasco' and 'Peach Habanero' peppers have yet to get any color to them! Such is pepper growing in Vermont. The cabbages and edamame are ready, the fall raspberry harvest is kicking, and I'm doing the usual scramble to harvest and use as much produce as possible. A lot of kitchen time= a lot of weeds. That's September. I try not to get too down as I watch nature begin to shift and trigger the garden's shutdown, but I struggle. Maybe it's vanity. I definitely lose a lot of my motivation to get out there when things stop looking so good, which in turn makes them look even worse. Vanity and avoidance. Soon enough the weather will FORCE me to work. I'll be digging all the potatoes, planting the garlic for next year's crop, cutting flowers to dry for wreaths, trying to eek out as much as I can before the hard freeze of November, mulching, mulching, mulching and trying to find (and finding) the beauty in the cyclical nature of things.
Every year I add varieties to my repertoire and this year saw mostly success. I will say that 'Rich Sweetness' Melons, for instance, were a total waste of my time but let's not dwell on that. Melons in Vermont (without a hoop house) are just plain tough period. And they WERE darn cute, just too small and seedy to make them worthwhile in my opinion.
'Dragon's Tongue' beans on the other hand are rockstars. Also a new variety to me this year, I was enticed by their multipurpose use. They can be eaten fresh and young, or allowed to mature slightly as shell beans, OR to dry on the plant as dry beans. Keeping up with the green bean harvest when they are ready can be a challenge and it has been nice to know that the ones that go past their prime as tender young beans will still be delicious down the road.
I made this Green Beans and Walnuts with Lemon Vinaigrette many times this summer and surprise SURPRISE the 'Calima' beans are blooming and producing again (after a three week hiatus, looking like they needed to be ripped out all the while) so it looks like this will be on the menu this weekend as well. I love it when my inability to "stay on top off things" in the garden pays off. I love it when my plants surprise me.
These little cuties were another surprise this year. Another variety new to me, my 'Lemon' squash plants stayed pretty compact and produced (and are still producing) lots of small lemon shaped fruits which cook up nutty and firm. Be sure to harvest them young, about the size of a lemon otherwise they just aren't worth it. Pick young, salt for a half hour to draw out excess moisture, saute in butter, and douse with plenty of black pepper. 'nuf said.
Damn cucumbers. They are always a blessing and a curse. Perhaps if one thought things through and one planted appropriate amounts one would not be so inundated with one's continual harvest! I made both half-sour and regular dill spear pickles (along with countless sandwiches and salads) before ripping them out last week. All that and about 20 gallons of cucumber water!!! One sliced cuke, one lemon halved, and a handful of fresh mint in a pitcher of water to steep in the fridge overnight and VOILA!! Refreshing and detoxifying (apparently) but above all something you look forward to drinking.
And SPEAKING of drinking... ever had a Bloody Mary made with tomato water? If you, like me, are STILL looking to use up your maters you should try these. Last year I kept a running pitcher of it in the fridge as Adam LOVES his bloodies. The tomato water lightens them up and turns them into something you'll want to drink more than one of... for better or worse!
In terms of tomatoes; a cool wet August provided the perfect environment for the dreaded blight. By trellising my tomatoes they held out as long as possible before succumbing. Some are even still hanging on and making little comebacks. The 'Green Grape' and 'Cherokee Purple' bit the dust and bit it HARD but all the other persevered. 'Granny Cantrell' was a beefsteak variety I grew for the first time this year after reading that it won the Baker Creek Seeds taste test a few years back. Whoa, a REALLY GREAT HUGE BEEFSTEAK that is surprisingly prolific for an heirloom. Will definitely grow again.
While on the subject of tomatoes I would be completely remiss to not include the following marinara recipe which has occupied many hours of my time the last few weeks. I have made two huge batches thus far and put up about 8 quarts in the freezer. I do not can it as we have three freezers (don't ask). I just put it in plastic freezable containers and thaw as needed throughout the winter. It is the best marinara, and now the only marinara, I make.
And finally a little cutting garden teaser. I cannot bring myself to post the pitiful pics I took with my phone this morning. The cutting garden is looking pretty fab right now, if I do say so myself. Wild and wooly, just the way I like it. I had better get the camera fixed pronto so you can see it too. A race against time at this point. If anything it has saved you from sorting through another epic blog post. I know it should probably be in smaller, more frequent doses, slow release or something, but that just isn't the way I work!