Harvest Time … and what to do with it all!

and now. There’s been a little growing going on!

Honestly, I didn’t mean to go this long without posting about what’s growing in the garden, but here we are, well into September. It’s that exciting time in the growing season when a trip to the garden surely means we’ll be returning with armloads of produce—sometimes so much so that I may drive the half mile there instead of walk. I’m just relieved the heat and drought finally gave way to cooler temps and a little bit of rain here and there. Let’s just say there was A LOT of watering early on!

Here’s what’s growing…

We’ve been enjoying lots of delicious tomatoes—cherry, Amish paste, and Green Zebra. I’ve been trying to avoid making too many BLTs, but I love them and the Green Zebras (which, by the way, aren’t green—am I doing it wrong? 🙂 have been so perfect for them. I’ve also been roasting the cherry tomatoes with a little olive oil, garlic, and balsamic then mixing them with pasta, fresh basil, Kalamata olives, and feta. Delicious. The garlic and basil are also from our garden.

I pack those tomatoes I can’t get to fast enough into ziplock bags and stash them in the freezer for a later time. They’re great for winter chili or pasta sauce, but I’ve also found that they work really well in a batch of gazpacho to beat the heat of the summer. I let them thaw a little in the refrigerator and then peel off the skins and toss them in a blender with olive oil, red wine vinegar, cubed french bread, basil, green onion, red bell pepper, paprika, salt, and pepper. The best part of using slightly thawed frozen tomatoes for gazpacho? The mix is already quite chilled from the start, so there’s no need to wait hours to enjoy this cool, tasty treat. And if you have any watermelon, throw that into the blender as well! It adds a slight sweetness for a super refreshing soup. I liked this recipe from Love and Lemons.

Another favorite recipe for fresh tomatoes: Line the bottom of a deep skillet with dry spaghetti. Pile on fresh tomatoes, sliced garlic, onions, fresh basil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, a drizzle of olive oil, and a half-cup or so of water. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. So good!

I’ve been throwing broccoli into stir fries, roasting it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and simply steaming it. The Swiss chard has been growing like crazy, so I’ve been adding it to quiche, using it instead of spinach in spanikopita (yum!), and sauteing it with a little olive oil, garlic, red onion, and balsamic.

There are no pictures of the green beans, because quite frankly, I’ve started to dread the sight of them. They’ve been quite prolific! I pickled a few batches of dilly beans, roasted them, blanched them and tossed the beans into salads, and stir fried them. I’ve also given many away to the local food shelf and to friends. Thinking I’ll just plant one row next year instead of two.

The butternut squash is a bit smaller than years past, but I’m chalking that up to the drought. I’ve also spotted some squash bugs around, which I’m sure are affecting things. We’ve still got quite a few and my favorite dish to make is this squash and mushroom curry recipe I found in the NY Times. It’s soooo good! I’ll start making soups with the squash too, now that we’re entering soup season.

You might remember from an earlier post that we harvested a dozen BIG Howden pumpkins last year. I did save some seeds to plant in the garden this year, but I’m sad to report that this little guy is the only descendant of those giant jack-o-lanterns from last fall. I guess you win some and you lose some, right? I did plant the seeds in a big aluminum washtub, which may have been part of the problem. Last year I planted seedlings directly into the ground.

We had a few wins in our garden at home. Our Honeycrisp apples have had rust colored spots inside over the past couple of years, but the fruit from this harvest is crisp, juicy, and sweet. My husband watered the tree quite a bit during the dry summer, which must have done the trick!

My other gardening score on the home front is the little patch of dahlias and zinnias I planted earlier this summer. I’ll definitely be adding more of both next year, in areas around the yard that could use a little spark. The dahlias remind me of fireworks and they bloom for weeks. The only catch, of course, is that the tuberous roots won’t survive our northern winter, so I’ll need to dig them up and store them in vermiculite if I want to keep these flowers to plant next year. The zinnias are a no brainer—I just toss seeds over the garden, rake them in slightly, and add water.

I’m cheating a bit by adding this photo, as the sunflowers aren’t ours, but we do pass them each time we walk to and from our garden plot, so they are part of our community garden experience. There have been years when I’ve not wanted to renew our lease on our community plot. As you gardeners know, it’s a lot of work. On the days when I think I’m too tired to walk down to the garden, I go anyway and I’m always glad I did. From this vast, open space with views uninterrupted by trees or houses, I can always see the sunset, watch the clouds race across the sky, or catch a glimpse of the rising moon. I often run into other gardeners or neighbors and stop to chat a bit. In these strange times, making this sort of connection to others on a very local level is what sustains me. So next year, no doubt I’ll be back.

A couple of fun gardening books for kids by yours truly. Check out Dig In and The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book.

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