Looking out on this beautiful crisp fall afternoon, I’ve turned my frown upside down and finally acknowledge that summer is definitely in my rear view mirror and reflect on what a wonderful summer it was. Early spring, however, was tough and since I can be impatient, (qui moi?) early plantings suffered frost and cold damage. Not one for giving up and after having to replace the dead and dying seedlings, I was eventually rewarded with a bumper crop of pretty much anything I planted: 4 varieties of cucumber, zucchini, yellow and spaghetti squashes, green and purple string beans, onions, 9 varieties of tomatoes, 8 varieties of hot peppers, rhubarb, sunflowers, melon, verbena, lemon grass for Thai recipes, herbs like dill, basil, oregano, parsley, 6 varieties of thyme, French tarragon, bay leaf, 2 types of sage, rosemary, lavender, 6 varieties of mint (love those Mojitos!) …
You might ask how I accomplished this feat? By way of background, we live in an animal paradise: deer, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, ground hogs, squirrels, birds, turtles and the occasional snake. I have “adorable” nicknames for them, none of which I can print, ahem. Anyway, these happy critters love our gardens and dine very well and often on pretty much anything we plant.
That said, my veggie “patch” is dually fenced in: high fence for deer and additional low finer meshed rabbit fencing which extends below ground. Yup, without serious freaking fencing I would not bother attempting a plot of heavenly produce! Well, this year, in addition to the usual turning over the soil and adding of amendments, I also added Dr Earth, an organic fertilizer, that would continue to provide nutrients throughout the summer. How did that go? For a couple of weeks the plants seemed to grow roots but not much more and then bang it happened and continued to happen throughout the rest of summer:
My rhubarb is of the green variety and once they got going I had ginormous stalks for the entire summer and rhubarb cobbler became a quick and easy summer dessert.
My real winners were: Indigo Ruby and Celebrity cherry tomatoes, Jet Star, mortgage Lifter, Mr Stripey, Beefsteak and Big Beef tomatoes and Viva Italia and San Marzano Heirloom plum tomatoes. My best cucumbers: Marketmore and Kirby. Hot peppers: Conchos, Cayennetta, Capsico, Jalafuego. I planted triple rows of Blue Lake green beans mixed with a purple bean varietal and the crop yielded a great deal of beans for 7 weeks versus a more typical 4-5 weeks. Zucchini types were the vining variety as well as bush variety and one striped lighter green one. Yellow and spaghetti squash failed fairly early on but we had several nonetheless. I had never tried onions before and while they did not become large they did grow and provide me with enough onions that I have in storage. This is the first year I had melons and while they were small they were sweet.
So, you might be wondering what I did with all the produce. Making homemade tomato sauce is a labor of love – and pain in the back – and well worthwhile. I wound up with the equivalent of 8 gallons of sauce most of which is canned and a few containers were popped in the freezer. In fact the tomatoes were so weighty that during processing I wound up with extra juice that I turned into a fabulous gazpacho; cold tomato soup!
The Jalapenos, green peppers and hot red peppers were processed into half gallon jars of white vinegar, salt, garlic and fresh oregano sprigs. After a month or so, maceration in a blender and put them pressed through a chinois and bottled for Christmas gifties. Other containers are left with layered peppers and will be gifts as well.
Cucumbers were pickled and I made white and red sauerkraut with locally grown cabbages – did you know sauerkraut can sit in the fridge for up to 6 months and is full of healthy “tummy stuff”. We love using the spiralizer to make zucchini spaghetti. It is delicious heated up and tossed with homemade, you guessed it, tomato sauce topped with grated Romano cheese. Verbena tea is such a fragrant and calming beverage enjoyed hot or cold. Tarragon was harvested and infused in white vinegar and is now ready to use in dressings!
One evening after a few Mojitos, it occurred to me that canning, pickling, freezing and bottling the veggies of my garden wasn’t enough. So, I bought a dehydrator oven and supplemented my diminishing yield with local produce from our local Bru-Mar gardens. In the interest of experimentation and out of curiosity I went to town – literally. I bought up tomato and peach “seconds”; slightly bruised or “ugly” and therefore cheap. Then I prepped them for dehydrating. I think Bru-Mar (Bruce & Marty) nicknamed me “seconds”. As summer drew to a close, white corn and apples were available and I processed those as well. Not satisfied to stop with the seasonal offerings I wound up drying: Basil, Tarragon, Oregano, Thymes, chives, scallions, diced vidalia onions, diced green peppers, hot peppers, canned kidney beans, canned baby peas, tofu, diced beets, yams, and zucchini rounds. I even tried dehydrating some of my pickles – very weird and weirdly tasty. A counter full of produce was reduced to several jars which will then be combined into recipes and vacuum sealed.
It’s gotten to the point that my family is afraid to bring anything home from the market because voluminous quantities go into the dehydrator and out come small, wrinkled and light weight – duh! – “food” with most of their nutrients intact and ready for re-hydration on the trail. Oh, but that is another story … I hope you enjoyed this odd, for me, skedaddle and stay tuned to the next adventure … hmmmm I have my eye on a pumpkin and butternut squash …
Hope you “like”, “share”, “comment” and say hello to Bruce & Marty @ Bru-Mar Gardens
Oh, btw … I have an INSTAGRAM you might enjoy: Just_Skedaddle