Garden Journal – 1st Week of October

Garden Journal – 1st Week of October

The gorgeous weather we enjoyed in September has spilled over into the first week of October.   The rock-n-roll and jazz-funk of Summer has been replaced  with more sedate classical music for company as I harvest late season tomatoes, peppers, fennel, kale, beets, carrots and raspberries.  Ah, the raspberries.  This is the first full year of production for our Fall bearing “Heritage” raspberries.  What a pleasant surprise; tasty and prolific.  One twenty five foot bed has yielded somewhere in the neighborhood of two gallons of berries.  We are about to process our third batch of jam.  We have frozen raspberry sauce and three quart containers of berries for later use.  We are eating fresh berries daily on yogurt, over chocolate ice cream, in raspberry swirl brownies, etc.  Life is good.

THE HARVEST BASKET IN THE FIRST WEEK OF OCTOBER

THE HARVEST BASKET IN THE FIRST WEEK OF OCTOBER

 

Tomato Season Winds Down

I have been gradually reducing the tomato plant population over the last couple of weeks, harvesting both ripe and green tomatoes and pulling plants.  Our kitchen windows are lined with fruit in various stages of ripeness; trophies of another successful season.  It won’t be long before those tomatoes are replaced with Christmas decorations.

A WINDOW DECORATED WITH RIPENING TOMATOES

A WINDOW DECORATED WITH RIPENING TOMATOES

A few Words About Kale

Over the Summer months we don’t tend to eat much kale.  We use it mostly in  juice making and treats for the chickens.  Now that fall is here, we will begin using it in soups and stews.  Right now, we have four plants in the garden;  two Russian Kale and two Tuscan or Dinosaur Kale.  These plants have been in the ground since early May.  They’re not pretty but still producing.

A BIG UGLY TUSCAN KALE PLANT

A BIG UGLY TUSCAN KALE PLANT

A Soup Comes Together

Chicken Soup with Beans and Kale

I’ve been retired now for about a year and a half and since then have been gradually taking on more of the cooking duties.  One of my favorite cooking projects is soup.  As with most of my soups, this one started with a roasted chicken.  Last Sunday, I prepared a “Beer Can” chicken in our Weber kettle grill using a spice rub recipe from “Weber’s Big Book of Grilling“.  After our meal, I removed the remaining meat from the carcass and used the bones to make stock.

GREG'S GARDEN PARTY CHICKEN SOUP WITH BEANS AND KALE

A NICE HOT BOWL OF GREG’S CHICKEN SOUP WITH BEANS AND KALE

In addition, I had some leftover “Vermont Cranberry” beans I had slow cookedfor chili.  Stock, chicken meat, beans;  time to make some soup.  To me, classic soup starts with the trinity of onion, celery and carrots.  I finely chopped one large onion, two stalks of celery and two large carrots; then sauteed them in olive oil.  I added six cups of stock, two cups of chicken, two cups of cooked “Cranberry beans”,  four “Tuscan Kale” leaves shredded, a tablespoon of fresh thyme, a two cup bag of chopped plum tomatoes from the freezer and salt and pepper to taste.  Everything except the chicken and celery came from the garden, which made this an act of love. The smokiness of the chicken stock and the texture of the beans helped to make this soup one to remember.  Catherine loved it.

All the best,

Greg

 

 

 

Garden Journal – 4th Week of September

Garden Journal – 4th Week of September

Weeding the Carrot Patch

The carrots that I planted at the end of July in the planting bed where the garlic had grown are doing well, but were in need of some TLC.  Weeding the bed was overdue.  After twenty minutes of weeding, I can report that the carrot patch is “lookin’ good”.  We will begin thinning/harvesting baby carrots soon, so I really wanted to make sure that the crop didn’t have to compete with the weed population for nutrients.

CARROTS PLANTED IN LATE JULY

THE CARROT PATCH WEEDED AND ALMOST READY FOR THINNING/HARVESTING BABY CARROTS

Harvesting Butternut Squash

This week, I noticed that our one squash plant was beginning to show signs of dying back and the fruit had turned color from cream to beige.  Time to harvest.  I was amazed that there were 15 fruit on the one vine.  Believe me when I tell you that the squash plant was neglected all Summer except for watering and occasional applications of fish fertilizer.  The variety that I grow is called METRO PMRwhich I source from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Can’t say enough about Metro;  strong disease resistance, great production, minimal effort.

METRO PMR SQUASH HARVESTED FROM ONE PLANT

METRO PMR SQUASH HARVESTED FROM ONE PLANT

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Garden Journal – 2nd/3rd Weeks of September

Garden Journal – 2nd/3rd Weeks of September

The older I get the faster time seems to go by.  The last couple of weeks of August sped by in a blur, many tomato tastings and potluck dinners later.  I can honestly say that I am “tomatoed out”.  We had great fun hosting our annual tomato lovers’ dinner,  a similar dinner the following Saturday,  and two tomato tasting potluck dinners.  In addition, I conducted three more tomato tastings at friends’ homes.  We are looking forward to some down time.

This week we have had our first cool weather reminding us that Fall is right around the corner.  Tomato production has fallen off dramatically and many of the hot weather crops like cucumbers, melons, zucchini and winter squash are ready to be pulled.  However,   sweet peppers are still going strong and it looks like we are on the verge of a second season with our eggplants.

EGGPLANTS IN THEIR SECOND SEASON IN SEPTEMBERE

EGGPLANTS IN THEIR SECOND SEASON IN SEPTEMBER

These last couple of weeks have been occupied with harvesting and cleaning up the garden.  We have processed the last of our plum tomatoes and now have a freezer full of chopped and pureed fruit.  We have also been  busy harvesting , shelling and storing beans.  Because we were so busy with all of the tomato madness in August we let our first planting of Vermont Cranberry beans dry on the vine.  We finished drying them under cover, shucked them and stored the dry beans in vacuum sealed bags for use this winter.  We also did the same with our other bean variety, “Kennearly”, an heirloom bean from Maine used for making baked beans.  I grew up in Maine, so I love baked beans.

DRY BEANS

VERMONT CRANBERRY AND KENNERARLY BEANS DRYED AND VACUUM PACKED

Our hot pepper harvest was average this year.  For some reason, our two Poblano pepper plants did not thrive.  We have some fruit, but none full sized.  I opted to let the fruit ripen red on the vines.  We will finish them off in the dehydrater, store in jars and grind into chili powder as needed.  the Jalapeno peppers have been  “rocking it” all Summer.  Last Saturday I smoked 18 Jalapeno’s in the Webber kettle grill using a low indirect method; 25 coals and wood chips soaked overnight.

We also harvested some Cayenne peppers which we dried and stored in jars for later use.  We seeded some of the peppers to make straight Cayenne pepper.  We dried some with the seeds which we will crush for hot red pepper flakes.  We get a great deal of satisfaction making our own pepper spice products for cooking.  It’s not that hard and we have the satisfaction  that the peppers were grown without chemicals.

The Fall bearing raspberries that we planted over a year and a half ago are nearing full production.  What a treat it is to have these on my yogurt in the morning.  Today, I picked nearly enough to make a batch of jam.  Raspberry jam, home baked bread toasted, a good cup of coffee.  Now that’s “good living”.

"HERITAGE" FALL BEARING RASPBERRIES

FALL BEARING RASPBERRIES, ENOUGH FOR MAKING JAMB

 

Our second planting of “Haricot Vert”, the tender French green beans has finally come into production.  We had about a two week void between plantings.  I did miss them when we couldn’t have any.  We should get another three weeks of fresh green beans.  If you have never had “Haricot Vert” I would highly recommend that you plant some next season.  I won’t eat any other fresh green bean.

FRENCH GREEN BEANS

FRESHLY PICKED “HARICOT VERT” GREEN BEANS – AKA “FRENCH GREEN BEANS”

After experiencing a “foobar” with my supplier, I managed to plant my potatoes three weeks late this past Spring.  Through necessity I discovered a new supplier, The Maine Potato Lady.  Great pricing and service.  What else can I say?  We harvested our crop this week, a variety called “French Fingerling”.  I love the taste and texture of this potato but have never seen it at any retail outlet.

FRENCH FINGERLING POTATOES

FRENCH FINGERLING POTATOES, ONE OF MY PERSONAL FAVORITES

Some of you are probably wondering when I am going to get around to publishing Part 2 of our “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner”.  You have my promise that it will be published no later than September 19.  Recent travel and events have distracted me from my blogging duties.  Also, I have been fussing over how to present the recipes.  Stay tuned.

All the best,

Greg Garnache