Last week’s newsletter left us at that junction where summer meets fall for the first time. As I’m sure you’re all aware, the cold we experienced on Monday last was only the first of a series of frosty nights. Each time, the garden plants sustained a bit more damage, and every chance I’ve had all week has been to try to rescue as many tomatoes as possible before they get cold damage. It’s a strange job, partly I’m noticing how beautiful the tomatoes are (“Ooh! Look at that one”) and partly I’m really sad because the plants weren’t quite finished with them yet. The first picking is always of the ones that are fully mature, still green but I know they’ll ripen inside the warm house. A typical year sees me harvest between 14 and 20 bushels this way. This year I won’t be surprised to see much more; with the cool, cloudy summer the tomatoes were late and some varieties didn’t ripen on the vine at all. Removing the almost ripe ones from the vine gives the plant a chance to concentrate on the smaller tomatoes. If the weather holds, I’ll pick them later, because they have less chance of really ripening–and, my house is getting full of boxes of tomatoes, all of which I have to sort through every few days.
Frost means the end of zucchinis, beans, tomatoes, basil, and no more time to grow for winter squash. Because the frosts have not yet been severe and warm weather is forecast I have left the winter squash in the garden for now, hoping it will get to be mature enough to actually provide us with a few for you CSA people. But I’ll be very surprised if there are any at all for the market table.
So: on to the bright side. Broccoli and beets were both on my list of things that ran out of time to grow to harvest size, but-look-at-that-would-you, there they both are in your boxes this week. Also, with all that tomato harvesting, I had to give you each a nice big beefsteak, the last of the really great tomatoes, though not totally ripe yet. Give it a few days in a warm place for maximum flavour; if I try to put totally ripe tomatoes in your boxes they often don’t transport without bruising.
Shelling beans are those weird bumpy ones. It’s the bean inside that you’re after, just like kidney beans, but being fresh, they cook in about 20 minutes, not 3 hours. These are from the purple beans and make a great bean dip–cook, puree, add garlic, rosemary, olive oil, lemon, maybe tahini, and enjoy just like hummus. In weeks to come we’ll try the other types of shelling beans.
Other than picking for frost, our garden efforts are geared toward the potato harvest, because we need the space to plant the garlic. So next week, expect some potatoes in your boxes!
Till then, Titia