When the bounty arrives
There’s a mocking bird in my yard that thinks I’m its meal ticket. All summer when I enter the vegetable garden he, or she, sits on the fence watching what I do. If I pull up weeds or dig some potatoes, the bird, who I call Fred, is right there. As soon as I move 10 feet away, Fred is checking out the ground for insects. I go back and dig over another area, and Fred sits on the fork handle as if to say, “Get on with it, I’m hungry.” Obligingly, I dig over the patch and Fred hops down to look for insects. I don’t mind Fred; in fact, I find his, or her, antics quite entertaining. Similarly, the robins check out the freshly dug patch, but they are nowhere near as pushy as Fred. The robins wait until I take the harvest indoors before they’ll look for worms and they fly off as soon as I come near.
While I like and encourage Fred and the robins, I dislike squirrels. I was walking past the blueberry patch and a quick movement caught my eye. Two squirrels were gorging themselves. Time for harvest, I figured, and picked more than a gallon of fresh blueberries. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with them yet, so for now, they’ll join the other seven gallons of blueberries in the freezer. In the fall, I’ll make blueberry pancakes, muffins, blueberry jam and maybe a pie…or six or seven.
The blueberry harvest has been magnificent, but the apple, plum, peach and pear harvests are pretty poor – probably as a result of the wet spring that lasted most of the summer. The poor fruit harvest says that many of the animals that rely on these fruits to help them get fat for the winter may not be able to gorge themselves. This may make for a hard winter for them.
In the remainder of the garden, it’s harvest time. Potatoes, onions, garlic and cabbage are all ready to be picked and made ready for the table or freezer. This spring, I had a few pounds of tiny potatoes left over from last year’s potato harvest, so I made a trench and tossed them in. Last weekend, I dug about 50 pounds of red, purple, blue, white and yellow potatoes. There were all kinds, from fingerlings to giant russets. They’ll make a tasty multi-colored potato salad.
I’ve been making a Sicilian potato salad lately. Cook and peel the potatoes and chop them in halfinch pieces. Then, add ground pepper, dried oregano, capers, finely chopped red onion and tomatoes. Toss the lot with olive oil and wine vinegar, and you have a great salad to accompany steak or burgers. You can also add olives, or other diced cooked meats. I had half a pound of shrimp left over from the night before, so I chopped them and threw them in the potato salad and made a tasty lunch.
Tomatoes are finally coming fast – lots of them, so that’ll mean tomato sauce, tomato salads and maybe grilled pizza with slices of fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese and plenty of basil. There is so much food coming from the garden right now that it is often a job to know what to do with it. To keep tomatoes, you need to turn them into sauce or they’ll rot. You can’t just stick them in the freezer. But with basil from the garden, your own tomato sauce over pasta or on pizza during a cold winter doesn’t seem so bad.
When you harvest, don’t leave the patch of ground bare. That will simply erode soil nutrients. You can plant kale, chard, spinach or even lettuce, given how cool it has been, or any other fast-growing crop and get a second harvest. If you have cloches or a cold frame, leave it wide open and start fastgrowing crops. In October, when frost arrives, close up the cold frame. You should be able to make your crops last until Thanksgiving, unless we get a severe cold spell.
With your own garden, you can improvise and experiment in the kitchen to provide wholesome, healthy and highly nutritious food without going far at all, and that’s why we garden. Not only do we eat well, but we get exercise and sunshine, too.