The Island Garden
Harvest time is here. Dig those potatoes, cut the cabbages, pick the eggplants, and enjoy them while you can. But how do you enjoy 70 pounds of potatoes, 14 large cabbages, 17 cucumbers, 47 pounds of onions, five bushels of tomatoes, 8 quarts of beans, and 23 turnips?
You thought you were going to spend Sunday afternoons in the fall watching football with a beverage in your hand. Unfortunately, the TV screen is hidden behind the mound of vegetables, and the hint from your spouse is that you had better clear it before kickoff at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
So the marathon starts. The first job is to make tomato sauce. We got into that a few weeks ago and won’t repeat the instructions, but it’s not difficult (“Celebrating the harvest,” Aug. 30).
You have the brilliant idea of making stuffed baked potatoes for the freezer and scrub 44 potatoes, set them in the oven and let them bake. Then you realize that you don’t have enough cheese, which means a trip to McQuade’s. While you are in the market, you remember that you forgot to turn the heat down under the tomato sauce. Your drive home never gets below the legal speed limit and those red octagonal signs, they mean stop, not turn on two wheels. But you got to the sauce just as it began to boil over. About that time the potatoes start exploding. You forgot to prick them with a fork to let the steam out. But who’s going to notice bits of charred spud in their cheese-filled delight?
Pickles are next on your agenda: onions, green peppers, jalapenos, cucumbers, beans and cauliflower – even carrots and turnips can be pickled. The Italians call it giardiniera. There are a million recipes on the web and to save time you decide to make one that must be eaten within a week. You soak the veggies overnight in salted water, then add boiled vinegar, spices and olive oil until all the vegetables are covered. Not difficult you decide, so you embark on a marathon of peeling and prepping vegetables. You set them in the salted water and push the bowl into the back of the refrigerator.
Meantime you decide to make a little coleslaw to use up some cabbage. It’s easy: simply chop the cabbage, celery, carrots, red cabbage and apples with your CuisineArt knife. Make a sauce from mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, olive oil, vinegar, salt, sugar and pepper, and stir it all together. Maybe Mc- Quade’s will buy some of the 24 quarts of coleslaw you just made – you and your spouse can’t eat it all in one week.
The remaining vegetables will go into minestrone soup. At least you can freeze that and enjoy it over the winter. Before you start, you check the freezer for space. There are still 12 frozen packs of last year’s minestrone soup taking up space. You go ahead anyway and freeze 17 more quarts of it. Assuming a cup of soup is enough for lunch, that gives you enough soup for about 60 meals. It had better be a long winter.
But the bad news is that you still have eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and onions on the counter. The good news is that you can see the top half of the TV screen. You decide to make ratatouille until you realize that the eggplants have swallowed up 2 quarts of olive oil requiring another trip to Mc- Quade’s. But you press on, Mediterranean diet and all that. By now it’s getting late and the first half of the football game is over, but you can see the top half of Brady and his chums – until he’s sacked that is, then he disappears behind a pile of onions. Your contribution to the Mediterranean diet is to have a glass of red wine while you sample the ratatouille. Not bad but it needs more salt. So you toss in some salt and retaste. Too salty, better add some more vegetables. You freeze 19 quarts of ratatouille. That’s enough to have ratatouille with everything from now until the eggplants come again next year. Plus your freezer is getting dangerously full. You also realize that you haven’t seen the bottom of the freezer for at least five years with all the tasty soups and vegetable dishes awaiting reincarnation on the dinner table.
To use up the last of your vegetables you decide to make chutney. What’s better than a large dollop of chutney with your cheese or ham, you figure. The fact of the matter is that you have never had chutney with cheese or ham in your life, but it sounds good and it uses up more vegetables. Quite soon a large pot of chutney is bubbling away on the stovetop. It’s not quite Major Grey’s, but who cares, the entire TV screen is visible now. But the Pats game is over. You have another glass of wine and finally get to sit down. Your day’s work is done.
A week later you smell a strange odor in your refrigerator. Then you remember the bowl of salted vegetables for giardiniera in the back of the refrigerator. They are soft and fermenting nicely by now. At least you won’t have to eat all those pickled veggies, it’ll only give you gas you decide, as you chuck it on the compost pile.