Our past posts have dealt primarily with our animals and the work associated with them, but another blessing we’ve got here is what we’ve been provided with in the way of fruits and vegetables.
Kids picking the first lettuces
We had a late start to the garden itself as we were pretty busy with all the projects that came from moving in. A combination of that late start and me mixing entirely too much compost into the garden led to a relatively low and late yield. By mid-summer, only the lettuce (which absolutely loved the nitrogen high I’d given it) was harvestable for our table.
Meanwhile, the other vegetables turned the nitrogen into leaves and stems, growing somewhat out of control but not producing flowers or fruit. It wasn’t until late summer that we started to get a few beans, cukes and tomatoes.
Cukes are Here!
The tomatoes, combined with fresh basil and some store-bought mozzarella allowed us to make one of our favorite summer appetizers, Caprese salad.
The recipe for Caprese, btw, is ridiculously simple: slice and arrange 2 or 3 very ripe tomatoes on a plate, top with slices of buffalo mozzarella and basil leaves, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Come to think of it, you may want to use 4 tomatoes for this… It dissappears quickly around here.
While the garden was slow in ripening, the wild offerings were not. Our property (and the area surrounding us) has a good selection of berry bushes – primarily wild strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
The wild strawberries came into season first, and though we had grand plans to collect them for jam, most of them went directly from the pickers’ hands to their mouths – what a great early summer treat!
We filled our need for canning strawberries by patronizing a few of the many local pick-your-own farms in the area, our freezer space dwindling by the day. Wild Raspberries ripened next, and this year’s crop was impressive (though this bowl had some stray early blueberries as well).
Wild Raspberries... and Some Friends
We managed to find very few black raspberry bushes, so we added those extra-special treasures to a bag in the freezer until we had collected enough for canning. My wife asked for only one thing for her birthday… a food mill, and after researching several different models, we found a good deal on a Victorio (here it is at Amazon) and an accessory kit (4 more screens and a grape auger).
The wild blueberries were rare (and tiny) this year in our area, but a friend’s high-bushes were absolutely out of control, yielding nearly grape-sized berries by the basketfull. In a half hour at their house, we had picked nearly 10 quarts to share with their neighbors.
While waiting for the food mill to arrive, we started to realize that the peaches were going to be ripe a lot earlier than we expected. We also realized that we should’ve been a lot more dilligent about following my Dad’s advice and culling the overproduction earlier in the season. By late July, a branch had already fallen, and I had to build supports to hold up the other ones to prevent further damage.
That's a Lot of Peaches
In one day, we picked a bushel or so of pre-ripe peaches to take some of the load off. In the following weeks as the fruit ripened, we found ourselves with more peaches than we knew what to do with, especially when we decided we needed to empty the tree in preparation for Hurricane Irene. By the time we were done, we had picked upwards of 5 bushels of peaches and discarded maybe 3 more (windfalls and insect-damaged fruit).
A modified version of the scene from Forest Gump, where Bubba talks about all the ways you can prepare shrimp, became the household joke. Peach salsa, peach cobbler, peach pie, peach jam, peach chutney, pickled peaches, canned peaches, peach sorbet, peach gumbo…
Peach Pyromania Salsa
Our Peach Salsa Recipe is here: http://pickyourown.org/peachsalsa.htm. We modified it by using only 1 cup of sugar, doubling the red pepper, and adding sliced jalapenos.
Blueberry and Peach Jams
Special thanks to http:///www.pickyourown.org for all the help in the way of recipes and canning advice, btw! We used and adapted many of their recipes. A few favorites: “Blue Suede” (Blueberry-Peach Jam), “Tri-Dye Jam” (raspberry, blackberry, and peach Jam), Peach Cobbler, Pickled Peaches, and strawberries.
Then, as we finished processing the peaches and most of the berries, the garden went into full-bore production mode, as did our apples.
The first early windfalls ended up as applesauce – again a simple recipe: cut up apples, cook them until soft in about an inch of apple juice, run through the food mill, and can in a hot water bath, but soon we had quality ripe apples for eating, cooking, and canning to go along with our broccoli, beans, peas, cukes, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers!
All has to end at some point, though we recently discovered a small grove of wild grapes at the end of our driveway!. The first frosts have arrived, and though we’re keeping the garden going by covering it at night, the end of our garden produce is in sight. Next year, we’ll work on some cold frames and perhaps even a small greenhouse… and we’ll make sure to prune the peaches.