Are you surprised that we quickly found gardens during our vacation in France? Of course we also enjoyed the wine (and the bicycling)! But I also came away with a few ideas for the yard. And I’m gaining more appreciation for the idea of gardening for the foliage.
We’ve had so little rain and plenty of hot weather, so the garden is definitely fading (the grass has been dormant for a while — we’ve barely had to mow).
So it’s nice that this clematis we bought at the master gardeners’ plant sale last year is blooming for the first time, and so abundantly. Lovely scent too! Reminds me of a heavy honeysuckle smell. I’m glad it is spilling over the deck rail.
I also like this deep-purple nicotiana and hope it self-seeds for next year.
The black-eyed Susans, which bloomed profusely in August, even if they seemed shorter or smaller than in years past, are fading. The boltonia is out, though it also seems small. And the Alma Potschke asters that I divided in the spring seem fairly happy. The flowers are small, but the plants don’t require staking this year and the hot pink color pops amid the yellow.
Blanket flower keeps coming back, and those morning glories have happily self-seeded, adding more color. The clumps of sedum have expanded and are turning red.
Even so, we don’t have the lushness of June. I can blame the lack of rain for only some of that.
I think I’m still recovering from last weekend’s canning binge (and I still have red peppers to roast and freeze… I may just freeze them raw because otherwise I’ll never get to it — thoughts?)
Anyway, this might finally force me to count up the number of jars in my pantry. (Nope, I don’t think so. A few dozen is my best guess.) To give you a sense of what we (three women plus two guys in charge of the red peppers) started with: about five bushels of tomatoes; probably three to four bushels of red peppers and well over a bushel of nectarines. Everything I bought came from the local produce auction I discovered earlier this summer, and the standard size there is just “box.”
We started out with tomato sauce using the bushel of organic plum tomatoes and experimented with one of those food mills to eliminate skin and seeds. It definitely did the job, but I’m also quite happy with just an immersion blender to shred the skin and seeds. Less mess.
From there we moved on to raw-packed tomatoes in the biggest jars (adding some basil from the garden, plus a couple tablespoons of lemon juice to assure they are acidic enough), plus my favorite chili coriander tomato jam (chutney), substituting basil for the fresh cilantro, an apple-tomato chutney and some pizza sauce. In the middle of all this, we grilled a pizza using some of last year’s creole tomato sauce (uses worcestershire sauce and hot sauce, among other things). Yum — definitely one for the 2011 list!
I tackled a few nectarine recipes on my own. One is a nectarine chutney that, oddly, bakes in the oven instead of cooks on the stove. I figured it had the advantage of leaving room on the stove for something else. The onions were really thinly sliced with a mandolin (I think, or was it the food processor? All a blur.), but they didn’t disolve the way I would have expected to on the stove. We’ll see how they taste.
Nectarine jam with pectin was easy, though the nectarine bits really set separately from the jam. Got to work on keeping them mixed in. I also tried a nectarine jam with white pepper for an extra kick. That one doesn’t seem to have set, and I may need to reboil. That will have to wait until after vacation.
I ended up slicing and freezing quite a few nectarines, and I needed a second weekend to finish grilling all the peppers.
I’m guessing this is it for canning this year. Given the lack of rain we’d had this summer, I’m not expecting to find much at the farmers’ market in a few weeks.
A friend in Toronto who couldn’t make the big event held her own can-o-rama. Read about it here. Who wants to join in next year?