Here we are again folks. It’s too many green tomatoes time!
Friends, I was smart and totally on top of my shit this year. I picked away at the harvest in manageable chunks rather than frantically hauling them all inside at once. But today, with the high winds and heavy rains of hurricane Sandy looming, I decided it was time to bring in as many as possible or risk loosing what remains. And so I trudged out there, dressed in boots and wind-resitant gear, basket and shears in hand, mere minutes before the weather turned nasty. I pulled in a boatload of the largest under-ripe fruit from what remained on the vines. Only the currants and a few small cherry varieties were left behind.
So far this season I’ve made:
- zucchini and green tomato relish
- green cherry tomatoes pickled in tarragon and lemon peel
- sweet peppery pickled tomatoes
- dill pickled green cherry tomatoes
- fried green tomatoes
- roasted green tomatoes
- 2 lbs of green tomatoes are sweating in bowls of salt as I write this. They will be made into 2 more types of pickle.
They arrive early in the spring along with the hellebore, and the crocus, and the few other earliest of the early flowers. They are a gift. They greet us silently and yet there is an audible gasp when their bobbing heads are spotted above the debris.
Oh thank god we’re gonna make it after all saint Mary Tyler Moore the worst is over.
The world is coming alive again. You can stop holding your breath now.
The quest to preserve what remains of the fall garden bounty continues at a fevered pitch. I used to complain that I didn’t have enough green tomatoes at the end of the season, and now… let’s just say, Be careful what you wish for.
One nice way to use up the last of the herbs is to make herb-infused salts. I’ve written glowingly about them in my books — they’re use in the kitchen is endless. We use them as rubs, to flavour roasted veggies and potatoes, to season eggs, as an aromatic baked salmon crust, and as a finish on just about everything.
Sage and rosemary are common culinary companions, but I didn’t think to make a salt of it until I came across jars in a local Italian greengrocer. I initially thought that the strong, resinous herbs would limit the salt’s potential, but we keep a jar of it next to the other salts and I have found myself turning to it far more often than I imagined.
I taught a group how to prepare this particular mix in my Banking the Bounty workshop last month and recently made up a huge batch at home to give to friends as holiday gifts. I’ve provided instructions for a small batch, but it is easily multiplied.
p.s. You’ll love the way your kitchen smells as you make this.
I’ve been hurriedly bringing all of my frost-sensitive houseplants indoors for the winter in a mad rush to beat the season. As always I am doing it at the last minute rather than drawing it out slowly. Many of you are in a similar boat so I thought I’d compile a checklist of things that I do in the process.
- Check all plants thoroughly for critters. Check underneath mulch, leaves, in the crevices between stems…
- Slugs, snails, sowbugs, and earwigs can cram themselves into the tiniest spots. Check all around containers, especially plastic pots and hanging baskets that have a crevice underneath the lip.
- To flush pests out of the soil: Add a few inches of water to a deep sink or bucket and mix in a few drops of natural dish soap (no chemicals or scents added). The unscented Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap works well for this. Set pots in the liquid for a couple of hours. I am often lazy and don’t bother doing this with all pots — just the ones that I know are problematic.
- To flush pests out of the soil: A few drops of neem oil can be added to the water as an alternative to soap.
- Scrub any outside dirt from the side of the pots while they have their turn in the soapy water.
- Lightly shower particularly dirty or pest-infested plants with a hose before bringing them inside.
- Scrub down empty pots with a scrub brush and lightly soapy warm water. Set aside to dry thoroughly before putting them away.
- Place a small piece of newspaper between stacked terracotta pots to keep them from sticking to one another.
- Prune off any dead or diseased leaves and stems and cut back hard any plants that will be going dormant through the winter months.
It is a chaotic blanket of thin, tangled branches smothering the lilac bush. A wild thing in a garden that has gone mad with wild things and wildness. And once it got going that poor potted dahlia hardly stood a chance.
I’ve realized that it is a living approximation of my grandmother’s “Christmas tree.” My garden’s tribute of sorts to the mass of potted tropical vines and houseplants that she decorated with small glass balls and assembled into a triangular “tree” shape each December.