This morning I took advantage of the mild weather to get some chores done in the garden. As I kneeled on the ground planting garlic I thought about my recent trip to Georgia. I arrived in Atlanta the day before the State was set to execute Troy Davis. I’d been following the case through online news outlets, but it wasn’t until the morning of my talk that I realized that the time was set to correspond with the moment I got up to speak at the botanical garden.
This threw me into a tailspin. Should I recognize the moment? In my personal life I would. Yes, people around the world die every minute of everyday, but State sanctioned murder is not the same. Here I was in the place where it was about to happen and at that very moment. Not saying anything felt like intentional avoidance or denial, yet at the same time I was a guest from another country — people had come out to hear me speak about growing food and I did not want to send them home feeling badly, or worse still, judged.
Over the last month or so there had been some online chatter about the role of garden writers. Several people said that garden writers should stick to plants and pretty things and that there is no place for politics. I have already stated my opinion on this topic and find it interesting that it was only a short time later that I was in a position in which it was tested. Where is the line between our personal and professional lives? For me it is very fuzzy and I would not have it any other way.
The last of the tomato crop are racing to ripen on withering vines. The roselle is showing signs of cold damage and gaping holes are appearing in the garden beds where warm season annuals were once lush and thriving.
I feel blue. The garden season is winding down and while various contraptions will be employed to keep the food coming for some time yet, and even though several plants will join me indoors, creating a lush jungle in my office and the cold “greenhouse” out front, it’s just not the same.
Winter is not summer.
When I think of the months ahead, I can’t seem to get down with huddling up indoors plotting next year’s plan, nor can I anticipate the look of my new garden’s first winter. They are nice ideas, but I could do without them. Instead, I imagine myself cautiously traipsing into the garden in my bare feet to pick fresh herbs for dinner. I recall the heavy, smell of the sweet smell of the nicotiana flowers at night and rescuing the last head of sorghum from the squirrels. I don’t want that to end. I want it to keep going year-round. I want the roselle to get their chance to bloom. I want to cut back the hot peppers and the tomatoes and start anew. I want to be greeted each morning by a lush scene from my kitchen window and the promise of some new magic to discover.
I don’t want the long, cold break. I don’t want the slow, dark days and the blanket of winter to cover it all up. I don’t want to rest. I want to keep going.
Having a new garden to work with has driven my flowering bulb frenzy to a whole new level. At last count I have purchased 17 packages of bulbs and the planting season has only begun. There are lots of tantalizing bulb sales to happen upon yet, and plenty of time left in which to find space (somewhere) for “just one more.”
When we moved here late last fall, we made a last-minute $88 impulse bulb purchase even though we did not yet have a dug up patch of earth, or an inkling as to what we would be doing with the yard come spring. Propelled by the anticipation of springtime blooms, we haphazardly dug up some grass close to the house (where we would see them from the back window) and managed to get them into the soil the day before it snowed.
Despite their rocky start, the bulbs did bloom, and while we enjoyed seeing them, the overall look of a bunch of random bulbs coming up willy-nilly in an empty plot of earth was, for lack of a better term, some cheap-ass Gong Show shit.
Now, as we head into our first full fall with this garden, I can’t say that next spring is going to be much better. The garden looks lush and full and has grown into something more than I expected it to in five short months, but the entire east side is just one, long, slightly chaotic, landing strip. You know, the cottage garden look.
When it comes to dealing with an end of season garden glut I have one rule: everything roasted. I am yet to find a vegetable or fruit that doesn’t benefit from this treatment. I thought I’d tried it all and there were no more surprises left. I was wrong.
Last weekend I pulled out almost all of our tomato plants in all three gardens. I left in a few that had fruit that had some hope of developing a bit further before it gets too cold. There’s green tomatoes and there’s green tomatoes that are too green. I prefer to try and get them as developed as they can be before packing it in for the year. And before anyone mentions the hanging the plant upside down indoors trick; I simply don’t have the space. My neighbor tolerates a lot of my little gardening eccentricities in our shared hallway space: overwintering plants, bags of soil, stacks of terracotta pots, jars of tomato seeds…. For the record, he keeps a life-sized cutout of John Wayne in that same shared space. It was there a good month before I stopped suffering a miniature heart attack every time I walked into the hallway. For that reason alone I think we’re fairly even, but full-sized tomato plants hanging from the ceiling might be pushing things too far. I know where the boundaries of social decorum lie and I try to respect them. Most of the time.
But I digress. As I always do. Back to the tomatoes. In short, I have a lot of them and am in the process of making my famous green tomato chutney as I type this [ed. I wrote that a few days ago. The chutney is done and I have already given half of the jars away as gifts!). I did not intend to can them this year; I just don’t have the time. It’s funny how you can forget what 2 pounds of chopped tomatoes plus miscellaneous ingredients looks like until it is there in front of you. I had it in my head that I could just make it and stick it in jars in the fridge rather than canning. I do not have a fridge that big or the appetite to eat it all quickly enough. So canning it is.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), one batch does not take care of all of the green tomatoes I’ve harvested. What to do with the rest? I love fried green tomatoes, but that’s a lot of fried stuff. I’m spending an inordinate amount of time sitting on my ass these days. The only part of my body getting exercised are my typing fingers. I do not need to introduce several pounds of fried tomatoes to my digestive tract right now.
And then I remembered my glut rule: everything roasted. I adore roasted tomatoes but had never tried roasting green tomatoes. If green beans are delicious roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt then surely green tomatoes would benefit from the same treatment?
In conclusion: they do and then some. It’s a revelation!
Instructions are simple: