Garden Bounty

Posted on August 18, 2011

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It’s that time of year again.

Harvest time!

Harvest time comes late where I live.  Although we can put seeds in the ground after Memorial Day, June is often so cold and rainy those poor seeds stay in the warm ground, whimpering and generally being scaredey-cats.  Our garden always has a very slow start.  Then comes July and August and we finally have sunny days, even if many of them are interrupted by afternoon thunderstorms.  If we are lucky, September will be warm enough so we continue to let our precious harvest ripen on the vines.  But last year, while we were out of town for Labor Day, there was a random cold spell that froze nearly everything in the garden right before we were to harvest.  Tomatoes, peppers, and corn…..nope.  We weren’t able to save a lot.  Sometimes I wonder why we bother.  I mean, gardening is a lot of work.  The weeding alone in our windy town……ugh.  It makes me tired just thinking about it.

Then the harvest starts to roll in and  remember why.  Nothing compares with the taste and texture of fruits and vegetable you raise yourself.  I spent several hours yesterday collecting our garden’s offerings.

We only have a few raspberry pickings left.  If  had to guess I would say we are up to about 12 gallons so far this year.  12 gallons!!!!   I wonder how many flats that makes.  Our raspberries are not as hardy as what you buy at the grocery story.  The are delicate and can get smashed easily.  But the flavor is absolutely amazing!  You will find several recipes for raspberries on this site.  Makes sense now, right?  One of our favorite things is to just pour fresh cream and a sprinkling of  sugar on a bowl of raspberries and eat them as dessert.  I also made a batch of jam, and another batch of raspberry-blueberry jam and steam canned it.  In the past we have also made raspberry-chipotle sauce, Raspberry huckleberry jam, and even just canned the raspberries in quart jars.  Several of the pickings I freeze so we can use them in smoothies and punch all winter.

Our cherry tree is still a baby.  But looks how well it is doing!  I got two large bowls this year.  These are tart cherries–perfect for jams and pies.  They are soft and juicy, so they are easy to pit, unlike Bing cherries.  Of course, you can eat these fresh, but you might pull a face.  They are pretty tart.  I made a batch of Amish spiced cherry jam, which is one of my favorites.  I love the flavor.  With this next batch I think I will make a couple of pies.  I wish my Dad were here.  His absolute favorite is cherry pie.

Beans are on!  We should get several pickings, all about this size.  I am not sure if you can tell from this picture, but that metal bowl is HUGE.  We typically can or freeze the excess.  We have canned up to 40-50 quarts of beans most years from our garden in the past.  You have to have a pressure canner for beans, but since PapaChef heads up that venture we are able to get it done from year to year.  We have a double decker pressure canner that cans 14 quarts at a time.  Also, one of the best things on earth to eat is fresh garden beans and newly dug red potatoes cooked together with bacon and spices.  I make this at least once a week while beans are on.  We plant stringless Blue Lake bush beans. We have tried other varieties but that is our favorite.

Here are the potatoes to go with the beans!  I think red potatoes from our garden are just about the most delicious thing.  They are so sweet, and have a melt-in-your-mouth texture.  Definitely better than buying them at the store.  We plant several rows of red potatoes, as well as Yukon gold and fingerlings.

These fellas right here can be a little difficult to coax out of the ground here.  Some years we get squash, some years it is a little slow.  We are just barely harvesting squash.  And this year we managed a whole bunch of cucumbers!  We have not had a lot of luck with them in the past.  We put the plants in the ground, and they just die before they can even get going.  Or we plant seeds that never make an appearance.  We always get peppers and tomatoes, but very late in the season.  We just don’t get great sun for long enough.  Some years we have to pick green tomatoes and let them ripen in the house.  But some years, if the weather holds, we get buckets and buckets of vine-ripened tomatoes.  Those are my favorite years.  We grate zucchini and freeze for baked goods, and we also make zucchini salsa.  With tomatoes we do so much–both red and green tomato preserves, tomato sauces of all varieties, and just straight up jarred tomatoes.  We generally plant between 20-25 plants, of all different heirloom varieties.  We made an orange tomato/sage sauce last year that was awesome!  A lot of these recipes are posted already so do a search if you need them.

In the end, it is pretty exciting to work hard in the fall so we end up with this in our storage room:

Oh and apples.  Our apple tree is loaded this year.  So loaded it can’t even stay all the way upright.  They will be ready after the first hard frost, usually in early October.

And then we plow our garden under and take a break.  Can’t do much with several feet of snow on the ground.  We have a lot of space for a large garden, but even if you don’t you can work wonders with large pots on your porch.  Gardening is quite fulfilling.  You get to see something real from all your work.

Here’s to another successful harvest!

What is your favorite fresh from the garden item?  What can you grow in your area that can’t be grown in high altitude desserts?

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