I think I've managed to redeem myself as a gardener, but first I have to confess something.
Remember all that corn I was drying in the oven on the dehydrator setting? Well, I forgot about it and left it there so long that not only did all the corn mold, I was also growing mold on the interior of the oven itself. It was pretty bad. So gross in fact that I'm sparing you the picture, which I didn't take. Needless to say, I lost my entire corn crop and I'm quite mad at myself. But- I have learned the lesson of getting the corn into the ground on time and to not worry about cool it is outside. The corn needs as long as it takes to ripen and dry before the rainy season comes, and hoping and wishing does not speed up that time. Next year, the corn goes into the ground in May.
I'm also pretty miffed about my apples. Out of eleven trees of differing varieties, I had only four apples on my Golden Russet which I'd carefully bagged up in plastic produce bags so that the coddling moths couldn't get to them but the light could ripen them. I went to go harvest them yesterday and the bags were ripped and hanging on the branch but there were no apples to be found. Not even pieces of apple were lying around. Something with hands tore through the bags and picked my apples and spirited them away somewhere to be enjoyed at leisure. Raccoons. In hindsight, I realize that I should have ignored the espalier instructions I was following and not made the first tier at eighteen inches from the ground; I should have started higher- at least twenty-four inches, or maybe even thirty inches. Well out of reach of raccoons, anyway. So this winter when I go to cut and spread the last tier on the apples, I'll be pruning off the lowest branches. I'll lose some yield, to be sure, but if I leave them, I'll lose the apples anyway, and I'd really rather not be feeding the raccoons. I realize that raccoons can climb trees, but I would think it would be harder to come down with full paws. Maybe I should just string up some goat fencing on the wire uprights and put in a doorway and call it a fruit cage. Damn raccoons.
But I managed to get a lot done in the garden yesterday. I cleared the asparagus patch for the winter and started the winter compost pile closer to the house. I dug up all the German Queen tomato plants and cleared the bed, and then planted my garlic and leeks in that bed. I've decided that German Queens aren't the right tomato for me after all. Sure, they're delicious, but they take all summer to start setting fruit, and they don't finish nicely enough to can. I need to try some locally developed varieties like Oregon Spring or Santiam, or even a variety developed in Canada, like Beaverlodge, all of which handle cooler temperatures and ripen fruit early.
|Green tomatoes and mystery peppers|
I also cleaned up the African Queen tomatoes, Fortex green beans, and the two mystery peppers from the Long Bed. Now all it has are my fall and winter vegetables (more on that later). The African Queen made prettier tomatoes than the German Queen but I did not get one ripe tomato from them. So they are out as well. I did not like the Fortex green bean at all. It was billed as a pole variety filet bean, but you had to catch them in time, otherwise they quickly grew into obscenely long and tough beans. So they are out. I really liked the Denver filet beans I grew last year, which produced all summer long and were delicious, but harvesting bush beans was really hard on my back. This summer I noticed that the Kentucky Wonder pole beans that my neighbor was growing made nice little filet beans when they were immature, so I may try some of those next year. Kentucky Wonder is an old, open-pollinated variety and I think they'd make a good addition to my roster. I will definitely not be growing Fortex again, though.
This winter as I clear parsnips and beets out of the Long Bed I'll be making room smack dab in the middle of the bed, and this is where I'll erect a hoop cover for next year's solanums: tomatoes, peppers, and egg plant, none of which did well this year. The best garden I ever had was the one that I was able to start early because I had winter protection, I'll try that again.
|Potatoes, turnips, and carrots|
I also cleared the corn stalks and most of the potatoes out of the Big Bed. The potatoes were a surprise- I actually managed to harvest quite a few of them, so they weren't the disappointment I thought they would be. I also harvested a number of turnips and carrots for dinner, and there are a lot more where they came from, so I think I may have redeemed myself as a gardener because I have some food in the garden still. Next spring I'll try planting spring wheat in the Big Bed, and after I harvest that I'll plant my fall and winter vegetables in it. Somewhere between now and next spring I'll need to contact the Extension Service to find out what kind of seed to grow for spring wheat and where to get it.
Then the last thing I managed to get done last night before the sun went down was to cover up the two citrus trees for the winter and harvest some horseradish. Steve dragged the potted lemon and lime trees closer to the house and then we tented them with agribon. The very last thing we did before coming in the house was to dig up some horseradish, which I'll prepare later today. From everything I've read, horseradish loses its bite after a few weeks in the fridge, so you have to pack it into little jars and then freeze them. But all you do to preserve horseradish is peel it, wash it, grate it, let it sit three minutes to develop its heat, and then pack it with vinegar or salt (but never the two together or you'll wind up with mush) and then freeze as mentioned or refrigerate. I think I might be lucky to find one little jar, so I'm considering freezing it in an ice cube tray and then bagging those up, but I'm concerned that my next batch of ice following the horseradish having a distinct taste of horseradish. I may have to rethink that one. Hmmm.
Then last night I made stew for dinner with turnip, carrots and potatoes from the garden, and it was easily one of the best stews I've ever made. I don't have a picture of it (we were starving by the time I got it on the table) but I'll tell you what went in it, if you're so inclined.
Autumn Beef Stew
Season some flour with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder. Coat your stew meat in that and brown the meat in some bacon fat in a Dutch oven. When all the meat is brown add a quart or so of beef or pork stock and scrape the fond off the bottom of the pan. Add cut up carrots, turnips, and potatoes. Turn up the heat, and when it's good and hot add a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce (I used a sauce/paste combo I keep in the fridge for topping pizza- it has nothing else in it but olive oil), and a couple of tablespoons of my favorite Secret Ingredient, which is avjar. Avjar is an Eastern European condiment made of red pepper, eggplant and garlic and is a flavorful substitute for mayo on a sandwich, except that it makes the bread soggy if you spread it ahead of time. I usually bring it separately and spread it right before I eat the sandwich. It's also good as an addition to things like pasta sauce and beef stew. After you add the avjar and stir that in, add a couple of crushed cloves of garlic and some fresh ground black pepper. After it's all stirred up and boiling, turn the heat down and put a wooden spoon across one side of the pot and put a lid on it, resting one side of the lid on the spoon so that steam can escape. Now let it stew for about an hour. It should have thickened up in an hour and be ready to serve. I'm expecting the left overs to be even better.
And since we all like food porn, here is a picture of a meal we had recently:
For lunch last Sunday I made us a classic hash brown done in the French manner, which is to put half your hashed potatoes on the bottom of a frying pan in bacon grease, layer on some fresh green onions and pepper, and then layer on the second half of the hashed potatoes. (Except the French do it with leeks and duck fat, neither of which I had. I imagine that with duck fat and leeks this dish would be out of this world, but it was still pretty darn edible the way I did it.) When the first side is done, invert it onto a plate, add more fat to the pan, and then slide the whole thing into the pan again, brown side up, and season the top side with salt and pepper. Cook that side until brown and serve. The neat thing about this really simple dish is that you get a nice, crunchy exterior and the inside is all creamy. Delish. I served it with poached eggs on salad with a vinaigrette. If I remember correctly, we had it with home brew; we shared a pilsner because it was the middle of the day.
So there you go: a confession, redemption, and a couple of recipes.