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Gardening Columns

'Tis the Season

First published on on September 24, 2009, by Suzanne DeJohn

What glorious weather we've been having! Especially compared to the rainy, cloudy start to the summer. It's the season for enjoying the fruits of all your efforts. Sometimes, though, that means a little more work. 

This is catch-up time for me. I start to get frantic as I imagine the upcoming winter and all I want to do before it arrives in earnest. Here's what's on my to-do list right now:

Preserving the Harvest
Late-summer crops are winding down so it's now or never. I also just got a new upright freezer to replace my old chest model, and it's calling out to be filled. 

Berries. I just went to a pick-your-own berry farm and picked some raspberries and blueberries. There were still plenty of developing fruits so I hope I get a chance to go back and get more. But not until I'm done with this first batch. I've learned to harvest a reasonable amount so that I can use it all before it goes bad. Mostly, I freeze the berries in a single layer on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets, and once they're frozen I put them into freezer bags. I also like to cook some of the berries, add a touch of sugar, and freeze the sauce in ice cube trays. 

Herbs. It's pesto time. My basil didn't do very well this year, but I planted so much that there's enough for quite a few batches. I combine basil, parmesan, olive oil, and nuts (this year, slivered almonds that were on sale and, for something new, sunflower seeds). I tried using a "stick blender" this year and it worked fine -- a little slower than a regular blender or food processor but easier to clean. I spread the pesto in ice cube trays and freeze for a few hours, then pop the cubes out and put them into freezer bags. 

I also planted lots of sage, thyme, and rosemary. I'll puree these individually with a little olive oil and freeze the resulting slurry in ice cube trays, too.

Corn. I've started parboiling corn on the cob, letting it cool, cutting the kernals from the ear, and freezing them in freezer bags. Supersweet corn stays sweet for days after harvesting, so it's not as much of a rush as, say, very perishable raspberries. I use the corn in all sorts of things -- from corn bread to soups to sprinkling some on as a pizza topping. Last night we ate corn mixed with some pesto and it was heavenly.

Apples. I used to can applesauce every fall and hope to do it again this fall. I wash the apples, cut them into quarters, and cook them, cores/seeds and all. Then I run the sauce through my handy dandy Victorio food strainer which removes the skin and seeds. It's not as good as applesauce you make by peeling and coring apples first, then cooking them, but it's so much easier. I don't bother to sweeten it before canning -- it's usually sweet enough and I can always sweeten it before I eat it. Just for fun, I like to thaw a few "berry sauce cubes" to add to the sauce before serving it to guests -- homemade raspberry/blueberry applesauce.

There's a big row of kale in the garden that I plan to parboil, slice, and freeze, too. But since it can take a few frosts (getting sweeter with the cool temperatures) I can wait on that.

Planting Hopes and Dreams
We just made a new planting bed and put in a crabapple tree with dreams of crabapple jelly in a few years. I'm hoping to add a few blueberry bushes to the bed this fall, and maybe a few raspberries, too. I'm inspired by my visit to the berry farm -- it's remarkable how much fruit a few plants can produce! 

It's also time to plant bulbs. I put rows of perennial herbs in my main garden this spring, so I'll put some bulbs among them for cut flowers. And I'm sure I'll find plenty of other spots for bulbs, too. To me, they're one of the most rewarding types of plants, bringing craved-for color in the drab days of early spring. 

Then there are all the other chores... Re-setting a flagstone path that's overgrown with grass. Tidying up the front beds. Picking up all the stray gardening detritus (pots, half-empty bags of soil) I've left around the yard -- once the snow falls they'll be buried until spring. 

Fall is such a glorious time of year, but it goes so quickly, and there's so much to do!



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