Greenpoint: Summer’s end brings bountiful rewards

Bags and bins of tomatoes and squash leave the house resembling a produce warehouse. (Margaret Hartley)
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Bags and bins of tomatoes and squash leave the house resembling a produce warehouse. (Margaret Hartley)

Categories: Food, Life & Arts

Frost came last week, with three nights of hard freezes. Before the first freeze, I picked all the peppers and as many tomatoes I could. We have bags and baskets of ripe and ripening tomatoes in the house, and there was no way I could get them all.

We covered the tomatillos and okra plants, but they froze anyway. Like my husband, they are not suited to northern weather. I picked as many flowers and tender herbs as I could, and said goodbye to the rest.

Our house looks like a produce warehouse. The garden is in winter mode, with only the hardiest plants left — broccoli, kale, collards, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard, carrots and beets. There are new peas and spinach coming along, in case we don’t get another freeze for a while. I think there are two more cauliflowers out there.

The cucumbers and summer squashes were already done, and after the freeze killed the leaves on the winter squashes and pumpkins we could see all the hidden fruits. It’s always a surprise to see how many more squashes you have than you thought.

I hated to lose the basil, even though I didn’t need any more. A week earlier, my neighbor and I had a pesto party, spending an afternoon together making and freezing dozens of meal-sized bags of pesto from a shopping bag full of basil leaves, our garlic and goat-milk tomme in place of Parmesan. I gave as much basil to my sister as I thought she could handle and she made pesto, too.

Still, there was so much more. I picked another big bunch before the freeze, and it’s still green and vibrant in a jug of water. What I left in the garden is black and drooping now, like the pepper plants. We’ll pull them up and put them in the compost pile as we clean out the garden and put it to bed for the winter. We’ll let the chickens inside to assist with the cleanup.

There’s still food coming in though. Our salads now are based on kale or cabbage, and the freeze just makes the carrots sweeter. And we’ll be eating fresh tomatoes for another month, as those picked early ripen. We haven’t even started picking the Brussels sprouts.

At the same time, a lot of the garden work has shifted to inside. Instead of weeding, we’re canning, turning tomatoes into salsa, sauce and soup. The hardy greens will last another month or more in the garden, which gives us time to chop and freeze a few bunches at a time. We’re roasting big trays of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and onions with our goat paneer, eating some for dinner and freezing some for future meals. Maybe I’ll make sauerkraut with all those cabbages.

My husband dreads the turning of the seasons. I know what he means, but I also look forward to the time we’ll gain for other projects once the gardens are done. And like a squirrel hiding nuts and seeds in every crevice, I like filling our shelves and the basement chest freezer with our summer bounty.

Winter’s on its way. We’ll be eating what spring and summer gave us.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Oct. 11. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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