Greenpoint: Taking advantage of the lingering growing season

Still getting zucchini well into the fall season.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Still getting zucchini well into the fall season.

Friends and neighbors are talking about how warm it’s been, how strange it is that we haven’t had a frost yet, how they can’t remember a year where we’ve gone to the end of October with no garden-ending freeze.

It is weird to still have basil growing in the end of October, which means there hasn’t even been a near frost. I remember one year where there were only a few light frosts through October and November, and I was picking kale and broccoli sides shoots until December. But I remember a lot more years when we had hard frost ending the garden at Labor Day.

The growing season has definitely gotten longer since we’ve been North Country gardeners these past 30 years. There were so many years when we were frantically harvesting bushels and wheelbarrows full of tomatoes and peppers by headlight and flashlight in the face of an early threatened frost.

Next year I’m going to do more third plantings, and see what extra fall crops we can get.

For now, I’m taking advantage of the lingering season. We’re still getting zucchini and lettuce. We just harvested the last of the watermelons. The basil plants I cut down for pesto are leafing back up again. The peppers won’t stop.

This is one of those years when I have more hot peppers than I know what to do with. I’ve made tons of salsa, red and green. I’ve given as many away as I can, to whoever will take them — salsa makers, enchilada eaters. Even heat lovers tell me they are very hot, and it doesn’t take many to spice up a dish. So I still have more than I know what to do with. I can dry some, but I still have a jar full of dried hot peppers from the last time I had an overabundance, four or five years ago.

So I started fermenting red peppers — mostly habenero and cherry with a few jalapeña and cayenne — for hot sauce. I have so many that are still green that I’ll ferment those for a green hot sauce. My husband doesn’t like too much hot pepper, but there’s also an abundance of bell peppers. Most of our dinners these days have a side of sautéed onions and peppers.

I think we’ll get to the start of November before we get a killer frost, and I’ll wait to harvest the rest of the carrots until then. In the meantime, my husband is cleaning up the garden, planting beds of winter rye as a cover crop to turn in come spring. We’re planting next year’s garlic.

And picking peppers every day.

Last weekend the college kid came home for a quick visit, and we took a few hours to climb our favorite mountain. Normally this time of year most of the leaves would be down, but this year they hadn’t even reached peak color.

It was a beautiful hike, as it always is, and as we were snacking on the mountain top a cold wet wind blew in under a darkening sky. We got moving, and hiked down in the rain. It felt like fall, and when we got home we changed into warmer clothes before driving back to Vermont.

I deposited the kid back at school, with a bag of late vegetables, two jars of salsa and plenty of hot peppers.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Nov. 7. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: Life and Arts

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