Archive for August, 2011

Season of Change – Fall Gardening

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

There is a definite change in the air, and a noticeable change in the length of the day and the angle of the sun. I’m used to the changes that come each year as summer ends, but this year is a little different.  My youngest son is starting his junior year of high school, and my oldest is starting his junior year of college.  Last weekend my oldest son moved out and into his own apartment. One down, one to go.  I’m a horrible mother…. I’m not one bit sad, and am happy to see him go. After all, isn’t this what the goal has been all along? To raise my boys into happy, responsible adults who can strike out on their own and thrive.  I love my kids, but my husband and I are coming to that point in our lives when we’re thinking about our own changes. We have things we put on hold to raise a family. We have things we want to do, places we want to go!

At this time of year,  gardeners are busy canning and preserving the summer’s bounty, and beginning to think about putting the garden to bed for winter.  I’m always amazed to see my gardening neighbors NOT take advantage of the opportunity to extend the harvest season by planting fall crops.

This morning was overcast and a little humid, the perfect morning to finish planting my fall garden.  Pictured above is a wall of climbing nasturtium growing in the center of one of my raised beds.  You can see my 6 foot tall San Marzano tomato plants in the background. The tomatoes are a late ripening variety, and are just now starting to turn pink. The picture below is another view of the nasturtium.  Earlier this summer you weren’t able to see much of the nasturtium because a row of spectacular Florence Fennel was towering above them to the right.  Along the left is a planting of green beans that are currently producing prolifically.  This year the green beans have me confused. They have usually begun to die off by this time of year.  Instead, they put on a second spurt of growth and are producing more beans than the initial crop 6 weeks ago.

Moving on to the raised bed where my nightshade family veggies are planted, the Italian heirloom eggplant, Listada de Gandia, are having a great year.

I love these eggplant! As well as being gorgeous, they’re some of the most flavorful I’ve ever grown.

The Chervena Chushka peppers, the  Bulgarian heirloom roasting peppers I planted from last year’s saved seed, are ripening. I see some pepper roasting in my near future.

The next raised bed is where my early spring garden was planted, and is now being transformed for fall and early winter. To the right you can see some cucumber vines (which are still producing prolifically), and to the left is a bed of parsley. In the middle is a lonely basil plant that was almost choked to death by some carrots that were harvested two or three weeks ago. New carrots have already been planted on the other end of this bed.  The bare spot in the foreground is planted with kale that will be harvested in late fall and early winter. I’ve talked my husband into helping me build a frame for a floating row cover, and am hoping to extend the kale well into winter. The kale variety is Winter Red Russian. This Cape Cod blogger reports harvesting Red Russian in February!

Around the corner to the other side of the bed are the snow peas I planted a couple of weeks ago. They should be ready to harvest in October.  Because there was a spring planting of peas here, I amended the soil with some compost before planting the new crop.

I’m not sure how much longer the cucumber will keep going.  At any given point in the last few weeks, you could find  10 to 20 pounds of these babies on my kitchen table. I’ve made salads, given them to friends and family, fed them to the chickens, and even thrown some on the compost pile.  If they don’t slow down soon, I’m going to have to yank them to make  room for the peas to climb the fence.  The spring peas were finished in time to be pulled to make room for the cucumbers, so it’s only fair that the cucumbers be sacrificed for the peas.

Rhubarb Liqueur

Friday, August 5th, 2011

I made my first batch of rhubarb liqueur last year, and it was a roaring success…. I ran out long before I was ready for it to be gone. This year I made a larger batch, and I’m already beginning to wonder if I made enough. It goes over very well as a homemade gift.

I started the liqueur back in May and have been allowing it to age.  I got into it for the first time this week, and have to say it’s darn tasty! It can be mixed with lemon juice and sparkling water, but I’ve been enjoying on the front porch after dinner, undiluted and chilled.

I’m not going to give exact measurements, because it really depends on growing conditions of the rhubarb and personal taste. Since this is a sipping cordial, I would recommend investing in some good vodka.

Rhubarb Liqueur
80 proof vodka

Chop rhubarb and place in a large jar (I filled a gallon jug about 2/3 full).

Pour vodka over rhubarb to cover by about an inch.  Allow rhubarb to steep 3 or 4 weeks.

Strain vodka from the rhubarb pulp, and place back into clean jar.

Make a thick simple syrup using 1 part water to 1.5 parts sugar. Place sugar and water into a pan and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes.  Cool syrup to room temperature.

Add simple syrup to rhubarb vodka to taste.  I really don’t know how much to recommend.  It’s going to depend on your rhubarb and the level of tartness or sweetness you prefer.  I had such a wet spring that my rhubarb was especially juicy, and the flavor wasn’t quite as intense as some years, so I used less sugar than the previous year’s batch.

Put a lid on the jar, place it in a cool dark location, and let it age at least 3 months.  Initially, it’s going to taste pretty rough.  I promise  it will become nice and smooth as it ages.