Archives for posts with tag: mesclun

The early frost decisively ended the year for most of the vegetables in our garden.  And although it was not a violent weather event (such as last year’s hurricane) and did not last very long (unlike the snowstorm last October), the cold weather left behind a mess of frost-damaged vines and vegetables.  The sight of them is not very uplifting—it is the complete opposite of the promising appearance of spring growth—and it is time to clean up and start getting the planters ready for winter.

So we disentangled the string beans from their trellis and pulled up their roots, some of which extended completely across the planter.  The bedraggled tomatoes, mesclun, bell pepper, eggplant and basil received similar treatment.  I was impressed by their extensive and deep root systems, which was reassuring even if not all of the plants produced as much as I would have liked.

Likewise, we pulled up the stakes and cages, cleaned them off and stored them on the back porch, next to the firewood.  We left the trellis in place (it is a more elaborate construction) but will probably have to move it next spring (we’ll be rotating our crops).  Until then, we’ll enjoy its rectilinear orderliness (and maybe we’ll hang Christmas lights on it).

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We ended up with a few pounds of green tomatoes this year, fruit that started to develop in the early days of September but which languished on the vine as the daylight dwindled.  They are beautiful in their varied—and variegated—shades of green and still good to eat.

We contemplated breading and frying them in the classic southern style or perhaps pickling them (I prefer pickled tomatoes to pickled cucumbers and consider them a delectable deli treat).  But then Rachel found a recipe for Cherry Tomato and Yellow Squash Crumble in the July/August issue of Vegetarian Times magazine.  The dish looked tasty.

Of course, we have neither cherry tomatoes nor yellow squash but I liked the idea of a savory crumble (fruit crumbles are among my favorite dessert dishes).  So we substituted our green tomatoes and upsized to a medium onion (to account for the missing squash).  And I confess that we probably used more than a half-cup of grated Swiss cheese (okay, we used at least twice as much).

Despite our modifications (or perhaps because of them), the crumble was absolutely delicious.  I highly recommend it to anyone who still has green tomatoes to dispose of (and I suspect that the original dish is good, too, for those lucky enough to have ripe cherry tomatoes and squash of any color this late in the year).

In final preparation for tonight’s potential freeze, we picked all of the tomatoes still hanging on the vines.  Most of them are green—we will have to decide whether to fry them up or pickle them or do something else—while one or two are showing a hint of pink.  They’ve been patiently waiting for the sun to ripen them but the days are now too short.

Next, we clear-cut the lettuces.  They have gotten slightly bitter with age but paired with citrus (Rachel’s trick for balancing the flavors) and the almost-ripe tomatoes, they will make a fine final salad of the year.  On the other hand, given the mesclun’s determination and perseverance, I will not be too surprised if they return for another round (I’m not holding my breath, either).

To complete our harvest, we started sifting through the French Filet (low) and Blue Lake (high) vines, looking for ripe string beans.  At first, I thought that we would not find very many—previous yields have been modest—but apparently I hadn’t been searching thoroughly enough.  After checking each vine top to bottom, left to right, we ended up with a large zip-top baggie full of beans.

Before heading back into the house, I pulled out a tarp to cover the radish sprouts.  If they can survive the freeze, they might still make it to maturity.  I used pieces of stone to hold the tarp in place (I never did get around to paving the perimeter of the planters) and will hope that it is sealed well enough to retain the heat of today’s solar radiation.

Oddly, Saturday’s cool temperatures are expected to be followed by unseasonable warmth on Sunday and Monday.  October can be a difficult month to predict, lodged as it is between September, a month more closely aligned with summer, and November, which often feels more like a winter month.

I have often noted that daily changes in the garden are not always readily noticeable but that after our prolonged absence, the accumulated changes are immediately apparent.  I still believe this but after spending the last few days in Boston and seeing very little change on our return, I would add that it is mainly true during the more active portion of the growing season.

It’s the end of the season and many of the plants are already gone (most notably the cucumbers and zucchini) or winding down.  The latter is particularly true of the tomatoes which have not made any significant progress for a couple of weeks now.  All of the tomatoes that were green mid-week, before we left town, are still green today and showing no signs of turning color.  Even the few tomatoes that had already reddened are no redder now.  There just isn’t enough direct sun during the day.

On the other hand, there are signs of life in the garden.  The string beans are getting larger and the stalks are still producing blossoms.  The radish seedlings, just two weeks old, continue to develop (although it is extremely unlikely that they will reach maturity by next week, as promised by the seed packets).  And the lettuce patch continues to surprise us with its sustained growth (even if the older leaves have become slightly bitter).

Over in the ornamental garden, the divided and replanted Siberian irises are sending up new growth, the sight of which was very reassuring after their complete upheaval.  I don’t know whether this is normal (I don’t remember seeing it before) or a response to the late warm weather or to being separated.  But I am happy (and relieved) to see that we did not kill them off.

This evening, I picked the first of the French Filet string beans.  This is the bush variety (as opposed to the Blue Lakes, which are pole beans) and I had to search through the closely spaced leaves to find the ripe ones.  We didn’t do anything with them except to wash them and cut them into bite size pieces.  Raw, they were a nice addition to a salad along with lettuce (our mesclun patch is still producing) and two of the few remaining tomatoes.

Our first string bean harvest allows a nice segue into more recapping of the current season.  The string beans, and the Sugar Snap peas before them, did very well in our garden and we will plant them again next year.  But I think we need to devote more space to them (at least one full-length row) so that there are enough ripe legumes at any time to make a sizeable meal.  This year, we either ate the beans a few at a time or waited until there were enough, taking the risk that some would be overripe.

Of course, if we allow more space for peas and beans we will also have to give up room for other things.  I can’t think of anything we planted this year that I would not grow next year; therefore, we may have to expand the garden.  We probably don’t have enough space to add another full-size planter but we could grow some vegetables in pots or directly in the ground.

Of this year’s vegetables, zucchini would be the most suitable candidate for in-ground growing.  Zucchini plants can be very large—our single vine ended up using as much space as two did earlier in the season—and they tend to sprawl.  Before we pulled it out, our zucchini took up almost half of its planter.  “Don’t Fence Me In” would be the zucchinis’ theme song and it is easy to see why they are often grown in free-form patches.

As for pots, the eggplant and bell pepper plants might do well in stand-alone containers.  Unlike the zucchini, they do not spread out very much.  In fact, the eggplant in particular grew upward as much, if not more, than it did outward.  Neither the eggplant nor the bell pepper grew very large (which may be a characteristic of their respective varieties or due to poor soil conditions) and their smaller size would make them easier to move around as the solar exposure changes.