The end of summer garden generally falls into one of two categories. So abundant the gardener is making stealth visits to neighbor’s homes with zucchini the size of baseball bats and bags overflowing with tomatoes or, unfortunately, the other option, sad and desolate with a few hardy chiles and cherry tomatoes in among all the vigorous vegetation.
I’m going to make a huge admission. The potager, started with great enthusiasm, has been treated like a unwelcome houseguest for the last few weeks.
My garden is getting on my nerves.
All the heirloom tomato plants filled with promise in June have been overwhelmed by volunteer cherry tomato vines. Where are my Cherokee Purples? What about Mr. Stripey? Lost to the Sweet One Hundreds and the ever abundant Sungolds. My great hopes for padron peppers? Crushed. The plants are happy but there are no flowers because the CHERRY TOMATOES ARE CREATING TOO MUCH SHADE. The three cucumber vines that were sure to provide enough for relish and a round of dill pickles? Cucumber wilt got ‘em. The plants melted away the last time we were out of town.
The raspberry canes are long and lush with no signs of flowers. I know these are late season berries, but isn’t it late season already? Three okra plants are nearly as tall as I am. And there are six or seven okra each week. Total. Unfortunately, I planted the wrong variety. I think these are called cow-horn okra and they’re enormous and way too seedy for my liking. Perfect for gumbo, they’re too big to fit in a pickling jar.
I have to give props to the poblano, shishito and jalapeno plants. They just keep on giving back. Every visit to the garden, I fill the basket with shishitos (quickly blistered, showered with salt and devoured) and poblanos (with favorite recipes for rajas or tapenade.) And dozens and dozens of cherry tomatoes. I should not complain.
Lessons learned, all of them, and I’m already planning what I will do differently next year. There is still time to get some winter garlic in the ground, to plant leeks, put in lettuce seeds and rows of greens, carrots and beets to overwinter, but, frankly, I’m not hopeful. I’m afraid a looming deadline takes precedence over the hoe.
It hasn’t been too weedy, which is a boon. I do like to go gathering all that’s growing, and pulling a few creeper vines, mustard and other familiar weeds takes only a few minutes each time. Lily weed, scourge of the Rock Creek Community Garden, is around, but it’s easy enough to eradicate. The slim stem harbors a nodule four inches below the soil surface. Each must be dug out, but the soil is loamy and rich and turns easily, so a swift, deep thrust of the transplant spade brings weed, nodule and roots right out of the ground. Lily weed strikes fear in my heart only because I do not want to get a “notice” from the Garden Authorities. Two strikes and you’re out.
I’ve made the best of the cherry tomato explosion. Every visit to the garden yields about a pint of little orbs. This confit is easy and quick to make, holds at least a week in the fridge, and goes with everything. It’s the very essence of a condiment, perfect on the side.
2 cups assorted cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
1/2 lemon, sliced thinly into half moons
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Spread the tomatoes out in a pie pan or baking dish or on a sheet pan. Add the garlic, lemon, Herbes de Provence and oil. Stir to coat everything in the oil.
Bake slowly for one hour at 325°F.
When cool, scrape the confit into a jar with a tight fitting lid. Serve at room temperature. Will keep for about a month, if it lasts that long.
Congratulations to Joan who makes udon with spicy peanut sauce topped with whatever veggies she has in the house. Her name was selected randomly from all of you nice people who commented on my last post. Joan, a copy of Joe Yonan’s Eat Your Vegetables is yours as soon as you send me your mailing address.