As the days get shorter, the garden starts winding down. I am a bit overwhelmed with fruits, vegetables, herbs and PUMPKINS!
This year’s patch included about 425 plants that I grew from seed. We have so many pumpkins we are dreaming of new ways to use them. We’ve got a carving competition planned for the employees, we’re selling them all over the building and every menu in the house includes fresh pumpkin. Most importantly, we’re roasting them like crazy so the Bakery’s holiday pumpkin pies can be made of fresh pumpkin. It is just so much better!
I remember the fun of picking out pumpkins to carve when I was a kid, it was a special treat! This year, we let our 7-year-old grandson have first rights for pumpkin selection and it was fun to watch him walk around and inspect the hundreds (thousands??!!) of pumpkins while picking out his favorites. He had certain patterns already planned for carving and we had to find the just right pumpkin for each shape.
That afternoon made the whole growing season worth it.
The tomato plants hit full stride just when the weather changed. We picked every last one – red, yellow or green. I have SO many tomatoes that they cover every surface in the laundry and kitchen. Drying them is so easy (just time consuming) and we’ll use dried tomatoes in soups, dressings, pasta dishes, quiche and anything else we can think of. I just slice them paper thin, remove the seeds and salt and season them lightly, then roast them in the oven at 170 degrees for 12 hours. They’ve become a popular snack at work. You should try it – they add a depth of flavor that is really special.
This year I had my first real harvest of concord grapes. We planted them in 2013 and this was the year it worked. We’ve made grape jelly for the Café at Ginger and Baker and a few jars to keep for special occasions. I personally believe any peanut butter and jelly sandwich should have only grape jelly.
When my Mom would fix them, she would put butter on white bread and cook them in a pan on the stove until the peanut butter would run out. Just writing about it makes me want one!! (She also gave us a single piece of white bread, folded in half, with mayonnaise and lettuce on it. It was a snack when we were really little, while lying in the bunk beds, just before going to sleep. We thought that was good, too!)
Our apple harvest included all the apples from our trees and those of friends. We ended up with several hundred pounds that will become apple pies, apply jelly, apple butter and fresh cider. We hosted Scrumpy’s on a Sunday afternoon to press apples.
They have an amazing machine and can take a batch of apples and turn them freshly pressed and pasteurized cider in a matter of minutes. We opened it up to the public so that others could press their small batch apple harvest and we made a lot of new friends. Next year we plan to do a lot more!
This evening I’ve been stripping stems of dried herbs. They’ve been air drying for several days and they will become a great snack for the chickens. I put a tablespoon of dried herbs in each nesting box on a weekly basis. According to what I’ve read on several backyard chicken websites, there is benefit for their health and I know from watching that it gives them lots to do during cold winter days. They scratch and peck every particle of the dried herbs in the boxes. Several of our employees think I’m a “crazy chicken lady”, but it could be worse.
I think the garden bounty will be put to bed soon. I’ve already started planning next year’s garden, incorporating what I learned this year. One thing for sure, I’ll plant another big pumpkin patch for the little guy who will be 8 when they are ready.