Pumpkins reveal themselves in these days of autumn cool nights and warm sunny afternoons.
Hidden under enormous hairy leaves until that day when Jack Frost steals the green from them, gardeners never really know how many are hiding out there. Now that the leaves are shrinking into curly dried scraps, we can begin to count our bounty.
That goes for most produce this time of year. I found a rogue cucumber vine so tightly entangled in a monster-sized zucchini plant that the cukes have laid undiscovered until this past weekend. Most of the pale unnatural looking vegetables were the size of a quick bread loaf. Definitely not good for eating.
The zucchini bush itself was an unbelievable size. What I thought was pumpkin sprawl in the west end of the garden, was an out-of-control zucchini. There were enough small squash on that vine to salvage, and give away (and I did).
The tomatoes produced in fine fashion this summer. They like thunderstorms and we had few early in the season. Lighting produces nitrogen in the air that makes tomato plants flourish. Of course, then they get heavy and fall over and cover all the tomatoes. This cover of leaves keeps the ground moist and then the slugs get all the really nice tomatoes. I hate slugs, so next year I am going to try and devise a way to keep those tomatoes as high in the sunshine as possible and keep them out of the slugs’ slimy reach.
Slugs cannot be easily destroyed. One summer my two children gathered a can full of slugs the size of my thumb. We poured gas on them and lit them on fire. (Children, do not try this at home without adult supervision.) They stopped moving as the gas burned over the top of them turning them into hard lumps of white. You can’t burn a slug – ugh.
We had a nice crop of tomatoes to eat. There’s nothing quite as tasty. The ones in the supermarkets taste like cardboard by comparison.
One of our bedtime snacks growing up in Fredonia was sliced tomatoes with sugar sprinkled on them. We ate a great deal of fresh vegetables, strawberries, chokecherries and rhubarb because my mom had a huge garden.
She canned and froze whatever we couldn’t consume, something I am now in the process of doing. My goal is to fill every jar in the house and then I won’t be doing anything but opening them in the winter months so I can concentrate on this food culture project.
I do enjoy fresh salsa and some years I make a green tomato salsa that rocks. All you need is those stubborn tomatoes that don’t ripen by the first hard freeze and your jalapeno peppers.
Here’s the recipe in case your garden leaves you with an abundance of green tomatoes and you don’t like them fried. Since there seems to be an abundance of green tomatoes this season, I will share my special salsa recipe… it is really good.
Green Tomato Salsa
16 cups chopped green tomatoes
4 cups jalapeno peppers, chopped
1/4 cup salt
1 cup vinegar
DIRECTIONS: Core tomatoes, but do not peel or seed. Cut into chunks the same size as peppers. Grind together in a food processor or blender. Do not grind too thoroughly, should be crunchy, not mushy.
Put mixture into a saucepan and add salt and vinegar. Stir and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Spoon into hot clean jars. Seal and process in boiling water bath five minutes for half-pints and 10 minutes for pints. Makes 8-10 pints.
If you want one last salsa dance with fresh tomatoes, here’s a favorite garden goulash recipe.
Fresh Garden Salsa
Use what you have, substitute if you wish, leave something out, but enjoy this with chips, hamburgers, grilled chicken and cheese or over eggs.
Crush 1 garlic toe in bottom of glass bowl
Cover with 1 teaspoon salt and the juice of half a fresh lime
While that rests, chop:
Five or six ripe tomatoes
3-4 jalapenos and
Small bunch of fresh cilantro
DIRECTIONS: Grate a small zucchini (5-incher) or one or two small cucumbers, then mix all the fresh veggies with the lime, garlic and salt. Stir and let flavors blend as they chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Enjoy.
Martha of Mandan’s tip of the season
If you have tons and tons of Roma Tomatoes to peel, use this simple trick to make your task go quickly. Cut the tomatoes in half and lay them cut side down on a baking sheet. Place them in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the tomato thoroughly heated. Remove the pan, let cool for bit and then slide those skins right off the top of the tomatoes and they are ready for spaghetti sauce or canning.