Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall Air

I don't know how it happened, but suddenly Fall is in the air. I had a friend call me from Bolivia tonight, and her first sentence included the phrase "so it's cold up there, I hear." She might even have cackled after saying that. And I, much to my chagrin, had to sigh and agree. It IS getting cold up here. One day soon we might have to turn on the heat in the morning. I've discarded my thin summer morning fling-on for a full length dressing gown. And because I'm a product of my British heritage, I'm also chiding the kids to come up in the mornings with their slippers on. "Where are your slippers?" I say, "Go and get them on. These floors are freezing!"

Yes, I am turning into my mother. And my aunties. And my grandmothers. And my great-grandmothers. It's running in the family (to quote Michael Ondaatje).

The garden is showing signs of chill: there are still a lot of things growing, but you can see the effects of the cold. There is a surprised look on everything, as if the cold has caught them unawares. The green tomatoes still left on the vines have that slightly shrivelled look. I went out today and picked everything that looked even vaguely reddish, and put them all in bowls in the greenhouse window on the deck, so they can a) ripen in some warm air, and b) ripen without bringing bucket-loads of fruit flies into the dining room.

So far I have many many many quarts of tomatoes in various guises in the cold room and freezer, mostly in the form of salsa because it's so versatile. A quart here in a pot of black beans, a quart there in some soup to spice it up, a quart on top of enchiladas or burritos, and a quart in a bowl with some corn chips when friends come over. Last year I canned 25 quarts of salsa and we had eaten them by mid-January, so this year I grew more tomatoes...

The other form of cooked tomato we love is the Simple Sludge: get a large stainless frying pan or dutch oven, drench the bottom generously with olive oil and plenty of pressed garlic, stir and stir until it's all sizzling nicely, then add many chopped up tomatoes. Stir and cook, stir and cook, until the mixture is bubbling and thick and you don't see any recognizable tomato bits in it (about 25 minutes). Once it's all lovely and sludgy, pour into a bowl (or a freezer bag) and maybe stir in a little salt. This is a particularly handy recipe for cherry tomatoes, cracked tomatoes, and tomatoes that are a little on the Overly Ripe side.

FDPG and I picked all her gourds and deposited them on the front porch, there to await our Halloween Summons. We hauled all the pumpkins under the deck, where they could cure in relative dryness. And I went out front and spent an entire day digging up the front rockery, so that I could put in some bulbs and get old weeds out before the winter comes and sends everything into hibernation. I felt slightly conflicted about this, because I know there were more than a few leaf cutter bees with little nests in that rockery, and while I am always neurotically careful about not disturbing the nests of such creatures, I do fear that several must have crumpled under the loving crunch of my shovel.

Thanks to a Bulb Fairy I have a new bag of bulbs to plant. I will inflict some names upon you, just because I can:

Frittilaria Persica (40" tall)
Baby Moon Mini Narcissus (10" tall, fragrant)
Tulip Angelique (16" tall)
Striped Squill- Pushkinia (6" tall)
Bulgaricum Nectaroscordum Siculum (36" tall, fragrant)
Summer Snowflake - Aestivum Leucojum
Purple Sensation - Allium (36" tall, fragrant)
Imperialis Rubra - Fritillaria (36" tall, fragrant)
Striped Beauty - Fritillaria (36" tall, fragrant)

Thank you Bulb Fairy. You are sweet and generous and when these things bloom we will invite you over for a tea party. With cakes. Iced, even.

Did I mention that we turned over the composts last week? And when we did so we discovered layers of living quarters, like an apartment building. On one layer we found a mother snake and her two young snakettes; on a lower level we found a tunnel with two baby mice in it. They gambolled away as soon as we opened up their layer, as did the snakes (and snakettes), and while Max was typically vengeful about all things Rodential, none of us had the heart to do anything other than peer and hope for the best, in the end. We sent the snakes, who seemed to have absolutely no idea who was living below them, packing, and buttressed up the mouse house, despite FDPG's pleas ("can't we take them and put them in the aquarium and keep them forever oooh they're so cute oooh look at those little babies I love them they are so cuddly looking oh shut up you stupid boys we aren't going to smash them with the shovel oh can't we keep them as pets?").

I'm glad I don't live further in the countryside, where I'd no doubt be dealing with skunks and raccoons and deer and all sorts of other things I am ill equipped to deal with (I have a very low tolerance for things that mess with my gardening impulses).

And now I am going to contemplate what we grew and how we grew it and what we will or will not grow next year. (sounds so simple, doesn't it? sheila rolls her eyes at such simplistic hopes)


Heather said...

I've just copied your method of dealing with too many tomaotes and sent it to my inbox with the subject line as Sludge. Last night I was wondering just what I planned to do with the box of overripe tomatoes sitting on my countertop and now I know. What do you do with the sludge, is it for use on pizza and pasta?

I can relate to putting tomatoes in everything, I've been chopping them into anything we're eating. Yesterday for lunch I was trying a curried pumpkin soup with coconut milk and seriously considered chopping a big beefsteak into it...I'm glad I managed to restrain myself. ;-)

sheila said...

I have such a way with words, don't I? I don't think I could sell many cookbooks with such descriptions, but gosh this sludge is good. I cover cooked pasta with it, or stir in into soups that need a little thickening, smear it on toast, and use it on poached eggs sometimes. It's very versatile.

Restrained curried pumpkin soup sounds fabulous! I'm trying to convince Dominic that we shouldn't carve some of the pumpkins we grew, because they are supposedly good eating pumpkins (Rouge Vif d'Etampes and Luminara).

Heather said...

Thanks, Shelia. Just went to get started on the sludge and realized that I don't know if you peeled them or not? I'm going to assume not! (she says boldy mostly because that will make it oh so much easier - a nice speedy sludge) Makes sense, right?

Yes, do save some of the pumpkin and hide it from children with sharp knives. I made super yummy nutty pumpkin loaves yesterday too because I am rather desperately trying to use up some of the pumpkin still in my freezers from last year's giant pumpkins. What was I thinking?

Andrea said...

When you live in the country side you get a big guardian dog who keeps your garden safe from such peskies... also, you plant it close to your house and the smell of humans...