With apologies to E. B. Browning: “How do I store [as in ‘preserve’] thee? Let me count the ways. I store thee to the depth and breadth and height a Mason jar can reach . . . “ And in other ways.
Red, ripe tomatoes, the essence of summer. How to capture that essence for a dark, snowy winter day? A few ways: Let me count the ways.
Canning tomatoes can be a complicated, drawn out process, or something quick and easy. In the heat of summer, I choose the latter, merely filling a large pot a half-inch of water and then whole tomatoes from which any diseased or unripened areas have been excised. No de-skinning, de-seeding, or chopping. The pot is allowed to cool a bit after its volume has been reduced to one-half to two-thirds of the original volume.
October 31st, was slated to be the first hard frost of the season, later than ever. That afternoon, I went down my checklist of things to do in preparation for the cold.
Drip irrigation needed to be shut down so that ice wouldn’t damage the lines. I opened up the drains at the ends and at the low points of the main lines. I also opened up the valves on all the drip lines so water wouldn’t get trapped anywhere. Some people blow out all the lines with compressed air.
The only parts of the drip system that ever need to be brought indoors are the parts near the spigot: the battery-powered timer, the pressure reducer, and the filter.
But I wasn’t yet finished with water. All hoses got drained, with any sprayers or hose wands removed from their ends. Hoses were also removed from frost-free hydrants to let …
The weather is bouncing me around, have me revel in the warmth and the worry in the cold — for my plants, fruit trees and bushes in or nearing bloom, leas sprouting. Note to myself: Do not plant peas on St. Patrick’s day next year.
Brrrr! The mercury plummeted to nine degrees Fahrenheit in my garden a couple of weeks ago. Yet I was still harvesting fresh salad greens. And I don’t mean kale and Brussels sprouts; they’re tasty and still available in my “back forty,” but tender and succulent they are not. Likewise, I don’t mean turnips, carrots, or other root crops that can nestle in the relative warmth of the earth. (My root crops anyway were pulled and packed away into a box for winter storage.)
What I am talking about is lettuce, endive, and Chinese cabbage. These vegetables, which ARE tender and succulent, must have antifreeze in their cells to be able to remain so in the face of such cold temperatures. Actually, that’s not far off: With gradual exposure to increasingly colder temperatures, cold-hardy plants are able to move water out of their cells into the spaces between the cells, …
Last week I wrote that popcorn “don’t get no respect,” but should. This week: garlic, why so much respect?. It may be sacrilege — although it was not the case 50 years ago — to say that I’m not crazy over garlic. The amount of space people now devote to garlic in even small gardens never ceases to amaze me. If pressed for garden space, I’d fill every square inch with tomatoes, peppers, peas, and other vegetables that you can sink your teeth into right out in the garden, rather than garlic. You can’t purchase that experience; you can by garlic.
Okay, I do grow some garlic. But not well. My garlic’s roots don’t get to wallow in soft, mellow, compost-enriched, drip-irrigated soil along with my other vegetables. The cloves get tucked in an out of the way place where neighboring plants force its green shoots to stretch for light and …
I see a lot of gardens under wraps this morning, plants covered with upturned buckets or flowerpots, or blanketed under . . . well . . . blankets. Day after day of balmy temperatures have made it hard to hold back finally getting vegetable and flower transplants out of their pots and into the ground.
But temperatures just below freezing were predicted for last night (May 13th) and everyone got a wakeup call: Freezing temperatures, which could kill tomato, marigold, and other tender plants, are still possible. It’s all about averages; around here, there’s about a 10 percent chance of a frost the middle of May.