The garden is beginning to die. Cayenne, jalapeno, and sweet bell pepper plants still offer yearning blossoms, but most will not produce. A second planting of green beans still gives but more slowly. A broccoli plant that resisted bolting all summer finally sent up its tallest stalk yet, with a yellow flower on top. I yanked it from the soil and chopped its tough stalk into pieces so the compost could devour it.
I like this time, after weeks of high-volume bounty, when the garden stops erupting. Some plants begin to wilt and provide less fruit; others take full advantage of the cooler air they crave.
It’s salad time again, and I’m trying new variations like spicy greens with mint and feta. The little beads of brussels are growing plumper, waiting for the first hard frost to sweeten them. My two surviving pumpkins have grown heavy and bend the branches of the nearby hedge their vines climbed all summer. Their stems are still green, so I wait.
When I saw temperatures predicted in the high 40’s, I plucked most of the green tomatoes out of the garden. Two large bowls full of them now claim important real estate on the kitchen counter. They have friends sprawling, bowl-less, on the counter top and window sill. I love the smell and texture of the green skin and seem to remember a recipe for Green Tomato Chow Chow. But the greens of the green zebras are turning already to their sensual yellow, the exotic ones reveal themselves to be white not green, and red is creeping up the bodies of the others.
Not a single of the dozens of tomato seeds I planted in early April made it successfully into the garden. A friend with a small farm provided the seedlings for these delicious beauties. When I give them attention, I remember how she nursed them in her greenhouse. She says its warmth and light in February and March kept her sane, and I briefly consider whether it’s possible to have a tiny greenhouse of my own.
For weeks already, tomatoes have been coming at me. I am full of restraint, not eating hardly a one unless it’s part of a planned meal, like coconut curry with tomatoes, green beans, tempeh, corn, and cilantro.
I cut and cored most of the tomatoes, spreading them on baking sheets to roast slowly for nearly an hour at 350 degrees. When done, they become sauce-like in the blender, then frozen in glass jars on the door of my freezer. I imagined saving these for the dead of winter, when a true taste of summer would explode our mouths, but I used a bit of this sauce for the first time this weekend to make pizza sauce (olive oil with 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, a small onion plucked from the ones I dried that still hang on the back porch off the kitchen, stir in the radiant sauce).
Once in awhile, though, alone at lunch, I slice a fresh tomato and dust it with salt and pepper to accompany an egg sandwich. With the ripening slower and volume lower, I take this liberty more frequently.
Meanwhile, back outside, I monitor the spinach and Russian Red Kale. Just an inch or two high, I am full of hope that they will keep giving, even after the first dustings of snow.