Whoa. Hey. It’s been a while. … And, that’s a real thriller of a post title up there (☝🏼️) if I’ve ever seen one. At least you know what you are in for. It’s been a busy few weeks here at the Thistle Field! I’ve been canning, fermenting, freezing, baking, and deeply contemplating all the many possible uses for zucchini. My freezer is nearly full, which I find a little startling, since July isn’t even over yet. We are eating sweet corn, peaches, lettuce, and fresh beans like true summer fanatics. Pies, cobblers, vegetable chowders, and huge salads are what’s up.
So, here’s a little run-down of what’s going on!
We harvested the onions! Honestly, I wasn’t ready for them. I usually expect my onions to be ready for harvest sometime during the last week of July. These onions were about two weeks early, but the tops fell over, and that was that. Onions … they want what they want. The weather has been vacillating wildly between sun and thunderstorms, so I’ve got our curing operation set up in the basement. The basement smells totally great. 🙂
Peaches are happening! So far, it’s clingstones, but my sources tell me that as of tomorrow, freestone peaches will be available. Using the persnickety clingstones, I have made a scrumptious peach salsa from the Food in Jars cookbook, and several baked goods (hello, peach crisp!). The peach salsa is awesome, and I wanted to basically take a bath in it while it was cooking, as the smell was unreal. I used red onions, garlic, and jalapeño peppers from our own garden, and some lovely local peaches.
I have harvested the gooseberries! One evening, I looked out and saw a squirrel sitting in the gooseberry bush all sassy-like, munching away. Miss Thistle and I dashed right out with our basket and stripped every gooseberry off that bush. I froze two quarts of gooseberries in glass jars (#zerowaste), and the rest are destined for tomorrow’s pie. The flavor is great, but topping and tailing every berry is labor-intensive, to put it kindly. If anyone has any gooseberry-grooming tips, I’m all ears.
Oh, and speaking of ears, I am making a concerted effort to put away corn while it is at its peak! Every few days I roll up to a local farm stand for a dozen ears of sweet corn, since it is one thing I am not super enthusiastic about growing in our own garden. I prefer to dedicate my space to plants that will give intense yields, and corn just isn’t it! It’s affordable to purchase, and I don’t have to give over garden real estate for a sometimes-finicky crop.
One word: Zucchini. Zucchini everything! We have enjoyed zucchini gratin (recipe by the fabulous Ina Garten), zucchini muffins, sautéed breakfast zucchini with eggs all ways, oven roasted zucchini with eggplant, goat cheese pasta tossed with zucchini and other fresh veg, zucchini soup … and, of course, I froze a whole bunch of requisite zucchini hockey pucks in half-cup portions for zee future. I was ridiculously pleased with my foresight in making sure I used a measuring cup that would create hockey pucks just the right size to drop into quart jars. Huzzah for that providential brain-wave!
Bush beans! We have purple, yellow, and green beans for harvest right now. I blanched and froze a nice batch (in glass jars), and have been using smaller yields in things like the aforementioned vegetable soup. I planted more beans in the beds where I recently harvested the cabbage, and they are growing nicely. My pole beans are flowering, and I plan to let many of the climbing beans dry on the vine for dried beans after taking a few fresh harvests.
Sunflowers! The birds very kindly scattered seed in just the right spot, creating a sightly and productive sunflower patch. I’ll share some of the provender with our feathered friends, but I hope to harvest a few of the heads. We have been enjoying our platform bird feeder and the cardinals, chickadees, doves, blue jays, sparrows, wrens, and finches that visit.
The pepper plants are also looking exceptional this season. We are growing several types of sweet bell peppers, and plenty of hot peppers to suit our hot-headed taste! The Habaneros, Hinklehatz, and Thai chiles are loaded with peppers. A sampling of the Hinklehatz this past weekend made us sweat, which is exactly the point.
I am transitioning the garden to its second season. As I take each harvest, I am refilling the space with something else. I take into account the remaining length of the season, and what we will want to eat. Everything we won’t eat fresh gets packed into a glass jar, whether it is canned, pickled, fermented, or frozen. By doing so, our garden yields a zero-waste food supply. Spent plants are composted, and will nourish next year’s garden.
Speaking of those glass jars … my stash has increased! I was running dangerously low. I’m talking panic-inducingly low. I took a little poll, and within a few days, increased my holdings by quite a bit! My mama, grandma, and mother-in-law were all happy to part with excess jars, and I was happy to take them off their hands! Now I feel much more glass-secure, and summer can proceed as previously scheduled. Phew.
As is often the case, this post was all about food. Though food preparation and preservation is, indeed, a significant part of my life, we have been busy in many other ways as well, from family gatherings to wedding parties with dear friends, and everything else in between. I am dubbing this coming week “Baseball Week” since we are invited to several baseball games. In thinking of that, I realized that I have never paid to attend any of the many baseball games I have enjoyed throughout my life … there’s a frugal win for sure! At the last ball game we attended, Miss Thistle caught a patently unattractive promotional t-shirt, which is now Mr. Thistle’s yard-work shirt. Yard clothes: Don’t buy them … they will come to you.
And with that, I bid you adieu until next time. But I must ask: Are you summering well? What activities are defining your warm-weather months?