Monday, September 21, 2009

The Harvest Chronicles by Late Bloomer

It's been a slow growing season, and now the work begins. The hail storm, while severely damaging the eggplant and chile peppers, seems to have caused them to grow to heights never before seen. Suddenly (it seems) they are heavy with fruit. The tomatoes are just late; some of them were badly damaged and never grew much taller, but are likewise loaded. I have dubbed a yellow summer squash my 'golden zuccini' because of its gargantuan size. Good thing it can be seen! Lots of winter-type acorn squash will be OK if protected from the early frosts. Now the work begins.
Tomatoes to can and freeze, eggplant to blanch and freeze for some special dishes this winter. Chilies to peel and freeze. 'Zuccini' to shread and freeze. Apples from my son's trees and pears from the produce store to put up dried, frozen, and canned. This is the only kind of kitchen duty I tolerate; the results can be admired for months instead of minutes. Last winter I experimented with unusual combinations of dried herbs to make soothing, warming teas, so this fall I am harvesting and drying larger quantities and trying new ideas. In my garden a marigold, Mexican terragon (tagetes lucida), has a wonderful anise flavor. I have several varieties of mint, and a mint relative, lemon balm (melissa officinalis).
My sage (salvia officinalis) a favorite for dressing of course, is a fabulous ingredient for tea. Epizote, an herb which grows in southern New Mexico and Mexico, makes a wonderful medicinal tea and is an ingredient in the famed cuisine of Oaxaca. I haven't tried the oregano, thyme, or rosemary for tea, but who knows? Lavender flowers from a friend's garden add a subtle aroma and taste to any tea. It is said the rose hips contain vitamin C. The Mexican terragon and the epizote are grown from seed as tender annuals in this area, and the rosemary's pot spends the winter in a window. The rest are reliable perennials. A word about mint: large containers for control! Some areas of my yard are weedy with it. My favorite tea so far is a combination of sage, mint, dried orange rind and ginger, all brewed with whole cardamon and green tea (optional). You can add pepper corns and whole cloves, if desired. Try drying orange and lemon peelings and fresh ginger slices for your tea. Wonderful! Share the ideas! Let us know some of your favorite tea ingredients.