Late Bloomers

Cimicifuga ramosa ‘Pink Spike’

Aside from all we are doing to collect and preserve the harvest these days, our tasks also include fall plantings, seed collecting, dividing, and enriching the soil in the display beds.

It’s a nice time to be in the gardens, the flurry of the season has past, the weeds seem to have tempered their growth, and there are still some great plants to enjoy.

Following are some examples of real showstoppers…at least we think so, and right now they are taking center stage.

Cimicifuga ramosa ‘Pink Spike’- now classified as Actea, the Cimicifugas offer many species that bloom at different times of the year. The later blooming simplex and ramosa species are very dramatic, fragrant, and really stand out in the garden having fewer other blooming plants to compete with for attention. With heights up to 5 and 6 feet they are usually very visible from many points in the garden. Continue reading

A Sea of Sweet and Hot Red Peppers

Once again, we find ourselves hauling in baskets of sweet and hot peppers. Our favorite way to prepare them, aside from eating peppers fresh or in salads, is to roast them and preserve them in the refrigerator drenched in olive oil. We love using the roasted peppers in sandwiches, on pizza or in quiche, in sauce, or simply adding them to any dish that we think can benefit from the intense roasted flavor.

For storing I prefer not to can the peppers using the traditional pressure canning process. Instead, after roasting the peppers whole on the outdoor grill until the outer skins are blackened, I place them in a brown paper bag and close it tightly. This creates steam in the bag and makes peeling the skins off a much simpler task. After this, it’s easy to slice the peppers down the middle and scoop out the seeds.

At this point I put about two tablespoons of vinegar in the bottom of a quart jar and then fill it halfway with olive oil and add the peppers. This I store in the refrigerator and preserve them for up to a month. Of course, they hardly ever last that long in our house because we eat them all up!

I do the hot peppers this way as well but also dry most of our hot peppers for winter use or grinding to make a chili powder.

The varieties that we typically grow and the ones I find best lend themselves to roasting are Jimmy Nardello, Snapper, Semisweet Cubinellas, and King of the North. For hots, we love Joe’s Long Cayenne, Hot Portugal, Krimson Lee, and Red Rockets.

Once again, always follow specific directions and safety instructions for canning any of your produce.

I’d love to hear your ideas!

Tomato Glutton

This is the time of year when the tomatoes come on strong. Fortunately, we escaped any of the dreaded blight that has been plaguing farmers in the Northeast over the last few years. We plant approximately 60 tomato plants and find this truly meets our fresh tomato needs as well as providing an ample supply for the winter.

Our varieties this year included Martha Washingtons, Cherokee Purples, Soldack, New Girls, Cosmonaut Volkov, Black Krim, Hinez Paste, and a selection of our favorite cherry tomatoes.

Our winter supply is stored by canning, making sauce, salsa, and freezing. By mid-September, I feel less ambitious about standing at the stove stirring pots of tomatoes. To remedy this, I find roasting tomatoes not only frees up my time but also creates a versatile end product with a delicious and intensified tomato flavor.

I skip the traditional process of dipping tomatoes in hot water then cold to remove the skins and then seeding them. Instead I take my largest roasting pan, put a skim layer of good olive oil in the bottom, core all my tomatoes (still fresh), cut them into quarters and pile them into the pan. To this I add an ample amount of garlic, often two large heads, cored and seeded sweet red peppers and then sprinkle a little more olive oil over the top. Occasionally, I throw in some fresh oregano and basil. Then I put the whole pan, uncovered, in a 300 degree oven and roast for about three to four hours, without stirring. My goal is to reduce as much liquid from the tomatoes as possible.

I then use the tomatoes in a variety of ways:

  • Puree the whole pan and transfer into freezer bags for freezing.
  • Fill quart jars and follow traditional canning procedures for the vegetables included.
  • Add to the cheese I make.
  • Add to soups.

I do believe you’ll find that roasting the tomatoes brings out their sweetness. Of course, you can do this on a smaller scale as you bring in your harvest each day if you’re just looking for a fresh addition to your evening meal. This combination can even be roasted in foil on the grill. Try this over pasta and brown rice. Yum!

Come January when we’re craving the flavors of our summer’s bounty, we can satisfy this want by opening a jar of homemade sauce and delighting in the preserved tomato goodness.

REMEMBER: When canning, always follow recommended procedures for canning various vegetables.

I’d love to hear your ideas for using an overabundance of tomatoes.

Next up: A sea of sweet red and hot peppers!