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October Delights

Alas, a trip out of town and a bad cold and life in general got in the way of blogging, but I’m back now.  🙂  After a couple weeks away from my garden I wasn’t sure what I would find when I went out there this morning.  But wouldn’t you know, my garden is still producing amazing things!

Maybe the most amazing was a small number of delicious little Tri-Star strawberries.  I gave that big one to my dad, who happens to be in town right now, and it happens to be his birthday.  Happy birthday, dad!

But there were other great things to harvest today as well.  I got almost a pound of string beans, and I think I’ll get a few more next week as well.  And I harvested the last of my Corno Di Toro peppers:

I roasted them in the oven, but haven’t used them yet.  Hmm, not sure what to do with them, but it’s never a bad idea to have delicious, sweet roasted peppers on hand.

As it gets colder out, I find I appreciate my garden’s produce even more.  I should have chard and kale and arugula through November and maybe even into December.  What a treat!

My fall beans are coming in now, but back a month or two ago I let some of my summer beans stay on the vines until they dried up.  My intent was to save the seeds and plant them next year, saving myself a few bucks in seed costs.  And since the variety, Soleil French Filet, is an open-pollinated variety, I knew at the very least that the seeds would breed true (using the seeds of hybrids can give weird results, they say).

The problem is that the bean seeds I saved are looking kind of sad.  Here they are on the right, compared with some extra seed-packet seeds on the left:

If I plant my runty saved seeds, are the resulting plants going to be runty as well?  The seed contains nutrients that feed the sprout before it can absorb nutrients from the soil on its own, so I wonder how much a somewhat diminished nutrient packet would stunt early growth.  Hmm…  Maybe I’ll do an experiment next year and do one row with the saved seeds and one row with a new packet.

Little known fact, I used to blog about politics – mostly about feminism and gender issues.  Eventually I decided it was more fun to blog about food and gardening, especially since politics is my day job and I like thinking about something else in my off time.

But, today, I think it’s time to do a little crossover.  My friends at Smorgie.com asked me to come up a new Bite Book and challenge my readers to come up with their own.  And I thought, let’s take this opportunity to highlight DC’s lady chefs, bartenders, and restaurateurs (restauranteuses?).  I know I’ve got some faves, like Jamie Leeds and Chantal Tseng, but I bet there are a lot more than I don’t know about.

Go check out my Bite Book, then join Smorgie and make your own Bite Book celebrating women in the culinary world.  Who am I missing?  What female chefs, mixologists, pastry chefs, and restaurant owners do I really need to check out?

Leave a comment with a link to your Smorgie bitebook, e.g., http://www.smorgie.com/1525 by October 31st for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to Tracy O’Grady’s Willow in Arlington!

Back in the spring, I decided on a particular way of putting a value on what I grow in my garden.  I kept track of what I was bringing in each week, entering in the values on a spreadsheet.  My expenses for the year are stored in the same spreadsheet.  And now, in this transition time between summer and fall, I’ve finally earned back the money I put into the garden!  I estimate that I’ve gotten about $210 of produce from my garden this year.

One of the things that put me over the top this past weekend was a giant harvest of basil.  This season has been bad for most vegetables, but it’s been absolutely fantastic for basil.  The extreme heat, punctuated by occasional storms, has made the basil flourish out of control.  So I kept starting more basil seedlings and planting them in the bare spots where other plants had failed.

I harvested about a pound of basil on Sunday!  So of course I made a giant batch of pesto that I put into an ice cube tray for long-term storage.  When my garden is bare and the air is frigid this winter, I’ll get out some pesto and think of summer.  That’s some tasty profit right there.

Basil and Swiss Chard at dusk

Gimme Gazpacho

It’s such a funny time of year food-wise, because there are still all these summer fruits and vegetables around, but a lot of the fall vegetables have come to the market as well.  And I’m always tempted at this time of year to go straight for those new fall vegetables – the butternut squashes and sweet potatoes and bales of kale.  But then I remember that those are about the only local vegetables available for the winter months and I’ll get sick of them by February anyway.

So I’m resolutely sticking with the summer produce as long as it’s around.  And I think my favorite thing to do right now is make various types of gazpacho.  I’m especially fond of whirring up tomatoes, peaches, cucumbers, bread crumbs, a little shallot, a lot of olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Ohhh, it’s so good.

With the fruit and the tomato and the cool cucumber, it’s really the essence of summer.  I’m not ready to give it up yet!

Beets did okay this year, especially given my lack of proper care for them.  I harvested a lot of them early in the summer, and left a lot of little weedy looking ones for later.  It didn’t look like those remainders were doing much, since the beet greens never got very big or lush.  I gave up on them and decided to re-seed for fall.  And yet, when I went to clear out the bed, there were a lot of fat little red and yellow baby beets underneath the surface.  I took them home, boiled them enough to get the skins off, and then ate them with a hillock of goat cheese.

The golden beets continue to be my favorite.  The flavor is really superior.  I think next year I’ll only plant the goldens.

This bunny likes my carrots!

This season hasn’t been great for my carrot patch.  It was too hot, and there were too many spells when it didn’t rain and I didn’t have time to water.  So my carrots never got big and juicy.  Last weekend I decided to pull up whatever little runty carrots that were left and put in some new seeds for fall.

The carrots I pulled were kind of starchy, nothing special.  But I knew one customer who’d like them anyway.  I just so happen to know someone with a pet rabbit, so I’ve been giving her my carrot thinnings and extra carrot greens throughout the season.  So even though these last carrots were a little sub-par for human consumption, the bunny certainly liked them.  He took one under a piece of furniture and seemed very concerned that we were going to take it back from him:

It’s a good lesson.  If life gives you a bad carrot season, make bunny food.