Scary stories from a lovely place
As the warmer months have drawn to a close and Winter feels too close for comfort, it’s been relieving to rest from the onslaught of production that Summer brings to a garden. Autumn has been a lovely time so far to pounce on tricky pumpkins hiding under long dead vines and overgrown grass, pull ailing zucchini plants, prune unruly growth and trim back out of control herbs. Along with the help of the chickens, we’ve been digging over new garden beds and pulling out lots of ‘naughty’ weeds (as the kids call them).
We well and truly made the most of the Summer vegetables. The pumpkins did well, but most of the seeds I sowed turned out to be cucumbers, so we didn’t have as many butternuts to store as I had hoped. We forced zucchini into just about every meal, choked down handful after handful of cherry tomatoes and enjoyed crisp pickled cucumbers.
The tomatoes were particularly rampant, which is no surprise really. People were impressed with my tomato crop, but they’ve got to be one of the easiest vegetables to grow. I’ve seen a bountiful crop grow out of a bag of potting mix at my sister in law’s house and one grow as a weed in a weird spot in my parents garden that fruited prolifically even though it barely got any sun. I didn’t bother staking them which I think did cut down on their production, lots were mowed over or trampled on, but we really didn’t need any more. I gave away bags full, stewed and froze even more and made a large batch of tomato chilli jam. I don’t know if it was the recipe or just the sheer volume that I made, but I was pretty sick of the taste after a while.
After returning from our holiday I was surprised to see lots of the tomato plants still going strong, laden with fruit and even seeming to be growing a second flush of leaves and buds. Lots of the fruit were rotting on the ground and all the rain and the change in weather has meant that none of the tomatoes were ripening. So, perhaps against my own better judgement, this weekend I made green tomato pickle. I added paprika to the recipe for warmth and it has turned out pretty well.
It was a good weekend for cooking. I was feeling a little sombre and longed for some kind of self indulgent therapy. I was home alone with the kids all weekend so my outlets were fairly limited (although cuddling cute kids is pretty wonderful). The stirring and the chopping, the evolving smells and the cautious measuring of ingredients is all good for the soul. Cooking the green tomato pickle proved to be a lovely relief from weighty thoughts and it reminded me of all the other times in life that I have turned to cooking to soothe the soul.