The quest to preserve what remains of the fall garden bounty continues at a fevered pitch. I used to complain that I didn’t have enough green tomatoes at the end of the season, and now… let’s just say, Be careful what you wish for.
One nice way to use up the last of the herbs is to make herb-infused salts. I’ve written glowingly about them in my books — they’re use in the kitchen is endless. We use them as rubs, to flavour roasted veggies and potatoes, to season eggs, as an aromatic baked salmon crust, and as a finish on just about everything.
Sage and rosemary are common culinary companions, but I didn’t think to make a salt of it until I came across jars in a local Italian greengrocer. I initially thought that the strong, resinous herbs would limit the salt’s potential, but we keep a jar of it next to the other salts and I have found myself turning to it far more often than I imagined.
I taught a group how to prepare this particular mix in my Banking the Bounty workshop last month and recently made up a huge batch at home to give to friends as holiday gifts. I’ve provided instructions for a small batch, but it is easily multiplied.
p.s. You’ll love the way your kitchen smells as you make this.
It happens every year. Whine, whine, whine, gardening season is winding down, the winter is coming, we’re all going to die!!
I want so badly to be the sort of garden writer that composes eloquent, graceful pieces that encourage gardeners to appreciate the cooler seasons and respect the importance of the winter. The fact remains that I am a summer baby. While I understand and respect the seasons, I absolutely abhor the winter months and am full of anxiety as they approach. I spend much of the off season huddled up indoors counting the days until I can be outside in bare feet again. I would avoid going outdoors completely if I could. I am at my happiest when the sun is shining through the plants, the tomatoes are coming in, and I can run out into the garden to collect a few fresh herbs for dinner.
Wonderful smells. Warm soil. The cicadas in the trees. F-ck the winter and its all day five-oclock greyness, layering up like the Michelin Man just to take a walk around the block, and general malaise.
In lieu of my usual annual fall season meltdown, I thought I’d provide a recap of a few previous meltdowns. I’ll see you back here next month for the first snowfall of the season meltdown.
[Incidentally, I wrote the above and then went out to my garden to take a few pictures for the post. This colourful sedum was a good reminder that it's not all bad.]
The killing frost came a little early this year and I spent the weekend hustling plants inside and preserving up a storm. I don’t actually grow grapes, but one of the perks of living in an Italian neighbourhood is that they are everywhere. I’ve already made up two batches of jelly/jam (one pink and one Concord) and if I ever get through the legions of green tomatoes from the garden in time, I will surely try to do up a small batch of grape wine.
I don’t know whether to call this a jam or a jelly as it sits somewhere between the two. I included grape flesh but omitted the seeds and skins.
I’ve been hurriedly bringing all of my frost-sensitive houseplants indoors for the winter in a mad rush to beat the season. As always I am doing it at the last minute rather than drawing it out slowly. Many of you are in a similar boat so I thought I’d compile a checklist of things that I do in the process.
- Check all plants thoroughly for critters. Check underneath mulch, leaves, in the crevices between stems…
- Slugs, snails, sowbugs, and earwigs can cram themselves into the tiniest spots. Check all around containers, especially plastic pots and hanging baskets that have a crevice underneath the lip.
- To flush pests out of the soil: Add a few inches of water to a deep sink or bucket and mix in a few drops of natural dish soap (no chemicals or scents added). The unscented Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap works well for this. Set pots in the liquid for a couple of hours. I am often lazy and don’t bother doing this with all pots — just the ones that I know are problematic.
- To flush pests out of the soil: A few drops of neem oil can be added to the water as an alternative to soap.
- Scrub any outside dirt from the side of the pots while they have their turn in the soapy water.
- Lightly shower particularly dirty or pest-infested plants with a hose before bringing them inside.
- Scrub down empty pots with a scrub brush and lightly soapy warm water. Set aside to dry thoroughly before putting them away.
- Place a small piece of newspaper between stacked terracotta pots to keep them from sticking to one another.
- Prune off any dead or diseased leaves and stems and cut back hard any plants that will be going dormant through the winter months.
Behold a colourful mass of naked ladies emerging from a tangle of periwinkle that I happened upon on an afternoon walk. I highly recommend planting colchicum corms in any-sized garden, even if you are a beginner. [How to grow info is here.]