Frost Advisory, Forced Harvest

Last night we had a frost advisory, and while my gut reaction to it was that the air felt a smidge too humid for us to worry about it, we finished covering our greenhouse tunnels in plastic anyway. We also brought in the last of our summer fruits, just in case. Here's our forced harvest:

A whole lotta green tomatoes. We are hoping for two pies out of these, plus some to fry up. (Still looking for a great recipe for fried green tomatoes, by the way. Our only previous attempt was less than exciting. If you have a great recipe, please comment.) We also have a row of tomatoes on the window sill that were starting to turn red, and they can continue to ripen indoors. We should have tomatoes that way for another couple of weeks, I think.

We also brought in all of our butternut squash and our ripe pumpkins, although we left three on the vine but blanketed in row cover fabric while they continue to ripen from green to orange. This is by far the best we've ever done with the butternut, and we're definitely looking forward to tasting them soon! There are two or three that are still a bit green, but we brought them in anyway. Not sure how those will work out, but they might add some body to a pureed winter soup, even if their flavor and/or texture aren't great. We also brought in our last watermelons. Not sure how much watermelon I actually feel like eating right now, but we were thinking about blitzing them in a blender, straining the seeds, and freezing the juice for summery drinks that we'll appreciate in the dead of winter. 

We also brought in the last of our small fruits. We ate the raspberries already, and here is the 2013 cranberry crop. Our plants are only two years old, so these are basically bonus berries. We're hoping for a real harvest next year. In the meantime, I guess we have enough for a Thanksgiving garnish?

According to my car's thermometer, at 6:15 this morning it was 43 degrees. So my developing farmer's sense of the weather was right, and we didn't need to rush to save all that food. (Well, the watermelon vines were pretty shriveled, but everything else was fine.) Still, the forecast for tonight is to be even colder, and the wind that kicked up this afternoon was icier than anything we've had so far this fall. So we brought in the rest of our peppers as well, just in case:

We have a bunch of bell peppers in various states of ripening. They last remarkably long on the counter (especially in our drafty old house), and will continue to redden up if we don't eat them green. 

We also brought in half of the cayenne peppers (the long ones above). Only a few of these turned red outside, but we brought a bunch in to see if they would turn on the counter. I'm not sure what the flavor will be like — they seem pretty mild right now. As this is an experiment, we left the other half outside on the plants, and gave them a good double row cover plus a tarp to protect them from the cold. These we hope to allow to ripen on the plant (if that's even still possible) to see if there is any flavor difference. I think the major lesson is that these need a very long growing season, and I will start the seeds 4-6 weeks earlier this winter.

We also still have lots of very spicy jalapeños to pickle green. I'm also thinking we could let them redden up, oven dry them, and grind them up to fake some cayenne pepper for cooking, if the cayenne doesn't work out.

So our counters are covered with produce that we need to work our way through, either to preserve or eat up directly. I'm kind of glad to be over the hump of the major summer garden — it's always nice to relax into the fall and enjoy all the roots and leafy things again. The best part? That veg can be stored outside in the tunnels almost indefinitely, so the intense picking schedule is done with until next summer. Whew!


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