Environment Kitchen Garden

Hurricane Weekend

Hurricane Harvey from the International Space Station on Aug. 25, 2017. Photo Credit – NASA European Pressphoto Agency

Rain tapped the bedroom window this morning on the fringe of Hurricane Harvey.

It was a reminder of our connection to the oceans. They are absorbing heat from the atmosphere on a planet experiencing some of its warmest days in living memory. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture and the result is intense storms like the Category 4 Hurricane Harvey.

In Iowa we adapt easily to hurricanes because of our distance from the coast. Needed rain benefits our gardens and farms. It recharges our surface aquifers. As the weather pattern moved over it seemed normal, not as devastating as it was when Harvey made landfall in Texas Friday afternoon.

Overcast skies and a slight rain depressed attendance at the orchard on Saturday. There were enough visitors to keep busy, especially in the afternoon when the sun came out. Sales seemed steady if light.

One of my favorite August apples is Red Gravenstein, a Danish cultivar. It was introduced to western North America in the early 19th century, according to Wikipedia, perhaps by Russian fur traders, who are said to have planted a tree at Fort Ross in 1811. Red Gravenstein is tart, juicy and crisp — great for eating out of hand.

The cider mill made the first press of apples for the sales barn. The gallon and half gallon jugs sold well. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the changing flavor of our cider as we move through the apple harvest. I bought a gallon of cider and a dozen Red Gravenstein apples at the end of my shift.

I’ve been reading recipes for tomato catsup in old community cookbooks. After reviewing a dozen or so I went to the kitchen and created this sauce from the abundance of red bell peppers and tomatoes:

Red Pepper Sauce


Half dozen cored and seeded red bell peppers cut in quarters
Equal amount by weight of cored tomatoes one inch dice
One cup of malt vinegar
One teaspoon salt
One tablespoon refined sugar.


Pour the vinegar into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Add tomatoes and peppers.
Add sugar and salt.
Bring back to a boil and cook for 10-20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Strain the mixture. Retain the liquid to use as vinegar in salad dressings.
Run the vegetable mixture through a food mill and either serve immediately or bottle and refrigerate.

Recipe notes

To make a thicker sauce, either reduce it in the saucepan or add tomato paste.
I used malt vinegar because it was on hand. Absent malt vinegar I’d use homemade apple cider vinegar.