Kitchen Garden

Gleaning in Mid-October

Five gallon bucket of mostly peppers: Guajillo, jalapeno, Serrano and sweet bell.

Some parts of Iowa had a frost warning last night but not here in Big Grove. At 3 a.m. ambient temperatures were in the 60s and all was well with the gardening world.

That is, except for little green worms devouring kale and collards as they do at the end of season.

Kale plant with little green worms.

Despite the kale infestation there was plenty of chard for the kitchen as I gleaned the garden Friday morning. The season is bound to be over soon, even if exceptionally warm temperatures due to climate change extended it.

Chard, Guajillo chilies, eggplant, bell peppers and tomatillos drying on the counter.

There were a few tomatoes, mostly small versions of Granadero which produced well this season. The tomato patch is ready to be deconstructed, the fencing rolled up and stored for winter. The question is when I’ll feel like doing it.

Jalapeno and Serrano peppers drying, along with other garden items on the counter.

Partly because of the long season there are many peppers: Guajillo, jalapeno and Ace bell peppers grew better this year than ever. I’ll prepare Guajillo chilies with garlic and apple cider vinegar as a condiment for storage in the refrigerator. The jalapenos are a bit of a surprise as they didn’t produce much earlier in the season. They are big ones, so that increases the possibilities for cooking. My jalapeno needs have already been filled so I’ll have to get creative.

At the end of Friday I picked some basil for pizza making. Basil went into the sauce and whole leaves on top in a pseudo-Midwestern version of pizza Margherita. Fresh mozzarella would have been better, but we make do with what we have. If I try this again, I will wait to apply the basil topping until about a minute before cooking is finished. The pizza was eminently edible. This from a man who at a younger age would eat leftover pizza from a box left overnight in the living room.

Midwestern-style Pizza Margherita.

There is at least one more pass through the garden to get Brussels sprouts and maybe some more chard. The herbs under row cover could use another picking. There are plenty of pepper flowers but it seems unlikely they will make it to fruit. It’s been a good garden season and even the gleaning was bountiful. As fall turns to winter, I’m ready.

Kitchen Garden

Trouble with Tomatillos

Tomatillo harvest on Aug. 4, 2021

This year four tomatillo plants are producing an abundance of the fruit. Due to a paucity of recipes so many are not a good fit for our kitchen garden.

Mainly I used tomatillos in salsa to provide texture and their green color. I also slice or dice them to add to stir fry. Because there are so many, I will freeze what I can’t use fresh and see how that works in the coming months. In years past, the plants did not produce so many fruits. Next year I’ll reduce the number of plants.

I asked for recipe ideas on social media and the responses were honest yet not viable.

A common pairing is with the meat of hogs or chickens. As a vegetarian household, that’s not an option.

Another idea is to mix them with avocados and other ingredients for guacamole. This one winds me up because I’m in the camp of people who believe the rise in popularity of avocados also drives deforestation. How bad is the rapidly expanded avocado business?

The short answer is that avocado farming is causing deforestation, destroying ecosystems, funding drug cartels, and contributing to climate change. In Michoacán, Mexico, the biggest avocado producing region in the world, farmers are illegally razing pine forests in order to plant lucrative avocado trees. The native pine trees make up an irreplaceable habitat to indigenous species, including the iconic monarch butterfly.

Ethical Unicorn, Sept. 23, 2018.

Young people look at me askance when I say I won’t eat avocados because of deforestation resulting from their popularity. Nonetheless, I’m pretty firm in that view and have been weathered by askance looks over the course of many years. No guacamole or avocado toast for me.

The reality is there is already too much to do in the kitchen with hundreds of tomatoes lined up for processing. I put the tomatillos from the photo on a baking sheet and stuck them in the chest freezer to get them out of the way. When frozen, I’ll put them in a zip top bag until I’m ready to use some. There are many dozens of them remaining on the vines to be used fresh or given away.

We have two Mexican restaurants in the area and they have taken excess jalapeno peppers before. We’ll see what I harvest and maybe stop by one of them to present tomatillos as a gift. At least they won’t go to waste.