August is the month when summer both peaks and begins to end, and we have to remind ourselves that in our beneficent lakeshore climate, gardens will grow on for another two or three months. But in the vegetable patch, August is urgent: everything is ripening at once, we’ve been waiting for it since May and we don’t want to lose a single green bean. (My green beans are minimal this year, I planted very few very late; luckily the farmers’ market makes up the deficit.)
The veggie patch has been getting more and more flower-filled over the past few years; it’s time to weed some out (but Nate the gardener and I have trouble with this, they’re so pretty!). For the moment, I seem to be specializing in fruit – which is not a bad idea, I don’t see many gooseberries, currants, kiwi and figs at the farmers’ market, and the berries are pretty expensive.
The gooseberries and currents have been dealt with: pureed for a creamy dessert in the first case, turned into a beverage concentrate in the second. There’s already red currant jelly in the pantry, so this year’s fruit is still hanging decoratively on the canes.
The blackberries are ripening slowly, a few handfuls a day – at any moment they’ll become a torrent and I’ll start freezing them, in the hope that on some chilly winter day I’ll feel more like making jam than I do in the heat of August.
The figs and kiwi are so welcome that I do whatever it takes to preserve them – but they ripen later, when it’s cooler. Kiwi makes absolutely wonderful jam and a delicious, if sticky, fruit roll; frozen, it’s not pretty but still tastes good; dried, it’s nothing to write home about.
Figs, on the other hand, turn out to dry beautifully (well, we know that, we’ve been buying them for years – but I doubted my ability to dry them satisfactorily at home. I’ve read the instructions involving sulphuring and dehydrators, which is beyond me. So I dipped them quickly in boiling water (which has some good effect that I forget) and set my very intelligent oven to Raising Bread—about 100°; that seems to work. They also freeze very nicely. I tried fig jam once, but didn’t like it – and of course it’s much more work than spreading them on a cookie sheet and bagging them up once they’re frozen.
Chris Dobo has passed on what she says is the perfect way to deal with dill weed – just package it in little bags and keep them in the freezer. I’ve become disenchanted with the seed, and the foliage loses so much taste when dried. This doesn’t work at all with basil, but perhaps it will with coriander. I’ll try it.
I have to stop now; I hear some cherry tomatoes calling. I very foolishly planted them in hanging flower baskets – way too shallow, the poor little things have been on the verge of death all summer, the least I can do is make a fuss about their fruits.