It’s time for another installment of the Adirondack Autumn retrospective I launched last week.
I’ll change gears from Rosslyn boathouse and waterfront snapshots to a few garden harvest memories.
We had enormous luck with melons this season despite a slow start. Actually, our luck was mixed. We grew about thirty medium sized cantaloups, but the squirrels (and raccoons?) devoured them as they ripened, successfully gobbling up every fruit before we could harvest it.
We had better luck with watermelons which either enticed the wild critters less or were better protected by virtue of their hard, thick rinds.
And a half dozen heirloom varieties of eggplant (eighteen plants) produced a bumper crop. Although we’ve grown eggplant for three or four years with decent luck, this summer was something else. The plants exploded up out of the drought cracked soil, quickly rising above my knees and in many cases reaching all the way to my waist.
We harvested literally hundreds of huge, glossy, delicious eggplant for over three months. We ate them every day. We gave them away. We even learned how to preserve them for mid-winer enjoyment.
Essex neighbor Barbara Kunzi lead a pressure canning workshop at the Whallonsburg Grange Community Kitchen. I’ve long been curious about preserving the food we grow, so I hustled off to Whallonsburg and learned how to can green beans. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and it inspired me to begin preserving by freezing until I can acquire a pressure canner.
I grilled and froze eggplant and blanched and froze tomatoes. I even cooked up (and froze) a sizable batch of Khoresht-e Bademjan, a Persian eggplant stew which we’ll devour this winter when the garden is three feet deep in snow!
The “skinny eggplant” photo was taken before slicing and baking them for the Khoresht-e Bademjan. In addition to several long, slender varieties, we grew several large purplish black varieties and pale purple striped varieties. (I’ve previously grown white eggplants, but skipped them this year.)
The eggplant were added to the tomato sauce which I stewed down from these yellow tomatoes, white wine, garlic and minced onion. The house smelled divine!
It was a challenging exercise in restraint to prepare Khoresht-e Bademjan to freeze and eat several months later without allowing “taste tests” to become “chow time”! But most of the eggplant stew is now frozen and ready for a snowy day.
During the same post-workshop burst of enthusiasm for food preservation I explored preparing and freezing stuffed peppers. Turns out they’re better eaten right away. So I picked a half dozen of the biggest sweet peppers; stuffed them with minced chopped/sauteed mushrooms, onions, garlic, piñon nuts and quinoa; and slow-baked them for a delicious dinner. Ah, the harvest…
Of course, Adirondack Autumn isn’t all stormy weather and culinary experimentation. The same chill which revitalizes the heat-stupored mind and sweetens the apples, pears and grapes chills the ankles.
That’s right, fall is marked by a return to socks.
For the first time in months the end of September found me sliding my paws into foot mittens each morning, a subtle reminder, day after day, that retrains the brain into cold weather survival mode after a summer of wild abandon. A small detail you say?
For you. But not for me.
This Adirondack autumn has remained relatively mild and dry, though we did have a rainy stretch in October that caused Lake Champlain’s water level to rise rapidly. The rising water posed some challenges for the stone retaining wall we’ve been rebuilding along the northern half of our waterfront, ongoing repairs to damage caused by the 2011 spring floods. We raced to complete the most critical stone and mortar work while the water was still low enough for the tractor to operate on the beach. Given the massive stones used to build the stone wall in the 1800s, a tractor loader and backhoe are a big help! Unfortunately the rapidly rising water reduced the time we could rely on the tractor, and the crew finished the work by hand, relying on levers and pulleys and winches instead of steel and hydraulics and diesel to perform the feats of brawn.
Next week I’ll feature a few snapshots that capture the natural lighting change that is part of Adirondack autumn.