Thursday, October 20, 2011

Putting Up the Last of the Summer's Harvest

We just had our first hard frost of the year. Although we were sad when it happened, we were thankful that it occurred a bit later than is typical for our region. We still had tomatoes, peppers, and other tender summer vegetables flourishing, and it was a blessing that they did not get killed any earlier. When it was clear that the weather was finally going to get cold and stay cold, we made plans for one last picking party and decided what to do with it all.

Hubby Dear picked all the peppers in various stages of ripening. It was easy for me to decide what to do with them; I have well over 4 gallons of peppers in my freezer and zero room left, so dehydration was the only option available.

My pile of peppers

This pile of peppers pretty much filled up my 9 tray Excalibur Dehydrator but when it was dried, it only measured a little over 1quart!

It never fails to surprise me how tiny everything turns when it is dehydrated 

In addition to the bell peppers, we picked another pound of jalapenos (which I'll make into jalapeno jelly) and another 100 cayenne peppers. I plan to turn the cayenne peppers into ground red pepper or red pepper flakes once they all dry.

The tomatoes were a bit trickier. I didn't feel like frying green tomatoes or canning relish, so we decided to try a couple of different methods of ripening them indoors.

Upside down Roma beside chicken moat debris

The first and easiest method simply involved ripping a tomato plant out of the ground and leaving it upside down in our garage. This would not have been a simple task with one of our giant-sized tomato plants, but this Roma plant was modest in size and easily supported by the remesh tomato cage.

The tomatoes should continue to ripen and we can enjoy tomatoes straight off the vine for another few weeks. That's the theory, anyway! We've never had tomatoes survive to this point in the year to try it before.

We used another method on the green tomatoes from our other eight plants.

Hubby Dear giving the tomatoes a dip in bleach water

We mixed a weak bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) and briefly dipped each of the green tomatoes in it. We let the tomatoes dry and then packed them in a single layers inside a cardboard box lined with newspaper. We'll check on the boxes frequently and use up any of the tomatoes that are ripe.

Will either of the two tomato ripening methods work? Which will we prefer? I'll keep you posted.

The last bit of garden business we accomplished before the frost was to dig up and bring my rosemary plant indoors for the winter.

My rosemary plant - Cheerio box added for scale! :) 
Rosemary most definitely will NOT overwinter here, so unless I want to buy a new rosemary plant each spring, I have to bring it indoors. Rosemary isn't always a happy camper inside in the winter, but it's worth a shot! My rosemary got very large this year and I took the opportunity to clip it back quite a bit and dry the clippings.

Thyme and rosemary. I prefer to air-dry woody herbs. 

Our garden hasn't been completely put to sleep yet. We still have cauliflower, beets, and other hardy fall vegetables out there. We have a pound of garlic cloves to plant sometime in the next month as well.

Are you still gardening? What's ready to harvest at your house? 

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