Garden roundup and recipes -- 9-3-14

(This week’s flower isn’t a flower, but a bell pepper plant still producing in the corner of Michael Maginnis’s Greencastle, Pa. garden. For a larger view, click on the picture.)


They sat in the corner of the garden like a grove of trees felled by a storm — leaves turning brown and drying out, while the stems remained green, with small clods of dirt clinging to their roots.

They were not trees, but this year’s tomato plants from the my son Michael’s garden, located near Greencastle, Pa. This year we’ve been writing about it periodically, for the day he got his soil test results until now, when the growing season for his plot is winding down.

“I decided to retire the tomatoes, to pull them,” he said.

“In years past, I’d always have lots of green ones at this point. There are just some tiny ones that are too small to even fry. This year I had a lot of split ones because of the recent rain,” he said. 

“In the other bed, from my second planting of snow peas I got a dozen inch-and-a-half snow peas off them and we plucked and ate them for dinner,” he said.

The last of the harvest has been put to good use, ending up on the dinner table more often than not. Dishes include jalapeño peppers stuffed with cream cheese and sun dried tomatoes, poblano peppers (a medium-hot variety) stuffed with sausage,basil and oregano, herbs he says are still in the ground.

He was disappointed with the Summer-Long basil variety, which was supposed to go through the summer’s heat without bolting. It didn’t bolt, but compared to other basil varieties, its leaves are tiny. Instead of just pulling off the leaves, he found he had to pull off sprigs, then trim the individual leaves off with scissors.

Another variety that didn’t do so well was the dwarf corn, advertised as a plant that you could plant in containers on your porch and still get some good “roastin’ ears” for your trouble. But of 36 stalks that he got to come up, his yield was only four ears, and each of those were only four inches long.

The vines of the spaghetti squash are long gone, the strands from inside the oblong fruits cooked and then frozen for winter meals. Specimens of Burpee’s Steakhouse Hybrid, which was supposed to yield fruits of 2 to 4 pounds, didn’t get that large, but did yield a nice tomato sauce. The recipe is as follows:


1.Cut tomatoes across the bottom and remove the “cap.”

2. Boil tomatoes until the skin begins to peel. Reduce heat and complete peeling.

3. Squeeze as much water as possible out of the fruit into your sink.

4. Heat olive pool in a skillet, then sautee some garlic in it.

5. Add the peeled and squashed tomatoes with a pinch of salt, then cook for a couple of minutes until the pulp releases its juice.

6. Remove pulp, then “reduce” the juice. Reducing a sauce is basically boiling it until its volume decreases and is concentrated. Stir frequently to prevent the reduced liquid from burning.

7. Add some salt to the juice, then return the pulp to it. And soon you have sauce.


Vegetables that are still producing include green onions, which Michael’s wife uses in Mason jar salads, which he told me are popular, but which I’ve never heard of. (Of course, I’ve also resisted getting a smart phone because I don’t want anything I own to be smarter than I am.) Using a jar, the dressing goes in first, then layers of ingredients. Because the dressing is at the bottom of the jar, the salad doesn’t get soggy because you wait until lunch to pour everything out and mix it together.

What worked in your garden this year? Was it a fluke or the result of some hard work and special ways passed down through your family, friends or even from the Internet? Please feel free to share what happened in your little plot of heaven this year, in the hopes that someone else will do the same, perhaps solving a problem that has bedeviled you for years. As I’ve noted previously, if you feel more comfortable using a pseudonym or a pen name, we’re glad to accept that.

Speaking of reader contributions, the fellow who recently asked about how to preserve and prepare the seeds of golden amaranth said that our answer helped. Only now he has to find a place to dry the seed heads before they all go tumbling into the garden. Our reader also sent along an interesting link about a project run by St. Luke’s University Health Network Hospitals, of Bethlehem, Pa., in partnership with the Rodale Institute about raising organic produce to feed patients at six of the hospitals in the St. Luke’s networks.

If you’re interested, the link is


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