The scent of fall is in the air and with the unseasonably cool temperatures we’ve had lakeside I feel the seasonal change in my bones.
I’ve had a few friends tell me they’re done gardening for the year. I’ve felt this way on occasions too. Perhaps it’s the shift in schedules and routines with back-to-school. Or maybe it’s the fact that our resident cottontail decimated my our main crop of string beans–which a fellow gardener swore rabbits don’t even like. Or it could be that as I’ve chosen certain family and business commitments over yard and garden, I never had a chance to trellis my tomatoes and tomatillos; the jungle that they’ve become brings me anxiety every time I walk from the house to the garage.
I try to let these things go and focus on the fact that we produced a fair amount of great vegetables this year–kale, beans, herbs, tomatoes/tomatillos without even really trying. And there’s still much to harvest.
Even if cooler temps (or hungry, selfish, despicable urban wildlife) have caused discouragement as you’ve harvested next to no ripe tomatoes this year, the gardening season is far from over.
It’s time to glean. Gleaning (also called “scrounging”) is defined as the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they’ve been commercially harvested or on fields where it’s not economically profitable to harvest. My personal definition, as it relates to one’s garden or a neighbor’s plot, is going back in after all “obvious” ripe food has been picked and seeing what else one can gather, using every last useable bit of the vegetable (“root to leaf”). No waste.
This is when I channel one of my food heroes, Tamar Adler, who authored An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, a piece of prose peppered with recipes, tips, and lore a la M.F.K. Fisher. When it comes to using the whole vegetable, especially the parts that most folks think are garbage–or at least compost–Tamar literally wrote the book on how to get the most out of your food (she doesn’t stop at vegetables.)
I’ve made pesto using broccoli stalks, dried beet greens (for smoothies or soup), and prepared my own onion flakes by trimming and drying the green stalks from fresh-picked red onions just to name a few recent gleaning activities.
There’s always more than you think left there in the garden. As I type–knowing that few of my tomatoes will escape the mobs of chipmunks regularly visiting our plot, and certainly not before they ripen–I am cooking down a pot of green tomatoes into a rich garlic and olive oil laced puree that I can use as a base for soup or sauce later in the year.
Admittedly, I get a thrill from gleaning and utilizing every possible bit of a vegetable before composting. And I love sharing this excitement with others. If you haven’t checked out this beautiful new venue, please join us for Gleaning From Your Garden (and Beyond) at Tiny Green Trees on the evening of October 15.