Thursday, August 10, 2017

You Grow Food To Harvest To Process . . .

One side of our urban potager flanks an entrance driveway to a refrigeration depot.  Trucks amble more than roar as they pass our property because their speed is zapped well before the drivers reach the entry gates so they are not much of a bother to our peace of mind. Additionally their frequency occurs just from 9-5 on weekdays. But not during the month of August when it is common to be woken up by the grinding, gasping sounds of huge lorries arriving from Spain, Portugal, and Poland late in the night and early in the morning. The trucks emblazoned with PassionFroid (cold passion) along their sides never fail to make me smile. When that seasonal occurrence causes the first jarring of our sleep, we groggily mutter to each other, oh, the harvest is quickening. In our postage stamp of a potager and in the farm fields about a fifteen-minute drive from us (we live not that far from France profonde/Deep France), everything seems to be ripening all at once. Two styles of growing food are the crop and the sequential. The former is when all the seeds are sowed at one go, and the latter is when a series of sowing is done.  The crop approach is the one I use the most, and it results in heaps of produce groaning on tables which necessitates immediate attention to ensure the produce will be preserved with as much of the original freshness as possible.

Beefsteak &  roma tomatoes,  plums, and peaches

The rhythm goes something like this. A few ripe fruits are noted one day. The next that number is doubled, and on and on until the peak, that is, the largest amount of produce is ready to be harvested at the same time. Then the production halves the next day, and so on until all the plants are emptied of their delicious bounty. The entire harvest takes around three weeks. Presently, most days, I am preserving food.

We eat as many fresh tomatoes as we can: these are reserved for stuffing with shrimp salad

My main mode of preservation is freezing. In the seven years of growing a hefty percentage of our produce, the bounty has never been so copious as to last more than a year. Hence freezing, which results in tastier and more nutritious food than canning, is perfect for our needs, especially as there is a large fridge/freezer in the sous-sol. Though frozen food doesn't go bad after a year, it does lose most of it flavour. Canned goods, on the other hand, remain appealing for several years. Making tomato concentrate to serve as a soup base is a favourite way of mine to preserve tomatoes. Put washed, cut-up tomatoes (I simmer around fifteen to twenty pounds of tomatoes at a time which amounts to about 3 litres of concentrate) in the largest, non-reactive (stainless steel/enamel) pot you have, add several sliced carrots, 3 sliced celery stalks with leaves, 2-3 onions peeled and quartered, 3-5 peeled garlic cloves, a teaspoon of black peppercorns, several bay leaves, a heaping teaspoon of dried basil, a half-teaspoon of dried thyme, a heaping teaspoon of dried parsley, and several Parmesan rinds. Simmer, partially covered, for about an hour or till all veggies are soft. Sieve through a Foley mill, portion, and freeze. We love to dilute the concentrate to an unctuous consistency, add crème fraîche, cooked brown rice, and cubed Edam.

In total, tomato plants number 23

This season, there has been the most fruits ever in the history of our garden. The conditions must have been perfect for setting fruit this past spring. Though I had thinned many immature fruits, the peach tree lost a limb during a recent storm because the weight of the remaining peaches along with some assistance from the wind and rain gave the branch no choice but to splinter and crack. Despite all the missing fruit, there are still around 200 ripening peaches. Peaches do not develop sugar after being picked, but their level of acidity does diminish, hence whatever sweetness they have is brought out. However, I do try to pick them when they are in an exquisite state of dribbling, sweet juiciness.

Oh, do they smell FANTASTIC!

The plum d'Ente also lost a limb, as it is located in a windy part of the garden. As with the peach tree, the broken branch was cleanly sawed off, close to the collar joining it to the trunk.  Eventually the collar will envelop the cut.

One of The Calm One's beloved sweets is fruit leather made from these plums

The mirabelle tree is chock a block with their golden-flushed-with-crimson, cherry-sized plums.

The raspberry bushes are putting out their second crop for the season. The first fruiting occurred early summer on canes from last year. They were cut down to make room for new canes which will bear ripe fruit in a week or so. The new canes will stay put until late winter, when the spent upper segments will be pruned to allow for next season's first crop.

Vegetables are more forgiving and can be left in the ground until convenient to harvest.

There are 70 plants of red-skinned, yellow-fleshed, all-purpose Desiree potatoes

The beets are patient.

Ditto for the carrots.

À la prochaine!


Factors influencing fruiting
Keeping fresh tomatoes as juicy as possible (remove stems and store upside down on a plate in the fridge)

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