Sunday Garden Chat: Happy Harvesting

marvel PlumJuice

From faithful commentor Marvel:

Over this-away, we’re picking & freezing and picking & canning and picking & eating and picking & picking. We plucked 47 pounds of Damson plums (these are small, tart, blue beauties) from just a few limbs of the tree out back. After cleaning & scoring & freezing about ten pounds for friends, I assembled two gallons of Damson Plum Cordial (currently resting in in a cool, dark place until decanting time in December). I used a stove-top steamer/juicer thingie to produce about a gallon of intensely-wonderful juice to be used in a cardomom-infused plum jelly — the color of this stuff is not to be believed.

I just picked what’s probably the last big bowl of ripe tomatoes this season… at least half of the plants have died of the blights, and the rest ain’t looking too good neither. Usually I count on harvesting well into October, but apart from hoping for a late burst of cherry-tomato productivity, looks like I’ll have more time this fall to deal with the much-neglected flower beds & shrubbery…

Speaking of cleaning up messes, I’ve been going through my email. I’ve got a stash of pet pics still waiting to be used, but no more Garden Chat messages that I can find. So, if you’ve sent me pics that haven’t been front-paged, please let me know!

What’s going on in your gardens this week?

40 replies
  1. 1
    NotMax says:

    Got a bag of cherry tomatoes someone or other foisted off on me about 5 weeks ago sitting in the fridge.

    Really ought to do something with them.

  2. 2
    Ronzoni Rigatoni says:

    The Cleveland cousins made a plum brandy from an old family wine-making recipe which was so cloyingly sweet that the family folx gave me all of theirs (“Ronzoni will drink tar paper if somebody will melt it for him”). Well, I just blended a bit of merlot with it to greatly lower the sweetness factor and it turned out to be quite good. Of course I hid it all in a closet and never told anybody about it.

  3. 3
    chopper says:

    unfortunately I don’t get to have a garden this year. Which for me is like going without the use of a leg.

  4. 4
    Keith P says:

    4:30 AM, and I finished off a tomato/bacon sandwich and am about to cook up another one. I didn’t grow tomatoes yet again (don’t know why, since it’s basically free food), but at least I got some nice heirlooms from the store along with some fru-fru artisanal bacon and Duke’s mayo….sitting on Sunbeam bread, which I think is the best for this.

  5. 5
    J R in WV says:

    We get wonderful bread at a bakery in town, started by a lawyer who ran an Enviormental Appeals board and got burned out – much happier as a baker, and we get great baked goods!

    Did you know that in early spring, 3 months before home grown ‘maters come in, there’s a regular anticipated bump in pork belly futures called the BTL factor? World’s best sammich, but we prefer Hellman’s Mayo. My cousin can’t keep it in her house, she will eat it with a spoon – bad for you all at once like that.

  6. 6
    Cervantes says:

    @J R in WV: My favorite local bakery is owned by a husband and wife, she a dancer and he a sculptor. Their chief bread-maker is a Ukrainian who served (or rather, baked bread) in the Soviet Army before emigrating.

    The owners still dance and sculpt, respectively, and not only in the bakery; but the bread-maker is happy to not still be wearing his old uniform.

  7. 7
    Raven says:

    We’ll, I’m at the bakery that we have come to for almost every day for 15 years. It’s had three owners since they opened and it is a perfect place for the dogs. We actually found Bohdi here one morning 11 years ago and Raven’s picture has been on the wall since he died 7 some years back.

  8. 8
    Comrade Colette Collaboratrice says:

    An earthquake woke me up about an hour ago, and I can’t get back to sleep. Maybe I’ll go have a bacon sammich before the next one hits.

    (No damage here, but it’s too early to hear from the epicenter area near Napa.)

  9. 9
    Cervantes says:

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice:

    Richter 6.0 — no reports yet of damage or injuries.

  10. 10
    JPL says:

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice: Glad to hear that you didn’t have damage.
    My bacon comes from a local farmer and there is no comparison.

    @NotMax: Next time you have fresh cherry tomatoes, boil just until you can remove the skins. Lay flat in a freezer container and freeze with a good quality vodka. Serve as an appetizer with salt.

  11. 11
    Shakezula says:

    The food garden is mostly things that grew from seeds from last year’s volunteers:The cherry tomatoes are running rampant. The pumpkin vines have three pumpkins on them, one already ripe. I think that’s all we’ll get this year as mildew hit the vines hard this year. I may also get three spaghetti squashes. I did learn A LOT about the sex life of squash, but of course I only discovered the facts of life after it stopped producing female flowers that make it to maturity.

    Then there are the things I planted – The tomato plant has some small fruits, so we’ll see. The basil has done very well but something ate the cilantro. What eats cilantro?

  12. 12
    spudgun says:

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice: Me too, scared the bejeebus out of me!! Happened an hour and a half ago, still can’t get back to sleep.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Ronzoni Rigatoni: My wife makes plum brandy every year. Our old house had a plum tree that looked like it wouldn’t survive into the next year, but produced the best plums. Now she has to find plums at the market, at least the kid picked up the vodka this year.

    @Cervantes: That’s a good size shaker.

  15. 15
    JPL says:

    The only time that I had plum brandy was one cold night. while sitting outside watching a tennis match. Although it was sweet, it did warm my soul.

  16. 16
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @NotMax: Oven roast them. A little garlic, some salt, perfect for snacking.


    What eats cilantro?

    Not what, who, and the answer is “me”.

    The garden has caught it’s 2nd wind and is producing prodigiously again. So it’s picking, canning, freezing, drying time again.

    Got a bit of a scare when I opened our old deep freezer the other day and found most of the stuff about half defrosted. Thought “Uh-Oh”, rearranged things on the chance something had shifted against the door, and the next morning all was well. Whew!

    Beans are going gangbusters, squash too, sweet peppers are running me out of house and home, hot peppers are all maturing nicely, (I planted paprika this year and it looks like 4 plants will easily take us thru till next year, gonna smoke the next batch) egg plant are doing well (making baba ghanoush today)(I like to grill mine for a nice smoky flavor). Tomatoes are all but done what with the wilt, but over the next few weeks I should still be able to get enough to can some diced tomas.

    The wife (and daughter, and in-laws) leaves for Spain on Wednesday. I think I will make them some zucchini bread for the flight.

  17. 17
    big ole hound says:

    @Cervantes: Good shaker for me and I’m about 25 miles from Napa. There are roads and buildings damaged near American Canyon and 50k with no power.

  18. 18
    jibeaux says:

    @NotMax: They’re 5 weeks old and they’ve been in the fridge?
    If they’re still edible, they’re not going to taste awesome, I’m afraid.

  19. 19
    satby says:

    I only planted container tomatoes and a couple of grow sacks of potatoes and onions. I’ve mentioned already the bunnies decimated the blue potatoes, so far the sweets seem ok. I’m going to be lucky to get 6 tomatoes total off off 6 plants, and I normally harvest till first frost in October too. Bumper crop of onions, and I don’t eat that many normally. And after last year’s limb-breaking heavy apple harvest, I have almost no apples on my two trees at all. So no jelly or Apple butter this year unless I hit a local farm stand.
    Not sure if I’m sad I don’t have to can so much, or happy my time will be freed up for other things.

  20. 20
    jeffreyw says:

    Mrs J heard a buzzing in the conelian cherry shrub/tree we have just outside the front and found a struggling hummingbird that she thought was caught in a spiderweb. She reached in to help free it and was amazed to see a large praying mantis holding it.
    We juiced another bucketful of tomatoes and I boiled them down to 7 pints of Awesome Sauce. The basil is about done, these last few days of August heat have been hard on it. Picked and dried cayenne and habaneros and ground them down to flakes. Protip: don’t breathe while doing this! Picked and pickled a half gallon of small peppers similar to cherry peppers. Harvested my few dill plants and got a few ounces of dill seed out of them. Picked all the jalapenos and sliced and either pickled or froze them. Gathered all the ripe serranos and froze them whole. Enjoyed one of the last BLTs that we’ll make this year using our own tomatoes.

  21. 21
    gelfling545 says:

    Just finished my weekly “harvest”. My space for vegetable & cutting garden is about 5×3.5. On Sunday for the last 3 weeks I get about 2-3 summer squash, a handful of Juliet tomatoes & maybe 1/2 lb of string beans; also a vase full of cosmos, zinnias & salvia, punched up with whatever is going in the perennial department. It works out quite well for me as I only make a “meal” on Sunday when we have the family dinner. Vegetable-wise this looks like continuing for another month, weather permitting. Previously I had not planted summer squash because it’s not one of the vegetables like beans & tomatoes where “fresh from the garden” makes a big difference but my neighbor had a couple of extra plants & I can’t bring myself to toss out live plants. Actually I find I have a few more tomatoes than usual today so I will just halve them & sprinkle them with sea salt & chappoed chives. The chives live with the perennials – some in the rose bed & some near the pond- because that’s where they decided they wanted to be.

    The only canning I will do this year will be my pickle slices which my own kids won’t eat but everybody else seems to love. I will buy the cucumbers at the market next week. Very convenient as my Tai Chi club is doing demonstrations at several farmers’ markets this coming week. The temptation to buy loads of vegetables at the market is tremendous. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not cooking for a family anymore. I’m considering making cherry jam but that may or may not happen.

  22. 22
    satby says:

    @jeffreyw: but the hummer is ok, right?

  23. 23
    satby says:

    @gelfling545: reminding myself I’m not cooking for a family anymore is my problem too. I then default to basically not cooking at all most days. Lots of salads and peanut butter on toast going on around here.

  24. 24
    Botsplainer says:

    Embarrassed, watching 13 going on 30 and actually enjoying it.

    I’m a sucker for “out of time” movie plots.

  25. 25
    jeffreyw says:

    @satby: Yeah, it flew away.

  26. 26
    satby says:

    Relief for the hummingbird! and in a spirit of celebration, let me share the website (which I’m still building) of the newest rescue organization I work with. Because we can’t rescue them all until we get the overpopulation of pets handled.

    Yeah. I’m blegging a bit too.

  27. 27
    Shakezula says:

    @jeffreyw: Wow. How big was the mantis?

    p.s. I forgot my pepper plants, which are growing in a dog training cage to thwart the damn groundhog.

  28. 28
    gelfling545 says:

    @satby: Oddly enough I just finished my am peanut butter on toast. I make a lot of soup. That with some cheese & crackers sees me through most of the week.

  29. 29
    YellowJournalism says:

    How are the Nothern California Juicers doing this morning? Everyone okay?

  30. 30
    Violet says:

    Harvesting the last of the melons. It’s been a weird year for them. Tried a new kind in addition to cantaloupe–it’s a cross between honeydew and cantaloupe. Not loving it but it’s been different.

    Outside of that I’ve been busy all week–in the evening once it’s below 98 degrees and the sun is lower so there’s some shade–cleaning out beds and getting ready for fall planting. I am late getting the tomatoes in but life was too busy and I didn’t have the chance to get out and do much in the garden. Trying to make up for it now. It’s always better here to get fall tomatoes in in July but if we have a mild fall and winter then it doesn’t really matter. I’ve had tomato plants winter over in a mild winter and I’ve been able to harvest in March.

    Can’t believe it’s almost time to plant broccoli.

  31. 31
    jeffreyw says:

    @Shakezula: It was about 6″ long, ballpark. A tad bigger than this one, and better hidden.

  32. 32
    Betty Cracker says:

    @jeffreyw: Fly away, little hummy! Fly away! I know it’s the Circle of Life and all, but I’d hate to see one of those bizarre alien-looking mantis critters bag a sweet little hummingbird. I don’t follow the Prime Directive in my yard either and will place my thumb on the Scales of Nature when I have a chance.

  33. 33
    SectionH says:

    Just returned from Loncon, ahead of the eruption of Bárðabunga, although aviation people seem to have learned something since the last Icelandic volcano erupted.

    Our Stupice tomato died while we were gone (not unexpected – it was looking pretty ratty before we left). The rest of the plants seem to be fine. Time to worry about how we’re going to get enough sunlight (or grow light, likely) on them this winter.

  34. 34
    gelfling545 says:

    @NotMax: Compost.

  35. 35
    raven says:

    The idiot being interviewed about the earthquake has started EVERY sentence with “SO”. . . argggh

  36. 36
    Cervantes says:


    Thank you.

    @big ole hound:

    A pain. Glad you are OK, of course.

  37. 37
    PurpleGirl says:

    @satby: I like the outline drawing of the dog and cat. Best wishes for the organization and my thanks to you for working with it.

  38. 38
    satby says:

    @PurpleGirl: Thanks! Not my work, a local tatoo artist (the board pres is a big fan).
    We can’t save them all until there are less to try to save, and the cost of “fixing” pets has been a real barrier to that.
    And silly opinions like how sad it would be for a dog “not to experience motherhood” or men worrying about neutering their male pets because of castration fears of their own (I really have heard it all).
    That’s why public education and outreach will be a big part of our work.

  39. 39
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Damsons are the best. I once lived in a house with a damson tree outside, and its harvest was abundant and joyous.

  40. 40
    Mnemosyne says:


    A lot of people get a quote in the hundreds of dollars for spaying/neutering from their regular vets and don’t realize that there are low-cost programs out there, so anything you can do to get the word out is going to be hugely helpful.

    Out here in LA, I directed one of my co-workers to a low-cost program and he was able to get Momcat spayed for $60 and the kittens done for $40 each. (Mom was a little more expensive because she was already pregnant again, which is a little more delicate of an operation.)

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