Every year, I’m amazed, humbled, inspired, and blessed by the bounty of my garden. Especially this year because I was absent for a good portion of the growing season. As if nature knew I needed more garden time, our first frost held off until the first week of November. Up until two days ago, I had tomatoes still ripening, blooming, and setting fruit. I had green beans maturing long past the time they’d normally have frozen out. I had flowers blooming that usually by this time are nothing but blackened stems.
My love for my garden isn’t only about what comes out of it and goes onto the shelves, or under them, although that’s important.
I needed the garden more than ever this year. It’s been a tough year, emotionally. There were moments this spring when I feared my only consolation for grief would be my God, my grandchildren, and my garden. Prayers were answered, and the worst grief averted. But such experiences take a heavy toll. The garden is always my solace.
My husband asked me recently if I really enjoy all the cooking I do. I’d spent the afternoon harvesting the last of the green tomatoes and a few ripe Sun Golds. They are so sweet, I call them tomato candy. I pulled some big carrots and the last of the beets. I also picked some flowers and parsley and volunteer lettuce and a few last beans in anticipation of the first killing frost. And then all that produce had to be washed and put away and some of it prepared for dinner. (We had fried green tomatoes with fried ocean white fish and roasted root vegetables—beets, carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic in rosemary-infused olive oil—and a green tomato pie for dessert.) My answer to Dennis’s question was yes, of course, or I wouldn’t do it. I love cooking what I grow in the garden. It makes me feel accomplished and self-sufficient. It’s fun to decide what to have for dinner when you have such variety and freshness right outside the door (or on the pantry shelf). Although I must confess, I often don’t think about pairings when I’m deciding what to have for dinner. I’m usually thinking, what has to be used from the garden tonight before it spoils?
Two nights ago, temps finally dipped below freezing, so the garden will go to sleep for the winter, except for a few hardy herbs and some carrots still in the ground. And I’m ready for a rest too. Here are some pictures of the last of the harvest. The memory will have to hold me now until spring.