By Mary Murray
In our part of the Midwest, it’s easy to see the change of seasons has begun. The soybean fields have turned golden and we can see the corn will follow shortly. Thick patches of goldenrod, buzzing with honeybees, line the gravel roads, potatoes from our garden have been harvested, and the last of the sweet summertime tomatoes have been picked…waiting to become savory tomato sauce as well as to be enjoyed on a delicious BLT sandwich (or a BLAT as my daughter says…just add slices of avocado!)
These early days of fall give us a chance to wrap up summer activities: harvesting the last of the garden bounty, stacking firewood, ordering hay, making sure barns and sheds are ready for the frosty days ahead, and finally putting the garden to bed.
Because we just harvested our potatoes, I thought I’d share some old-time gardening advice that’s been handed down over the years to me. It’s advice I like to call tried-and-true because I’ve seen the amazing gardens that came from following such advice.
I’ve always been told that now is the ideal time for digging root crops, such as beets, carrots, potatoes, and turnips. If time gets busy, they can stay in the ground a little longer, but if temperatures stay high into fall and there is constant rainfall, they need to be harvested as quickly as possible.
The potatoes we harvest are placed on screens in a shady area for about 10 days. I then put them in flat, wooden boxes for storage and put them in our cellar.
I’ve been told, by those same wonderful old-time gardeners, that sweet potatoes need to be handled with care when digging them. Just like white or yellow potatoes, they’re best set aside to cure for about a two weeks, and then stored in flat boxes in a cellar.
I dread the thought of having to buy store-bought tomatoes, but truly, the best BLT tomatoes are gone now, but there are still tomatoes, maybe a bit imperfect, that will be wonderful tomato sauce, and this recipe couldn’t be easier!
End-of-Season Tomato Sauce
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Quarter as many tomatoes as will fit in a 13- x 9-inch pan…no need to core or peel, just slice the stem end off.
3. Add pressed garlic to taste, drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to coat the tomatoes, and then pop the baking pan into the oven for 45 minutes.
4. After the tomatoes have roasted, spoon them into a blender and puree.
5. Add 3 tablespoons of Italian seasoning and any additional salt and pepper to taste; blend to combine.
6. Add a quartered onion and blend once again.
7. Pour the sauce into freezer containers and it’s done!
That’s it…oh-so easy! You can change the recipe to match your taste by using fresh herbs instead of dry seasoning and I always add a pinch of sugar…just because that’s what my mom does (yep, tried-and-true). Then, when the winter winds blow, you’ll be able to savor a taste of summer.
While the rest of our garden is quite ready for a rest, the peppers are producing non-stop…what to do with them? I always think they’re great sliced and sautéed with onions and then stored in freezer containers for serving on Italian sausages. And with tailgate season at hand, I’ve been filling the smaller peppers and serving them as a cold appetizer. Just mix softened cream cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, diced green onion, and crispy, crumbled bacon. No recipe needed, just add as much as you like of each ingredient, then spoon into halved peppers. That’s it, and they’re yummy!
While we see the signs of fall around us, somehow the days urge us to get busy…to be outside. We can sense a change is coming and it’s time to prepare ourselves for the cold days ahead. Tomorrow morning we’ll stack firewood and soon I’ll be making grape jam. As the Tony Bennett song goes, “the days grow short when you reach September.”
Mary is a Midwest farm girl who enjoys the simple pleasures of living in the country. “For us, living where there is plenty of room for gardens, animals, and for kids to play and explore is the best kind of life.” You can visit Windy Meadows Farm here, Windy Meadows Farm.
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