Summer in September

This year has been full of weather quirks. Summer is reaching into September, with temps in the 80's and high humidity. We have been extremenly dry - my violets are all shriveled and brown, and the tips of many leaves are brown and sere. Every plant is stressed from the lack of rain. The high humidity is probably the only thing that causes them not to die, as every morning the grass is heavy with dew.

The tomato plants have produced heavily, but are overall smaller due to the lack of rainfall. While August was filled with cucumbers, September is lush with tomatoes. So I have made chili sauce, vegetable cocktail juice, spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, gazpacho and salsa. I eat tomatoes at almost every meal, and have frozen some whole cherry tomatoes to use when the winter is upon us. The two varieties I grew this year (Tomatoberry and Snowberry) give me scads of plump dark red and creamy yellow bites of flavor. I like these two as they do not crack when pulled off the vine, and the contrasting color looks great in a salad. My paste type plants are going strong, and some of the fruits are massive - almost 1/2 pound. Speckled Roman, Polish Linguisa, Orange Banans and Blue Beech Paste are competing, and the Polish seems to be producing the biggest fruits. One of the Speckled Roman plants produced yellow, slightly striped fruit, and I plan to save those seeds and see if they give me a new variety.

Another concoction I just put up is my annual Fire Cider. This vinegar, infused with horseradish, garlic, ginger, onions, hot pepper, and turmeric, is a great way to stay healthy throught the winter months. I usually make it a little later in the year, but my friend, Susan Belsinger, who is coming in October to present at NEUHSA's symposium, asked if I could make a batch so she could share it with the audience. Now that I have a food processor, it's a snap to shred the horseradish and other herbs and spices and whip up a batch. I love the colors in the jar, and it really gives you a kick to take a shot each morning. My recipe is adapted from Andrea Reisen's that is featured in the Herb of the Year(TM) 2011 book on Horseradish.

1 large horseradish root, peeled

5 - 6 fresh turmeric roots

2 small onions

4 heads of garlic, peeled

3 medium size fresh ginger roots

5 - 10 small hot peppers

Apple cider vinegar

Grate horseradish in food processor and place in large bowl. Shred the turmeric, onions, garlic, ginger and hot peppers and add to bowl. Mix well. Place ingredients into 2 large (2 quart) canning jars and cover with apple cider vinegar - the best kind to use is one that has the "mother". I used 2 1/2 quarts of vinegar, being sure I covered the shredded roots. If you don't have the large jars, you can use any extra large wide mouthed jar, or use several smaller ones. Place in a dark place for 4-8 weeks, shake frequently, then strain and re-bottle.

Signing off in September,

Karen