And there are tomatoes, corn, squash, peppers, eggplants, okra and melons – all of which are the high pound producers of food in the summer garden. I expect to pull several pounds of tomatoes a week off my paste tomato plants, a variety called San Marzano (thank you Tom!). I have a dozen of them in the garden and every evening I’ll be roasting a pound or two in the oven with some basil and garlic. Once the pan has cooled, I throw everything in the blender, putting the result in freezer bags, two cups at a time for future pizza and pasta sauce. I throw in a little of whatever spice or flavoring I have on hand, so there is quite a variety of sauce in the freezer: some batches will have peppers (some hot, some not so much), others will have oregano and basil while some will have thyme. It’s a hit and miss thing, but all good.
I’m planning on drying peppers this year as a way to preserve them without having to keep them frozen all the time. I cut them into strips (for the smaller hot ones) and rings (of the big bell peppers) and dry them in a food dryer especially made for that task – you can use a gas oven with just the pilot light on and the door cracked a little. Look up specific directions online.
So that’s July and August in a nutshell: hammock, harvest and, of course, water. If you don’t keep your plants picked, they’ll stop producing. Keep using the basil and tomatoes; keeping up with your harvest at this point is the big challenge, but oh what a delightful thing to be challenged by! This can be the hardest work of gardening: finding a home for all the produce before it goes to waste. Share the overflow abundance with friends, relatives or a food bank. Nature isn’t stingy, so carry on that grand tradition and share all the stuff you can’t use. We all need a fresh homegrown tomato now and then to remind us how blessed life can really be.
Grandson of a Great Plains farmer, David King is the Garden Master at the Learning Garden, on the campus of Venice High School. He shares his love of the land and music through teaching, writing and playing in a folk/country band. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org