Monday, September 14, 2015

Late Season Gardening

Yesterday I transplanted some kale plants we started a few weeks ago. The cultivar is 'Dwarf Blue Scotch Curled.' It makes a compact plant ideal for the small space garden. I removed some spent pepper and basil plants, making room for the kale and some spinach that I plan to move in later this week. The current spate of cool weather is ideal for all kinds of garden projects.

We are still harvesting beans, cucumbers, okra, tomatoes and peppers from the summer garden, while scallions and parsely start to mature from late plantings. It will soon be time to start seeds for fall lettuces, along with some other items that will move indoors when frost threatens.

Our best crop of beans this year has come, believe it or not, from container plantings. By using a sterile potting mix and incorporating a legume innoculant into the mix at planting time, we have achieved some beautiful filet beans with no hint of trouble. We have found a bean beetle here and there, but they are easy to control by hand when the crop is small.

We have also begun making plans for next year's garden. As was the case during 2014, when we wrote two gardening books for Random House, we are going to garden in 2016 with a new book in mind. Our plan is to select a single small space and demonstrate just how much produce can be grown with limited resources. The area, which is about 100 square feet, has been a multipurpose raised growing bed for years. At the moment, it is home to cucumbers, sweet peppers, hot peppers, scallions, parsley, turnip greens and kale, with room for the small planting of spinach I mentioned above. We will continue to share details as this project evolves.

Looking for a way to deal with an abundance of peppers? Check out this red pepper relish recipe, which keeps for weeks in the refrigerator. The seasonings are similar to those used for bread and butter cucumber pickles. The relish is great on chicken or pork, and makes killer pimento cheese. If you wish to add heat, include a hot pepper with the chopped sweet peppers, keeping the total amount the same.

Bread-and-Butter Pepper Relish

Makes one half pint (one cup)

1 1/2 cups finely diced sweet red peppers
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon whole yellow mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon celery seed

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cover, place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir, then adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, covered, until reduced to one cup, about 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.

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