Thursday, June 21, 2018

Gardener's Holidays 2018: Cornucopia

Well, it's officially summertime (not that the summer weather waited for the calendar), and our garden is looking a lot better than it was last year. Our sugar snap peas have been producing—not by the bucketload, but enough to provide handfuls of peas for stir-fries and salads—and we're harvesting so much lettuce that I'm actually getting a little tired of salad. There's still a bit of arugula left, as well (though it's likely to bolt pretty soon), and we're already seeing the first little squashlings on the zucchini plants. (Brian has been diligently covering their stems with dirt to deter the squash vine borers, and so far they look healthy.)

But the real star of our summer garden show is our raspberry canes. For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, we have been getting a real bumper crop of berries this summer—so many that we actually haven't been able to eat them all. Last weekend, we went away to Boston for a Morris dance event, and we made a point of picking all the ripe raspberries we could find on Friday—about a pint's worth—and taking them with us as a gift for our host, because we knew they wouldn't last until we returned. So the bushes were picked clean right before our departure, and yet the day after we returned, Brian went out and gathered all these.

That's a two-quart bowl, so I estimate it contains at least five cups of berries—and that's what we picked after an absence of only two days. We happened to be at Trader Joe's last week, and we noticed that they were selling a tiny one-cup container of organic raspberries there for $4—so this bowl alone contains about $20 worth of fruit. And since then, the canes have only continued to produce at the same rate. We're filling up a pint container of berries pretty much every day.

Well, with a crop like this, we had to make some adjustments to our berry-eating habits. In the past, we've been fairly sparing with them—tossing a handful at a time into a salad, occasionally enjoying a half-cup or so fresh with lunch, and maybe saving some up to make into a dessert now and then. But this week, we've been doing all those things at once, plus filling up a quart container to take to my dad for a belated Father's Day gift, and still we can't keep up.

So, for the first time in our gardening lives, we have actually preserved a portion of our fruit harvest. Brian has now put two batches of berries, totaling about a quart and a half, into the freezer, simply spreading them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. They freeze up quickly and maintain their shape, and he then transfers them to a large plastic bag for future use.

This, of course, means that we'll have to start digging up some recipes that actually call for frozen raspberries, which we've never had before, but that's hardly a tragedy. I've already found this one for Raspberry, Oat and Almond Bake in the Guardian, and we can always put them in smoothies.

Meanwhile, there are still more fresh raspberries out there to be harvested. If this keeps up, maybe we should just forget about buying fruit at all until fall.

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