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by Mort Mather

This time of year can be difficult for a gardener. How can that be? No planting. Weeding is not necessary unless you are trying to keep some weeds from going to seed. Sure, harvesting can be a lot of work for a farmer but for a gardener? Let me relate a conversation between my wife and I that occurred at lunch today.

He: I don't think that big eggplant is going to get any bigger. (We planted six different varieties, none of which we were familiar with nor do we have catalogue descriptions for all of them.) There are two others that are pretty wide (Most of the varieties are producing fruit that is the diameter of hot dogs.) Let's fry them up tonight.

She: Oh. (downward inflection. Pause.) I was planning a baked eggplant and zucchini dish.

He: Oh. (pause) OK. But use the skinny eggplant so we can fry the others.

She: I need to eat better. We've been eating too much fried food. (I hadn't noticed but I wasn't going to question her.)

He: OK. I'll fry up the eggplant for lunch Tuesday when you won't be here.

She: Don't do that.

He: Why?

She: Because I like fried eggplant, too.

We went through a similar routine over the corn. She was eating too much sweet food and didn't want to eat corn but she also didn't want to miss any opportunity to eat corn when it was coming fresh from the garden.

Barbara is an excellent cook and good cook loves good food. When the food is as fresh as being picked and prepared within the same hour a cook can go nuts over the wonderfulness of the ingredients. At the same time, the cook and the gardener know that many of these foods taste wonderful with the minimum amount of preparation. A fresh tomato eaten warm in the garden can't be topped. However, if you do slice it into beautiful deep red disks and sprinkle a little freshly picked and chopped basil on it, well, that is wonderful, too. That tomato will be wonderful in a spaghetti sauce or in chili or…well the list goes on.

There is too much food coming from the garden and the frost is going to come too soon. If we could eat like this year round, it would probably not be so wonderful. We would become jaded.

Soon the menu will change dramatically as we shift from the crops that will no longer be available after frost to those that get better after frost. Carrots are the most notable. They really do get sweeter after they have been through a hard frost. Winter squash, onions, beets, cabbage, potatoes, and kale are crops that are looking good for the fall and winter table. I failed once again to plant lettuce at the proper time to be able to eat salads through November. Fall lettuce is so rewarding it is amazing I don't manage my planning well enough to have it every year.

©September 19, 1998

Mort is a husband and father. He authored a book, Gardening For Independence and was named Environmentalist of the Year by Down East Magazine in 1987. You can eat his organic produce at his son's southern Maine restaurant. His address is 802 Bald Hill Road, Wells, ME 04090.

Mort retains all rights to his columns. Anyone interested in using them can get the rights at a very reasonable rate.



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