Already the month of August has brought some welcome rain to our gardens. After getting only 13 inches of rain for the whole year in the first seven months, we got almost 4 inches in one week alone! Normal rainfall for us is around 40 inches a year, to put things in perspective. So we were in the middle of a drought of historic proportions. At any rate, the rain was very much welcome, even if hail and strong winds did come with some of it.
We are currently enjoying a bounty of tomatoes of all sizes and shapes. They have been dehydrated, pureed, sauced and frozen whole. And they have been slow roasted. And of course we eat a lot of them fresh. So now it was time for something completely different – ketchup! Or catsup, depending on how you like to spell it. It’s a popular condiment by any spelling, but one I hadn’t made in several years.
I found my favorite ketchup recipe without too much effort. I wound up using a mix of slicing tomatoes and paste varieties for this batch, including quite a few Eva Purple Balls that I happened to have ripe and ready. Eva is one of my new favorites, great for eating fresh as well as for cooking. I’ll be back later this week with my recipe for the ketchup.
But it isn’t all about tomatoes here this August. The summer squash is still producing, though the plants have slowed down. I’ve harvested almost 100 pounds of it so far this year, and much of that has been donated to the Hot Meals program where I volunteer. We put it to good use there, along with a lot of other goodies that gardeners donate this time of year. The fresh veggies are a nice break from the usual canned vegetables we serve much of the year.
Striata d’Italia is still going strong, giving us lovely striped zukes with a great flavor. It started bearing squash back in late June, so it has truly been hanging in there. I made some squash fritters with one last week. I guess I need to share that recipe sometime too, because it’s a nice way to fix squash.
The okra plants are finally giving us enough okra to actually do something with. Hopefully there will be room for more plants after I expand the garden this fall. Okra is so easy to grow and it thrives in warm weather. And I do love it in every way it can be prepared, including pickled. I made one jar of refrigerator pickled okra about two weeks ago, and it was ready for tasting yesterday. Yummy! My wife and I may have to arm wrestle for this first batch.
I’m growing three different varieties of okra this year, as I try and find a favorite. In the below photo, we have Stewart Zeebest, Perkins Long Pod and Burmese. The Stewart Zeebest is described as a Louisiana heirloom, and I can see why it has survived the test of time. It’s my favorite of the three, though the other two are almost as nice. I’m frying some for dinner tonight, where it will star alongside burgers and some sliced tomatoes.
I’m growing a 4th okra out for seed this year, Louisiana Green Velvet, as the seed has been difficult to obtain the last few years. I got my seed from another SSE member last year. It’s another Louisiana heirloom, actually a 1941 AAS winner. According to one catalog it “does well where temperatures and humidity are high”. Yep, it does, and it’s a tasty okra with long green pods that are slow to toughen. Hopefully I’ll have seed for next year.
The first of the ripe peppers are starting to come in. I got enough of the Jimmy Nardellos to put in the catsup, and we still had a couple left for grilling. What a great pepper, and it’s pretty early too! I’m harvesting the green peppers as needed. We had our first taste of the Fushimi, Shisito, and Pimento de Padron peppers. They were tossed with a little olive oil and then sauteed in the skillet until the skin started to blister. The Pimento de Padrons turned out to be all hot though. I may wind up letting them ripen and use them for drying.
Eggplants are coming on strong too. They seem to be loving the heat as much as the peppers and okra. We’ve enjoyed them grilled with Tahini Yogurt Sauce, and I made a batch of Grilled Eggplant Parmesan with them. The ones in the below photo are a mix of varieties, including Pingtung Long, Raveena, Dancer, Fairy Tale and Diamond.
That’s a peek at what we’re harvesting, eating and putting up here in Early August. Happy Growing to you all!