Each season brings certain expectations and, of course, certain challenges that never remain the same. Farming and growing is subject to weather fluctuations occuring more often due to climate change. This year we had historic rainfall in the area starting with heavy downpours in the spring and culminating in the arrival of Hurricane Irene last month. We lost our peas early becuase of late frosts, then many of the vegetables we seeded or the delicate transplants we placed in the ground would get hit by pounding downpours. The repeated downpours led to soil erosion, and lastly, when there was no place for the water to penetrate, some beds were in standing water on a few occasions. We were lucky that we had the harvest we've had to date, albeit much less than we expected for the year. Unfortunately, many farms from New York to Vermont were devastated and several CSAs were no longer able supply their customers with weekly drop-offs. The Union Square Greenmarket had significantly less vendors. This letter from Evolutionary Organics in New Paltz summed up the impact of Irene on some of our local farmers and is a must read for those who buy locally.
For the home gardener, many of whom grow tomatoes, this was not a good season. It sure beat 2009 when we all had blight, but what started as a promising season of luscious fruit ended with overwatered tomatoes. A sure sign of overwatering are tomatoes with fissures and cracks near the top of the fruit. In case this is happening to you are not alone. Having raised beds, which we encourage, helps with excessive water except in the case where you are getting 8 inches in an hour. Our tomatoes were in standing water for periods of time. They eventually drained but the damage was done, and repeatedly. Typically we are harvesting tomatoes well into the end of October but we'll be done by the end of September. Such is life of a grower.
Looking back at this season and also looking forward, these were the crops and varieties that did really well for us. We plan on being fully stocked with these seedlings next spring at the farmers markets:
Favorite tomato varieties: Kellogg's Breakfast - meaty with little seeds and super productive. Ramapo - gorgeous exemplary red tomatoes, Sungold Cherries, Pink Berkely Tie-Dye, and Lime Green Salad.
Other successes this year: Angled Luffa (Chinese Okra), Japanese Eggplant, Red Russian Kale, Leeks, Italian Rampicante Squash, Hot and Sweet Bell Peppers, and beets.
Wondering what your successes and failures were for the season?
Tonight's tribute to the end of the Nightshades is an absolute favorite sauce for pasta where the eggplant and tomatoes melt in to become a substantive sauce and the brininess of the kalamata olives and anchovies create the necessary pungency to make this a dish that stands out. Trust me, it's amazing. Be warned, it's a bit more time consuming than it looks from first glance but so worth the effort.
Recipe: Robust End-of-the-Summer Spaghetti
2 lbs of eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/2” thick
2 Red or yellow bell peppers, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 lbs of ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup kalamata olives pitted and chopped
3 Tbs capers (optional)
1 Tbs dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb spaghetti
1 cup grated Parmesean cheese
1. Preheat broiled. Arrange eggplant on cookie sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Broil both sides until soft and slightly browned about 10 minutes per side. Oil peppers and broil then skin side up, until blistered. Stack on top and steam for another 15 minutes then peel and dice into small squares.
2. Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a Dutch oven. Saute the onions, peppers, garlic, anchovies and parsley over medium high heat until softened. Lower the heat and add eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers, oregano and 1/2 cup water or juice from tomatoes. Season with S and P and simmer for 30 minutes to let the flavors develop.
3. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water and drain. Place in a large bowl with vegetables spooned over the top, showered with cheese and garnished with extra parsley. Toss before serving.
Adapted from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors