Garden bounty is starting to come in. It’s time to start harvesting what is ripe and getting it ready for the long, cold winter.

I had a very interesting garden-growing summer. Not since 1974 have I prepared and planted a vegetable/fruit garden. It was all a new learning experience to say the least. It was very exciting to see a seed you planted poke its little head above the ground and grow into something. I learned what I liked. I learned what I didn’t like. I found out what was easy to grow. I found out what was hard to grow and what was better off to be purchased at a Farmer’s Market rather than make me feel vegetarian-inferior.

First, I’ll start with the bad part. My first yield was broccoli-rabe. It grew, but it was thin. I cooked it but it was hard vs tender. Nonetheless, we ate it up and when the bounty was over, I dug it up and out to the compost bin. Next came the squash/zucchini and the cucumbers. They were a HUGE disappointment. The cukes never grew right or whole. The squash/zucchini never properly pollinated (despite all the bees and insects) so they never grew (other than 3 small sized zucchini). The zucchini flowers made great fritters and the cukes were only half edible. The broccoli-rabe I sauteed with olive oil and garlic. Meh.

The spinach, arugula and bibb lettuce came out alright but hubby was reluctant to eat them! I had no qualms with the bibb lettuce, but the rest of the stuff didn’t look anything like what you would get at the grocery store or Farmer’s Market. The spinach and arugula were awfully small. But they looked very nice in their containers. So, I just let them keep on growing. Eventually, they flowered and as I said, they looked terrific in their containers.

Spinach and arugula running wild!
Bibb lettuce looking all neat and perfect!

The stars of my garden so far, have been the pea pods and the green beans (which BTW are still producing!) Most of the peas and pea pods I ate right in the garden. They never made it to the table. BTW, they were delish. The green beans, however made it to my table, continue to make it to my table and have been freezing very well. I also grew several herbs such as basil, parsley, oregano and rosemary, which also freeze very well.

some of my produce making it to my freezer.

Green beans and pea pods:

Lastly, I’ve got canteloupes, watermelons, peppers, beefsteak & cherry tomatoes and eggplant starting to bud. I have another two or three weeks before I can harvest any of these. In the interim, I found out that yes! you can grow San Marzano tomatoes in places other than Italy. I bought seeds for next year BUT purchased a bushel of these Italian plum tomatoes, which also freeze very well, for cooking in the winter. I steamed, skinned and froze enough plum tomatoes, with a dash of basil, to fill ten (re-cycled) plastic containers, placed in my new freezer. These tomatoes are perfect for marinara sauce or in soups, casseroles or chili recipes. In the grocery store, these specific tomatoes are very, very expensive with prices ranging from $2.49 to $4.99 a 28 ounce can.

And lastly, let’s not forget my experiment with growing zinnias. I bought the seeds through Amazon but when I got the package, it showed the seeds came from China. Nonetheless, I planted them, expecting a height of maybe 12 inches. Nope. They grew to be over 4 feet tall. I had planted them around my apple tree, as a means to attract pollinating insects. Instead, since they bloomed so late in the season, the zinnias attracted nothing BUT they grew so tall they obliterated any view of my apple tree!

Live and learn. Next year they will be planted in the front yard. NOT in the veggie gardens!