Ingredients for autumn soup: chestnuts from a farmers market, Lactarius thyinos (no common name), hen of the woods, Queen of Smyrna squash
I took this picture to run with the recipe – not yet written – because I was about to roast the squash and chestnuts, making them less photogenic.
But then I realized the picture itself is a massive seasonal alert. So:
Bill’s detailed hen of the woods hunting advice is here.
The post where I roll all over in delight about the squash, after a timely reminder that the window of specialty squashes is both small and right now, is here.
And really a lot about roasting and peeling chestnuts is here.
I probably should have titled this “Harvesting Wild Mushrooms;” there are all kinds of them just about everywhere (or at least everywhere in the Northeast). Our vegetable gardens may be soggy – even without Irene this has been a mighty rainy summer – but in the silver lining department there’s a bumper crop in the woods and fields.
Where there are shoots, there will soon be flowers. Also bees.
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed with imminent spring. It’s just so inspiring to see those fleets of tender crocus shoots pushing up; so inspiring ( in a slightly different way) to see those fleets of last autumn’s canned goods still lining the shelves.
Haven’t started raking yet, but I have been making Honey Bars, playing around with assorted vintages, pairing the perfumes of the honeys with different nuts: floral with hazelnuts, herbal with pecans, smoky with black walnuts.
That’s the thing about keeping bees: if you get any honey at all, you generally get a lot, so even though last year was a total bust we’re in no danger of running out.
The thing that’s in danger is the bees. And as Bill points out in this guest post, the first wave of threats is already pawing away at the doorstep.
I don’t know what the weatherpundits are going to call it, but around here it’s already The Boxing Day Blizzard of 2010; most of our roughly 20 inch blanket arrived on the 26th. Lunchtime’s lazy flakes started swirling toward whiteout at about 4 PM and the hours between dark and dawn were thick with a howling northeaster.
Although snow was still falling and blowing all morning on the 27th, the blowing showed a great deal more enthusiasm. No way to start shoveling much before noon, by which time the snow was what one might call “formerly fluffy.” It wasn’t heavy, exactly, compared to some snows I’ve hefted in my time, but it was already closer to igloo material than the original thistledown.
And there was a lot of it, so both of us were out there for hours. Bill started by clearing a path around the greenhouse and down to the bird feeder
The greenhouse from inside (those shelves are 4 feet off the floor)
First chunk of first south window cleared
And that was the easy part. Next came
These aren’t they, but next year...
I’m not sure I’m really all that worried about it. Between the bacon and the barbeque we’re no doubt consuming enough carcinogenic material to make it a bit bogus to get all het up about the lids on the catsup – especially since after the jars are opened I switch to one of my favorite products: plastic reusable caps like the one on the strawberry jam (reasonably easy to find although not, for reasons that elude me, available wherever canning supplies are sold).
Where was I?
About to say something about “better safe,” no doubt. BPA – free canning supplies do exist.
Choosing the date for “first frost” is always tricky – do I count a tiny brush of wilt on the lowest dahlia in the lowest spot? Or do I wait for the day when the basil turns black, summer squash – what’s left of it – goes transparent and the zinnias are no more?
Goodbye to all that.
Either way, this year “first frost” is now in the record books.
Nobody talks much about it, but the truth is the damn things tend to multiply.
While this is going on above ground, extension is transpiring underneath.
In the space of a single summer, one wizened little dahlia tuber can become a clutch of potatolike lumps the size of a basketball and the cannas are even worse – or better, if you’ve got a spot that could use a mass of something. Just because they got overused in the days of carpet bedding shouldn’t consign using cannas as hedging to the dustbin of horticultural history.
A section of the side yard hedge (as seen from the driveway) at the Hudson Valley house. The canna is 'Tropicana;' the neat black grass is millet 'Purple Majesty.'
This is by way of saying that – assuming you’ve got room in the cellar or garage – too much of a good thing may be just enough. And of course a bit more of an expensive thing is its own kind of gratification.
Autumn leaf time coming right up. This is Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) demonstrating a quarter of its 4-season appeal.
It was warm when we got to the Hudson Valley the other day. Then it got warmer, and warmer, topping out yesterday – I hope! – at about eighty-five. “ September is the new August,” said Bill, with more than a little justification.
August/September-blooming Lespedeza thunbergii, in full regalia in front of the barn.
But there’s more to seasons than temperature, and (so far) the Earth’s orbit hasn’t changed. The solstice is behind us and apples are ripening, whether we like it or not.
It’s been a great tomato year so far, especially after 2009. We are well into tomato roasting, tomato drying, catsup-making and BLT’s. But it’s never too late for nature to pipe up and say don’t count your chickens.
Two cases in point: Hurricanes and Hornworms.
Most of these tomatoes would still be on the vine if heavy rains weren’t on the radar. The very green ones are almost ready, btw. They will still be green when ripe, just slightly yellower
The old fashioned crookneck squash and Gold of Bacu beans are from our garden; the corn’s from the farmstand up the road and the vanilla butter* is the touch that turns them from yellow vegetables into winter joy.
Official Kitchen Garden Day was August 22, but at the time I was too busy planting fall crops, harvesting the everlasting beans and squash, canning roasted tomatoes and making plum jam to do any live-blogging, and yesterday was much the same except for an evening pizza party with freshly picked peppers, tomatoes and basil and the whole family around the outdoor oven.
If you actually have a kitchen garden, every day is Kitchen Garden Day – that’s the whole point. All spring, summer and fall, you plant and eat. All winter, you eat and plan for next year.