Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 24: Foraging Amongst Ruins

The first freeze came early November, wiping out the outdoor veggies and most of the indoor tomato vines. Watching the greenhouse die for the winter is heartbreaking, no matter how many quarts of spaghetti sauce and salsa canned. Gardening is a labor intense sport, and Mother Nature always gets last bat. I usually close things up in October and stay way until spring.

I can’t remember why I went into the greenhouse before driving to my mom’s for Thanksgiving, but I was surprised to find loads of tomatillos hanging on to wilted but green vines. Jalapenos and Thai chilies were past prime but still edible. I picked about 20 pounds of late produce to share with farm hands that tend fields of Christmas trees on my parents’ property. The workers, all of Mexican origin, welcomed the offering with wide smiles.

I thought I picked the last of the tomatillos at Thanksgiving, but found more today while checking up on the hens. The birds enjoy the mushy green lanterns littering the ground inside the greenhouse. I tossed handfuls of rotten fruits into a bed, hoping the girls will work the seeds into the soil and handle next year’s replanting. I found several perfect specimens and decided to forage for tonight’s supper amongst the ruins. I scavenged a couple pounds of tart fruits free from frost bite or insect damage. I even found Thai peppers to add a little heat.

A lone red flower decorates an 8 foot tall pineapple sage bush. I expected the sage die in the first freeze, but it hangs on.  Heartier herbs should make it through the winter, but there is no guarantee. I lost all my lavender last year and half of my rosemary. I picked a healthy handful of pineapple sage, silver sage, oregano, lemon thyme, and rosemary to infuse my scavenged creation.  

The birds are making quick work of the garden beds and enjoying their new environment. I gathered a clutch of fresh eggs, packed up my foraged prize, and headed to the house. In less than 30 minutes, a warm pot of soup simmered on the stove.

Fresh & comfy hot soup has me rethinking my gardening methods. In my current practice, I actively garden about six months out of the year. I think I can stretch the season out to cover 9 to 10 months or more by planting cold tolerant crops like cabbage, kale, and romaine. I’ll start the research tonight.

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