Last Picks

My Mothers' Day garden is closing down for the winter. *Sniff* What a year we have had! The freezer is full of tomatoes, tomatillos and pesto. I've got pickled peppers in the fridge and the memory of enough wonderful garden-supplied meals to last until it's time to start again. Here's what it looks like now.

It's bare all right, but the gnome is standing proud on his pole. We've got a saying at our house: "Don't be such a gnome pole." The meaning is abundantly clear.

There is still a stalwart stand of chard, a few lettuces that survived the frost and the deer, and a clump of radishes that might yet make it into a salad. But the last pick of the season is behind us. Look!

I don't fry much (I'd only have to run that much further every day), so those green tomatoes were earmarked for chutney. We all love Indian cuisine, so chutney is a staple. I hardly ever have ketchup in my fridge, but we go through a dozen pints of chutney a year. 

This year I used this recipe. I'll let you know how it is later, because chutney needs to sit in a jar and meditate in the dark for a few months. I'm certain that's what it does. Pickles need time, too, but who knows what pickles get up to when no one's looking. Let's move on, okay? Oh, I left out the hot chili in the recipe. The chutney is supposed to be an antidote to viciously hot curries, not add fuel to the fire.

Chutney's not difficult to make; you just throw it all together and cook it a while. The tedious part is sterilizing the jars, waiting a year for 60 gallons of water to boil, and, finally, boiling each batch pints for 15 minutes. But, good things take time, unless it's a quickie or a really good knock-knock joke, and this is worth it.

Aren't they fabulous? The '09 vintage was superb, and the '12 vintage was a close second, but I have high hopes for these babies because of the crystallized ginger. But we must wait. The chutney must meditate. 

And meanwhile we can hope. We think of spring as a time of hope, but I'd argue it's fall. I mean, by springtime you don't need hope; you're already in the money. The days are long. The world is replete with asparagus, strawberries, daffodils and peeps. You've got mud instead of snow. It's progress. But here in November, with winter standing like a snowdrift between now and the beginning of the next Mothers' Day garden, hope is what we've got. And lots and lots of frozen tomatoes.