Gardener's Grapevine 2011.06.22

Written by David Green.

It was another beautiful Sunday and Father’s Day to boot. My dad and I took a drive down to Maumee for lunch, and the farmers appear to have some nice crops coming this year. The wheat looked very nice. 

We have some great looking tomatoes on the vine; I can’t wait for BLTs. That first ripe tomato makes all the hard work worth it. The tomatoes are the size of golf balls right now, but in about another week we’ll have green fried tomatoes and in hopefully two more weeks we’ll have ripe tomatoes, and then canning.

Canning is a dreaded chore for some people, but I actually like doing it. There is an odd sense of satisfaction in seeing those jars lined up for winter.

The squash is really growing, too. It won’t be long until we’ll be slicing that up for supper and mmm...is that good. Just add a little garlic, butter, and salt and you’re all set.

The black raspberries, which are the tiny sweet heritage ones, look great. In another week we’ll be picking them. The red raspberries are almost ready, also. A co-worker gave me the starts and this is year three for them. The vines started out as three small sticks and are now covering most of the back fence of the garden which is around 25 feet long. They were a good gift, as they bloom and produce two times a season and the berries freeze exceptionally well.

We have found an excellent way to freeze berries for the winter. Rinse them lightly, let them drain a few minutes, place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer, and they will freeze solid in two hours. Then put them in a freezer Ziploc bag, remove as much air as is possible and put the bag back in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.

On the topic of freezing food for winter, my daughter Jacquie works a lot of hours and is an avid gardener. Last year she was short on time and had a lot of tomatoes that needed to be put up. She rinsed the whole tomato—skin, core and all—then put them in freezer bags, removed the air, and dropped them in the deep freeze. I wondered how this would turn out for cooking. The answer is fabulous!

I took a package of them and put them in a stock pot with a little water and let them cook. Then I strained out the skins and cores, and it left me with an excellent tomato base for chili or sauce. This is a very easy way to put up tomatoes for the cold season. Tomatoes are a base for so many easy recipes and one of my favorites is old-fashioned tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches made from sharp cheddar cheese slices.

Thinking of these delicious recipes on a freezing cold day makes fighting the mosquitos to plant and harvest worth it. It amazes me how thick and huge the mosquitos are this year. A real bumper crop. The bats will be so fat they won’t be able to get into our houses and create havoc.

Speaking of which, a week ago today we were enjoying a nice coffee hour after church when a visitor came in. A bat had somehow made it into the fellowship hall and what a sight it was—women yelling and covering their heads with purses, my aunt and son swinging a badminton racket at it, and Wilma Fink trying to knock it down with her hands! The poor thing was so worked up it kept swooping down and flying back and forth in the hall. Sharon Bruce’s granddaughter was not amused, but her grandson said he loved his first batting! Has to be a guy thing!

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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