International From My Own Backyard

Autumn, New Mexico style, is upon us. 

Grown Here!

That means nights dropping into the mid to low sixties (we’ve had a few in the fifties) and days that still reach into the nineties. Leaves on trees are still green. Globe mallow is blossoming in high stands with tiny orange flowers. Wild asters are waist-high purple. Sunflowers of various types contribute brilliant yellow.

And the garden, tormented for much of the summer, is thriving. Our beans have mostly finished, but we have cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, a wide variety of herbs. If we want to make a salad, we have Swiss chard, radishes, and carrots. My chest freezer is packed. My meal planning is centered around what is out of control…

Looking over what I’ve cooked the last week or so, I realized how coping with the garden has also contributed a very international flavor to our meals.

In addition to adding them to salads, I like to serve cucumbers after a style a Chinese friend introduced me to: sliced, then seasoned lightly with soy sauce and sesame oil. Sometimes I add chives. I also make a variety of Indian raita: yogurt, green chile, cilantro, mint, topped with toasted cumin and mustard seeds. One thing I want to try before the summer is over is a French cold cucumber soup, seasoned with dill.

Zucchini is often the base for stir fry, augmented by whatever else the garden is doing in quantities. Earlier in the season, that was beans and eggplants. Now beans have faded out and peppers are entering the mix. I also make calabazitas, a New Mexican dish in which the squash is blended with sweet corns, then seasoned with onions, garlic, green chile. My recipe calls for it to be topped with sharp cheese.

Tomatoes… Well, for someone raised by a mother sincerely rooted in the Italian-American tradition, you can never have too many tomatoes. One of my favorite ways to serve them is in a salad with fresh basil, arugula, olive oil, and sliced garlic. I also make a variety of tomato sauces. And, of course, freeze tomatoes for winter cooking. When I do this last, I drain off the excess liquid and save that to augment homemade chicken soup.

I make a hot/sweet variation of my grandmother’s green tomato relish, substituting jalapeos for green peppers.

I dry herbs. (Drying is almost too easy in New Mexico). I make pesto. As I go about gathering and preparing, I feel a singular kinship with squirrels.

I like living with the seasons. When hard frost takes out the garden, we’ll eat the tomatoes that we can ripen indoors, then that’s it. No more fresh tomatoes until next July. The same with many of the other veggies. If I haven’t put it up, I don’t buy it. We start buying lettuce again. I bake more. My selection of recipes changes.

We don’t winter garden, except for a few herbs. It’s nice to give both the earth and ourselves a rest until early spring when we start thinking about seedlings.

There’s a freshness to the turning of the years, a connectedness to the cycle of the living world. I like it. Like the world around me, I thrive.

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9 Responses to “International From My Own Backyard”

  1. Pat McGee Says:

    Sounds like you’d enjoy listening to Stephanie Davis doing her “Talkin’ Harvest Time Blues”. I couldn’t find a clip on the web, but I did find the lyrics: http://www.stephaniedavis.net/harvesttime.htm

    It’s one of my favorites to listen to this time of year.

    Pat

  2. Heteromeles Says:

    That sounds wonderful! I’m jealous, because I have to garden in pots and limited space. Mostly I’m growing tomatoes and salad greens

  3. Paul Dellinger Says:

    The garden vegetables in that picture look delicious. If we
    took a picture of ours, it would have to be color-enhanced
    to look like that.

  4. janelindskold Says:

    Pat McGee… We looked up the song lyrics and they’re brilliant. The only difference is that we didn’t order our plants. We actually grew a lot of them from seed.

    You can see “baby pictures” on April’s blog “Wild Pink Haze.”

    Paul Dellinger… No color enhancement at all. The colors really are that vivid.

    Heteromeles… I’m surprised. You are obviously a plant expert! I’d envisioned you with the Back Forty plowed and planted.

  5. Heteromeles Says:

    With land over $1 million/acre around here? Not until we’ve saved up a lot more money. Besides, I’m more of a native plant expert, which is a different set of skills.

    I’d love to have a dirt garden, though. It would make things a lot more interesting.

  6. irisarkay Says:

    Holy moly, look at those beautiful veggies!

  7. janelindskold Says:

    I like to dirt garden. A million an acre… Eek!

    Jim and I do tend to choose the odder — or more expensive (in the store) varieties, thus the golden peppers and the oriental cucumbers.

    Like the song Pat McGee linked to above, we do enjoy the seed catalogs…

  8. Ann M Nalley Says:

    Makes me hungry reading this post! This is perhaps augmented by the fact that we have a pork roast in the oven, making the house smell delicious. We didn’t even plant our annual cucumbers this year. (Frown.) The lovely oak trees along the back of our house provide more and more shade each year, and we are having a tough time finding a spot that stays sunny enough for our veggies.

  9. janelindskold Says:

    While our problem is too much sun. I actually let my tomato plants get bushy to protect the fruit from sun scald.

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