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Like can so often happen in North Dakota, winter creeps in before its natural time. It will put the brakes on all your late spring excitement and slam you with a blizzard in the middle of May, or before you’ve even thought about what the kids will wear for Halloween, BAM, a freeze in the middle of September. This does not seem too crazy to anyone living in North Dakota. To a native Texan, it was a difficult adjustment.

The early freeze happened September 21, but was first predicted Sept 17. Monday the 17th I decided, since we had two markets that week – 18th and 22nd – we might as well just pick it all, because you definitely can’t cover as much as we still had going. I started harvesting about 10am and didn’t finish until 6pm. Jordan helped by digging all the carrots (which wouldn’t have been hurt by the freeze, but they were shouldering out of the ground and needed to be dug), picking cucumbers, pulling pimiento plants, and cutting the squash vines (for which you practically need a hand saw). Here’s the helpful hubby. Babe, you make that carrot look good!

Here’s the final visual tally of amazing delicious produce picked in one day!

Yes, I just piled the melons into the floor of my car. What about it?! And the eggplants in the first picture are stacked on top of a second bucket of bell peppers. The final shot is of a few pounds of lima beans, which deserve a post of their own, but I will let that wait for another day.

We pulled the pimiento plants because you can hang them upside down in a cool dry place, and the peppers will redden/ripen one at a time. It has been working so far! Check out these fibrous roots.

One more thing to mention!!! We walked into the garden and could not find our busy garden spider. A little looking found her on the other side of the same plant, but since she moved I was able to get a picture of all that was left of the grasshoppers she has been feasting on.

Can you see them? Apparently, the only inedible part of a grasshopper is its thigh! Funny, you’d think they would have a lot of meat in them. Pesky exoskeleton?

Now that all the markets are done for the year, I’m trying to preserve at least one thing everyday so I can get through all the stuff we have left before it gets over-ripe. Today I canned apple pie filling. Check out the new recipe I posted for when a jar doesn’t seal: What Can You Do With This Vegetable?

The last few days have been full of canning. Salsa, salsa verde, tomato juice, tomatoes, tomato sauce with meat, pizza sauce, tomato relish. I’m sure you’re noticing a pattern. We picked about 20 gallons of tomatoes last monday (sept 3), so they HAD to be used.

I’ve been going over to Jordan’s great-aunt Esther’s house to can in her basement kitchen. Wow, wouldn’t that be handy to have? Well, it’s actually pretty nice to have one at someone else’s house, because then they can babysit your kids while you work!

 

So here’s the “laboratory”

Hmm, too conspicuous? How about this:

See? Great right?! So, I did A LOT of tomatoes, but I thought maybe a show-and-tell on tomatillos was in order. They are actually related to the gooseberry. I’ve read a lot of sites that say to wait to harvest until the fruit fills the paper lantern (as I like to call it). But I think you probably shouldn’t wait that long. Basically, if you feel something solid with a gentle squeeze of the paper lantern, you can pick. Here they are before husking:

 

And after:

As you can see, they are all different sizes and shades, but all ready to be picked. When you husk them, you’ll feel a sticky substance on the fruit. Rinse that before cooking. Then I cut mine in half and put them in a big roasting pan along with quartered onions, stemmed jalapenos and whole garlic cloves.

Roast for about 20 mins then put it all in a blender. Add salt, a little vinegar, and cilantro to taste, water bath for 30 mins and you’re done. That’s like the easiest salsa ever.

Here’s an image-of-caution on keeping your jars hot before putting in the boiling water bath:

Yeah, that was fun to clean up.

I also created a recipe that might change your mind about eggplant. See that in the wcydwtv page.

Another market last tuesday with some great visiting vendors – one offering fresh cut flowers by the stem and in arrangements. She also had the great idea to spray paint a mason jar with green chalkboard paint and put the arrangements in that. You don’t need a card when you can write “get well soon” on the jar! The second vendor was “the watermelon gang” as I keep calling them. They had a huge selection of different varieties of watermelons. Very fun.

Other than that, we’ve been canning. We picked 19 dozen ears of corn – all that was left – and made freezer corn and canned corn. 19 pints of canned and 20 2 cup freezer bags, 5 3 cup freezer bags, and corn chowder for supper that night 🙂

We also picked 17 gallons of Roma tomatoes that I will make into salsa and sauces. That starts tomorrow – oy vey!

However, the big news is: last night we popped our first ear of popcorn for this year. It was ready to pop from the field – amazing. This was the early maturing variety, Dakota Black Pop. We have to figure out a better strategy for shelling though, because this variety is spikey. Last year, Jordan shelled most of it barehanded, which won’t work with this.

It was SO DELICIOUS! So crispy, not that sticky feeling in your teeth, when you have to chew popcorn instead of crunch it. We didn’t even use salt or butter because it was so clean and light tasting. Mmmmmmmm. Fresh from the field popcorn is a GREAT experience.