You may recall that at least a portion of this blog is supposed to be dedicated to gardening. My wife has done a great job upholding the “She Sewed” aspect of our life, but where have I been with the “He Sowed?” But c’mon, cut me some slack, we’re in the middle of February now, and although it’s a sweltering 40 degrees and the birds were out in full song this morning, winter is still very much here. And it’s been here for quite some time. How am I supposed to write about gardening when the garden is still slumbering beneath a foot of snow and the only ones benefiting from the compost are the mice who’ve tunneled their way throughout my pile of frozen kitchen scraps?
But as I’ve been reflecting on possible gardening posts, it occurred to me that the garden, although it’s been tucked away for four months, still very much lives on within our walls. As I look around our kitchen I notice various remnants of last season’s harvest. So even though the ice and snow still grip the land outside, within our kitchen remain small, tasty reminders that the land is full of life, and will soon be waking up. Here is a brief look at the garden relics that have stayed with us into February:
First, delicious butternut squash! We didn’t grow any ourselves, but a friend from Iowa brought some up from her farm and we gladly accepted. Squash makes easy baby food and is simple to prepare. We simply baked the squash until soft, scraped it into an ice cube tray, and stuck it in the freezer. We still have several cubes and occasionally feed them to our littl’un (after thawing, of course).
Next, a violent, delicious hot sauce. I am a pepper lover, and this sauce is loaded with ‘em. We grew jalepenos, serranos, cayenne peppers, and…habaneros! I got the idea from our seminary friends, who also grew a load of peppers and canned several jars of the stuff. The recipe allows for some nuance and personal adjustment, but basically you just combine as many peppers as you want, throw in a few onions, several cloves of garlic, vinegar, lime juice, and season to taste. Our neighbor goes heavier on the salt, but with mine I added a touch of brown sugar for sweetness. Blend it all together and simmer it down to desired thickness. It lasts quite long because you really don’t need much to liven-up any dish.
But not all peppers have to go in the hot sauce. I’ll put peppers in almost anything so it’s nice to always keep some around. These brilliant cayenne peppers came from my uncle’s garden in Fergus Falls, MN, and they dried wonderfully in our kitchen all fall. I’ve been on a homemade-hummus kick for several months now, and I love using these dried peppers when I blend my hummus. They can be also be ground-up and used as a spicy seasoning. These are my last two! Tragic!
And lastly, the pride of our garden this year was our luscious basil. We grew basil from seed, and after a late-season frost we had to replant all of it. We were concerned that it just wouldn’t develop, but boy were we wrong. The basil exploded and we couldn’t pick it fast enough. The only way to keep it from going to waste was to use large quantities all at once. The solution — Pesto! We made pestos throughout the summer and fall, and just like the squash, we froze it in ice cube trays, combined it in a freezer bag, and did it all over again the next week. This has been so rewarding. A few cubes are enough for pasta or pizza sauce, and it’s absolutely delicious. Here is an example of how we’ve used last season’s pesto:
So that’s a look at the way the garden lives on even in the dead of winter. Sure, we haven’t knelt in the dirt or rinsed the mud off our fingers for several months now, but in little ways we’re reminded of the work we gave and the fruit we enjoyed. And these little reminders will suffice for a while longer while we await the return of spring.