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September 08, 2011: A Summer Harvest

September 8, 2011

Green Tomato Relish

This last weekend, I had the chance of doubling up on social occasions as Teja and Barb were christening the patio we built together with a party, the same day as my former student, Isaac, was moving not too far away from Teja’s. I started at Isaac’s and got to meet his friend Kelly, and her friend Andrea, who was helping them to move also. Isaac and Kelly had a nice garden in the back and they cleverly transplanted all they could, into buckets they could take with them.

For years, I had a really good vegetable garden, but the squirrels that live in my oaks ate everything they liked and dug up all the rest. I was loath to kill the squirrels and so, switched to flowers, which they leave alone. These days, I have no money for even the flowers, so the garden had gone to seed and weeds. I do miss the fresh-grown veggies very much.

As if a good days work and the congenial company weren’t enough compensation, Isaac had harvested what they couldn’t take from the garden, and gave me a full bag of delicious fresh foodstuffs. He included herbs, squashes, beets, heritage carrots, peppers, and green tomatoes that I turned into relish. Isaac and Kelly’s tomatoes yielded about 4 cups.

Green Tomato Relish:

  • 4C. Green Tomatoes (diced)           •  4C. Green Cabbage (thinly sliced)
  • 1 Onion+3 Cloves Garlic (diced)    •  2C. Mixed Peppers (diced)
  • 2 C. Veggie Broth                              •   2C. Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tblsp. each of Brown Sugar and Crushed Hot Peppers
  • 1/2 Teasp. of seeds of each: Fennel, Dill, Celery, Dill, Cumin,
  • 1/2 Teasp. of Sal de Mer & Peppercorns + 2″ Cinnamon Stick (all spices tied up in cheesecloth and tied w/twine)

Over medium heat in large pan, fry onion and garlic in about 4 Tblsp. vegetable oil until soft, with crushed hot peppers. Add tomatoes and cabbage. Continue cooking. Add diced peppers shortly after and cook. Add stock and vinegar, and bag of spices. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Cool relish with spice bag, then remove. Seal relish in sterile container and chill.

After moving Isaac and Kelly, it was on to Teja and Barb’s for a cookout. Dan, once again brought his fine sous-vide chuck steak done to a tender, pink perfection, which I cubed and made kabobs with, then grilled. See my August 21, 2010: Welcoming Party for the Girls article for more details on this dish. It was a splendid night of superb company in front of the warm fire on the new patio.  My friends have been exceptionally supportive through my recent hard times with my struggle to find work. When I consider how much they have given me: the advice, emotional (and sometimes economic) support, and just knowing they are out there somewhere in the world, has made all the difference. I think of Isaac, of Teja, of Barb, of Dan, of Deena, Carolyn, Lisa last week, Yoshio the week before: kind and generous friends, all.

When I was a gardener, it often occurred to me that there was an analogy between the garden and the affairs of the human heart: you plant with promise and hope that all those tiny seeds will survive to full term. They don’t. Animals take some. Winds, heat, disease…even water, which the plants need so much, take others. Even if all seeds start to grow, there is that awful culling which a gardener has to perform, so that some of the plants survive. (That was the only part I hated about gardening. I always wanted ALL the seeds to grow!) Like relationships, gardening can be a tough, time-consuming, and often a dirty, nasty business. You do it with the devotion it deserves, because both gardens and relationships are worth it and that for the simple fact that this kind of devotion is love personified.

I stand at the edge of my present garden and the physical reality is a fallow mess, with nothing to harvest but weeds. However, when I think of the pleasant company and good will of my friends…I realize that I already have my summer harvest (both physical and emotional) and I could not ask for a more bountiful one. So, I face the reality. I close my eyes, and dream…of a more perfect garden.

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