Goodbye, Scrumptious September

With October have come gray and dripping skies and, to the garden, split and spotted tomatoes and feasting snails and slugs. This weather is the norm for autumn in western Oregon—if not for the Pacific Northwest in general.

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Renata’s happy face at the Lebanon Downtown Farmers’ Market

But nearly all of September was sunny and warm, the peak of the harvest season. Last month was a time to celebrate, and I did.

First was the Labor Day weekend tomato tasting at the Almarodes’. What an excellent way to compare and choose among varieties that have done well for your neighbors! With homegrown and home-smoked turkey, homemade wine, live music, and salads from everybody’s gardens, this annual event is always a big, noisy party.

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A couple of weeks later the Santiam Food Alliance celebrated the Day of the Nightshades at the Lebanon Downtown Farmers’ Market.

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Master Gardener Betty shares advice and beautiful books.

 

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Here’s Lisa making tomatillo salsa. In the foreground is her eggplant relish, in the background an assortment of fresh tomatoes for tasting.

Robert and I squeezed in a food expedition to Portland, with visits to the Barn (Trapold Farms’ overgrown farmstand) and various ethnic markets. My favorite was Supermercado Mexico. In the long glass case lining one side of the store were beautifully cut meats and, at one end, seafood, salsas, and dulces.

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Tomato salsa goes by many names. On the left is one that makes its primary use clear.
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On the left, candied fruits; on the right, guava paste and quince paste

Then there was a tasting of savory jams, at my house. For at least an hour my tasters were silent and serious, absorbed in their work.

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Robert and I ended the month with a plane trip to Boulder, Colorado, where some people, at least, stop running and pedaling in the sun long enough to cook and eat well. We especially enjoyed an inventive but unpretentious dinner at Arcana, lunch at the Dushanbe Teahouse, and basil-mint-chocolate-chip ice cream at the Heifer and the Hen, where other imaginative ice-cream flavors include squid-ink-and-lemon.

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Preserves on display at Arcana

 

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The teahouse was shipped in pieces from Boulder’s sister city in Tajikistan.
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The Heifer and the Hen–a swinging place!

leyden-cheeseI nearly forgot to mention our greatest find in Boulder: raw-milk Leyden-style cheese made from grass-fed Jersey cows at James Ranch, near Durango. I’ve never had true Dutch Leyden cheese, so I don’t know how it compares, though I can say that the James Ranch cheese lacks the annatto-orange rind of the Dutch version. In any case, I love the hard, sharp, crumbly James Ranch Leyden, laden with both cheese crystals and whole, fragrant cumin seeds. We didn’t even balk at paying nearly thirty dollars a pound for this cheese at Cured, a shop on hip Pearl Street in Boulder.

Return of the Rains

Goodbye to the summer beauties. If we don’t eat them, the fruit flies will.

 

This is a post from five days ago that somehow ended up in my drafts folder. Today there’s not a cloud in the sky, though leaves are flying past my office window.

I’ve had to don fingerless woolen gloves to type this.

I started out the morning by making a big batch of salsa, marveling at the flawlessly beautiful tomatoes I’d picked from frost-blackened vines. In October! I’d never before seen blight-free tomatoes in western Oregon in October. Though summer had started late, it had run dry and long. We were still awaiting the first fall rains.

I was both disappointed and relieved that today’s mushroom hike had been canceled. We wouldn’t have found any mushrooms, and anyway rain was expected. We might have gotten drenched.

This thought led me to take a hard look out the window as I lifted the salsa jars out of the canner. I’d thought the rain wouldn’t come until mid-afternoon, but the leaden sky told me otherwise. Our sweet Mediterranean holiday was over. Though pleased to have finished digging the potatoes yesterday, I had a lot of work to do before the god Huracán de Oregón came lurching home to weep and moan for the next seven or eight months.

I was immediately out the door. I took down the hammock and the bamboo shade for the deck, covered the burn pile (bramble cuttings and wild carrot with seedheads), and began rolling up Reemay row covers as the first drops started to fall. Oregon storms always bring more wind than rain, and the wind would surely knock down the ripest fruits in the orchard. I picked the Seckel pears, ran indoors to throw my long red raincoat over my wet clothes, and dashed back out to pick all the Seuri Asian pears. Hurrying to the vegetable garden to behead the sunflowers, I remembered the beans, or what the deer had left of them. The pole beans might continue to ripen and dry, but the bush beans would rot in the rain. I cut the stems at the ground and threw them into a wheelbarrow to spread on the shelves in the greenhouse.

After stuffing my pockets with green tomatoes and a few odd forgotten peppers and tomatillos, I returned to the house shivering and fatigued in a way I never feel in summer. I hadn’t drunk a cup of hot tea in months, but that was exactly what I needed now.

This afternoon I’ll make another batch of salsa and some greengage jam, and maybe some Asian pear jam, too. After my hair dries, if the rain stops for a while, I’ll start a wood fire in the kettle grill on the deck and roast a few pecks of peppers. And then I’ll come back in and sip tea, and listen with only half an ear while Huracán rages. All winter long.