My parents live in the woods in northern Connecticut. My mother has always had a garden and grown vegetables whenever she could. Matt and I had the good fortune of taking a final peek at her produce this weekend, before the frost steals the rest.
The amount of edibles growing in what she calls her “little organic garden” makes me feel like an ass for living in New York and periodically buying herbs that come wilting in little plastic containers for $4 when I’m in a pinch. A pinch for my mother would be attempting to procure mint in the backyard while throwing a dinner party for twenty during a hailstorm when everyone is just finishing their main course.
Gardeners are excellent to have as friends (or even better, mothers!). There is never a time when they don’t have more produce than they know what to do with. Although it’s a triumph to have pickled and preserved and frozen and eaten all of nature’s goods, it’s just as satisfying to give some to those you love. Most of my mother’s friends also tend their own gardens, and there is some admitted rivalry amongst them. When a gardener’s reputation is at stake, the default is grow as much as possible, and figure out what to do with it later. Besides, it’s not like nature gives a heads up on how many peppers its actually going to produce from one plant.
Before returning to New York on Sunday, we picked up some sheers and a basket and headed up to the garden. It was incredibly lush in the afternoon sun. She gladly offloaded two gorgeous parsnips, a handful of carrots, beets, leeks, poblano peppers, frying peppers, green beans, squash, two kinds of sage, oregano, and three kinds of mint. I am currently sitting amidst a bunch of cookbooks with the exhilarating task of figuring out how to turn it all into dinner for a week.
Selecting your own squash, ripping carrots straight from the ground, and sticking your face into the sage plant is invigorating, and really inspires cooking. If you don’t have a family garden on hand, I strongly suggest a trip to one of the pick your own farms before October is out. While it’s not as intimate or as free as a garden experience, the local produce is obviously still excellent. The area around New Paltz is particularly stunning in the fall, and has some of the best hiking. Even if all you do is take the train up to a small upstate town and stuff a bunch of raspberries in your mouth, those will probably be the best berries you had all year. If you have been up to the farms, tell me about it. I’m looking to find recommendations on farms to head to in the next couple of weeks!