From childhood summers in Roosevelt picking vegetables to my recent years of gathering the delights from our Cold Spring garden, harvesting is a simple joy. There is nothing quite like the feeling of bare hands working in soil, the pleasure of pulling out a carrot or radish root or the treat of snapping off a cherry tomato from a winding vine. Best of all is popping the sweet tomato still warmed from the sun directly into your mouth. As a young girl I loved to join my grandmother (Coco) and great grandmother (Hani Mama) in their garden behind their house on Farm Lane. I remember well how much I loved collecting string beans and pulling up carrots. Although I was presumably helping them in the garden, mostly I was just along for the ride while they worked and I got my hands dirty and ate a fresh vegetable here and there.
At my great aunt Ellie’s house on Valley Road, the harvesting was of fruits. We picked fresh gooseberries, raspberries, and cherries and baked yummy pies and made wonderful jams. I treasure those memories in Roosevelt and had forgotten how much I enjoyed vegetable gardening until a few years ago when Andy built us two beautiful large raised vegetable planters. I have been tending to my flower garden for twenty years at our house so I certainly have known the joy of gardening. But I had forgotten the great pleasure of picking your own homegrown vegetables and savoring their fresh flavor within minutes of harvesting.
All of our vegetables have been wonderful, but basil wins this year’s prize for most abundant. I have made eight very large batches of pesto since August. Each batch I altered the ingredients and they have all been divine. My recipes are simple: basil, evoo and vary the cheese and nut. Parmigiano-Reggiano and walnut, almond with no cheese for my vegan friends, pecorino and almond, pecan and parm and I even made a mixed basil-parsley batch. Sometimes I add garlic and other times I add lemon. And of course you can’t go wrong with the traditional pine nut and parm. I have given away a few batches and I have also given away tons of the fresh basil for others to make pesto. The rest of the pesto is in my freezer waiting to be enjoyed over pasta on a cold winter night! We are in pesto nirvana.
Fall harvesting is often the most abundant time for a garden in the northeast. It takes time for many plants to reach their peak so it is natural that September is a great time to enjoy the vegetable crops. This year, however, has been a strange year for our garden. Warm weather came late in the spring so our garden got off to a slow start. Then August was a particularly dry month and September particularly warm. The upside of the unusual weather is that we still have vegetables in our garden at this late date in October. Yes, it is not unusual to have colder weather veges like second plantings of hardy root crops like radishes, beets and turnips—we have all of those at the moment. But here it is in October and in addition to the root vegetables we have zucchini, celery, parsley, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and even cucumbers. Amazingly we even had three basil plants that I finally pulled out a few days ago to make our last two batches of pesto. Truly unusual for October. Lucky us as we enjoy the fruits—vegetables that is—of our labor and create delicious farm-to-table meals from our fall harvest.