We have yet to get our raised garden beds in, and the summer’s waning…but we’re lucky to have a nice neighbor on our road who is also a Master Gardener. She grows all kinds of wonderful vegetables and fruit, and generously shares her harvest with others.
We recently picked lots of blackberries, which we made into many bottles of delicious and beautiful blackberry water kefir, as well as blackberry milk kefir and blackberry-infused kombucha tea. The blackberry bushes were so fruitful that we were able to pick several large bowlfuls…enough to also make a half dozen pints of blackberry preserves (which started as freezer jam but failed to set up properly). Sadly, the blackberries are winding down, and soon, will just be a fond memory.
On the bright side, other plants are maturing. Our most recent visit to the garden saw us return with a box full of green bell peppers, eggplants, some broccoli, jalapeño and cayenne peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, lots of basil and okra. We even scored a couple of overripe watermelons for the chickens and ducks (our neighbor saves the giant zucchini for them, too). Having little gardening experience, we found ourselves amazed by the beauty of the okra blossoms, the sheer volume of peppers on the bushes, the amazing fragrance of the cut basil, the tender sweetness of plump fresh-plucked figs …it was quite a remarkable sensory experience, and it’s very inspiring to see what’s possible if you know what you’re doing.
So what did we do with all those veggies? We’ve been enjoying margherita pizzas with the fresh tomatoes and basil, as well as delicious breakfast scrambles with the peppers. The freshness of the produce made fermenting a must…so we started jars of lacto-fermented peppers (bell, jalapeño, and poblano) and okra. The basil made an amazing infused simple syrup, fantastic in cocktails (like a basil whiskey sour) and other beverages. The gorgeous aubergines became delightfully meaty lacto-fermented eggplant slices spiced with cayenne peppers. Simply looking over the spread makes the heart glad, knowing that these veggies will be enjoyed now as well as later as ferments; when we reach for those jars later, they will remind us that while summer is hot and muggy, it’s that very climate that makes the vegetables grow and burst with color and flavor. And we will definitely enjoy those ferments!