R, S, T in the Garden

A clever acronym for enjoying the long wonderful days of Fall? Not really, it stands for Raspberries, Sunflowers and Tomatoes – these are the beauties that have been attracting my eye and demanding my attention.

My fall bearing raspberries are in high GDP mode.  It seems the more I pick, the more there are!  I don’t really think that’s true but they do seem to be ripening faster than in previous weeks. The flavor is definitely getting more and more dynamic as the nighttime temps drop into the 40s and 50s and more of the sugars produced during the day are packed into the little jewels at night.  I’m freezing some and we’re eating many fresh but I’d like to find a great raspberry dessert or cookie recipe to make where these berries can really shine.

Now in a class of its own, is the golden raspberry.

The flavor is amazing- so sweet and light that it hard to describe. You just have to try one. If you have space for a raspberry plant in your garden, I highly recommend a golden raspberry.  Ours is just 2 years old and was teeny, tiny when I planted the start from a friend.  This year we have quite a few more berries than last and usually just eat them right outside in the garden.

Occasionally, a few make it to the house!

The sunflowers ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Buttercream’ have been as delightful as any slice of wedding cake I’ve eaten!

I found these fancy name flowers in Johnny’s Selected Seeds after being inspired by some beautiful, yet different colors of sunflowers on Bumble Lush last year.  One of the most fun experiences I’ve had as a garden blogger is seeing what other people around the world are growing and discovering new plants and varieties to try. If you are looking for new-found motivation or inspiration for your outdoor space, check out some garden blogs. I know it always works for me!

But for now…for me…I need to lay low on new ideas and inspiration until I handle this year’s crop of San Marzano tomatoes. I have never (in fours years of growing this variety) had a crop like this year’s. (To learn more about the fascinating, exotic history of this tomato click here).

Look at the bowlfuls and baskets of tomatoes this one plant is producing! The other difference compared to previous years is each tomato is perfect – uniform color, no cracking, splitting or dark spots. This is striking to me because every other year I get many nice ones but also many that have the imperfections described.

I wonder, has it been the weather that has made for the perfect crop? Or the amount of water or the soil enhancements? Puzzling for sure.

With all of these beautiful tomatoes I’ve been busy in the kitchen.  Last week, I spent two mornings making marinara sauce that I can freeze and pull out in the cooler months.   Although, we did have a first seating of it with some Fusili pasta last week!

I have two favorite marinara recipes and if you grow a plum tomato you may want to try one.  Both are easy, classic and good!  Most of the ingredients for both recipes come straight from the garden.

The first is what I call a ‘friendly marinara.’  It offers up a classic marinara flavor but with an underlying comfort food flavor. This is probably because of the classic vegetable combinations in it.  This is definitely my children’s favorite.  Click here for the recipe.

The second marinara is a bit more complex in flavor and tangy.  It uses more herbs and some red wine. I like it a lot too so I had both of these “salse di pomodoro” going on the stove last week making me feel like I was Lidia of Lidias Italian-American Kitchen for a minute!

Here’s the recipe for the tangy sauce in case you are tempted to whirl some plum tomatoes.

Marinara with Fresh Tomatoes and Herbs:

3-4 lbs of fresh plum tomatoes, best if peeled but o.k. to use with peels

5 cloves of garlic

1 medium onion

1 bunch of fresh basil (about 1 cup)

3 sprigs of fresh oregano, remove leaves

4 fresh tarragon leaves

2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 cup of full-bodied red wine

Peel and mince onion and garlic.  In a medium saucepan or dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium.  In a food processor, place unseeded peeled or unpeeled tomatoes, basil, tarragon and oregano leaves.  Process until liquefied.

Add minced onions and garlic to olive oil.  Cook until sweating and translucent.  Add red wine, cook for 1 minute.  Add tomato puree and dried bay leaves.  Stir and cover.

Allow to simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Remove cover and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Allow to cook for 20 minutes more at medium simmer, uncovered to reduce liquid.  Enjoy!

When I began making the sauces I was thinking that I should be outside enjoying the weather and getting some Fall garden tasks underway, but it turned out to be more fun spending some time inside utilizing so many fresh ingredients from the garden and making something I know we will enjoy once the garden has said goodbye.

That was just a week ago and ‘lo and behold’ look what I have in front of me after today’s picking.  Time to get the pots on again!

What about you?  How do you balance your time during the harvest season, when the weather is grand but there is a need to spend time inside preparing all of the food you’ve grown?  Also, if I may, do you have any favorite recipes using fresh raspberries that you’d like to share?  You can use the contact page if you’re willing to share. 🙂

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