Sure, it’s September, so most of us in this hemisphere are buried in big harvests. Did you know there are probably plenty of small ones out there waiting for you too?
I swear I am not piling on, you harvest-weary souls in bloggerland. All I mean is there might be a few more little, perhaps overlooked things growing in your back forty that could augment your winter and spring dinners. I am, of course, talking about rounding out your pantry by looking for…condiments!
It’s now that I attend the garden armed with little bowls. Nasturtium seed pods are slowly ripening, you see, and so it’s time to put by a store of home-grown capers. My patch of free-sown garlic has drying tops of bulbils singing in the breeze, and the fennel and cilantro has gone to seed: these, too, can be pickled or dried. I see that many of the paste tomatoes are ripening well ahead of this weekend’s timed harvest. Tomatoes can be sliced thin, placed on parchment-lined cookie sheets and sent to the oven for a 200-degree beating overnight…insta-“sun”-dried goodness, especially if sprinkled first with sea salt and fresh thyme. These go into the freezer to be dispatched at will this winter.
And then there’s the ripening apples. Ch-ch-ch-chutney…! when paired with green tomatoes, garlic, a wee bit of hot peppers and sugar/vinegar. The pantry has yellow and brown mustard seeds. Those few small Italian plums left from last week might make a great mustard, paired with an apple or two.
Not-quite-ready grapes yield small very precious bottles of verjus: lip-puckery brightness if a few drops are shaken out atop a hot dish.
Over the years I have cut out all condiments from the grocery store list, and it’s only gifts from far-flung locales that stock the top shelf of the fridge. Cranberry ketchup, garlicky barbecue sauce…these are well within your range, especially in small batches. Small refrigerator pickles like the nasturtium pod “capers” likewise aren’t hard (just 1T salt in a near-pint of white vinegar: add the pods as they ripen). Look around, find that second harvest.
And: it’s fun doing something small when all you’ve been doing is putting huge monotonous harvests away. Trust me on this, truly.