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September Garden – End-of-summer reds

For the first time in years, I’m excited about the end of summer.

Late last month, Idalia swept into Florida’s Big Bend from the gulf and up into North Carolina, dampening our parched soil and loosening leaves before heading back out to sea. The next couple of days were fine and crisp, the lawn dotted with yellow sweet gum stars and the woods behind our house murmuring, “Fall is coming. Hurray!”

End of summer pimento peppers

The low humidity lures me into the garden with my camera where I see ripening pimento peppers, perfect for roasting. I will slice their sweet, tender flesh into strips. Some will find their way into this week’s menu with plenty to freeze. Come winter, these roasted pimentos will add summer joy to thick stews and sauces.

Corno di Toro peppers

The long, horn-shaped Corno di Toros are sweet and tangy, their skin and flesh thinner than the Pimentos. We eat most of these real-time in salads and stir fries, but I also freeze some for future burritos.

Edamame—buttery, meatless protein

The soybeans bulge inside their fuzzy pods. These are best eaten fresh, their pods boiled in heavily-salted water. We sit s on the back porch and squeeze the plump beans into our slobbering mouths.

Okra grows tall and strong, at once graceful and ungainly

It has not been a prolific okra year because we lost some plants to pests. Their bold lines contrast nicely with the nearby tangle of tomato vines.

Tahitian Melon butternut squash

Bob is leaving the long-necked Tahitian Melons on the vine to sweeten with the cold weather ahead.

Fig abundance – food for everyone

The figs are finally slowing down, but it was a race to keep up with them a few weeks ago when I was plucking two to three pounds a day. I made about six pounds into jam and gave most of that away, borrowed Shelley’s dehydrator and dried a few pounds to use in granola, made several small pans of fig crisp and froze enough for another eight pans. What ripens now is for eating in-hand beside the tree, and for the birds, ants, wasps, and turtles.

Paw Paws, largest fruit native to North America

The Paw Paws mainly feed critters, although Bob will bring in a few and eat them. I love their tropical vibe but not their taste and texture.

Hybrid Impatiens, an annual that finds its way indoors every winter

Several years ago, I brought home a small potted, irresistible red flower and planted it in the kitchen garden. Bob fell in love with it, so we took cuttings and rooted them in glass jars over the winter to plant out again after the last frost. It seems like a hassle, but I have not found this color impatiens anywhere else, and we simply must have it.

Hydrangea

Our hydrangeas, which came with the house, were not prolific this year and I worry that I mis-pruned them last February. They start out blue and fade to purple-pink on this end of summer. Although I sometimes cut them for indoor flowers, they rarely last a day in the vase.

Passion fruit flower

We brought home passion fruit seeds from Mary Beth and Brandon’s farm a couple of years ago and started a perennial vine on our west fence. I’m not sure what needs to happen to make it bear fruit, but I am happy with the vine and tropical-looking flowers.

For the first time in years, I’m excited about the end of summer. When I heard anyone say they longed for sweater weather, my mouth would twist in an attempt to keep my thoughts to myself. Summer is my jam, I’d think. I’m a spoiled, tropical girl. Also, I was never a sweater gal, choosing instead to cover my bare arms with fleece and denim.

I bought my first cardigan a few years ago and now have three in our hall closet, waiting for their time to shine. Times change. We change. It’s been nearly ten years since I last lived in the tropics and I am adapting to the rhythms of the four seasons. I look forward to pimento-rich fall dishes, fig crisp, and sweet, roasted butternut squash, and to clipping a few pieces of red impatiens for Bob to keep alive until next spring.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

4 replies on “September Garden – End-of-summer reds”

Love all your stuff there! I’m going to chime in on the passion vine because I have one and it fruits. Mine is north facing (gets sun all day) and I know they like that. Maybe yours should be south facing? The flowers will turn into fruit…so what’s happening to your flowers? I know they like a lot of water. I knew someone who had a HUGE one which got morning sun. Anyway, might pay to plant some seeds east or south facing and see what happens. Looks healthy, though!!

Thanks for the tips, Steph. You have the greenest thumb!
Our passion fruit lives on a wire fence that runs southwest to northeast, but it doesn’t get full sun and while we get a lot of rain here, I don’t give it any extra water. I don’t have another spot for a vine, but we plan someday to remove the trees to the southeast, and that will help.

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