is the time of year to begin preparing your favorite foods for the
fall and winter months ahead. Happily, the last summer garden crops
can provide a wealth of raw ingredients for scrumptious desserts and
holiday sweet treats. With this in mind, don't neglect to gather in
the last little flush of zucchinis before the plants exhaust
themselves; pick the final green tomatoes if they show even a little
rosy blush; cure pumpkins and hard-shelled winter squash in the sun
for as long as possible and store in a cool place; and mulch mature
crops of root vegetables like fall carrots that can be left in the
ground throughout fall and early winter.
We all know that carrots are one of the most nutritious root
vegetables and an easy way to enjoy eating them is in carrot cakes,
muffins, or cookies, where their appetizing deep orange flesh can be
used to advantage. If you haven't baked with carrots before, try my
chocolate chip carrot cake for a crowd pleaser.
Carrot desserts can be made
whenever you feel like them because the tapered crispy orange roots
will store well right in the garden even in cold winter climates.
Carrots actually sweeten up when touched by frost. If you live in an
area with early cold and snow, lay down a heavy mulch over your
carrot bed so that the soil won't freeze and carrots will be easy to
pull as needed for fall/winter use.
Tomatoes need to be completely
harvested before the first frost, although you can stretch the
season a bit by covering plants with spunbound row cover or even
sheets; be sure they are supported around and over the plants. To be
honest, I usually don't bother, but pick all my green tomatoes as
soon as frosts threaten. If they have even a hint of red or blush,
they are wonderful to use for crunchy fried green tomatoes, green
tomato jam, or marmalade, or pair with apples for green tomato and
Seeds shopping list:
Pumpkin, "Holiday Mix"
Pumpkin, Baby "Mini Jack"
To purchase these and other Renee's Garden Seeds,
these great recipes from Renee's cookbooks:
Chip Carrot Cake
Roasted Pumpkin Soup
The stars of the dessert tray, when it comes to the fall garden, are
hard-shelled winter squashes like Butternut, Buttercup, Banana, and Kabocha, and all kinds, colors, and sizes of pumpkins. Harvest these
long-keeping fruits of the vine after they are well colored and
their outer rinds are tough and cannot be pierced with a fingernail.
The vines will often have dried up or died back by this time. Pick
them with a little "handle" of stem attached, and then
cure them in the garden in full sun for a week or two if weather
Store these long keepers in a cool dry place to use a needed for as
long as 3 to 5 months. The flesh of both pumpkins and winter
squashes is chock full of healthy vitamins, especially vitamin A,
and lots of healthy fiber. Its taste pairs well with rich warm
spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg ,as well as sweet
flavorings like honey and maple syrup. Many winter squashes have
naturally sweet flesh that when cooked has a wonderful nutty quality
and flaky texture.
To prepare both pumpkins and winter squashes for use in
baking, you need to cook them first, then remove their tough rinds
and seeds. To do this, make a few slits all over the shell to allow
steam to escape and set the fruit on a piece of foil in a 375 degree
oven to bake for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on size, or until
the shell is split and flesh is tender as a well baked potato. Or
you can put them into the microwave and cook about 20 to 30 minutes
at full power. Let the cooked squash cool thoroughly, then cut it
open, scrape out the seeds and scoop the flesh off the rinds. This
"meat" is now ready to use as an ingredient in all kinds
of baked goodies--you'll find that winter squash and pumpkin are
quite interchangeable in recipes so you can substitute one for the
other any time it is convenient. Besides pumpkin or squash pie, they
make delicious fruit butter, cakes, rich bars, muffins, and cookies.
The pumpkin cheese cake is a
really delicious, low fat way of using winter squash or
pumpkins that has never failed to delight both friends and