Sunday, July 17, 2011

You never count your beans when you're sitting at the table

Last year I lost the entire bean crop to rabbits. This year I'm snagging about half of it. I keep thinking I've sealed off all its little bolt holes, but it just finds another. On the other hand, the furfaces and creepy-crawlies seem to be leaving everything else alone.

The thing about gardening, and life really, is that you have to learn when to just let it go. It's The Gambler, right? Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to pull out the shotgun and fill the little bastards' backsides full of buckshot.

Oops, sorry. I meant "trap it and turn it loose in the forest."

In the spring, here in Chicago, we had to just let it go as we got floods and floods of rain, nearly half the year's total precipitation in just about 9 weeks from March through mid June. Everyone I know planted their carrots two or three times, or gave up on lettuce this year, or didn't plant cucumbers until July. The tomatoes, of course, we fight to keep like little demons, because while they love to GROW in Chicago, they're not so crazy about starting out, so every tomato that makes it past sprout is as precious as a child, and frankly, I treat them better than I treat my children.

I have a beautiful garden. No ugly gardens for me! (ducks.) So I really really don't want to put up chicken wire fencing to keep the rabbits out. It's ugly (whining). It scratches. I can't get into the beds. Of course, if I wasn't so insistent on curvy sexy shapes for my beds it would be easy to put up perfectly decent looking fencing. Anyway, the fencing is up and as the foliage gets more lush you can barely see it.

Problem is, the rabbit apparently barely sees it either, because he keeps getting in there.

Here's what I made today (with ingredients from the farmers market, rather than the garden, since I don't have enough beans to make a salad with them.)

Peach-cherry chutney
based on the recipe in Jeff Smiths' Our Immigrant Ancestors

1 cup sweet cherries, halved and pitted
3-4 cups peaches, peeled and diced (about 5 peaches)
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 Tablespoons)
1 cup any dried berry (dried raisins, blueberries, currants, etc.)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon each:
cumin, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, brown mustard
1/2 teaspoon each:
kosher salt, dried thyme, black peppercorns

Drain the fruit, conserving the liquid.

Combine the honey, vinegar and spices, plus the peach peels and cherry pits in a medium saucepan. Add a little water to thin it slightly. Mix thoroughly and boil gently, until syrup is thick and sticks to the bottom of the spoon, about 15 minutes or so, depending on how much liquid you have to boil away. Strain and return to the saucepan.

Place the drained fruit, plus the dried fruit and optional nuts in a bowl and add the lemon juice. Mix thoroughly. Fold the fruit into the syrup and simmer very briefly (less than a minute). Decant into sterilized jars and refrigerate or preserve using your favorite canning technique. Should refrigerate for a day before serving.

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