Night of the Dead

I dread this night, the one that comes every year, the night that the first frost and killing freeze comes and turns the garden from green, to black, in just mere hours. I spent this late afternoon in the waning hours of fall, wandering around the garden, trying to memorize every green thing, every rose, every basil plant. It reminded me of going off to college when I was 18, driving away and leaving my pets behind. I know that as I write, everything is gasping it's last breath, the Dancing Tea, the Thai basils, the Stevia, all the currant tomatoes and blooming begonias. If they could scream, they would. Maybe they do.

Yesterday afternoon I spent gathering as much produce as I could. I cut all the pepper plants down to the ground, tied them with wire and hung them inside for the strength of the plants to go into the remaining peppers to ripen. I did the same with the figs, hoping it works as well with them as with peppers. We've had a good fig year, I've eaten well, but I'm not tired of them yet.

Josh gathered a basketful of sweet peppers and the last of the green tomatoes. He found 2 remaining cucumbers, pulled a couple dozen of the Fat Baby Achochas to save for seed from the bamboo arbor Adam and I built, and grabbed several good handfuls of the youngest asparagus beans to stir-fry.

There were several seedlings of Green Pepper Basil in the herb bed so I dug those instead of trying to bring in the larger plant, although they transplant well. I did harvest the seed for more plants in spring. I took pictures, too, to aid my memory when it's all brown and desolate and when I need a reminder that the garden will be green again someday.

I cut a good handful of Za'atar to dry, and the same amount of marjoram. And a great handful of lemongrass leaves for tea, which I'm tying into little bundles like they do in Mexico, for tea.

There was one right-sized Guinea bean, which I picked and fixed for supper, along with a couple of the last good, ripe tomatoes. My method for the New Guinea bean: Sliced it crosswise, made a mixture of an egg white and equal part milk. Dipped each slice in flour, then milk/egg white, then back in the flour and fried it (yes, fried, it's the best way for this) until nicely browned. It's crispy on the outside and still lightly crunchy inside with a hint of tartness not unlike fried green tomatoes, only better. A grinding of sea salt over the hot slices and it was a welcome last day of fall treat.

Tomorrow I'm certain I'm going to complain all day about how much I despise cold weather and how I hate the color of black because it doesn't belong in the garden and everyone will want me to shut up. Once a year this night comes, followed by the shock of a garden going from green, living, to black and dead. I'd bring everything indoors if I could, but I can't be made to like this night of death.

(Shown: Black Russian and Better Bush tomato with basil, fried Guinea bean, broiled chicken and carrots).

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