Mid-Atlantic

September, 2007
Regional Report

Flavor Oils and Vinegars with Herbs and Edible Flowers

Harvesting herbs is a sensory experience. Basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, parsley, chives, marjoram, sage, dill, rosemary are all uniquely fragrant and varied in texture. Combine several with vinegar in interesting bottles to make attractive, delicious gifts and kitchen condiments.

Rinse and thoroughly dry the herbs. Add them to good quality vinegar -- white wine, red wine, rice wine, or apple cider. The Internet has several preparation techniques and tasty suggestions. Add nasturtiums, dianthus, Signet marigolds, scented geraniums, and herb flowers for color and mild flavor.

Freeze Extra Fresh Fruit

Though fruit season is coming to a close, you may be lucky enough to find batches of ripe peaches, cherries, berries, and cantalope at bargain prices. Freeze them now for a delicious winter treat like smoothies. I like the "keep it simple" approach. For peaches, I slice them, toss the quarters with just enough sugar and lemon juice to make them syrupy. Then I spoon fruit and syrup into small freezer bags. Blueberries, grapes, and strawberries are easy; wash, dry well, and pop into freezer bags. Cut cantaloupe into cubes and put directly in freezer bags. They all change texture when frozen but are still tasty enough for baking, blending, and adding to pancakes.

Cull Pumpkins and Winter Squash

To make the most of your pumpkins and winter squash, encourage the largest or those most near maturity. Carefully remove new blossoms and small pumpkins and squashes that won't have time to ripen before first frost. That will allow the plant's energy to target the larger fruits. Removing old or yellow leaves will encourage better ripening. By the way, botanists classify squash fruit as a Pepo, a large, many-seeded berry with a thick outer wall or rind. Pumpkins and squash are Cucurbits in the gourd family Cucurbitaceae.

Don't Prune Green Branches Now

Though it's getting cooler and you might feel like shaping your boxwoods, azaleas, lilacs, rhododendrons, or spirea ... STOP! Keep your pruners in the holster because pruning now can trigger tender new growth that could be killed by the cold.

Seed or Sod Your Lawn

Early September is ideal for seeding or sodding the lawn because temperatures are cool, moisture is sufficient, and weeds are on the wane. Wait too much longer into fall and newly planted or sodded grass will be smothered by falling leaves. Also, seed germination is more difficult in colder, drier November and December.

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