Mid-Atlantic

September, 2007
Regional Report

Freeze Overabundant Cherry Tomatoes

The flush of tomatoes is over but small fruits are ripening, even if you're tired of eating them. Though it's not conventional, I freeze small and cherry tomatoes to use in stews, tomato sauce, and casseroles come winter. I pick them ripe, wash and dry them, then pop them into freezer bags. Larger fruits are best frozen individually on a cookie sheet, then placed in freezer bags. Use by winter's end.

Cut and Dry Herbs for Kitchen and Gifts

Before frost, clip and dry thyme, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, and lavender to store for future culinary and scent delights. I use two techniques: I place cut stems on trays under a fan to dry them quickly. After a couple of weeks when they're crispy, I remove the leaves and store in tightly closed bottles. With rosemary and lavender, I cut long sprigs, then bundle the stems in small bunches and tie them individually with a colorful ribbon. Those I hang up to dry. They make attractive and fragrant gifts and gift box ornaments, as well as tasty cooking herbs. I also like to keep lavender stems tied with ribbon in my van, just to enjoy the scent within arm's reach when I'm on the go.

Leave or Harvest Seedpods

Poppies, Verbena bonariensis, dianthus, columbines, hollyhocks, purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and perennial sunflowers are perennials whose seedpods may be ripe and ready to pop. Sow them in other garden spots, store them, or give them to friends who've admired those flowers. Intricate seedpods left intact on stems create early winter interest in the garden. Birds enjoy eating black-eyed Susans, Joe Pye weed, and ornamental grass seeds. Purple coneflower is a favorite of American goldfinches.

Attend Cranberry Festivals

Fresh cranberries are so flavorful they're worth the drive to New Jersey bogs during October harvest. I visit the festivals to stock up on bags of berries: one or two bags to cook and eat now; six or seven to freeze for Thanksgiving and accompany roast chicken in winter. The 18th Annual Bordentown Cranberry Festival is October 6-7 (http://www.downtownbordentown.com/cranberry.htm). The 24rd Annual Chatsworth Cranberry Festival is October 20-21 (http://www.cranfest.org). In Whitesbog Village, the Cranberry Industry Car Caravan and Lecture on October 13 and 14 includes touring the village's historical bogs and buildings. The Cranberry Connection Harvest Tours from October 15 to November 2 celebrate the 150th harvest of the legendary Joseph J. White company (http://www.whitestarcs.com).

Apply for Youth Grant to Support Local Agriculture

Pennsylvania's Agricultural Rural and Youth Grant Program seeks to fund projects that increase youth's knowledge and awareness of agricultural and rural issues. A matching grant is a maximum of $10,000; a direct grant up to $2,500. Eligible organizations must have persons 18 years of age or younger and be organized and recognized within Pennsylvania for promoting development of agriculture, rural community leadership, vocational training, or peer fellowship. For more information, contact Eric Cowden at (717) 787-5342; or ecowden@state.pa.us.

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