Monday, September 6, 2010

Sweet September

Georgia Jet sweet potatoes

August is kind of a dull month in North Florida--hot, humid, relentless. But September is exciting, a time to look for signs of change, harbingers of fall. I start to be on the lookout for webworm tents and ripe dogwood berries, pine cones chewed up by squirrels. (All of these are significant.) I like to take pleasure trips to CVS and Walgreen's just to check if they've got their Halloween candy in yet.

I was so excited on Friday because it was the start of the three-day weekend and there was just a hint of fall in the air. After work Bun and I went shopping for Jake's birthday present, and it was really fun because we got to go to Barnes and Noble and pick out books--a rare treat. We bought Jake a book of scary stories and some Silly Bandz . . . and afterwards I got to play with Bunny's chickens for the second time that day. Bun told me her chickens love to cuddle together, and as soon as it starts getting dark they'll put themselves to bed.

Even washing the dishes was fun that night because Rob and I had all the doors and windows open to let in the cool air, and we could hear the bard owls hooting. Our supper of half-assed vegan nachos seemed so festive. I remember the nachos being candlelit, but I know I'm making that up. It was just the joy of Friday coloring everything, making everything seem extra beautiful and special.

It was so nice having extra time. It meant I got to do so many more fun little things, things that normally get squeezed out. On Saturday I threw a super high bouncer up and down our big wide open hallway so the cats could chase it. I had eight cats playing, running back and forth, leaping and scrambling and sliding. We had an awesome time. It's such a triumph if you can ever interest cats in anything.

I was encouraging them, saying, "Nice attempt, Carl!" And: "Way to hustle, Elroy!"

Rob said, "I love how whenever you throw that ball you turn into a middle-school PE coach." He kept calling me "Coach."

On Sunday we harvested our first sweet potatoes of the year--some Georgia Jets growing behind the garage. It was like digging for buried treasure there in the hot sun. We were pulling out the nicest, fattest, pinkest potatoes even though the soil was rock-hard and dry and full of clay balls.

We picked the last of our wonderful Ikebana eggplant too. Later Rob pulled out the plants (it's the end of the season), and I heard him apologizing to them and thanking them very sincerely for their service. (Rob often talks to plants . . . Insects, too. He's very softhearted.) They were great plants and it was sad to see them go. The three of them gave us over 18 pounds of perfect shiny purple eggplant this summer.

We used our eggplant and sweet potatoes in a really delicious recipe-less curry; Rob made it up as he went. Our last homegrown onion and the last of our Matt's wild cherry tomatoes went into a channa masala. We made brown rice and smoothies too, and I cut up a Winn-Dixie watermelon for dessert. Oh, and I made field peas spiced with a bunch of our clown nose peppers. We made all this stuff for lunch on Sunday (the meal was a sort of celebration of and memorial to our summer garden), and then we started planting our fall garden. We planted six neat rows of carrots (Circus Circus and Kuroda) and six neat rows of Baby Leaf spinach. Hopefully we aren't too early, and hopefully it won't be too hot for everything!

Rob eating lunch on the screen porch on Sunday. That's Francie napping in the background.

Here is our channa masala recipe, Rob's take on a great recipe he found in Neelam Batra's The Indian Vegetarian:

Channa Masala


Spice Mixture:

3 Tbsp cumin

2 Tbsp coriander

1 Tbsp fenugreek leaves

1 Tbsp ground ginger

2 Tbsp cardamom

2 tsp asafoetida

1 Tbsp salt

2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Main Ingredients:

3 Tbsp vegan margarine

1 medium onion, chopped

3 fresh cayenne peppers, chopped

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 cans chickpeas, drained

3 Tbsp tamarind concentrate

2-3 tsp brown sugar


Combine all the spice mixture ingredients and roast briefly in a clean frying pan over low heat. Set roasted spice mix aside. You won't use it all, and the leftovers can be saved for future use.

In a medium saucepan, sauté the onions and peppers in butter until the onions are semi-transparent. Add 3 tablespoons of the spice mixture. Add all remaining ingredients and stir. Simmer, covered, over medium heat for approximately 20 minutes. (You might want to add some extra salt in addition to what's in the spice mixture.)

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