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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Gardening Season Begins to Wind Down in the Mountains

By Sherrie Norris

This year’s gardening season has been a good one, by most accounts.

Squash, zucchini, cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes, especially here in the mountains, have been abundant for many. 

We downsized our garden considerably, which was strange in itself, but we’ve learned a lot about transforming a small flower garden into a vegetable plot, and growing a few things in buckets. We’ve missed the beauty of the rows and rows of goods that grew every year, but thankfully, we haven’t missed out on the taste and convenience of home-grown veggies outside the back door. And, thanks to a couple of good friends, we’ve had enough tomatoes and beans to process and put up for the coming winter. 

Local gardeners still have a ways to go with the season’s late bloomers, but for now, we’re getting close to the end with some of the aforementioned. There’s nothing like a big red juicy tomato on “light bread” with Duke’s mayonnaise — and we’re soon going to miss those hot summer suppers with a sliced cucumber on the side. (What I’d give for one of those in the middle of February!)

So, enjoy while you still can.

Simple Salsa In A Can

(Reprinted per request)

8 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped

3 cups onions, chopped fine

1 to 2 cups green peppers

1 to 2 cups jalapeño peppers (depending on how “warm” you like your salsa!)

1 cup vinegar

3½ tsp. salt

Boil 30 minutes; put into jars and heat in hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Zucchini Appetizer

3 cups sliced zucchini

1 cup all-purpose baking mix (like Bisquick)

½ cup chopped onion

½ teaspoon salt

4 eggs, beaten

½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese

½ cup vegetable oil

1 clove garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix zucchini, all-purpose baking mix, onion, salt, eggs, Cheddar cheese, vegetable oil and garlic. Spread zucchini mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven 25 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned. Cut into bite-sized pieces to serve.

Dilly Beans

2 cups vinegar

2 cups water

¼ cup salt

1 clove garlic (per jar)

1 head dill (per jar)

Freshly picked green beans

Cut ends off beans. Boil for about 10 minutes. Place dill and garlic in hot, sterilized jars and then pack beans in the jars. Boil vinegar, water and salt. Pour over beans. Place in hot water bath for about 10-15 minutes.

Cucumber Relish

12 medium cucumbers

1 bunch celery

4-5 onions

2 Tbs. salt

3 cups sugar

1 pint vinegar

1 tsp. mustard seed

1 tsp. celery seed

1 tsp. turmeric

Chop cucumbers, celery and onions together. Add salt. Let stand 4 hours in colander and squeeze out with hand. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil. Add vegetables and boil for 5 minutes. Put into sterile jars. Makes 4 pints.

Aunt Jean’s Zucchini Bread 

3 cups plain flour

1½ cups sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

¾ tsp. baking soda

3 eggs

2/3 cup oil

2 cups shredded zucchini

1 cup chopped nuts

1 cup raisins (optional)

In large bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Beat eggs and oil together and then mix well into dry ingredients. Place in two greased/floured loaf pans, bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until lightly browned and set in the middle. 

Mom’s Marinated ‘Maters

2 large tomatoes, cut into ½ -inch slices

2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil

1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

¼  tsp. salt

¼  tsp. freshly ground pepper

Arrange tomato slices on a platter, slightly overlapping. Sprinkle with basil, parsley and oregano. Combine lemon juice and vinegar; drizzle over tomatoes. Cover and chill 2 hours. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.