But... Mother Nature had other plans. This week a cold front blew in from Canada (this is why Canadians have such a bad rap in the States...about all anyone knows about the Canucks is the brutal cold weather systems that originate in Canada and wreck havoc in the lower 48!).
So, I was keeping a watchful eye on the weather as this system was to blow through around my birthday. I went out to the garden several days before the cold front and took these pictures:
As you can see, the tomato vines were loaded down with big green tomatoes and some were just beginning to turn. (If you're wondering what is growing next to the tomatoes, I had planted some nasturtiums and marigolds, as they help keep the pest population down. I had little to no pest problem this year!)
Looking at those lovely green beauties, and longing for the day when they would be ripened and ready for a trip to a hot bath!
The squash had finally started to produce, as had the green beans. The carrots were doing great, as was the broccoli.
This was the most tender broccoli I've ever eaten! Took it home, straight out of the garden, with some ranch dip, and it was awesome. I was even able to eat part of the stems, as it was so tender.
So then the first round of the cold front hit. The temps dropped down to about 28 degrees. We had gone out the night before and covered all the plants with blankets and sheets. When we pulled the coverings off, the plants were still alive. They looked a little stressed, but after I watered them, they perked right up. You can see the piles of blankets and sheets lying on the ground towards the back of the picture.
They weren't exactly happy, but they were still alive!
I knew I wasn't going to get any corn this year. The turkeys had done a number on the corn for me, but even the corn survived the first frost just fine.
Even my potato patch didn't look too bad. The plants were definitely showing some stress, but had survived. So we were hopeful that we had survived the worst of the cold front. In fact, according to the weather reports, it was supposed to be a warmer night than the night before. Regardless, my daughter and I went back out and covered up all the plants again.
When I got up the next morning, and looked outside, I could tell it was a hard frost, but it wasn't until I checked the thermometer that I realized just had bad it was. It wasn't just a frost, it was a deep freeze. The temperature was reading 21 degrees at 6:30 a.m. I went outside and looked at the few plants I had left outside covered up, and they were wilted already. I knew that it wasn't going to be good for my little garden.
And sure enough, as we arrived over to the garden, a sad, sad state of affairs awaited us. The plants were all wilted and yellow. Many of the tomatoes left on the vine were soft and squishy from being froze solid. Some green tomatoes were still frozen solid. It was a sickening feeling. I had brought along a cooler to put the tomatoes in, just in case they could be salvaged.
Any squash left growing on the vine was completely ruined.
It was quite heartbreaking to work through each tomato plant and pick the green tomatoes off the plant, and then to wonder what I was going to do with this boatload of frozen green tomatoes.
This is my only surviving pumpkin. It was huddled under some leaves, and seemed to survive without being frozen, so I brought it home to finish ripening in the sun.
We had a huge cooler full of green tomatoes, plus one 5-gallon bucket.
This was my largest tomato that was just about ready to begin ripening. It is about 6" in diameter.
I decided to try to ripen the green tomatoes after calling the local AG extension office. They said if the tomatoes ripen, that I could freeze them, but it would not be safe to can them. So, I got out some shallow boxes, and filled the boxes with the green tomatoes, and covered them with newspaper and have them sitting in a dark area for now, to see if some of them will ripen. In a few days, if I don't have any luck with them starting to ripen, I may just cook up a bunch of the green tomatoes with some tomatillas and jalapenos to make salsa verde. I've not done that before, but there is always a first time! I also plan on slicing some of the green tomatoes and freezing them to make fried green tomatoes when my dear husband gets home, as that is a Southern staple that is always a treat!
So that is the end of this year's garden! It was a lot of work through all the days of loading up the water truck, weeding, and carefully tending, and yet it wasn't without some benefit of reaping with some nice squash, zucchini, peas, carrots, broccoli and beans. (I will be digging up potatoes in a day or two as well!)
While I surveyed the damage, and my daughter helped me pile the frozen tomatoes into the cooler, I couldn't help but think of my ancestors and their struggles with the land and the weather, and how much more serious it would have been for them facing hunger throughout the long winter. So, I had to breathe a prayer of thanks that at least we won't be going hungry because of the loss of this harvest. And I'm sure a sad farmer or two found some great uses for frozen green tomatoes, and that is probably where all the recipes for fried green tomatoes, green tomato pie, green tomato bread, and more came from. I found a link here for a ton of green tomato recipes. Just as one can turn lemons into lemonade, I will be doing my best to make the best of the frozen green tomatoes. :)