Making Minestrone in March

The productive garden. Copyright Jane Booth 2017

a reflection of summer past

My vegetable gardens produced a plentiful harvest last fall. I'm not one for canning -- when I was quite small my grandmother sent me to sit on the cellar stairs, I had done something terribly naughty, what I don't recall. The door clicked shut and I cried and worried and didn't care for the dim gleam glancing off canning jars on the stairwell wall. Even worse was wondering what lurked in the spooky coal bin corner.

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I'm big into freezing blanched and roasted vegetables from the summer garden. Without fail every year as winter moves into spring I wonder what happened to the first vegetables popped into the chest freezer in July.

Summer tomatoes ripe and ready for soup, stew, and sauce. Photograph copyright Jane Booth 2017

This past week I rummaged through the basement freezer, pulled up a box of whole frozen tomatoes. Beneath the red and yellow orbs I discovered peas and fava beans and moaned when I spied a rather large supply of summer squash.

Checking on my potato stash I found them sprouting, long white tendrils searching for light. My onions looked, unfortunately, perky and springlike, sprouting green tops from their diminishing firm bulbs.

Time to make a colorful minestrone.

I chopped up a bag of frozen tomatoes and reflected on last summer's garden. Too many zucchini and Italian yellow Zuchetta Rugosa Friulana squash with tasty thick flesh and few seeds. Every time I thought I was finished putting away food for winter, my husband would sneak in with another basket of summer squash and tomatoes until I was prepared to toss them into the compost if he arrived with more.

Our tomatoes last year were not as robust as the year before, thank goodness for sun gold cherry tomatoes and a yellow blush sauce tomato .. productive and not as prone to late blight.

The leeks grew poorly last year, too, but I received a lovely gift when my friend Chris shared the excess bounty from her home garden. Today I have a good collection of baby leeks growing under lights in the basement and look forward to better success this year.

More carrots than I've ever grown. Photograph copyright Jane Booth 2017

I had more carrots last year than I've ever grown before albeit the oddest shapes I have ever seen. I grow all sorts of beans to dry, my favorite for soups and stews, a pole bean, Borlotto Lamon -- I had frozen a precooked batch and added to them to the soup along with a handful of Dr. Harry Rowe's gypsy beans -- a present from Janice Moore. Janice told me Dr. Rowe's Peacham, VT family had been saving the seeds first procured from traveling gypsys during the 1800s into the1900s. They look so similar to my favorite Borlotto Lamon that I wonder if it is possible they arrived in North American with the early French Canadian settlers and were shared with the Abenaki, we will never know.

Squash, beans, and tomatoes too. Photograph copyright Jane Booth 2017

I was short on green and yellow beans and whatever I grew we ate early on and will have to remember to plant longer rows this year as I missed having them for the minestrone.

Wondering what else I could add to the thickening soup I found hidden amongst frozen jars of goose and duck fat, a bagged collection of old parmesan rinds. The majority looked just fine, two were a tad frost bitten and they were tossed to the trash but the others were perfect and three good chunks were pushed deep into my brimming pot of simmering veg.

Before the first frost I picked the last of the basil to make a few small jars of pesto (without the parmesan) perfect to stir into the soup with a fresh grating of parmesan and a short pour of spicy olive oil. There you have it ... my minestrone for March.



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