Friday, September 7, 2012

The Word for the Week 07 September 2012

Today there was a decidedly cool crispness to the air.  While we pulled weeds from the cracks in the driveway concrete, my husband and I tried to define what we were feeling.  It was sort of a smell and a feeling and a sensation.  We couldn't really come up with a description we liked.  The closest I can get is 'umami.'

'Umami' is a word we've borrowed from the Japanese who define it as a savory flavor distinct from saltiness.  Wikipedia says:

Umami has a mild but lasting aftertaste difficult to describe. It induces salivation and a sensation of furriness on the tongue, stimulating the throat, the roof and the back of the mouth...

Tomatoes have umami.  Jasmine green tea has umami.

Autumn has umami.  At least it did on this late summer verging on the tiniest beginnings of autumn day.  This autumnal umami reveals itself through the length of the day and the angle of the sun and in the way the wind freshens and brings a gentle but distinct chill along.

Autumn has a way of sneaking in the back door while I'm not looking.  One day I'm happily tending my tomatoes and the next thing I know, the cucumbers are stalled out and the sweet potato vines are yellowing.  I start to think about taking down the hanging baskets and I wonder where to store the pots for the winter.

Oops!  I said the 'w' word!  Next thing you know, I'll be saying the 's' word.

I gotta go check my tomatoes.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I am so not ready for it, but it looks like autumn is coming anyway.  We were out on the highway yesterday afternoon in the 100 degree heat and I noticed that some of the trees are starting to change color already.

Already?  It doesn't seem possible.  I still have seeds to plant and tomatoes to pick and store.  What about the pepper plants?

There are LOADS of green tomatoes out there just biding their time getting ready to turn a lovely shade of red and grace my salad plate under a little vinegar and oil dressing.

I finally, finally have luffa gourds growing on the crazy-long vines on the back fence.  They need another month of warmth to really get big and mature.  Just how big do these things get anyway?  The luffa on the right in the picture is about 10 inches long.  According to this article on, the fruits average about 24 inches long depending on the variety.  Also, fun luffa fact, the gourds are actually edible until they get to about 6 inches long. I don't think I'll be eating any though. As I was working with the vines this summer, I noticed that luffas have a distinctive odor. It's not terribly pleasant. At least not to me.

Wow. Twenty-four inches?  I guess mine still have a ways to go.  But never mind.  I still have things to keep me occupied as we transition to fall.

We've gotten a pretty good harvest of peppers so far. There are lots of really small fruits on the plants and, with the weather as it is, I'm looking forward to another harvest in a couple weeks.  I chopped up a couple dozen and packaged them individually for the freezer. 

The jalapenos have been particularly fruitful this year. I put up two peanut butter jars of 'pickled' jalapeno slices for those wintertime nacho cravings. I hope they keep well in the fridge.

In other news, the fall flower garden has begun its annual show.  The stonecrop has just started to flower and already the mason bees have found and swarmed all over the tiny, star-shaped blossoms.  The asters will be next, but they are a bit more shy than the stonecrop and they won't come out for a little while yet.

But, one of the surest signs that fall is on the way is the annual Monarch butterfly migration.  Last weekend, I spent a little time on my porch watching for and counting the Monarchs as they fluttered by heading south for the winter.  In an hour or so, I saw 17 butterflies.  Practically a stampede!

So, yeah.  Fall is coming.  But until the autumnal equinox on Saturday, September 22, I maintain that it is in fact still summer.  I'll get the iced tea.  Meet you on the porch.