Our Summer Fruit Harvest: Not a Bumper Crop Year

summer fruit harvest

If you have been following my blog for a while, since I was just on Tumblr and before I started this WordPress blog, you may remember how we had quite a large selection of summer fruit that I was able to grow and harvest last year. I worked really hard all spring prepping our garden for the summer season, and it definitely paid off. This year, things were quite different.

Since I was laid up all spring, I was not able to put the same prep work into our garden this year. As a result, the production rate significantly declined on all of our fruit trees and vines. The photo above shows pretty much our entire summer harvest (with the exception of a few berries that I have eaten as they have gotten ripe). It is pretty disappointing.

The first problem with the garden this year started with the peaches. The local birds attacked all the peaches on the baby tree in the backyard, so we still have not had a chance to sample the peaches from that tree yet. The peaches on the mature tree in our front yard are absolutely amazing, and I was really looking forward to them. When I got really sick a little over a month ago, the peaches were just about due to start getting ripe. When we got back from the hospital, all I wanted for some reason was one of those peaches. When my husband went to get one, he noticed that they were all gone. Someone or something had taken every last peach on the tree while we were at the hospital. My money is on someone since animals know better than to take unripe fruit, and all of the peaches were definitely not ripe at the same time.

The raspberries, blackberries and apples all produced a bit of fruit, but way low quantities in comparison to last year. The good thing is there is always time to improve for next year!

Last year we had this same problem, and I totally wish I had the chance to take some preventative measures this time, but I got overwhelmed by the whole new-mom thing. Something eats almost all of our grapes. We have 5 or 6 individual grape vine plants, and the basket above was our entire harvest for the season. I’m not sure if it is the squirrel, birds or the raccoons, but someone gets them before we have a chance. I’m definitely going to try putting netting over them next year.

The most disappointing problem of all this year was with our fig tree. We have a huge, mature fig tree in our backyard. Last year I canned as much fig preserves as I could, but a lot of them definitely went to waste since canning out in the patio with the barbeque was a huge pain (our kitchen was still in the middle of being remodeled last year at this time). I was really looking forward to trying out a whole bunch of things with the figs now that we have a kitchen. Last week, I saw that the majority of the figs were ready to be picked. I put it on my to-do list for the week, and planned to get started preserving them and trying out some new recipes. The day I went out to pick them, I discovered that every last fig had been eaten by a swarm of enormous beetles. I was so disappointed, especially since I had just seen tons of them on the tree the day before. I am 100% committed to organic gardening, so I don’t want to use a pesticide next year to prevent this from happening again, but I don’t quite know what to do to prevent that from happening again. Maybe I should harvest the figs just before they are ripe? Anyone have any tips on growing figs organically?

Pork Chops with Fig Preserves & Caramelized Onions

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Earlier in the year, I started researching ways to preserve the figs from our fig tree.  Canning jars of preserves out on the patio quickly turned into a huge nightmare in the late summer.  Keeping everything clean and keeping it all away from the flies and other bugs ended up being a way bigger challenge than I expected.  I ended up only making a few jars of fig preserves from the figs on our tree.  Not long after that, I had to give up on the whole process of cooking/cleaning dishes outside when I realized I was pregnant.  With restrictions on lifting anything heavy, the whole process quickly became impossible.

With my four little jars of preserved figs stashed safely away, I was waiting to finally have a functional kitchen again so I could try them out.  I had read that figs go nicely with pork, so I decided to give it my own spin.  Below is a summary of my dinner experiment from last night!

1.  I started by dicing one yellow sweet onion, and setting aside.
2.  Salted each side of the pork chops, and placed in large pan with a couple of tablespoons of butter.  I seared each side of the pork chops on medium high heat until each side was nice and golden brown.
3.  Moved the pork chops to a covered oven dish, and cooked in preheated oven at 300 degrees.  I cooked these for quite a while since I wanted to make sure that they were completely well-done (since I am pregnant).  Under normal circumstances though, because they were precooked by searing the sides, cooking them for about 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer reaches 140 degrees, would be adequate.
4.  While the pork chops were baking, I moved the chopped onions to the pan and added a little more butter and salt.  I cooked the onions until they were starting to caramelize and get golden.  Then to add some contrast to the sweetness of the figs, I added a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, the juice of one lemon, and two sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped.
5.  Next I added the contents of one small jar of preserved figs to the mixture in the pan and cooked on medium-low heat, keeping covered.
6.  Once the pork was finished cooking, I spooned the onion/fig mixture over each piece of pork.

I served this along with some green and yellow string beans from our garden, and some sweet potatoes, broiled with a little rosemary and olive oil.  I was so happy with the end result.  I wish I had more little jars of the preserved figs.  Next year I will definitely make an effort to preserve more.  Since I didn’t use many of them this year, it was cute that the wildlife in our yard got quite chubby from eating the majority of the figs! 🙂