Local fruit is somewhat of a rarity here in Montana, so when the plums are ripe on our neighborhood trees, we’re happy. If your neighborhood has a tree like mine does, boxes start showing up on doorsteps. For times like these, it’s nice to know that you can make jam without embarking on the whole canning process. Simply cut the plums in half to remove the pits, cook with a little sugar, and you’ve got jam. Keep the jam in the refrigerator and enjoy a spoonful on your toast or a dollop in your yogurt; as October turns to November, finish off the jar by enriching a pan sauce for venison or pork.
Late in September, dozens of generational family farms in the Bozeman area dig out tons of potatoes, everything from basic russets to heirlooms like Purple Viking and French Fingerling. Seek out these local beauties at farmers markets and try them at home. Boil smaller ones whole and once they’re hot and soft, enjoy them with a fork-smash and a dab of butter. Cut fingerlings in half the long way and roast them with olive oil and salt, 400°F for about 30 minutes.
There’s an essence of gambling to late-season gardening. Do you keep the cherry tomatoes going for the possibility of another warmish day? Or do you cave to the risk of a nighttime freeze (or snow!) and pick them all—even the greenies—prepared to be OK with it when a string of sunny days follows? Professional farms mitigate these risks with greenhouses for sensitive crops, leaving the fields for winter greens and hardy vegetables like cabbages and their close relative kohlrabi. To prepare kohlrabi, cut off the curvy long leaves, knife-peel the “ball,” then cut it into small batons, aka “sticks,” which you can steam or stir-fry. (You can use the leaves too: slice them horizontally into ribbons and toss them into that stir fry at the last minute.)