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Two more tomato plants for the garden from the farmer’s market: Black Krim and Yellow Pear, the latter placed at the corner for the best access for small hands and short arms. They’re big beautiful plants, which my seedlings were not, but now that they’re all in the ground the difference is rapidly disappearing. I love it when nature makes up for my mistakes.

Chloe and I went into the garden yesterday to eat a blueberry popsicle. Well, we went outside to eat the popsicle; we went to the garden to “tee if any tawberried are twipe” (she has yet to master Ss). The slugs have been industrious and I haven’t replaced my Sluggo yet, so she’s been disappointed in a couple of ripe berries and was willing to try anything that looked even a little bit red. It turns out that half-ripe garden strawberries are slightly tart but still full of tangy flavor.

The pea trellis is crawling with life, so we tried a few peas, too. She loved these. She likes peas to begin with, and will eat frozen peas and corn for lunch (sometimes heated up, sometimes still frozen), but these were clearly a different experience. She delighted in receiving the two halves of the pod I split open for her–”like a butterfly” and picking out the peas, one by one. She gave me slightly less than half, which I thought was pretty generous.

We’ve got a few corn stalks coming up, which she also wanted to eat until I told her they weren’t the same as the corn on the cob we’ve had a couple of nights in the past couple of weeks. (Can’t she tell the difference? When I point out the seedling that look like a fatter grass, and is quite clearly not a plump cob full of sweet kernels? Toddlers are strange.) The squash and peppers and eggplant are doing okay, for now at least. I’ve got a bunch of what looks like cucumber volunteers coming up among the tomatoes. I don’t know what they’re from. Compost, I guess. What cucumbers did I grow two years ago? Do I want to keep them? I have a hard time pulling them out, when you buy them for $2 each at the local nursery, but they can’t stay and crowd my tomatoes, either. I moved one to a better spot and we’ll see how it grows.

I’ve also got some volunteer dill among the weeds that are slated for later slaughter, and some Hopi Red Dye amaranth. I love that that’s still popping up here and there. Also some tomato volunteers in the side garden, but they’re getting pulled out when I get a chance because as I recall they were awful in previous years.

And the beans and greens and carrots and roots are growing well–as are the weeds, but let’s ignore that for now–and I’m pleased with what I’ve wrought so far, even if I fear for the summer. And staying out late in the garden picking half-ripe strawberries and half-grown peas for my girl was just what I felt that garden is for.

I chopped up Persimmon and Amish Paste tomatoes yesterday for ratatouille-of-sorts (no zucchini, but yes pearl couscous) and fed bits to Chloe. She ate them like candy, or like she would eat candy if she were allowed to. She got her onesie all stained with pink and orange. I didn’t like the onesie anyway, so I wasn’t bothered. I don’t think I would have been anyway.

So the tomatoes are producing, yes. Mostly the Amish Pastes and a smallish not-quite-cherry that I don’t know the name of. I don’t remember what I planted where, and I’ve given up trying. I have a couple of Alma Paprika peppers, one yellow and one pink, and some other unidentified peppers that I thought were jalapenos but aren’t, which was disappointing when I wanted to make salsa last night. (However, my mother-in-law can probably be convinced to part with some.) There are no beans yet, but lots of bean flowers. Likewise with the zucchini. (I planted them both late.) There is plentiful basil and sage, and beautiful raspberries and peaches. That’s about it, but I’m okay with it. At least I’m getting something. The days are hot and wet and full of mosquitoes, and the garden is, of course, full of weeds (though I did a quick emergency job on part of it when we had a house showing, and I’m trying to make time this week to go out with either boiling water or Round-Up to get more), and it’s the part of summer I really don’t like. Except for the eating part.

The first ripe tomato went into a sandwich a few days ago. I meant to go out and look for more today, especially since we’re having tacos tomorrow, but vacuuming and playing with Chloe and pondering frosting somehow took the day away from me. (Chloe’s birthday party is next Saturday, and I’m making a cake. The cake part is settled, but I’ve never decorated a cake before, and I don’t like buttercream but Eric doesn’t like whipped frosting. What to do?)

My weed escapade has kept the side garden relatively nice-looking, though the poor lemon sorrel is baking now that it’s not shaded from the heat by all the other overgrown plants and weeds. I was afraid of that. I need to get some mulch. The reporter who wrote the Blade piece on my garden offered me some, but I totally forgot to go and fetch it, and since she’s now invited me over three times and I haven’t gone, I kind of feel like I’ve flubbed my chance. We’re now on our third summer of a tight budget because of Eric being out of work, so I’m not overly eager to buy mulch, but I never am, and the poor garden needs it.

I am contemplating what to plant in the bare patches. More zucchini? Carrots, for the fall? Lettuce? It ought to be something. Of course, it should be something very low-maintenance.

On the plus side, the peaches on the tree are just about ripe. On the minus side, I didn’t remove nearly enough of them, so they’re all apricot-sized instead of peach-sized. Now I know how many is too many for a tree that size to support. How big a peach would a tree with just one peach on it grow? Unfortunately I don’t think anyone who owns a peach tree and likes peaches would be willing to find out.

Okay, it’s not sickness that’s keeping me from posting, it’s lack of time. For the past two weeks I’ve been working on a baby quilt for a shower on Sunday (it looks like I’m going to make it, too, if nothing serious comes up to prevent me from working on it at night), plus the usual routine, plus getting ready to sell the house. Bah. The garden itself isn’t getting neglected…or not extremely…just the posting.

So, an update. The tomatoes and peppers and eggplant and leeks are in the garden. The melons and squash and cucumbers are not. The basil and parsley and celery and chamomile and cilantro and savory are in the herb garden. The parsley disappeared the day after I planted it, so completely that I wondered if I had really planted it or just thought I did. But it was right by the chamomile and the chamomile’s still there. What would make parsley disappear? I don’t know. But I need to replant it. I also need to replant carrots; it’s getting awfully late but there are only two or three in what is now the parsnip bed, and carrots are important. And plant beans and corn. And weed, always weed.

I’ve also got a lot of empty space where I got rid of the lemon balm and wormwood (because the lemon balm drops baby balms all over the garden, and the wormwood exploded into five-foot-tall behemoths for flowering, which is a shame since it was so pretty and tame the first year). I think it’s time to take a trip to a nursery for some plants to fill in.

And last night a photographer from the Toledo Blade came by to take a picture of Chloe and me in the garden. I’m going to be part of a series on local gardeners, and I’m representing the “mom with young children” gardener demographic, so Chloe was my prop. Or maybe I was hers. She hasn’t been particularly cooperative with my camera, but she loved the photographer’s and was very cooperative, and of course extremely cute.

After the photographer left I went back to the garden to get some things for my first garden food of the year. This year it was komatsuna and chives. Chloe likes chives, it turns out. Definitely my daughter. I used them both in a noodle stirfry. The komatsuna is indeed a nice spinach replacement, except for being a favorite of the bugs, judging by their state when I picked them. I planted them where the kale is as a fill-in until the kale gets bigger, and that’s starting to happen, so they won’t last long in any case. If the bugs leave me enough they’ll not last long because I’ll eat them up.

Chloe and I went out today to pick the last tomatoes and dig up roots. I intended to harvest the elecampane roots (for dyeing) but gave up after I leaned against the shovel to try to get leverage to get one out of the ground and took a tumble amidst a pile of bricks. The bruises already hurt, which is a bad sign.

So I stuck to the carrots and beets. Somehow the white/yellow/red/purple carrot mix I planted ended up almost entirely white, which means my carrots look like radishes or parsnips. I planned to get the parsnips, too, but my ankles and back were hurting (I was wearing Chloe in the sling and I’m not used to crouching in it) so I gave up and went inside.

But not before getting a handful more of dried beans from the dried-bean edifice. I left the plants up when I picked them over and now a bunch of them have new, green pods hanging there. They’re trying to tempt me to leave them up! Evil, evil plants.

The little one is sleeping. We went into the garden together today, she and I, with the help of a sling that I’m still getting the hang of. (We decided to try a sling because our friends recommended one, but couldn’t find a satisfactory way to put the baby in it. Now that she can mostly support her own head, it’s becoming much easier.) I picked coriander and a few surprise heads of nigella sativa–I thought I’d seen those flowers earlier in the year, but they disappeared under the cover of the cilantro and sage and weeds in that area–while she looked around at the giant wormwood and the sprawling volunteer tomato plant that my dad unfortunately didn’t pull while he was here.

I’ve requested newspaper and shall be receiving it shortly. The next couple of weeks will be devoted to closing down the garden, which mainly means harvesting what I can of what’s there. That means picking a last round or two of green beans, digging the carrots and parsnips and potatoes (if there are any), cutting herbs for drying and freezing, gathering basil for the summer’s single batch of pesto, making tabbouleh with the parsley. Then pulling out the stakes and trellises, and deciding whether to move the unruly raspberry whose berries don’t seem as good as the ones on the plants in the actual raspberry patch, and then a lot of digging and stomping and spreading and watering and spreading again. The little one and I will also be taking an exploratory trip to Home Depot sometime soon, to price mulch. And then the little one will be spending a weekend at grandma’s while I put this garden into its winter crib.

It’s storming outside, has been for a while. It’s ridiculously late and I’m almost contemplating waiting for the next feeding rather than go to bed (though not really), but what I’m really thinking about is: I wish I’d picked more of the dry beans when I was out in the garden over the weekend. I got some, but there were lots more, and I’m afraid the rain is going to spoil them the way my Hutterites were spoiled their first year. Apparently the baby fog is starting to lift a little.

Two white eggplant. One green bell pepper, three red Giant Marconi (I think) peppers. Lots of tomatoes, some deep red, some the ones that Dad didn’t pick because he thought they weren’t ripe yet: Persimmon and Tiger-Like and a black one and one with yellow shoulders  (I do have them written down, somewhere). Dried Mitla Black bean husks hiding small, svelte beans. Purple Trionfo Violetto beans, swollen with ripe seeds because I didn’t ask anyone to pick them. I’m leaving them to become seed because I have Kentucky Wonders growing elsewhere, on a later schedule. Even a neglected garden is a rainbow in August.

“Why is dinner so difficult?!” I exclaimed, throwing my hands in the air.

“It’s not difficult,” Eric said, eyeing me warily.

“It is! It’s like one of those true/false logic problems: ‘Statement 2 is false. Statement 1 is true.’ You keep saying you’ll eat this, but only if I do, and I only want it to get you to eat it, and–”

“It’s perfectly simple,” Eric interrupted. “You said you have to pick beans. Are there enough for two portions?”

“I have no idea, I haven’t picked them yet,” I growled. “Let’s say yes.”

“Okay. Then we’ll both have green beans. You said you wanted to eat those last red potatoes, so you’ll have those. I’ll have the last of my egg rolls.”

“I need to pick squash too,” I said. “I could saute that. With basil.”

“Then you’ll have squash too. You see how easy that was?”

I picked two more zucchini and a bunch of herb tops for dinner tonight. Man, I love cooking with fresh herbs. I was delighted to discover that my cilantro hasn’t bolted as much as I figured it had; there were a few flowers, but also plenty of usable leaves still. The basil, on the other hand, looks terrible. Possibly that’s due to the monstrosity of lemon balm and wormwood overshadowing it.

I had Eric come out in the garden with me yesterday, and he hacked down the wormwood and picked raspberries (trampling my onions in the doing, but it’s my own fault as I didn’t think to warn him about them) and cucumbers while I weeded the parsley patch and picked enough for the season’s first tabbouleh. He was impressed by the sheer height of the weeds in the garden, but wisely did not mention this after his first involuntary exclamation. He was also, I think, impressed by the beans, and so was I; they’re doing wonderfully, even with the pathetic excuse for a support I rigged up for them. He was disappointed to hear that the tomatoes are not optimally poised for a bumper crop this year, since he’s craving gazpacho, but it’s not tomato-ripening time this year anyway.

We experimented with some sweet relish yesterday–he wanted to try a bare-bones recipe, so we made a very small, simple batch that’s sitting in a jar now, awaiting tasting–and we’re making pickles tomorrow with the several pounds of cucumbers sitting in the fridge.  I pulled up a couple of garlic bulbs to see whether we ought to buy some. They look good, but small, so we’ll be buying some. That’s okay. I’ll use them in a marinated spinach salad or a sharp stirfry. I love the summer eating season.

Flowers and even fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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