Monday, July 27, 2009
I’m alone tonight. What should I eat? I like to treat myself well – after all, even alone I showered, dressed and put on purple earrings. So why shouldn’t I eat well, too?
It’s July and the garden is bursting, even after the almost continuous rainy, cloudy and cool weather. It is only marginally drier now, but hotter.
So, what do I have? Let’s see. Hmm…, beets – such a magnificent color. The tops, the beet greens, are yummy too. I can use them but I have to examine them carefully for Beet Leaf Miner, a tiny larval insect that tunnels between the upper and lower leaf surfaces and create a brownish discolored area on the leaf. This is easy to see and I just slice off those parts and throw them in the compost receptacle on my counter. Next I wash two beets, chop them and set them aside in a tiny white dish. They look beautiful.
The first thing is to put a little olive oil in a sauté pan and start heating it.
Those onion tops left from the other day look nice, and one even has an aromatic purple flower on it. I slice the hollow stems into rings and throw them into the pan. I toss in the flower too, for fun. The chopped beets go in, as well.
I picked red-streaked radicchio today and I wash it carefully, checking for slugs. There’s a plague of slugs this season because of all the rain. I set the chopped radicchio aside for a few minutes because I’ve just remembered the snap peas I picked. I quickly wash them and pull off any strings and throw the pods in the pan with the gently sautéing beets and onion greens.
What else is there to eat? In the fridge I find a small piece of tofu floating in water in a plastic container. Rinsed, patted dry and diced, it goes into the sauté pan.
I remember some roasted vegetable ravioli in the freezer and I take out 4 of them. On the back burner I set a small pan of water to boil.
Meanwhile, the beet greens and radicchio go into the stir fry, and then the ravioli into the boiling water.
I need some sort of a sauce to top it all off but my tomatoes aren’t ripe yet so I rummage in the back of the fridge again and fish out a jar of tomato sauce lurking there. No good – it’s moldy and even I won’t eat it. Even I, (who thinks eating a little green/blue mold won't hurt occasionally), think this sauce is too far gone. So I open a jar of spicy salsa and spoon a half-a-cup over the sautéed vegetables and heat it through.
Nearly ready! I drain the ravioli and throw them into the stir-fry; toss it all together with wooden spoons and slide the whole thing into a large amber-colored soup plate and sprinkle it with coarsely shaved Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
A glass of red wine – Carr Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley and I’m all set. I take it out onto my screened deck and listen to the rain coming down on my garden, (again!), and to Pavarotti on the CD player. A Common Gray Treefrog trills its song near me outside the screen. It has taken up residence under the gas grill cover for the summer.
What could be more divine?
Saturday, July 25, 2009
26 July 2009
Gardeners would agree that every season has its challenges, but I can’t remember one like this – It has rained almost every day through June and July. Some days only a shower on and off, most days cool, overcast, dismal and wet. Not good for our gardens – too much of a good thing, like water, brings on the slugs, and the rot. The cold temperatures are not friendly for peppers, tomatoes, squash and other warm season annuals. What can be done?
At our garden, we’ve moved as many vegetables into raised beds as possible and in the sunniest part of the property to catch whatever rays are on offer. Raised beds drain quickly and the deep soil encourages the plants to put down deep roots which is a good thing for nutrient uptake. The soil is so well aerated because we’ve added good compost and rotted horse manure, and the plants can grow without drowning in puddles.
The cold night temperatures are stopping the tomatoes from ripening – we need heat! If nothing happens soon, I’m going to have a party and experiment with “fried green tomatoes” and show the movie too!
Overall, the garden has been mediocre – but we’ve had really great salad vegetables (they don’t really need or like heat) we’ve been harvesting since mid-March from the cold frame (more on cold frames later). We’ve had 3 kinds of lettuce, 2 kinds of spinach, 2 kinds of edible pea pods, Italian dandelion greens, arugula, beets, carrots and radishes. You can eat the tops of those root crops too. Carrot and radish tops are better when they’re young, When older they are a little tough but can be boiled up with other veggies for a vegetable soup stock.
If you are over-run with slugs the way people around here in Connecticut are, there’re a few things you can do:
· set out shallow aluminum pie dishes filled with beer (yes! Beer!), put the
lip of the pan at ground level with the center sunk a bit. The slugs will be attracted to the beer, crawl in and die.
· spend some time picking off the slimy buggers and dropping them into a
pail of water – they drown.
· sprinkle gritty stuff like crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, limestone, cat
litter – or use your imagination – around the plants which are attracting the slugs. Their slimy little bodies can’t take the coarse texture and they will probably not try and cross the barrier.
Despite all these precautions – TRIPLE WASH AND CAREFULLY INSPECT your greens where slugs can easily hide. No-one wants to find a slug in the mouth – or worse, half a slug – while dining.
Happy gardening, more to come.