Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Imperfect Plot: From Garden to Table - If it Makes it That Far

A few weeks ago my garden LOOKED fantastic.  I was so excited.  The squash plants were huge, the peppers were just starting to form fruit, the tomatoes too had bulbous flowers just on the verge of resembling tomatoes, and the beans….the beans plants, were almost a foot tall with light purple buds beginning to unfurrow. It was beautiful!

Then, the deer came.  He or she, or maybe even they, ate the tops off of each and every bean plant in the garden.  Just the tops of the leaves.  My beautiful garden still looked good, but the last two rows, they looked barren.  Looking out the upstairs window in the  emerging dawn the next morning, it was obvious, even from that distance, that he, she, they, whomever, had been back.  My beans! My beans! They were nearly gone.  Nibbled down to less than six inches of stalk, the sight of them brought me to tears.  Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  But I was annoyed to say the least.  

Fast forward a couple of weeks:  The garden really does look great.  I am a bit nervous that the squash plants are putting more energy into growing leaves than bearing fruit, but only time will tell.  We have harvested one yellow squash.  There are several more, but they remain tiny and a few have even rotted at the end.  Picked and tossed into the compost bin those will provide nutrients for the soil for next year.  

We grilled that one squash last Friday.  Long thin slices,brushed with oil, a dash of salt and pepper, with a few fresh thyme leaves scattered atop, grilled a few minutes on each side, tender crisp, it was delicious.  

We have also harvested strawberries, sharing with the birds, the kids, and the insects, I only got a few, but they were so juicy and sweet, plucked from the vine, warm from the sun. I was able to squirrel away enough to serve with a home baked shortcake--the recipe my grandmother still uses. I’d love to say it’s an old family secret, but I’m pretty sure it came from the original Betty Crocker cookbook.  If I could get my hands on one of those…..

My dear friend (not those critters that ate my beans, but a wonderful woman named Lori, from whom I have learned so much and with whom I love spending time) gave me a bag full of garlic scapes.  So today, I made a batch of scape pesto.  I so love the pungent flavor.  Ball now sells an herb preserving tray--much like an ice cube tray, but made of flexible silicone, with a lid.  It makes freezing herbs, pestos, and the like easier.  The lid alone is a huge mess saver in my freezer.  Tonight’s dinner was a toasted cheese and pesto sandwich.  A Costanza’s roll, a slathering of pesto, two slices of tomato (store bought, unfortunately homegrown won’t be ready for a while yet), provolone and a bit of mozzarella toasty and melted, oh so good!

Before it started raining I decided I wanted a few raspberries for my mid-day shake.  Surprised by the number of dark red beauties barely still clinging to the thistled bushes, I was left with a wonderful dilemma--what to make with them.  There were possibilities: leave a dish of them on the counter for the kids to nibble on, wash and freeze them, have another slice of Aunt Jan’s amazing cheesecake (I had indeed already had two slices this week, each topped with a handful of those sweet seeded gems), I suppose I could have even made a pie.  I settled on half of a batch of jam.  I had just enough berries to make the half batch and still put a good handful in my Shakeology.  So, as the sticky goodness boiled on the stove, I sipped the raspberry vanilla smoothie to keep cool.  It made one full pint and almost another half pint.  Because it was so little and everyone was already trying to sneak away, licking their fingers, I didn’t see much point in  fully processing them for winter storage.  I assume it will be gone by next week, especially in I decide to my those yummy oatmeal raspberry bars tomorrow--they’ve been on my mind since my first taste of the gooey preserves.  

In addition to the squash and the berries, and the scapes, we’ve been enjoying lettuce from our two mixed greens planters.  Talk about fresh, walk into the herb garden or over to the patio table, cut, rinse and eat.  Of course, there are herbs too.  My herb garden in my quiet place.  I sit on the swing to read, or enjoy a hot cup of coffee before the children wake up.  It’s so peaceful.  It also provides some great flavor and depth.  Fresh thyme is available almost year round, the parsley and cilantro are both new this year, the oregano is well established and plentiful, I’ve replanted the sage since it got trampled last year, chives are too, readily available from mid spring through late fall, and the basil, that’s planted in two stages with the first in full swing and the second just getting its roots.  We’ve been cutting and picking from my quiet corner for a couple of months now and will continue to do so for several more.  The only down side to the herb garden is the June Beetles--just last week, they started munching on the basil leaves--we are encouraging them to go away, hopefully it works.   

Although the major stuff is more than a few weeks out, we are off to a good start.  You’ll be hearing from me and my kitchen a little more when the produce really starts rolling in.  Until then, happy growing, cooking, and of course, eating.  

Wendy Bacon loves eating out of her own back yard.  She doesn’t really mind sharing, but wonders, did the deer really need to eat ALL of her bean plants?  Couldn’t they have gotten by with just a few?