Friday, May 29, 2009

Squash Update

As I had predicted, the squash fruits were ready starting this week. The first were in the home garden, which, due to milder weather and hot pavement, can be up to two weeks earlier than the community garden plots. Since no male flowers opened up, I decided to harvest all the baby squashes and their blossoms. The first meal was a basil and cheese-stuffed and fried squash blossom. Next, I added some baby squash in a stir fry, and then diced some fresh squash and added it to a rice salad. Today all the pumpkins bloomed for the first time, but there were no male flowers anywhere around, so I harvested five of the fruits. I am fairly pleased with the results of my summer squash medley roulette. I have two round zucchini's, two straightneck yellow's, one tatume, and one caserta. This week I will be running around to check up on my donated plants. I hope someone has a cocozelle for trade.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

International String Bean Day

There is probably a real day named like this somewhere out in the real world, but I am using it today because its the first day I was able to get two whole servings of real summer green beans to the table.
They almost didn't make it to the table. Late spring frost, bugs, gardenside munching all took their toll.
I learned something new this week. Last fall, as soon as I signed up for the local challenge, I started processing and freezing more summer produce. I also started planning my plantings better to ensure a more steady harvest. As it turned out, one very late bean crop did well, and two subsequent pea plantings also turned out to be both productive and uncharacteristically disease-free. I planted many fava plants in the winter, and started a delicate bush bean variety underneath a makeshift cold-frame in early spring. Proper mulching ensured the early return of six pole bean plants. The result? I still have three frozen ziplock bags of beans in storage. I have more fava beans than I care to shell and peel. There are beans served at practically every meal.
I still have one plug of tomato salsa and half a bag of summer squash, but only because I am making an effort to cook them into gobs of soup before all the new crops come in. I figure I'll have my first crowd of tomatoes by mid-June and the first summer squash by next week.
And the beans will keep coming. I have dry beans, heat-loving beans, cool-loving beans, bush beans, climbing beans, tropical beans, and desert beans. And, I learned that planning for food is easier than putting it by.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Oops! I did it again

Chaos always starts so innocently, as it has been documented over the years. First there was Fantasia. Then there was Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory. Now it's the squash garden.
Last year was a killer year for the squash. I planted several of my own, and there were plenty of seeds in the compost, so I got volunteer squash plants everywhere else. At the peak, I was harvesting over 10 pounds of squash a day. Finally I tore some plants out to make room for other selections, vowing never to do THAT again.
This year, it started out in a similar way. I planted a squash medley in a 6-pack, planning to give any extra seedlings away. After transplanting four of them, I grabbed the 6-pack only to notice that I had planted Baby Pam pumpkin plants instead. I wasn't even planning to plant the pumpkins. I had grown them out for a plant sale to benefit the local food bank. I returned the next day to plant the summer squash. At first I was going to plant only one plant. But, what if my favorite variety didn't come up? I planted three instead, and then planted the other three at home as a shade experiment.
But wait, there's more! I started other winter squash for the plant sale, but it was cancelled. My pumpkins would ripen way too early for fall, I weaseled, and wouldn't keep well and I NEED my local food! A few of each kind went into the garden, and of course, I got high germination and transplanted the extras too.
I started more summer squash for a friend: Black eel zucchini and straighneck yellow. My friend said she didn't want any more zucchini, so I prepared a place for a plant. That turned into a few more plantings and of course, an extra yellow squash just because they are different. So far I have:
4 Baby Pam pumpkin
6 summer squash medley
3 Black eel zucchini
1 straightneck squash
4 Butternut
3 Buttercup
Now all I have left to do is to start the pumpkins I REALLY wanted.
This year will be different. I am armed with a dehydrator, and I have heard that squash chips are really really good.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Local potato chips

No, not THOSE potato chips, mine! Every year I try a few potato plants, mostly because they seem to come up on their own. I had never had much success with them, due to my soil conditions, hot weather, and my lack of knowledge. This year I planted some potatoes in a bed filled mostly with trucked-in soil and protected with hardware cloth on the bottom. They had been growing pretty well, so I hilled the soil up a couple of times. A few days ago, one of the plants wasn’t doing too well, so I decided to dig out anything that might be there before it rotted away. I was surprised to find 5 large, very high quality potatoes and one smaller one.

I had had instructions to bring home a leek or two, to cook a favorite chicken dish for my husband. When I arrived home and proudly displayed the potatoes, he said,

“Oh, potato leek soup!”

Now, that wasn’t what I had in mind at all. While doing other gardening chores, all I could think of was samosa filling. I didn’t have all the spices, or the pastry covering, but with a few substitutions, the re-engineered samosas could hopefully feed my Indian food craving. While I have eaten potatoes at my exception meals and out of town, the last time I cooked and ate a real potato was on Thanksgiving. Someone brought some Jerusalem artichokes to a locavore potluck, and they were wonderful, and surely something I will grow from now on, but there’s nothing like the real thing.

After much discussion about potato allocation, I realized I was too tired to make either dish, so I just whipped up a quick stir-fry and saved MY potatoes for later.

Last night we had potato leek soup. I still have four more opportunities, plus a bit for a pot of vegetable soup. Will one of the dishes be home-made potato chips? If so, they will have to be fried in home-churned butter or in what’s left of my gallon of local olive oil.

Monday, May 11, 2009

May Exceptions

I've had a hankering for my soul food, macrobiotic food. I chose fish as my animal protein selection for the month, along with rice. I didn't use my third selection until yesterday, because I couldn't decide whether to select soy or sesame. After cooking a pot of rice, I decided that sesame would win for the month. (OK, and I also couldn't find the wheat-free tamari on a back shelf somewhere.) Now I have a stylish glass container of gomasio on my kitchen counter, along with the beet chips, which substitute for nori seaweed, and the rice seems more down-home now.
I make my gomasio with a real mortar and pestle after toasting the seeds on an electric stove. Of course, if I were a true macrobiotic locavore I would toast the seeds on a shovel stuck into my hearth. Oh, well, too much of a fire hazard lately, and my shovel is still sitting in the back of the turnip truck, covered with chicken manure.
A gardener friend grew sesame, but decided it wasn't worth it due to the long season and low yield for the amount of space it took. It sure did like our hot hot summers. I might try it next year, but this year I am gardening as if it really matters and I have less space for experimentation.