Aroma d’vine

Tomato perfume. I love burying my head in our wall of tomato plants and inhaling. Pure summer. We picked a basketful Sun Golds—little orange flavor bombs—and a few other cherry varieties for our salads this week. Our tomatoes are starting to come on, but Josie says we’re three weeks behind thanks to our cool, wet spring. Mike picked a few green to take home and fry. He dips the slices in flour, an egg wash, then cornmeal before frying in hot oil—at least I think he said flour first. I found our first two ripe tiny Italian plums. Mike and I snarfed them on the spot. 

Breathe deeply ...

The wash station smelled amazing as harvesters (we had about 20 people for this week’s class) brought in the veggies through the evening. We had basil up to our ears, and Karen gave some to the neighbor bordering the garden. We harvested peppers in all shapes, sizes and colors; beautiful Japanese eggplants, a little okra, green beans, cukes, tons o’ potatoes and zukes, tomatillos, lettuce, onions, dill. We never got to the arugula, mustard or bok choy. Every week after we divvy up the veggies, Steve carts off extras to Life’s Kitchen, which makes soup for local shelters. We’ve also talked about donating to the Abundance Project, which gives food to local refugees.

Harvesters at work

Meggan and I commiserated about the grasshoppers eating our yards at home—thankfully not the Victory Garden. We both live along open space grasslands in Hidden Springs, and it’s been the Year O’ the Grasshopper. They mowed down rows of basil from her home garden in a day. They ate mine weeks ago. I’ve been waging a losing battle with them. Who knew when the first few showed up they’d explode like this? I’ve used garlic spray (1 Tbs. garlic oil, quart of water, 3 drops of dish soap, whir in a blender—thank you Jerry Baker’s Bug Off), neem oil, nolo bait. They keep coming. Birds are helping. Swarms of starlings—I used to hate them until now—are swooping in and gobbling them up. We’ve only found a few here in our Victory Garden, though. The birds and praying mantises have apparently kept them in check.  I keep hearing Clay’s words that with organic methods, you only control the pests—not eradicate them. But I want to purge those suckers from my yard. I don’t want to kill the birds and beneficial insects, so I’m being patient.

At work in Owl Field

Josie and Clay showed us how to harvest arugula seed into brown paper sacks. Several weeks ago we started letting the crop go to seed and the pods cure on the plants. We also lopped off the green leaves, or tops of all our potatoes—reds, blues and Yukons. Hah! Take that, blister beetles. Taking the plants off the potatoes will help the skins harden. We’ll harvest them all in one shot. 

Making plans

We planted more turnips and carrots—maybe some more beets? I was busy harvesting, so not sure. This is how it works on garden class nights: We gather, weed a bit, do a walk through and see what we can harvest and what needs doing—then we get busy. Some plant, some work on irrigation, prepare new beds, others harvest. Then we split the goods. One of the things I love most about this class is how we get to know each other as we work. And how we gather afterward in the wash station and share food, stories, recipes, tips. Stasia brought chips and salsa. Karen brought a cooler full of beer. I heard talk of Daniel’s apricots and wine. We pored over Mike’s drawings for a new tool shed, decided on a schedule for who could hand water the newly seeded beds now that it’s so hot. Heat. The kids knew how to deal with it. They chased and squirted each other with the hose.

Hard at work in the kids' garden

We learned about harvesting melons tonight, we have a bunch of varieties planted. You check near the stem for a tiny leaf and a curlicue. When the leaf is dead and the curlicue is half dead, that’s when they’re ready. Josie accidentally knocked a Sugar Baby off the vine, so we whacked it open with a machete and tasted it. Not ready yet. Still tastes like cucumbers. 

Ready yet?

Harvest dinner: I made pesto from my boatload of basil. I used macadamia instead of pine nuts in the pesto. I froze most of it, but smooshed some into mashed potatoes. I made a salad with the lettuce and tomatoes, carrots and peppers I brought home. By mistake I poured on the salad some of the garlic oil I made to kill the grasshoppers. But a little red wine vinegar and shredded Parmesan cheese made it a quite tasty addition. Kurt had a homemade loaf of bread waiting, still warm. Opened a nice Chardonnay.

Karen sent a recipe for lavender potatoes with rosemary. http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/recipes/side_potatoes.shtml 

Thanks to Stasia for the photos!

Ray o' sunshine

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C’mon tomatoes!

Beautiful night in the garden (we say this every week). Earlier in the afternoon, wind had whipped up a monster fire in Eagle, which Clay said he and Josie watched from Peaceful Belly’s farm just down the road. The wind calmed, and whatever wicked front had blown in earlier cooled the evening. We got busy with a small group. About half our usual 20-plus. Lots of folks on vacation. 

We first attacked the squash bugs and dropped them in jars of oil. We hunted for their eggs–little orange clusters–and got those off the plants. We had to pull up a few plants that had been infected with the virus. Those creepy bugs can inject a virus into the plant. If one of your squash plants suddenly dies, put it in the trash, not your compost heap. That way the bugs can’t spread the virus further to healthy squash plants. 

We weeded, pulled out spent pea vines, trellised tomatoes, and carved a path through the raspberry forest. We marveled at how the beans and tomatoes flourished after last week’s omega 1-5-5 application. Our beets are still struggling. Why does this soil hate them so?

We harvested several firsts: peppers of all varieties. Green, yellow, purple. A few Japanese eggplants, some tomatillos. Tomatoes are getting there! We have thousands coming on, and we’ve tasted a couple in the past few weeks. Potatoes won’t quit! We keep getting tons of purple, Yukon gold and red potatoes. And we think we’re winning the blister beetle war. Looks like hand-picking and Karen’s horseradish spray are doing the trick. We harvested beautiful basil, bok choy and red mustard, carrots, zukes, cabbage, onions, lovely tiny French filet beans (we made our French farmer Daniel harvest those). We got a few other green beans, some favas, arugula, lettuce mix, carrots. Oh my!

Josie taught us how to make sauerkraut by leaving it in a ceramic bowl on the counter with tons of salt: yes, I’m missing a few details here. And how to roll basil in plastic wrap like a fat cigar and freeze it so you can have fresh basil all winter. After harvest we traded fava recipes and some cold beers. Karen brought an awesome veggie spread and crostini, and Heather had left some pesto and homemade bread for us.  

Where we wash and nosh the harvest

 Harvest dinner: Got home late to the aroma of Kurt’s fresh-baked whole wheat bread. (Did I mention he’d ground the wheat too?) I boiled Yukon gold’s and mashed them with olive oil and onion. Topped the potatoes with fried eggs (from our Hidden Springs chicken co-op). I sauteed red mustard greens with a little pancetta and olive oil. Opened a lovely Cinder Rose. Okay, so it was 10:30 when we ate. But what a lovely way to eat. 

Potatoes for miles

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