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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!