Going with Nature’s flow, year to year in garden and field
Plants resemble people in many ways. Especially, they remind me of children. They go through so many changes from year to year. Each is the same variety. Yet each is so different, colored by many influences. As I weeded Dragon Tongue beans all morning past the noon hour Monday, I thought of how prolific this variety had been for us in past years. In nearly 4 hours of tending 9 long rows of these beautiful plants during two attempts to cover all of that ground over the weekend, I’d only harvested 10½ pounds of beans. Dela remarked at supper, hours later, how chard had usually been such a hardy, reliable addition to our subscriptions, too. This year, it’s been challenging to establish even one full bed of chard sufficient to give to all 150 CSA members, even in one week’s worth. Plants, like people, have years that they thrive and years that they don’t. Last year was a good sweet corn year. This year, the corn has been through so much, it would be hard to expect perfection out of it. It has been scorched with heat repeatedly, drought at a wicked time in its development, too. Several driving rains swept across the corn from the west, nearly flattening all the stalks. For these reasons, our older varieties of sweet corn grew up stunted and their ears did not fill out. Rain caused a tremendous flush of grasses and weeds to spring up around our plants and between the wide rows. We had cultivated, hand-weeded, tilled, even mowed between the cornrows for weeks. It all seemed for nothing, now that the weeds had risen as high as our chins. The searing heat also brought on the corn borer several weeks earlier than usual. At harvest over the past week, we spent many hours, moving stooped over, down and back, down and back the football field-length rows, searching for the corn. In many cases, the bowled-over stalks had grown in a curve, the ears almost hanging from them, close to the ground. Many more hours, our little crew of helpers examined every ear, trying to get at least 6 decent ones for each household. Of course, we ‘d like the corn to be better for you than it is. Like loving, over-worked parents and children, we did the best we could under the circumstances.
Want to help can?– Dela will be making sweet corn relish and salsa and other great vegetables for winter and for our fall shares soon. If you like to can or want to learn by doing, email or call Dela to work out a schedule. 608 897-4288. firstname.lastname@example.org
Brown bag it – We are in desperate need of brown paper grocery sacks sufficient to double bag your subscriptions. Please, please get them to us this week, every week, if you can. It saves a lot on packing costs.
This Week’s Vegetables are:
- Summer squash (both green and yellow)
- Eggplant (if you get a green variety, it is called Raveena, and it is ripe)
- Sweet corn
- Ice box melon variety
- A surprise garden extra (can you tell what it is?)
Cooking Tips for the Week
Grilled Summer Vegetable Medley (from R Sax and M. Simmons, Bon Appetit, July 1991) Combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, crushed; 1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (1 teaspoon dried); 1 1/1 teaspoons chopped fresh sage (1 teaspoon dried);1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (1 teaspoon dried); in small bowl. Place 2 small eggplants, halved lengthwise, 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise; 2 small yellow crookneck squash, halved lengthwise; 4 ½ inch thick slices red onion; 1 bell pepper, quartered, seeded; 1 bell pepper, quartered, seeded in a baking pan and brush with oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Let marinate 2 hours. Prepare grill to medium high heat. Grill vegetables until just tender when pierced with tip of sharp knife, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes. Transfer vegetables to platter and serve warm, or at room temperature. Four servings.
Ratatouille (from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking) Peel 1 lb. of eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8 inches chick, about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide.. Scrub 1 lb. of zucchini, slice off the two ends, and cut into slices about the same size as the eggplant. Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with 1 tsp salt. Let stand 30 minutes. Drain. Dry each slice in a towel. One layer at a time, sauté the eggplant and then the zucchini in 4 tablespoons olive oil for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove to a side dish. In the same skillet, cook ½ lb. (about 1 ½ cups) thinly sliced yellow onions and 1 cup sliced green bell peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Stir in 2 cloves mashed garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice 1 lb. of firm, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded and juiced, into 1/8 inch strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until the tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil for several minutes, until juice has almost entirely evaporated. Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a 2 ½ quart casserole dish and sprinkle over it 1 tablespoon of minced parsley. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat. Do not let vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole. Set aside uncovered. Reheat slowly at serving time, or serve cold.