I've been thinking a lot about how off it might seem that I post so much about gardening on a blog that's supposed to be about cooking, and that I post so little about cooking (or that I post so little at all). The truth is, cooking and gardening occupy approximately the same coordinates in my firmament. If I lived in a place with a milder climate, and could garden for more than the few fleeting months allotted us in the hills of Vermont, my blog might easily have been called “A Constant Gardener”. I often fantasize about having my own paradise, overgrown with flowering plants and exotic fruits. But I suspect I'd tire of it, and I'd miss the snow.
I cook, I swear I do. In addition to the quotidian breakfasts, lunches, and dinners (and who wants to hear about those?), I fiddle in the kitchen daily – concocting soup from the season's bounty, making food to bring along to potlucks and out-of-town overnights, and thinking about cooking when I'm not actually doing it. And – in case you've missed other mentions of it – I have a small jam & preserves business and I've been making and canning, on average, 2 or 3 cases of “product” a week, and setting up shop at the farmers' market every Saturday.
But I also have a day job, a pretty intense one, and my work load this summer has been heavy. So I haven't been able to devote the kind of attention to this blog that I'd like to. Maybe you should all be grateful. In the long dark days of winter, when the work load drops off and there's no garden, no canning, no market; when I have nothing better to do than cook and take pictures and blather on about it...you may find yourselves wishing for the spare days of summer.
For all my distractions, though, the garden has flourished almost in spite of me. The image below is linked here on ImageShack. Click on the link, then click on the image to view it huge. Pardon the laundry – at least it's clean.
We harvested the garlic this week – ±250 heads – which is why two and half of the beds are naked. I'm going to plant more beets and carrots for the fall in the half-bed; in the other two, I want to plant some kind of green manure. Actually, all of the beds could stand that treatment.
This is “fast and furious” season for crops. It's not just hard to keep up, it's impossible. Even giving stuff away (I beg my friends to come and take what they want) and eating vegetables every day, there's a lot that still goes on the compost.
I'm proud to say that I've stayed ahead of the cauliflower, having twice served it grilled at dinner, made soup of one head and given another away. I still have two to go, but I was careful to protect the heads from the sun, so they're still snowy white. Here's a tip for you cauliflower growers: when the heads get big enough that the leaves can no longer provide shade, help them along by folding the leaves over and tucking them in:
This will stop the development of “purple haze” – perfectly harmless, but the heads look so much more appealing when they're bright white.
The tomato plants are so loaded with fruit (most of it green except for the cherry tomatoes) that one of them collapsed in its cage yesterday. The stem is still intact, so I'm sure the fruit will ripen just fine. I mentioned in an earlier report that one of the varieties that was supposed to be a full-sized tomato (albeit on a dwarf plant) has turned out to be a cherry variety. And a very prolific one. The ridiculous bract pictured here is almost a foot and a half long and has 26 tomatoes on it (and is nearly impossible to photograph; I put a cloth behind it to try and make its absurdity more distinguishable).
I can happily report that there have been no tomato hornworms – whether due to my spraying with Bt or because the climatic conditions that made possible their appearance here have been reversed (and frankly, I don't care). I did get a start when this magnificent creature showed up in my fennel patch:
It's a black swallowtail caterpillar. He (she? I know a lot about a lot of things, but sexing butterfly larvae isn't one of them; any lepidopterists reading along should leave a comment and clue me in) has been there for nearly a week now, gently feeding on fennel fronds. I'm hopeful that he/she will stay put and go to chrysalis stage, where I can watch closely (and take lots of pictures). Funny that he/she is not so far removed from the dreaded hornworm but is so welcome here.
I have jalapeños out the yang, green beans and beets, greens and basil, eggplants starting to come – though only the Beatrice...the Udmalbet have yet to set a flower – the tiny buds keep drying up and falling off. The cucumbers keep getting away from me, and I've been yanking off giants and tossing them. It looks as though I'll have a small crop of reasonably-sized ones this week, so I can finally make the hot dog relish that certain of my fans are clamoring for. The kabocha and delicata squash plants and the mini-watermelons have put out a healthy crop, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a late frost so they all have a chance to ripen. It's been such a cool summer, though, I fear the killer will come early this year. But just look at these cute little melons:
The same two pictured here earlier in the season. They're now about 5 inches across – I'm afraid they've been water-starved and may not grow much bigger. All of the cucurbits stopped flowering in the intense heat a few weeks ago, but all the others have rebounded.
My cutting flowers are abundant – I bought a case of quart-sized Mason jars so I can take bouquets when I go a-visiting. It's nice to bring someone flowers in such a way that they don't have to drop everything and go in search of a vase. (Any one of you clowns mentions Martha Stewart, I'll bitch-slap ya.)
I even have my beloved lisianthus in bloom. My favorite flower in the whole wide world (especially white ones). A lot like roses, I guess, but lacking in thorns and longer-lasting in a vase. No fragrance, but I'll take the trade.
Since you've all been so well-behaved, here's a little cooking for you.
Mixed Grill of Garden Vegetables
There is a school of thought that would have us believe that anything good can be made better through deep-frying. This madness has brought us the deep-fried Twinkie, the deep-fried Snickers bar, and the Blooming Onion, among other abominations (mind you, careful deep-frying meaningfully applied to the right stuff is one of the Seven Wonders of the culinary world). My own madness applies a related theory to grilling, and there's nothing I won't try slathering with good oil and tossing on the grill. Lately, I've been making use of the grill to keep up with the overload from the garden, with some very happy results.
Last week I collected a basketful of goodies with the intention of making an entire meal of it. Everything got tossed with oil, crushed garlic, and S&P, then spread on a very hot grill (except for the onions, which were wrapped in foil and started early so they'd get melty-soft and caramelized).
I had some fresh goat cheese from Consider Bardwell, which I thought was necessary for a little protein (I swear! It was just for the protein!) and sliced up a little crusty bread. And uncorked a bottle of local fizzy hard cider.
If you've never tried grilling green beans or jalapeño peppers, you don't know what you've been missing. I made myself a little tartine with a slice of bread, some goat cheese & grilled onion and a grilled pepper. I'll be exploring this arrangement in depth very soon; I can imagine a starter course of an individual onion, goat cheese, and grilled jalapeño tart.