Apre le Deluge…

18 Jul

Le jardin.

As promised, I skipped a week of posting because we were traveling to the northerly of our two birth states. But for anyone who’s been waiting with bated breath (what exactly does that mean, “bated” breath? It sounds kinda gross. Like chum-breath or something like that. Hope nobody was eating). Anyhow, another kinda big week in the garden, so let’s get to it, shall we?

As I always do, I’ll start with the overview shot:

So, here’s what all is going on.

First off, like I said, we went on a 4-day road trip to the Midwest for Panda’s mom’s annual camping trip, followed by a two-day wedding dress sewing session. As a non-garden related aside, I think it’s a very cool tradition; all of her aunts have gotten together to sew each others’ dresses, and now they’ve done it again for Panda’s dress. Anyhow, before we left, that one cracking tomato was quite red and somebody had taken advantage of the crack to get a toehold in to start eating it, so we picked it a wee bit early and took it with us along with the green (purple) beans that were ready to be picked as well. There was a lot of food  that weekend that I wasn’t involved in preparing, so I’m not entirely certain where they ended up, but I’m pretty sure all of that stuff got eaten. But that sort of brings me to the next point: cracking tomatoes.

Over there on the left you can see what a tomato crack looks like, in case you haven’t seen one before. This one – one of the Cherokee Purples we started from seed – presented its cracks for photography a bit better than the Big Boy we picked a week ago.

So, the sum of my research on this issue seems to suggest that this is a water issue, nothing more, and therefore not really something to worry about. The key, it seems, is to be consistent with the amount of water the plants get. If, after a dry spell, they get deluged, they’ll try to suck all that water into the fruit, the skin of which can’t expand fast enough to accommodate the growth, et voilá. Cracked tomato. Still totally edible, just not as pretty as it could’ve been. And this being a Cherokee Purple, it was unlikely to make the prettiest of tomatoes anyhow, so no big deal. I am, however, trying to be a bit more consistent with the watering though.

Which brings me to the title of this post. You see, the day after we got back from our trip – Wednesday – there was a pretty monster storm in the middle of the afternoon. Tons of water, and a fair amount of wind. Which managed to bring down the right-hand cucumber tripod, and my theory at least, is that the tripod took down 5 tomato plants with it. In the end, I think everything is ok though (except one tomato, whose stalk split, and we continue to monitor).  And on the upside, it got us out there doing some maintenance work that needed to be done anyhow – re-staking the tomatoes, reinforcing that cuke tripod, and finally biting the bullet and ripping out all of the arugula. If anyone’s been following along, you probably notice the bare patch that used to be filled with bolting arugula.

We’d been pinching back the flowers and harvesting the leaves we could from the plant, and I misguidedly was convinced that if we just stayed on top of it (which was a losing proposition), we could just keep it pinched back and continuously harvest from those plants all summer. Instead, they started getting leggier and leggier, the leaves smaller and smaller. The taste was still good, and we got another good gallon-size bag of arugula out of it at the end (thanks, Panda, for spending your morning plucking all those stems), but it’s done. We also started pulling some of the carrots, and now have plans to

  1. Replant with salad greens – this time a mix of arugula and bibb lettuce. Arugula’s great, but nothing but arugula will leave you kinda wanting some variety. Besides, in a rather random twist, the head of the agency I work for gave me a packet of Bibb lettuce seeds.
  2. Continue picking carrots, and start replanting carrots. We’ve already had a few in a stir fry, a few went into a mirepoix for a red-wine braised lentil dish that we’re super fond of, and some I’ll pickle (because, as you’re likely aware, I caught that bug where I feel the urge to do little chemistry experiments to squirrel things away in jars for the coming year). The Cosmic Purple variety that we planted, by the way, has thus far thoroughly impressed me. Before they’ve been chilled in the fridge, they smell really strongly of carrot-y goodness, which is not something I’m used to with supermarket carrots, and they have a nice, slightly spicier flavor than the supermarket carrots I’m used to too.

Meanwhile, a lesson (or two) learned: (A) If you’re going to be away for four days in a row, and you’ve got zucchini on the verge of ready to pick, you should go ahead and take it. If you don’t, like me, you’ll end up with two zucchinis weighing in at a total of just over 3 lbs with which you can totally fend off muggers. I’ve heard that if you let them get too big, they’ll not be good anymore – they get seedy and bitter – but apparently I caught these just before that moment, so instead we just made a lot of zucchini bread. Meanwhile, those cukes from the last post? That’s lesson learned (B). Upon further research, the variety we planted are Edmonson Pickling Cucumbers, and that’s what they look like when ripe. Don’t wait for them to go dark green, because they might not. Instead, you may come home to just north of 6 pounds of gigantic yellow cucumbers. Again, we apparently got them just before they went bad, because we sliced one open and it still tasted fine, but probably best to not push it again. We’ve got another round of cukes coming in soon though, which will likely all be made into delicious pickles of various shapes, sizes, and maybe even flavors. I’m fascinated by the idea of lacto-fermentation, though I’ve got to admit I’m a little scared too. These (well, some of them, anyhow), however, went into a cucumber gazpacho, which we ate tonight. Totally dill-y, totally delicious.

Speaking of dill, we ripped that out too. It was getting really leggy, hiding in the shade of that overgrown arugula. So, you know. That’s gone into a number of dishes this week, and any other fresh dill this summer will be store bought, I’m afraid. So, yeah, we’ve been harvesting fools all week: beans, dill, okra, a jalapeño, that one tomato, tons of cucumber, a fair number of carrots, some chard, and three zucchinis. Altogether, a pretty good haul.

Go Delta State!

So, mostly because I think it’s a little tough to see in the picture that’s coming up, here’s what the okra looked like, right before we picked it. That, too, I have plans to pickle, unless Panda goes digging around one of our cookbooks first and manages to do something else with it before I have time to this weekend. It actually looks a bit like – if the gods of wedding planning smile favorably upon my plight – I might just well be a pickling fool this weekend.

This, dear readers, is what our crisper looks like, 12 zucchini muffins, one loaf of zucchini bread, a black-eyed pea salad (that used the jalapeño) and a cucumber gazpacho later. Everything you see in there, from the giant yellow cucumbers, to the purple carrots and beans, to the dark green zucchini, to the blushing red and green okra, to the slightly wilted chard (should’ve either used that right up or at least taken the photo right after it was harvested) is the localest food that we’ve had in the house, ever. And though we haven’t had our soil tested (so god knows what’s residually in there), I know that we’ve only added compost, organic fertilizer, and organic calcium-rich foliar spray. (Oh, in case anyone was wondering, nothing conclusive on the mold growing on the fertilizer I spread. My guess, I think, still stands: moist, nutrient rich environment with ambient mold, likely nothing to worry about). I don’t mean to gloat, but well, I am a little proud. But before anyone gets too annoyed, I’m just gonna sign off with the photo:

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2 Responses to “Apre le Deluge…”

  1. val July 19, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Ooh, what okra variety is that? I’ve only grown Clemson spineless, which does great, but I want one of the prettier ones next year. Last summer I had 12 plants and I had plenty to freeze and pickle.
    I just emailed a friend two of my favorite okra recipes, so I thought maybe you’d like them, too:
    Saveur Egyptian okra:
    http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Okra-with-Tomatoes-and-Chickpeas
    Epicurious potato okra corn salad:
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Roasted-Potato-and-Okra-Salad-232318

    • pandabolt July 19, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

      It’s Hill Country Heirloom Red Okra (I was suckered in by the Texas moniker – whence I was transplanted to the DC area – and the pretty red pods, grin).

      Thanks for making me look that up, as I wasn’t nearly as diligent in recording all the varieties of things that we planted as I’d have liked, as the whole planting/transplanting thing got pretty busy for a few weeks there in the spring.

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