We have always ordered our seeds from Pinetree seeds, in Maine. We like them because they are a small company and they promote seeds with a good germination rate. On the few occasions that the seeds do not do well, Pinetree either replaces your seeds or refunds your money. We’ve noticed that when we let them know about a problem, it is probably not limited to us because those types of seeds often disappear from the following year’s catalog.
Last year we ran into our first case of strange vegetables. We had ordered more of the Mr. Big Pea and decided to try Sugar Snap peas as well. We very carefully planted the seeds in specific rows, one type at a time. The plants came up, and we had a mix – some were the Mr. Big Pea (shell peas), others were just Sugar Snap (pea pods.) Literally from one plant to the next they could be different. We investigated – peas can cross-pollinate. Lesson learned – we shrugged it off, ate what we liked, and froze the rest (mostly the pea pods.) I had the thought of using them in a stir fry; I think we still have a few bags, a year later. Clearly not popular with us.
This year something’s going on with the squash. We’re growing yellow squash and zucchini; they are in the same area. One yellow squash plant is producing these:
Now, you would think that it’s a cross-pollination issue, right? Except that there is a type of squash that looks just like that, called a Zephyr squash. We know this, because we grew it two years ago. It was not a particularly disease-resistant plant, so we only grew it that one year. So it could be cross pollination (both types of plants are in the same area) or it could be a Zephyr squash plant. Which is essentially a cross-pollinated summer squash/zucchini whose seeds are saved.
Maybe we should start our own seed company with the offspring of all of our mistakes.
I have been spending my spare time weeding, rather than posting on this blog, for which I apologize. I find this the longest time of the year, when everything is growing merrily (especially the weeds) but there is nothing to pick and enjoy. But that is starting to change. First up:
This year we are growing the same lettuce mix we purchased from Pinetree last year, and it is doing equally well. We have a new type of turnip, an Asian-style that you pick while they are still fairly small. I have been trying to correct my less-than-stellar thinning efforts from earlier in the season by picking ones that are too close to other ones. We only have a small row of them – about five feet across – so I am picking them for meals as we need them.
Yesterday was very exciting, because this is what was harvested:
Oh yes, your eyes do not deceive you – that is the first sungold tomato of the season. J picked it and brought it in for me to enjoy – what a generous guy. I think I surprised him when I cut it in half to share. That’s very unlike me, where sungolds are concerned.
Meanwhile, our search for a substitute pet continues:
I really couldn’t tell if the toad was closing his eyes because he was relaxed, or he expected imminent death and didn’t want to see it coming.
We finished planting this weekend, in some of the hottest weather we have seen this early in June. It felt unspeakably hot to be out there yesterday, but we persevered. The tally:
125 Mr. Big Peas
120 Sweet Peas
100 Royal Purple Bush Beans
48 Pole Beans
2nd planting of Sweet corn
7 Sugar Baby watermelon plants
4 Moon & Stars watermelon plants
8 Dill’s Atlantic Giant pumpkins
9 Amish pumpkins (those mysterious pumpkins from the purchase 2 years ago in upstate NY at an Amish farm stand)
8 Jack-Be-Little pumpkins
7 Orange Smoothies
And it look like this:
…..which doesn’t look like much at this point. It joins the sweet potatoes, first corn planting (of a brand called Quickie; we’ll see if it lives up to it’s name) and sunflowers. No edible value to sunflowers, really (well, except the seeds) but we’ve always wanted to grow them so this year we finally got around to planting some.
This year we’ve fenced the entire garden. Last year we only fenced the peas, beans and corn, which worked out fine, but once the pumpkins, watermelons and winter squash had matured, something came through and sampled a little bit out of quite a few of the fruits. Plus, this year we have a turkey. We think it’s a female, but who can tell? (It could be a juvenile male. Only time will tell.) This turkey enjoys walking across the corn, and snoozing in the dirt mounds we created to plant the watermelons, squash and pumpkins. So up went the fence. Which works, because as I was finishing up the watering yesterday she walked out of the brush and right into the fence. Someone unhelpfully pointed out turkeys can fly. We’re hoping the dirt isn’t that appealing to her that she’ll fly over and end up stuck. Or knock the fence over.
This year one of our experiments was to try and grow butternut squash. Growing this type of squash is an exercise in patience, because it takes all season and you might not get that much.
We managed to get 4 vines to grow and ended up with about a half-dozen squash of varying sizes. This one is one of our best:
What lovely color you have, my dear. All the better to eat you!
That’s actually still sitting on our kitchen table even though it was picked about two weeks ago when the vines started to die off. My memory of winter squash is that it will keep a while, so I’m just leaving it on the kitchen table with the Jack-be-Little pumpkins (more on them in another post) as an ornamental gourd. I plan on peeling, chopping and cooking it for Thanksgiving. If it starts to go soft before then, I will do what I did with some of the smaller ones – peel, chop & blanch before freezing.
We actually ate a couple of the smaller squash that we picked, figuring it was probably a good idea to see if they tasted okay before we make them a component of our Thanksgiving meal and they’re terrible.
I know you’re probably thinking, what a cute little squash! Not so cute? What was done to it:
It was not only the squash that was a victim of something’s teeth – a watermelon and a couple of pumpkins also fell victim to an all-you-can-eat buffet. It was fine in both cases – the part of the rind that was nibbled got cut away, and we composted the pumpkin because it was starting to break down where teeth met skin.
We’re thinking it was probably not this guy that did it:
At least he’s on the right side of the road
It actually didn’t take me that long to try to figure out how to work putting a photo of a buffalo on a blog about gardening in New England, in case you were wondering. It’s a quick leap from “rabbit” to “buffalo” in my world. Also, this will allow me to add the tag “buffalo” to the list of labels for this blog, which amuses me immensely.
I will tell you that buffalo is an incredibly tasty meat if you like a carnivorous side with your vegetables for dinner. No, we did not eat the guy in the photo.
Yesterday I made Herbed Summer Squash using a fresh summer squash, zucchini, thyme and parsley from our garden.
I am always in search of new recipes – I search the Food Network website often (and have found two great recipes in two days this past week from there) and I also subscribe to Every Day with Rachael Ray, Cooking Light, Food & Wine and my mother in law gives me a gift subscription to Vegetarian Times, which is then gifted to Stella Caroline who has a policy of cooking vegetarian at least once a week. (Admirable; I use the recipes for ideas for sides.)
I love the magazines because Food & Wine and Every Day with Rachael Ray often have great suggestions for kitchen gadgets and other gift ideas that I think are perfect for the cooks in my life. I’m not the only cook in my household; J has quickly become a grilling expert. He’s very partial to the show on PBS called Barbeque University with Steve Raichlen. The show has given us Bourbon Brined Pork Chops, Bourbon & Apricot Pork (the recipe calls for ham but we substituted) and Tennessee Pork Loin, the latter prompting J to ask if we had a good pepper mill. We didn’t, so he made do with what we had. The recipe was fantastic. Good thing, because he’ll be asked to make it again. If only he had the right tools….
Fast forward to today – I am flipping through the August issue of Food & Wine where NYC chef Nick Anderer cites this pepper mill as kitchen gear worthy of a splurge. Since I like to encourage J to cook (and keep the heat out of my kitchen in summer), I went over to the website and ordered one for him. The company is based on Nantucket, which seems both odd and fascinating to me as I always think of the island as being purely a tourist destination, but obviously it must have some other industries. One of which is making pepper mills.
Further along in that F & W issue is an article about Sauvignon Blancs, which caught my attention for two reasons – 1.) Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite type of white wine; 2.) the author, Ray Isle, writes, “….But Sauvignon Blanc has always been a love-hate proposition, much like cilantro or beets.” Hee. Read the article if you don’t believe me. It’s been established already that I like cilantro, the jury’s out on beets (although I’m leaning favorably towards radishes, so who knows) and I love Sauvignon Blanc – in fact, I would recommend it with any of the above-mentioned pork recipes. Or anything, really.