Ah, insomnia! Well, it’s a good time to blog . . .
I haven’t been keeping up with my blogging because . . . well, because this is the time of year when I log onto the Hurricane Center for an update the first thing each morning. This is the time of year when the 100 degree sun shrivels the blossoms on the tomato vines before they ever have a chance to set fruit. This is the time of year when running around with a watering can trying to keep my plants happy starts getting old. This is the time of year when I look at the calendar and realize it’s only June. This is the time of the year when I spend every spare minute looking at real estate on the internet and fantasizing that somehow my husband will agree to move somewhere more sane. Like North Carolina. Or Portland, OR. Hmm, dream on, girlfriend.
Well, something has been eating my tomatoes and it isn’t me. At first, I thought it must be a largish animal to have so totally annihilated my one ripe tomato, but my husband did a little sleuthing and it’s . . . mocking birds! So I went off to Walmart for bird netting. Did not find any, but I did find holographic streamers that I’m going to try tying to the tomato cages. Maybe the blowing, twisting ribbons will scare the birds away. After I had bought the streamers, I read somewhere that tomatoes should be picked when they first start to turn pink. Let them ripen on a countertop (out of direct sun) – that way the critters won’t get them first. Now I have two options for dealing with the mocking birds . . .
As for the rest of the garden, I have some winners and some losers. The okra is doing well and I have to check it every day or the pods go past prime. I’m not getting enough at any one time to cook as a side dish, but I have been throwing them in a soup pot with whatever else is in the frig and making some pretty good lunches. The Swiss chard is doing surprisingly well considering the heat. It goes in the soup pot, too. My one cucumber plant is keeping us well supplied with cucumbers, and the peanuts look lush:
I’ve harvested more eggplants and served them up in a moussaka, but the squash aren’t really squashing. The crookneck has tons of babies and keeps growing new ones, but the babies never grow past infancy. The zucchini is doing much the same thing but with a measly two babies. I don’t know what their problem is. Guess we need to have a heart to heart. And the poor nasturtiums have turned to crispy critters despite frequent watering. Guess they don’t like it here.
Okay, for the (semi-)weekly roundup:
1. Plant something – I did get my herbs planted in flower boxes and repotted a citrus tree in a bigger pot (it has oranges, grapefruit and limes all on one tree – and is currently covered with fruit!).
2. Harvest something – okra, Swiss chard, peppers
3. Preserve something – still no. I thought about drying herbs but with the exception of basil, I have fresh herbs available year round. So why dry?
4. Reduce waste – I’ve started saving my vegetable cooking water and using it to water the big pots on the balcony.
5. Preparation and Storage – I tried my hand at homemade spinach pasta which came out pretty well. I also bought a soil blocker and two super new cookbooks: The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash and Greens, Glorious Greens by Albi and Walthers.
I read about The Victory Garden Cookbook in a comment on Sharon Astyk’s blog. (Scads of good cookbook suggestions if you're interested!) The book is out of print, but I managed to get a used copy in great condition through Amazon.com. It’s a big, heavy book with tons of information. Each vegetable has its own chapter --there is growing advice, harvesting and trimming advice, and a slew of recipes. The moussaka recipe looks better than the one I used (which was okay but not great) and I’m looking forward to trying it. And it includes a lot of vegetables I've wanted to try but didn't know how to cook -- things like rutabagas and parsnips. I absolutely love this book and recommend it to one and all. (Hmm, I did buy the last 'cheap' copy available. You might want to check your local used book store.)
The second book is a winner, too. Greens, Glorious Greens is also organized by variety. There is advice on buying, storing and preparation for each green, and a good selection of recipes. The book covers not only every green you would find in the grocery store, but a few wild ones as well – dandelion greens, for example.
6. Build Community Food Systems – blog (on occasion)
7. Eat the Food – before the nasturtiums turned quite so crispy, I added a few to a salad. I’ve also added fresh herbs to many of my dishes, cucumbers to salads, peppers to stir-fries, okra and chard to soups, and eggplant to moussaka.