Did you miss me?
Maybe my garden did. No watering, no clearing away of dead and mildewed leaves, no timely harvesting. But plants keep growing, buds keep flowering, fruits keep falling to the ground and rotting . . . The garden perseveres.
The watermelon picked last week was delicious. I gave away half (maybe a little under half, I wasn’t able to cut it perfectly), and have been eating it constantly since then — almost done. Because the seeds were starting to sprout already, I figured I was safe to pick the next big one without cutting a trapdoor into it. And I was right.
This one was even heavier than the first. I immediately called the neighbors because I did not want to spend another two hours cutting this up so it would fit in the refrigerator. I found two willing takers, and am looking forward to picking watermelon #3 tomorrow.
Hmm, I might just have to have another bowl of watermelon . . .
Here’s another before, during and during post. This time about the uninvited but welcome guest, the watermelon vine. Maybe guests and vines (plural) is more appropriate. If you have been following this year’s saga, you will know that the watermelon vines sprouted from the compost I used to mulch the pepper bed,
which is located between the Franklinia bed (to the left, below) and the “side bulge” (seen as a pile of brush towards the right).
By July 5, I had to peel the chickenwire back to let the watermelon vines escape. I had already transplanted the zucchini elsewhere (just to the left, in this picture, surrounded by a round fence).
And as you’ll see, the vines kept going . . .
and going . . .
and going . . .
Up the hill and down the hill. And the cherry tomatoes were now mixing in. Tomatoes grow on vines, too, you know . . .
Come September, and there are four actual watermelons (I thought only three up until this evening when I discovered another one behind the peppers). And the bulge is very weedy, and a storm might be heading our way. So it seems time to tidy up a bit.
And clean up I did — today. Here’s the bulge with the tomatoes severely pruned back, most of the weeds pulled, and just enough watermelon vine to support the lone fruit on this hill.
But is the watermelon ripe? Year after year, the first watermelon I pick is white inside. I looked back at past years to see when I picked the second, ripe, watermelon, and last year it was right around this time. The two biggest watermelons look good, sound good when I thump them, and meet the objective criteria of the vines starting to wilt, the little leaf near the stem being dry, and the bottom side being white . . .
But how can I know for sure? Here’s how. This is something I’ve wanted to try but have been too chicken.
I took a short knife and cut a trap door in the watermelon. Then, careful not to punch the plug into the melon, I eased it out.
And, this looks promising!
It’s ripe! Of course I had to taste it — I ate it right there.
My idea for in case the watermelon was not ripe was to put the plug back in and patch it up with breathable plastic medical tape. I taped it up anyway because I didn’t want it to leak watermelon juice all over the living room floor if I happened to turn it the wrong way as I brought it inside. This was one heavy fruit — 24.4 pounds, more than 10 kilograms.
This baby dwarfs my biggest glass bowl. I put half of it in the refrigerator without any processing. I wanted to bring it to my neighbors immediately, but I couldn’t get through by phone and it was already late. I ate a good bit of that wedge, and the rest I cut up into cubes. And that’s where the story ends. Watermelon, anyone?
Here is my first attempt at tracking an entire season’s worth of pictures of a single crop. I thought about before and after pictures, but there were so many during pictures, this seemed a better way to do it. This season was a little unusual in that I planted on time or maybe a little early and then we had a spate of cool/cold rainy weather, so the beans did not sprout in the usual 14 day timeframe. They took almost a month to sprout, so long that I was about to sow more seeds. But they caught up. Had I not neglected them because of the heat and humidity, I could probably still be harvesting young beans even now.
March 31 — Preparing the bed
Center bed, now tucked in, and back bed partly filled
April 16 — Sowing the seeds
May 23 — after a rainy cold April, beans finally sprouting
June 9 — beans are flowering
June 17 — first harvest of green beans
Etc., through July . . .
Into August, when the effects of heat, lack of rain, and gardener neglect set in . . .
Until finally, the weather turns, a storm is predicted, and it seems better to cut my losses and harvest immediately rather than risk soggy beans that won’t dry out.
September 3 — cutting down the bean stalks
The next phase is to pick out the edible green beans and let the others dry out. Then at some point later this fall or over the winter, I’ll spread out a sheet (to catch all the papery husks) and shell the mature beans. Then I’ll cook ’em up and see what they taste like.
I don’t have a dehydrator, so I lined a baking pan with baking paper (not wax paper, I guess it is also called parchment paper) and put them in an oven overnight at the lowest temp — mine starts at 170 degrees. They were definitely dry by morning. As suggested, I put the dried tomatoes in a canning jar and am storing them in a dark stairwell pantry-like place.
Yesterday’s garden surprise was this scene:
A Red-Spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) sucking the juices of a fallen Brandywine Pink tomato.
Another nice summer day. I opened all the windows and started processing tomatoes. My hope is to find ways of preparing them with minimal cooking and preparation time (not to mention clean-up).
The first recipe I tried was tomato salsa, and it was/is a hit.
I started from this recipe: http://www.popsugar.com/food/Easy-Tomato-Salsa-Recipe-3829048 and made the following adjustments:
- Instead of four large tomatoes, I used three ginormous tomatoes (all Cherokee Purple).
- Instead of the juice of one lime, I used the juice of half a lime.
- I used a little less cumin.
- Did not add any salt.
- Instead of cilantro, I used parsley, about six leafy sprigs, chopped.
- Instead of a small white onion, I used about a third of a cup of diced Vidalia onion (a sweet onion — maybe that’s what was intended).
That maybe sounds like a lot of substitutions, but really it’s not much. I followed the other instructions.
After processing, because the tomatoes were so juicy, I strained some liquid out (which I drank!), and I also added more chopped sweet onion to make the salsa chunkier and crunchier.
It’s really good. Even my mom likes it (and, like Mikey, she hates everything). I will definitely be making this salsa again.
Next time I’ll use more than one jalapeno, or some combination of hot peppers to make it a little spicier. I might also try pureeing the peppers, spices, garlic, and herbs with a cup of tomatoes in the food processor first, and then add in the rest of the tomatoes, the lime juice, and the onions. Maybe also add in some diced bell pepper along with onions for more flavor and crunch. Also, I have to try it with different kinds of tomatoes.
A glorious day. For weeding. And vacuuming out the car. Hey, whatever gets you outside!
I focused on the imminent flowering of many mystery weeds. Like these:
I don’t know what they are, but the larger ones are easily five feet tall with one-inch stems. The stems are thick-walled and rigid, but hollow, and this plant does not ooze sticky milk when you cut the stem. It’s not in my European weed atlas (the only one I have). I have no idea what it is. But with all these buds, it sure looks dangerous.
Also pulled a bunch of spiny plants and plants that promise/threaten dandelion-type flowers. Here are two examples:
With a few nights of rain, everything is growing again. I picked another dozen tomatoes, a small bell pepper, and a couple of zucchini.
This has become more of a trophy blog than a garden blog. Or perhaps a garden trophy blog. I’ve been focusing on the successes lately, but believe me, there have been failures as well. Mainly failures of omission or dereliction, that is, not getting to things soon enough. Like not netting the hazelnuts and ceding them all to the squirrels. Here are a few in pictures.
Letting weeds get away from me is the biggest problem. But not getting outside every day to harvest is another. Not dispatching the mushroom soil in a timely manner is resulting in some very interesting new plants, and I think I will regret letting these flower for so long.
Other problems this year include pests in the broccoli and cauliflower, mildew in the squash, overcrowding the beans, and giving up on pinching the tomatoes back. But these are annual, or should I say, perennial, problems. With me, at least.
Today, however, my biggest problem is what to do with all the bounty?