Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gardeners' Holidays 2014: Summer Cornucopia

Last year, we celebrated the summer solstice as Salad Days, with fresh lettuce from our garden. This year, however, our lettuce crop has been a bit of a disappointment. Our first planting of Tom Thumb Baby Bibb lettuce didn't come up at all, and the later plantings haven't yet produced any heads large enough to eat. The Summer Lettuce Mix we got from Fedco has been a bit more productive, but we didn't plant as much of it, so we haven't got very much in the garden that's ready to eat. The snow peas are producing, but like last year's, they're coming in just a few at a time—not enough to eat all by themselves. And the asparagus has petered out almost completely.

Fortunately, our Gardeners' Holiday wasn't a complete bust, thanks to a coworker of Brian's who went on vacation and offered us her CSA share for the week. We picked up the box this morning and found a cornucopia of fresh produce: a pint of blueberries, a large head of lettuce, a bunch of beets complete with greens, some fresh green beans, a few garlic stems, and a big bunch of some sort of dark, flat leaves that we couldn't exactly identify. Kale? Chard? Something that we don't grow ourselves, at any rate.

Since they were definitely leafy greens, however, it stood to reason that they'd work in place of other leafy greens in the recipes we knew. So Brian just substituted them for the spinach in Garlic, Chick-pea and Spinach Soup (the same recipe he adapted for this month's Recipe of the Month). These large greens, whatever they were, didn't cook down nearly as much as the spinach generally does, resulting in a soup that was much greener to look at, but its taste was more or less unchanged. By the time you add in all those other flavors—chick peas, cumin, tahini—the spinach doesn't really dominate the recipe. And, since our veggie bin was full to bursting with all this bounty and we had to use some of it up to make room, he went ahead and used the garlic stems in the soup as well, in place of the usual garlic cloves. With a salad on the side, we had three different kinds of seasonal produce in one meal.

So we enjoyed our share (or rather, Brian's coworker's share) of fresh summer produce today, but none of it was actually from our garden. Fortunately, dessert will provide a remedy for that. Brian volunteered to bake a pie for some visitors they're having tomorrow at his workplace, and since we had plenty of rhubarb, he went ahead and made an extra little pie for us to enjoy tonight. The large pie actually doesn't contain any of our own home-grown rhubarb; it's made from the last of the bunch we picked up at the Hopewell yard sales in 2013 and have had stashed in our freezer for the past year. In the smaller pie, however, he supplemented that frozen rhubarb with a little bit of our own, so we get to enjoy at least a little taste of home-grown produce for our solstice feast.

Fortunately, several other plants in our garden, including the green beans and zucchini, are looking very green and healthy, showing promise of good production. So by the time we get to our next Gardeners' Holiday, in August, we should be able to celebrate with our own home-grown produce once again.
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