Sunday, June 19, 2016

Gardeners' Holidays 2016: Cornucopia

We've had an odd sort of spring this year. In February and March, it was so unseasonably mild it felt like spring had come way ahead of schedule. Then in April and early May, it suddenly got so chilly again it felt like we'd plunged back into winter, and in late May and early June it switched gears and turned to summer all at once. These odd temperature shifts have apparently agreed with some of our garden crops and disagreed with others. Our plum trees and cherry bushes, sadly, have produced virtually nothing; the few tiny plums I found on the trees were brown and withered, apparently victims of brown rot. (I cleared away all the mummified fruit I could find to keep it from spreading, and we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed that we'll have normal weather and a normal crop next year.) And our basil crop is looking a bit seared, although we're hoping we can perk it up by giving it plenty of water.

Our lettuce, on the other hand, is producing like never before. We currently have four different varieties out in the garden:
  1. Winter Marvel, a winter variety we planted last year, which gave us nothing at the time and then popped up unexpectedly in April.
  2. Bronze Mignonette, a butterhead variety we planted for the first time this April. I used our "carpet sowing" method and got great results, but unfortunately I planted the seeds so thickly that I ran out, so there wasn't enough to fill the three squares we'd set aside for it.
  3. Tom Thumb, another butterhead type that we'd grown in the past. We had some seeds left in the packet, so I planted them to fill in the rest of the space allotted for the Bronze Mignonette.
  4. Summer mix, a mixture of heat-tolerant varieties that we started in May so we'd still have some lettuce after the cool-season ones had all bolted. But so far, despite the hot weather, that hasn't happened.
So basically, we are just rolling in lettuce, and we've been eating green salads with just about every meal. I'm sure that's very good for us, but I have to admit we're getting a little tired of it. So I'm keeping an eager eye on our other veggies to see when we might be able to start harvesting them for a little varieties. The bean and pepper plants have blossoms on them, but no fruits yet; a couple of the tomato plants have little green globes, but they probably won't ripen for a few weeks. But the zucchini plants already have their first tiny squash, which could well be big enough to harvest within a week or so, and our sugar snap peas have already started producing. So far we've had only a few pods at a time, but that's enough to throw into a stir fry or Pad Thai, as well as adding a bit of crunch to our endless stream of salads.

A couple of crops are already played out for the year. The asparagus has now gone completely to fern, without ever having yielded enough at once for a single good recipe, and the arugula, after providing us with a couple of batches of pasta, has gone to flower. Every year, I plan to catch it right before it bolts and turn it all into a big batch of pesto, and every year it gets the jump on me. So the best I can do with it at this point is get some use out of the flowers, displaying them in our new cat-safe vase alongside some purple sage blossoms.

So tonight, we're celebrating the summer cornucopia with (what else) green salads, with a few pea pods thrown in for crunch and flavor. These will accompany a main dish of free-range turkey franks cooked on the grill, since the weather is plenty warm for it. And for dessert, we'll have a rhubarb crisp, because our rhubarb is one crop we can always count on to keep producing from the first thaw right through to the first freeze.

Summer is icumen in; lettuce eat!
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