Saturday, June 22, 2013

Gardeners' holidays: Salad Days

I've decided to dub the summer solstice on my gardeners' calendar "Salad Days," because our garden is currently at the peak of its lettuce production. Just take a look at these beauties. The little curly ones are Tom Thumb Bibb lettuce, and the larger ones are a new variety I tried this year called Winter Density. It was billed as a cross beween a green leaf lettuce and a romaine, and it's not supposed to bolt in hot weather the way other lettuces do. Actually, I now realize that I could have made this my Veggie of the Month, since it's a variety I haven't tried before (although then I wouldn't have had the chance to sample that yummy Gaya melon).

Unfortunately, it turns out that although the Winter Density lettuce is very healthy and productive in our garden, I don't actually care for it all that much. It has a lot of that distinctive bitter flavor that I dislike in romaine, while I was hoping it might be closer to the mild flavor of green leaf lettuce, which I do like. So although it's growing well, I probably won't bother with it next year. In the meantime, I'm using it up by mixing it in with the tender Boston-type lettuce, which I do like, so that the flavor is less bothersome.

Our snow peas are also hitting their stride, as you can see here. Unfortunately, since some of the plants were late to come up (actually, the original seeds didn't come up at all, so we quickly sowed some more), we haven't been able to harvest enough peas at once to make a stand-alone veggie side dish out of them. So instead, we've been picking eight or ten at a time and using them as ingredients in other dishes, like stir fries and Pad Thai. Brian has even taken to cutting up a few at a time and mixing them into our salads. So we celebrated Salad Days last night with a couple of bowls of mixed greens, snow peas, sun-dried tomatoes, and sunflower seeds as an accompaniment to our potato kugel and applesauce.

And in addition to what we're harvesting right now, we can look ahead to more good things on the horizon. Our Sun Gold tomato plants, which are generally the earliest to produce, have already developed tiny green tomatoes, the first of which should ripen by early July. And one of our two zucchini plants has already produces two wee little squashlings, just barely visible in the photo, which will probably be ready to pick within a week. (So far, my yellow cup traps haven't actually captured any vine borer moths, but we can still hope that the foil collars on the stems will keep them off the plants.) So for us, the next holiday in the gardening calendar—August 1, which was traditionally Lammas, or "loaf mass," to celebrate the first harvest of grain—will instead be Squash Mass, or perhaps even Tomato Mass.

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