Friday, July 15, 2011
I've been traveling a great deal for the last couple of months to photograph gardens for the new book I'm working on, but have had a blissful week on the farm this past week before I take off again, and just in time to really start reaping the benefits of all the wonderful things I planted in the vegetable, herb, and fruits gardens in the spring. Surely, we've been harvesting lettuces and early crops like beets, Asian greens, peas, and radishes for months, but right now is when the gardens truly start kicking in.
The tomatoes are just starting and yesterday I harvested two each of Great White, Caspian Pink, and Yellow Mortgage Lifter, with the first Monomakh's Hat (a superb Russian Bull's Heart variety) just about ripe on the vine. Not only are each of these heirloom varieties beyond tasty, but their colors are wonderfully vibrant, especially when tossed together in a salad (why not give feta and mint a try instead of the usual mozzarella and basil?). All I need is a nice verdant type like Green Zebra to complete my edible Solanum spectrum!
My kales are looking absolutely glorious right now. I planted two favorite types: Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch and Dinosaur or Lacinato (also called "Tuscan Palm Tree). To me, kales are tremendously undervalued as a food plant as they are usually harvestable even out of the snow and, like all Brassicas, are packed with vitamins. I love them sautéed with garlic, pancetta and olive oil until nicely wilted, but I've recently discovered kale chips, which make a wonderful hors d'oeuvres: toss leaves with salt and olive oil, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with grated parmesano, and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, until totally dehydrated and crisp.
We pulled up the onions this morning (one yellow sweet and one red variety) as their tops had collapsed and turned brown, signaling harvestability. We set up one of our big wire grid nursery tables out in the garden and have spread the harvested onions on it to cure for a bit before we store them. I'm looking forward to some rich and warming French onion soup come fall -- is there anything easier or more soul-satisfying? The potatoes in the main garden are nearing readiness, too (waiting for their tops to collapse...) and, when the time comes, we'll spread them out on the grid table to cure as well.
Our four kinds of basil are also currently in full flush -- so much so that I need to trim the flower heads practically daily in order to keep them from going to seed. As the chives are planted right next door, I think I'll whip up some tasty green sauce to slather on meat or vegetables (process with garlic, olive oil, pitted green olives, and a tin of anchovies). And, as we have just harvested a bumper crop of cucumbers, I think I'll also slice up a big batch of cucumber salad with the chives and lemon basil: peel, seed, and slice the cucumbers, salt them in a colander for about an hour, rinse, and toss with olive oil, rice vinegar, s&p, and the chopped herbs. A crunchy delight!
The second flush of strawberries (Tristar) had also started, which is a very happy thing, and the Magnolia Vine's incredibly nutritious berries are just beginning to color up (wonderful to dry and make tea), also a very winning idea, but the big fruit excitement right now is our first crop of the hardy kiwi Issai four years from planting. They are still ripening but what a horticultural coup to be able to enjoy bite-size, fuzzless kiwis right off the vine as handily as plucking a grape (and self fertile and hardy to zone 4!).
And, still, so much left to come! The visual triumph of the Asian long beans (Yard Long White Snake and Red Noodle)... eggplants Rosa Bianca and Thai Green... bush beans Beurre de Rocquencourt and Royal Burgundy Pod, peppers hot and sweet (Purple Cayenne, Peach Habanero, Jimmy Nardello), summer squash Eightball... and loads more tomatoes! Ah, nature is bountiful and life is good!