Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Varied Diet

On Monday, I brought in a cucumber and some green beans.

On Tuesday, there were a couple of zucchini to go with the green beans and cucumbers. The little white cuke is the first of the North Carolina picklers. There weren't any more of those to bring in today, but the plants have a lot of little baby cukes that will be ready in a few days.

This morning, there were more green beans, cucumbers, and another zucchini.

Tomorrow, there will be more of the same. (Amazingly, all the green beans so far are from a patch that is just two feet deep and four and a half feet long.)

Usually, when people engage me in conversation about what our garden does for us, I don't talk about it in terms of providing all our food, or even all our vegetables. There are quite a few garden beds out in my front yard, but the actual growing space for veggies that these provide is less than 500 square feet. It would take a lot more than that to feed my family for the year!

Instead, I think of the garden as a source of vitamins, minerals, and variety in our diets. These last several days don't look especially varied, but the garden also provides herbs that can make two meals composed of nearly the same basic ingredients taste different.

The odd times when only one or two veggies are coming into the kitchen don't tend to last very long, and I don't think I've ever had too much zucchini; too many pests here in the South love it too, and the plants usually die before I get too much squash. If there ever is too much of one crop, it can be frozen/dehydrated/canned for later, to become an out-of-season treat.

Also, there is the chard. The small planting means it doesn't come to the kitchen every day, just every now and then. The plant on the right is yet-to-be-harvested; the one in the middle, that is just nubs, went mostly into a pot of lentil soup on Sunday while part of it went into a stir-fry last night. The last few leaves will go into a fried potatoes-and-veggies meal with cheese melted on top tonight. The one on the far left was harvested a week or so ago, and it is regrowing.

If all goes as planned, we can harvest a bundle of chard nearly every week all summer long from the four plants. I had planted five, but something (I suspect a dog) smashed one plant early on, and I never replaced it. Since we are down to just four plants, I might have a week without chard after that fourth plant is harvested, waiting for the first one to complete its regrowth.

We'll have peppers soon, too. Most of the 15 plants on "pepper alley" are sporting little peppers.

We've also had raspberries, but those get eaten before I can even think about bringing out the camera, and a few blueberries have begun to turn blue each day. In less than a week, if the birds are willing to share, we should have enough blueberries to not buy any fruit at the store for awhile. Joe and I have been out picking wild blackberries to put on ice cream and our morning granola (even though, when I made it, I added almost the last of last year's dehydrated blueberries).

The tomato plants finally all have green tomatoes on them, but I don't expect to eat the first ripe tomato until the second week in July. My plants got a late start this year.

For those who are keeping track, the large heads of Slobolt lettuce have turned bitter. We wanted some lettuce for sandwiches over the weekend, and I went out to check the leaves. I brought one back to Joe who popped it into his mouth and nearly immediately made what looked a lot like the "Mr. Yuck" face that goes on bottles of dangerous chemicals! He was raised Catholic, but his family has always celebrated Passover, and he said that the lettuce reminded him of whatever it was that his Mom found to use as the bitter herb at the Seder meal.

The smallest Slobolt, which has only about five leaves, all smaller than six inches high, is still not bitter, but I don't know how long that situation will last. I might just put it on a sandwich later this week, and call it the end of the lettuce season.

I hope all the other gardens out there are growing well!


  1. We've gotten a handful of beans and cherry tomatoes and one cucumber and one bell pepper so far. Oh, and plenty of chard - we have a double row of plants. I think we have more peppers, beans and cukes ready. I've been out picking wild blackberries twice and still have most of a cobbler in the fridge. I can't believe more people don't pick their own blackberries!

  2. Owlfan,

    Sounds like your garden is off to a good start! I don't always get the right amounts of each crop planted for my family, but I think that this summer I have come pretty close. I've had enough of several crops to share some with friends, and we haven't had too little of anything except the fruits (I would need a whole field of canes to have what I think is enough raspberries).

    I also am surprised that more people don't go out to pick the blackberries. Not sure how they can pass up so much free, delicious food! A few scratches and a tick or two seem like an acceptable trade for a good cobbler and a batch of jam.


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