The Harvest Begins

June 23, 2009 at 8:23 am

Brad Moldofsky

I’m happy to say that the era of financial input into my garden has subsided and steady maintenance and harvesting has commenced. Cutting the first broccoli head off the plant, I removed the pinky-sized yellow flowers and munched on them as I walked the harvest to the kitchen. Mostly bland, but slightly broccoli-like in flavor, they have more of an aftertaste than a taste. Not offensive to eat, I could still taste the broccoli flavor on my own breath several hours later, and avoided close contact with co-workers. Still, the florets were delicious eaten raw and outstanding in an omelet with fresh, sautéed spinach.

The collard leaves, straining to escape the bounds of their cage, were next on the menu. First I gave a bulging bag away to a friend, then I sautéed a few leaves with onions and garlic. My mom and sister also adopted a heaping bag of spinach and collards.

The spinach omelets continue, although the plants are starting to bolt and I’m thinning them out and contemplating putting in some hot-weather plants (assuming the hot weather is coming). The uncovered spinach patch has been a slug smorgasbord for birds. Every time I pick spinach, they are hovering nearby, angry with me for stealing their yummy slugs. My two square-foot gardens, ironically, are more infested with slugs, perhaps because they are caged and keep out the birds.

Spinach, beans, and cauliflower, protected by fencing.

To celebrate Father’s Day, my family took me on a Science Chicago tour of the rooftop garden at Uncommon Ground near Devon and Clark. After hearing reminders from my wife as to how much I’ve spent building the garden, I was glad to hear restaurant owner Helen Cameron discuss the enormous investment she’s made to create the sustainable farm atop her Edgewater restaurant. Reinforcing the structural elements, building cedar raised beds, buying bee hives with Russian queens, solar panels, the expenses involved in organic certification, etc. By comparison, I’ve got a cheap hobby.

Several tomato and pepper plants have died, fallen over, or withered away to nothing. Partly it’s that the neighboring collard greens are blocking their sun. Partly it’s that there’s little sun to block, but the rain is keeping them waterlogged. I’ve got a few plants in reserve, so when the weather changes, the new recruits can fill in.

The cauliflower continues to spread its leaves, but no fruit has shown up. Same with the brussel sprouts, which are enjoying the photosynthesis without paying it forward to the farmer. The basil and parsley are doing well and the beans are out of control, growing broadly and upward. Another four broccoli heads are growing beautifully and several potato plants are flowering, which is a sign that harvest is only a few more weeks away.

My initial goal for the year was to be able to feed my family for at least two days’ worth of meals from the results of my garden. Had we eaten nothing but collard greens, spinach and a broccoli for two straight days I’d have a revolt on my hands. Still, in terms of actual calorie and nutrition, I’m going to estimate that I could have fed us all breakfast lunch and half of dinner. One more little harvest should put me even with last year’s results.

Estimated expenses: $250
Estimated financial benefits: $45