August Garden Tour

August 10, 2009 at 9:19 am

Brad Moldofsky

We’ve eaten the first two albino cucumbers off the vine. They were smaller than the green variety, but a number of squirrels have been spotted in the vicinity and we decided to preemptively enjoy the cukes before anyone else could.

I keep reading about potato (and now tomato) blight. 19th century Ireland comes to mind as a nasty fungus makes its way eastward, turning subterranean spuds into mush before harvest time. I’ve found a mushy one or two, but the rest of the crop has been spared so far, and the majority of taters have come out tasting just fine. The quantity and size, though, have been disappointing. Each of these yard-long stalks yields only two or three small- to medium-sized red or yellow potatoes. But they’re delicious and the kids really enjoy digging and eating them.

The bean plants have a stranger growing among them. At first we thought it was zucchini or squash. I was eating the blossoms straight off the vine (bland but juicy), and we set up a trellis to let it climb. Now, however, we think it’s a volunteer watermelon leftover from a failed experiment three or four years ago. The fruits are round and growing bigger daily. Right now the biggest is six inches in diameter, and I’m concerned that although it is held in place by a thick tether, eventually its weight might cause it to drop off on its own onto the eggplant.

The eggplant, I’m happy to say, survived the crowding by the bean leaves that I assumed would kill it. But the eggplant leaves are large and robust, and the recent heat seems to have done it much good.

The wax beans themselves are producing voluminously. Well hidden by their leaves, a few of the yellow pods seem to escape detection each time I harvest, and continue to get fatter and longer. The bigger they get, the better they taste. They also develop a sticky, waxy coating (hence the name).

Just to see what would happen, I picked beans, basil hot peppers and sautéed them together without following any sort of recipe. While the beans were not much improved by the light frying in olive oil, the hot peppers—normally bitter without much flavor—tasted great. The frying brought out an intense sweetness in both the peppers and the basil. The end result reminded me of some Thai food I’ve eaten, except without any sauce. Except for the olive oil, every morsel had been growing in my backyard just minutes before.

The beans are also great roasted with potatoes, boiled or steamed—as long as they’re removed just at the point where tender turns to soggy.

I seem to have picked all the peppers, and while the half dozen plants look a healthy green, no fruits have developed in a few weeks. The tomatoes are growing bigger but remain dark green and nowhere ready to pick. Some of the tomato leaves—as well as several other plants, are turning a bit yellow. There are a lot of reasons for this. One of them might be nutrient leaching caused by overwatering. My plan is to side dress some of them—add compost after the initial planting—and see if that helps restore balance.

The collards and broccoli, meanwhile, resist my attempts to kill them. I had planned to make way to transplant tomatoes and peppers from their pots into the Square Foot Gardens, but the broccoli won’t die. Every time I rip the last heads and leaves off, they keep coming back. And they still taste good, so I’m not prepared to rip the plants out by the roots yet. The collards, too, keep growing back quickly. The broccoli florets, though, have quickly been blooming into yellow flowers. This is, I’ve learned, a result of warm soil. However, Kim pan fried a batch of these yellow-headed broccoli stems in a sort of tempura batter, and the result was pretty good. So flower away, broccoli. Let’s see who gives up first: you or me.