Road Trip and Garden Bounty
Sometimes you’ve got to drive far to eat local. A fantastic weekend getaway to the rolling hills of Jo Daviess County ended with a visit to a strip mall-side farmstand for the sweetest corn we’ve had in years. The boys still insisted on getting McDonald’s to eat on the car ride home, and I know better than to battle with irritable children and a spouse in an enclosed minivan. The boys were fascinated to watch 19th century re-enactors in Elizabeth, IL melt lead into bullets and prepare a beef stew cooked in a kettle over an open fire in the rebuilt Apple River Fort. As a bonus, the boys were able to hold a freshly laid egg from one of the fort’s chickens. This was also the first time we’ve ever been to a place remote and dark enough for the boys to see the Milky Way.
The trip also included an amazing dinner at downtown Galena’s One Eleven Main, where chef Ryan explained how he obtains locally raised produce, pastries, wines and meats, as well as barbecue sauces made a few doors down by this chef Ivo of the Galena Canning Company. I’d first tried his Galena Blasting Sauce at the store on a visit a decade ago, and possibly earlier than that when I attended the Albuquerque, NM Fiery Foods Show, where Ivo is a regular exhibitor.
Back in Cook County, we’ve been pulling tomatoes still slightly green from the uncovered garden. Something’s been nibbling on the ripe ones (the usual suspects: squirrels and chipmunks), and one of the boys swore he saw a rat in the street as well. As frustrated as I am, I was thrilled to see a hawk circling above the house, hopefully keeping my garden thieves at bay.
The bandits haven’t touched the exposed albino cucumbers, which have proven to be tender and delicious, although they grow less than half the length of conventional green ones. However, the cherry tomatoes that have grown protected in the Square Foot Garden managed to ripen themselves into a deep red while we were in Galena. And the taste made me sad that I’ve never bought anything so sweet. Candy sweet. If you wanted to market a dessert tomato, this would be it. I’ve never tasted a tomato quite like it. Sadly, there were only five fruits on the entire plant. This has not been a great summer for tomatoes. Lots of rain and not much sun or heat.
One of the potato plants that we’ve left alone all summer has produced some sizable spuds: four inches wide and very oval shaped. We left a few beans in the garden because we all just got tired of eating them. These I’m hoping to save this winter and plant in the spring—likely in a new house. The melons (which nobody can yet identify) continue to grow, although the leaves are dying off. I’m unclear if they still have some ripening to do or if the leaf death is a sign to harvest the fruit.
The basil and parsley continue to get taller and spread out and the broccoli has arisen again—phoenix-like—from the repeated cuttings I’ve performed. Surprisingly, the smaller side stalks on each plant have produced as much edible vegetables as the initial center head that I cut off many weeks ago. The collards are also remarkably resilient and my two enormous Brussels sprouts are holding their own, continuing to get taller and thicker in the stalk, while developing a few dozen little buds that will grow into mini-cabbages by harvest time.