Sept. Garden Update

September 9, 2009 at 7:59 am

Brad Moldofsky

As well as being one of the nicest people you can meet, Shelly Herman delivers a great box of local produce. The heavy order of greens from Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks included the most enormous and juiciest green peppers I’ve ever seen (shown below in comparison to an avocado, it’s mild enough for my wife to enjoy, but sweet enough for my taste) as well as some Chinese eggplant, Chinese broccoli and yukina savoy parsley that I stir fried in some sesame oil. So many vegetables at once that I bartered some with a friend in exchange for leftover tomatoes from their CSA share.

green pepper with avocado

I’m still unsure what sort of melons are growing in my garden. As you can imagine, the Internet can be less than helpful when searching the word “melon,” and without knowing what sort of melon it is (see below), I can’t tell when it’s ripe. I’ve been thumping it regularly, and it’s still solid inside. Once you pick a melon, it stops ripening. So with only two available, I’m not about to experiment with pulling it from the vine. The vine, however, is wilting just about everywhere. And when the last leaf turns brown, I may have to pull the melons no matter what. Perhaps we’ll simply carve them out for Halloween—if they can last that long.

what is this melon

The beefsteak tomatoes have begun splitting. Shallow crevasses opened up from the stem and have healed over, leaving unsightly scars. To make it worse, I’ve been picking them while slightly green to keep them from the squirrels and chipmunks who take a single bite or leave them half eaten in the alley. And they don’t taste that great, either. The sight of a fissure-laden unripe tomato on my kitchen counter reminds me how well my collard greens and broccoli have done this summer.

And they have done very well. As the peppers, tomatoes and eggplant suffered in the unseasonal August weather, these diehards kept producing leaves and flowers faster than I could consume them.
Happily, the past week of sunshine has sparked a renaissance in the eggplant, which blossomed for the first time. A few hot peppers are growing, and more cherry tomatoes are popping up where I’d lost hope. The best part is that while the bean and melon leaves are shrinking and dying back, the eggplant leaves that share the plot are spreading and growing greener. I had not planned this seasonal baton transfer, but watching it in action is a glorious thing. While the peas I threw in the garden by the compost bin never came up, a recent planting of lettuce is germinating there. Strangely, the peas I planted in the Square Foot Garden in the same spot as some transplanted peppers are doing well and using the peppers as climbing trellises. So whichever way the weather turns, I feel I’m covered.

At an impromptu stop at the Huntley farmer’s Market, I met Jamlady Bev Alfeld, author of Pickles to Relish and rare-fruit evangelist. The market featured a gazebo bandstand with a folk duo playing, as well as country crafts and eggplant the size of a newborn baby.

Any anxiety I might have had earlier this year about my garden paying for itself is gone. I am confident it’s not going to happen, so I’m not worried about it anymore. I am positive, though, that I could break even next year and the land would begin paying for itself—except we’re selling the house, so that won’t happen either. The bigger problem is my family’s eating habits. I’m the only one who enjoys the wax beans and hot peppers. While I claim to have grown three and a half days’ worth of food for four people so far, the math is subjective and complex. I’ve eaten a few dozen meals so far made from little more than what came from my garden, a few eggs and some cooking oil.

Expenses: $250
Benefits: $120
Days family could survive off our crops: 3.5