Keeping Up with the Neighbors

September 15, 2012 at 9:54 am

All of us at the new house is pleased with the returns from the garden this year, although our Ukrainian neighbors have had a fantastic harvest. Since both gardens are close to each other, it’s hard not to make the comparison. The neighbor family’s grandmother lives with them and her gardening skills are remarkable. Of course, she spends 6 hours a day in the backyard, but still. Her cucumbers had nicely climbed up the tripods she’d built for them. Our cucumbers have been plump and sweet but not as bountiful as those of the Ukranian “baba” next door.

Some chives, peapods and fingerling potatoes

Her pepper plants were showing full, round peppers while mine were just barely poking out flowers. We get along great with the neighbors, and our kids play together, so they’ve been offering us excess produce out of pity for our paltry haul. In return, I’ve given them a few anemic squash and cabbage, which I think they’ve accepted also out of pity.

However, what we lack in tomato quantity, we’ve made up for in variety, as you can see from the photo. The yellow tomatoes are peachy and very sweet. Not acidic at all, and they even have a little fuzz like a peach. However, I suspect that bees have been cross-pollenating the peach tomatoes with other varieties and radically changed the resulting fruit so that the skins became smooth and shiny like traditional tomatoes. So while we don’t have enough tomatoes to justify home canning, we can walk through the garden and taste five or six different types at a time.

These are just some of the different tomato varieties we grew this year.

Brussels sprouts, however, are another story. By harvesting a few handfuls per meal, we’ve been able to keep these things growing and producing, as the heads keep getting larger. The bottom-most leaves continue to wilt and turn yellow. I pick them off and harvest the heads and, since the kids won’t eat them, we’ve had plenty to spare. Randy, of Providence Farms, has a booth at the Morton Grove Farmers’ Market and suggested I pinch the top leaves off the plants to keep them from growing taller and force more energy into enlarging the uppermost sprouts. I have done this and should see results in a few weeks.

Some peach tomatoes sit among a Brussels sprout harvest.

Speaking of the Morton Grove Farmers’ Market, next Saturday (September 22) is our annual pie contest. It is open to all amateur bakers, and TheLocalBeet’s own Rob Gard

A single beet

One of many delicious beets from our garden. The greens were more filling than the bodies.

ner will be one of the judges. So we need to remind him not to eat breakfast that morning. For details, check out If you’ve ever had an urge to see how your freshly baked pies stand against others, come join the contest. First prize is $50 in Market bucks. Hope to see you there.