Archive for the 'Vegetables' Category

Guest post: A garden out of control

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Chase Ledebur, my cousin Kären’s son. Chase has been gardening this summer for the first time at home, and I wanted you to hear from this wonderful and talented 12-year-old in his very own words.

Hi, I’m Chase – welcome to my garden. This is the first vegetable garden I’ve had at home. At school I was a part of planting a community garden, but it is a flower garden.

My Mom and I built the raised bed together and then planted 4 varieties of tomatoes, summer squash, three kinds of peppers, zucchini, Japanese eggplant, basil and oregano.

I have really enjoyed watching the plants grow and bear fruit. At first it started out small, but it’s now out of control. It’s so out of control that we had to cut back all our plants, stake some of them, and we are constantly harvesting all of our vegetables.

I love the whole process. Next year I think we’ll plant less, or maybe we’ll add another bed.

Photography shouldn’t distract from weeding

On my way out to Oakland from Iowa, I made a stop in Grand Junction, Colorado, at my cousin’s house. She and her son Chase had planted their first vegetable garden in a beautiful raised bed off one side of the house. Tomatoes, squash, basil, oregano – the garden was still filled with seedlings when I got there, but had the promise of an amazing summer of production.

Chase gave me a tour of the garden before I headed out toward Salt Lake City, where I had a dinner planned with Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen, and I started shooting pictures almost as soon as I got out there. Chase put up with my paparazzi-esque behavior while he weeded the garden, but only did so for so long.

“Genie,” he said, looking up at me with a pointed look. “You really could stop taking those pictures and start helping me with the weeding.”

Well, I did help. A bit. And just recently, I asked my cousin if Chase might be interested in giving my readers an update on how the garden is doing, now that the summer season is in high gear and veggies are popping out all over. As it turned out, he was interested, so stay tuned – on Wednesday, I’ll be turning the floor over to Chase, who is more than just an excellent gardener – he’s a fantastic kid!

The tomato bed

Tomatoes in the Victory Garden

Tomatoes in the Victory Garden

Bed 10A. That’s the location, on the official Victory Garden Map, of the tomato plants. During my first morning as a volunteer, I kept wandering over there, checking out the tiny yellow blossoms, eyeing the green tomatoes weighing down the branches, and admiring the basil and Italian parsley companion-planted throughout the bed.

Then I noticed suckers growing from the stem junctures on some of the tomato plants, and reached down to pick one. Even in the chilly mist, there was no mistaking the smell that wafted up. That green, tomato-plant smell that I love so much? Turns out it’s just as good even when the garden isn’t really yours and you aren’t even going to get to eat any of the tomatoes.

I’m already looking forward to Saturday, when I might just stand by Bed 10A for as much of the day as the Garden Educator on duty will let me. I don’t think I’m quite ready to talk to the plants, but I’m definitely going to be looking for suckers to pluck.

Heck. If no one’s looking, I might just have to hug one of the plants. Trust me. In that neighborhood? That kind of behavior wouldn’t even come close to making me stand out in the crowd.

Farewell to Sher

I would really rather not be writing this post.

I would really rather not have eaten this particular meal at this particular time.

I would prefer to have stumbled across it, like so many other recipes posted by food bloggers I know and enjoy, and would prefer to have just made it whenever, unnoticed. I would prefer not to have been thinking about what I was going to way when I wrote it up.

Most of us in the food blogging community know this already: last Sunday morning, very suddenly, Sher of What Did You Eat? died of a heart attack.

Sher’s one of the bloggers I had not met. But I’d been reading her for awhile now, connected to her via Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, and because I have a friend who lives in Davis, I always felt like I could visualize where she lived as I read about her life.

And now she’s gone, and that’s left me with a lot to think about. She’s the first blogger in my regular reading to fall away, not because she abandoned her blog, but because life abandoned her. It breaks my heart, and I find myself thinking about the other food bloggers I know, the other people in this community of technologically-minded women and men who enrich my life so very much, and how they are not just glimmers on the screen to me. They are my peers, my friends, my compatriots. Any one of them gone leaves a hole.

Sher's stuffed mushrooms

Sher's stuffed mushrooms

My mother called while I was cooking up Sher’s Poblano and Cheddar-Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms last night. As I talked, I dried the spinach, and my salad spinner is a noisy thing. “What are you doing?” she asked.

I explained. “She was only 60,” I said. “I’m not very joyful about preparing this meal.”

The event: Remember Sher through her recipes. Kalyn suspended Weekend Herb Blogging in Sher’s honor, and asked those of us who take part in an event to take part in this one, organized by Mary, the breadchick, instead.

I spent some time browsing Sher’s archives, looking for something that spoke to me. This recipe did, partially because I love stuffed mushrooms, partially because it featured cilantro, an herb that, I’ll admit, I tolerate, but that I know Kalyn loves. And Kalyn and Sher were such good friends that it seemed appropriate.

I can tell you this: the “green taste” that Sher describes? It really shines in this dish. There’s no other real way to write about it, so I’m going to leave it in Sher’s hands. And the recipe is amazing. I do wish I had made more of it. I will make it again, to be sure. I’ll even keep the cilantro in there—I really enjoyed the recipe as Sher posted it.

But I hope to never make it again with as heavy a heart. To Sher’s family, I wish you consolation in your grief. To Kalyn, I wish you consolation as well, but I thank you for organizing this.

And to Sher, thank you. Thank you for this recipe, thank you for the other recipes that folks will have chosen and prepared in your honor this weekend, and thank you for your joyful writing. Know that we miss you.

Mind over to-matter

Do not think for a second that I’m going to complain about the weather in California. I’m not. By any stretch of the imagination. No way, no day.

I love the weather in California. But I will say this: It doesn’t feel like tomato weather.

It’s chilly in the mornings here, and on the Fourth of July, I wore jeans and a sweater. “I’m used to sweating on the Fourth, not wearing a sweater,” I told a friend recently.

And so, as stories about tomatoes – gardeners who are tasting their first home-grown of the season, farmers’ market aficionados purchasing the perfect heirlooms, chefs adding them to their menus – proliferate around me, I find myself not having a craving for my absolute favorite vegetable-but-really-fruit.  It’s not that I don’t love them, it’s that the weather cues I’m getting aren’t leading me to BLTs and panzanella and gazpacho. In fact, a little over a week ago, I bought some tomatoes at a local farmers’ market myself, but a little voice kept saying to me, “It’s too cold. They MUST be out of a greenhouse.”

Maybe they were, but they were downright tasty, which is why I have to start thinking much differently before I blink and have to wait until 2009 for the good stuff. There’s slow-roasting to do, and sauce to make. Even if I’m living in California and not Iowa, I understand the truth of it: if I want to take fresh tomatoes and turn them into sauce for the colder months (OK, those months won’t be that much colder, but still…), I have to start soon, or I’m going to be relegated to the jarred stuff.

My body is not calibrated to the combination of the vegetables of the season and this weather. But it’s time for mind over matter. Or, should I say, mind over to-matter?

A gardening season potentially washed away

One of the things that has been most strange to me about the Flood of 2008 coverage is that I actually recognize the landmarks. In the past, most of my flood experience has been virtual – I’ve watched the news and sympathized, even sent money for relief, but never actually recognized the locations involved. It’s a completely different experience, the recognition something akin to seeing an ex-boyfriend on the street with a new girl. It’s the same sickening drop in the stomach, no matter how glad you may have been to leave him behind.

Now the floodwaters are being to recede, but that means the recovery is just beginning. And what a recovery it’s going to be. After all, floodwater is dirty-nasty-foul stuff. Oh, toxic sediment, thanks for stopping by (not that you were actually invited to the garden party).

Yeah, speaking of that garden party, I had never given a second of thought to what happens when your home garden floods until I read the Johnson County Extension’s list of warnings and admonitions. The basics? If you had raw sewage in your garden, don’t eat the food. In fact, quit growing any more food, because now you have contaminated dirt. For 90 days.

There are some other suggestions from the Extension: Get rid of leafy greens. Don’t eat your strawberries. Discard anything that was covered with water, even if it was a root vegetable like potatoes, carrots or garlic.

I realize I’m not there to work in my old garden, but when I read that advice (wise as it is), I felt that corresponding sickening drop in the stomach. As if the flooding wasn’t bad enough already, the thought of missing the entire growing season (because a 90-day growing ban would, for all intents and purposes, cause just that) is pretty horrifying.

Free Seedsavers plants available for gardeners who are rebuilding

Tomato seedlings of the kind you can get for free. FREE.On Wednesday, I got an email from Seed Savers Exchange—turns out, they have tomato and pepper plants left over from their spring sale, and while they’re too tall to ship anywhere, they’re perfectly healthy.

And they’re available, for free. Free. All you have to do is drive to Decorah, Iowa.

I realize this is a stretch of a drive for some folks, but I have to tell you…if I was one of those folks in a floodplain, and I needed to make sure I got my tomato fix before the end of the season, I’d be getting in my car, gas prices be damned. These are good, heirloom plants, you people of Iowa. For free.

Go and get ‘em. But call first, in case all the other people who got the email already beat you to it.

You can pick up the transplants at the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at 3074 North Winn Road, Decorah, Iowa. Call (563) 382-5990 before you go, just to make sure the trip is still worth it.

And another reminder. Small family farms. They need your help.


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All words and images (unless otherwise credited) on The Inadvertent Gardener are © 2006-2008 Eugenia E. Gratto. All rights reserved.

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