Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Theater of the Absurd, II

Or, as I like to call it, The Garden’s Greatest Hits.

My original “Theater” entry was more about a sudden freakish volume of harvest. This one is just plain about the freaks.

It happens every year: Sometimes it’s a bell pepper that looks like Nixon, other times, it’s pole beans that twist themselves into letters of the alphabet. This is not supermarket produce bred for looks. I do regret not having taken a picture of that scrunched-in, wrinkled Buddy Hackett tomato, so I’ll just have to leave that one to your imagination.

Here is our beheaded frog at right. Some of my carrots forked, so I learned a lesson about manured soil. I thought enough time had elapsed between the winter amendment and seed sowing. Apparently not.

Moving on to our Canada Goose, this trombolina zucchini both entertained and fed the crowd.

This potato happened before planting. Yes, I draw on my food when so inspired. I sat this potato on my kitchen windowsill to start the sprouting, but once the face went on, he wasn’t going anywhere: I didn’t plant him. The sprouts were just too big, he got a little too old and wrinkled, and, well, I enjoyed his company.

This trombolina zucchini somehow escaped my view amidst the large leaves and heavy vines that cover the plants’ growing trellis. Once discovered, we decided to leave it on the vine, just to see what happened. Holy moly. The only reason I cut it down is because the bulbous seed end started touching the ground. That, and it was sucking the life and productivity out of the rest of the plant.

We didn’t eat this one, however. It got a little too husky.

So, that’s life on the farm this season. I still have a second round of butternut squash to pick, two types of potatoes to harvest soon and my celery root to pull from the ground at the end of the month. I’ll let you know if The Virgin Mary appears on any of them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Used the Beef

There’s blood on my hands, officially.

I used some of the beef. I made hamburgers topped with grilled Portobello mushrooms and Piave Vecchia cheese when my in-laws came over a short while ago. The meat was laced with garlic, generous amounts of salt and fresh pepper, plus finely chopped Italian parsley, then finely milled by hand and shaped into thick patties. The portobellos got a treatment of balsamic vinegar and chopped fresh rosemary after grilling. The Piave Vecchia, a hard cheese with a nice bite, turned out to be a very good substitute for the intended Taleggio, which I could not find. The burgers were served on lightly warmed buns.

No crumbs were left.

No juice went unsopped.

No pictures were taken.

No beef was eaten by the writer. But I had to come clean. I used it.

And I still have over two-thirds of it left, beating in my freezer like Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It’s a Potato! It’s a Potato!

It was time.

Turning fork in hand, I headed out to harvest some russet potatoes. The vines of one plant had been declining slowly in recent weeks, and I’d been itching to dig them up. Oddly, my daughter was not so into it, “Nah, I don’t feel like it.” But once the messiness began, she got into the game.

I found the first potato close to the surface, where I’d been peeking at it and checking on it for weeks. It was about the size of an elongated tennis ball. I gently but deeply forked a wide area around the plant and brought up another little guy. My daughter was not impressed. The next forking brought up a monster: it was HUGE! Even I couldn’t believe my eyes. That’s when she ran to the shed, retrieved her Dora the Explorer hand-cultivator and got really into it, digging through the pile of loose soil.

What she got was a rock – which, upon realizing it, she tossed immediately into a side bed. We both persisted. She found another rock. So did I. I forked some more. Things didn’t look promising.

“Mom, I found one!”

“Is it a rock or a potato?”

She moved her hand up and down as if to check the weight. She wiped off some dirt with her little nearly-five-year-old thumbs. Her eyes widened to the size of saucers.

“It’s a potato! It’s a potato!” she screamed and squealed, running in circles, waving the spud over her head. I started laughing my head off at her reaction. Senor Wences got spooked, bolted out from beneath the hostas and made it to the other side of the yard like a bat out of hell. And she’s dancing around in a loop, squealing with a potato. Yeah, life’s crazy in the backyard.

We dug and checked as if panning for gold until I felt safe no more were in the area. I left the other russet and the fingerling plant undisturbed, as their vines are still green and, I assume, nourishing their tubers.

So, in this instance, one-half a spud thudded into the ground on a whim yielded eight potatoes – nice return! Two are huge, almost the length of my daughter’s head. The others are of varying, medium size, with one tiny pepino. One of the larger ones was damaged during the harvest, so we used it in our Sunday dinner, cut lengthwise and grilled with olive oil, garlic and fresh rosemary. It was pillowy soft, sweet and whiter inside than any russet I’ve ever prepared. Since the potato was uncured, its skin came off almost completely with just a gentle scrubbing.

In fact, everything we ate Sunday night came from our garden, except for the chicken. I gave the bone-in chicken a super-herb treatment with parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme (nod to S&G there), steamed a huge quantity of the purple beans, made “summer on a plate” with tomatoes of all colors and lettuce-leaf basil, and prepared the giant potato with a buttercup squash, which was also excellent: very orange, sweet and quite pumpkin-y.

So, let’s update Eco-Nomics. It was a banner week and weekend for tomatoes, with over a dozen pounds by Friday and another five picked on Sunday. Until the potatoes came into our lives yesterday afternoon, I planned on writing their own entry. But for now, I’ll just let the pictures and poundage speak for themselves.

Russet Potatoes: 6 lbs @ $.89 = $5.34
Tomatoes: 17 lbs @ $.99 = $17
Tuscan Kale: $4
Haricot Verts: 1/2 lb @ $2.49/lb= $1.25
Purple Pole Beans: 1 lb (probably our last) @ $2=$2
Green Beans: 1/2 lb @ $.99/lb: $.50
Pattypan squash: 4 lbs @ $1.50: $6
Total: $36.09

Last Eco-nomics posting: $97.56
This harvest: $36.09
Ahead by a Total of: $123.65
Whole Foods” Pricing: $129.65 x 3.5 = $467.78

Friday, September 4, 2009

Still Clipping Along

Our nights have grown very cool, very fast, but the garden is still clipping along and still producing. The cooler weather will suit my celery root just fine, which I’ll harvest later this month or in October. The fragrant, bulbous root ends are peeking out of the ground a bit, but still seem small. The potatoes may be ready soon; the vines appear to be on the decline, ever so slightly. I should start some new lettuce seeds over the weekend, and perhaps a row of Tuscan kale and a maybe few cauliflowers. Plus, at the rate my winter squash is still growing and producing new flowers and fruits, I’ll have a huge second harvest later this month – and butternut squash six-ways for Thanksgiving. I’m glad I made that impulse buy and “splurged” on that 20-cent package of seeds!

Another two week’s harvest, as of Friday, the 4th:

Lemon Cucumbers: 3 lbs @ $.99 = $2.97
Haricot Verts: 1 lb @ $2.49/lb= $2.49
Kwintus Beans: 1.5 lbs @1.29/lb = $1.94
Purple Pole Beans: 1.5 lbs @ $2=$3
Green Beans: 1/2 lb @ $.99/lb: $.50
Another 3 lbs Pattypan squash @ $1.50: $ 4.50
3+ pints of cherry tomatoes: $6
6+ Lbs reds, blacks, yellows, striped: $6
Total: $27.40

Last Eco-nomics posting: $70.16
This harvest: $27.40
Total: $97.56

I will indulge from here on out and include a “Whole Foods” price (see previous post). Whole Foods charges five (5) times what I “charge” here for my tomatoes; twice what I do for haricot vert; nearly 5 ½ times what I do for pattypan; 4 times for the chard; twice what I do for other beans … you get the picture. I think a factor of 3.5 should do it:
“Whole Foods” Pricing: $97.56 x 3.5 = $341.46