By LYNNE IRONS
Last Saturday’s rain made me so happy. There is nothing quite like waking up to that soft patter. It sure makes one’s bed enjoyable. I love the smell of rain especially on hot pavement. We are in desperate need of a slow, steady soaking.
The change of seasons is so welcome at this point. I know some folks get melancholy at the thought of shorter, cooler days. I am not one of them. I’m all about socks and sweaters. I love it when the day ends early enough to come inside, make soup and putter around. I tend to stay outside until practically dark and by then I am at the point of complete exhaustion. No halfway measures for me.
Anyway, apologies to those of you who have to work indoors and get out of work in the dark.
Some weeks ago, I cut several stalks of basil and only used some of it. The rest was shoved into a glass of water and disappeared among the debris on my kitchen counter. It has now fully rooted and is green and young-looking. Guess I’ll throw it in a pot to use during the winter. I often bring potted basil in from outside but it never looks good by Christmas. I am anxious to see if this rooted cutting will do better. Don’t you hate it when basil leaves get small and yellow even if you try to deadhead the flowers every so often?
I have several clerodendrum which I originally purchased at Vineyard Gardens. Chris Wiley had several starts from one in her own yard. This is a fabulous shrub. It has fragrant white flowers in July and August and then beautiful, pea-shaped, bright blue fruits develop attached to leathery red calyx. This shrub works well in a mixed border since it blooms on new growth and can be aggressively pruned.
Another beauty blooming right now is Heptacodium. This fairly recent Chinese introduction is becoming the rage in Northeastern horticulture and for good reason. It blooms white from August into October and the sepals turn reddish-pink and put on another show into November. Not to mention it has interesting light brown exfoliating bark. Vineyard Gardens has a mature one along the Co-op Bank side of the driveway. Plan a drive-by!
I am very disappointed with my cabbages this year. They did not get nearly enough water and are about the size of tennis balls. Nevertheless they are perfect for a small salad and quite tasty. I have made large amounts of sauerkraut in the past. In fact, I have quite a few pints from last year. It is so simple to make.
Let them rest at room temperature for a day, then shred to the thickness of a dime. Mix three tablespoons plus two teaspoons of pickling salt into each 10 quarts of shredded cabbage. Pack firmly into a large crock using a wooden spoon. Cover with a clean cloth, a tight-fitting plate and a weight (I use a clean, waxed rock) to keep the cabbage under the liquid which forms. It should ferment in about ten days. Process pints 15 minutes in a water bath.
Sauerkraut was an important source of vitamin C for our ancestors and cured scurvy on those long sea voyages. It also contains beneficial lactic acid. I toss a couple of jars on top of a cooking pot roast. Yummy.
I was college-educated in the sociology department of North Texas State University. I had a childhood dream of helping migrant field workers. Somewhere I had read a Depression-era expose of their plight. It didn’t work out for me but I am still involved in the political implications of poor wages and hunger here and abroad. Giving people food and money cannot be the answer. I remember being coerced to finish my supper with the universal guilt trip, “Remember the starving children in. . .” I always wanted to pack up those cold, canned peas and ship them overseas.
Today, I do think of those starving children and how to help. This is where gardening and education go hand in hand: the old “teach a man to fish” philosophy. I got off on this tangent after reading a front-page article in the New York Times about Care International. The organization has been refusing to accept wheat and corn surplus from the United States into certain African countries. It seems our attempts at charity, however altruistic, make it economically impossible for local farmers to sell their product at a fair market price. Sometimes we are not as politically savvy as we like to think. Food for thought.