By LYNNE IRONS
I was humbled this week. I took an assessment of my vegetable garden. It is remarkable that I have been able to produce so much food. There is hunger in so many places in the world — famine, war, poverty and drought. We truly do live in a land of plenty. This summer’s garden has been particularly good, what with enough rain.
As you know, I did take on a large new vegetable plot. I was somewhat smugm thinking I would escape bugs this first year. I thought it would take a little time to locate me. How wrong I was! I have it all — bean beetles, flea beetles, cucumber beetles, Colorado potato beetles. So far I have yet to discover white cabbage moth or the tomato hornworm. Give it a couple of weeks and I’m sure they will show up.
I have been waiting for SBS to stock some diatomaceous earth. It is the crushed bodies of tiny sea creatures. It has the ability to puncture the exoskeleton of certain insects and cause them to dry out. It is harmless to bees, animals and humans. It is a fine powder so try to avoid breathing it. A handkerchief tied around the nose and mouth will suffice when applying it. I will resort to using rotenone if things get completely out of hand. It is a plant-based poison made from pyrethrin, an early summer-blooming daisy.
While repositioning some items in my freezer to accommodate peas and zucchini, I came across these bags of tomatoes from last summer. I had washed, cored and bagged them. While they are still frozen they can be dipped in hot tap water to easily remove the skins. I have a crock pot simmering away ready to receive onions and zucchini. I wanted to use them up before this year’s crop comes in.
I ate my first cabbage — Early Jersey Wakefield — an old-fashioned nonhybrid variety. It is small, cone-shaped and very cabbagy, if you will. I like it with just a vinaigrette, not being that fond of mayonnaise. This particular cabbage is small enough to feed a family of hree or four just once.
For years I slaved away making pickles — both dill and bread and butter. They were wonderful but after several months always became too soft for my liking. I now make them in small batches and do not process them but keep them in the fridge. I dilled a couple jars this week from the first pick of the cucumber patch. The late summer picking will last in the fridge until almost Christmas.
Now, dilly beans are a different story. This is the third year I am telling you this recipe; it is always worth repeating. It came from Holly Pease. She lived on a farm in Virginia Beach during the seventies. Boil together:
3 cups of water
1 cup good apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
2 cloves (or more) garlic
Wash and stem the beans. Pack them raw into sterile pint jars along with a head of dill. Pour the boiling mixture to within one half-inch of the top, adjust the lids and process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. They are wonderful for years, remaining crunchy all the while. When my children were small they would polish off a quart while waiting for me to prepare dinner. They are way better than cucumber pickles.
It may be hard to believe but it is time to begin planting for the fall vegetable garden. After peas, beans, cabbages and lettuces have seen better days, yank them and replant carrots, radishes, beets and more lettuce. Don’t forget a sprinkling of pro-gro; the previous plantings will have depleted the soil.
In another few weeks, I hope I get around to replanting my large containers. I haul them into the unheated greenhouse sometime in late October to have greens for winter harvesting. There is no reason in our mild climate not to attempt at least three seasons of growing our suppers. I took a trip down the produce aisle and was shocked at the prices and quality. We can do this ourselves, people.
Since I write this on the previous Sunday, every thing I say is old news — no matter, I’ve never had an original thought anyway. The Sonia Sotomayor congressional hearings should be underway in earnest by the time this hits the newsstands. I have to comment on the serial wader interviews with Sarah Palin last week. Who is she kidding? Mrs. “I’m Not a Quitter” while quitting. I was amused by her talk of fish slime, with her perfect manicure, impeccable makeup and fashionably unkempt hairstyle. I hope she runs for President in 2012. I need the material.