Garden Series II Zucchinis and Tomatoes

We’ve gone through the assault of the zucchinis. We’ve adapted a recipe called disappearing zucchini, in which you grate a large zucchini, or several medium ones, into a colander, then salt liberally and let it drain for a few hours. Press dry, or as near as possible, rinse, if too salty, then sauté with anything that makes sense, like a reduction of tomatoes, if those are also abundant at the time, or earlier, just onions, garlic and mushrooms flavored with thyme and oregano. We add orzo and parmesan and we have a meal. I’ve also blackened drained zucchini cut into strips.

Tomatoes have now descended upon us en masse, but unlike zucchinis, there are multitudes of uses for tomatoes. I just cooked some haddock, a rather bland fish, in a sauce of tomatoes, reduced, with onions and garlic and whatever fresh herbs are available: in this case thyme, oregano and coriander. And tomatoes in the salad, of course.

Some tomato plants look about done, others are just coming ripe, and a large ‘volunteer’ that I noticed early enough not to pull it out, is now overflowing with tomatoes, many ripe, and vying for space with one of the zucchini hills. I had thrown rotten tomatoes last year down where the volunteer grew.

The salad was an expression of my pride in getting a stand of new lettuce to grow. I watered it after dinner so that it will regenerate faster. Again, I’ve grown it in blocks, not spindly lines.

Elizabeth just made a tomato sauce from a large crop of them, but there are more sauces to come.

Crowding does work well for lettuce, but I’ve discovered that more conventional spacing makes sense for corn. I planted my corn much more closely than recommended, (abundant saved seeds made that possible) and it appears that I planted more and more thickly with each succeeding row. My last weekly planting was so cramped that I pulled out most plants, but too late; the corn plants were on their way to reverting to their pre-corn ancestor, pencil-thin stalks and miniature ears, if any at all.

My preparation for my garden, was first begun two autumns before, when we moved here. The garden enclosure held weeds as high as small trees, and a pernicious, nettle-like vine in the center that was so tough and entangled, I had to use a chainsaw to remove it. Then pulled out as many roots as I could (many still remain to pop up, even through a foot of mulch).

I covered the cleared garden with cardboard, then grass clippings and all the leaves from a large number of trees. Last fall, I gathered all the leaves from the trees again, and covered the garden with them, except where there had been a mustard patch with a multitude of seeds.
I harvested an early crop of mustard greens there, but later had to pull out eight-foot tall plants going to seed. I kept just a few seed-bearers and some re-seeded plants.

The leaf cover still prevails in much of the garden; I planted individual plants by barely pushing the leaves aside to make their holes. I also dug grooves in the leaves to plant rows of seeds, even for the corn. I still have to water some things, and I watered the late lettuce and peas nightly to get them established. To increase growth, I have watered them every few days in this July-August- drought.

The drought has been severe enough that my bees couldn’t get enough nectar—or pollen—to feed their brood, and make honey. Both food sources are too dry, ergo I’ve been feeding the hive. I did so last year, and was unable to take out any honey. The hive survived the winter, only to be demolished by a bear, who had realized (before I did) that the electric fence wasn’t working.

So, the current hive is a new one created from a package of bees, one of the latest available in the Spring. But even my professional beekeeper friends with 200 hives have had to feed many of their established hives as well.

This drought is peculiar: a little rain, recently as much as 1.5 inches, and yet shallow rooted plants like grass have burned brown. There are some shady places in our yard that seem to be moist even without the rain. The drought’s effects, I think, are intensified by the dry air and hot sun.

What’s most peculiar about this drought is how local it seems to be. In the region according to the radio, we’re actually slightly above the rainfall average; our friends in Troy, about an hour north, report frequent rain; we haven’t seen it. And while we have an abundance of flowers, visited by my bees, they’re still eating my offered bee tea at an impressive rate. My local bee guru, who refers to his bees as “the girls,” says that bees don’t get hooked on easy sugar water; they’ll prefer real nectar when they can get it. I do see them at our flowers, at least through mid-morning. I’m not sure I hear them, or see them later in the day. But they’re still taking the bee tea, at more than a quart and a half a day.

Our next big project will be Pesto. One clump of basil looks like an ornamental bush, a yard of hedge.

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