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Future Food

2011 May 27

May and June are hard months for this gardening girl. Unlike winter, when it’s painfully obvious that there are no juicy tomatoes hiding beneath the ever-present blanket of gray slush, late Spring and its green-overload is a supreme test of patience. Green, green everywhere and not a bite to eat.

This year has proven to be even more testing, as a super wet spring has delayed the planting of all of my mid- and late-summer crops, which in turn means the delay of the harvest of their fruits.

Tomatoes and peppers (and their marigold guardians) wait their turn to be planted. They’ve been hit the hardest by the wet and chilly spring weather, and it probably won’t be until late July before I see my first tomato. My rapidly accelerating need for a Caprese salad with sun-warmed Black Cherry tomatoes, homegrown basil and homemade mozzarella cheese is tasking me. And oh-so-cruelly, at that.

Blueberries and raspberries look to be right on time. My apple trees, however, dropped most of their fruit without warning. Rather than disease or insect, I suspect the cause was a string of vicious storms that rolled consecutively through the area during the last week, pushing 70 mph winds ahead of it. Apple pie season just won’t be the same without them this year.

Life rolls on, however. These fat baby robins are just about to burst the seams of their nest, snuggled in a shrub next to my basil garden. Mama (right, center of the photo – look for the bright orange breast) twittered nervously from a nearby tree until she could no longer bear the stranger-danger threat I posed: she dive-bombed me repeatedly, until I — flapping my arms about my head and screeching like a chicken hawk (a YouTube moment, no doubt) — abandoned my planting activities for the indoors.

The one green being in the yard that has more than thrived this spring is the garlic. And I’m not complaining. I love homegrown garlic with a passion that borders on obsession. Planting the cloves late in the fall after everything else has bid the earth a fond adieu, I fret and hover over my two garlic gardens all winter long, waiting for the first green shoots to appear in January or February.

My garlic is so happy, in fact, that it has already begun sending out scapes, the once-a-year delicacy that both gardeners and chefs await with keen anticipation. In the photo above, scapes are the thin, curly, light green growths visible among the tall leaves. A scape is the garlic’s central flower stalk, which must be removed to keep energy and nutrients flowing to the garlic bulb. They carry a mild garlic flavor and are a welcome addition to stir fries, salads and pestos.

Onions are also in this garden (the shorter green leaves in front of the garlic). Unfortunately, a [shall not be named] nursery misplaced most of my onion order, so for the first time in many years, I am growing only one variety of onion. While clerical errors are nothing to get upset over, it did drive home to me that this purchase would be better made from someone local. The behemoth nursery who lost my order doesn’t care that I will not have Walla Walla and red onions this year: I’m just a number in their database. Their bureaucratic order tracking system insisting that all was well when clearly it was not meant I lost an entire month in seeking replacements.

In hindsight, I simply should have hedged my bets and bought extra sets locally, but I was afraid to waste the behemoth’s order should it have shown up as promised. Lesson learned: buy local, whenever possible.

Finally, much gratitude goes to the humble radish. Just when I think I can’t wait another minute for garden goodies, this little fellow wedges his magenta shoulders through the soil, ripe for the picking.

You were delicious in my wheatberry, spring onion and arugula salad, Mr. Radish, and for that this obsessed gardening fool heartily thanks you.

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