I can't believe it's August already. The summer is flying by and I thought I still had all this time till my sis left town - gone. My sister, a teacher, took a new job in North Carolina and is officially moved in. Seven hours away. We haven't lived apart from one another since 2000, the lonely year I spent living solo in Baltimore before she graduated from Penn State and joined me. She talked about living near the beach since she was like eight years old, so I'm glad she's following her dreams....but I will miss her.
OK, I was about to get overly mushy there, so let's just move on. Let' talk vegetables. I am glad I joined the CSA instead of attempting to grow all this stuff from scratch. First off, my garden books state that plants feel stress, which causes them to be unhealthy and sickly. My particular plants were overturned in a traumatic Wheelbarrow Incident, then placed in rocky, uncultivated soil, and subjected to record high temperatures for weeks on end with little (ok no) watering. One of the pepper plants was almost immediately removed from the garden by a rodent of unusual size - possibly a groundhog whom I have named Barry. He lurks about the yard daily. Barry (or possibly some other member of my little wildlife community) dug a hole right in the garden, then dug his secondary escape on the other side. We are at war with one another - I fill in his holes and he digs new ones. Always in another spot though, so I am hoping he will figure out the boundaries here, even if it means he will eventually touch upon every inch of my little plot. The tomato plants (that survived the Incident) are not faring much better because their leaves are routinely served at some scrumptious animal dinner party. I suspect the deer - there are hoof-prints in the soil - but everyone else seems to suspect Barry. Either way, my plants could be a tad stressed. They actually don't look that bad, but they aren't producing any vegetables either.
Luckily, Sarah and Tom, who run the Flying Plow Farm, are better at taming the Barrys of the world than I. I am no longer getting weirdo greens, though I expect them to return when the weather cools again. I'm not so scared of them anymore - I realized they can be added to pretty much any recipe, including oatmeal. This I learned vicariously from Cameron Diaz - she told Oprah (or Ellen), and my sister told me. Honestly, kale in oatmeal with a few walnuts on top makes a nutritious, yummy breakfast. And makes you look like Cameron Diaz, apparently.*
I am incredibly proud (almost smug) because I have not wasted a single vegetable (that I liked**) from the CSA. And we get a LOT of vegetables. This has changed my cooking routine - like I decided to make a Mediterranean Tuna Salad that called for celery. Celery has not, thus far, been included in my CSA and I thought, I wish it called for cucumber as I have about 3 or 4 in the drawer. Then I thought, cucumbers instead of celery. So I substitute whatever I have, don't buy what I don't have, and things usually turn out ok. For instance, yellow squash can be used in place of zucchini - even in zucchini bread.
It is still a lot of work though. I have frozen about three pounds of green beans, and the beans are "you pick" so I actually pick them, clean them, boil them, cool them, and THEN freeze them. But they will taste oh so good in January. I have to set aside "CSA days" occasionally, because prep is the key to using the food. If I open the fridge and see "uncleaned carrots" vs "string cheese", the cheese always wins. "Cleaned carrots" have a better chance of being eaten (with some string cheese).
Yesterday, I spent about three or maybe even four hours prepping - I made the Mediterranean Tuna Salad, plus Veggie Bean Burrito mix for my lunches. I cut up two cantaloupes (I actually froze some of the pieces because I'm the only household member who eats melons - we'll see how that turns out. I am thinking smoothies). I pulled edamame off their stalks, crushed up some dried basil and froze some more pesto, I made a Tomato Relish for tonight's dinner, and baked a zucchini cake. I still have lots of zucchini and squash to freeze, more beans to clean, and a watermelon to cut - I gave away the other watermelon. I just don't want anything to go to waste and four melons is a bit much even for me.
I finally bought some canning supplies, because I have about 10 pounds of tomatoes ripening in the sun. I had hoped to get to that today, but I thought they would ripen faster. I guess I will try to squeeze "making tomato sauce" into this week's schedule.
If you're interested, here's the list of veggies I have gotten so far: leafy greens - romaine and red leaf lettuce, bok choy, escarole, endive, kale kale and more kale, Swiss chard, spinach, mizuna, yukina savoy, mustard greens; broccoli, turnips, radishes, kolrabi, potatoes, onions, scallions, basil times infinity, parsley, sage, rosemary, and yes, thyme, oregano, lavender, fresh cut flowers, peas, snap peas, green beans, yellow wax beans, yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes (regular, cherry, and paste), tomatilloes, peppers, edamame, cantaloupes, carrots, and watermelons. My diet is much much fuller of good for me food for a change!
* If you are Cameron Diaz.
** Turnips are just icky.