Sunday, June 24, 2012

Time for zucchini recipes and tomatillos

Hey gardeners and neighbors! Despite the dry weather, our Madison Street garden has been very productive. On Sunday morning, I noticed the first few tomatillos growing on the vine. 

The tomatillo is an interesting vegetable, used a lot in Mexican cooking and green sauces. But it's not really a green tomato, even though the plants look much like tomato vines. The fruit is green, or one of a few colors, but it grows inside a small sac that feels like paper or parchment almost.

The tomatillos share a raised bed with hot peppers and cilantro, for anyone thinking of salsa when they're ready -- some are chili peppers, some hot Thai.

There's also young eggplant and okra plants in that bed. The eggplant has begun to flower, the okra will be later though. And it'll be hard to miss, because okra plants have such pretty flowers that you'd almost want to grow them for their beauty instead of their fruit. Be sure to check them out when you visit.

Fair warning: It's already zucchini season, so lock your doors. Billy, Ernestine, E.J. and Anne are among those who've been picking and planning to use some squash, though a few other varieties won't be ready until later in the season. E.J. has talked about mixing his with carrots, and Graci talked about making zucchini bread. I've made a decent veggie lasagne that uses lots of zucchini -- but if you have a unique zucchini recipe, please send it to me! 

We're also looking for different ways you fix your collards or mixed greens, and I look forward to sharing those recipes. 

Kale and spinach have been surviving the heat, and there's still a few peas. We've replaced some of the green pea rows with black-eyed peas -- they're a lot happier in the hot weather -- and we hope they'll be ready in late August or early September, when we will switch back to the fall crops.

A few cabbage heads are still available too, as the spring cool weather crops give way to the green peppers, tomatoes and lots of beans. We've already planted green and purple beans, and they're both starting to flower. We added a few new bean rows on Saturday after we removed more of the pea vines too. I saved all of the brown, dried-up pods, soaked them and made a pot of pea soup Sunday. There's still plenty of green pea vine producing though.

We also let some of the radish go to seed and as Valjean helped to weed that bed, we saved the pods. They are edible and have a milder radishy taste that you may like to try in salads or stir fry, especially if radishes are a little too strong for your tastes. There's a few pods still on the picnic table. 

Finally, thanks to Gavin, who has been making friends with some of the younger children and teaching them a little bit of gardening, too. Gavin wants to encourage math skills -- it's among his own strong suits in grad school -- and he's been talking about ways maybe to teach simple math skills based on gardening problems. We try to never miss a teaching moment when kids are at the garden, but we'd love more ideas on how to add value to the children's gardening time so let us know about them. 

Gavin's caught two of those pesky groundhogs as well, so be sure to thank him when you see him. And for his efforts? Gavin has a new catnip plant to go with his adorable new green-eyed kitten.

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