This Week’s Secret Ingredients

As if there isn’t enough happening in the garden, what with tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers,  pattypan squash and herbs ready for harvest, I decided to finally check out a nearby produce auction. The Tri-County Cooperative Auction Market has been around for nearly 80 years, selling Jersey Fresh produce to, I guess, mostly restaurants and smaller stores during that time. They’ve recently made it easier for the public to buy, but we are talking quantities that outdo Costco (pretty much a box at a time).

The Brit and I went Friday to scope it out in anticipation of can-o-rama, my late-August canning weekend with friends. I got there before the auction, which starts at 7 p.m. The public can buy before the auction at set prices or take their chances on a better deal at auction (but have to pay a buyer’s fee of $5 per evening that auction purchases top $10).

It took a while to figure out the system and to get my courage up to deal with the quantities. But I plunked down $10  for a box of beets. It contained 12 bunches of beets, each with four to five beets. Definitely a bargain compared to the supermarket. But what a lot of beets! My plan is to can them so that we have beet relish during the winter. I can’t find my favorite canning book, so I have scoured my other cookbooks and am roasting a bunch of beets right now. But that’s only half of them so far — lots more roasting to go!

Half of the stash

The Brit made a salad using some beetroot leaves and used leaves to make an Indian rice dish that someone demonstrated at our local farmer’s market using chard. Yum! I think I know what my lunch is early next week.

Salad with beetroot greens

The prospect of all those beets should have made anyone stop shopping. But I had come close to buying zucchini, given that all we seem to have is pattypan. Only the box was loaded on the truck and headed to the auction before I could.

Rather than go home, though, the Brit and I stuck around to see how the auction works. Boxes of tomatoes go for $6, maybe a bit more, but also less. And that is before the glut really strikes!

Zucchini came up. I bid. I stopped. Turned out there were five boxes available and the buyer only wanted two. I took one. $4. It contained 11 big zucchini. Two were enough for three batches of zucchini bread (each enough for one regular pan and some minis). We grilled two. We used part of another on pizza, but have enough thin slices for quite a few more. We gave away one. We still have five to use up. Time to buy more eggs and keep baking, and to look for more recipes.

Zucchini pizza, with tomatoes from the garden and mixed basil from friends
Off the grill

So just like Iron Chef, I challenge you to suggest other recipes in which beets and zucchini are stars. And no, they don’t have to be used in the same recipe. I might even give you a beet or zucchini as a prize. Or take you with me next time.

Lots left. Creativity (or lots of baking) required.

Garlicky Thoughts

We’ve now harvested all of our garlic and the results are mixed. The bulbs taken from raised beds, where the soil is loose, were generally plump, while those grown elsewhere, despite the hours of sunshine, tended to be puny.

Our solution: a mini raised bed devoted to garlic.

The Brit is going to buying two eight-foot boards that are just six inches wide, instead of our preferred foot and have the bed ready to go by Labor Day. We could put a 2 1/2-foot wide bed (5 1/2 feet long) between a couple of raspberry plants. The Brit figures he could get 60 to 80 bulbs in there, giving us more than a bulb a week (less whatever gets replanted).

A Jolt of Joe For the Garden

I want to share this site, which explains the benefits of using coffee grounds in the garden. I’m already a firm believer, shamelessly asking the coffee shop at the train station to fill my five-gallon bucket with their coffee trash so that I can make lots of compost. I used to get them from the coffee shop at work before I turned into a commuter, and I found that in both places, they’re initially puzzled but then happy to do it.  I just wish they’d put up a sign offering coffee grounds out of self-interest (reducing their trash bill).

Jersey Jungle

Bustin' out!
The squash too!

The tomato plants have reached beyond the deer netting, and some have pushed through on the sides. (Hope the deer will leave those grape tomatoes alone because that side is narrow and blocked by the composter.) The zucchini/pattypan squash have taken over a raised bed that they are supposed to share with peppers and eggplants, and I can’t work in a trellis. The cucumber got a trellis late, but planting them next to beans meant chaos.

All in all, the bounty means this is a far more successful year than last year!

The glut isn't far away!

But look at what the bugs have done to the brussels sprouts. I hope we’ll still get sprouts. Tips?

Sprouts lace

Garden Tabbouleh

Yesterday’s lunch, made with parsley, mint, cucumber, tomatoes and a lone red chili pepper from the garden, plus blood-orange-infused olive oil from a California farmers’ market (why not?), bulgar, cumin and salt.

Later, we mixed some of our giant Swiss chard in with the pasta and topped with basil.

Tomatoes Are Coming

We had our first orange cherry tomatoes — maybe those Sungold? Remember that I lost track of what’s what — on Bastille Day. Today we had a few more, plus a couple of other red ones that are going on tonight’s grilled pizza, along with some homemade creole tomato  sauce (canned last year, recipe in the yellow Ball’s cookbook, The Complete Book of Home Preserving).

We also dug out a few potatoes. The Pontaic Reds have a few bumps on them — any idea what that could be? The white cucumber is “nice,” the Brit says. And after getting four weeks’ worth of rain in three days earlier this week, I think we’re a few days away from more pattypan squashes. (The squash jungle has taken over the pepper space; not sure we’ll get much beyond the one chili pepper I picked a few days ago.)

The garden surprise? A black eggplant is growing amid all the cucumbers. Did it come via compost? Or did it sneak into a seed pack?