The glut is starting

vegetable harvest july 21 2017To sum it up briefly: We can’t keep up with the zucchini. Too hot to do much baking! When we’ve had enough of kale salad, the greens are becoming pesto. There’s been more than enough for that. This evening marked our first harvest of beans, and the Sungold tomatoes are kicking off the tomato season. We harvested the first two three days ago and have had a few more since then. At least we’ll soon be able to use up cucumbers by making gazpacho.

The next debate for the garden: what to plant where the peas have been? A fall crop of peas? Try again with beets? Find a zucchini plant in the clearance section at a garden center and have a fall crop?

Feel free to weigh in.

Turn your back, and the zucchini have shot up another foot

zucchini flower croppedOK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it sure feels like it, especially after all the rain we got last night. We even have our first flowers!

We are experimenting this year with growing the plants upright by containing each in a large tomato cage instead of using a “fence” to keep them from sprawling all over the raised bed. It seems like only a week ago they were still pretty tiny. Now the leaves have topped the second of four rings. I try to push the leaves back into the cage before they get too big. So far it’s working.

The idea is that by growing the plants up, it will be easier to see the actual zucchini before they become the size of a baseball bat. I have another incentive to harvest them small — apparently it encourages more flowering.

This is how big one plant looks on the last day of spring. The top leaves are ginormous!

zucchini in cage

The other advantage is that it can be easier to spot the squash vine borers that attack the stem and kill the plant. That’s been our problem in the last few years, of course just as the glut gets going. This video is inspiring me to start checking, to find out what I need to use for dusting — and to start fertilizing since the plants are heavy feeders. Good thing I have some TerraCycle worm poop fertilizer, made in down the road in Trenton. I worked a little bit into the soil, ready for the next rain, which might come Friday.

Keeping leaves off the ground helps fight against bugs. This video says I also need to scatter Sevin Dust carefully around the base. But it does seem like nasty stuff and kills beneficial insects like bees, which we don’t want to do. So I’m googling away for other ideas. This video suggests just spraying dishwater detergent dissolved in water could do the trick too, at least with aphids, and can work on cucumbers. Sounds like that requires some persistence. Maybe we will use some of the aphid-fighting Neem we already have.

Want to weigh in?

We are using the cages the same way we would use them for tomato plants, so the narrowest part is at the bottom and the prongs are in the soil. If we wanted to test it the other way, well, it’s too late. Plus we’d have needed some kind of clip to keep the cage from toppling over in the wind. We have no idea how heavy the plant will be and whether an upside-down cage could support them or would tip over. That first video says we should have bamboo stakes too. One more thing to do…

 

3 colors of beans

three colors of beans

Fun!

Purple, yellow and traditional green — this is why I bought that packet of bean seeds back in early May. Though the purple ones in particular lose their color pretty quickly. I’ll stick to 20 seconds in the microwave and leave a lot of crunch.

We will need to work at keeping up with the vegetables from the garden — that or have a party and cook for lots of people. We still have plenty of kale, though the salad greens are starting to bolt. And then there’s the output from this year’s three zucchini plants: we seem to get at least one zucchini a day. What to do with all of those? Add to stir fry, spiralize into noodles, make chocolate zucchini cake — or? Otherwise I will just have to freeze for winter baking). Perhaps the zucchini and beans are feeding off each other in a two-sister variation of the three-sister plantings (corn, beans and squash) that Native Americans favored.

The tomatoes have yet to ripen, though at least we can see fruit  (yes, I’m jealous, Izzy).

This was Saturday’s harvest:

saturday harvest july 2016

including more of those beans, plus some basil:

saturday beans and basil

What to do with 5 zucchini???

5 zucchiniThe glut has arrived.

I’ve harvested five oversized zucchini from the garden in the last few day (and I think there was a sixth that we grilled). Now I need to decide what to do with them.

Zucchini bread? Chocolate zucchini bread? Even better, chocolate zucchini cake?

Work them into a lasagna I need to make for Friday night?

I’m taking suggestions.

My sister-in-law just told me about a spiralizer/Veggetti that turns (normal-sized zucchini) into spaghetti with a few twists of the wrist. Could I use a mandolin to slice mine finely, then cut them into fatter-than-spaghetti strips and make a version of Pad Thai?

Bountiful harvest

I’ve been horribly neglectful of this blog (how else do I explain that April post published at the end of June?). But it’s shaping up to be a fabulous season in the garden.

We’ve been harvesting oversized leaves of Swiss chard and sauteeing them in a cast-iron skillet, often on the grill. We’ve started topping pizza with kale. And the garlic scapes have been converted into garlic-scape pesto that then get smeared onto our grilled pizza. In fact, we did a great job feeding a group of friends last night with food we’ve grown, topped off with items from an area farmers market and the guests’ more routine contributions.

Coming soon will be tomatoes — there already are green ones on some plants, plus plenty of yellow flowers. That makes me happy! And I figure the first two homegrown zucchini will be ready for picking later this week. We have three plants this year — there could be a lot of zucchini bread in addition to a steady stream of grilled zucchini slices. Perhaps it’s time to learn about zucchini “pasta”.

Tonight’s pizza, made with homemade dough, sauce canned last year, garlic-scape pesto and garden kale plus store-bought cheese and grilled outside. Delicious!

pizza 001

And just  small peek at the garden now:

kale plus chard

 

zucchini

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.