Garden of the Americas
In several of the old European traditions, August was the first month of autumn, the harvest season. And this year, with the especially cool summer weather, it certainly feels like it’s fall already. And harvesting, we are. Some crops have been incredibly successful, some less so and some were total failures. It makes me reflect upon the times before refrigeration when a family needed to produce enough in a few months and preserve the harvest to last for the other 8 months of the year.
Although we are trying to be produce a lot of our food at Laughing Duck Gardens – we certainly don’t produce it all – and should a harvest fail, we know we can fall back on buying from a neighbor, farm stands, farmers’ markets, country stores and even the supermarket.
In the spring, when we decided we need more growing space, I decided to make the newer garden “The Garden of the Americas”. Every plant in there originates in the Americas: North, Central or South. All those plants where unknown in Europe before the 16th century.
What did I plant?
- 36 tomato seedlings/ 7 cultivars – very very successful! We picked the first tomato on June 14 and they’ve been coming and coming and coming…
- 24 hot pepper seedlings (7 different kinds – although there were some Ancho/Pablano in there, and – in my book – there are not hot, but that how they are categorized). Yes, 24 plants – DON’T ASK! – all producing so much I don’t need to plant another hot pepper for the next 10 years;
- 7 different winter squash – a disappointing harvest due to the squash bugs onslaught. Butternut and Sucrine du Berry are the ones that produced best and resisted the attack of those %#@^* pests adequately. The squashes will keep for months if properly stored. Last year we were eating the stored one until February and the frozen ones until May;
- I also direct-sowed 3 kinds of corn – 2 in beds of their own, the rest among the squash. I planted sweet corn and roasting corn, which is new to me. The sweet corn did OK (actually, it did well given how little we improved the soil) and the roasting corn is not ready yet (I tried!)
- bush beans – a total failure due to (1) planting too deep and then (2) due to rabbits repeatedly munching on the second planting;
- tomatillos – the first fruit were ridden with chewing caterpillars, but now, we are harvesting plenty of healthy fruit;
- flowers: zinnias, lots of dahlias and marigold (Tagetes).
The photo above shows yesterday’s harvest from my “Garden of the Americas”.
What could I have planted there, but did not because I was lacking the space?
- summer squash/zucchini,
- peppers (bell, Italian etc),
- pole beans,
- runner beans,
- Jerusalem artichokes/ sunchokes, a member of the sunflower family.
All those crops (except the beans & the sunflowers for which I run out of space… and time) were planted in the upper garden with the rest of the veggies.
Did you know that all those crop plants originated in the Americas? Or is that a surprise?
I could also add blueberries to the list. Other fruit are less well known and little cultivated – yet can be very rewarding: pawpaws, American persimmons, high-bush cranberry are some that come to mind. And of course, cocoa and vanilla (but those are a little hard to grow for those of us who dwell in temperate areas…)
Do you know of other fruit or vegetable that originated in the Americas? It’s fascinating to think that the in pre1500’s, none of crops were part of the European diets or the Asian diets. Today, it’s hard to imagine Italian cooking without tomatoes, French cuisine without its green beans or its cassoulet, of Thai or Indian dishes without the heat from chili peppers…