One Local Summer

The kitchen garden is really coming into its own now.

View of kitchen garden
View of kitchen garden

We are eating lots of salad greens and cooked greens (kale, mustard, Swiss chard, escarole); peas (both mange-tout/sugar snap and shelling peas) have just started and should go through the end of the month. Still a few spears of asparagus, despite my resolve to let the bed go: since many of the spears are still as large as my thumbs… I am still picking. Spring Onions. A few Japanese turnips. Lots of herbs that I use by the handful: parsley, leaf celery (aka parcel), cilantro, dill, oregano, and sage (which I love, leaves fried in a tempura batter as an appetizer) and many others which I use with less abandon (mint, thyme, lemon verbena, anise hyssop etc). And the strawberries are lovely.

peas-2009-06-025

What’s next? Currants are just blushing and the early blueberries blu-ing. Lettuce and other mesclun leaves will keep coming for a while – a good thing I have several lettuce cultivars to vary the taste and appearance! So should young onions. The second crop of radishes should be good to pick in a about a week. I have transplanted tatsoi & packchoi, and seeded some – the transplants will be ready to pick to agreement salads in a week – another two weeks for eating cooked. Also in a few weeks, beets, carrots, kohlrabi and spring cabbage will become of harvestable size. And basil.

Tomatoes and summer squash will be late. I was late transplanting. The weather was cool and wet (good for lettuce though…). I’ll be lucky if I pick in mid-July – that’s one month later than my target date for tomatoes. I won’t see beans until late July and corn until mid-August. If everything goes well. My plot was not ready. I got busy doing other things. Bad girl! So it is.

Eggplants are being heartily attacked by flea beetles, but the peppers look good. A few have small fruit – a good sign. The cucumber plants are still tiny. Last year the cucumber beetles were awful, so I hardly got any cukes (the year before was a bumper crop).

The surprise potatoes should be ready to harvest as new potatoes also in a few weeks. They may all be eaten as new potatoes actually. A few spuds were left into the soil last fall; they survived our colder-than-usual winter and are looking quite good as a matter of fact.

The sweet potatoes are not looking so hot (it has not been so hot), but hopefully we can start eating them in early September.

I have just seeded more lettuce, more mustard and transplanted some squashes, and celeriac. And leeks. whoa. Listing all of that make me feel better. Maybe it won’t be so bad after all, this year.

Still to get in: more corn, more beans, winter squash, more lettuce, more carrots and more beets. and okra, I need to plant okra. And more cucumber.

Sometime I forget that others don’t really eat from their food shed, let alone from their garden. As El says though, a kitchen garden simplifies “what’s for dinner?”: “The garden dictates our diet. It’s quite liberating in an odd way: no messing with grocery lists and menus, just go outside and see what’s good. Oh sure, there is repetition, but who cares when it’s so fresh? and one learns to prepare things in novel way, or just try for the fun of it. If it’s no good, we’ll give it to the chicken, you know…

And so, in the name of sharing what it’s possible to eat in Virginia throughout the summer, I am going to participate in One Local Summer 2009 organized by Farm to Philly, if only to force me to write down at least one meal a week made with local ingredients (with a few exceptions…). Which should not be that hard, as most of our meals are made of local ingredients – especially in the summer. But you’ve got to write it down.

Anyway here is a typical meal for this week, week one of the challenge:1-local-summer-1-steak-salad

  • Steak salad. Meat from grass-fed Scottish Highland cattle from Joyce Harman (less than 10 miles) sautéed with spring onions, a few asparagus spears over a bed of mixed greens (all the veggies from the garden). I used lard that I had rendered from a pastured hog from Belle Meade (less than 15 miles away) to sauté the extra-lean meat. We don’t grow much cooking oil in Virginia…
  • Wine from Gadino Cellars (about 6 miles)
  • Homemade Bread. The water is from our well. Don’t laugh. The dough takes quite a bit of water.
  • Vanilla Maple Custard & fresh strawberries. Strawberries from the garden. Eggs from Belle Meade. Milk from our cow-share (about 6 miles). Maple Syrup from Pennsylvania (100 – maybe 150 miles)

Not local: flour, sugar, salt, yeast, vinegar to deglaze the pan, vanilla for the custard.

Bon Appetit. Eat fresh, eat local, eat seasonal. Eat well. Enjoy your food.



6 thoughts on “One Local Summer”

  • Sylvie, our eggplants are struggling a little too–it hasn’t been warm enough, not enough sun. But the squash and cucumbers, potatoes and tomatoes are all doing fine. Wish we had all the berries and asparagus–it’s in the plans.

  • Hi Ed – well, I don’t have the brocoli and fava beans that you planted – and my summer crops are clearly lagging being yours. One year, fava beans will in the plans.
    Berries are definitively something to consider: they look good in the landscape, are pretty care free (if you can keep the birds away), and are such a treasure to pick and eat. If you want to try your hands at espalier, currants and gooseberries are good candidates too. I think espaliers look so good in an urban kitchen garden. I do miss my espaliered apple tree.

  • Currants! Very cool. I can’t wait to see what you do with them. I think I’ve only ever seen currant jelly, but I’m sure there are other uses.

  • I wish i had those beautiful peas. Of the forty seeds I planted (a first, second and third sowing) only five plants took off and they are still slowly climbing, have yet to produce. I am wondering if by the end of the season I will get any peas to take in the house

    I am thinking that peas are not a fan of torrential downpours, many of which I have had here in Alexandria for days on end this spring/summer

  • JP – oui, c’;est facile et c’est bon. Sauf qu’avec le printemps pluvieux qu’on a eu cette annee (attention! je ne me plaints pas!), la saveur habituellement tres forte de la sauge est quand amoindrie…

    Siren – I think peas like it cool & moist. I started mine in mid-March, you probably are at least half a zone warmer than me (maybe a full zone warmer) in Alexandria and so they may struggle a little more for you. When did you start them?

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