Our Contrary Garden

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

                                                ~ English Nursery Rhyme

Well, the hot weather here has been both good and bad for our vegetable garden. The heat, and maybe my ineffective watering, has hindered the snow peas, Big Boy tomatoes and the spinach, but it does seem to have helped the squash and some of the other greens. What I don’t know is why it’s always the less desirable plants that seem to thrive while my favorites languish.

As usual, I planted squash plants sparingly. At the garden store this spring, I purchased young plants: two zucchini, two yellow crookneck, and two of a new type that I can’t remember their names. So, the zucs are doing fine, the yellows are a little more prolific. However, the unnamed ones are not bush plants as I had presumed, but vines that have escaped the bed and taken off in all directions, producing large yellow-green squash about the size and shape of a large eggplant. Lots of them!

I love squash and routinely fry them up with onions and maybe peppers or tomatoes (more about them later) then topped with some parmesan. I did try a new recipe which involved shredding the squash to make latkes — basically small squash hash brown patties — which were great, but a bit too plentiful. The no-name ones can work that way, but seem to lend themselves more to cutting in half and stuffing with sausage, onions, etc. Trouble is, that’s still more than a couple of servings, so there are always leftovers.

My friends no longer accept my surprise gifts of squash, having been burned before.

Our cucumbers have been slow to develop, but I never miss a chance for a Greek salad with onion, cukes and tomatoes covered with feta cheese and a little olive oil. Speaking of tomatoes, our Early Girls are going nuts, so we have loads of tomatoes. Eating them fresh is best, of course, so I’ve not yet tried to cook or freeze them. They are a reliable side to almost every meal, at least in my opinion, and I’ve found homes for some among friends.

I think the chard and beets may have “miscegenated.” It didn’t help that I planted some radish and turnip seeds that I got for free in amongst them. Well, the radish grew spectacularly, and took over that part of the beds until I viciously eradicated them after finding them too tart. The turnips are better behaved. However, I’m not sure what to do with them. I’ve wok-ed the greens and plan to boil the bulbs, but there are an awful lot of them. (see note above about my friends). Apparently, the Scottish eat them as ‘neeps and tatties’.

The pole beans are prolific, but a little stringy. We’ve eaten plenty, given some away, and have frozen quite a few batches. They have, however, breached the supporting mesh and locked on to a nearby overhanging tree branch. So far, they’re still within reach.

We’ve recently pulled a few carrots and those are very sweet. The thinning we did a while ago helped them to grow, and eating the little ones like peanuts was fun and delicious.

This year, there’s a surprise growing in our compost pile. Over the years I gave up on growing pumpkins and winter squash because the squirrels would chew through the rind to get to the seed inside before the fruits were anywhere near ready to harvest. But now, there are several vines erupting from the pile and spreading across that part of the garden. Several could be light-colored pumpkins (still small) and there’s another that could be a butternut squash. There are a couple of years of accumulated vegetative matter in the pile due to a very dry winter, so I have no clear idea what they’ll turn out to be. So far, the squirrels have left them alone. Hmmmm …

It’s late September, so we could have a freeze at any time. But if the weather holds, I’m sure we’ll continue to have tomatoes, cukes and the greens. And, oh yeah, more damn squash!

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