Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spring Vegetables Coming to a Close

 The day lilies have begun
We've harvested about all of the sugar snap peas at this point, it's been a good run but there are several truths about peas, one of them being that they only produce for 2 to 3 weeks and then they are done.  But another truth is that  peas are so green, so crispy, so sweet, that it is well worth turning a patch of soil in mid-February, soaking a few seeds and nestling them into the chilly ground, throwing up a trellis, and sitting back and waiting until late May when they finally offer up their goodness. 

There is an art to picking snap peas.  The first is to see them, they are the same color exactly as the plants. The second is to get them at just the right moment, too small and they won't be sweet, too fat and they'll be past their prime.  And lastly, the technique of picking is key in order to avoid yanking the entire vine off the trellis.  My method is to grasp the vine with my thumb and forefinger and then to grip the pea with the middle through pinkie fingers of the same hand and pop the pea free of the vine.  Alternately one can hold the vine with one hand and pull the peas with the other, I find this best when working with children or others not so nimble.

We picked about two gallons off two narrow trellis's, about 8 feet of row in total and it's been all we could do to eat them.  We've shared some and there is still at least a quart in the fridge to devour soon, I don't think they freeze well so I just want to eat them daily till they're gone. I like to string them, blanch them in boiling water for about 1 minute, then have them hot with butter or chilled in salads.  They can also be eaten raw but I find the quick blanch really brings out the sweetness.

Today I declared the end of the spring garden.  I harvested the bolting spinach, the on the edge of bitter lettuces and the broccoli.  I was tired of battling the caterpillars that attack the brassicas every spring, I spray with BT for a few weeks and then I just give up. I uprooted all those plants and tossed them on the compost pile.

I also  harvested a huge pile of beets and made pickles, the ones I made last year were so delicious and excellent for winter salads that I vowed to plant extra this season specifically to can.  It took about two hours and yielded only 6 pints, but there are more to come and I'll have forgotten the hard work when I pop open a jar in January and sink my teeth into the tangy sweetness.  I add ginger and onions too so they are tastier than your average store bought variety. 

Food preservation must be a bit like having a baby, you forget the pain when you see your darling offspring, you forget the hot kitchen by the time you open that jar.  I was ecstatic the other day when I unearthed the last quart of tomatoes from last summer, thinking they were all gone and then I found one more. Oh boy.

Still we have a good patch of carrots and more beets yet to come, the onions, garlic and potatoes are laying down so it will soon be time to harvest all of those and set them to cure and dry.  I've been pilfering taters regularly from each end of the bed, so turgid, they pop when you cut them with the knife, sweet and creamy, they are nothing like a potato that you buy in the store.  I resisted growing them for lack of space, but since I took it back up a few years ago, I'm determined to continue.  We don't grow enough to last all year, just enough for a few months worth of tater salads, roasted spuds and home fries with breakfast now and then.

The rain just keeps coming, another 3.5 inches here at our house in the past week thanks to tropical storm Andrea traveling up the east coast and yesterday another little front of some kind passing through bringing rain all day long. I don't remember such a wet year in a very long time.  Plants are looking happier than ever  and keeping the grass mowed seems a never-ending chore.  The only concern is the tomatoes, they hate the moisture, but they flowered well and are starting to make fruit so hopefully the plants won't rot before the tomatoes ripen.

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