Thursday, August 11, 2011

August in the Garden

Note, this was written in 2008 in Hoopa CA, while we were experiencing a large forest fire. The effect was cooler temperatures. If your temps are cool enough your tomatoes aren't ripening, you will find useful tips. You will also find recipes for summer squash and starting the fall garden, as well as a quick review on a great little herb book.

Digging the Dirt / August in the Garden

Published in the Two Rivers Tribune 8.08
Copyright 2008, Harvest McCampbell

Gardening in smoke leaves much to be desired. Some plants, however, seem to be making good use of all the carbon in the air. My tomato plants are nearly as tall as I am. On the down side, the smoke has been keeping things too cool for them to ripen up properly. Green tomatoes are not as yummy as their fully ripe counter parts, but they do make good eating. I have been searching for green tomato recipes, just in case. Here are a couple of fun books from the Humboldt County Library that will help you use up any green tomatoes you may have on hand at season’s end.

Preserving Summer’s Bounty, by Rodale Press, has recipes for Green Tomato Chutney and Green Tomato Pickles, as well as lots of recipes for those other summer favorites—squash and Zucchini. In fact, no matter what your garden is producing, you will find recipes and information on preserving it for winter use. The Joy of Pickling, by Linda Ziedrich adds curried and limed green tomato pickles to the possibilities, as well as pickled green cherry tomatoes. Ziedrich has recipes for just about anything you grow, including Jerusalem artichokes and turnips! You can request these books from your favorite library or bookstore. They will definitely get your kitchen creativity stirring.

More Produce in the Kitchen

Squash seems to produce bumper crops no matter what the weather, and this year is no different. Folks will soon be ducking and running when they see their gardening friends hoisting bulging bags. Whether you are growing your own or trying to use the squash that has been foisted on you, here a few ideas from my kitchen. The first uses fresh squash in a sandwich with tuna, and the second makes a refreshing salad.

Summer Tuna Sandwiches or Wraps: Combine grated summer squash, a bit of diced onion and pickle, with a can of tuna, and a tad of mayo. Mix well and then spread on bread or a tortilla, add fresh lettuce or other greens, and serve it up. The pickles I have been using are made with zucchini and summer squash wedges substituted for the cucumbers. I use the dill pickle recipe from the book, Joy of Cooking, (the library has this one too). This sandwich gets rave reviews.

Sunny Summer Salad: Dice up a mix of fresh tender zucchini and summer squash, in different colors if possible. Add a few tender young snap beans and the youngest leaves from kale, mustard, beets, or turnips. Diced peppers, cucumbers, or tomatoes can also be added. For a quick, fresh dressing combine olive oil with a dash of vinegar, and some fresh diced basil, parsley, rosemary, or other garden fresh herbs, shake well and taste. You can add more vinegar or herbs or even some salt and pepper. Pour a little over your fresh veggies and toss to coat. Give it a taste and add more of your dressing if needed. Refrigerate to chill, and then serve on a bed of lettuce. (Add some shredded chicken or browned sausage or tofu and call it dinner.) This easy salad taste even better the second day!

Fall Gardens Start Now

You can have fresh carrots, parsnips, and peas for Thanksgiving if you start soon! You can also grow many greens, root crops, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Your favorite lettuce, radishes, or beets do great when the weather is cool. Just about the time your summer garden will give out, the fall crops will kick in, keeping you in fresh produce—if you plan it right, not just through the fall, but straight through until spring is here again.

If you have room to put in some new garden beds, you can start fall crops right in the ground this month. Cover seeds with a fine sprinkling of sifted compost or store bought soil conditioner, and keep an eye on your beds. Some people like to lay a board over their rows, to help keep the soil moist. If you give this a try, you will need to lift the board morning and night, to check for germination. As soon as you see seedlings bursting from their seed coats, it is time to remove the board. Seedlings must be kept evenly moist for at least the first week, so check them every morning and evening.

Those already using every inch of space available can start most of their fall garden in six packs. Move the plants to larger containers as necessary, and then tuck them into the garden as soon as a spot is cleared. (Be sure to dig in some compost and top dress with mulch.) The only fall crops this won’t work well for are those we grow for their roots. Carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, radishes, and rutabagas, to name some of the more popular root crops, do much better when planted where they are to grow. Starting them in shallow containers and then transplanting tends to ruin their comely figures. They are happy growing in half barrels or large containers, and they are safe from gophers if you take that route.

It is time to get out your seed box, seed catalogs, or visit seed counters and see what yummy veggies this fall will bring. If you want to try something new, Wild Garden Seed offers a number of tasty and colorful additions for the fall garden. I am going to try their broccoli, which is named Purple Peacock. This pretty loose headed broccoli has purple stems and leaf veins. All parts are tender and edible, including leaves and stalks. It was rated very highly by Organic Gardening Magazine, for taste, appearance, and winter hardiness.

They also carry Bulls Blood beets, with their electric purplish red leaves. I have some of these started already, but I am going to tuck some seeds into the pots by my front walk, they are that eye catching. I can hardly wait until they get big enough to eat!

Kale is another tasty and nutritious fall crop. Wild Garden Seed offers a number of different types. They also have 53 different types of lettuce, and three different seasonal salad mixes. You can shop on-line: or call them to request a catalog: (541) 929-4068

Ancient Herbs

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angles has published a slim but elegant volume for all those passionate about ancient Greece, Rome, and the wonderful world of herbs. Ancient Herbs is a work of art, lavishly illustrated with historic botanical drawings from the late 1700 and early 1800’s. The text provides copious hints on the changing place of herbs throughout human history, as foods, medicines, and flavorings. While you won’t find exact instructions for growing or using herbs, you will find plenty to stir your curiosity and whet your appetite to learn more. This would make a great gift for herb lovers, cooks, and gardeners. The cover is lovely enough to make the book a welcome addition to the kitchen bookshelf and displays of botanical or herbal related art. Ancient Herbs, by Marina Heilmeyer, Published by The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007, no ISBN