Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summer Heat = Harvest

Hot hot hot. Very hot. Hot enough for me to drag an a/c unit for the window in the studio and gerry-rig it up so that I can stand to be down there. That of course includes the table top fan going at full blast as well as the ceiling fan.  We keep being promised thunderstorms but alas, nothin' yet. 
In the meantime, the garden is lovin' the heat! Things are growing and blooming and bearing fruit like nobody's business!  I am equally proud of all of these so in no particular order: 

I harvested the heirloom garlic Melanie gave me last year.  She gave me two heads of her precious garlic. I planted the cloves and now am the proud gardener of 26 heads of garlic:
They smell SO good. 
But they seem much smaller than what Melanie gave me. Maybe that's to be expected. I decided to pull them because the above-ground part looked like it was dying. I didn't want anything else to get my precious garlic. Maybe I pulled too soon? I guess I don't think they'll grow more if the green part is dead. Maybe I didn't cut the scapes soon enough? Maybe I need to add more fertilizer to the soil? Who knows. Maybe this is just what happens?   

While harvesting the garlics guess who came to investigate: 
But he wasn't interested in the garlic; he was more interested in the freshly tilled earth. 
Unfortunately, cat pee is not nutritious to the soil.  Maybe that's what happened?  More worrisome still is that is that when he got up there was nothing there. Sigh. I hope we're not dealing with a serious health problem. There is always something...

Here is a nice shot of both the garlics and the next plant that is making me very happy at the moment: 
I bought two varieties: the Burpless Beauty and the Armenian Cucumber. The Burpless Beauty is producing like there is no tomorrow.  Four yesterday, four last week and a few more on the vine for next week. That is just fine with me. 
Favorite way to eat cucumbers: 
slice cucumbers very thin (a Cuisinart is a good thing here)
put them in a bowl and salt them down ( add at least a teaspoon or more of salt - let them sit for at least an hour at room temperature - dump them into a sieve and rinse well. Why? This helps get rid of the gassy water. Even if their burpless beauties - I don't trust that.) 
Place rinsed cucumber slices into clean bowl. Add (adjust to amount and taste) 1/2 cup Rice wine vinegar, 2 Tablespoons sesame oil, and at least a full Tablespoon chopped dill - I usually do two. Add salt if needed. Stir, refrigerate until cool. 
Perfect hot summer food. I could eat it by the shovel-full. Okay, that might be excessive, but it's really yummy

With the Garlic gone, the cucumbers have room to spread out. They are really crawling and insisting on climbing on everything, including sunflowers! After pulling the garlic I rearrange the rogue shoots and hope that they stay put. 

I'm not sure what is going on with the Armenian cucumber, but it is not doing a thing! Well - that's not entirely true... it is making flowers like there is no tomorrow, but no "fruit". While I was rearranging it today, I accidentally crunched a leaf -and oh boy! - the scent of that leaf! Yum! The most fragrant cucumber smell I've ever smelled. I really wish it was producing. But maybe I need another plant? Maybe the right bug isn't pollinating it? I'm not really interested in pollinating the silly thing by hand - although it's worth a try. It IS taking over the garden, you'd think for the amount of real estate it's taking up, it would pay for itself. Humph!
Last week I got a nice plateful of goodies: tomatoes, two cucumbers, one garlic, and in the background, wads of parsley.
In addition to the beautiful parsley I've got an interesting basil. It has tiny leaves. Here it is in front of the parsley.  It smells amazing! I finally cut a few sprigs last night to put in the tomato onion salad (more on that later) and wow - it's good. Especially because you can just chop it as is. The stems taste yummy too. They are tender enough not to be a distraction. 
I really hope this one goes to seed so I don't have to buy another plant next year. I saw a flower today and so I'm going to keep an eye out. 

Last year I bought some mustard greens from a nursery. They were delicious! I let the plants go to seed because I remember the hills I grew up with in California. Wild mustard grew in abundance and made the hills brilliant yellow. It would look as though someone splashed bright yellow paint all over the hills. It was so dramatic, my mother once took us up for a "photo shoot".
Now I wonder... was that edible mustard? Was it really mustard?
My plants re-seeded themselves and I found them all over the yard. In the fall I really didn't care. Come springtime, I was hording the precious plants that sprouted. Moved them to the right beds and let them go. I wound up with four plants this year. The flowers don't seem as dramatic, but then again, it was only four plants I had this year. I decided to harvest the seeds. I did a bit of research online which said they needed to dry on the plant. Okay - did that. Then I cut them all. There are a lot of youtube videos about how to get to the seeds. So I followed those instructions and wound up with:
I'm still contemplating what I will do with them. Plant several dozen? YES! But I still need to do a bit of research on how to make my own mustard to see if I can do it. Why not? 

One other lovely thing in the garden at the moment, Beautiful sunflowers: Yes, I've got several beautiful sunflower plants. This one is by far the biggest! I bought a seed variety called "Giant - something-or-other" And yep - there they are. the plants are at least 8ft tall. I should organize a photo shoot so you can see how tall they are, but you can see the wire headed to Mr. El's house which is well off the ground.
 The local bumble bees are very interested in the sunflowers. Every time I take a look there is one wandering around on the face of the flower.  
Last week I took this image, before the flower had fully bloomed. I just can't resist posting it because the right side of the image - the texture is so beautiful! Even then, the bumble bees were zooming around.  
I planted another variety that I 'm not sure what it is? But it is producing some lovely blooms as well. Smaller and not as interesting to the bumble bees, I'm still not going to cut them for inside bouquets because it seems that flowers don't like a/c either.

I had a beautiful vase full of echinacea (cone flowers) and within a day they were wilted. Normally they will last a week in the vase.

Jacques was happy to watch me do all the gardening last night from the dignified perch of his deck:   
Poor guy, he is still not interested in the heat, nor the a/c.
We are both looking forward to a massive thunder storm to clear the heat. 

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